by Melinda Kazmer
Repositioning Baltimore to Tampa
October 27, 2001
Review of the MV Zenith Sailing October 27, 2001 from Baltimore to Tampa
First of all, let me say that this review expresses my and my husband's opinions and experiences of this cruise. Everyone has a different experience based on their past cruising experiences and their expectations. There are our experiences on this cruise.
We are seasoned cruisers, with these cruises being numbers 14 and 15. We are past Celebrity cruisers as well as HAL, RCCL, NCL, Costa, Premier, Commodore and Carnival. Celebrity and HAL are our favorite lines with these being our 3rd and 4th Celebrity cruises. We have previously sailed the Meridian and the Century on Celebrity and will be back on the Century again this year. This cruise was really two cruises "back to back". We booked this cruise last March because we would leave from NYC and go to Bermuda, then cruise the Caribbean and end up in Tampa. After September 11, Celebrity re-positioned the ship to embark in Baltimore and Bermuda was dropped as a port of call. The actual itinerary was Baltimore, three days at sea, San Juan, St. Maarten, Martinique, Barbados (end of first cruise), Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola, St. Thomas, two days at sea, Key West, and ending in Tampa. It was 15 days long. The longest we had ever sailed before was 10 days, so we didn't know how 15 days would be. Let me assure you that it was great!
Our flights were booked into Newark and we were unable to change them without penalty. Celebrity provided buses from Newark to the port of Baltimore. We were up at 3 am to get a 6 am flight from Ft. Myers FL to Miami and then connect from Miami to Newark. The flights were uneventful - much more security - but hardly full planes and we arrived in Newark at 10 am. We found the Celebrity rep finally and then had to wait for the bus - boarded the busses about noon and had a four hour bus ride to Baltimore. The leaves were still on the trees and the colors were beautiful - we arrived at the terminal and unloaded and just walked up to the Captains Club desk and onto the ship. There is something to be said for getting there later in the day! We were escorted to our cabin (4053 on Florida deck - outside -port - amidships) and then went to check our dining reservation. We had requested late sitting, table for two and it was just perfect. We then went up to the buffet, but it was over and so we toured the ship to get our bearings and then went down to our cabin to prepare for dinner.
The cabin is a standard outside cabin - about 172 sq ft - and the bathroom had a great big shower! There was plenty of storage room and a really large picture window. We had booked a guarantee category 12 and category 9 and got upgraded to a category 6 for both legs and didn't have to change cabins. Our cabin steward was Alberto and he was just great - he was ready to provide anything we requested. There is a safe in the closet - easy to work - and lots of hanging space and drawer space. There is a small table and two chairs, if you want to have room service. We only do that the last morning of the cruise. There is an interactive TV, if you are interested in that kind of thing - we hardly turned it on. We did enjoy the window since we usually book an inside cabin.
The MV Zenith is a smaller ship by today's standards. She holds approximately 1374 passengers, there are 12 decks, 9 bars, the Caravelle Restaurant, and the Windsurf Cafe. The pool is on deck 11 as well as the Windsurf Cafe and the Fleet Bar. There is plenty of deck space all over the ship for sunning, eating, relaxing in the shade etc. We never had a problem finding a deck chair or a place to sit. There is a small Spa and a Gym on Deck 12 as well as the walking/jogging track and the three hot tubs. The activity areas are on decks 7 and 8 - the dining room and the Rendez-vous Lounge, the Martini Bar, the show room, the photo gallery and the art gallery are all on deck 7 while the Casino, shops, Cova Cafe, Michaels Club, Library, Card room, and the Rainbow Room are on deck 8. There are three sets of stairs and elevators - forward, midships, and aft - the elevators are slow - we always take the stairs! The Lobby is on Deck 5 as well as the shore excursion deck and the bank. The remaining decks are cabins with the Royal suites and the Celebrity suites on Deck 10 - there are no balcony cabins on this ship. It is a beautiful ship and well maintained. The crew and officers really were a wonderful group of people - everyone had a smile and hello and wanted to help in any way that they could.
DAYS AT SEA
The first three days were at sea and I can tell you that we needed to relax from the journey there. At sea, meals are served in the dining room at your assigned table for all meals as well as the Windsurf Cafe. We prefer dining room service. Celebrity's policy is no announcements - check your daily program for activities and there were plenty. We read, talked to people, ate, exercised, and just generally relaxed. By the time we reached San Juan, we were ready to get off the ship.
We got off the ship in every port, if only for a walk for exercise. We never book the ships excursions - we have been to each of these islands at least once and some many, many times. Our favorite ports are San Juan, St. Maarten and St. Thomas - but we enjoyed them all. We called on Martinique on a holiday/holyday and all shops were closed and there were only a few booths in the market. We called on St Lucia on a Sunday and only the shops at the pier were opened. We did take a tour of Tortola with a driver and two other couples and that was a great experience. I would not want to drive those narrow, winding, very hilly roads myself and we saw the entire island. Our driver, Dougie, was excellent and we learned a lot about Tortola - we had only been there once before - so it was a really nice experience. We docked at a pier for the first time in St. Maarten at their new pier - it is just beautiful and the walk into town in not at all long. There weren't a lot of ships in any port - the most were in St. Thomas - many times we were the only ship. I still think that the shopping in St. Maarten is better now than St. Thomas - but we had a great time everywhere we went. We docked in St. Thomas at Crown Bay - not Havensight - but the walk in from there is about the same as from Havensight - you just don't have the shops there as you do as Havensight. Our weather the whole trip was really good - a few showers in St. Thomas - the remnants of Hurricane Michelle. By the time we left St. Thomas, we were ready for two days at sea. The last port of call was Key West - really heightened security there - the Coast Guard kept all boats at least 100 yards from us and the Horizon. We docked at Mallory Square and walked the town and had peel and eat shrimp, oysters, conch fritters and a beer at the Conch Republic Seafood Company in the old Seaport. Wonderful!!! There are wonderful beaches in all of these ports, but we have been to most of them and don't do beaches much since we live practically on a beautiful beach in Florida. If you live elsewhere - be sure to do some beach days - the water is so clear and beautiful and there is wonderful snorkeling and diving in many of these ports.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the food was excellent all over the ship. Our waiter was Melvis, his assistant was Aden and our Maitre'de was Gilroy - they were absolutely the best!!! We ate in the dining room the majority of the time, but did have breakfast and lunch a few times in the Windsurf Cafe and enjoyed it as well. When the ship is in port, breakfast and lunch are open seating in the dining room. Sea Days are assigned seating and times. Believe me, no one went hungry on this ship. There is ample opportunity for meals and snacks all day. Pizza is served each day as well and there are two Grand Midnight Buffets. The other evenings "Late Night Gourmet Bites" are served all over the ship. We were invited to dine at the Captains Table on this cruise and that was truly a memorable experience. We found the service in the dining room and elsewhere on the ship to be really top-notch!
The cruise director was John Howell and he and his staff were also excellent. We had met John before on the Century and knew what a great job he does. Brenda, the social hostess and the rest of the staff were always working to ensure the everyone had a wonderful cruise. We saw a few of the shows - Michelle Murlin, Ian Finkel, and Ralph Achilles were all really good. Michelle is a Broadway singer, Ian is a Xylophonist, and Ralph is a Comedian. All really excellent shows!!! We didn't see any of the production shows so I can't comment on those. There was also wonderful music with Axis playing in the Rainbow Room each night and poolside during the day, and James Rea playing the piano and singing in the Cova Cafe each night. James was a really great entertainer and we enjoyed him so much. The Celebrity band, directed by Courtney Ennis, was also really good.
I could go on and on about the wonderful time we had, the people we met and our experiences day to day - but it would take forever. I will tell you that a passport is the easiest way to travel these days. If you don't have one, be sure to bring your driver's license or other government-issued picture ID. You will need it to get on and off the ship. Your bags will be inspected as you re-board. Everyone will have to go through immigration when returning to the US. We weren't off the ship in Tampa until 11 am - customs took a very long time. If you are arranging your own air - be sure to allow for this. There were any number of people who missed morning flights in Tampa.