The year was 1992. It was the inaugural year of the Zenith. It was also our tenth wedding anniversary and we decided to do something "Special." We took our first cruise together and have been addicted ever since.
This was our thirteenth cruise and this review shares with you our fourth Zenith experience. Celebrity Cruises' eleven-night "Ultimate Caribbean."
We live about 225 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, so we drove to Port Everglades. It was a chilly, breezy, cloudy Monday when we arrived at the port. I was surprised to find that the parking rates had increased again. The rate is now ten dollars per day. The new port control tower and offices, which were recently added, need to be financed somehow, I guess.
There were no lines in the terminal (that was a first) and we boarded as soon as we cleared security. We did not find the usual white-gloved escorts to show us to our cabin. We discovered later that we boarded so early the escort team was still in an employee meeting. A staff member at the gangway gave us directions to find our cabin but we knew where it was and didn't require an escort anyway. We reached our cabin, looked at each other and said "Honey, we're home."
After settling in our cabin, we began to seek out our friends from previous cruises. When passing through the Windsurf Café, Linda saw our waiter from the cruise on the Century in May. She called his name "Sasha" and he turned and recognized us. He asked if we would like to sit in his section for dinner and told us to see the Maitre d' who would arrange everything.
We also found our close friend Laura, whom we met in 1997 aboard the Horizon. She is the wife of our best friend, Gustavo, who was our waiter on the Zenith in 1994. Other friends we found were Fabian, Florentino, and Melvin.
One night, while visiting Laura in Michael's Club, she introduced us to the Communications Manager, Mr. Kafiris. Mr. Kafiris was very interesting to talk to as he explained the operations of the satellite communications equipment. They were in the process of replacing the original equipment due to some communication difficulties they were experiencing. Mr. Kafiris had sailed with another friend of ours, Captain Konstantinides who was now Captain of the Century. We were told that the Century would be in St. Thomas the same day as the Zenith and if we wanted to contact the Captain, Mr. Kafiris would arrange to connect us. Needless to say, we accepted and made arrangements to visit our friend on the Century.
The PortsAfter three wonderful sea days we arrived in Willemstad, Curaçao. Curaçao is located 35 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela. It boasts of having the seventh largest natural harbor in the world, the highest bridge in the Caribbean and the unique Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge that opens and closes by the bridge tender actually piloting the motorized bridge. Curaçao is a Dutch governed island and its buildings reflect that in the architecture and the bright pastel colors. The Dawn Princess and Carnival Destiny were already docked when we arrived. It was hot and humid when we disembarked. We headed for an area called Punda, where the majority of the shopping resides. After a day of shopping and sampling the local cuisine at the "Time Out Café" (also a cyber-café), we again boarded the Zenith for La Guaira, Venezuela.
We docked in La Guaira early Friday morning and had decided not to go on the Caracas tour, which turned out to be a good decision. The tour busses spent most of the tour stuck in heavy traffic. We opted instead to shop in the terminal mall. La Guaira is a typical South American industrial port, dirty and somewhat dangerous. It is common to see a heavily armed military and police presence. We set sail at 4 PM for Grenada.
Saturday, in the early morning hours, the Zenith began to slow down and maneuver for the medivac of a passenger with a bleeding pancreas. The ship came to a complete stop as close as it could to the island of Isla Margarita. For some reason there was no helicopter. The passenger was evacuated by boat, which had to shuttle all the way out to the ship to transport him to the island for treatment. Later that morning, Captain Mantadakis announced that the passenger was in good condition after surgery but, because the medivac took so long, we would not have time to dock in Grenada - we would go directly to Barbados. Many passengers were very disappointed. We talked to a couple that used to live in Grenada and were supposed to meet friends there. We were supposed to go to the "spiceisle.com" web cam so our BB friends could see us in Grenada. However, we took comfort in knowing that the passenger would be okay and we had another sea day.
The Zenith arrived in Barbados around 1AM and many crew and passengers disembarked. Barbados, only 166 square miles, is the easternmost island in the West Indies. We waited for daylight to go see the island. We browsed through the shops in the port terminal mall first then met our waiter, Sasha, at The Boatyard Restaurant on the ocean. We joined him for a little liquid libation then had lunch with some new friends we had made on the ship. Next stop, Martinique.
We arrived in Fort De France at 7AM and docked next to us was the French battleship Montcalm. French Martinique, renowned for the beauty of its beaches and scenery, is one of the largest Caribbean islands at approximately 425 square miles. St. Pierre is the home of Mount Pelé that erupted in 1902 and killed 30,000 people. The only person to survive was the town drunk who was locked up in jail. We walked to the nearby shops downtown. All prices were marked in French francs, but many also had the U.S. dollar conversion (1 USD = approx. 7.5 FF). At 4 PM the Zenith sailed for our last port before Ft. Lauderdale, St. Thomas.
Zenith Docked at Havensight in St. Thomas
The Zenith docked at Havensight just behind her sister ship, Century, and Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress. We met our friend, Laura, on the dock and went to visit Captain Konstantinides on the Century. Security was expecting us and escorted us to Captain's office adjoining the bridge. His office was huge and he had a beautiful scale model of the Century in the conference room. As we chatted with Captain Konstantinides, who we hadn't seen since May, Captain Mantadakis from the Zenith came into the office. He smiled and laughed. He was as surprised to see us, as we were to see him. We visited for about a half hour and not wanting to take too much time from his busy schedule, we said our good-byes. Afterwards, we gave Laura the grand tour of the ship as this was her first time on the Century. We then joined another friend, Carolina, (Bar Manager) for lunch in one of the Havensight Mall restaurants.
Atrium Decked Out for Christmas
The Zenith is nine years old but very well maintained. In the fall of 1999, she was extensively remodeled - the Windsurf Café now allows passengers to serve themselves from both sides of the buffet line. With the addition of the Martini Bar where the card room used to be, Michael's Club where the disco had been, an art gallery and gift shop where the library had been located, these spaces now provide more efficient usage of what was once considered unprofitable space.
Zenith Pool Geyser
Her exterior still looks good with the exception of some large dents in her bow plates, presumably from many years of navigating rough seas. The beds, in our opinion, were hard and uncomfortable. They were basic square tubular metal frames with corrugated sheet metal bolted to the frames with thin mattresses. No springs anywhere.
We enjoy Celebrity's variety of food and presentation. From the chilled soups to their selections of fish, chicken, homemade pasta and beef dishes each evening they are sure to tempt your taste buds. The pastries and desserts are among the best I've ever eaten. They even offer "Special" menus for people with health and dietary requirements.
Following late seating dinner each evening, we chose to visit with our friend Laura. Afterwards we would go to the Rainbow Room for live music and dancing. The band "On Lyne" was outstanding! They also provided the music daily by the pool. We did not attend any of the "Production" shows. However, our tablemates raved about the comic Jimmy Carroll and the magic duo of Brett Sherwood and Lesley-Ann.
The Staff and EmployeesFrom Bartholome, the young man from Honduras who polished the rails and elevators and vacuumed the stairwells (he spoke very little English, but took time to teach us some Spanish) to the Captains of the Zenith and the Century, everyone went out of their way to make sure that our cruise was the most memorable ever. Everywhere we went we were met with a warm smile and a friendly greeting. Although we occasionally cruise other lines, Celebrity Cruises remains our line of choice. A cruise line is just a cruise line. It's the staff and employees that make the cruise a memorable experience.
All Photos by Phil & Linda Parker.
This was the 13th cruise for Phil & Linda Parker, and their third SeaLetter cruise review. The Parkers bought a digital camera just prior the cruise and both shared in the photo fun. Phil & Linda may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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