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Horace Plotkin

Age: n/a

Occupation:n/a

Number of Cruises: 25+

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Galaxy

Sailing Date: November 24th, 2005

Itinerary: n/a

Celebrity Cruises
Galaxy Cruise Review
Panama Canal

Horace Plotkin

We caught the 8.50am Air Canada flight, Toronto to Houston, right on time and landed around noon, found our luggage and were quickly met by our driver, who escorted us a short distance to our parked limo. The trip to Galveston took about an hour and a quarter, we took the scenic route through downtown Houston and all in all it was a pleasant journey with 'Airport Commuter Limo Worldwide', US$184 one way, pleasant, on time and a very comfortable limo.

GALVESTON:
We stayed at the Best Western Beachfront, which turned out to be a good choice at US$56 per night, great location on the seawall and a particularly accommodating TexMex restaurant (Tortugas) next door. The hotel is standard Best Western fare, but the price was good and there was also a convenient supermarket next door (Krugers, I think). We were in Galveston 4 days early, in order to see some of the local sights, I'd intended to travel by public transport, taxi and walking, but once there, realized we really needed a vehicle, so the day we arrived I called Enterprise rental and arranged to pick up a midsize car. Right after breakfast, next morning, they picked us up and drove us to their office, fortunately they had no midsize available, so we got a Jeep Cherokee for the same price US$35 per day. I wont bore you with the next 3 days, except to say we made good use of the car, visiting the Ocean Star (oilrig), Bishops Palace, Texas Aviation Hall of Fame, the Turtle Sanctuary, several stores, the Strand, Houston Space center, the beaches and we took the ferry over to Bolivar Peninsula and back. Even before we boarded the cruiseship we felt as if we'd already had a holiday and were ready to relax for a while.

EMBARKATION:
The easiest we’ve ever experienced, we arrived at the terminal just before 1pm and breezed through the formalities in about 10 minutes, no line-ups. We had one bottle of liquor in our carry-on but could just as well have had 10 as the only inspection was through the x-ray machine. On board, we were greeted with a cool glass of Champagne and guided to the Oasis buffet for something to eat. After a short lunch we went down to our cabin, the checked luggage arrived shortly thereafter.

THE CABIN:
We had an inside cabin on the Sky deck, it wasn’t overly spacious, but was more than ample, largest shipboard shower I’ve seen in a long time and plenty of closet/drawer space. We really liked the location, convenient for everything except the Celebrity Theatre. Franklin, our steward kept the place spotless and the Champagne bucket filled with ice.

FOOD AND DRINK:
We dined at 8.30pm, upper restaurant, table 826 and our waiter, Raul, was pleasant and professional, in fact the whole team , the assistant waiter (Herbert), the sommelier (Blaze) and the maitre’d (Fathi) were some of the best we’ve seen in a long time. We were fortunate to have wonderful tablemates, six other family members, so dinner was never boring, far from it. The waiters seemed to enjoy the laughter and particularly the appreciative noises when dessert was presented.

Food was excellent and well presented and I enjoyed everything I had from appetizers to dessert, even if I’m not much of a dessert person. The chicken with pineapple and the roast beef were two of the most memorable entrees.

Most mornings I was up before Izzy and went out on deck for a coffee before bringing some light breakfast back to the cabin. This was followed by official breakfast in the buffet, except for two mornings when we had breakfast delivered.

We ate lunch every day at the pool deck Grill/Oasis buffet, which looked as good as I've seen anywhere, with great choice from soups to sundaes. I say ‘looked’ because I had a cheeseburger (or two) for lunch every day without exception and enjoyed every one. On the second last day, I was looking for an empty table but none were available, other than a large table with one ships officer sitting at it, I asked if he minded and he motioned for me to sit down. He was soon joined by a young lady and as I munched upon my burger, I glanced across at his badge and realized that he was Captain Peppas. Izzy joined us and we were soon conversing, the lady was his girlfriend, she was English and was visiting him this cruise, they seemed like a pleasant enough couple and when the it came up that it was our 35th wedding anniversary that week, he bought us a drink to celebrate.

Talking about drinks, the price of drinks on deck and in the bars is expensive, $6.95 for a scotch, which is about 20 percent more expensive than we paid on our September cruise with HAL, though I've never had so many free drinks on a cruise before, even the casino gave out the occasional one, thank goodness we were able to buy a bottle (or two) in Cozumel for cabin consumption.

MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT:
Celebrity Theatre-

Cruise director Shawn Cavanah was entertaining the few times we saw him, he kept the trivia crowd laughing, I think he was trying out new material on a small audience before moving it to the big time. We only saw two shows in the main theatre and found neither to be memorable, a violinist and the final review show.

Rendezvous Square-
We were in here most nights before and after dinner and found the band (2 guys) very good, it was mostly country music but they played some other stuff too, even one Scottish number.

The Savoy Lounge-
Nicely laid out and we really enjoyed the group, girl singer and 3 guys on guitar/drums/keyboard. My brother actually sang his rendition of ‘It’s now or never’ in here one night to the thunderous applause of the appreciative crowd ………..

Other-
We visited the piano bar once but no-one was playing, we enjoyed the string quartet in the restaurant each night (should probably have made more of an attempt to see them in other venues) and we danced to Sinatra in the Stratosphere lounge.

Daytime entertainment around the pool was standard stuff, line dancing in the morning, live band in the afternoon, fruit & ice carving, a pool game once, trivia once. We frequently took part, sometimes successfully, in the trivia competitions, for ‘valuable’ prizes – (yes.. Rod Stewart was once a grave digger).

THE SHIP:
The most memorable thing about the ship is her excellent staff, in every department, the ship is kept clean and tidy. There are some worn areas, the chair cushions in the sitting area at the back pool are in need of renewal as are some Stratosphere lounge windows, the lounge binoculars are past their best and a few outdoor chairs need restrung, none of the foregoing was serious enough to give a second thought.

The stores on board were not overly expensive and even had a few good deals, internet access I found was expensive and only used it once at a cost of US$21.75, packages were available at US$70 for 100 minutes and more or pay as you go at 0.75c per minute.
Automatic tipping is optional at $10.50 per person per day, I seldom use this option and preferred to compensate chosen individuals directly.

SHORE EXCURSIONS:
Cozumel:

We have visited Cozumel several times before and as the tender approached shore, it was easy to see the extensive hurricane damage, the highrise buildings along the shoreline were just skeletons and the piers that once stretched 500 yards out into the ocean were all but gone, concrete rubble and twisted metal.

Immediately ashore there’s a good size indoor/outdoor market area with fairly good prices, where we spent all of our time ashore. After dropping off some of our cash to support the local merchants, we decide it was time to support the local bar and relaxed with a couple of Coronas (US$2.50 each) watching the world go by. We had planned to spend the day at Chankanaab park, but after wandering about the local shops the inclination left us and we opted for the peace of the ships swimming pool.

Costa Maya:
We were only here for the morning and hadn’t planned anything other than some time at the local beach so we took a leisurely walk into the shopping area about 9am, it was very hot and it was nice to get into the air conditioned internet center, US$3 for half an hour was very reasonable, just make sure your pc is set to English (if you don’t understand Spanish).

Costa Rica (Puerto Limon):
We had arranged online for a full day tour and were looking forward to it and Charlie Soto was dockside waiting for us at the pre-arranged time 7.45am. We boarded our bus along with about 16 others and took off for the first stop, Brisas de la Jungla zipline adventure. After getting kitted out and a short training talk, we headed to the first platform, an easy 3 minute walk followed by 6 or 7 steps up to the platform. The zipping was great fun, especially numbers 4 & 5 which were extremely fast, number 5 was over 800 feet long so you had lots of time to build up speed…. and most people did, I’d have slammed into the tree if the guide hadn’t caught me.. and I wasn’t alone, one woman came in so fast, even with the guides help she still smashed into the water cooler, knocking everything about.

From the zipline we headed for Tortuga canals for a pleasant trip through the jungle, spotting many birds, sloths and one crocodile. The trip out was slow and meandering but the return was at top speed and if you’re toward the back of the boat at either side, you will get wet, I did. Back at the boat dock there was a few minutes for washroom break, remember to give something to the little kid outside the washroom who mops the floors, he must be all of 6 or 7 years old.

After the canals, we headed for the animal sanctuary, quite interesting with close up views of all the animals, including the opportunity to hold the parrots and monkeys (but not the sloths). By the time we left the animal sanctuary it was after one oclock and I was starving but somehow I missed the vote where it was decided to bypass our lunch/beach stop and head straight for the banana plantation.

The banana operation was very interesting and carlos explained the lifecycle of the bananas and process within the plantation.

Next stop was downtown Puerto Limon to visit a supermarket, we had a twenty minute stop and since we were not buying anything, we took the opportunity to wander into a local market and have a look around. About 4pm we were back at the port, paid Carlos with thanks and headed for the buffet on board, it had been so long since we had eaten that I’d almost forgotten how, but it came back to me.

Panama Canal (Cristobal):
I wakened before 6am, which surprised me as we’d been in the casino ‘til 2am that morning, but since I wanted to see the traverse through the canal, I went out on deck, watched for a while then picked up some breakfast to take back to the cabin. Later we met up with Marilyn and Jeff and went up to deck 11 at the back, allowing us to have breakfast and watch all the action, Helen arrived shortly thereafter and invited us down to their room.

They had a perfect view forward, just like the captain sees it, we ordered room service and watched the action ‘til we were into Gatun lake, then after lunch I watched for a while down on deck 6 by the webcam. Around 3pm we docked at Cristobal and all went ashore to the extensive market right on dockside, they had some good deals especially if you waited ‘til half an hour before the ship was due to depart.

There were local Kuna (sp?) indians all dressed in native attire (a piece of string and a handkerchief) both performing dance and selling their wares, and a group of more Spanish style dancers who also performed.

Grand Cayman:
I was looking forward to this stop as we had planned to do something I’d never done before, ‘Swimming with the Stingrays’. We’ve been to Cayman Islands a couple of times before and taken land excursions so this time would be a little different.

After tendering in, we were offered what we wanted for US$40 each (Moby Dick) and within 5 minutes we were on an old school bus heading for another boat dock where we boarded the 'Eastern Skies' and headed out to sea. There were about 18 of us in total so it wasn’t too large a crowd and after 45 minutes or so we arrived at the sandbar, out by a reef. The water was crystal clear, not too cold and varied in depth from 3 to 5 feet. I don’t swim much but I was quite comfortable and the stingrays were amazing, they are so accustomed to people, we fed them, had our pictures taken with them, stroked their underside, fell over them and some even kissed them.

Back in the boat, we had 15 minutes ‘til we manoeuvred to the snorkeling area where we stayed for about half an hour. About 15 minutes into snorkeling time a little guy about 100 yards out indicated that he was having trouble staying above the water, I was very impressed with the reaction of the crew, within a few seconds of the call, the captain had dived in the water and was a quarter way out, he was passed by the other crew guy who reached the kid first, while this was happening, the other crew member on the boat was preparing additional lifesaving equipment for use, anyway they all got back on board and the kid was ok.

Galveston:
As our flight home was not scheduled ‘til 5pm, we had booked the Celebrity Galveston tour, 4 hours, dropping off at Houston airport (better than sitting around the airport, we thought). The day before arriving back in Galveston they cancelled the tour and we were able to share a taxi (US$135), 8 of us and 19 pieces of luggage.

DISEMBARKATION:
Once again the easiest we’ve ever experienced, we gathered in Rendezvous lounge at 8.30am, waited about 15 minutes then shuffled straight off the ship, after collecting the bags, we waited 10 minutes for our pre-arranged Taxi (US$135), 8 of us and 19 pieces of luggage, arriving at Bush airport before 10.30am. We remembered there was an earlier flight at noon and changed our tickets, arriving back 5 hours earlier than expected.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
We really enjoyed the cruise, the entire crew does an excellent job, good food and it's a beautiful ship though a little worn here and there, I'd cruise on the Galaxy again.

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