Occupation:Housing and Community Development
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: August 1st, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This write-up may be helpful if you have never taken a cruise before. This was our first experience. This can be both positive and negative because we really have nothing to compare our experience to. Needless to say, our Celebrity Cruise on Galaxy was wonderful. And based on other comments from other ship guests during our experience, we had started at the top. We would recommend this cruise in a heartbeat. You get full value for your dollar and you will be left with wonderful lasting good memories of a fabulous vacation on board a ship that has a fabulous crew whose sole intent is to indulge you.
Let me first preface my remarks by saying that we are an active couple, we enjoy tennis, swimming and golf. We are professionals and work very hard all year long so our vacations are multipurpose – to get us away from our everyday hectic life, to indulge ourselves in fun and activity and to seek relaxation and quiet time when the mood hits. We enjoy fine dining, like getting dressed for dinner, generally enjoy meeting people and are not afraid of new experiences.
We were unsure of what we would expect and the thought of spending ten days on a boat was met with caution, but we had heard about the wonderful cruise experience and felt we had nothing to lose. The dreaded concern of sea sickness never happened.
We sailed Celebrity Cruise Line’s Galaxy. This was a 10-day “Western Caribbean” cruise. The ports of call included Key West, Cozumel, Belize, Coca Cay and Nassau, Bahamas. We sailed out of Baltimore, which was terrific for us since we didn’t mind the 3 ½ hour drive from New York. Our travel agent suggested we get there early for processing and so we did. This process was extremely simple, we completed the pre-boarding on line so it was more or less a check-in with passport review, very similar to what you experience when flying. Despite our early arrival, we were not the first to board. Celebrity honors its repeat customers with priority boarding. So regardless of when you arrive, if you are a first-time traveler with celebrity, you will board behind their captain’s club, priority and elite travelers.
We enjoyed a stateroom with veranda. Although we were told by some guests that Galaxy’s staterooms were small compared to other vessels, we were not impacted at all. The rooms are well laid out with lots of drawers and ample closet space. These rooms are clean and well maintained during the day by our wonderful cabin attendant, Mitchellin Naoe. Fresh water and ice, complete change of all linen and towels every day and sometimes, twice a day. No matter when we left for breakfast, when we returned our cabin was cleaned and the bed made. And similarly when we left for dinner, by the time we returned our bed was turned down with a wonderful good night chocolate!
I had heard of the “food experience” on cruise ships but was simply not prepared for what we encountered. Galaxy does a good job of feeding you. There is not a moment during the day when you cannot find something to eat. Starting with an early breakfast buffet through pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, sandwich bar and lunch buffet to mid afternoon ice creams and sorbets to tea time to sushi time to a fine dinner and of course the late buffet … you’re always eating. Oh, and don’t forget the 24 hour room service. This is the best room service I’ve ever had. They are at your door with your order within ten minutes. Be prepared to gain at least 5lbs. The cuisine is great. Our dinner experiences were always wonderful. Our waiter, Igor Sestan and Assistant Waiter, Glen D Souza did a fabulous job of taking care of our every need. They were consummate professionals with lots of wit and a genuine concern that our dining experience was the best event of the cruise. We can’t forget Tiparian Saispi, our beverage attendant. She too was always pleasant and eager to please. Our cruise had three formal nights. Be prepared, some guests dress to the hilt. You can always opt for the casual dining experience located in the Oasis Café. The set up is full dinner, but less formal. Our feeling was we paid for this service, so we were going to take every advantage of it.
This is where Galaxy shines. They are an international melting pot. The diversity aboard this ship is something that every corporation should aspire to. The quality of their staff and their interest in ensuring that they each do their part to have your stay as enjoyable as possible is what will always stand out with me about this cruise. Everyone seems to enjoy what they do and they want you to enjoy their ship and their service.
Celebrity appears to reach generally an older group, although there were many younger couples and young families on the cruise. But this is not a party boat. I’ve heard of the Carnival experience. This it is not. They host a variety of daily activities, which you can choose or choose not to participate in. Generally speaking the entertainment on this boat is pretty good. Something for everyone to enjoy. During our cruise, they had a fabulous magician and the singing duo in the Rendezvous Lounge was very, very entertaining and enjoyable to listen to. Galaxy’s staged shows each night are generally good, although not great … but if we wanted to see a Broadway show each night, we would have stayed in New York. Their Cirque due Galaxy Show was also wonderful. You will be entertained. Their cruise director worked hard to ensure everyone was having a good time. The combo band and the comedian on our cruise were okay. They were not on par with the rest of the entertainment but in each instance they kept folks generally happy but we’ve heard and seen better.
The ten-day western Caribbean cruise was wonderful. Initially I didn’t like the idea of being at sea for the first two days, but by the time we reached Key West for the first port of call, I felt like we had already had a wonderful vacation. Those two days at sea bring you right down and you are totally indulged by the warm sun, daily boat activities and fine dining.
Although we thoroughly enjoyed the ports of call, I would have the following suggestions for Celebrity:
1. Eliminate Key West. Key West is an evening town and the boat arrives very early, before the town wakes up and we leave just before 2 pm. Many of the stores didn’t open up until about 10 am. I would tack this time onto the Nassau stop (which is the last port of call). Again, Galaxy arrives in Nassau very early and leaves before 2 pm. Nassau, however, unlike Key West, at least begins to open its shops at around 9 am to accommodate the cruise ships. I was pleasantly surprised with Nassau, its full of life and they’ve done good job with the pier shopping. Also, there is far more to do in Nassau and you need a full day to enjoy its amenities.
2. Cozumel is a terrific stop, we chose to take the Tulum Excursion and Xel Ha combination. This is a full day excursion. We chose the combination because we felt that after touring the ruins we would enjoy the cool waters of Xel Ha but in doing so you are rushed. Also, for the money we spent on this trip an extra $10 or $15 for a good lunch would have been well spent. The boxed lunch that was provided was totally inadequate and we spent most of our time in Xel Ha at their restaurant eating rather than soaking up the cool waters. My suggestion to Galaxy is to tack on a good meal. The day is too long and rushed for the boxed lunch.
3. Our Belize excursion was fun. We did the cave tubing. As I mentioned we are active so the 35 to 40 minute walk through the jungle with our tube was an experience, but some folks may not want to work so hard … but the magnificence of the caves and cool waters during what was an extremely hot humid day in Belize was well worth it. Our lunch following this experience was wimple but delicious. In both Cozumel and Belize we were extremely pleased with the knowledge base of both tour guides. This is exactly what we want when we travel, knowledge of the country we visit. Kudos to Celebrity in their choice of tour operators in both places. Belize is a beautiful but poor country. From speaking with the other guests, those of us who took excursions seemed to manage far better than those who tried to foot it on their own. There is very little in Belize City to see unguided and you can be overwhelmed by the poverty.
4. Coco Cay is Celebrity’s Island. This stop is a complete beach day. We took the wave runner excursion. This was a little more than we expected. This is a 50 minute run on the “high seas”. Our guide really enjoyed the wave runner and was playing up to the speed demons who were part of our group. This excursion should be divided among those with experience and those who are not so experienced with the wave runner. This was a little intimidating, trying to keep up with the group and several couples in our group had some concern with the speed. Keep this in mind if your interests lie here.
Shopping and Spa
The ship has some pretty interesting shops and you surely get good prices. We compared some of the jewelry, liquor and perfume options on board the ship with the ports of call and you won’t be disappointed with the buys on the cruise ship. Also Celebrity’s Spa is quite good, a little pricey, but they pamper you to the hilt.
I don’t know how you unload 2000 passengers with ease. Galaxy is very well organized around everything they do, including the debarkation process, but its still not the best. Repeat customers get the pleasure of an earlier debarkation. So if you are new to the cruise line, prepare to wait for your turn. My only suggestion is that they publicly announce an expected departure for your group and/or use the public addresses system to alert people to what stage in the process they have reached. This is especially important for passengers who have pickup arrangements waiting for them at the pier. Essentially, they appear to group guests according to their experience with Celebrity and you are shepherded to a holding area until your section is called. Dependent upon where you are, this could be anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. It would just be helpful for those at the tail end of the debarkation process to know what group is at the debarkation stage. Moral of this story … join the Captain’s Club!
In conclusion, this is a terrific cruise line and a super ship. I’m checking our itinerary for our next cruise on Celebrity Cruise Lines.