This was the sixth cruise for my wife and myself, having previously cruised with Princess, Royal, and Carnival. We enjoy the daily change of scenery that cruising provides without having to pack your clothes or change rooms; we like the variety of activities offered, or, the option of doing nothing more than reading a book while sipping a daiquiri; we enjoy the formality and the pampering, and we love meeting different people. Our Panama Canal cruise on the Galaxy did not disappoint us.
We have always said that we would like to sample a number of cruise lines and ships before we narrow down our choices and we had done a little research into Celebrity and had consistently read positive reviews about this line. The friendly service, the ship decor, and the quality of the food attracted us, but it was the destination, the length of the cruise and the price - more specifically, the value offered - that convinced us to book this cruise. A week long cruise is too short and 15 days is a little long, so 12 days was perfect for us, and anytime that you can get a cruise with a quality line for around $100 p.p. per day, we feel you have done well. The itinerary also offered some ports that we had not visited before, with the Panama Canal being a destination that we had talked about for a few years.
I could give you the details of our cruise, but it might be easier if I point out some of the things that we thought were very good about our Galaxy Cruise to the Panama Canal, and a few things that we thought could have been better. I will then close by sharing a couple other thoughts.
What we liked.
Monday departure. Rather than rush home from work on a Friday to get to port by Saturday morning you have the whole weekend to get ready, or you can enjoy a day or two at the port city. Same with the Saturday return day - you have the Sunday to get back into the working frame of mind.
Excellent Service. Our table waiter was superb! Ask for Luis Roa, table 687. Staff throughout the ship was very friendly and aimed to please.
The Galaxy is well laid out and easy to navigate. Plenty of shops (if that is important to you) and lots of privacy (if you like that).
Big rooms - we had an ocean-view stateroom and it felt bigger than any class-comparable room on other ships. The bathrooms were far from the 'closets' that you expect and were actually quite roomy. Plenty of storage.
Photographers and pictures - there were the typical photo-shoots, but nothing more. No constant paparazzi like you get on Carnival. (Thank you Celebrity for this.)
Food - ample choice for breakfast and lunch. Waffles and sticky buns were 'must-haves'; hamburgers, daily sandwiches and pizza were fresh and tasty. The tacos are excellent also.
The Panama Canal - clearly the highlight of the trip. A lifetime memory!
Hot tubs - 4 big tubs and they are often empty and available.
Passenger dress - for the most part, passengers honored the dress codes, at least better than we have found on Royal, and far better than Carnival.
We were at the front of the ship. the back end had a "shuttering" that you could occasionally feel.
What could have been better?
Ship was well kept and clean but it was starting to look "worn" - especially the furniture. It was noticeable.
Food - for all that we had read about the exquisite food on Celebrity, we found the "wow" factor to be missing. Do not get us wrong, we never had any food that you could call poor but there were honestly a few nights where you read the menu and thought."Oh. is this all". Portions are small. The lobster was very good though - much better than other reviews have let on. And you can have shrimp cocktail every night if you choose. Their soups are very good. We still gained weight!!
The bar areas - especially the outdoor bars - lack any real "character". I'm not sure if it's the staff or the décor - both were a little low-key - and nothing that kept you hanging around. We did like the Oasis bar at the back of the ship and Rendezvous Square (before-supper drinks) best of all.
Christy (the shopping expert) and the constant emphasis on shopping, especially jewelry. You'd think that this was the sole reason for cruising. Definitely overkill.
Pool deck music. The Supremes were either good, or really bad! When they were not playing, the recorded music was very poor with far too much Country and CD's that skipped (constantly). No music may even have been better.
We deliberately flew into Bush airport (Houston) early so that we could grab the first shuttle to the Galveston Port and hopefully get an upgrade. We were met in the luggage area at the airport by Celebrity representatives and waited until the first bus arrived. The reps do a great job of 'encouraging' you to go out to the curb ahead of the crowd if you arrived first, but a suggestion would be that they issue passengers numbers as they arrive so that you do not have to run and push to get on the bus in the order that you should. It's amazing how bold some late-arrivers can be!! Other than this, the shuttle service is very good.
Some things to think about
If you are looking for a high-energy atmosphere, this itinerary (and possibly the Galaxy ship) is not for you. The average age was definitely "retired", which we expected and were OK with. There were a total of 3 children on the boat. We met some great people of all ages, but the activities are low-key and on the lighter side than what we have experienced on other ships.
There is no true promenade deck that allows you to walk around the entire ship (if you are a walker and like that). There is a small track on the 12th deck that requires 12 laps for a mile and on a sunny day is clogged with lounge chairs.
Ship décor is more contemporary than elegant, but we did not mind it at all and perhaps found it easier on the eyes than some of the overdone, glitzy ships that we have been on.
We only did 2 ship excursions: in Panama where you had to take one in order to get off the ship, and at Jamaica. In Panama we did the Grand Tour and thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the native village. The zip lining in Jamaica (traversing across cables between tree's in the forest) was OK, but we booked a private tour in Costa Rica with Almonds and Corals (on the web) to do the same thing and it was absolutely amazing!!! Much better, faster, higher and more breathtaking than Jamaica. A must-do!! Cozumel - rent a car on your own and find a nice beach. Cost Maya was a great place to start our tan. Get to the beach early and get a choice spot near a thatched umbrella. Nothing much else to do since it is a little port developed solely for cruise ships. Jamaica - we regret going up town and would rather have gone to Margaritaville. Grand Cayman - after a walk up-town, we went to 7-mile beach. A nice day!! Another suggestion is the sting-ray tour, but do it on your own rather than be part of a crowded ship excursion, or do an island tour that includes a visit to Hell, the Turtle Farm and the Tortola rum factory store.
Other than Jamaica, every other place is extremely safe. You should have no reservations whatsoever about doing something on your own and the ship excursions are overblown and overpriced.
Shows, Casino and Spa's
We had late seating and so we did not see many shows. The one we did see was a "Vegas-style" show that was typical cruise-fare. We did hear good remarks from other passengers about some other guest performers.
Casino was large but did not seem busy. Cannot comment on payouts.
Spa's - we typically do not use the spa services but they appeared to be well used and well liked.
In closing, we did enjoy our Galaxy cruise and our trip to the Panama Canal. We have had better cruises and we have had worse, but we believe there is no such thing as a bad cruise. This cruise offered exceptional value for the price and that is likely what would bring us back (with the right itinerary).
We met some wonderful people and that is what we like most about cruising - that is what it's all about. There were however people that were allowed on the ship that obviously would not agree that this was a good cruise. You know, these are the people that you can't help but overhear complaining (about anything they can) or being rude, or they are butting in front of you and can't understand when you say something about this to them. These people constantly amaze you with their lack of consideration, respect and manners and all too often they are the last people that you would expect this type of behavior from - well-reared, mature Americans. If you fall into this category, please stay home and allow us to enjoy the pleasure that the cruise lines and their wonderful staff try so hard to provide to us.