by Richard Santer
August 9, 2002
This was our 10th cruise. Somehow, on a scale of one to ten it also rates #10. Galaxy is a very elegant looking ship both inside and out. Cabins are well laid out and comfortable. Public spaces nicely done. Staff is among the best we've encountered, so what went wrong.
It started with Galaxy's late arrival in Baltimore and it seems like neither Celebrity or the Port Authorities had any clue on how to respond. Result was a real horror show. Someone decided to leave all four to five hundred people who drove to the pier standing out in the 90 degree heat for hours. Bus service from the parking lot to the pier was suspended around 12:30 pm and not resumed for a couple of hours. By then both the parking lots and terminal were wall to wall angry people. Apparently passengers weren't the only angry ones, the Port Police were threatening to arrest passengers who tried to leave the parking lot on foot. Probably a security issue, but that's a little extreme. Anyway, you've got hundreds of people out in the sun, no food, no beverages but they did have port-o-sans, whoopie.
A few lucky people made it on board early then boarding was stopped and we were informed that no more boarding was allowed until the departing passengers were all off the ship. Now you have hundreds jammed into the terminal and hundreds more standing out in the sun again. Clearing the ship seemed to take forever. We later found it took four hours to clear the ship when we returned to Baltimore, and we arrived two hours early.
Loading resumed sometime around 4:00pm and we made it aboard around 5:00pm thanks to our Captains Club membership. Loading continued until close to 8:00pm I've heard. I don't know of any health problems being caused by the long wait in the hot sun but some of the crew responses to health questions were less than helpful. I did hear one response to the effect that if anyone collapsed they would be taken care of, otherwise there was nothing that could be done.
We sailed at 10:00pm rather than the scheduled 6:00pm. So I guess you could say that another two hours were lost unloading then loading the ship on top of the two hour arrival delay.
Once we got underway, the crew did their best to put things right. We spent ten days in the care of perhaps the best waiter I've ever had on a cruise. His name was Matej and he almost single-handedly served thirteen people at our table on a nightly basis. We were at Table #578-main seating and I hope Celebrity Cruises rewards exceptional performance because all thirteen of us think this young man was outstanding.
Besides providing flawless service in his capacity as waiter he also managed to pick up quite a lot of slack for his assistant who seemed a little overwhelmed. Matej even managed to provide some entertainment in the form of napkin folding demos and water glass tricks. He somehow gave the impression that he had time to spare at every meal.
Unfortunately, our waiter and the Ass't Maitre'd, who also was outstanding were the only real highlights of this cruise. Shore excursions were OK, the half day stops in Key West and Nassau seem a waste. Refueling stops I suppose because I doubt if anyone got much out of either stop.
Food was not as good as I expected, it got so bad at the end that I heard people say they were sick of eating. I felt that the food was too "rich" for my taste. I skipped dinner twice with stomach distress, my grandson and daughter in law each missed meals for the same reason. Along with my wife who also had some discomfort, we had four people out of our thirteen who suffered some digestive problems related to the food or water.
All and all we enjoyed our cruise but the tone set by the boarding fiasco just overwhelmed the good stuff. Having averaged one cruise a year for the last decade it seems to me that first impression is a big part of passenger satisfaction. I've read many reviews and believe that the majority of the negative reviews I've seen generally have that negative tone set by the first or at least early impressions that passengers experience.
I wonder if the cruise industry might also find that first impression is a key to customer satisfaction. If so Celebrity would do well to re-evaluate this aspect of their operation.