MS Zenith Review - Part II

On the Horizon, one thing we had objected to was that there were only two casual evenings--the first and the last. We had--stupidly--assumed that the same would be true on the Zenith and we didn't even look at the daily program for the recommended dress for dinner on Wednesday. By the time we got to dinner, we figured out that, since Eric was the only one in the dining room with a suit and tie, that dinner this evening was supposed to be casual. During dinner, there must have been a complaint about the bread, as the busboy came around and took away all our bread and disappeared. During this time, one of our tablemates laid out John, the wine steward. John presented the cork to our table mate, who promptly grabbed his butter knife and buttered the cork. A few minutes later, the busboy reappeared with new baskets of bread, which were hot out of the oven.

Our cruise was the last cruise prior to drydock for the Zenith. Therefore, there were some things that the ship was running out of. I was only able to get the small size teddy bear in the gift shop. Apparently the shops were also running out of cigarettes. And most importantly for Eric, they were running out of Coors Light. By Wednesday, our favorite bartenders up in the Fleet Bar were hiding Coors Light for Eric. We heard the bartenders telling other passengers that they were all out-- meanwhile, Eric had his private stash on the side of the cooler!!

Thursday was a day at sea and we started the disagreeable task of packing to go home, laid out to catch some rays. Eric went to a talk by the cruise director, who told some personal tales of his life at sea, and took questions regarding life at sea. Eric said it was pretty interesting.

Most importantly, Thursday was PARTY day!! We had decided to invite our table-mates and a few others to a party in our cabin and we had quite a bit of help from Noel. Noel got us free cold canapes--cheese and crackers, and miscellaneous cold canapes and we ordered a tray of hot canapes, for which we had to pay. We had purchased gin and tonic and rum and coke for the party and needed some limes. Eric went down to the casino bar to beg some limes and bartender said "Yes, Mr. Hill, what can I do for you?" Something tells me that bartender had seen our charge card too many times, that he knew Eric's name!! Noel brought us some more glasses and saw that we already had limes, and said that he would have gotten limes for us. Noel brought our cold and hot canapes, and surprised me with a vase of red roses, as well as chilling our bottle of wine, plus ordering another from room service for us. After the party, Noel stopped by to check to make sure that everything was OK. He refused a tip at the time of the party--although of course, he made out like a bandit at the end of the week!!

During the party, over a couple of bottles of wine and miscellaneous gin and tonic's and rum and coke's, we plotted our trick on our waiter, Edgar. We looked at the menu for dinner and decided that we would all order exactly the same thing for dinner. We wrote down our order for him--shrimp cocktail, cream of broccoli soup, Caesar salad, lobster tail and CHOCOLATE MOUSSE. When Edgar arrived, we told him we didn't need the menu and everyone passed down their menus to Eric, who said he was going to order for everyone. He handed our order to Edgar, who about split a gasket over the order. We decided we might as well get John, the wine steward, while we were at it, and ordered three bottles of a German Piesporter wine. Then, to complete the effect, we changed seats after every course. John went crazy trying to figure out whose wine was whose, and started marking the bottles "Couple Number 1, Couple Number 2, Couple Number 3". We told John he'd better be careful, as we didn't want that JUNK that Couple Number 2 was drinking!!! We had a great time at dinner except, unfortunately, our chocolate mousse looked mysteriously like Baked Alaska. Baked Alaska was what was on the menu, but we had all decided that chocolate mousse sounded much better. Of course, they brought the Baked Alaska anyway. It's inevitable.

After dinner, Eric played craps and was hot. He didn't quit quite in time, but still came out ahead. I was too excited from such a full day of partying and crashed early. Eric went to the tropical party up on deck with our favorite bartender, Amanda. Eric said there were lots of people there, but no one was drinking. Eric and Amanda were bored and played with a "dancing" balloon. This balloon is of such endurance that, as I'm typing this, the balloon (which made it home fine in our suitcase) is still inflated. If it ever deflates, we'll put in in our scrapbook from the cruise.

Friday was Key West, a port we had never visited before, but one we were not that excited about seeing. I rousted Eric out of bed at 9:30 and we headed lazily off the ship. We took the the Conch Train tour, which was 1 « hours at $14 per person. After the tour, we bought a t-shirt and some postcards and some cokes and headed back to ship for a shower, some lunch, and to lay out by pool. We had considered getting a piece of key lime pie in Key West and figured it wasn t worth it at $3.50 a piece. There was key lime pie in the buffet luncheon on Friday, which wound up saving us some money, I guess. While we were sitting at the pool deck bar, the phone rang. It was the captain, asking to have two vanilla Haagen Das bars brought up to his office. The bartender asked one of the bar waiters to take it to him, and the bar waiter thought she was kidding! Anyway, of course they only had chocolate, no vanilla. We wondered if the waiter would come back WEARING the Haagen Das, but he re-appeared a few minutes later, looking none the worse for wear.

Prior to dinner, we met up with two of our tablemates at the photo display, as we were looking for our table picture. It looked a decent enough likeness and we usually try to buy the table picture, so we can remember our tablemates, so we bought it. At the photo gallery, we hatched a plan to buy the table picture for John, the wine steward, and give it to him, properly autographed--"Couple number 1, Eric and Carol Hill, Couple number 2, etc." and "Remember the Piesporter!"

We took the picture with us to dinner to surprise John and of course, he had a surprise for us--3 bottles of the same wine on the table! (Green Lable, though, not the Piesporter, as I think they were out!) Anyway, of course one of our tablemates brought champagne to dinner, so we still got even with him! Anyway, I think that John really enjoyed our table for the week. I know that we enjoyed him.

As we came to the table this evening, Edgar, our waiter, asked who had the order tonight. We told him he d have to work this time! Anyway, there was chocolate souffle on the menu on Friday evening and we each had one. It was wonderful.

After dinner we decided to meet in the Fleet Bar for drinks. After a couple of drinks, the elevator music started sounding pretty good (or at least, better!!) and we started dancing, kind of weirdly. The guitarist joined in the dancing and had to quit playing because he was laughing too hard.

We retired around 2 A.M., which is fairly normal for our last night at sea, but makes for a very dismal next morning. Because the ship was going into drydock the next week, they were trying to kick people off early, as they intended to sail for Newport News at 9:30 A.M. Second seating breakfast was at about 7:30 and there was, fortunately for us, hot breakfast (although an abbreviated one) available at the buffet, which is where we ate. We were assigned number 1 for embarkation and they called our number to embark before 8:00 A.M. The airline baggage claim people said that the never have any people off the Zenith before 9:30, so they really moved it along that morning. There were airline reps from Continental, US Air, American, Delta and Condor who were checking bags at the pier.

Miscellaneous observations--
Entertainment Shows--Haven t the foggiest. We maintained a perfect record for this cruise. We did not go to a single show. Actually, we had intended to go to the hypnotist show, as we heard from one of the crew that this show was the best of the week. Unfortunately, it turned out to be before dinner and on a night when Eric and I were both hot in the casino.

Music--The steel band wasn t particularly memorable. According to Amanda, our favorite bartender from this trip, Onyx has disbanded and the lead singer on the current band on Zenith was the second lead singer from Onyx. The voice did sound the same, although we were sad to hear that Onyx has disbanded. There was a duo who played "elevator music" in the Fleet Bar. There was also a lady who played at Harry s Bar. Her performances were also unremarkable.

Casino--We look at gambling as entertainment and if we come home with any of the money we took for gambling, we are ahead of the game. We won a boatload of money on Monday on roulette and this ensured that we came home with some of the cruise line s money, so that was a huge bonus. Zenith has apparently done away with Caribbean Stud and replaced it with "Oasis Poker". Difference is there is no dollar slot and the game is not nearly as exciting. On the plus side, there were always 2-$2 blackjack tables open, which is really nice for amateur blackjack players, like me. There is only one roulette wheel on Zenith and it was often packed. The craps table was busy from time to time. Overall, the casino was very busy most of the time. Dealers seemed to be all English, with the possible exception of one or two of the ladies, who seemed to be of unknown origin. (G!!) One of these ladies TWICE within about 5 minutes paid the wrong number on roulette. House lost big-time on both occasions, so none of us bothered to let her know.

TV--We generally do not watch TV at all while on a cruise, unless it is perhaps to watch a football game during the winter. Zenith had no regular network TV channels, only ESPN and CNN. There were no football games live on TV, although we did see a little bit of Monday Night Football on an ESPN replay late Monday night. There were some first run movies shown in the cabin and on the big screen in the main show lounge, but we did not watch any. The only movie I remember offhand was Batman Forever.

Food and service--Here is where Celebrity shines and what I book Celebrity for. For it s price range, Celebrity spends much more per passenger for food and it shows. The breakfast buffet is the same every day, but contains almost anything one could want with the exception of waffles--omelettes, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, french toast, pancakes, sausage, bacon and ham, hash browns. There is usually a waiter at the buffet line to pour coffee in mornings, iced tea, lemonaid and punch at lunch time, as well as waiters to carry your tray to the table. On the first day at sea, I saw a 70-ish gentleman who appeared quite offended when the waiter wanted to carry his tray. I suppose that he thought that the waiter was only offering to carry it because he was too old to carry it himself. Service in the dining room was good, better than on most other cruises that I have sailed, although our personal waiter and bus boy were certainly not up to the standards of their contemporaries from the Horizon from last year. Food was generally excellent, with the lobster tail on Thursday night and the chocolate mousse from Friday night being the best I ever remember tasting. Overall, food and service on Celebrity are consistently good, with very few breakdowns. Each particular dish may not be the very BEST of that particular dish you have ever had, but it is very unusual to have anything which is not of a uniformly good quality. Do not travel on Celebrity and expect to see "flaming Baked Alaska" parades, as Celebrity does not do them. I personally do not miss them, although some might. Celebrity is not party-hearty atmosphere and those who expect a party in the dining room three or four nights or lines of waiters singing God Bless America will be disappointed. For me, it fits my style.

One thing which we really enjoyed on this trip (as well as our trip on the Horizon) was the "moving buffet". We always have the second seating for dinner, so we are never hungry for the midnight buffet, and have no desire to stand in any lines, so we particularly appreciate Celebrity's policy of having waiters bring around tidbits to the public rooms. About half of the time, it's pizza, which was always wonderfully hot. On two nights, there were various offerings, including cold sandwiches, chicken tenders, and desserts. The rooms where the "moving buffet" was offered differed from night to night, but often they even came into the casino. We think this is a great idea, especially for those of us who would love just a bite to eat, without having to stand in any lines, or even leave the casino!!

Deck service--Bar and waitress service was excellent, not pushy. On this particular cruise, we had no problem whatsoever with deck chairs, although the ship was not full. There were also plenty of fresh towels available up on deck and by the gangway as we went to go ashore.

Conclusion--We had a wonderful time. The suite was definitely worth the extra money we paid on this trip, although I'm not at all sure that we would pay anything close to the brochure rate for the suites, especially since there are no balcony cabins. However, Celebrity has corrected that problem on the Century, and we will definitely cruise Celebrity again, possibly on the Century--in a balcony cabin. ( I wish!!) Let us know if you have any questions we can answer.

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