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Barry Hester

Age: 40

Occupation:Web Developer

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Galaxy

Sailing Date: September 12th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

12 Sep, Baltimore, Maryland, depart 6:00 p.m. at sea.
At Sea
At Sea
Key West, Florida, 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cozumel, Mexico, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Belize City, Belize, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
At Sea
Coco Cay, Bahamas, The Cruise line's Private Island 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Nassau, Bahamas 6:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
At Sea
22 Sep, Baltimore, Maryland, 10:00 a.m.

This was our 10th Wedding Anniversary Cruise and we decided to go with 6 of our very closest friends. (Kat, “Z”, Lisa, Anne, Gary and JoJo) We chose Celebrity’s Galaxy since it cruised from the port of Baltimore (25 minutes from our home) and only one of our guests had to fly in from out of town. The port is very easy to find and I would suggest hiring a cab from your home or van service. It was very inexpensive, however choose the cab company carefully and make sure that they quote you a price prior to leaving. Not everyone paid the same. Normally, we would parked at the pier for convenience, but since Hurricane Isabel was heading toward the East Coast we didn’t feel comfortable leaving our SUV at the port parking area. To start out our wonderful experience, 10 days prior to boarding, I gave our travel agent a call and discovered we qualified for an upgrade from a Penthouse Deck Stateroom to Penthouse Suite with Veranda prior to boarding. Kat and “Z” were also eligible. So since it didn’t cost anymore to upgrade we went ahead and did it. We were not even aware of the amount of pampering we were in store for when we checked onboard. I’ve broken down our cruise experience into the following categories using formats I’ve seen in other cruise reviews:

Packing:
Carla and I both tend to over pack, which was a really good thing. I checked many internet bulletin boards and received a ton of information from a previous Galaxy cruisers and we packed more than enough, but almost just right. Except Carla who packed at least 25 dresses, to allow for each and every occasion. She thought it was great that she could change 3 times a day without wearing the same thing. The guidelines for packing and what to bring on the Celebrity Cruises website, coupled with reading some cruise reviews more than adequately prepared us for our cruise. The only thing I cannot stress is enough is comfortable walking shoes. Most of the excursion required walking and you’ll want to be comfortable and avoid blisters. Also if you don’t own a tuxedo, rent one. The cost was low for the amount of wear you will get out of a tux on a 10 day cruise. I would also suggest packing an extra bag to throw your dirty clothes in, there is a ship’s laundry service but it rather costly.

Embarkation:
According to many of the reviews I read this was the one process that was supposed to be terrible. This was not our experience. We left our home around 3:30pm and arrived at the pier at 4pm. The cab service dropped us right off at the containers where you drop off your luggage. Don’t forget to put your tags on your luggage before your leave and make sure the correct stateroom number is on the luggage tag, we had to change ours. We then paid for the cab, tipped the porters and we were on our way into the terminal. Apparently most of the folks going on this cruise had arrived much earlier than us and had already checked in and the terminal was nearly deserted. Check-in was very easy as we had pre-registered on the internet. My suggestion is do as much as possible on the internet prior to arrival, this facilitated a smooth check-in and we were on the ship and champagne in hand within 15 minutes of arriving. We set sail around 6:30pm. If you intend on upgrading your cabin, call within 10 days of the cruise or get the pier right when the open, this is the best way to get an upgrade for your cabin .

Stateroom/Ship/Entertainment:
We easily found our suite from the Main Foyer area of the ship and within minutes of arriving to our cabin our suite attendant Francisco and butler Ivo arrived to welcome us onboard and let us know they were there day or night if we needed anything. The even opened our free champagne in the room for us a poured us a glass while we were on the cell phone to Mom and Dad letting them know we arrived safely. Our butler Ivo and Francisco did a SUPERIOR job throughout the cruise with keeping our room immaculate and providing us with whatever we desired. We really liked the afternoon teas, snacks and the pre-dinner aperitifs that were served daily in the stateroom. If there was something in particular we liked or disliked our butler was able to adjust these to our tastes. We even ordered several extra aperitifs one day so that our fellow cruisers who were not in a suite could enjoy this pampering. Our suite was amidships, cabin 1058 and came with a 70 square foot veranda. It had a refrigerator (fully stocked mini-bar), king size bed, two huge wall closets, a dresser, two bed tables, lunch table, two lounge chairs and a couch that pulled out to a full size bed. There was plenty of storage in all the closets and drawers and we didn’t even use all of the available storage space. Our luggage fit easily under the bed once unpacked. The bathroom had a toilet, shower/Jacuzzi bath and nice sized sink, with plenty of storage for all of our toiletries. The ship’s Satellite TV provided ESPN, TNT and CNN Headline News, which was especially nice to have since Hurricane Isabel was in the area. We had adequate satellite television service the entire cruise and really enjoyed the free movies in the room throughout the cruise. Pay Per View movies were also available; we rented one evening and fell asleep half way through, so it wasn’t worth the $8.99 rental. We noticed that many of the shows on the ship’s TV were in a loop, so you had a lot of repeats. Not that you are there to watch TV. We had ZERO problems with our room or any of the amenities.

The ship was extremely clean, there was always a crewmember cleaning or vacuuming something. The ships over all look was “Art Deco”. Our sail was smooth the entire cruise with the exception of the first day and a half when we were traveling through seas that had been churned up by Hurricane Fabian. It was the only rough days of the cruise, some our fellow cruisers were a little green behind the gills, but were okay as soon as they took some Dramamine and had something to eat. Each day we enjoyed the lounge chairs and pool bar on the Resort Deck. (Poolside waiters Jimmy and “YabbaDabbaDoo” Man were great, as was Ronny and “Trickster” at the poolside bar) Most often we took naps each day, enjoying the relaxing atmosphere, nice hot tubs and cool water of the swimming pools. The Unity band played most days on the Resort Deck and was very entertaining. Since we had a suite we also had free use of the Aqua Spa and we used it nearly everyday. My wife took advantage of many of the other services the spa provided, and although pricey was worth the relaxation it gave my wife. She experienced deep scalp massages, had her hair put up for all the formal nights and had several facials. The ship was very big, but after getting lost the first couple of days we were able to find our way around with no problems. We spent a lot of time in the Martini Bar (prior to dinner) and Michael’s Club, a cigar bar (with our fantastic bartender Miriam) after dinner.

We attended only a couple of the shows and but really enjoyed the other activities the ship had to offer. We had heard the big Celebrity shows were just “okay”, so we avoided those. We did enjoy the comedy and magic show. We preferred other activities, like Bingo (Barry was the bingo commissioner one day) and poolside activities. My wife and I entered and won the Not-so-Newly, Newlywed game and my friend “Z” and I came in second place (we were robbed) during the “Celebrity Idol” Karaoke contest singing the Blue’s Brothers “Soul Man”. We enjoyed the music in the dancing in the disco’s in the Savoy and Rendez-Vous Square lounges. Barry and Lisa entered the Simpson and Seinfeld trivia contest and were handily defeated. Karaoke was always entertaining and was offered several times.

Food:
The food was nothing short of superb. We enjoyed breakfast in bed nearly every day and it was always hot and on time. The selections for breakfast in our suite were numerous and we often spent a lot of time just deciding what to have. The coffee was always hot, gourmet and delicious. Rarely did we eat lunch onboard the ship and if we did it was a snack. We liked to try the local cuisine if we were in port and if at sea, we were just too full. The poolside grill did however make great Hot Dogs, Pizza and Pasta as well as delicious grilled burgers, which we sampled. With the exception of one night, when we ate dinner in the Oasis Café for Sushi, did we miss our main seating dining in Orion Restaurant. We planned our days and nights around the dinner hour. Since we were with 6 other people this was our social hour to catch up on what each other had done during the day. Main seating dining (6pm sharp) was great, but I think in the future we will choose late seating to accommodate staying up for the late night activities, shows and to catch a pre-dinner nap. Naps at sea must be required, but you are severely relaxed everyday. Naps were not always possible when returning from late excursions or doing other activities on the ship. Our main seating dining was right next to the aft large picture windows and the rainbow we viewed one day and the daily sunsets were spectacular. Each evening the appetizers, soups, salads and salad dressing were very different and great. On each of the formal nights they had a pallet cleansing sorbet between the starters and the main course. Here is what Carla and I had to eat each night:

Day 1 (Lisa’s Birthday and first day underway/Casual Night, this was the only night shorts were acceptable since dinner was right after boat drill)
Barry – Mushroom Pastry, Tomato Bisque, Spinach Salad with olive oil, Baked Hake, Birthday Cake
Carla – Grilled Vegetables, Pear and Honey Soup, Spinach Salad with olive oil, Prime Rib (rare), Birthday Cake. Carla, Z and Kat shared a nice bottle of Merlot with dinner.

Day 2 (Formal Night)
Barry – Escargot, Onion Soup, Tomato Salad with dill dressing, Shrimp Scampi w/angel hair pasta, Barry sampled everyone’s desert. Yum!
Carla – Escargot, Cold Melon Soup, Tomato salad with mustard dressing, Duck a la’ Orange, Cherries Jubilee. Again, Carla, Z and Kat shared a bottle of Merlot

Day 3 (Casual, ate at the sushi bar, shorts were acceptable)
Barry and Carla had Sushi bar for supper in the Oasis Café, delicious.

Day 4 (The day Barry cut off his ponytail/Informal Night)
Barry – Oxtail Soup, Salmon Mousse, Tomato/Black Olives with olive oil, Veal, Paris Brest
Carla - Oxtail Soup, Salmon Mousse, Tomato/Black Olives with olive oil, Veal, no desert

Day 5 (Formal Night/CPO Anniversary/Informal Night)
Barry – Shrimp and Penne Pasta, Tomato and Iceberg lettuce, cream of chicken soup, Seafood Medley (Scallops/Shrimp/Cod/Salmon) and garlic rubbed prime rib.
Carla – Grilled vegetables, Tomato and Iceberg Lettuce, cream of chicken soup, Garlic rubbed prime rib (rare) Carla and Barry tried a nice ½ bottle of Chardonnay for dinner.

Day 6 (Informal Night)
Barry – Shrimp Cocktail X2, Cold Garlic Soup, Leafy salad, Broiled Scallops, Chocolate Cappuccino desert
Carla – Escargot, Mushroom consommé, Leafy salad, Roasted Duck, Banana Rum Beniet

Day 7 (Barry and Carla’s 10th Wedding Anniversary/Formal Night)
Barry – Escargot Caselette, Cauliflower soup, Tomatoes with tarragon dressing, Shrimp and Scallop with Pasta, Filet Mignon, cake, ice cream and champagne for desert
Carla – Citrus plate & Escargot, Cauliflower soup, Tomatoes with tarragon, Filet Mignon, cake, ice cream and champagne for desert. Barry and Carla had champagne with dinner.

Day 8 (Informal Night)
Barry – Seafood Salad wrap, spicy tropical gazpacho, Belgian Endive and leafy salad, grilled NY sirloin, no desert
Carla – Frog legs, spicy tropical gazpacho, Belgian Endive and leafy salad, grilled NY sirloin, no desert

Day 9 (Formal Night)
Barry – Shrimp Cocktail, Cream of Asparagus Soup, Cesar salad, Fresh Maine Lobster X3, Baked Alaska
Carla – Shrimp Cocktail, Cream of Asparagus Soup, Cesar salad, Prime Rib and Lobster, no desert

Day 10 (Casual Night)
Barry – Timbale of Salmon and Scallops, Chicken and Okra soup, Tossed Medley salad, baked Ling cod, no desert
Carla – Herbed Crepe, Chicken and Okra soup, Tomatoes, with iceberg lettuce and olives and eggs, rack of lamb, no dessert

Ports/Shore Excursions:
Key West, Fl. One half-day for our port visit. Took a short, un-air conditioned taxi to the southern-most part of the key and took photos. Had tried to visit a bar called Salute, but as we found out that this time of the year (September) many places are closed for the season. Then walked Duval Street hitting some of the local haunts, Margarittaville’s, Sloppy Joe’s and a few local bars. We also did some souvenir shopping where Barry picked up a cool sign for the bar and we took a bunch of photos of the shopping area near the ship. The conch fritters at Sloppy Joes were yummy. Too short for any type of visit, would have liked to been there longer to catch some of the afternoon entertainment at some of the local hot spots. Not much time to see anything and the excursions were quick.

Cozumel, Mexico. We chose the dolphin encounter excursion. Very expensive excursion, people ate the dolphin park were rude and the dolphin encounter was brief. (Plus I lost my sun glasses) The entire excursion is built around you purchasing photographs or videos of your encounter with the dolphins and they are very expensive. We didn’t buy anything, my suggestion; take a disposable waterproof camera like we did. Also suggest you wait for the dolphin encounter in Nassau which we heard great things about. We then took a taxi back to the port area and did some shopping in the local area. Our port area was 3 miles from shopping so I suggest you pay an inexpensive cab ride to the end of the area and walk or taxi back to the ship. We bought a few souvenirs and Cuban cigars. Then headed for Senor Frogs right on the pier. Senor Frogs was the highlight of the port. The large “Yards” of margaritta’s and the shots were fun. Get a shot given to you here and you’ll always remember it. They’ll shake your whole body and for you women they shake your boobs too. The shops in and around the port area were typical tourist traps and town looked very rundown and weathered.

Belize City, Belize. This was a port we had to tender to the mainland. The country is very poor although our tour guide was quick to point out, “We are not a third world country, but a developing nation”. The people of Belize are a very proud people. We chose to visit the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha. Our tour guide, Donna, on our bus was very knowledgeable and gave us plenty of info about Belize. The bus ride to the ruins was and hour and a half in bad traffic and was very bumpy. The road system in Belize leaves a lot to be desired and consists mainly dirt and gravel roads. The ruins were very cool and it was worth the trip. Drink plenty of water on this trip and the heat was nearly unbearable. There are few places to catch shade while on this tour and wouldn’t suggest it if you’re prone to heat exhaustion. The ride back on the bus, was just as bumpy and in rush hour traffic. A cool tour, but the travel to and from was a major detractor. Suggest the Cave tubing trip, which we heard a lot of great things about from different people. After the trip to the ruins, we had a typical Belizian meal of rice, chicken and beans and I had the Shrimp soup. Very delicious and filling. We had no problems catching a tender back and forth to the ship. The tender ride was about 25 minutes in bumpy water. Belize was my least favorite port visit and suggest by-passing it unless you really find an excursion that you can’t turn down.

Coco Cay (pronounced Key), Bahamas. This is Celebrity and Royal Caribbean's private island. We had to take a short tender ride (about 6 minutes) to the island. This was a long process at first. First we had to wait an hour before we could disembark since we chose not to use our priority tender tickets that we received with our suite. We chose to stay with our friends and wait in line. The crew disembarked in three tenders first because they had to tender all the equipment, food, etc off the ship for the beach party on the island. There were two tenders running after that, about every 15 to 20 minutes. Once we finally made it to the island we immediately went snorkeling and had a drink. The snorkeling is beautiful and water is very shallow. Lunch sucked, no other word for it. There were huge flies were all over the food and the rest of the food did not taste good. I suggest that Celebrity come up with some solution for the flies on this island, because they were ridiculous. After lunch we continued to play in the water and snorkel. The only bad thing was several jellyfish stung me about 5 times on my legs and feet. Ouch! There were hammocks and lounge chairs all over the place and plenty of cabana boys (bartenders) walking around with drinks. The Unity band had set-up outside and kept us entertained most of the afternoon. The only detractor is that you have to pay to do any of the things on the island, i.e., drinks, snorkel gear, flotation devices, use the parasail, wave runners and bouncy rafts. I think that some of these things should be free for all passengers. Just my two cents. We didn’t choose to do any of those activities and were glad we brought our own snorkeling gear. Carla found some magnificent conch and shells. She is accomplished at snorkeling and did not like the lifeguards make her wear a flotation vest which she found constricting around her neck. Coca Cay’s lagoon boasts two man-made wrecks, a plane and a ship that you can dive around. Despite all of the negatives of Coca Cay, it remains one of my favorites, if for nothing else for the sheer relaxation and the beautiful scenery. It was a very tropical, relaxed atmosphere. Very much like our own private Gilligan’s Island for an day. First time I took a nap outside during the cruise. Tried to teach Lisa snorkeling, but didn’t happen. Just played in the water instead. The atmosphere of this just being a plain island was refreshing for me.

Nassau, Bahamas. You could see the Paradise Island resort Atlantis from our ship; wish we had enough time to go over for a visit. The resort looks huge. Unfortunately, our time was very limited as it was only a ½ day visit in port, and we had chose to sleep in. The Carnival Funship Fascination was also in port with us, it was our first cruise ship together (and two others in our party); we found that very nostalgic. In Nassau we chose to venture out on our own and taking a walking tour. Again, the port is only ½ day visit, so you don’t have much time to do anything unless you get up extremely early to take a planned excursion. We chose to do a short walkabout in town and had a nice time. We visited the Nassau Pirate museum and had beers at a small pub. This was another port I enjoyed. We then went to the straw market (too many hawkers here) and it’s very claustrophobic. Picked up a few souvenirs, then headed to Senor Frogs Nassua for an appetizer. Although this was a neat Senor Frogs (Check out the signs on the ceiling), it was no where near as fun as the one in Cozumel. We made it back to the ship with about 20 minutes to spare. Would have liked to had more time to explore Nassau.

Ship’s Services:

Boat Drill: Mandatory and very well organized. Took less than ½ hour from start to finish. Crew’s boat drills were held separately.

Housekeeping/Room service: Superior service, cannot say enough about our service. Tipped them significantly more than recommended. The service was unsurpassed. Ivo our butler and Francisco were the best!

Dining Service: Superb, our Waiter Igor and his team waited on us hand and foot. All got extra tips. Kudo’s to our wine steward Antonio for his excellent suggestions and our drink waiter Jimmy who always knows when I need a martini.

Ships phones: Great way to stay in touch with all the members of our party, who were spread throughout the ship. The telephones onboard have messaging service, which was handy. Our friends Kat and “Z” brought walkie-talkies with them, which was a great idea.

Cell Phones: Our cell phones worked intermittently in Key West and Nassau. No other ports or underway did they work.

Internet: It was expensive but you could always find a place to use the internet on the ship if you needed to. The cost is 50 cents per minute. Neither Carla or I found it necessary to check our e-mail or contact anyone while underway. If you really need to use the internet, wait until you get into port. There were plenty of stores and kiosks that offered internet service much cheaper.

Pool/Spa/Gym – The pools and hot tubs were always busy. But you never had to wait long to use either. Daily we used the AquaSpa's Thallostherapy Pool, which is totally relaxing and will invigorate your body after a day of site seeing or an evening of dancing. We went every day, sometimes twice. The gym was rarely crowded and offered many different types of machine as well as classes in yoga and aerobics. There is also a running track on the Sky Deck and a golf simulator (which costs money) on the Sports Deck. They also have topless sunbathing if that’s your thing on the Sports Deck (Forward).

Guest Relations/Excursions: Answered all our questions fully and were very helpful whenever we visited or called down to the front desk.

Disembarkation:
Disembarkation was slow and disorganized. Each passenger had specific times to go through customs but people decided to get in line at least an hour or so before their scheduled time. To compound this, the customs personnel were late arriving onboard. Regardless of what ship personnel say, each person is authorized 2 bottles of liquor, not one. This made a difference since I had to go to a separate part of the ship in anticipation of paying a tariff, which was unnecessary. Color and number on your ticket stubs is how disembarkation is determined. Our staging area was the Celebrity Theater onboard and the Oasis Café was open for lunch with cold drinks, sandwiches and pizza. The time went by slow during this process, but once ashore finding our bags was easy. Taxi’s were plentiful and right by the pier. There were also plenty of porters to help you with your bag. (Just don’t forget a bag like we did, I ended up driving back to Dundalk to fetch our missing bag. Thank goodness we only live about 25 minutes away.

General Comments:
Time: Be sure to set your watch to the Ship’s time when you go ashore. Several people missed the ship leaving because they did not set their watches correctly. There are numerous reminders each day if the time is changing.

Anniversary Comments:
Our anniversary: We started the day with a bottle of champagne and a light breakfast. Smoked salmon and bagel and fruit cup. We sat at the pool for several hours and then Carla spoiled herself at the spa with deep scalp massage, facial and sun-glow make-up. I took a short nap and then had cocktails with “Z” at 4pm. At 4:30pm, Z, Carla and I went to a Veteran’s gathering for story swapping at the Martini bar. At 5pm we went back to the room to find that “Z” and Kat had ordered us fancy shrimp and caviar aperitifs and a bottle of Dom Perignon for our Anniversary. Lisa had also ordered us a nice fruit basket and left a very sentimental card. We invited Z, Kat and Lisa them down to the room to share in the wonderful gifts. Lisa was still getting ready and met us later. We then all meandered down to the martini bar for more champagne and met the rest of our merry little crew of cruisers. Anne and Lisa presented us a wonderful corsage and boutineer at dinner. They were tea roses and just completely beautiful, such great friends they are. After a wonderful dinner we went to Michael’s Club where our bartender Miriam had bought us a bottle of champagne and had it waiting on ice. We stayed there for a while, laughing and telling jokes, then went off the casino to gamble. It was a wonderful evening.

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