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Tom Ogg

Age: Baby Boomer

Occupation:Self Employed

Number of Cruises: Man

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Galaxy

Sailing Date: November 12th, 2005

Itinerary: n/a

Celebrity Cruise Lines
Celebrity Galaxy Cruise Review
12- Night Panama Canal

Tom Ogg

The Setup:
I was the group escort and seminar facilitator for a group of 38 travel professionals aboard Celebrity’s Galaxy on a 12-night Caribbean and Panama Canal cruise.

Getting to the Ship:
I flew Southwest Airlines from San Diego to Houston’s Hobby Airport and it was an uneventful flight. We arrived right on time and I took the shuttle to the Holiday Inn Express Hotel Hobby Airport. While the hotel offered a great rate, it did not have a restaurant and/or bar. There was nothing within walking distance of the hotel and it also seemed to be located in a somewhat seedy area, which would restrict one’s desire to walk around. The hotel does offer the use of the hotel’s shuttle van, but this was not the best situation as the hotel was about fifteen minutes from the airport and the restaurants were in the other direction about another ten minutes drive. I waited for the van to return from the airport and then got a ride to Outback Steakhouse where I enjoyed a salad and some shrimp and a much-needed glass of wine. I waited over an hour after finding a telephone to call the hotel to be picked up. Once back at the hotel, I had a difficult time sleeping the entire night. I was up early and caught the shuttle back to the airport to meet one of the group members to share a taxi down to the port in Galveston. The taxi fare from Houston Hobby to the ship in Galveston was just a little over $80. Given that a motor coach would have been $30 each with all the hassles associated with traveling with a group of people in a motor coach, the taxi was a great choice.

The bottom line is that I would not recommend the Holiday Inn Express Hotel, but would suggest one closer to the restaurants and shopping. The Marriott at the airport is an excellent choice. I would recommend taking a taxi from Houston Hobby unless you are a single traveler. There is a counter in baggage claim that sells tickets on the motor coach the pier.

Arriving at the cruise terminal in Galveston, we were greeted by hordes of passengers that were still disembarking from the last cruise. We made our way to the check-in area, tagged and checked our luggage with the porters, cleared the security checkpoint and made our way up to the check-in lounge. Even though I hadn’t taken advantage of the online passenger check-in that Celebrity offers, I had completed the check-in process in about 5 minutes. They opened the ship for boarding at 12 noon on the nose and I was up in the buffet in plenty of time to enjoy a wonderful lunch before the announcement that the cabins were ready for us. All in all, embarkation was absolutely painless.

The Galaxy at Anchor Off Cozumel, Mexico

The I have sailed on the Mercury and the Century a good number of times (sister ships to the Galaxy) and have really enjoyed them. After just sailing on the Millennium and the Infinity, 2 of Celebrity's most luxurious ships, I was anxious to see how I felt about returning to one of Celebrity's older vessels. First launched in 1997, she was a large ship at 77,713 gross tons. While she carries 1,870 passengers with a space ratio of 41.6, she never really feels crowded. She is in great shape for an older ship and all aspects of the ship are clean and not worn. She is an excellent ship for this itinerary and her price to value relationship was considered "excellent" among the travel professionals in the group.

The Bottom Line
I loved this particular cruise experience. Everything about it for me was wonderful. The ports give one a great overview of the deep Western Caribbean and the ship is a great experience. I would highly recommend the Galaxy for those looking at a Panama Canal itinerary.

Cabin 4044
I was in an outside cabin on deck four midship on the starboard side. The cabin was of generous size and very comfortable for a single cruiser. The window was large and the drapery covering it capable of blocking almost all of the sunlight if one wanted to sleep during the day. I had a queen sized bed with a nightstand on either side. The telephone was on the port nightstand and both had reading lights. A master on/off switch for the lights was located on the wall directly under the window. On the port side of the cabin aft of the bedding was a large desk housing two sets of drawers with three drawers each. Note that there is only one 110 volt outlet, so you will definitely want to bring an extension cord with multiple outlets. Above the desktop (plenty big enough for my notebook computer, printer, speakers and cds) was a large mirror with excellent lighting. Behind the mirror is the cabin's safe with a small cubby on either side for storage and three large shelves for additional storage reside above the safe and cubbies. There is a great deal of storage in this area.

The window side of the cabin aft of the bedding houses a small circular table and another chair. A refrigerator stocked with sodas, water, champagne and liquors is available, but be aware you are going to pay as you use the items. On the shelf above the refrigerator is the cabin's VCR and then the television. The television offers several channels of entertainment including CNN. More storage resides above the entertainment area.. There is quite an ample amount of closet space with two separate closets to use. The most forward contains a full length of shelves with three drawers on the bottom while the right side has a 1/2 length hanging rack for shirts or whatever, and three more drawers below the hanging rack. The other closet had a full hanging rack for dresses or longer items with a large amount of storage on top of the rack.

The bathroom was quite large enough to be comfortable. The shower was quite large compared to other ship's showers and the hot/cold water control allowed for precise temperature control of the shower. The sink was large and the counter top quite large. There are two shelves for additional storage and the entire area is mirrored. A hair dryer adorns the wall over the toilet, but it is the type that most women do not care for. I would suggest bringing your own hair dryer if you use one for styling your hair. On the hallway side of the bathroom are several shelves that house the various towels for use in the bathroom. One word of caution however, there is about an eight to ten inch step to enter the bathroom from the hallway that could be a problem for those with any mobility restrictions. There is also a six to eight inch step into the shower. I would strongly suggest that you bring a night light that can be plugged into the 110 volt shaver outlet in the hair dryer. In this way, one could make a safe passage to the restroom during the night without having to turn on the light to negotiate the necessary steps thereby affecting the other person in the cabin.

A Tour of the Deck 14, The Sunrise Deck
The best way to investigate the Galaxy is to simply explore her deck by deck. So, if you will join me we will go to the forward stairwell and make our way to deck 12, go outside and climb the stairs to deck 14 where we find the Galaxy's topless sunbathing area. Aft on deck 14 is the Galaxy's golf simulator. From here we will go back down to deck 12 (there is no deck 13) and start our pictorial tour.

Deck 12, The Sky Deck

The Stratosphere Lounge

All the way forward on deck twelve is the Stratosphere Lounge. This is the Galaxy's disco and is a large venue that also doubles as the observation lounge. it offers wonderful vistas when entering or departing a port and is also a great place to get away from everyone on days at sea to relax, read or simply watch the ocean go by. There is a large bar with bar stools by the dance floor and numerous tables and cubbies to relax in.

The Video Zone

The Video Zone is located right behind the Stratosphere Lounge and offers several state-of-the-art video games for everyone to enjoy. There is also a small meeting room and children's room located here.

The Galaxy's Pool Area and Jogging Track

Moving aft outside on deck 12 we enter the sun bathing area above the pool compound on deck 11 and the ship's jogging track. There always seemed to be walkers and joggers using the track on this cruise.

The Sky Bar

The Sky Bar overlooks the pool area and is a great place to relax and take in the day. The aft section of deck 12 contains some of the passenger suites.

One of the basketball venues on the Galaxy

The very aft section of the Mercury offers several opportunities for additional exercise and family fun. The basketball court is actually more of a half-court and is rarely used.

Deck 11, The Resort Deck

The Oasis Cafe Aft Dinning Area

Moving down the aft stairway, we are delivered to the aft dinning area of the Oasis Cafe. I dined here practically every morning and enjoyed the sunrise on many occasions. Bring your sun glasses!

Moving inside we enter the completely enclosed Oasis Pool. The was an obvious forerunner to the solariums found on Celebrity's newer ships and is also a great place to relax if it is raining or possibly too hot by the main pool.

The Oasis Grill

This is just the first area that makes up the Oasis Cafe. The Oasis Grill offers freshly made sandwiches, salads and other treats every day. On some days they made themed foods such as tacos, pasta and salads. I found the salads fresh and very much to my liking. There is also a great salad bar here, as well. The Oasis Bar is located on the port side of the ship and serves the entire area aft of the Oasis Cafe.

The Oasis Cafe

The Oasis Cafe is made up of several different buffet areas. In the aft section of the Oasis Cafe is a continental buffet that serves a continental breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. Belgium waffles are also made to order here in the morning. Moving forward on either side of the Cafe one finds the fresh omelet stations in the morning that become fresh pasta stations during lunch time. The main buffet lines are located further forward and offer a daily menu one would expect to find in a ship's buffet. During the early evening, sushi is served for everyone's enjoyment. During the dinner hours, the Oasis Cafe is transformed into the Galaxy's alternative dining room and offers a set menu in a formal surrounding. There is a suggested $2.00 gratuity for dining here and reservations are required.

The Ocean Grill

Leaving the Oasis Cafe area and moving out into the pool area, one finds the pool side Ocean Grill. The Ocean Grill serves hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta, pizza, french fries and other pool side fare. It is open most of the day and makes a great choice for those lounging by the pool that do not want to dress to enter the restaurant or the Palm Springs Grill.

Ocean Drink Station

Once the Ocean Grill opens, the Ocean drink station also opens. Here one can find coffee, tea, various juices and water all day long. This is a great treat for those wanting a drink will sunning. Serving the Ocean Pool area, the Ocean Bar is a great spot to hang out. The waiters working from the bar are available but not invasive.

The Galaxy's Pool Area

The Ocean Pool area on the Galaxy is superb. It offers two pools and several Jacuzzis and lots of lounges for laying in the abundant sunshine on this itinerary.

The Galaxy's Aerobics Room

Moving into the aqua spa area of the Galaxy one first finds the aerobics room on the starboard side. There are several classes offered each day.

The AquaSpa Fitness Center

The Fitness Center offered just enough equipment for a decent workout. It was not at all crowded on this particular cruise and everyone enjoyed it.

The AquaSpa Entrance

The Thalassotherapy pool is located in the center of the AquaSpa. While there is a charge for accessing the pool, it is indeed relaxing and a wonderful treat for yourself. A co-ed steam room adjoins the pool and there is a sauna in the changing room for both men and women.

The Beauty Salon

The ladies will enjoy the Galaxy's beauty salon.

Deck 10, The Penthouse Deck,
Deck 10 is all passenger suites.

Deck 9, The Vista Deck
Deck 9 is all passenger suites with the exception of the ShipMates Fun Factory (children's club) and the Children's Pool.

Deck 8, The Panorama Deck
Deck 8 is all passenger suites.

Deck 7, The Entertainment Deck

The Celebrity Theater

Starting all the way forward, the Celebrity Theater is the main entertainment venue on the Galaxy. This is the location of the production shows and headline acts. Many of the shows for late seating passengers are scheduled before dinner making the evening seem longer and more friendly.

The Galaxy Shops

The Galaxy has a considerable number of shops for everyone to enjoy. They are normally open when at sea and there are usually sales of one kind or another going on for everyone's enjoyment.

The Galaxy Gallery

You will find everything from clothing, jewelry, logo items, cosmetics, fragrances and much more in the specialty shops. Heading aft, one passes the Grand Foyer with its unusual art centerpiece. The Grand Foyer is the central meeting place on the Galaxy.

Fortunes Casino

There is a large casino on the Galaxy that is heavily used. While I am not a gambler, many in our group actually walked off the ship ahead of the game after the 11-day cruise.

The Galaxy's Slot Machines

There are a good number of slot machines in addition to the gaming tables.

The Savoy Night Club

The Savoy Night Club is the other main entertainment venue on the Galaxy. Many of the events are held here to take advantage of its intimate ambiance, yet large capacity.

The Savoy Bar

There is entertainment and dancing here every evening and it is a great place to meet and simply hang out. The bar area in the Savoy Night Club is also great for singles that want to meet other singles.

Deck 6, The Promenade Deck

The Orion Restaurant

Moving down the aft stairwell we come to the upper entrance of the Orion Restaurant. This is truly a wonderful dining venue and the meal preparation, presentation and delivery is excellent. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (with two seatings for dinner). Main seating sits for dinner at 6 pm and late sits for dinner at 8:30 pm. Breakfast and lunch are both open seating. The Rendez-Vous Square is a larger lounge with dancing every evening before both seatings for dinner and also after dinner. This is one of the wi-fi hot spots on the ship. The dance floor is very generous in size and can accommodate a good number of passengers. Note that there were two gentleman hosts on this particular sailing and they were found in this lounge in the evening.

The Galaxy's Photo Gallery

Forward of the Rendez-Vous Square on both sides of the ship is the location of the photo gallery. This was really the only real negative I found on the Galaxy. When traversing the ship on deck 6, one would usually encounter a pack of people looking at their photographs. They would plug up the walkway and it became difficult to negotiate your way through the photo gallery in the evening.

Michael's Club.

I really enjoyed Michael's Club. It offers a sophisticated ambiance, yet relaxing atmosphere. It is a great place to meet people and enjoy an adult beverage.

The Galaxy's Conference Center and Cinema

We held our meetings in the Conference Center and loved it. It offers state-of-the-art equipment and support and is an excellent place to conduct meetings. The Conference Center becomes the ship's cinema for the first-run movies that are shown throughout the day.

The Computer Room

The computer room offers a good number of terminals that are connected to the Internet. A good number of computer classes are offered throughout the cruise and they proved to be very popular. Every time one was in session, it seemed that every computer was taken.

Forward of the Computer Room is the Celebrity@Sea Internet Cafe. Internet access is somewhat expensive, but the Galaxy offers packages that reduce the cost somewhat. The log on speed is very good and the connection generally stable. You may also use the ship's wireless connection at the above mentioned package rates. There is no charge for setting up wireless access. While the wireless access did not work in my cabin, there were a couple of excellent hot spots on the ship. Note that SKYPE did not work on the wi-fi connection.

Farther forward is the lower entrance to the Celebrity Theater.

Deck 5, The Plaza Deck

The Galaxy's Registration Desk

If we head aft to the Grand Foyer and take the stairs down to the registration desk, you are treated to an area that makes up the ship's business center. Forward of the Registration desk is all passenger cabins. I found the Registration Desk personnel very knowledgeable and friendly and always willing to help.

The Registration Area Computers

Another wonderful feature is that there were more computers connected to the Internet right next to the Registration Desk. This made it quite easy to find a computer to send or read e-mail.

Saturday, November 12th, 2005; Galveston, Texas (Casual)
After unpacking, I set my computer up, checked with the group coordinator and printed and then distributed the “Welcome Aboard” flyers for the group. Just being on both the Mercury and the Century earlier this year, the Galaxy seemed very familiar to me, as she is a sister ship to the above mentioned vessels. We survived the dreaded lifeboat muster and I was shortly watching the Galaxy depart Galveston heading for our first port of call, Cozumel.

Our group was to meet in the Stratosphere Lounge on deck 12 for our “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party and I made it a point to be there about 15-minutes early just to make sure everything was set for our group. It certainly was not necessary since the Galaxy’s wonderful group coordinator; Ms. Farieda Watson had seen that every detail was perfect. Farieda was one of the best group coordinators I have ever had the pleasure of working with. The cocktail party went quite well, other than the intrusion of one couple that crashed it for the free cocktails. The first dinner onboard the Galaxy was simply wonderful. Our waiter was also one-of-a-kind. From Honduras, he had a very unique way about him and his humor and excellent service immediately endeared our entire table to him.

Sunday, November 13th, 2005; Day at Sea; Formal
I was up early, enjoyed breakfast and then made my way back to my cabin to get ready for our first seminar. We were assigned Michael’s Club for the seminar venue and it proved to be a great location. The group became immediately bonded and I could tell it was going to be a good one. The three hours went by quickly and I soon found myself in the Oasis Café buffet enjoying lunch. After a quick Jacuzzi and short period of time in the sun, I returned to my cabin and worked the balance of the afternoon.

I dressed for dinner and met our group in Rendez-Vous Square for a lively social hour before enjoying another excellent meal in the Orion Restaurant. After a wonderful dinner, I decided to take in the evening’s how, Broadway Express, performed by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. They were absolutely great! Everything about the show was enjoyable. After a short Internet session, I turned in for the evening.

Monday, November 14th, 2005; Cozumel, Mexico; Casual
The Galaxy was the first ship to land in Cozumel since hurricane Wilma ravished the island. I was quite keen on seeing what the situation was for myself, as there had been so many conflicting reports as to the devastation. Wilma stayed on top of Cozumel for a couple of days as a category 5 hurricane and Cozumel suffered tremendously.

The First Tender into Cozumel After Hurricane Wilma

Celebrity had cancelled the port call, but then decided to include it in the itinerary at the last minute. After a day at sea, the Galaxy eased into her anchorage and set anchor off of downtown Cozumel. As an Elite member of Celebrity Cruise lines (more than 10 cruises on Celebrity) I was invited to be on the first tender into the port. One of the agents and I took advantage of the offer and were visitors number 5 and 6 to set foot on the ferry pier directly in front of main square in downtown San Miguel, Cozumel’s main city.

There was a Mexican band playing and hundreds of people were on the pier. The Mexican media met our tender and the first lady down the gangway was greeted with a huge bouquet of flowers and subsequently interviewed by several reporters. All in all, it was a wonderful greeting and displayed the gratitude the people of Cozumel was showing Celebrity Cruise Lines for calling on Cozumel.

The damage that hurricane Wilma inflicted upon Cozumel was quite evident, what was surprising was that the streetscape, storefronts and general condition of the downtown area was in better shape than the last time that I had visited the island. The oceanfront seawall had just been painted, the sidewalks were perfectly clean, the streets looked brand new and about 70% of the stores were open for business and looked like nothing had happened at all. Palm trees had been planted the entire length of the city’s ocean front street. All in all, Cozumel was open for business as usual. Merchants were renting cars and scooters, selling snorkeling, diving, fishing, and other excursions. Taxis were queued up waiting for passengers to be taken anywhere they wanted to go. It looked to me like the old Cozumel I have come to love and enjoy. It was quite obvious that the Mexican government had put the redevelopment of Cozumel’s tourist infrastructure on a very high priority.

I decided to explore the downtown area and was delighted to find that the vast majority of the stores and markets were open for business. I was greeted with smiling faces and a warm welcome and many of the shopkeepers thanked us for coming. While one doesn’t have to search very far to find the devastation Cozumel suffered, it is just as easy to see the resilient nature of the people and almost unbelievable progress they have made in rebuilding. No one should hesitate to visit downtown San Miguel for its shopping, sights, restaurants and bars. Cozumel is back and will only improve as construction continues. While the main downtown pier and adjacent shopping center were hit hard, only the ocean front exposed businesses were destroyed and even then the buildings still stood and were in the progress of being rebuilt. All of the interior stores in the mall are open and waiting for everyone to show up. Carlos and Charlie’s’ and Senior Frog’s are still closed, but the Shrimp Bucket is open.

I also wanted to know what the situation was at the beach clubs and hired a taxi for a close look at each one of them. Here is the situation. All of the east coast beach clubs are closed with the exception of Chen Rio. On the west coast we visited Playa Palancar, which was open for business with all their facilities open including their dive and snorkel boat. The beach is in great shape with tons of sand. Don’t hesitate to spend the day at Playa Palancar. Nachi Cocum is closed, but under construction. Mr. Sanchos is open, but the restaurant and bar are under construction and the beach is all but missing; however the shops are all open. Playa Mia is open for business and is the ship’s beach break destination. We stopped for a break at Paradise Beach, which is operating at 100% with all the water toys intact, kayaks, lounge chairs and tons of sand. The water is crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling and/or diving at all the beaches mentioned above. The restaurant and bar at Paradise beach is open and in full swing. Don’t hesitate to visit Paradise Beach for a second. Note that the two-story building and restaurant is completely gone and the former bar now houses a restaurant. Playa San Francisco is open for business, but there is a considerable amount of damage still evident. They have set up a temporary bar and are playing music for their visitor’s enjoyment, however the beach bar, restaurant and shops are still in ruins.

The areas surrounding the beach clubs and outside of San Miguel are still in shambles, but electricity, water and all of the roads are now back up to their pre-hurricane standards (actually, better in some cases). Construction workers were everywhere and construction continues at a breakneck pace. The agent with me said, “Give these guys another 30 days and Cozumel will be like brand new.”

Back on board the Galaxy, I met with many in the group to capture their opinions and experiences in Cozumel for an article I was writing for one of the trade publications and then dressed for dinner. Our group had decided to meet for pre-dinner cocktails every night, so we met once again and had great conversations before entering the Orion Restaurant for a wonderful dining experience. Celebrity has done an excellent job in providing an excellent dining ambiance where a confluence of service, fine food, family warmth and sophistication all come together. They offer several entrée choices that would satisfy even the most particular palate. We lingered in the restaurant well into the evening and ended up being the last people to leave. I slept like a baby.

Docked in Costa Maya

Tuesday, November 16th, 2005; Costa Maya; Informal
While we arrived in Costa Maya at 7am I had decided to sleep in and debark the ship at 9am. After enjoying breakfast on the aft fantail located behind the Solarium, I made my way onto the pier and immediately noticed that a small swell was running. While it was sunny, I could tell that the weather was about to change. I made my way into Costa Maya and immediately decided to spend the balance of the day by the pool reading a bunch of material that I had brought with me. Costa Maya is a man-made port that really should be called Costa Maya Mall. It consists of a large swimming pool, a couple of restaurants and bars and about a thousand stores selling everything under the sun. All of the large Caribbean jewelry stores are located here. I am not much of a shopper.

Back on the ship I found a nice lounge and enjoyed the sun for a while and also enjoyed the Jacuzzi. There was a very dark cloud approaching and when it started raining I decided to wait out the rain sitting at the bar. It didn’t stop raining from that point on. I eventually made my way back to my cabin and worked for the entire afternoon getting much accomplished.

Our pre-dinner cocktail hour found us planning on some more optional seminars, so I made arrangement for more and completed a flyer before heading into the Orion Restaurant for another wonderful dining experience. The evening’s show, a musician named Pingxin Xu started out slowly; in fact, I was wondering why Celebrity would have booked the guy. He was billed as a “Hammer Dulcimer Virtuoso” and plays an instrument that consists of 130 something strings that he beats on with chopsticks. After about ten minutes, I thought the guy was terrific. His music was outstanding, even if his stage presence was less than stellar. If he is on your cruise, don’t miss his act.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2005; Day at Sea; Formal
I had agreed to meet some of the agents for a one-on-one seminar, so after breakfast changed and went to Michael’s Club to meet them at 9 am. From there I offered an optional seminar for the group that lasted until noon. We actually went over by about a half hour, so by the time I got back to my cabin it was about 1pm.

We had encountered the tail end of a tropical depression so the ship was moving around pretty well and it had been raining steadily since Tuesday morning. I took the opportunity to work most of the afternoon and read some technical material that I had brought along with me. All in all, it was a great day and I got quite a bit accomplished. Before I knew it, it was time to dress and meet for the group photo that we always take on the second formal night of a cruise. It went quite well and we finished the photo just in time to attend the Captain’s Club repeaters party in the Savoy Night Club. The party was great and there seemed to be more appetizers and cocktails available than usual. The Captain’s address was short and to the point. It was easy to tell that Captain Pappas was well respected and loved by his staff and crew. His “family” management style works quite well. Dinner lingered with lots of conversation and laughter. Our entire table decided to attend the evening’s late show, “Old Time Rock and Roll” by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. It was fantastic.

Jerry Flying Through the Trees

Thursday, November 17th, 2005; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, Casual
I was up early and enjoyed an early breakfast and a Jacuzzi before getting ready to make the trek down the coast to the Almonds and Coral Resort to enjoy the Zip Line Canopy adventure. We negotiated a taxi and headed south making our way down the coast, through Puerto Viejo and eventually to the resort. I had done this zip line about a year ago and was looking forward to doing it again. We arrived at the resort, filled out the necessary disclaimers, completed the necessary training and found ourselves climbing the initial set of stairs to eventually climb to the very top of the canopy. The first line that one traverses is probably the best, as once you are connected to the line and begin your descent, you feel the rush of enjoyment and excitement as you hang hundreds of feet above the forest floor while gliding along the cable that suspends you between the zip line stations. It is truly a wonderful experience. We saw many monkeys (including the ferocious sounding Howler Monkeys) as we made our way through the canopy. After completing the canopy tour, we stopped for a cold adult beverage before making our way back to Puerto Viejo where we planned on stopping for lunch. Puerto Viejo seems more like any Southern California beach town than a fishing village in Costa Rica. There are surf shops, tourist/beach shops, surfboard rentals and a general feeling that you are in a typical surf town. Americans are everywhere and, while we enjoyed a great lunch, we could have just as well been at home.

We made our way back up the coast and eventually back to Puerto Limon and the Galaxy. Once back on board, I fell into my usual routine. We met for pre dinner cocktails and enjoyed another wonderful dinner before turning in completely exhausted from the day’s activities.

Friday, November 18th, 2005; Panama Canal / Cristobal Pier, Colon, Panama, Casual
One of the things I was looking forward to on this cruise was going Peacock Bass fishing on Lake Gatun. There were three of us that were fisherman and we all booked the ship's fishing excursion, as there was no way to do it on your own. Peacock Bass fishing on the Amazon River is legendary and catching bass up to 25 pounds is commonplace. They are known for their feisty spirit and ability to wear down even the best fisherman. So after an early breakfast, we all met in the theater awaiting our call for the fishing adventure. When we were called, we made our way to the tender along with a good number of other people and tendered into the Lake Gatun Yacht Club, such as it is. From there a small group of us boarded a bus and met our "fishing guides" who were no more than young men of dubious fishing experience. The main guide was loud and wanted to give us a tour of everything we passed as we made our way to the "marina" to board our fishing boats. The guy thought that he had to yell at us to get our attention and at no time was anything about fishing mentioned. When we finally got to the Melia Hotel, we left the coach and split into two groups. The three of us plus another guy got into a panga with the loud guide and a panga operator. We were asked to put life jackets on and this was almost a deal killer for me. It was hot and the last thing I wanted to do was spend the day in a hot sticky life jacket. I looked at the equipment that was being provided and it was low quality spinning rods; the tip of mine had been broken off. The bait we were going to fish with was small minnows approximately 1 inch long. I boarded the boat anyway and felt that the only way we were going to get through this day was to start having fun. So I started picking on our guide and everyone picked up on the flow of conversation. We eventually neutralized the guy, got our life vests off, drank a beer or two and had some fun. The fishing was slow and the fish were small.

A Lake Gatun Peacock Bass

The day was hot and the fish disappointing, but we managed to have a great time. One of the guys got his neck sunburned so badly that we renamed him the "redneck". We finished fishing, made our way back to the marina, boarded the motor coach and made our way to Cristobal Pier to meet up with the Galaxy which had not yet arrived. After enjoying a beer in the flea market and watching the ship arrive and dock, we boarded and went to our respective cabins to take a shower and freshen up. While there was an early show featuring Carl Andrews, I opted to relax in my cabin before making my way to the restaurant for dinner. By now our group had come together quite nicely and everyone was enjoying one another.

Saturday, November 19th, 2005; Day at Seas, Informal
I had arranged to do an optional seminar in Michaels Club at 2pm and expected that several of the group members would show up for it, so I spent the morning preparing for a new seminar that would meet their expectations. The seminar went quite well and most of the group showed up for it, which was wonderful. We decided to continue the meeting in Michael's Club prior to dinner and build some web sites letting everyone give it a try. Dinner was very much fun and we lingered quite late missing the evening's late show, "Elements", starring the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. We heard that it was excellent the next day.

Margaritaville, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Sunday, November 20th, 2005; Montego Bay, Jamaica, Casual
We arrived in Montego Bay right on time and a number of the agents had planned on spending the day at Sandals in Montego Bay and invited me to join them. Since I had never visited a Sandals Resort before, I took them up on it. We departed from the cruise terminal via taxi and made our way to the resort. After a brief orientation of the property, we were invited to spend the day as guests. We had a great time.

The Island at Sandals, Montego Bay

We ended up going to the island that was off shore and enjoyed spending time by the pool there and exploring the island. Lunch was excellent and the afternoon just flew by. We decided to stop by Margaritaville on the way back the the ship so reluctantly, we left Sandals and made a brief stop at Margaritaville to enjoy an adult beverage and a few trips down the water slide before making our way back to the Galaxy. After an hour or so in the Jacuzzi, I dressed for the evening's activities. We met for cocktails, then dinner and then I went ot my cabin calling it an early night.

Monday, November 21st. 2005; Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Informal
It was a beautiful morning so a group of us decided to spend the day on 7-Mile Beach at Sea Grape Beach. We tendered into the tender wharf (which was very crowded as there were 7 different ships in port) and finally jumped into one of the $5 vans that take you to 7-Mile Beach. We sat there for about 15-minutes while the driver was looking for additional people to fill the van. Irritated, we finally got out of the van and let the driver know we were irritated by his waiting to fill the van. After we got out, another group came along and filled the van and he took off for 7-Mile Beach. "We sure showed him" one of our group said. We all started laughing. We started walking thinking we would hail a taxi to take us out to the beach and got quite a ways before on of the gals with us was successful at hailing a cab.

Sea Grape Beach, Grand Cayman

We were finally on our way. Sea Grape Beach is an excellent place to spend the day in Grand Cayman as the beach and swimming is excellent, there is reasonably priced food and a bar right on the beach. All in all, it offers everything anyone could want. You rent lounge chairs for $10 a day (the price also includes one drink). We had an excellent day!

Heading back into Georgetown, the ladies with us wanted to shop, so the guys enjoyed a beverage at one of the ocean front restaurants that lines the coastline. We barely made the last tender just in time. I relaxed in the Jacuzzi and passed on the evening's early show, a comeidan named Jeff Nease (whom I later heard was excellent) and met in our usual spot for pre-dinner cocktails. Dinner was another wonderful event that everyone was now thoroughly enjoying. I slept like a baby.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005; Day at Sea, Formal
I had scheduled another optional seminar for this morning, so after the seminar spent the afternoon enjoying the sunshine by the pool. A group of us lingered until sunset in the Jacuzzi and I so enjoyed the friendships and camaraderie that had evolved during the cruise. To me, that is what cruising is all about. Making new friends and bonding with people that will become life long friendships is not unique to cruising, it just seems to happen much more often. After cocktails and a fabulous dinner, our entire group attended the late show of "Dance Around the World" performed by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. Don't miss this show if you are fortunate enough to have it on your cruise. It is excellent.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005; Day at Sea, Casual
Another sea day is the right way to wind down a cruise. We did the last seminar this morning and simply had a repeat of Tuesday. All in all, it was another great day. The final dinner is always bitter-sweet for me. While it is time to go home, it is also time to leave your new found friends. I finished packing and ended up having a nightcap with the group of folks that had bonded on this cruise. We vowed to cruise together again.

Thursday, November 24th, 2005; Galveston, Texas
Using my Elite priority disembarkation privileges, Jerry and I were some of the first to debark the Galaxy where we grabbed a taxi and made our way back to Houston Hobby Airport. Jeryy caught his flight back to Corpus Christi and I caught my Southwest Airlines flight back to San Diego. It had been an excellent cruise.

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