We had to be up early to be ready for our 5am taxi to London Heathrow for our 7.20am British Airways flight to Rome. All went very smoothly and in no time we were in Rome. The Celebrity reps who were right outside the customs hall welcomed us and led us to the coaches to take us to Civitavecchia to board the Galaxy. The luggage was loaded onto a truck rather than into the coaches. This might explain why we still didnít have our luggage over five hours later when we were ready to go to the early dinner sitting, the first time this has ever happened to us. The coach waited over 30 minutes until it had a full load, and after a quick embarkation process and dropping our hand luggage in our cabins we headed to the buffet for a late lunch at just after 2pm.
Then we headed straight to the front desk to resolve a problem with cabin 5073, an inside on Plaza deck. When we booked we had asked for it to be made up as a queen but it was twin singles in an L shape because of a huge floor to ceiling pillar in the cabin. When I expressed the doubt that it could be made up as a queen because of the pillar, the front desk said every room can be a queen and they would fix it. When we returned to the cabin later that evening after the show it had indeed been made up as a queen. However it could only be accessed from one side meaning the person against the wall had to climb over the other to get out without disturbing the person on the outside. Definitely not a queen by most people's definition! A letter to the Hotel Director expressing our disappointment at the situation and the lack of clarity in Celebrityís brochure got us a change of cabin the following day to inside cabin 9237 on Vista deck. It was fortunate the ship wasnít full and the problem could be readily resolved otherwise it would have spoiled the cruise from day one. Both cabins were reasonably spacious, though not as large as Holland America or Carnival cabins. There was lots of storage space for the two of us and many drawers went unused. Both cabins were spotless and we particularly liked the safe and many shelves behind the dressing table mirror once we found it! We usually have an inside cabin because we spend so little time in it and the cost saving enables our pension to stretch to three cruises a year.
We were booked for early sitting dining on table 693 on the top level of the two-tier dining room. We were right next to a big picture window and enjoyed the views during dinner as we sailed from ports. We had five delightful dinner companions, one a British friend travelling with us, and two couples, one from Florida and the other from California. Our waiter Shiela, assistant waiter Super and wine waiter Florentina were courteous, efficient and friendly making every dinner something to look forward to. This was our second Celebrity cruise and it may be memory playing tricks but the food while good didnít strike us as outstanding as our previous cruise. Our Assistant Maitre D told us that after bad experience in earlier years Celebrity now flies all the meat, fish and lobster in from the USA so that meals are consistent regardless of where the ship is sailing. Maybe we have done so many cruises now (this was our 13th in total and 11 in under 5 years) that it takes more to tickle our palate these days after being spoilt so often. It didnít strike us as any better than the food we had enjoyed in February on Sun Princess, though it was much better than the food on Holland Americaís Veendam and Zuiderdam in the three months before that. We normally have breakfast and lunch in the buffet as we prefer to have a bit of this and a bit of that rather than a structured meal from a menu. The breakfast buffet had all the usual choices plus a delicious made-on-ship meusli and in the Oasis pool area you get waffles made to order. With warm cherries (or strawberries) and whipped cream these were to die for! The lunch time buffet offered a poorer selection in our opinion as it catered more to those wanting a hot meal than people like us who prefer a salad or sandwich. Not a patch on Holland Americaís sandwich or salad bars. No one has created the perfect cruise line yet (in our price bracket)!
We were very happy with the condition of the ship. If you look closely there are small scuffs and tiny carpet tears in the public areas but nothing of consequence. We don't expect a ship nearly 9 years old to look brand new but we do expect it to be clean and look cared for and Galaxy certainly is.
The entertainment was a mixed bag. Three production shows, one excellent, one OK and one poor, two instrumentalists (one too many), no comedians, one magician, one poor vocalist and a rather bizarre marionettes act, but that's a personal opinion and others may well feel differently. Our feeling was that they had tried to cater to a mixed nationality audience and lost the plot. Certainly the poorest set of shows on our 13 cruises, but this is an area where people's tastes differ markedly.
One oddity was the lack of a duty free shop. Apparently an EU rule requires a ship sailing from an EU port on an itinerary that only includes other EU port to shut its duty free liquor and cigarette store for the entire cruise and to charge VAT on all sales in the other shops. The Italian VAT rate that applied on our cruise was 20% making many potential purchases uneconomic.
We did the ship's Panoramic Naples half-day tour at our first port of call which gave us as much an overview of the city as we wanted. Naples did not impress us particularly, but then we are not city people, and we had no interest in visiting Pompeii. After a day at sea we arrived at Mykonos where we explored on our own. This is a breathtakingly beautiful island and was our favourite stop on the entire cruise. Santorini the following day was also stunningly beautiful and was our second most favourite port of call. Again we explored on our own, taking the cable car up to the town of Fira. After another day at sea we were in Messina, Sicily where we had booked the ship's half-day tour to Taormina. This is a really pretty village up in the mountains overlooked by Mt Etna, though on our visit Etna stayed hidden by clouds. Another day at sea took us to Villefranche where we took the ship's half-day tour to Monaco & Monte Carlo, which is an almost unreal place, it is just so clean and tidy with not a thing out of place. Every little plant looked as if it had been manicured for our visit. Definitely a place to be experienced. Genoa, our last port of call the next day looked unbelievably dirty, shabby and uncared for. Not an example of Italy as we expected and somewhere we would happily never visit again. Being our last day on the ship and facing an early disembarkation we had decided not to do a longish tour to Portofino. Another time we would make the effort and skip any time in Genoa itself.
We had a 6.15am disembarkation time, which proved to be about an hour earlier than it need have been for our noon flight to London as we got to the airport at 8am and for some reason they don't allow you to check in until three hours before your flight. Never mind it all worked very smoothly and all too soon we were unpacking and our cruise was only a very enjoyable and fond memory.
Cunard QE2 1984 & 1990
Carnival Fantasy 2001, Inspiration 2003, Glory 2005,
Celebrity Horizon 2004, Galaxy 2005, Summit 2006, HAL Zuiderdam 2004, Veendam 2005
Princess Star 2003, Sun 2004
P&O Oceana 2004
RCCL Nordic Empress 2002
Regal Empress 2002
RCCL Legend of the Seas Apr 2006
Saga Ruby June 2006
P&O Arcadia July 2006
Carnival Miracle Oct 2006
RCCL Navigator Apr 2007
P&O Aurora Sep 2007
QM2 Sep 2007
Sapphire Princess Apr 2008