This is my review of the Celebrity Zenith 15 night repositioning cruise of 4-10-98. I booked this cruise only and got my own hotel and airfare. Dottie and I spent 3 nights at the Hyatt Regency Acapulco before the cruise. This was our 11th Celebrity cruise, 4th cruise on Zenith, and 14th cruise overall. This was by far our best cruise yet. We have had the pleasure of spending over 100 nights on Celebrity ships. This cruise was the reverse itinerary of our November 97 cruise on the Zenith with the port of Cozumel added.
We arrived at the pier about 1:30 pm and embarkation had already begun. American Express was handling the check in and we were on board within 15 minutes. After being escorted to our cabin #1074, we were surprised to find a bottle of champagne and a note from the Social Hostess Lisa Baker that Captain Papanikolau requested our presence on the bridge for our departure from Acapulco that evening. I had an idea this invitation was due to the note that PegNDerek had sent to the Captain advising him that we would be aboard. We then went to the Windsurf Cafe for buffet lunch and were welcomed by two of our favorite Maitre' D's. After lunch we went back to our cabin to unpack. We unpacked and then enjoyed the complimentary bottle of champagne. We were then off to the Marina Bar for a quick Bahama Mama before going to the bridge for departure.
Departure and first night:
We met Lisa, the Social Hostess, in the Horizon Lobby at 6:45 pm as requested in the invitation. She escorted us to the bridge where we were warmly welcomed by Capt. Papanikolau, and Staff Capt. Salesiotis. The Captain promptly sent his steward to get us complimentary drinks to enjoy during the departure. We had previously been on the Zenith bridge two times in 1996 while at sea, but this was very special. I had always wanted to experience a port departure or arrival from the bridge. It was very exciting to experience first hand the many commands given in preparation for departure. The Captain and his bridge officers swiftly had the Zenith underway. The Harbor Pilot left the ship shortly after the ship left the pier. Captain Papanikolau informed us that we were to be upgraded to a suite in the morning and that we had an open invitation to come to the bridge anytime, we were delighted to say the least. We stayed on the bridge till 8 pm and then went to a Welcome Aboard VIP Party in the Fleet Bar for more complimentary drinks. We went to open seating dinner at 8:30 pm. After dinner we went to the Rendezvous Lounge for a couple of drinks and then on to the Rainbow Room for a few more. The Caribbean band Xtasea was playing in the Rainbow Room and I must say they have improved dramatically since we last heard them in November.
Cabin / Suite:
The next morning the Guest Relations Officer called us to tell us we could move to Zenith Suite #1029 compliments of Captain Papanikolau. She said the steward was waiting to show us the cabin if we would like to see it. We promptly went to see the suite and graciously accepted the upgrade. Our new steward Armando and his assistant Manuel helped us repack, move, and unpack. We left everything on the hangars and it only took about 15 minutes to complete the move. We then met Adem, our butler. Dottie and I were very excited, the suite was approximately 100 sq. ft. larger than the standard cabins with a much larger window. There was a large marble topped desk, a fully stocked mini bar, a cupboard with an assortment of wine glasses, a sofa with throw pillows, a king size bed, plenty of drawers and closet space, a safe, interactive TV, and a square, glass topped coffee table. There was complimentary champagne and a fruit basket. Fresh flowers are also brought on a daily basis. The bathroom was also very big by cruise ship standards. Marble floor, walls, and vanity. There was a bathtub complete with whirlpool jets which we enjoyed many times. Amenities in the bathroom included, several types of soap, shower caps, shampoo and conditioner, mouthwash, loofa sponges, hand lotion, sewing kit, shoe shiner, and a bathroom scale. There were two large fluffy Celebrity bathrobes hanging in the closet. Butler service is available from 7 am to 11 pm including full meal service from the Caravelle Restaurant menu. Each morning we had full breakfast service in our cabin including omelets, sausage links, bacon, orange juice and coffee etc. The butler would set the table with a linen tablecloth, full silverware, and linen napkins. This was very nice and we enjoyed it immensely. The butler will also bring you full lunch and dinner if you like, but we never took advantage of this. Each afternoon at 4 pm full tea service was available including cakes, pastries, coffee, tea, little sandwiches, and fruit etc. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres were also available from 5:30 pm to 8 pm. The butler is also available for full bar service, we did take advantage of this.
The Zenith is kept spotless at all times. There was always someone cleaning or painting everywhere we went. Pizza ovens have been added in the Windsurf Cafe and pizza is available from 3 to 7 pm. I also noticed that there were many large plants and trees added since our last voyage. The deck chairs at the pool now have pads which is very nice. The Zenith now offers alternative dining some nights. The Windsurf Cafe is used for this and reservations had to be made by 2:30 pm on those days it was available. This was the happiest, friendliest, and kindest staff and crew we have ever experienced. I attribute this to Captain Papanikolau as he has a wonderfully outgoing friendly personality. The Captain and his officers were visible throughout the ship on a regular basis. They made all the guests feel welcome by socializing and shaking hands. Many of the officers including the Captain were also socializing with the guests each night in the various lounges. Dottie and I thought this added to the ambiance of the cruise.
Dottie and I have always been impressed with the food and the service we received in the Celebrity Restaurants. This cruise was no different. Restaurant Manager Victor provided us with a wonderful dining experience. We were seated at table 127 in the center of the dining room next to the Captains table. We had previously had our Maitre'd Gintaris on 2 other cruises and we were delighted to have him again. Our waiter Lucas, and our busboy Angel were exceptional, actually the best we have ever experienced. They both enhanced the dining experience with their professional service, never once making an error. I recommended that Lucas, who has been working on Celebrity ships for 6 years, be given consideration for Maitre'd to Restaurant Manager Victor. Dottie and I also had the pleasure of dining with Captain Papanikolau. Suggested dress was 3 formal nights, 4 informal nights, and 8 casual nights. We have now spent 39 nights on board Celebrity ships since the merger with Royal Caribbean. I must say that I cannot see any difference in the food or the service since the merger. Everything seems just as it always did, excellent food, excellent service! We also were happy that the Executive Chef, Walter Lauer, came to our table to introduce himself and inquired if we were enjoying the food. Our expectations were exceeded in the dining room.
Bar/Wait Staff: Bar service by the pool and in the various lounges was excellent. Servers were always plentiful without being intrusive. The quality of mixed drinks was also excellent. Bar Manager Jose treated Dottie and I to many complimentary drinks and sent wine to our dining room table on several occasions. The wine stewards also did an excellent job and were very knowledgeable about the various wines.
The Caribbean band Extasea that played by the pool and in the Rainbow Room have really improved since we last heard them in November. They have many new songs and new equipment to enhance their sound. We only went to one show, "Encore" which was very enjoyable. The Cruise Director is now known as the Entertainment Director and his staff the Entertainment Staff. There were plenty of activities available throughout the cruise.
Dottie and I really enjoyed having an open invitation to the navigation bridge. We were on the bridge for several departures and really enjoyed being on the bridge for our arrival in New York City. We also spent time on the bridge during the canal transit. Capt. Papanikolau also invited us, along with several other couples to view the canal transit from his office which had an excellent line of sight. We very much enjoyed dining at the Captains table for Farewell Dinner. Service was impeccable and so was the Captains special wine. After dinner we were escorted to the Celebrity Show Lounge and sat in front row reserved seats for the production show "Encore". I made arrangements to get live Maine lobster for Capt. Papanikolau to enjoy while we were in Ft. Lauderdale. He was very happy with the Maine lobster and I promised to send him more this summer.
Disembarkation in NYC was very easy. We had ticket # 1 and were of the ship at 9:30 am. We quickly found our luggage, got a porter who took us to a taxi for a quick ride to PegNDerek's for coffee. Although our stay at PegNDerek's was short we enjoyed it very much. We then caught a cab to Newark for our return flight to Maine.
This cruise was without a doubt, the best cruise we have ever taken. Everything went perfectly for us. In my opinion, the Celebrity Cruise experience is very satisfying.