We booked this cruise barely a month before sailing, taking advantage of a mailed offer from Celebrity for the best available cabin at the time of booking for $799 outside, $699 inside. We booked our air separately, on US Air, an unremarkable flight with unremarkable cold cereal and an even colder piece of nut bread.
Since we had booked this trip so late, and we had previously sailed on Celebrity only once, we had not sent in to become members of the Captains Club, which, as most of you know, is the only cruise line past passenger s club which costs money-- $35.00. Knowing that there was expedited check-in for Captain s Club, once we booked the cruise, we tried to sign up for the Captain s Club to get the expedited check-in for this trip. We had to call and leave a message on a recorder. When the lady finally called me back, she said that there was no way the membership would be effective for this trip, because it was ONLY three weeks away. I protested, saying I couldn t understand what would take so long since all they had to do was put a few items of information in the computer. The lady took down our sailing date and cabin number and said she would put us on the list for the Captain's Club party and for expedited checkin.
As many of you know, Zenith currently does an alternating eastern and western Caribbean route. We had booked the cruise to the Eastern Carribean, which was supposed to be San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Marten. Care of Luis, we knew that St. Marten was out and was to be replaced by Tortola. Then, the day before we were to leave, Marilyn hit St. Thomas and San Juan, so we had no idea leaving home where we would be heading. When we arrived at the port, we noticed many leaflets in the embarkation lounge, advising us that Zenith would be doing it s regular Western Caribbean itinerary (although in reverse). This was disappointing, but not necessarily unexpected. At the time of check-in, we were also given a sheet notifying us of the itinerary change. We did not receive any compensation for the change, nor did we expect any. We did not hear much if any griping about the itinerary change for the week, as most people were disappointed, as we were, but knew there was no other alternative at that time.
Zenith does not allow ANYBODY to board until 1:00 P.M., which is kind of a pain. We arrived at the dock around 12:30 and received number 7 and got onboard around 1:30. All of deck 10 (plus the Captain s Club) had a separate check-in line, and check-in was MUCH quicker in this line than the others. I noted that there were people at security who took our carry-ons and placed them on the conveyor belt and took them off for us. A nice touch.
As always, a Celebrity employee led us to our cabin. We were assigned a category 3 cabin, which is the highest category of cabin other than the suites. Category 3 on the Zenith is listed as a "deluxe" cabin, but there is no real difference between this cabin and the rest of the outside cabins other than the presence of a hairdryer and the location on the ship. We were assigned cabin number 1005, which was our choice, based on the limited number of category 3 cabins still available at the time of booking. Once we arrived at the cabin, the only problem with this cabin was that the bed was a queen sized bed, as opposed to a king, although it didn t even look that big. It was nicely situated on deck 10, although almost all the way forward.
After dumping our carry-ons in the cabin, we headed out for the welcome aboard buffet. As we were waiting in line, a bar waiter said hello. We said we weren t interested. He said "You don t remember me, do you?" He was one of our favorite bar waiters from our November 94 trip on the Horizon and he remembered us. He was the first of many people we recognized or who recognized us from our Horizon trip.
For some reason, which we still are not sure of, there was champagne in our cabin upon boarding, care of the maitre d hotel. We weren t sure why we got it and we drank it FAST as we sailed, before someone came and took it away! Other category 3 cabins on Deck 10 and even the mini-suites did not have champagne in the cabin. We also noted with approval that there was water and ice furnished upon embarkation, and the water pitcher was also filled. Good work, Celebrity.
Being on deck 10 was where the problem started, I suppose. Celebrity, as many lines do, leaves the doors open to cabins for embarking passengers. Eric and I love this, since we get to go check out the suites. On the Zenith, there are two categories of suites, the Royal Suites and the Zenith Suites. The Royal Suites (only two of them) were really beauitful and we thought, bigger than the ones on the Horizon, with a separate large dining table with four chairs. These suites also seemed much lighter than the ones on the Horizon, with 3 large windows. The Zenith Suites were larger than the standard cabins, with a loveseat and chair, plus king sized bed, minibar with extra glasses and larger bathroom with whirlpool tub. We made several trips down the hallway the first afternoon and kept noticing every time we went to the elevators that 2 of the suites down from us appeared to be still empty. As we came by at 3:45, we noted that these cabins still appeared empty, at a time when all passengers should have been aboard. This started a germination of an idea.
I went by the purser s desk to ask whether there would be a possibility of an upgrade to a suite and to find out how much it would be. They said I should check back around 7:30. At 7:30 I checked back, and they told me that one of the suites was still available at the rate of an extra $175 per person. I thought this was kind of a lot of money, but the fellow took to me to see the suite and I said I would think about it. Well, we decided to do it, and embarked on a whirlwind change of room before dinner. The ship sent a cabin steward to help us move, and our stewardess also helped quite willingly, which we thought was quite extraordinary, since she was being done out of a tip. We did give her a small tip at the end of the week, since it wasn t her fault we switched cabins. Actually, we had tried to switch to one of the suites still in her section, but some other passengers beat us to them. Actually, we were kind of sorry that we did lose her as a cabin stewardess, as she seemed quite good when she introduced herself. We saw afterward that she was the most recent "circle of excellence" winner for cabin stewardess and we were not surprised.
After the whirlwind change of room, we headed down to dinner. The suite had a different table seating than our original cabin, so we took both cards down to the table to have them tell us which table to sit at. We were told to stay with our original table, which turned out to be a really fun group of people. As we were eating dinner that first night, one of the head waiters came by and said "Weren t you two on the Horizon last year?" His name is Peter and he is a wonderful head waiter, although unfortunately we were not in his section this trip. We had an absolutely wonderful wine steward, whose name was John. We found out later he is the head wine steward for the ship. He is quite distinctive, being perhaps 5 feet tall, on his tip toes, but just a joy to deal with as a wine steward. Our head waiter, as well as the waiter and bus boy, did an efficient, although not great job for the week. This evening I had a cold spring roll, mixed salad greens and NY strip, and the swan thingy, all of which was excellent.
Saturday evening as we were sitting in the Rainbow Room, a couple came by and asked one of the crew near us if the buffet was in here tonight. I looked at the man (who wound up being the Bar Manager, Sergio) and said something smart about "Did it look like there was a place to put a buffet line in here?" Sergio laughed and said that there was no "moving buffet" tonight. He sat and talked to us for a long time after that, and we compared notes about ships we had been on, including the Regent Star. We also talked about our favorite bartender of all time, and discovered that his brother was currently working on the Zenith. More about him later. I crashed and went to bed early and Eric got his first free drink of the week from Sergio.
Sunday was a day at sea, and we soaked up some rays in the morning. After noon we saw Sergio on deck and he pointed out our bartender friend s brother. We introduced ourselves and he said we were just in time. He hauled us over by the pool for the drink demonstration that he and a couple of the other bar waiters were putting on. There was the standard fun nonsense of having a man and a woman each hold onto one side of the shaker and mixing up the drinks, plus Eric got the "bottomless" Margarita. He had to chug it, while our friendly bartender was at the same time refilling his glass. We got a couple of free drinks and some fun out of that.
On Sunday I decided to start taking advantage of my butler, and I had Noel take pressing out to be done for me. Guess I didn t mention that yet, huh, about the butler. We didn t know it at the time that we upgraded to the suite, but all the suites come with the services of a butler. Every day between 3 and 4 P.M., Noel would come by with tea and cookies or coffee, and small sandwiches. Then, between 7 and 8 P.M. (since we were on second seating), he would come by with cold canapes--usually an assortment including caviar and smoked salmon. He also would deliver the evening menu to the cabin every day, as well as a copy of the UPI news. Also, in the suites, one could get a full hot breakfast in the cabin as well as a full dinner, in addition to the regular room service menu. Noel also kept our mini-bar stocked. Although we didn t use a lot from it, it was always full. Noel also arranged our party for us later on in the week. But, I m getting ahead of myself.
Sunday evening was the captain s welcome aboard cocktail party, which we decided not to stand in line for, so we didn t go. I don t remember what we had for dinner that evening and that is the only evening we didn t get a menu for. If anyone wants to see a full menu or the wine list, both of those items liberated themselves from Celebrity and wound up in our suitcase. Oh, the suites also provided thick terry bathrobes, which could be purchased for $40 each. These were whisked away Friday night, so we wouldn t feel the urge to liberate them also.
Monday morning we woke a little tired and I wanted some coffee in the cabin, so I just poked my head out to look for Noel and told him we needed some coffee. It arrived within about 5 minutes. Before we left the cabin, we broke one of the drawers in our cabin. We let Noel know about it and he said that it would be fixed before we arrived back onboard that evening. (He was correct!)
Monday we arrived in our first port, Cozumel. The Enchanted Isle, Imagination, and Celebration were all in port before us and we tendered into the main tender pier. Taxis were at a major premium and we had to wait a while for one, but finally grabbed one to head for the beach. We talked with the driver about the fact that we weren t due to be in Cozumel at all and he seemed to be not at all unhappy with the concept of having extra work for the next couple of months, with ships diverted from Eastern Carribean ports. We went to San Francisco beach, which we had been to before, but about a half mile down the beach from where the driver took us this time. The beach was OK, not great, with lots of rocks and seaweed, etc., in the water. We ate a lunch of mystery meat hamburgers, complemented by chips and salsa, which was described to us by the waiter, as a "little hot" hot sauce. He lied about it being only a "little" hot. The taxi was $10 each way. We headed back to town to buy some junk silver and initial party supplies. Other than Kahlua, Cozumel is not the place to buy alcohol. At least within reasonable walking distance of the tender pier, there was NO gin to be found in Cozumel.
Monday before dinner we headed to the casino and had the best session of the week. I won a large amount of money at roulette, and Eric won at blackjack, and we ended up winning enough money from that session to ensure that we came home with some of Celebrity's money for the week. After we ran out the string, we went down to our cabin to collect our evening caviar and took it to the Fleet Bar to celebrate, along with some drinks. Sergio came by and bought us each a drink, which had to chug, since it was time for dinner!
Tuesday was to be Grand Cayman, but we weren't due to arrive there until 11:30, so we decided to have breakfast in the cabin. We had wonderful Denver omelettes, ham, and croissants, and mimosas for breakfast. Wonderful!! We only did this the one morning, and wish that we had done it more than once.
On Tuesday morning, I attended a talk given by the cruise director in the show lounge which was billed as a talk about the future of Celebrity cruises. He did discuss the changes in itineraries for the Celebrity ships when the Century comes on line. However, I attended primarily in the hope that there would be some pictures of the Century, and there were absolutely none, not even artist's mock-ups. Considering she starts to sail in December, I thought that there should have been some pictures available. I did find out that there were only 1205 passengers onboard this week, meaning there were several empty cabins.
We arrived in Grand Cayman around 11:30. Ships in port were the Norway, the Tropicale, and the Emerald Isle. The Emerald Isle is the only ship that was supposed to be there. We grabbed a bite to eat at the buffet for lunch, then spent a couple hours shopping for some black coral (nobody heard me say that, did they??), visiting Eric's favorite coin dealer and buying the rest of our booze for our party. Booze is not cheap in Grand Cayman and there is not a particularly good selection either.
After shopping, we headed to the Holiday Inn beach. It was not crowded at all and we were not charged for chairs on the beach. Since the last tender to the ship was at 6:30, we stayed at the beach till about 5:45, then ambled back downtown to make a few last purchases, then onboard.
This evening was the special cocktail party for Captain's Club members, which was held in the Fleet Bar. There were only around 65 people for this party. We were seated by the hostess, then Sergio took our drink orders. Sergio having watched me pretty closely thus far, ordered champagne for me and Eric ordered his gin and tonic. This was a nice party, from the standpoint that people were seated at tables and drinks (of whatever variety you wanted) were plentiful. There was no food at all, though. After dinner we hit the casino again for a little more money and retired happy. On Wednesday we arrived in Jamaica around 8:30 A.M. The Monarch of the Seas was already in port. Having done the Dunn's River Falls trip on several occasions, we decided we wanted to do something different here. We walked off the ship and asked the taxi dispatcher (Cool John!!) whether we could get a day pass to go to Couples, which is an all inclusive resort a few miles from Ocho Rios. Cool John tried to call Couples on the pay phone outside the pier, without success. He tried the pay phone a couple more times, then proceeded to produce a cellular phone, whereupon he got through to the resort on the first try. The resort said it would be $40 per person, so we decided to go. The cab ride was to be $40 round trip, which seemed a little steep for Jamaica, but we decided we would pay it.
Couples is a beautiful resort, with watersports, a couple of restaurants and a clothing optional private island with swim- up bar. We headed directly over to the private island and shed our clothes and had a wonderful day. Our big mistake was that we left our bag where we couldn't see it and got our cash ripped off, we think most likely by an employee of the resort. This was the first time we had been ripped off in all our travels in the Caribbean and the first time that we had so totally forgotten ourselves, to totally lose sight of our bag. It did put a damper on our day, but we refused to let it ruin our trip or our day.
Celebrity Zenith Review - Part II
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