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Philip M. Haggerty

Age: 69

Occupation:Retired government attorney

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Galaxy

Sailing Date: October 19th, 2001

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

Participants: Husband - Philip M. Haggerty, Age 69, Retired City Attorney Wife - Edith E. Goble, Age 57, Retired Health Service Trainer

We had previously taken a 7 day Mexican Riviera cruise on the similarly sized Carnival Elation in December 1999 and an 11 day Caribbean cruise on the 525 passenger Commodore Enchanted Isle in December 2000, immediately prior to that line’s bankruptcy. We are associate travel agents with an agency and this was a special offer to its agents. We have a friend who travels Celebrity and likes the line and we had heard it was a “four star” line, to use the hotel rating system.

It lived up to our expectations. If a perfect cruise scores 98-100; this would have scored 94, the Enchanted Isle cruise 84 and the Elation cruise 90. There was one major glitch, described below, for which we cannot hold Celebrity accountable, and which will not affect our scoring.

We had the air/cruise travel package, flying from home (Phoenix) to San Juan via Houston, starting at 7:30 A.M. [ a 4:00 A.M. rising], and landing in Puerto Rico at 6:30 P.M. Our bags had special tags, which meant that after delivery to the airline check-in they were transferred at Houston and again at Puerto Rico for direct delivery to our stateroom. Our bus transfer to the ship went easily. There was no waiting at check-in, apart from the delay inherent in the enhanced airport style security system now in place. We were greeted by a housekeeping staff member and escorted to our cabin at 7:30. My bags arrived shortly, but Edith’s single bag did not. Dinner was in the main “Orion” dining room at 8:30 with open seating. We were seated with 6 other people, and everyone was a little tired and stiff, but we loosened up after a while. Dress was casual in the extreme, people wearing shorts, tank tops and assorted traveling gear. The tomato bisque, was excellent, the fish entree fine and the flan very good. The service seemed a little distracted and rushed. When we had arrived at our cabin there was a card assigning us to a table at the late seating. We had clearly requested the early dining, and we were able to straighten this out during dinner, and got our new seat assignment without any major hassle.

Right after dinner at 10:00 P.M. we went through the lifeboat drill. Back in the cabin Edith’s bag was still nowhere to be seen. We went down to Guest Relations and had a very sympathetic reception, with an intelligent desk clerk going over very carefully what they would be doing to locate the bag. It was now pretty late so we went to the midnight buffet on the resort deck. It was a fairly light buffet, with music and dancing. We returned to our stateroom at about 1:00 with no word on the missing bag and a note canceling our selected next day’s kayak/snorkeling shore excursion for lack of sufficient participation.

I will digress to describe the ship and stateroom. [I assume that “cabin” and “stateroom” are interchangeable terms, although the latter sounds larger and fancier than the former.] Galaxy carries 1800+ passengers when full. Its physical condition and cleanliness was superb. The décor is updated “Art Deco”; running to glass, brushed chrome and blonde wood, with paintings everywhere. The only imperfect spots were in the elevators where some of the beautiful mirrored doors had been intentionally scratched or “keyed”. How dumb can people get. I imagine Celebrity felt the expense to replace these, only to have them scratched again, would not be justified. Every day as the crew vacuumed the hallways, they spread some kind of powder which was probably designed to prevent mold, mildew or any aroma. Whatever it was, it worked. There was never any mustiness or hotel smell in any of the corridors or rooms. I score the appearance and cleanliness of Galaxy at 97, with Elation at 94 and Enchanted Isle, with its own small ship style, at 87.

Our stateroom, Cabin 1080, was class 2, with a small verandah, on deck 10, the Penthouse deck. This deck, except for the bridge section, was all cabins, as was deck 9, the Vista Deck and deck 8, the Panorama Deck (except for the library and the Sony room). Deck 11 is the Resort Deck with the “Oasis” buffet and outside pool and deck chair area. Deck 12, the Sky Deck, is split; with the Stratosphere Lounge forward, open area amidships, and Sky Suites aft. Deck 7 is the Entertainment deck with nightclubs, bars, shops and the casino. Deck 6 has the upper Orion restaurant, more common rooms and the Celebrity Theatre. Deck 5, the Plaza Deck, has the lower Orion restaurant, Guest Relations and some cabins; while deck 4, the Continental Deck, is all cabins and the Medical Center. Thus our cabin was pretty well located. I deliberately picked a cabin halfway between two of the three elevator banks, the midship bank and the aft bank, on the theory that this both minimized our traveling; but of more importance; lessened the number of people passing by our cabin. I think I was correct in this choice and there was minimal outside noise penetrating the cabin. Galaxy is 887 feet long, and there will always be occasions when you are hiking most of its length, but there is simply no way to avoid this.

The stateroom itself, while slightly smaller than the standard Carnival cabin on Elation, was quite adequate. Hotel architects should take some lessons from ship designers. These latter people have been making the maximum use of minimum space for years, and have it down pat. There are hangers, knobs, drawers, storage spaces etc. wherever you turn, and we have never been at a loss to store everything easily. The bathroom was an especial delight, with a roomy shower, which did not, unlike the one on Elation, leak on the floor. It had a height-adjustable showerhead, which also was removable on its hose, and had a spray adjustment, which worked. The sink had room to put things on as well as ship’s shelves with edges designed to retain toiletries. The toilet, despite its vacuum operation, was very quiet compared to both Elation and Enchanted Isle. There were four, count them, four knobs on the door back to hang those toilet article containers which have become so popular in addition to hanging other items. There was even an under sink storage compartment. I have been in many high-end hotel bathrooms that have been far less well thought out than this. Celebrity supplies a shower mounted dispenser for a shampoo/conditioner that we found quite adequate although I had brought my own. My wife very much liked the hand lotion also supplied by dispenser. The ventilation system was more than adequate, although extremely quiet. The bed was made up in the king size configuration, and we both thought it very comfortable since we slept well. I suspect that the ship’s motion may help sleeping. Our large bags fit easily under the bed. There was a sofa, which could be called that only through the exercise of charity. It would seat two people, provided they were as slender as my wife and I. There was a small desk and chair. Lighting was totally adequate. The stateroom had a mini-bar, although I never found the key, neither did I ask for one I did use the safe often to store my new camera, and it was reasonably convenient. The verandah was small, about 5 feet from door to rail, and about 8-9 feet wide. It held a straight armchair, a small round table and a lounge chair with ottoman, all of the garden furniture variety. The principal asset of the verandah is that you can sit outside with the true feeling of being at sea, hearing the rush of ocean past the ship, feeling the sea breezes, etc. And in port you can hang over the side and wave at the people below. It also eliminates any feelings of claustrophobia or cabin fever. The price difference was not that much, and I certainly would recommend it as long as you think you will use it. We were supplied with a water carafe and ice which was re-supplied daily. Towels were checked twice daily and changed if necessary. We had no land hotel request to re-use linens. I would score our cabin at 94, with the one on Elation (a standard outside cabin) at 88 and Enchanted Isle, a much older ship at 84. The only minus apart from size was the limitation of 110-volt access to a single outlet next to the desk.

Saturday - St. Thomas. Guest Relations called again to say there was still no sign of the bag, and that it seemed not to be on the ship. We ate breakfast in the Oasis buffet. Typical and not bad. We checked on the bag again without success and went to town to do some shopping for “real” as contrasted with “resort” clothing. An American, i.e. mainland USA, shop attendant in the tourist area suggested K-Mart so we took a taxi. The driver was a recently retired police officer with 27 years on the force, Benjamin Leopold, phone No. 340-690-5301. He was very knowledgeable as only an experienced street cop can be. He took us to the main shopping center in the center of the island. It was extremely busy with Saturday shoppers who were all islanders. We bought Edith some necessities and called Leopold to pick us up. He took us back by a different route, avoiding the major traffic slowdown on the main road across the hills to the port area. This proved to be a very good idea since we were able to see a different part of the island. It is small and typically Caribbean with a major hill area in the center. The roads are good and the general impression is that there is reasonable prosperity. Benjamin talked of people like himself and his wife flying on occasion to Puerto Rico, (40 miles away from shore to shore) to go shopping at real department stores. We found the weather here, and for that matter throughout the trip to be warm, 84 degrees, and very muggy for these desert dwellers!

We were back on board by lunch. Guest Relations called and offered a dress and shoes for Edith for dinner that night which was one of the two formal nights. They also stated that she could use the laundry service without charge. She accepted the dress, which was presentable. We skipped the Captain’s welcoming party in the Celebrity Theatre. At dinner that night we were at our regular table. The Orion dining room is a striking two level affair at the extreme aft end of the ship. Our table was in the middle of the lower level, almost directly in front of the grand staircase down form the upper level. Thus we had an open space ambience which we all found delightful. There is some engine noise and vibration in the dining room which all reviews have noted. Our round table held eight, but the first night we were joined only by Ed and Nancy from Hagerstown, Maryland and John and Anne (Ann?) from Canton, Ohio. Our waiter was Kaya from Turkey and our assistant waiter was Zoltan from Hungary. Both were very cheerful and prompt. I had excellent onion soup, a very good duckling appetizer, a good pork loin and the usual very good dessert. Our dinner companions were very cheerful and pleasant, a fortunate circumstance which truly enhanced the quality of the trip. On Elation we had only one other couple at dinner after the first night, and while they were very nice, a larger group is always better if the mix is good. We did have a larger group on Enchanted Isle, but the mix was not that good. We can’t fault the cruise line for that however.

After dinner we went to the Celebrity Theatre show. It was an ensemble production, reprising some Broadway musical songs and dances, and very high energy. The theater is very impressive with good sight lines in the orchestra, and all the lighting and special effects you could want. It was only about half full for this show however. All shows last just about an hour and the Cruise Director comes on afterwards with explanations of what is upcoming in a general way. We went back to the cabin to find a bottle of champagne and fruit basket from Guest Relations as a partial apology for the missing bag. A message left on our cabin voice mail said they still had heard nothing.

Sunday - St. Kitts. We arrived at 7:00 but we got up at 6:00 in anticipation of a shore tour starting at 8:00. The ship docked at a bare bones commercial pier since the cruise ship pier had been damaged in a hurricane. The locals tried to make up for this with a steel drum band on the pier, and vendors working from tables and tents. Out tour guide was Cleve, a native of course, and very knowledgeable. We drove along the coast for 1/2 hour and then went to a small Batik factory set in a beautiful garden. We then went on a rain forest hike, which lived up to its named by providing some rain, although not a real downpour fortunately. We never did see any green monkeys, imported accidentally from Africa, which have become real pests since they have no natural enemies here. The center of the island is an extinct volcano, and almost all is a nature preserve. The hike was for about 2 miles with plenty of stops and photo ops. Anyone traveling to the Caribbean and getting off the ship or leaving a hotel should definitely wear a hat with a reasonably wide sun brim, and cover all bare parts with the best sunscreen available. I had my Tilley hat and used UVA/UVB Block 45 SPF, with Parsol 1789. Arizonans respect the sun! We were back on the ship at noon, although some people stopped of in Basseterre, a small but pretty town. Since it was Sunday, a number of stores were closed. In our room we had a voice mail message that Edith’s bag had been located and that delivery in St. Kitts would be attempted. At 2:45 we were called again and told that the bag was at security at the gangway entrance. Hooray! We went down immediately, and security people wanted to search it completely. When they realized how tightly Edith had packed it, they gave up. We left St. Kitts at 3:00 with an excellent view of Nevis as we sailed away.

We went to an art auction and were surprised at the number of sales. These have become quite the thing on cruises and are mildly entertaining. At dinner we were joined by Frank and Susan from Annapolis, Maryland; equally as delightful as Ed, Nancy, John and Anne. Again an excellent appetizer, very good soup and fish, and excellent dessert. I have not mentioned salads, since I do not eat them, but Edith was pleased with them all, as was everyone else at the table. After dinner Kaya entertained us with some parlor tricks to everyone’s enjoyment. We went to the formal entertainment which consisted of a female violinist with a mixed bag of classical and pop music and far too much cutesy and basically unfunny conversation. We know what a good violinist should sound like, and she was not it. To bed early and happy with the baggage arrival.

Monday - Barbados. We had made arrangements to meet the friend of a friend who worked at the U.S. Embassy, so we had a later breakfast in the Orion restaurant. I went to the gym for exercise and found it roomy, light and well appointed. It did not have hot tub access like Elation did, however, and the hot tubs on the Resort Deck on the same level 11 were not all that warm. There was a “Thalassotherapy” hot tub in the AcquaSpa next to the gym available for a fee, which I did not explore. We went ashore at 11:45 and met Susan, who is a Foreign Service Officer with a senior job at the embassy, and who has been in Barbados for 17 months after a four year (standard length) tour in Lithuania. We had an excellent lunch where I had barracuda for the first time, at a restaurant away from Bridgetown and patronized by locals, not tourists. After lunch Susan took us on an extended tour of the Island. It is a pretty active place with 250,000 people, lots of commercial activity from a Rover/BMW/Mercedes-Benz dealership to cable/satellite TV; banks, insurance companies, several large department stores and a busy cement plant. It has some hills, but is not mountainous like many truly Caribbean Islands. Barbados actually is outside the Caribbean sea, and its eastward, Atlantic coast has some great surf and beautiful ocean beaches. We also visited Nicholas Abbey, a residence built in 1650 which has been in the same family for five generations, but now is actually occupied for the first time by a family member, Colonel Cave. We caught a glimpse of him as we made the tour. It is a truly fascinating place, although it was a little disconcerting when our guide pointed to a framed bill of sale from 1830, when the original estate was divided and the bill listed, by name and price, about 100 slaves, one or more of whom might well have been among her ancestors. The Abbey is still a working sugar cane plantation, part of an active island sugar industry. Susan noted that Bajans [the accepted name for all islanders] are somewhat formal in their business attire and social habits, the product of 350 years of British influence. Our informally guided tour was most enlightening in giving us a glimpse into the real workings of this busy, independent and unique island. Back on board for dinner, which was the best so far; frog’s legs, duck consomme, rack of lamb done as ordered, sacher torte with ice cream. Susan (our dinner companion Susan, that is) complained that her pork pasta had only gravy, no meat. A steak was substituted without question, although it took a few minutes to arrive. Kaya made roses out of napkins for the ladies at the table, and was doing card tricks at his other table when we left. We did not want to bother

going to the show, which was a comedian/impressionist. For some reason the late seaters had their entertainment while the early seaters were eating, instead of waiting until 10:30 for their show as was normal. This was also the night for ice-carving at the midnight buffet, but we were in bed long since.

A note on food servings is in place here. The individual serving portions were small compared to the present practice in land restaurants. Personally, Edith and I highly approve of this. We think there is a growing tendency to overload dinner plates in restaurants, in some cases, the Cheese Cake Factory for example, to the point of the ridiculous. When you are being served five courses, you do not need huge portions. Besides, there is so much food available on any cruise at all time, you do not need large portions or be required to buy a new wardrobe on arrival home!

Tuesday - at sea. This was a quiet day. I had checked out a relatively new mystery, “P Is For Peril”, in the Sue Grafton series, and was enjoying reading it. I also exercised and went swimming. The pool deck areas were crowded, but clean, with comfortable deck lounges and on balance, reasonably comfortable. We had lunch in the main dining room. It was very empty, but we nonetheless enjoyed an excellent appetizer, skipped the soup and salad and an had an extremely good curried lamb entree. Dessert of course. We planned to attend the “high tea” in the main dining room, but found out too late that semi-formal attire, that is, long pants and dresses, were required. We did miss the daily tea provided on Elation, with waiter served petit fours, accompanied by a classical music trio. At dinner I had a very good shrimp cocktail (4 shrimp), good soup and an excellent lobster tail entree. Dessert was a major Baked Alaska presentation with the waiters carrying the desserts down the grand staircase and around the restaurant to music and cheers with much waving of napkins. Incidentally, it was very good. Kaya brought his card tricks to our table. One was really clever.

We went to show. It was mostly ensemble dancing and singing, but also added a group of Chinese tumbler/acrobats and an amazing contortionist. Altogether a pretty god show and very well attended. We stayed up for the fancy buffet and took pictures.

Wednesday - Aruba. We had been to Aruba on our prior Caribbean trip, but that had been on a Sunday with many stores closed. Here I signed up for a snorkel cruise. We went by catamaran to two locations. The first was the longer, about 25 minutes in the water, and the better for views of fish that come right up to you to check you out. The second stop was over a scuttled German WWII freighter of substantial size. The ship was interesting, but the water on the murky side with far fewer fish. The total trip was about 3 hours so we were back on the ship by noon and had lunch at the buffet. I had mahi-mahi, which was truly excellent, and it is not easy to keep fish fresh and tasty in a steam table environment. In the afternoon we took a city bus to the end of the hotel row which runs down the south or Venezuelan side of the island. We got off at the Marriott Hotel, the last in the line. The pool area is very nice, and highlighted by iguanas running around freely everywhere. We returned to town and got on another city bus, which made a round trip through the eastern and central part of the island. This was strictly a local bus, stopping at corners, picking up and dropping local passengers everywhere, going through real Aruba neighborhoods, and giving us a glimpse of the island as it truly is, not as seen by people shopping at port stores or staying in the upscale hotels on the beach. Aruba is mostly low lying , with cactus reminding us of our native Arizona organ pipe cactus, and lots of sand and rocks. Despite the desert appearance, the humidity is still high. The neighborhoods, like most in the Caribbean, are mixed, with shacks next to very nice residences, and local shops and businesses scattered everywhere. There is no concept of zoning or planned areas in the Caribbean. The bus driver was probably of Dutch ancestry and knew half the passengers. It must have taken him months to learn the complexities of the route as it wound through side streets, turning everywhere. We were the only non-islanders aboard. The neighborhoods seemed mixed ethnically with Dutch and others scattered throughout. The total cost of both bus trips was $3.35 US apiece. There is an active and large oil refinery at the eastern edge of the island; and a reasonable amount of commercial activity.  Aruba is still a Dutch colony, while Barbados and St. Kitts have almost total local autonomy under Commonwealth-like status.

Dinner featured a salmon with mustard appetizer, which was excellent, a good bouillon soup, and a filet mignon, which arrived exactly as ordered, and was also excellent. Dessert, a peach and blueberry with ice cream combination was also sufficiently decadent enough to satisfy me. Kaya did more parlor tricks and our happy table was the last to leave. The show, “Crescendo” was mostly high energy dancing and pretty good. I wandered around later on, had a slice of very good pizza. Fortunately these slices are narrow so you can control intake. The ship did not leave until 11:00 and as I was leaning over the rail watching late arrivals rush up saw one lady literally falling down drunk on the dock, and assisted, with great efforts by friends to finally make it on board. I always wonder how many people do not make it back to the boat on time.

Thursday - At sea. Had breakfast at our regular seats in the Orion dining room, and while the menu does not change, it is nice to sit and be served. Besides, the coffee is truly excellent here. We attended the debarking lecture since all cruise lines vary a little. It went pretty fast. We had joined the Captain’s Club after arrival on board, since several reviews I had read in this Cruise Review site recommended it. We were invited to a Captain’s Club party at 11:30. Some information was provided, but not much. Only about 50 people were there. We went to lunch in the Orion room again and were joined by John and Anne. Went to the art auction, which had really heavy sales, and then took the galley tour. The normal bridge tour, which I enjoyed on both Elation and Enchanted Isle (especially the contrast between a ship built in 1997 and one built in 1965); was cancelled for security reasons. There was a later party, to which we were also invited for “repeaters”. As this was our first Celebrity trip, I can only imaging that they came up with the fact that we have made the initial deposit on a Santiago to Buenos Aires cruise around Cape Horn in January 2002. This group numbered about 80 and there was some useful information on upcoming trips and changes to their itineraries as the result of September 11. Specifically, there will be more cruises to and from U.S. ports, and fewer European cruises.

Our last dinner was excellent, a spring roll, oxtail soup, a superb veal chop and a low cal (right!) chocolate gateau with ice cream. I should note that a “no sugar added” dessert was offered at every meal, which I steadfastly avoided. There were also “lean” items designated at every meal for each appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert, and selected from one of the items on the main menu. We went to the show; framed around show business people whose names started with the letter “B”, first or last apparently. It was a little lower key, at least in spots, and quite good. Then we went back to pack. Since the cabin is small, I left for a 1/2 hour or so to allow Edith unrestricted room to pack; and then returned so I would have the same opportunity to move freely. I think that was a good idea. We had brought back packs as our carry on luggage and for the pajamas and toiletries we had to keep out of the suitcases since, as usual, they were picked up that night. In fact Edith’s was gone by the time I put my first bag out at 11:30, and my first bag was picked up and on its way as soon as it left my hands. The ship uses the usual colored tag routine for bags, providing the tags that afternoon.

I did not sleep well that night, but I suspect it was pre air travel tension. From about 11:30 on we could see Puerto Rico’s southern shore lights off the starboard side as we proceeded east before turning around the east end of the island to reach San Juan on the north shore.

Friday - Disembarkation. Up at 5:15. The ship’s dial-up wake-up system actually works, although we had, as usual, brought our small travel alarm. We went through the immigration clearance process very quickly and joined John and Anne for breakfast in the Orion dining room. I had salmon kippers, which were quite good, and the last cups of excellent coffee. We had been given, along with our red luggage tags, a card with our disembarkation number; which was 2. We picked up our back packs, went to one of the lounges where we were joined by John and Anne again. They were in the number 3 group, while Ed, Nancy, Frank and Susan, on the same plane to Baltimore at 3:30 P.M., were in the number 15 group. After the usual repeated calls to certain passengers to report to Guest Relations; the first group was called to disembark at about 8:45, and we were called about five minutes later. Due to the new airport security regulations, we did not have the luggage transfer service we had in the original embarkation phase. We had to locate our bags in the dock building and haul them down the pier to the buses, make sure they were loaded, and unload them at the terminal. We carried our bags to the Airline check in, but a fellow air passenger told us we had to go through a Department of Agriculture X-ray inspection process. We hauled our bags back outside and ran them through this check where an orange tag was put on each bag, then dragged them back to the check-in counter. Later we heard that if you come directly from a cruise ship to the airport you do not have to go through this process, but whichever is correct, we had no advice at all from Celebrity. We should have been told which was correct. Nonetheless we got on board in plenty of time and had a smooth flight back. And all our bags arrived with us!

Overall ratings: [Out of a possible 100]
Galaxy Dining Room and Cuisine:
Ambience: 97
Cuisine:     94
Service:     96

No cruise ship with 1800 people to feed can ever match a true gourmet land restaurant, which might reach 97-99 on my scale. I never met a 100.

Elation: Ambience: 90
             Cuisine:       91
             Service:       93

Enchanted Isle: Ambience: 86
                             Cuisine:     89
                             Service:     92

Galaxy Casual Dining Room and Cuisine:
Ambience:    90
Cuisine:        90
Service:        n/a

Elation:
Ambience: 85
Cuisine:     89
Service:     n/a

Enchanted Isle:
Ambience: 89
Cuisine:     87
Service:     n/a

Housekeeping:
Galaxy:               98
Elation:              96
Enchanted Isle: 93

Our housekeeper, Olga. was really superb and unobtrusive.

Guest Relations:
Galaxy:              95
Elation:              93
Enchanted Isle: 86

We bugged them a lot over the missing bag; which was probably an airline or airport problem; and they were very patient and helpful. Their efforts to regularly inform us of what was happening, even if it was a “no news” report, was appreciated. We did not feel abandoned. There were one or two clerks whose English language skills caused a minor problem.

Land Tours:
Galaxy:               92
Elation:               85
Enchanted Isle:  65

I had tried to arrange tours from home directly by e-mail on the theory that I could avoid a cruise line commission, but several tours said they would only book through the line. This must be a tie-in agreement, since I knew from a previous trip you can walk down the street and make you own deals. This can be risky however, and since my wife likes to stick to the cruise arranged tours, that’s what we did. On Enchanted Isle one whole stop, Cozumel, was eliminated and two tours cancelled for lack of participation. There were only 450 passengers on board that ship, and the average age must have been above 70, so it was not surprising. Elation did not offer all that much, but the tour stop options available in Mexico may have limitations to begin with.

Entertainment:
Galaxy:               85
Elation:               75
Enchanted Isle:  80

The theater on Elation is badly designed, with high loss of sight lines in the entire balcony, and substantial losses due to pillars in the orchestra. On Enchanted Isle there was no theater, just a night club stage, with no fancy lights and only small productions. But it was cozy, and we felt we got to know the performers, especially when there was a session in which they simply sat on chairs and talked about what they did, how the acts got together, their backgrounds, etc. We danced to one of Galaxy’s dance bands once, and they did 1940s numbers well. We missed the cool and quiet, real steel drum duo that played on the aft deck of Enchanted Isle. Every Caribbean cruise ought to have one of these.

Passenger make-up. A pretty wide age and makeup range, although with very few children and a relatively high percentage of ethnic minority representation compared to Elation and Enchanted Isle. Our table makeup was really outstanding, with lots of humor and conversation. Except for Ed, a Safeway meat manager [who contributed a lot of knowledge about the meat being served] we did not go through the usual American routine of asking what we did for a living and defining ourselves by our jobs. I did not find out that John was a Community College President and that Frank was a County Mental Health Director until after the last dinner. Maybe the art of conversation is not dead; it certainly wasn’t at our table. Elation had a surprisingly large number of children on board for a trip taken during normal school time. Nobody on Enchanted Isle had been inside a schoolroom for at least fifty years it seemed, unless it was to take Medicare education classes. And this from someone who at age 68 felt he was among the young set on board.

Port Shopping. Except for the necessities bought due to the lost bag, our actual shopping was confined to the ship. We did go into a couple of stores in St. Thomas, but we had done that routine on our prior Caribbean cruise; and when you have seen one, you have seen them all.

Casino. We watched Nancy hit a quarter slot machine for $100.00; and we understand that two nights later she won $450.00. We gamble vicariously. The casino did not seem to draw much, and Ed, who played black jack while his wife won on the slots, also said attendance was light.

Other on board activities. We felt there could have been more, and that especially there should be more than one gym session. No one else complained about lack of such activities though.

Shipboard Information. Galaxy provides the usual daily message handout concerning the upcoming activities for the next day; delivered to your cabin at about 9:30. It separates the dining information from other activities, and you have to look carefully to see the applicable dress code for dinner. In addition, the main dinner time varies from 6:00 on formal nights to 6:15 on others. You have to check each day. The daily handout ran from six to ten pages, with some pages of promotional advertising about specific events. The ship also publishes a regular general news sheet of about four pages, which includes sport news so I could celebrate the Diamondbacks winning the National League pennant. This comes out each day at about 11:00, and is found only at Guest Relations and in the Library. Galaxy limits its loudspeaker announcements to very major events - ship docking and the like, and then these are audible only in the public areas. Nowhere nearly like Elation, which was sounding off a lot. The cabin TV has CNN and a few other shows in addition to ship shopping, art auction, debarkation procedures and similar stuff. It has a VCR, but I did not bring any tapes and know of no one who did!

Security. Embarkation security was tight at all ports, with ship’s card and photo id at the gangway and photo id at dockside entrances through local port security officers. Onboard security, if even present, was invisible, noticeably different from Elation which, even in 1999, had a highly visible onboard security staff. As one might have expected with Enchanted Isle, there was no onboard security.

Photo Service. This was really bad. although no one should expect much. One photo of Susan was so bad as to be funny, but perhaps not to her. Bring your own camera and ask your table companions or waiter to take your picture; it will probably be a lot better.

Overall rating: Galaxy:                  94
                          Elation:                  90
                          Enchanted Isle:    84*

* This was largely influenced by the cancellation of the last stop in Cozumel, leaving us with a three day, at sea closing experience up the thrilling Gulf of Mexico, with everyone pretty well tired at the end of what  for some passengers and the entire crew was a 23 day round trip from New Orleans. We had joined in Puerto Rico for an 11 day cruise; still a little long. I think nine days would be perfect.

Overall impression. Galaxy is an extremely clean, comfortable, well maintained, and well run ship. Our dining room waiter and assistant, as well as our housekeeper, were as pleasant, cheerful, accommodating and professional as anyone could have wished. And, in the case of Kaya and his after dinner card and parlor tricks, amusing. We really looked forward to dinner, and were never disappointed. [Well, Susan was once.] The food preparation was excellent and probably about as good as you can get in an operation that must feed 900+ people in two shifts one immediately following the other. No such entity on this schedule can match a true gourmet restaurant run by the cook who actually prepares the food himself or herself. We think Galaxy should have had the type of tea time found on Elation, and a steel drum duo like the one playing Christmas carols so beautifully on Enchanted Isle. But despite these very minor negative comparisons, we think that Celebrity runs its operation extremely well; that the main goal of relaxation with superior service and food in a very pleasant environment was readily and fully achieved. We would recommend Galaxy to anyone considering a cruise and the Caribbean as a destination. Actually, you can do several Caribbean cruises with only occasional duplication of ports.

Maybe you will be as lucky as we were in your dinner companions; although there seemed to be a lot of happy conversation at the other tables also. But even if you are not quite so fortunate, the Galaxy experience will be memorable.

Bon Voyage!

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