A Pre-Inaugural evening in New York City, December 9, 1996
Celebrity Cruises has a reputation for food that's the best in it's class, and for ships that are on one hand rather sedate and relaxing, but also encompass the latest and most innovative technology, such as their satellite-uplink capability for business conferencing and their relationship with Sony, which provides state of the art electronics throughout the ship.
These traditions are grandly upheld on the huge new 73,000 gross ton Galaxy!
I have a basic problem when trying to review a new ship. I seem to love them all and marvel over how each one tops the last with bigger atriums, more features and more elaborate theaters. It's going to be hard to top the Galaxy, though, as the food, service and facilities are all supurb!
First off, the food is probably the best you'll find in a mass/premium market ship. You would probably have to pay several hundred dollars a day to do better. Award-winning executive Chef Michel Roux is responsible not only for creating the preparation and presentation procedures, but also has designed what the cruise line says is the largest galley area on the seas, uniquely designed so they can avoid using frozen ingredients. Without knowing the technical details, I can only say that the food both tastes and looks great. My two meals aboard offered outstanding soups: Corn Chowder and Mushroom with "woodsy flavor."
The restaurant is as attractive as the food is tasty. Set in the aft of the ship, and featuring a full wall of glass, this two-deck eatery is beautiful, with a grand staircase in the center, under a huge illuminated Earth dome, and bronze of the Orion constellation. Add a grand piano and string quartet at the top of the staircase and you're dining in a most lovely and spacious area! Tables are mostly for two or four, but several larger ones are also available. The rectangular tables for four seemed to be more roomy than the circular ones.
I didn't get to see the Lido buffet in action, but I could see that there are four main serving lines, two ice-cream stations, several coffee stations and a poolside grill area. And there was probably more that I couldn't see.
The main showroom is quite comfortable, with spacious banquette seating and no pillars or obstructed seats. I was only able to catch one of their three revue presentations during my brief time on the ship. That was "Cirque du GALAXY," reminiscent of the famous Cirque du Soleil's innovative style, with music, costumes and performances all creating the experience of circus as ballet. Unlike most current shows, you'll find no lip-synching, but seemingly very little music played live, either. There's one vocalist, used sparingly, with an emphasis on the beauty of ballet and acrobatic performing. The "Beijing Acrobats" are featured, doing some standard and traditional routines that are anything but common on a cruise ship. Veteran cruisers who have had their fill of the old Broadway/Hollywood reviews will really appreciate this excellent change of pace. If they don't, the other two reviews, "The Goldwyn Years" and "Celebrity Nights" seem to offer something more traditional. There's something for everyone here. The room's Sony-designed audio system is crystal clear, featuring digital surround sound.
Also featured in the showroom is a full-spectrum multi-color planetarium-style laser show. There's a smaller showroom for dancing and late-night shows.
The disco, called The Stratosphere Club, up front on the highest deck, is a quiet space during the day, a place for relaxation, reflection and excellent views. It turns WILD at night, when the sound/light equipment drops from the ceiling in an elaborate ceremony and the disk jockey takes over. While Celebrity has traditionally appealed to a more refined and mature cruiser, they've pulled out all stops with this room (and also for the Celebrity Century disco.). There's plenty of room on the dance floor, a semi-circular raised platform surrounding it for watching, and a more quiet area on the other side of the platform -- complete with telescopes to watch the skies and look for landfall.
The Stratosphere Lounge
The disco also features live music. Onyx was the band on the ship my night aboard. They were tireless in their long performance , setting the crowd ablaze with non-stop and varied music for dancing.
The only other entertainment I noticed on my single evening was a lounge act, a couple playing standards, accompanying themselves on keyboards.
Cabins and Technology
Cabins are roomy and comfortable, with mini-fridges, safes, interactive TV, and full length mirrors. Deluxe cabins have TV/VCR combos. Showers are larger than average. Twin beds can be combined to queen size.
Royal Suites, at 537 square feet, plus a 94-square foot verandah, also have dining alcoves, large beds, full whirlpool baths, walk-in closets, and wood floors -- not to mention butler service.
Because the TVs are interactive, you can gamble from your room, get port info, book excursions without waiting in line, watch the ship's talks and shows, and check out your charge card balance. The line also expects to be broadcasting their own TV shows from around the ship, which has over forty video input areas built in. Most programming will be repeated several times during the day. Movies are available, starting whenever you want them to, with this "digital by demand" system.
If interactive TV just isn't enough of a technology dose, you can visit their "Sony Wonder" tech station, where there are five Sony computers and access to the ship's own Intranet -- which has links to other sites they've added to this "sealed" network, like the Internet sites for the islands the ship visits. While true Internet access is still prohibitively expensive for a ship at sea, there is consideration of having the ship, sometime in the future, log onto the Internet a few times a day to send and receive email to/from the outside world. This is under consideration, not in operation at the present time.
The computer area also has tutorial programs, games, and is the site for computer classes. I would guess that it will always be crowded, and will need to be expanded. I asked and was told that access to the center will be provided after hours by individual request. This might well be the only time to easily get machine time in. And since this a high-tech ship, the kids' playroom is filled with Sony-produced games and *both* Sony PC and Mac computers. As of now, Mac wins, 2 to 1 machines.
Pools, Youths, and Spas
The Pool Deck on a December Night in New York
The pool area, even on a cold New York afternoon, was attractive, with two pools lined up end to end. One was equipped a bit differently than most, with basketball hoops and volleyball net. There were no plants outdoors, but as there were plenty inside, I'd guess that you'd find some in warmer weather cruises. Between the disco and the sports pool, it looks like Celebrity is aiming at a younger cruiser than in the past.
Speaking of youth, the ship offers both suites and cabins that can be combined with adjoining rooms into ideal family accommodations. There's also an extensive activity program for kids between the ages of 3 and 17, broken down to four different age groups. Dining room favorites on chef Michel Roux's kids menu include sliced watermelon with honey and almonds, fish fingers with tartar sauce, and zesty pizza.
The ship's spa program is "custom branded" but provided by Steiner, the company that runs the spas on most ships. While I couldn't understand most of what they were saying, it's clear that there are an awful lot of services offered here besides the normal hair care and massage. I think that there are two kinds of water treatment, all sorts of wraps,shrinks and detoxifying regimes, and much more. Spa programs of several treatments are sold as a package, starting at $200. They can also be purchased individually. Either way, it's going to set you back a LOT of money! There's a high-power jet pool in the public spa area that looks intriguing. I heard, but don't know for sure, that they're charging ten dollars a day for passengers who aren't taking other spa services. If true, this extra charge is going to get some passengers upset: it would be just a little bit too greedy. Sure does look like fun though!
And Also . . .
Cigar aficionados should appreciate "Michael's Club," a well-ventilated room featuring the stogies of Havana Ray's, a small cigar company in Miami. They'll hand roll 'em for you or let you choose from their collection of pre-rolled smokes. Prices run $4-$10 each.
There are several cabins for disabled travelers, who should have no trouble getting around the ship.
In general, the Galaxy looks like a good choice for people of all ages who appreciate excellent food, moderate activity, many quiet areas and possibly the late night disco in this huge and beautiful, but sedate ship.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please