We're back in Kansas City after our seven night Eastern Med cruise on the Galaxy Oct 6th to Oct 13th, 2007. I'll do a write up with pics when I get some time but wanted to give the Cliff Notes version here and mention a couple of the issues that had shown up regarding the ship and port calls.
Great time - often we can make ourselves sort of crazy by reading "too much" or maybe " reading too much into" some post trip reports and I'm sure different people in different cabins do have differing views of a particular ship.
I'd read here and elsewhere some negatives about the Galaxy but for our experience in Cabin 4071 most complaints are in the "quibble" category and if you're a mildly tolerant traveler you'll have a great time on the Galaxy. So if you're like we were - already booked and reading the pros and cons - concentrate on the pros - be aware of the cons but don't fret them too much.
Dining room menus, food and service was pretty much quibble free - in fact I enjoyed every meal and our Waiter and Asst. Waiter, Nelu and Patrick, added to the whole experience. We had late seating - 8 45 pm - easiest overall I think as some of the port calls would make for a very rushed return to the ship and prep for dinner.
There are alternates for all meals and quite a few pax take the evening meal in the Oasis Grill which goes to table and menu service at night. No 24 hour buffet - and for us it wasn't missed - plenty to eat throughout the normal day - Sushi Bar was fun in the afternoon and was a good to tide over for our late seating in the Orion.
I was concerned about our original cabin - 4132 after reading here of ship vibration in the aft section of the ship. In fact concerned to the point that we requested a change and got a move to a mid ships, port cabin, well ahead of departure through our cruise agency Cruise One. We ended up in Cabin 4071.
I purposefully took a walk to the aft end of Deck 4 a couple of times and yes there is a noticeable sound and floor vibration as you approach the aft bulkhead - the very aft end of that deck. I wasn't in the cabins but from the hallways I'd judge that 4172 and 4170 and the corresponding cabins on the port side would be affected by the sound and vibration. It was there even in port so I'd deem it more an engine or equipment generated feature than from the prop - you could also sense it in the Orion Restaurant on decks 5 and 6 - not bothersome but it let you know you were onboard a ship.
I'd say any Deck 4 cabin forward of about 4160 (lower cabin number port and starboard) wouldn't be much affected. Aft of 4160 it increases reaching a max at the bulkhead. There are no far aft cabins on Decks 5 and 6 - that's the Orion Restaurant so it's likely a Deck 4 "feature".
Overall condition of the ship? Lots of mentions of the age and approaching rehab in 2008. Yeah, from time to time you notice something that says this ship's been in service for a while but nothing in my view that's going to ruin somebody's day - some faded woodwork or furnishings that show some wear - small things here and there but greatly overshadowed by the itinerary - the onboard service - the food and the cruise experience.
Want a quibble? Hhot tubs could have been hotter for my taste. I would have liked more narration via the PA or ship's TV channel - more about the sites seen as we moved port to port - but for some any such announcements are intrusive. I'm not a shopper so the shopping aspect of cruising leaves me cold but it's background noise on every line I think - no worse or better with Celebrity than others we've been on - Carnival and Princess.
OK - here is a bone fide tip. Unless you need a cabin with the overhead berths I'd stay away from any cabin with a berth. The berths fold up and away against the wall but not into the wall. Thus they do take away air space if not floor space and we were in a cabin with two berths.
There's a definite "learning curve" in finding out how to get out of bed even with the berths both in their stowed position. Exit too quickly and you'll likely do as we did - bump head and shoulder into the berth a time or two or three before learning to duck, twist and rise slowly.
The ship's deck plan shows via a couple of small triangle symbols which cabins have berths - they're great if you have a couple of extras in the room but can be an annoyance if you don't need them and have the bed made up as a double. Separating the bed back to two twins would be a workaround - that was Plan B if we didn't acclimate after a couple of nights.
I guess one point would be that we'd all like to be on a ship in it's first or second year in service - everything new and shiny. But as a practical matter ships age and are in service for ten years between major makeovers - otherwise nobody could afford the price of a cruise if the life of a ship was 2 or 3 years. Thus some will sail on ships in the latter half of their service life as is the case currently with the Galaxy. You'll note some wear since it's nearing the time for the refit but in our case nothing detracted from the overall experience.
More later - via a blog entry elsewhere perhaps but when it's online I'll post a note here.
Glad to answer any questions others might have - our port calls were Athens (too short but that was dictated by the transit time from Civitaveccia), Mykonos, Kusadasi and Santorini.
Highly recommend some time in Rome before or after the cruise. It'd be a shame to do nothing but use Rome as a portal without visiting the city itself. Our Rome hotel and stay was booked independently and I can give a great recommendation for the Hotel Santa Maria in the Travestere section of Rome.
Ask me and I'll tell you how to carve out some beach time cheap and fairly easily on Santorini. The Celebrity Shore Excursions don't make it particularly easy but I wanted to at least get in the Med if spending a week on the Med and it's easy to do if you keep half a day free on Santorini. In fact I'd as soon have skipped morning excursion to Oia and the wine tasting stop there and done that whole port call on our own.
Thanks for your review. We are doing a 10 night Med cruise next October (2008) on Galaxy. We sailed on the Millenium last year and I must admit I am more than a little concerned with all the bad reviews on Galaxy. I must say that I had read some bad ones for Millenium also, and yes, carpet etc was a little worn ... but we had the time of our lives. Have considered other lines, but we really enjoyed the minimal announcements, great food etc. I have read a lot of reviews where they are saying Galaxy was going in to dry dock in 2007 and then 2008. Does anyone actually know?
Once again, thanks for your review and we are really glad you had a great time.
Thanks Dick for all the info...we are sailing on the Galaxy for 11 nights in Sept 2008. What was the weather like when you were sailing in October....is it slacks or shorts ? Is it best to do all the tours on offer or to go at your own pace as you said in Santorini it would be better to do your own thing ! Do we have to dress up every evening for dinner or is it all fairly relaxed...we are first time cruisers and are doing a 13 day tour of Italy before joining the cruise and of course have limited baggage allowance. Is there a laundry on board ? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
With thanks Nettie
Thank you for taking time to post a great review. I do need to go overseas sometime. I just love snorkeling and the Caribbean. I am so affraid the water would be too cold, plus there always seems to be a war going on somewhere. It sounds like you had a marelous cruise. Can't wait to see where you next one will take you. Welcome home!
This reply is for Nettie of Brisbane - to answer a couple of the questions she posed about an upcoming cruise.
Our October 207 time in Rome and on the cruise was great - it was past the very hot summer weather that had affected much of the Med countries in late summer 2007. Light jacket on deck at night- otherwise shirt sleeve weather for the port calls and during our time in Rome - this was early October 2007. I stayed in long pant more from deference to the region than the weather. Shorts would be comfortable weather wise.
The Med is known for dry summers/early autumn and that was true - no precipitation for our week at sea and in Rome.
The dress for the evening meal will be specified via the ship's daily paper - two formal nights and fortunatley they're not overly formal. Suits are fine for the men and anything dressy for the ladies will do.
The other nights casual is pretty much the norm and you see a gamut of styles. I think to be respectful of other passengers one should adhere to the dress code of the day and most do. It's not a stuffy or overly formal situation at all and with some mixing and matching you can vary the dress without taking seven individual outfits. And some skipped the formal dining room nights entirely - there are alternatives for every meal and every night.
There was no self-serve laundry on board. I wish there was but not on Galaxy. Daily valet laundry is available and there's a "deal" that shows up on the final day at sea - I've forgotten the details but it's an entire bag for a fixed price or similar so if you're needing only to get stuff clean for the trip home save up and await the "deal". It was a pretty good one but I don't remember how it was priced. We rinsed out some small things and there'll be a clothes line above the shower.
I think it best to book shore excursions through Celebrity ahead of time. The one port call where we didn't I thought we'd do as well or better with vendors at the dock. That was not a great decision.
There were not a lot of vendors on the docks and our one on-our-own booking in Kusadasi did not pan out too well. It wasn't a disaster but it was transportation only - not a bit of banter or narration and it ended with an appeal for more money to pay for the admission to the House of the Virgin Mary area.
Better to get the whole package ahead of time I think. That way you have the government approved guide at Epehsus - we missed out on that so had to kibitz alongside other tours - very tacky. All in all in the case of our port calls the Celebrity packages seemed the way to go.
And yes, on Santorini we used half the time for a beach visit - using the city buses. Wish now we'd skipped any package on Santoni and done that one free style - just visit the one city and the beach. There are plenty of other tourists on foot there so it's easy to inquire and get to the beach which has a "Beach Club" meaning they'll rent lounges and you have a sort of minimalist place to change and rinse the salt water off after the beach stay. The stop for wine tasting was "commerical". I could have skipped the Santorini excursion. It did get you to the other town on the island and some tasty views of the caldera lagoon.
Delos out of Mykonos was great - very intersting and an important city-state of early Greece. I do recommend the package there - it's a serious stop with a small visitor center but mostly you're out on the site itself so you're under the Mediterranean sun for about 3 hours. Worthwhile. We had a moonlighting archeologist as guide and he knew Delos like you know Brisbane. In fact probably better since Delos was his life's work.
Athens t- oo short and to see the major sites you do have to do it their way - by bus. Possibly your longer cruise allows a full day in Athens - it merits a two night stay. We and Celebrity shortchanged the city on our seven night cruise. It's a short port call on the seven night cruise.
Thanks for asking -gave me a reason to recall and relive. Your 13 days in Italy sounds great - you'll enjoy all of it I'm sure.
It'd be fun to do the cruise and disembark at the final port call - spend a few nights on whatever your last stop. Mykonos in our case. The port calls are really just teaser visits - you get a sample but to really know a place you have to spend the night, eat more than a quick lunch and do any of them in a more leisurely fashion than an eight hour port call allows.
Long lines for the funicular leading back to the dock on what island? That would be Santorini. We saw quite a few with high anxiety about making their ship and of necessity jumping line for the cable car ride down the mountain. Allow an hour in line and ask your cruise line if that's sufficient.
We will be visiting Kusadasi in 2009. Any tips?
I want to go see Ephesus (how far away is that from Kusadasi?) and to see the ruins (library, etc) there.
What is the best way to get there?
Hello Viper and thanks for your question -always glad to revist our cruise and questions lead me to thinking anew of the cruise and shore visits.
Epehus is an amazing place - occupied by many groups over a long period and another imporant city so it's deserving of a half day's visit and some homework ahead of time. I hadn't done my homework - didn't know much of the area but some time spent learning the history would make the visit itself much more meaningful.
As I indicted we did Epesus the wrong way - we just showed up and walked the ground but didn't get with a group nor rent the audio tour. One spends thousands getting there so might as well spend eighty to a hundred and do it right - via one of the government approved guides.
We traveled by van with 3 other couples and arranged that spur of the moment after we disembarked. Looking back we should have taken the Celebrity Lines package - that would have gotten some narration en route to Ephesus and just a more professional approach.
Our driver said nothing - just dropped us off and gave us a meet up time at the three sites we visited: Ephesus, House of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John. And at the tour's end he wanted more money which each couple in turn refused to do. The issue was the admission fee to the House of the Virgin Mary area. If you do it ad hoc make sure you have an understanding up front about any admission or gate fees.
Here's your homework assignment for Ephesus - you can do it anytime and probably you have the reference material in our home. Read the Book of Ephesians - you'll find several of the Bible's well known passages in that - one of Paul's letters to early Christian communities and when you walk the grounds you'll have a heightened sense of walking where Paul walked and taught. It really is a wonderful site. Not National Park Service quality as to the signage and preservation and one more reason I recommend a guided tour verus just free lancing it on your own.
We spent a short time back in Kusdasi city before reboarding the Galaxy and there are shops aplenty with gold, Oriental rugs and lots of merchandise.We're not much for the shopping but it was fun to walk past the shops and get something to eat on the local economy.
Cheap internet on the docks at Kusadasi - if you only want to check email once or twice while away - do it there. Much cheaper than from onboard the ship.
Thanks for your prompt reply.
Yes, Ephesians is my favourite N.T. book. That is one reason why we intend to stop there.
We had heard that ship tours there were "horribly expensive" and wanted to know from experienced tourers if that was true or whether one should simply do it by themselves.
We're not much for shopping either, but it really helps to hear from someone who has been there.
Many thanks for your reply.
We took a ship tour (RCL) of Ephesus in May and it was HORRIBLE. First of all, wall to wall people there, and we lost our guide. There were three ships in port and I would say everyone from all three ships was there. This is one place where it is WELL WORTH taking a private tour. You can search on google for rollcalls, and you will find sites where you can join a rollcall for your date and see if others are willing to share a private guide.