I point these things out first so that you can understand the frame of reference we had going into the cruise. Our expectations were VERY high, not only based on the memorable vacation experiences we've had at resorts, but also based on ALL of the tremendously positive reviews we have read about Zenith, including some from our family & friends.
Overall, on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best), I would rate our cruise on the Zenith as:
Embarkation: 7 (5 if we were not in CC)
On July 1, The U.S. government initiated new security policies at all US ports. IT SHOWED! The port in NYC was mobbed. People leaving, people arriving, people not knowing where to go...what do. You get the picture. Once we got through the standard security check in (documentation verification, metal detectors etc) it took us about 10-15 minutes to check-in, receive our onboard ID cards and get on the boat. However, that was thanks to our Concierge Class line, which had 1 couple in front of us. If we didn't travel in CC, it would have easily taken us an hour to check in...the line was snaked around so many twists & turns...it looked like Disney World during the height of Winter break. My wife & I felt that the very high premium we paid for CC was worth it, just for this reason. Once checked-in and on the boat, we were greeted with smiling faces and glass of bubbly....with that, let me move on to overall service onboard
Overall Service: 7
My wife & I can only take 1 vacation each year. When we travel, we travel well. We want to be pampered and for the most part, we were on the ship. It started with the welcome bubbly, continued with our very sweet cabin attendant (Edna) who was always around to help us, if we needed it and followed through to most of the staff. If we happened to pass an officer in the halls, they were as welcoming and friendly as the member if the crew who continuously wiped down the banisters. Celebrity seems to know how to hire and who to hire.
We always had the buffet breakfast...never had lunch as we were either at the beach or, during the sea days, at the pool having cocktails. The only review of waiter service I can provide was during dinners and it was very good...not great. Yes, our waiter remebered our names and what we liked to eat...that was nice, but they have a lot of tables to serve and it affected their delivery of certain items. For instance, if I order a drink at dinner, I would need to place the order with the bar server, not with our waiter. That person would also be responsible for manyother tables and as such, it would take sometimes 30 minutes to get my order. Similarly, this scenario sometimes occured with our main server with special food requests. Again, the service was very good HOWEVER, compared to the glowing reviews I have read, as well as service I have received at resorts, the wait service on the Zenith was a notch below.
All this talk of food & drink is making my mouth water, how about some notes on the food
Overall food quality & preperation: 6.0
I eat anything and I am not afraid to try anything. I had frogs legs, oxtail soup, baked alaska, rhudabega (is that how you spell it) among other things for the very first time ever. For the most part, these 'new' dishes for me were very tasty. It was the more basic meats (i.e. veal & steak) and vegatables (zucchini & carrots) that were not as wonderful as most people spoke about. My filet mignon was very tough. I'm not a food snob, but a good filet mignon can be cut with a fork. The knife barely did the job. Our table mates all, during any one of the seven dinners we had, sent an entree back due to it being too tough or not right in a particular way. I was VERY surprised, based on all of the positive comments that I read, prior to the cruise.
OK, enough about dinner. As I said, we never had lunch so the only other meal I can comment on was breakfast. My wife & I only opted for the buffet upstairs in the Windsurf Cafe and it was average. Eggs, bacon, sausage, pasteries, omlette service....just like any other buffet you would experience. It was OK....that really is all I can say. Nothing made me say, "OH MY GOODNESS, THIS IS INCREDIBLE". One word of caution for omlette fans, the chef who prepares the omlette places approx. 2 oz. of oil in the pan and then covers the entire pan with cooking spray prior to cooking.
Every day at 6pm there was sushi in the Windsurf Cafe and it was very good. We always made a point to be back on the boat by 5:30 so that we could grab a table poolbar-side, break out the backgammon, order our wine & eat sushi. DEE-LICIOUS
The canapes we received as members of Concierge Class were interesting and good. Caviar, mousse and other fancy concoctions on circular toast points. Since we were famished from a day at the beach, we gulped these down regularly.
Well, speaking of Concierge Class, let me move on to it as well as our cabin
Concierge Class: 7
While walking down the hallway of deck 4 (which, if I remember is the Florida deck) I looked into the open doors of some cabins and they were EXACTLY like ours, only a few hundered dollars cheaper. Like I said earlier, our embarkation experience alone made us huge fans of CC, but for those cruisers who expect a special cabin with CC....FUGETABOWDIT!
I will say that the extra amenities that we received through CC were nice...nothing over the top, but nice. Thicker towels, two nice terry cloth robes (for which Celebrity charged handsomely as they are now in my bathroom at home), shampoos, lotions, mints..yada, yada, yada. We did have a chilled bottle of bubbly in our room when we got on the ship and seeing as that experience immediately followed the embarkation experience, our initial impression of CC was, "OH YEAH!". Looking back now I would say that CC is not necessary, especially on a ship like Zenith or Horizon where there are no balconies and other amenities, common on newer, larger ships is non-existent. We paid about $400 more for CC and in my opinion, while the bubbly was nice and we didn't have to wait online at the NYC pier, it was still an excessive charge. The only reason I chose CC was because I needed to book the July 3rd sailing for our anniversary and those were theonly cabins left. Oh well.
Let me conclude with a brief recap on the ship itself
I knew we weren't going to have a balcony. I also knew that it was 12 years old (albeit, refurbished in 1999). In my opinion, Zenith has served its pax well over the years but it is time to retire the fair lady. Let me put it this way....If you see a 1994 Lexus LS400 on the road, which was their signature model in 1994, you would probably say, "what a nice car.". When you looked inside, you would probably say, "Oh, leather & wood...very nice". BUT, if that LS400 was parked next to a 2004 LS430 (Lexus' current top of the line), the old LS400 would look just that...OLD. Zenith is a nice ship with plenty of storage space in the cabins. She is worn though. Maybe it's the old, dated carpets that look as though they were taken from an old Vegas strip hotel, before demolition. Maybe it's the rust spots that has been painted over hundreds of times. Maybe it's the lack of balconies. maybe its the worn spots on the couches and on the rugs.
Beyond the cosmetic issues, one major mechanical issue persisted throughout the trip....engine vibration. We had a remarkably smooth sail...the ocean was like a lake. However, whether we were up on deck 12 jogging, or down on the Rivera Deck (Deck 3), there was a constant vibration from the engines. We felt it in every room. I wonder if this is due to old propulsion systems...Does anyone know?
One last thing about Zenith. Those aft decks on levels 8-10 were nice, until the stench of sewage became present. I don't know why, but can only assume that there are vents on the aft section of Zenith that, from time to time, produce a very foul smell.
So, there you have it....a bit long but as thorough as I could be. Mind you, we had a great trip to Bermuda...The Island was spetacularly beautiful. We also rented scooters with NO ISSUES WHATSOEEVR, but that's a topic for another time. We liked the cruise and thought Celebrity was good but it does not compare to the past reviews on this board which praise Celebrity. Any questions you have, I'll be happy to answer. HAPPY CRUISING