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Old March 8th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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Default Celebrity Zenith v RCI Empress to Bermuda

I am brand new to this board and appreciate any advice.

My wife and I are considering cruise options for late July/early August. We would be first time cruisers, and will be taking our 5 yr old daughter. We vacation in the Caribbean (usually SXM or St. Lucia) every winter, but until now have always done New Jersey shore or Cal. in the summer. We are considering a cruise primarily for the purpose of good childrens activities for our daughter, who loves the "kids club" type activities when they have had them available (usually one or two evenings for a few hours) at the resorts we have stayed at.

We are considering primarily the Empress out of Philly to Bermuda, and the Zenith out of Bayonne also to Bermuda. We also have not ruled out various Carnival and RCI options out of Florida.

We are trying to weigh the convenience of the NJ/PA departures on older smaller ships (remember, we have no point of reference never having cruised) with no balcony, less attractions, etc., against going to the Caribbean in the dead of summer on a newer ship.

I am especially interested in any comments on the suitability of the Zenith or the Empress for our daughter, I have been warned that celebrity does not have a lot for kids, especially on the smaller ships.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old March 8th, 2006, 02:10 PM
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Royal will cater much more to kids--but depends on time of yr if many will be on board.
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Old March 8th, 2006, 08:49 PM
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wbsander,

I am brand new to this board and appreciate any advice.

Welcome aboard!

My wife and I are considering cruise options for late July/early August. We would be first time cruisers, and will be taking our 5 yr old daughter. We vacation in the Caribbean (usually SXM or St. Lucia) every winter, but until now have always done New Jersey shore or Cal. in the summer. We are considering a cruise primarily for the purpose of good childrens activities for our daughter, who loves the "kids club" type activities when they have had them available (usually one or two evenings for a few hours) at the resorts we have stayed at.

We are considering primarily the Empress out of Philly to Bermuda, and the Zenith out of Bayonne also to Bermuda. We also have not ruled out various Carnival and RCI options out of Florida.

We are trying to weigh the convenience of the NJ/PA departures on older smaller ships (remember, we have no point of reference never having cruised) with no balcony, less attractions, etc., against going to the Caribbean in the dead of summer on a newer ship.

I am especially interested in any comments on the suitability of the Zenith or the Empress for our daughter, I have been warned that celebrity does not have a lot for kids, especially on the smaller ships


Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International are sister lines (that is, the same parent company owns both) with very different personalities that attract different segments of the cruise market.

>> Celebrity Cruises is probably the most upscale of the "mass market" cruise lines. The line's passengers tend to be professionals in various fields who are looking for a change from the hectic pace of life in the modern world. Most cruises offer series of enrichment lectures on varioius subjects that would appeal to an intellectual crowd. Evenings also tend to be dressy, with "informal" evenings (gentlemen expected to wear sportcoats but not neckties) in addition to the formal evenings that most cruise lines still maintain, and many passengers dress well beyond the prescribed standard.

>> Royal Caribbean International is a very solid "mainstream" cruise line. Its ships offer perhaps the most extensive program of physical activity of any major line, with rock climing walls and even ice skating rinks (that double as show facilities) on its newest ships. Here, you'll find a focus on pool games and such during the daytime when the ship is at sea. It's a more casual product overall, though -- my understanding is that all evenings are casual except the standard formal evenings (two on a seven-night cruise).

In either case, the older vessels will not offer all of the facilities that you would find on a newer vessel but they will maintain the basic style and personality of the respective line. On the other hand, there also will be a lot fewer people trying to use the facilities that these vessels offer. Both lines offer excellent programs for children, with dedicated centers staffed by professional counsellors who run the programs. I also am not persuaded that either of your proposed ports of embarkation would be any better or worse than the other. Overall, the primary question is which line would be a better match for your lifestyle and preferences. If you and your wife prefer a more "upscale" style, go with Celebrty. If you prefer a more casual style, go with Royal Caribbean.

You might find it helpful to pick up a guidebook to cruises and cruise lines at your favorite bookstore (Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.) and to read the descriptions of the various lines in the book.

I also recommend booking through a local travel agent who specializes in cruise bookings -- especially so for your first cruise. Your local travel agent probably will be able to match any advertised fares and will guide you through the process with a level of service that Internet cruise agencies cannot match.

I agree with your leaning away from the Caribbean in the summer, as it is the hot and humid season there. If you are open to another destination, though, check out cruises to Alaska on each of these lines.

>> 1. Alaska's ports of call offer a LOT of activities that are suitable for youngsters.

>> 2. Both Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International deploy some of their newest ships, which have more extensive facilities than the older vessels, to Alaska in the summertime. In particular, the newer vessels have larger and more extensive facilities for children.

Both lines offer cruises to Alaska that operate round trip from Seattle, Washington, if departure from a port in the "lower forty-eight" is an issue.

Have a great cruise, whichever you choose!

Norm.
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Old March 9th, 2006, 04:35 PM
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For your daughter, I would recommend RCCL's Voyager-class ships (the largest in their fleet). The ships, all ending in "of the Seas", are Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Navigator, Mariner. I think they have the best amenities and childrens program, however they have become expensive, especially when children are out of school. I've read that 1/3 of the passengers are children (on average). If they are unavailable, or out of your price range, I would pick Carnival's largest ships. After that, I would go with any RCCL ship other than Empress (simply due to its smaller size), then any Carnival ship and prioritize by age & size.

I wouldn't pick Celebrity for your daughter. It wouldn't be bad, but I think the other lines have more to offer for children.

Oh, and I would leave from Florida for a western itinerary. More ports and beach days for your daughter. Bermuda trips have a lot of sea days.
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Old March 9th, 2006, 05:44 PM
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Browzilla,

I wouldn't pick Celebrity for your daughter. It wouldn't be bad, but I think the other lines have more to offer for children.

That strikes me as really bad advise. All of Celebrity's ships have dedicated children's centers with professional staff who plan the same sorts of activities as on other lines. The children who participate in Celebrity's programs really do seem to enjoy the activities.

Oh, and I would leave from Florida for a western itinerary. More ports and beach days for your daughter. Bermuda trips have a lot of sea days.

Let's get the facts straight here.

1. The Caribbean is NOT the place to go in the summer, when it is very humid. A toddler would be miserable in the heat and humidity. Either Bemruda or Alaska would be a much better choice at that time of year.

2. Bermuda cruises actually have no more sea days than some of the Caribbean itineraries. They typcially have only two ports of call, but the ship stays overnight in each port.

There are two draw-backs to the Bermuda itinerary -- the older and smaller veessels and the more open waters, which probably will be somewhat rougher than the Caribbean.

Norm.
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Old March 10th, 2006, 10:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rev22:17
Let's get the facts straight here.

1. The Caribbean is NOT the place to go in the summer
You should call the cruiselines because they are terribly misinformed by sailing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people there in the summer, and the western routes are the most crowded.

This web site, which I hadn't read until answering this post, echo's my recommendation (by and large) http://www.cruisecritic.com/cruisest...icles.cfm?ID=2. I found it by googling "cruise lines best for children" without the quotes. Also, some of Celebrity's children's program's are seasonal, whereas the other lines I recommended I believe are year round.
Here's another one http://www.cruise2.com/Bestof.html#2
and another http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple...026774,00.html

I know which my children prefer, and it definitely isn't Celebrity.
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Old March 10th, 2006, 11:28 PM
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Browezilla,

You should call the cruiselines because they are terribly misinformed by sailing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people there in the summer, and the western routes are the most crowded.

Yes, but there are a lot fewer cruise ships in the Caribbean in the summer than in the winter. Most of the "premium" cruise lines have long sent their ships elsewhere during the summer season.

In any case, the fact that cruise lines deploy ships there does not mean that it's a good time of year to go there. As I noted, it's hurricane season and the climate is oppressively humid. If you want to deal with that, be my guest. I'm going elsewhere.

This web site, which I hadn't read until answering this post, echo's my recommendation...

There are a lot of websites purveying obsolete information. I have made it a point to talk to children wh were participating in the youth programs on Celebrity's ships to find out what they thought of the programs. Nearly all said that they were having a really good time. That's not exactly the hallmark of a program that's failing.

Also, some of Celebrity's children's program's are seasonal...

That's no longer true. Celebrity does adjust the number of youth counsellors according to the number of children who are booked on each cruise, but the programs are available year round. It's possible that there's a minimum number of children who have to be aboard for the program to operate at all, but such minimums are sufficiently small so a booking when schools anywhere in the country are on vacation will meet it.

I know which my children prefer, and it definitely isn't Celebrity.

That's a useful datum, but when were your children last on Celebrity?

Norm.
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Old March 11th, 2006, 02:33 PM
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I have taken my kids to Bermuda on the Horizon which was the sister ship to Zenith and virtually identical. In July and August, there will be loads of kids on the ship and your daughter will have a wonderful time. Celebrity has one of the best and most underated childrens programs available. Their programs are not seasonal as someone suggested and if going in the summer there will be plenty for your daughter to do. My son has learning difficulties and the counselors were wonderful with him. Don't listen to people who have never taken their kids on a Celebrity cruise with kids. I have done it seven times and they loved it and this was from 5 years old onto adults.

Going to Bermuda is a perfect cruise for a first timer. You have one day going out and one day coming back with three and a half days in Bermuda at two different locations. You can leave the ship whenever you want and can even take in night life on the island which you can't do on most Caribbean cruises. Many times the regular Caribbean cruises can become a little hectic because you have to be back on the ship usually for dinner time.

As an added bonus you will get some of the best food available on mass market cruise lines. Although the Zenith has smaller facilities than other newer ships, you can't go wrong with a Celebrity cruise in the summer to Bermuda.

Don
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Old March 11th, 2006, 02:58 PM
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Cruise lines deploy their ships to some of the other areas in the summer because this is the only time those areas are appealing to people (e.g. Alaska, Med, Baltic), not because it is hot and humid in the Caribbean. If one avoids areas due to heat and humidity, then one would avoid beaches....but children love the beach.

Back to the original question, I contend that RCCL, Carnival, & Disney have programs that are more appealing to children and many authors agree (http://www.cruisedirectonline.com/fa...r_families.htm). Additionally, Celebrity will have fewer children onboard and therefore fewer children in the program (could be good or bad, depending on the number). Whereas RCCL felt the need to add additional space to their Voyager-class ships (starting with Navigator) to increase the area by 33% to offer the largest children's area on any ship at sea.

I suggest the original poster do a few google searches and also check out the Family Cruising forum (under the People category) and ask the same question for more points of view.

p.s. My children will be on Celebrity 3/26/06, however they will have 7 other children in our party to play with. Celebrity has a good children's program, but in my opinion it isn't as good as the lines I mentioned, nor is it as well attended.
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Old March 11th, 2006, 03:34 PM
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i have actually done this cruise in July and you will have a lot of families with tons of kids on board in July and August. This is a wonderful cruise to a beautiful island with great children's activities. Take it from someone who has actually done it.
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Old March 13th, 2006, 12:29 PM
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I wouldn't suggest going on the Celebrity Zenith. The ship is small and old. There are few structured activities for children. You usually find them roaming the boat with a group of other children looking for something to do. I'm sure there are definitely more things for them to do than for teens. I actually felt sorry for the teens because after a certain time they could not stay in the "club" . As far as Bermuda's nightlife.. it sucks. It's cool to stay overnight on an island because there is no rushing to get back onboard however the clubs are limited and close by 2am. Maybe I'm bias because I'm from NY where clubs stay open til 5am and where there is always something to do. In addition I'm only 29 yrs old. But I will say this.. Bermuda has great beaches and the crew is really accomodating. If you have any more questions don't hesitate to email me.
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Old March 13th, 2006, 06:12 PM
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emmosa1,

The ship is small and old.

And why is are either of these bad?

>> Some people actually prefer small ships. Smaller vessels may offer fewer activities at any given time from which to choose, many people leave larger vessels with a sense of disappointment that they were not able to do everything that they wanted due to schedule conflicts. Also, the fact that one tends to meet fewer people more frequently on a smaller vessel usually gives rise to a camraderie that simply does not have chance to develop on larger vessels.

>> By all accounts, Celebrity has maintained MV Zenith well, ao she is in excellent condition. Her age is thus of little relevance.

There are few structured activities for children. You usually find them roaming the boat with a group of other children looking for something to do. I'm sure there are definitely more things for them to do than for teens. I actually felt sorry for the teens because after a certain time they could not stay in the "club" .

When did you travel aboard MV Zenith?

I could see this situation arising at times of the year when there are too few youngsters aboard for operation of the children's, youth, and teen programs, but that situation is very unlikely in the summer when most schools are on vacation because that's precisely when most families with school-age children take their vacations.

As far as Bermuda's nightlife.. it sucks. It's cool to stay overnight on an island because there is no rushing to get back onboard however the clubs are limited and close by 2am. Maybe I'm bias because I'm from NY where clubs stay open til 5am and where there is always something to do.

Bermuda is far from the only place where clubs close by 2:00 AM. That's true of many major cities here in the States, too.

That said, responsible parents of a five-year-old most assuredly are not going to be "out clubbing" past midnight or so anyway, so the clubs' closing time is pretty much moot.

But I will say this.. Bermuda has great beaches and the crew is really accomodating.

Yes, one Bermuda's beaches are legendary -- and so are Celebrity's crews!

Norm.
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Old March 14th, 2006, 01:18 PM
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Thanks everyone for all of your thoughts. The replies pretty well underscore my thinking on the pros and cons.

As I indicated in my original post, we vacation in the Caribbean every winter, and we live in NJ. I also lived in South Florida when in college, although my heat tolerance seems to have changed a little as I become a little older. As far as the weather goes, I don't think I would avoid the Caribbean for that reason. We are beach people, and we like the sun. Not to mention, it can and does get to be 95 with ridiculous humidity in NJ, with green flies thrown in for added fun. I would probably avoid shore excursions inland, like the ruins in the mayan riviera, but we would tend to favor beach and water excursions anyhow. We also don't tend to shop in town much, we have a boatload of Caribbean straw market crap already (no offense intended, its certainly fun crap, but crap nonetheless). As for hurricanes, I tend to think you don't plan around them, the odds are pretty good you'll be OK, and of course Bermuda is not out of the zone either.

The idea of Bermuda is attractive for the convenience of leaving from home (the idea of just having someone give us a ride into Philly to catch our cruise is for some reason very cool to me), and an alternative to our usual Jersey shore summer vacation week (where a decent rental costs easily the same as the cruise, for a house alone).

So I am in the end struggling with deciding between the facilities and activities on the larger ships, as opposed to the convenience of the Empress or the Zenith. The price is pretty similar, the Caribbean is cheaper by about the airfare.

However, as first timers, I'm pretty well convinced that we would find even the smaller ships very impressive. I'm also pretty well convinced that there would be a lot of kids, and really good people entertaining them, and thats all my daughter really needs. If she has friends with her, she can have a ball playing with the proverbial empty box.

Haven't decided yet, but thanks for all the input.
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Old March 16th, 2006, 04:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emmosa1
I wouldn't suggest going on the Celebrity Zenith. The ship is small and old. There are few structured activities for children. You usually find them roaming the boat with a group of other children looking for something to do. I'm sure there are definitely more things for them to do than for teens. I actually felt sorry for the teens because after a certain time they could not stay in the "club" . As far as Bermuda's nightlife.. it sucks. It's cool to stay overnight on an island because there is no rushing to get back onboard however the clubs are limited and close by 2am. Maybe I'm bias because I'm from NY where clubs stay open til 5am and where there is always something to do. In addition I'm only 29 yrs old. But I will say this.. Bermuda has great beaches and the crew is really accomodating. If you have any more questions don't hesitate to email me.
The ship is small but because of that it can get into the ports in Bermuda which larger ships cannot. It is 15years old but maintained very well. As far as childrens activities for a five year old, they are very structured, much to do. Teens tend to go off on their own on all the ships I have been on, it is just their nature.

Don
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Old March 18th, 2006, 11:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkjretired
The ship is small but because of that it can get into the ports in Bermuda which larger ships cannot.
The ports in Bermuda can handle larger ships, however the government didn't allow large ships until recently (last year I think).
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 05:50 AM
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Sorry, the desirable ports in Bermuda are Hamilton and St. George and they cannot handle the big ships. As a matter of fact the big ships can't even get into these ports.

Don
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Old March 22nd, 2006, 12:55 PM
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I also had to choose. Have 3 boys, 11, 12,14. We decided on the Zenith, great...no GREAT Deal so economics played into it..but I have heard that the Zenith will be fine. Only been on a real big one before (Glory) but no worries!! Hey that extra money will come in handy while we are there!
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 07:50 PM
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Default Don't go on Zenith for your first cruise

I have been on three cruises now all to the Caribbean and Zenith was by far the worst ship of the three (HAL Zaandam, Carnival Inspiration)

You dont have to go on a brand new ship to have a great time, but look closely at the pictures and deck plans on the respective websites. You'll notice that Zenith looks very small, closed in, and bland. Thats because it is.
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Old March 31st, 2006, 11:33 AM
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Tough question. I've cruised both ships and would say that my favorite ship would be the Empress, but I like Celebrity overall better. Also, I think that RC is better for children.

HOWEVER, I live in Florida and can tell you that the Carib during the summer is not suggested. One, it's hot, and two, hurricane season. Even if the storm isn't near, the waters know that there is something out there and can get bumpy.

Hope it helps!
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Old March 31st, 2006, 05:56 PM
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Whichever ship you decide, you will no doubt have a very enjoyable experience. As you said, you have nothing to base your first cruise upon. Either way, RCI or Celebrity, you will have an incredible experience and come home with many memories. With the time of year you will be cruising, there will be many children on board, regardless of the ship.

Both companies provide childrens programs.... both ships will have other children on board... both are going to Bermuda...

You have apparently done some research before posting here.... but to be honest... you will be hard pressed to find impartial cruisers here as many are very loyal to a particular company (as you can read from posts above). Go with your first instinct as to which ship you want and itinerary. Either way... you won't be disappointed as a first time cruiser.

Enjoy your cruise and be sure to post a review when you get back... I am sure you will become addicted like many of us here...
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Old April 8th, 2006, 03:08 PM
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Just returned from Celebrity Century with my 8 and 13 year old. Both tried the children's program but they were lukewarm about it. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either. The preferred the childrens program on other lines.
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