I've been on one other cruise and embarkation on this one was by far the easiest! We were picked up at our airport hotel and taken to the port by my other daughter who lives nearby. Because we had her and her car, we actually got to spend some time at the outdoor mall that is just across the bridge from the port. It"s very nice with several excellent open air dining places overlooking the harbor and bay. Once we got to Celebrity"s port, friendly porters took our bags and pointed us the way to get aboard. Since we had each filled out the online "Xpress Pass" (highly recommended!!!), we bypassed every line that existed! After presenting our various passports/birth certificates, and posing for the obligatory brief picture, we were literally aboard five minutes after we had left our luggage with the porters! And, even better, we each had a glass of champagne in our hands!
We were shown to our stateroom (two outside cabins, Europa Deck) by a very nice steward who introduced us to Jimmy, our incredibly friendly and hard-working cabin attendant. Jimmy let us in to our adjoining rooms and left us to our inspection. My first thought was how big this cabin was compared to the closet sized one I had on my first cruise! The storage space, bathroom and shower by far exceeded my expectations.
Throughout the voyage, my wife delighted in climbing up inside the big picture window and watching the waves go by. My only (minor) complaint with the room itself was with the interesting and ever-present moldy smell that came with the bathroom. We went into a few other cabins and they all had this problem. Nothing really bad, but worth mentioning!
After settling in, we were off to explore the ship. I had read many reviews of the Zenith and knew in advance that it was an older, smaller ship. I found that I didn"t mind either! Smaller made it easier to get around and remember, and older meant nothing more than some worn carpets and an overall "lived in" look. After an initial exploration, I knew that I was going to be right at home in two places - The Fleet Bar that sits on the top deck forward, and the semi-hidden aft part of Deck 10 overlooking the stern. The Fleet has an elegant look and feel to it with comfortable chairs and glass windows all around it. Perfect for sipping a beverage either during the heat of the day or escaping the wind after dark. Grab a deck chair early on Deck 10 aft if you want some quiet and relative seclusion. Besides, that location is just one deck below where omelets are made to specification during breakfast! Poolside is probably very nice, but it wasn"t for us this trip as you shall see! Other recommended areas are Michael's Bar and the adjoining Library. The Rendezvous Lounge was quite nice, but we didn"t hang around in there much because an awful duo seemed to be providing the "entertainment" there constantly!
The Horror of Youth:
I used to be young once and I"m only 45 now, but the young Spring Breakers aboard the Zenith for this trip were, for the most part, just unbearable! I had chosen this ship precisely for its promise of older and/or more sophisticated passengers - That may be true as a rule, but this trip was a major exception! At least 65% of the passengers on this cruise were college kids living it up on Daddy's dime. I have nothing against that, but the drunken partying, obnoxious language, and sleeping on the deck pretty much beat the heck out of any frat party I might have gone to when I was that age! I really can't fault Celebrity for their choice of passengers, but I can certainly fault them for not maintaining much control over this unruly bunch! At the very least, I would have liked to have seen some of the bartenders/servers "cut off" the worst of them. Instead, several times I found myself purposefully avoiding the poolside scene for fear of encountering some kid in the process of revisiting last night"s dinner! And speaking of dinner, at least half of the kids didn"t bother to pay attention to the daily dress code in the dining room. It"s just a drag to be in a suit at my table while there are kids in shorts and muscle shirts drinking beer and being loud at the table across from me! Ah well - Enough about them. They were probably just a timing issue on my part! I can at least chuckle at the thought of them having to explain their bar bill to their parents!
Best part of the cruise! I had heard that dining was better aboard Celebrity, but this, again, exceeded my expectations by far! Following the suggestions of our excellent waiter, Nelu, I found myself trying and enjoying things I would never have thought to have experimented with at all! We ate in the main dining room four nights out of five and I can tell you that those four meals are among the top twenty meals I have ever eaten! From good ole, down home turkey to grilled hake, I have nothing but compliments to give! Bring your camera for the last night"s Baked Alaska parade - The wait staff puts on quite a show!
The breakfast buffet was quite good with a nice assortment of choices. The fresh fruit was exotic and outstanding. For lunch, get the master sandwich maker to make you something good to order - He's excellent at it!
Let me preface this with the fact that I usually can"t stand any show with a title that includes the words "Tribute" or "Broadway" in it. That said, the Celebrity Singers and Dancers were pretty darn good. I skipped one of their shows, but their other ones showed some definite talent and an endless supply of energy. The magician was baffling, as all magicians are to me, and the comedian was terrific! His routine was fresh material focusing on the ongoing battle between the "Old" cruisers and the Spring Breakers! Best line compared the unfortunate midriff-bearing attire of most of the female college kids to a tin of biscuits that has been whacked on the counter and is spilling out dough in the middle!
Not enough for people over the age of 25‚?¶There were plenty of things to do for the Spring Breakers around the pool, but I was probably not a viable candidate for the "King of the Zenith" contest or the "Pole Dancing" bikini contest. If you were tan, 22 and at least three sheets to the wind, there was something for you to do on this cruise. Otherwise, except for a trivia contest here and there, there wasn"t much organized fun for the older set. A quick note about the Park West art auctions‚?¶I usually enjoy these, but not this time. The "auctioneer" Rudi, insisted on treating us like we were audience members at a Jerry Springer show‚?¶"Whoever screams the loudest will get three more raffle tickets!"‚?¶That sort of thing. Forgive me for thinking that art is best appreciated by a quieter, more contemplative sort of person than one who "Yee Haws" on command. I didn't spend much time with Rudi.
Key West and Grand Cayman are both excellent places to shop and do stuff. I recommend a tour of Hemingway's home on Key West and my wife and daughter gave high marks for a wave runner tour of the entire island that they took. Apparently, Oprah Winfrey's house is a highlight! Both of the Key West excursions were booked outside the ship and done for much cheaper. The stingrays are a kick on Grand Cayman, but I most enjoyed the Nautilus semi-submersible tour and snorkel. Nice and informative young guides, a fun (and slightly spooky!) view of a couple of shipwrecks followed by a fantastic snorkel over Cheeseburger reef. Excellent!
Since we flew American Airlines, we got to participate in Celebrity's "Valet Service." We handed over ten bucks a person, put special tags on our luggage, and got handed back boarding passes. We saw our bags briefly when going through customs, but after that, we didn"t see them again until the baggage claim in Dallas! Best of all, we got to get off first before any other non-participating customers. Good deal!
It's probably not fair for me to grade Celebrity on this cruise because it's obvious that they were having to cater to their younger majority. I"m sure that the Spring Breakers had a great time (assuming that sticker shock over their bar bill didn"t cause them to jump overboard!). I definitely would take the Zenith again - It was as smooth as silk almost the entire voyage and the staff was friendly and eager to please. Despite the obnoxious youngsters, we all definitely had a wonderful time, and it"s not often that that can be said when three different generations are involved!