by Thomas Treimel
February 2, 2003
My Wife and I flew into Tampa Airport the day before this cruise. First time we have done so.
This is well worth the travel in the day before. As the stress level is reduced and you get to recover from your plane travel and the new airport security. We were picked up by our neighbors from N.J. who live in Sarasota for part of the year.
Aside from the course being mostly flat and just being careful about the Alligators....
Onto the ship......
My Wife and I have sailed the Zenith and the Horizon about 7 times, mostly to Bermuda, and have enjoyed each cruise on the ship.
Checking in at the Port of Tampa after a short ride up from Sarasota. We got out of our friends car about 3:00 pm - late by most standards to be getting to the ship. Looked like the cruise entry area was just about empty. We took the escalator up stairs in what looked to be a brand new terminal. This was confirmed when I asked one of the porters that this area had only been in service to Celebrity for about the past 6 months. The interior area was beautiful. We walked into a id check then a carry on baggage screening area. Not the same as the last time through. There was one id check before you entered the terminal. I met Shelly one of the Cruise Critic members off the board. We checked in at the Captains Club desk, there were only about 10 other people checking in at the time, and were met by Cindy DeBruin from the Netherlands. Speaks very good English for someone not from England or the USA. I wonder where she went or studied to be so fluent. Maybe someone on another cruise should ask her. She greeted us and talked a few minutes as we checked and and received our Celebrity Cruise cards. The entire check in took about 5 minutes as we signed some other cruise documents. Then off to the ship. The security checked our documents before we boarded again. We then stopped and had our pictures taken, so as to be registered in the ships computer with our matching Celebrity cards for getting on and off the ship at each port. One note here even though we were taken to the pier we took a taxi to the airport when we departed the cruise. This was $23.00 for the one way fare. We did see some shuttle services working the airport but did not use them. When also talking to the people working the pier we were told that the Carnival facility was like an old bus terminal. As we were up on deck and looked out to the HAL ship in port their facility looked like an enlarged Quonset hut. Not very appealing at all. Kudos to Celebrity for the modern facility.
Cabin #6126 - Category 5, Caribbean Deck.
This is one of the normal sized cabins Celebrity offers. 172 sq. ft. This is the regular size that we find in the Celebrity fleet. The cabins to be slightly larger than the industry standard at this level. Very roomy for two. We had the two beds made into a queen, there is just a sit down desk / makeup table in the cabin. With 4 drawers for storage on each side. There was also a small glass topped table for leaving your everyday items on. Also the regular 1 very large closet and a pull down bar for doubling your shirt storage or short hanging garments. The second closet has 6 drawers to store other things in. There is also a cabin safe with a keypad to enter your own code, an interactive TV which the wife used for watching tomorrows highlights on. You can access your shipboard account, book excursions, order room service, pay-per-view movies, and play interactive Casino all from the comfort of your room. The desk / dressing table has one chair in it, but you could get another if you asked your cabin steward. Now these cabins on the Horizon and Zenith do not come with the mini fridges you get on the larger ships. The bathroom is perfectly sized for the room. Stand up shower and no tub. The Shampoo and moisturizers you used to get in small bottles are now in dispensers in the bathroom. Now if you bring any beer or wine onto the ship you will have to have a place to store it to keep clod. I brought a soft side cold storage carry bag for this. For extra ice just ask your cabin steward and he will supply it. He will re-supply you when you ask. You just have to dump the water into the shower area as I did.
This was my 20th cruise total and 10th with Celebrity - The Wife has done 22 total and her 11th with Celebrity. Captains Club. We had a little sticker on our ship board cards with the word "Select". Our friends had another sticker type on theirs. Because of the price changes we had started with an inside cabin then switched to the outside same relative area on the ship. I like this location right near the stairwell so as to walk up and down as much as possible when cruising. This is a great location as it is only 1 floor up to the Dining room and Martini bar area I frequented while on board. Then only a short walk up to the Fantasy Deck -8. Where the shops, Casino and other Entertainment areas are. We are usually in an inside cabin but this one presented itself and we took it with the help of out TA. Best one we have used so far. The TA we use is also an active cruiser and knows the ships and what this vacation experience is all about. Leaving the port of Tampa I will say one thing about security.. It is at a higher level on the ship than in recent years. Also there is a onshore security presence as the ship as it leaves port. I would think they come on before the ship leaves and have no idea how they get off. But back to the cruise. Life boat drill was at 4:00 pm before we pulled away from the pier. As we finished the call went out to anyone visiting on the ship to get to the gangway to leave. And away we went at 4:30 pm. The Port of Tampa area is quite large so it takes a long while from where the ship is docked to get out of the port. It was just about dark as we went under the last bridge leaving the port of Tampa. This was one of the new type wire suspension bridges. But taking any good pictures was not in the cards as the light was not there anymore as we were going close to it. I did get some pictures of the sunset but as you see it going down hurry up because it's real quick.
Starlight Restaurant. Seated at table #74 with Jaroslaw as our waiter and Jose as the busboy. As with any normal Celebrity cruise the service was exceptional. Jose brought us ice tea each night as we sat down. This was a first night request. We were seated at a table for 6 but there was only the 4 of us in our small group this time. We were in the upper circular area near the Captains table. Just a buttered rolls throw from it. The Captain did come down and have dinner at the first formal night. The second formal night the Hotel manager dined with some guests. We have done this before and it is not to be missed if offered. One of the Mater'ds acts as your waiter for that night. This being the one of the two oldest ships in the Celebrity fleet did not have a large wait staff holding area for them to work. Their work area was right next to our table but never seemed to bother anyone at the table. This restaurant is not like the Century or Millie class ships with it located at the rear of the ship. It is in the middle of the ship. Lots of soft edges and colors with glass chandeliers. Very nice lines and flow for the area. The Musicians played each night at the front of the area we were in. There were a lot of Birthdays and Anniversaries the servers were singing for. Then there was our Mater'd Peter from South Africa. Peter was the most people person we have just about had on Celebrity. One of the last nights he even had me get up and sing Happy Birthday for the table next to ours. He stopped by each night at least twice to check on how everything was. He also had a nice Hello how are you each morning or lunch time upstairs at the Coral Seas Grill. Our last night we picked up some hitch hikers, Deb and Trish, on our table - they jumped ship on theirs - and this was no problem for the Jaroslaw, Jose, or Peter. Just another two plates in an unused area. As with the usual Celebrity service an A Plus this time as with all trips.
Palladium Show Lounge - Deck 8.
This is where they had all the big shows and some of the other Entertainment. The two level area from deck 7 to 8 could hold just about all half of the passengers on board at one time. They also had the Captains welcome aboard party here. Hess2201 from the boards was in the "Newly Wed not so Newly Wed Game" and he and his wife almost won it. Had a great time watching this. I also got a chance to meet some of the Entertainment through talking to one of the Cruise Staff Giovanni May. This was after playing a pool game and talking to him at the Marina Bar up near the pool. Met the Magic act of Bob and Sarah Trunell talked to them for a long time. Then met them again around the ship. Nice people to talk to. They spent some of their time answering some questions about this and that. Hopefully the pictures I took of them about the ship come out and at the time I submit this I will have mailed them a copy. Giovanni was the DJ on the boat and was up late each night. Celebrity Singers and Dancers were great. There were 9 in all this trip. Up from the regular 6 I had seen in the past.
Casino Royal - Deck 8.
Nice layout to this Casino. Have been it many times left some coin in the slots along the way. There are a few Black Jack tables and Caribbean Stud poker ones. With one Roulette table and a Craps table. All looked well attended each night as I passed by or stopped to play a little. There are over 100 slot machines also here. They run a weekly Slot and Black Jack tournament each week on the ship. Small entry fee for both. Also if you are in Captains Club you get some extra play bets on $5.00 bet and $12.00 for $10.00 at the slots. This paid for my entry into the Black Jack Tourney as one of the friends on the boat from the trivia games said I should get in as he was playing. You buy in for $20.00 and they give you $1000.00 in tourney chips. Then the top seven money qualifiers play for to pot at the end. There were about 60 to 70 players in all. I ended up in 6th slot after the qualifying. And ended up in 5th overall at the end. Out of the money. Which totaled up to over $900.00 in all for the top 3 splitting it. Lots of fun. But now I know why I do not play - too much wild luck involved.
Cova Cafe - Deck 8.
Very white marble look to it. This is the Coffee bar cafe and where the piano player can be found some nights. Some of the crew hides on the Port side of this area and caught their afternoon Cappuccino here. They have some of the trivia games here also. Did one with Dan Norton of the Cruise staff. Nice guy.
Shops - Deck 8.
The Shops are located right next to the Cove Cafe. There are only two small ones on the starboard side that have jewelry and dress clothes. They have some nice sails during the week on watches and silver by the inch for bracelets or chains. Personnel here is top notch and will try to assist you when they can. The other larger shop on the Port side of the ship has every day cruise wear and some Celebrity items like shirts, hats, shorts, bags.... Nice display. You can also get some of the things you may have left home here. They also have a lot of other type of ship souvenirs and other useful items. I will say that this is the first time I actually interacted with the shopping hostess on the ship. She has a desk just outside the Casino on deck 8 with her hours posted. Celebrity has a shopper discount book available for $20.00 on sale. This contains the names of the recommended shops along with discount coupons and free give aways. Well worth the money my wife tells me. She keeps me busy on land getting from shop to shop with correct directions and picking up the free items in the book. The ship will also supply shop locations on a port map at each stop. So the hubby can mark off the spots to stop at or bypass... Grand Cayman also offers a contest to win a $3000.00 prize. Just get the stamp card from the shopping desk. Each store has a stamp to show you have visited. No purchase necessary. And when you stamp them all and return it to the shopping hostess your entered. Another thing to keep me busy with. As for shopping - Ouch.... Key West is all built up. You will dock just about downtown and walk in. About every 4th place is a bar. The others are an assortment of shops and historic sites. Costa Maya was a small mall with a salt water pool at the far end. Nice place to cool off the feet after walking around. Cosumel - Take a taxi to the end of the strip. As you look at the map or arrive this end is too your left. About $6.00 US for a taxi to the end from the far dock. Walk you way back through the shops and your discount book. Grand Cayman you tender into the down town. Just across the street is a small mall and then out onto the main street areas. Bring your discount books and good hunting. For me I just bought some Rum at the Grand Cayman Tortuga Rum factory area. Great price on a two bottle pack.
Zodiac Club - Deck 8.
This is where the Captains Club party was held. Over 100 people attended. Jason said there were over 180 Captains Club members on board. As I looked around he was right. When we first went on Celebrity and joined these were small affairs with about 30 to 40 people there each time. Not now. The amount of people reflected about 15% of the total ships passenger count. They also had some dance contests here and the DJ Giovanni there till the early hours of the AM. Nice lounge with a quiet area in the back and sweeping lines. Plenty of seating.
Library, Card Room, Michaels Club - Deck 8.
Opposite the Zodiac Club entrance on the port side of the ship. This used to be the old Disco on the ship. The card room had about 11 tables in it and was our favorite spot for card playing in the late afternoon. As the trip wore on more and more people found this nice place to play cards and relax in the afternoon. The bridge group met here each day and played a few hands and got so information from the guest lecturer on the ship. The Michaels club was used the most for the life boat drill and a few private lecture groups. There was no one manning the bar here or trying to sell cigars as far as I saw. Hence the conversion that will take place in a few months. The room is a nice soft brown panel tone. The Library - where each afternoon you can check out a Celebrity Dancer. But darn not to your room. Oh well..... But their are 4 real comfortable chairs here. You can even read in them if you want. Plus about 500 books you could borrow to read. Along with a few other tables and chairs. There is also two stations for internet access here. A nice quiet area to hide and read in the afternoon.
Rendez-vous Bar - Deck 7.
This is the lounge and dance area just outside the restaurant. A nice place to listen to music before dinner and catch up on the day. They have the Karaoke here late at night. We also had a tri bond game here with Amber Woods of the cruise staff. Nice young lady who explained the game to the new players. Hard to do. It took me about 2 games worth to fully understand what they are actually asking questions about with this. Fun time in the early am after breakfast. This lounge area also is where the formal night pictures are taken. The photography shop is located just behind the band stand area.
Art Auction room & Duty Free Shop - Deck 7.
Just off the Rendez-vous Bar area. This is where the art for auction is displayed. I think they hold the auctions in the lounge right here. But you should check your ships program for this. The Duty Free shop has a nice mix of Liquor for sale and they will box it for you for travel. You can also get duty free Cigars and discounts on Cigarettes here. I looked through this shop and did not find the Bicardi 151 Rum I was looking for. But they have a good selection of different Vodka, Gin, and other spirits.
Martini Bar - Deck 7.
Ahhhh.... The place to mis spent the cruise, not shared by most people who liked this area. This is a great place to meet you group and experiment before dinner. Met out traveling partners here a few nights. Elised will shake for you till it hurts. He is a great bar tender. Remembered I did not drink Martinis and had no problem getting me a Rum and Coke when asked. They have a Martini class and offer it to all cruisers twice each cruise - just before dinner on one day. So Martini drinkers and all others be aware. This is not to be missed. You can also get a nice martini shaker for the cost of one drink. We met the Office God Girls here - Michelle, Debra, and Trish. Part of our last night table addition. These ladies were from Alabama. Sorry no jokes here just nice people on vacation.
Golf Net Area - Ping Pong - Aft - Deck 9.
Here is where they had the ping pong tournaments and golf games. Played in the first ping pong tourney, run by Amber of the cruise staff, and got killed. Sorry those people were too fast for me. Golf was more my speed. Placed second in two of the games they had for us. Golf pro was very good with advice. If John from outside Philly had not been there I would have done better. Maybe next time. The Captains Club members did have a spot where they could get some free pointers from the pro. But I was busy elsewhere and did not attend.
Americas Cup Club - Deck 11.
This is the great sweeping view area at the top front of the ship. Wrap around bar area with music playing at night. Nice place to catch a quiet moment during the day. Great place to watch the ship go in and out of port indoors.
Pool area - Deck 11.
There are two pools here in this area. The larger one is for swimming and cooling off. The smaller pool is the Thermasapy pool - bubble pool. This did not open till 8:20 am each day and took about 10 minutes to warm up. This is for laying back and getting a bubble massage laying on the poles spread across the pool. I used the regular pool to do about 10 minutes of lap swimming each morning before 8:00 am. But be careful - the water was cold the first day out then warmed up a bit. They also have the pool games here - King of the Horizon and the Pillow Pole Pool Party. Not to miss the passengers entertain you. They also have a band playing here as you leave and in the later afternoon. There are also some games contested here. Don't miss the drink mixing put on by the bar staff. Act silly get a free drink. Answer a question get to mix your own. Lots of fun.
Coral Seas Cafe and the Grill - Deck 11.
This is the buffet area for morning breakfast and lunch. Nice tan colors. A bit dated for a ship considering what is on the newer ships. But very nice just the same. During breakfast at the rear of the Coral Seas is a place you can get an omelet or eggs made to order. During lunch you can get the specialty pasta of the day here. At the Grill on the aft section of the ship you can get a burger and fries. The Coral Seas Cafe also doubles at night for your alternative dining area. Did not use it. But saw them grilling a great looking swordfish steak up here.
Aquaspa - Deck 12.
This is the area where can go for beauty treatments. There is also a small gym with some stationary bikes, treadmills, free weights, and a few nautilus machines. Not a lot to choose from. But it's a small ship. There is also separate men's and ladies sauna area across from the gym. If you like steam no problem. And lastly the track around the deck. The walkers will be out in force on most cruises by 7:00 AM. I run so I have to try not to get in their way. 7 laps around is a mile - or so they say. You be the judge of this.
All in all Horizon is a nice ship for first time cruisers going to Bermuda or short hops around the Caribbean. The food meets all the Celebrity high standards. Service level is right with that of the Celebrity line. Known for food and service.
Disembarkation in Tampa - Not a problem if you in Captains Club. We were the second group called after a short delay. There are more checks made as you now re-enter the United States. Good to see them in place. Cab ride to the Airport was about 15 minutes.
This cruise experience is just as good as every other Celebrity cruise I have been on. Great food, Service and a great time provided by Celebrity.