Galaxy 7 Day Western Caribbean January 19, 1997
O.K so this was my 40th something ocean voyage. The 32nd with my wife. And the 7th with our 10 year old son. So what else is new? Galaxy. That's what. After reveling over Century last January, we just couldn't wait for Galaxy to debut. And after letting the first few cruises work out any maiden voyage kinks (heard there were very few), we sailed on the January 19 Western Caribbean itinerary.
As in our past Celebrity cruises, the first day went almost flawlessly.
Celebrity Cruise Line does many things extremely well. One of them is embarkation. The courteous and helpful staff met us in the Ft. Lauderdale Ship Terminal and supervised every easy going aspect of our send off. James, a Celebrity staffer entertained with a comedy act and short quiz. Unlike many first days of old with late afternoon boardings, Celebrity announces a boarding time of 1PM, but actually begins accepting passengers earlier. (Last year we were on at Noon. This year a few minutes later.)
We were met and escorted to our cabin, a category one suite. The balcony portended many happy hours of breakfast and reading at sea on our private verandah. The size was smaller than a comparable suite on Zenith. But what the heck, we had a balcony this time! The walls were paneled richly with blond wood and appropriate graphics. The bath was exactly that: a bath with Jacuzzi and marbled walls and floors.
Standard cabins measured the usual 172 Sq. Ft. and, for us, were cramped with two and impossible for three. The rich woods still make them quite attractive. There is also a category called mini-suite: a square configured room with a double bed, small sofa bed with a small verandah. It's not really a suite. And designation should be changed. [Editorial Note: The designation for these cabins has already been changed to reflect a premium grade of stateroom with balcony. New brochures are being printed.]
Celebrity provides a full buffet lunch for first day cruisers. As does Holland America. Several years ago I recall scrambling for something to eat between the time we boarded and the first dinner. Nice touch.
Anyone who has sailed aboard Century cannot help making comparisons. Galaxy is a ship that definitely has to grow on you. It's impact is nowhere near as dramatic or spectacular as it's year older sister. While Century has a bold and beautiful grand foyer boasting broad expanses of luxurious maritime design that simply stuns the senses, Galaxy is considerably more modest by comparison. Celebrity has decided to use its space quite differently. The shops are more sensibly arranged in a shopping area which featuring restrained light wood decor instead of Century's bi-level design.
Exploring Galaxy is more of an awakening to its beauty rather than the astonishment of the exquisitely rich woods of Century that evoke the bygone era of the great liners. Galaxy's more muted tones and subtle veneering are more reminiscent of a combination of the Art Deco age and the Fifties. The carpet of bright colors that runs through the public areas is just plain fun. (If you like the bold designs of those eras.)
There are also some wonderful surprises. The Stratosphere Lounge, a large bar and lounge that serves as a public room and party facility by day and disco by night is quite simply the most beautiful room I have seen at sea. The graceful stately columns with art deco capitols provide magnificent design elements to this multi-level lounge. One can gaze out at the horizon or any nearby ship with the powerful mounted telescopes provided in each corner. It was one of two public rooms that reminded me of the great Normandie, the French Line's 1936 crowning achievement.
The other was the indoor/outdoor pool aft. It's retractable roof and passenger area accented by many indoor plants seemed like those glorious old publicity stills from the great liners brought to life. (I suppose it's the reason I was so smitten by the classical magnificence of Century)
The Oasis Cafe, the ship's pool level buffet dining room is lovely and a more traditional dining area than most of it's kind...including that on Century. The inclusion of dark, rich paneling gave the impression of a fine French 3 star restaurant (sort of) rather that a place to grab a quick breakfast or lunch. The room has character.
Last year when I reviewed Century I asked, "What can you say about an experience that one only dreams about? I had long since given up hope of experiencing a shipboard dining room with a magnificent grand sweeping stairway entering a spacious multi-level restaurant? If this doesn't satisfy the most ardent ocean going nostalgia buff, than what will?"
Well, ditto! Galaxy's dining room is just as wonderful and spectacular. The panoramic views are a treat. And this year the somewhat cumbersome heavy dining chairs have been replaced with lighter, more maneuverable models.
Not all is perfect in paradise. The ship has a decided noisy vibration. In fact while leaving a port and using it's thrusters, the noise and vibration is so intense one literally cannot hear as dishes and silverware litter the floor. If you're unlucky enough to get a table on the first level aft near the large window, bring earplugs and be prepared to speak loud to be heard. Our first night out, we were assigned to such a table. It was changed the following morning.
We noted previously that Celebrity offers fine service. This trip was no exception. Our waiter, Dominicos was superb, offering polite, prompt attention without being overly solicitous. The maitre D' was professional, friendly, and helpful. Our one small gripe was with the busboy who seemed chronically confused and never around when we needed him. The waiter ultimately did much of his work rather than waiting.
Celebrity is known for it's gastronomic treats. Overall Galaxy's food is good....very, very good when compared to other cruise ships. While Century offered OK main courses and spectacular soups and appetizers, Galaxy's main courses were actually a bit more consistently good, but the soups and appetizers were a just little better than average and not on the level of last year's Century cruise. The presentation was wonderful! A feast for the eyes. And indeed quite a few meals were memorable.
The midnight buffets were fun, and different. Quite a few were held on the pool deck and featured a party. Caribbean night was Makarena till you drop with fresh fruits being served. The last night was passed finger food....not very good...but who cared. We were all stuffed anyway. The luncheon buffets were typical ship's fare. (Although we usually ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room. I still can't understand why one would rather stand in line for a burger than dine in an elegant setting with wonderful service. And boy those breakfast kippers were great.) Galaxy offered pizza almost round the clock and it was really good pizza! The Grand Buffet was typically impressive for the first time cruisers and just typical for experienced cruisers.
My one major disappointment was Michael's Club, the ship's cigar club. Century has perhaps one of the most exquisite rooms at sea, a gentlemen's cigar club (ladies welcome of course) which sends your senses careening back to the era of luxury liners with rich wooded panels and antique furniture reminiscent of an exclusive English club. By comparison, Galaxy's version of Michael's Club was stark and totally devoid of character. It tried for an art deco feel but missed the mark. Of course if you're not a cigar smoker, it won't matter.
Celebrity trotted out it's usual mediocre production show entertainment. They just can't seem to get it right. Although the production shows are lavish and technically impressive, the content is often avant guard or just out of sync. One show featured modern dancing with hi-tech backgrounds. Another took a try at the Goldwyn Years without much toe-tapping singing. Galaxy employs multi-screen TV monitors as a production background on stage and sometimes, while covering the live action on stage, it was impossible to concentrate on the talent because of the incredible distraction.
The shows featuring individual performers were much better. One starred noted comic pick-pocket Bob Arno who was wonderfully entertaining. And the female singing star, a former Broadway Evita, held the audience in her hand as she sang through Les Miserables, Evita and an all star lineup of past and current Broadway favorites.
According to Josh, the kid's program was good. And there were lots of fun video games, computer games and scavenger hunts to keep a ten year old occupied.
The Aqua Spa was a duplicate of that on the Century. It was wonderful, featuring rich wood paneling and a complete gym, spa and massage staff.
All in all, we're still big Celebrity fans and had a great time. This line gives you your money's worth and more, and the line is still one of the very top performers in the cruise field. We'd certainly go back! Maybe on Mercury, Celebrity's new ship scheduled to debut later this year.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please