Zenith 2006
22nd September
- Fly to Newark, USA
Overnight at the Sheraton Hotel
Saturday-Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ
embark Zenith
Sunday-at sea
Monday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Tuesday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Wednesday-transfer to St George, Bermuda
Thursday-St George, Bermuda
Friday-at sea
30th September
-Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ
Day-room at the Sheraton Hotel
Fly to UK overnight
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Celebrity's Zenith at Penno's Wharf, St George, Bermuda.

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The 10th time in Bermuda for me, and we were a party of 10 - the biggest (and the best) group yet! We might even have been 11 with Anny as well but she had been undergoing chemo-therapy and though she had still hoped to make this trip, sadly we finally lost her to leukemia earlier this year.

For Sally & Stella, this was their first cruise; and Peter & Lesley, while not exactly "cruise virgins", were also joining us for the first time. For all of them, it was their first trip to Bermuda, so John, Andrew, Gerry & I had high hopes that they would all fall for Bermuda, just as we have done.
Friday 22nd September
Flight to Newark, USA

At Gatwick Airport this time, Check-in & Security went smoothly and we had booked into the quiet comfort of the ServiceAir Lounge, which is where Joyce eventually found us, having had all her make-up confiscated by Security because she had forgotten to pack prudently! However, our 7-hour economy flight with Continental Airlines was not pleasant; with cramped seating, dreadful food and uninteresting entertainment, it was tedious. I wrote in my diary, "I do not like flying economy!"

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Newark, New Jersey, USA Show New York Map
At Newark's Liberty International Airport, the transfer arrangements worked fine and by 2.30pm, we were in our hotel, the Sheraton Newark, complete with a fabulous indoor pool, which Lesley & I were soon taking advantage of!
(left) Part of the huge atrium and impressive indoor pool of the Hotel Sheraton Newark

After a relaxing meal in the hotel, I had arranged a mini-bus trip to Liberty State Park. This was Sally & Stella's first visit to New York and as they were not going to see much of it this trip, I wanted to at least let them see the lights of the city across the River Hudson!

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A very windy
Liberty State Park
Empire State Building Statue of Liberty All Girls Together!
(Andrew's Photo)

It was pretty cold and windy by the water, so we didn't stay long! The driver then took us on bumpy roads through downtown Jersey City (which was educational!) before returning us to the hotel.

Saturday 23rd September
Newark, USA - Embarkation
After a lazy morning in the hotel, we were all picked-up around midday for our transfer to the new Royal Caribbean cruise facility at Cape Liberty, Bayonne. Mind you, I say "new"; I expected a new building but there wasn't one! Nevertheless, embarkation was surprisingly smooth and efficient.

Show Picture Full Size Our luggage was also delivered quickly and we were unpacked by 3.15pm, in good time for Boat Drill. Soon, we were all together toasting "Absent Friends" as we departed a rather hazy Upper New York Bay.
(left & right) Passing under the Verrazano Bridge (Gerry's photos)
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Show Picture Full Size In spite of my previous judgemental remarks about the ship (and its passengers!), once aboard so swiftly and efficiently, I quickly felt relaxed and at home.

But for us, this was the first time we chose upgraded "Concierge-class" cabins. The cabin was basically the same and (on Zenith at least) there was still no balcony but we did have various extras: fluffy bathrobes, posh toiletries, champagne, fresh fruit and a mini-bar! I wrote in my diary, "Can't have less than this in future!"
(left) Our Concierge-class cabin (#1039)

Unfortunately, one thing that hadn't improved was Zenith's sea-handling; by the time we met for drinks that evening, we were well out to sea and bumping about as usual! First Lesley was taken poorly, tried to come down to dinner but couldn't face it. Then Joyce followed. Andrew made an apt comment regarding Ten Little Indians but at this rate, we'd all be gone by Wednesday!
Sunday 24th September
A Day at Sea - en-route to Bermuda

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It was still blustery but things had settled down a little by the next day and we spent a blissful morning on deck. Then a disastrous dance lesson for Joyce & I; trying to learn "Swing" from one of the female Entertainment Staff on the stage of the Theatre - not a good idea!

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Elegant Cruise Virgins!
Stella & Sally
A Dance Lesson
Me & Joyce
Caravelle Restaurant

Later on, we had a Special Invitation to Elegant Tea (for Concierge & Suite guests) before our first Formal Dinner of the cruise, at which I enjoyed Montrachet Cheese & Potato Gratin, a favourite starter I had first discovered aboard Galaxy last year.
(right) Our Official "Titanic Staircase" Group Photo. This was our largest Group yet!
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After dinner, there was the customary Captain's Toast in the Theater (something they seem to do now instead of a "Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party"). This was followed by the Show, which was the usual travesty of songs, some of them just too good to be completely ruined!

Monday 25th - Tuesday 26th September
Hamilton, Bermuda
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Show Picture Full Size Arriving off St George at dawn, the ship passed inside the reef and followed the South Channel, entering Hamilton Harbour by Two Rocks Passage and coming alongside around 9.00am.

This was my 10th time here and it felt like coming home (I wish!)
(Gerry's photo left) The Approach to Hamilton & Front Street
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Unfortunately, at Fort Hamilton we found the Botanical Gardens in the moat closed on account of damage from Hurricane Florence, which had hit Bermuda just a couple of weeks ago. Worse still, the little cafe was closed too! Undaunted however, we took the bus from Hamilton to Dockyard, a fantastic scenic introduction to Bermuda and the spectacular beaches along the south shore.

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& the Commissioner's House
The Commissioner's House Dolphin Encounter
Sally & Stella (Gerry's photo right)

At Dockyard, we were able to enjoy lunch, a spot of shopping, the museum and the beautifully restored Commissioner's House on the hill. For the afternoon, Sally & Stella had arranged a Dolphin Encounter at the facility there and I'm sure they both enjoyed it, although at times Stella looked close to terrified! Meanwhile, those of us watching from the walls of the fort were caught in a flash rainstorm and we got just as drenched as Sally & Stella!

The Commissioner's House
Completed in 1827, this was the first residential building in history to utilise cast-iron framing, which was all pre-fabricated and transported from England. Like many other Dockyard buildings, the walls are hard Bermuda limestone, largely quarried by convicts and slaves. The Commissioner's House was originally occupied by the Dockyard Commissioners and then by the Army, as the Royal Marine Barracks until 1914, when it became married quarters and barracks for naval ratings during the Great War.

When the Navy left in 1951, everything was abandoned until 1974 when the Bermuda Maritime Museum was formed. With voluntary donors and contributions, the restoration of the building was completed in 2000, the largest restoration project ever undertaken in Bermuda and earning an RICS Architectural Excellence Award. It is now an elegant exhibition and special events space and a major asset for the Island's cultural heritage. View from the Verandah

Show Picture Full Size But the sun soon came out again and we dried-off on the trip back to Hamilton by ferry across Hamilton Sound. That evening, we had cocktails in the elegant Fleet Bar on Deck 11 forward. Sadly, after Zenith passed to Pullmantur in 2007, this lovely room was converted into new balcony cabins.
(left) The elegant Fleet bar, sadly to be lost in 2007 in the Pullmantur conversion to more cabins!

Day 2 in Hamilton, Bermuda
Unfortunately, Joyce was suffering a lot of pain walking and after yesterday's exertions, had to remain on the ship today. But for the rest of us, John had organised a delightful walk along one of the nicest sections of the Railway Trail, a sentimental reminder of the days of the short-lived Bermuda Railway of 1931, which operated for just 17 years but which left behind a 21-mile scenic bridleway running almost the entire length of the island.
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From the Railway Trail - Palmetto Park to Gibbons Bay
Grandeur of the Seas makes her way down the South Channel towards Dockyard
A Relaxing Paddle
Gibbons Bay & Gibbet Island

During our walk, we watched Grandeur of the Seas making her way towards Dockyard; a wonderful sight and a ship Andrew & I recognised from our trip in 2003. At the end of that part of the Trail, our reward was a paddle at Gibbons Bay where we had the beach entirely to ourselves - brilliant! Opposite was Gibbet Island where once criminals were hanged and witches burned at the stake!

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House on Flatts Inlet Flatts Bridge Camden House & the Botanical Gardens
John on the Verandah, in his element (Gerry's Photo)

At Flatts Village, John & Andrew took the others off on the bus to Camden House, originally an early 18th Century private house but today the Official Residence of the Premier of Bermuda, set in 36 acres of landscaped grounds which form the Botanical Gardens, on this occasion still recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Florence just a couple of weeks ago.

Meanwhile, I slipped off to visit the Crystal Caves, recently extended to include the Leamington Caves, which were owned seperately. They're well worth the climb down all those steps (& back up)!

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The Crystal (& Leamington) Caves
description underneath
The Botanical Gardens
(Andrew's photo)

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Front Street & the "Birdcage"
A Policeman in Bermuda Shorts sometimes directs the traffic
Empress of the Seas
48,563grt - 1,600 passengers
(Ex-Nordic Empress 1990)
47,255grt - 1,374 passengers

In the evening, we had signed-up for the Don't Stop The Carnival Party, which involved a sunset ferry ride across Hamilton Sound to Hawkins Island. If I'm honest, that was probably the best part!

Show Picture Full Size At 52 each, it wasn't cheap but it proved something of a disappointment; the "Caribbean" entertainment was a bit limited and it was just an excuse for a barbeque, watered-down drinks and a lot of very loud music! So I don't think we'll do that again! Show Picture Full Size

Wednesday 27th - Thursday 28th September
St George, Bermuda
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Today Zenith was due to make its dawn move from Hamilton to St George in the north of the island, and it has become something of a tradition for me to get the first bus to St George at 6.45am, to greet the ship with the Town Crier at Gates Fort. But today, Stella decided to join me.
(right) Zenith makes her dawn departure from Hamilton to move to St George
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Show Picture Full Size The Town Cut, St George's
Entering St George's Harbour from the sea is an experience, as the ship passes through the Town Cut, a narrow channel blasted-out in 1917. At the entrance stands the ruined Gates Fort (dating from 1609) where the Town Crier stands and greets the ships as they enter the harbour.
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NCL's Norwegian Crown
swapping berths with Zenith
(Andrew's Photo)
Stella, Me (filming top right) & The Town Crier
at Gates Fort, the entrance to the Town Cut
(Andrew's photos)
The Town Crier
(by Gerry)
In St George
Behind Norwegian Majesty

However, we nearly missed the ship's passage through the Town Cut, because the bus was held up after a collision with a young schoolboy who dashed out across the road. Fortunately, the bus only caught the lad a glancing blow on his rucksack and he was just shocked and dazed but there were the inevitable hysterical scenes at the bus-stop when the boy's mother arrived a few minutes later!

Near Calamity in Paradise
Just outside St George, the bus rounded a bend into the sun and a schoolboy (about 10 years old) suddenly darted across the road at the crossing. The bus braked and swerved across the road but hit him a glancing blow on his rucksack and I saw the lad roll away from the left side of the bus, across the pedestrian crossing. Unhurt, he quickly got up and ran across to join his friends at the bus-stop on the other side of the road. But then he seemed to collapse, presumably with shock.

A great commotion then followed, with the Police called, and an Ambulance; then the boy's mother appeared and had a fainting-fit in front of the bus! The poor driver seemed calm enough but must have been quite shaken. The scene of "Mother & Son Reunited", seemingly unharmed, was really quite emotional. All this delayed the bus by about 20 minutes!

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Zenith at Penno's Wharf, St George, Bermuda Gerry & the Stocks
in King's Square
Rooftops of
St George

Back to the ship for breakfast at 9.00am and then off again at 10.00am! John led one group off on the bus to walk another bit of the Railway Trail along the North Shore.
Andrew's Photos

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More of the Railway Trail
Crawl Waterfront Park, Burchall Cove & Shelly Bay
Crawl Railway Station
And a warning to cows on the line!

Meanwhile, I took Sally, Stella, Peter & Lesley the 20 minute walk over to Tobacco Bay.

The sheltered beauty of Tobacco Bay used to be something of a well-kept secret but today it was much busier. Nevertheless, while the others took a dip and sun-bathed on the tiny beach, Sally & I had a wonderful time snorkelling. With the encouragement of "Lifesaver" Sally, who swims rather well, I ventured farther out than ever before, discovering stunning coral formations and myriads of colourful fish, even seeing a baby octopus!
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Snorkelling at Tobacco Bay St David's
The view from the Lighthouse
St George's Harbour & the old Sea Channel

Show Picture Full Size After lunch, exhausted, I took it easy but as Joyce hadn't been able to get about much, John took her on the bus to St David's Lighthouse and I too went there later.

St David's Lighthouse is the smaller of Bermuda's two lighthouses. Built in 1879 of local limestone, it is 55 feet high to the lantern, which is 208 feet above sea level and provides a great view of the harbour and of St George's Channel, the original way into the harbour before the opening of the Town Cut in 1917.
(left) The view of St George's Harbour from St David's Light

That evening, we all met for drinks in Lesley & Peter's Suite (#1008) to recount the day's adventures but after another fabulous dinner, everyone was too shattered to show any enthusiasm for the "50's & 60's Sock Hop" on deck and went to bed!

Day 2 in St George - and another 5-Star Day!
On our final day in Bermuda, Peter went off to play Golf at the exclusive Riddell's Bay Golf Club while the rest of us took the bus to Clearwater Beach, which Andrew & Anny discovered in 2003.

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View of St David's Lighthouse from
Clearwater Beach
Andrew & Sally Stella Joyce

However, Anne & Joyce forgot to set their alarm this morning and were so late getting up that the rest of us left them behind, with details of how to find us. They arrived about an hour later!

It's a spectacularly beautiful spot, with grass under the trees by the beach, toilets, silky-soft sand and a warm, calm and sheltered sea. Apart from 2 or 3 other people, we had the place to ourselves!

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Silken Sands Anne & Lesley Plane Spotting!
the aircraft flight-path!
Picnic Spot

The only minor drawback is that it lies almost under the flightpath of the nearby airport but even when the planes came in, they were more in the manner of a "photo opportunity" than a nuisance!

Mark seen money-laundering on the beach!
So lovely is this spot and so keen was I to get into the sea that I had already been laying on my back for 10 minutes in the beautiful warm water when I realised that I still had all my money, my bus-pass and my cabin key in my swim-shorts! This is how I found out that US dollar bills are washable - because after that, I had them all out on the picnic table, drying in the sun!

All too soon, it was time to return and at 3.00pm the ship departed St George by the Town Cut, heading for New York, as well-wishers cheered from the rocks at Gates Fort.

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Farewell Bermuda! Departing St George via the "Town Cut"
Well-wishers on the rocks at Gates Fort (Andrew's photos)
(above) The Rainbow Room
(below) The Martini Bar

There may no longer be a "Welcome Aboard" cocktail party these days but this evening was the Captain's Club Cocktail Party for repeat guests. So while 6 of us "Repeaters" went to the Rainbow Room, Stella, Sally, Peter & Lesley went to the Martini Bar and had special Martinis instead!
(right) The Martini Bar where the cocktails are not only imaginative but rather powerful!
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After an impressive Formal Dinner (I had lobster, which was really good!) the evening was rounded-off with the Gala Buffet; a rather wasteful indulgence perhaps but nonetheless visually impressive!

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Ice Sculpture A Bread Mountain! Just part of
The Gala Buffet
Stella & Me
Friday 29th September
A Day at Sea

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For some it was "Last Day Blues", with the packing to do and cruise questionnaires to fill-out but Andrew & Stella were in the Casino last night and Stella won $107 at Roulette. Then today, Andrew won $148 on the slot-machines and Stella won another $104! She was quite beside herself!

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Last Day Blues Sunset
from the cabin
Joyce & Anne Me & Sally
Saturday 30th September
Cape Liberty, Bayonne, USA

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John has a theory that standards always slide on the last day because they are more interested in the new passengers and just want to get rid of you! So far, everything had gone so well but as we arrived back at the Cape Liberty Cruise Facility, we were greeted by the sight of Queen Mary 2 arriving ahead of us and I should have known that we would get "second-best" when it came to it....

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Entering New York Bay
Verrazano Bridge
John & Queen Mary 2 (148,528grt)
Until 3 months ago, largest cruise-ship in the World
(John never did sail on her!)
Queen Mary 2
at Bayonne Cruise Terminal

Chaos & Tears!
Not surprisingly, with QM2 pinching all the porters, we were late disembarking and then it was chaos on the dockside, where we spent an hour trying to get someone to direct us to the correct bus - and there was no-one from Celebrity keeping an eye on things. Americans are very fussy about paperwork too, and ours was not what they recognised and it was only sheer persistence that got us on a bus going to the correct hotel!

Back at the Sheraton Hotel, it seemed that Peter & Lesley had no day-room reservation, so John gave them his room and shared with me & Gerry. At least we then had a few hours to enjoy the pool again and have something decent to eat!

Then it was chaos again at the Continental Airlines Check-in, where our names were not grouped and our seating arrangements all messed-up. On top of that, Joyce's baggage was overweight and she was charged $25 until tears got her the money back! But Joyce was not well and with all the standing around, was in a lot of pain, so we had to arrange a wheel-chair to get her to the gate.

After all that, our overnight flight was a mercifully short 6 hrs but John was not at all happy having a female "nutter" next to him all the way!

It's often the case that the last day of a holiday is the worst and long-haul flights home do not help this equation. And although Joyce's holiday was overshadowed by her poor health, for the rest of us I think, all in all, it was a cracker of a holiday and the best visit yet to our favourite destination.

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 1,328 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 104,214 n miles

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