Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: March 17th, 2003
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
The Galaxy: The Galaxy is a spectacular ship. The cabins are spacious. (relatively speaking) It has plenty of deck space and plenty of deck chairs (unless you must sit right next to the pools. There are 3, plus a cute kid's pool.) There is always plenty to do, even on the 'at sea' days. One thing for sure, if you are ever bored, it's your own fault. Considering that 1100 people are fed simultaneously, the food is practically perfect. I thought the cooks did an excellent job of presenting quality food to a large demanding crowd. Our waiter, Barretto, was very good. He was an excellent server, and he was instantly the kid's best friend. (They would have taken him home with us, but he still had a couple of months left on his contract with Celebrity.) Calixto, the assistant, was equally pleasant and helpful. He was 'right there' with every need. Numerous other servers made it a point to have some fun with the kid's at every meal. The only significant concern we had regarding our dining experience was the outrageous NOISE! Celebrity absolutely must resolve this problem! A few dollars worth of sound absorbing panels would provide a gigantic improvement. The cabin steward was also excellent. We nicknamed him, "The Phantom" because he always had our cabins tidied up, yet we never seemed to see him.
We had one small surprise on "formal" night. I wasn't planning to take the kids to all the formal nights, BUT, the alternative was pizza and potato chips. Thus - we went to ALL the formal nights. They had "alternative dining," IF you could get someone to answer the reservation phone.
On Board Shopping Tip:
Buy on the last day or so of the cruise. Many items go on sale at 50% off at
Cruising: As far as vacations go, if you are planning to visit several places, I don't believe there is any better way to go. Even a bad cruise is better than hurrying and waiting at airport after airport. Your hotel just goes with you from place to place. No packing and unpacking. No running to airports just to sit and wait. On a cruise, you are not packed in like sardines and treated like prisoners. I HlGHLY recommend a cruise to anyone who wants to a) relax, b) see several locations, and c) values your time and money. On the surface, a cruise appears to be expensive, but, if you add up the alternative; multiple airfares, hotels, meals, rental cars or taxis, etc., you will find a cruise to be very cost effective! The difference is, you see the full price up front.
Security: GWII broke out during our cruise. (The second Gulf War.) Yet we never felt the slightest bit ''threatened." We had a Coast Guard and port police escort entering or leaving every U.S. Harbor. (We even had a helicopter escort once.) In Nassau, the ship was guarded by armed soldiers carrying M16's and an oozy! Proper documentation is required for the initial boarding. After that, our room keys are coded with our photographs, so it would be VERY difficult for a terrorist to sneak on board.
Children’s Activities: We took our entire family of 8. We have 6 children ages 5-17. They all had a great time. They hardly ever used the ship’s “Fun Factory” for children, yet were still never bored.
Baltimore: We cruised out of Baltimore. Living in Maryland, this was great for us. (No sardine filled airplanes.) However, it had serious disembarkation problems. (see below.)
Charleston: Our first stop was Charleston SC. We took the Historic City tour and trip to Fort Sumter. If you have never been to Charleston, this is a great excursion. The tour guide was very pleasant and knowledgeable. Charleston is a beautiful city and we may just want to visit there again sometime. (This is another advantage of a cruise. You find places to visit again when you don't mind pretending to be a sardine prisoner.)
St. Maarten: Our Second stop was St. Maarten. It's a lovely island that everyone should see, but Celebrity did disappoint us here. Our children wanted to Snorkel. With 6, ranging from age 5 to 17, we wanted to know where we should go where our kids wouldn't be exposed to nudity. The excursion attendant seemed annoyed by our question and eventually answered our question, but only after giving us a lecture that, "... Nudity is OK here because it’s legal in France and in the Netherlands." (Quite frankly, the purpose of my question had nothing to do with French or Dutch law. On the whole, I found the on board excursion representative of no use whatsoever.) Also, it took over 1 hour to get off the ship. Consequently, one of my younger sons never got to snorkel on the beach that day as planned. We had to turn around and let him swim in the pool.
However, my wife and older 3 children took the
afternoon shipwreck excursion. They had a GREAT time. They saw three sunken
ships. (One sunk on purpose for snorkelers. One old galleon that was mostly
buried, but they could recognize it; complete with cannon. The third was a yacht
that sunk during the 1995 hurricane.)
St. Thomas: Our third port was St Thomas. What a BEAUTIFUL island! We took the submarine tour and the tram ride to the top of the ''mountain." Everyone was extremely pleased with the sub ride. That was fascinating! The tram ride took us to a place with a great view. But forget the shopping at the top, the shopping at the port is much nicer.
San Juan: Our fourth port was San Juan. This was our most pleasant surprise. I had heard, ''San Juan is just a dirty old city. I don't know why the ships still stop there." Consequently, we were expecting nothing. But, we lucked into Frank (firstname.lastname@example.org). He was an excellent tour guide that took us to Old San Juan, New San Juan, Fort San Cristobal, and Fort El Morrow AND, he charged us less than one of the excursions offered by Celebrity. San Juan certainly has its fair share of problems, but I would definitely like to go back for an extended visit.
Nassau: Our last port of call was Nassau. As was Christopher Columbus, I was surprised to see such flat islands. I live in the mountains and love the mountains, but I must say, I found Nassau very captivating. I may need to come back to The Bahamas again, too! We took the Sea World Explorer Excursion. The boat was old and needed repairs, but we did not come to see a pretty boat. We came to see a pretty sea of fish and coral. In this respect, we were not disappointed. Our time in Nassau was short. (We set sail at 1:00.) But we did have enough time to split up; some went shopping, and some of us went swimming at a nearby beach. It was a pretty white sand beach. (Kind of crowded. There were 5 other people on the beach!)
Disembarkation: Ugh! This was by far the most disappointing aspect of the trip. (What a way to end an otherwise marvelous vacation!) We docked at 12:45 but could not disembark until 4:30. Let’s face it – looking at other reviews – the Baltimore port is just plain disorganized! Once we disembarked, we were not permitted to stay in the warm terminal to wait for our friends to pick us up. We were dropped off at the short term parking lot so we could stand in the cold for an hour before our friends could arrive.
Summary: We had a great time! Shot over 1300 photos. (Thank God for digital cameras.) And gained over “xx” pounds. (Help!) Perhaps some of the remarks above seem to be over critical. If so, that's because a cruise is supposed to be perfect. Therefore, keep in mind, any criticism above is a variation from "perfect" in every other respect. Remember, if your goal is to relax as you visit multiple destinations, even a bad cruise is better than any other way!
One last thought; as you peer over the rail at the vast ocean, reflect on the famous lines by Frederick Lehman:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made. Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Tho stretched from sky to sky.