by Emily Miller
July 24, 2005
We just completed a 12-day cruise to Greece and Turkey on the Celebrity Galaxy, and we found it to be a fabulous experience. The ports (Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Istanbul, Katakalon, Athens and Naples) were fascinating, and the experience on board was excellent, with great food and service.
This was a fairly young group of passengers, as 400 of the 1,800 were under 18. My husband and I traveled alone but heard that the teens' and children's program was excellent. The ports involve a good deal of walking and climbing over uneven surfaces with narrow, hilly streets, and would be very difficult or prohibitive for someone with significant motor disability.
The information on the ports was good, and there was no pushing of shore excursions. My husband and I did some independent travel, renting motor scooters in Mykonos and Santorini; took three of the ship's shore excursions (to Pompeii, a Turkish dinner/entertainment evening, and a tour of Olympia); and hired private guides for both Istanbul and Athens. For those who are interested, the guide and driver for Turkey were terrific and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are Insight Travel, with a web site at www.tour-turkey.com. The guides on the excursions were typically variable, and there were the usual problems of waiting and going to factory tours.
On the ship, the food was superb and the service excellent. The menu and preparation was imaginative and well done. Our only complaint was the coffee. We ate every dinner in the dining room and the coffee was very poor. When we questioned it, the waiter said it was "powder" (instant), which is disgraceful given the quality of the rest of the meal. However, when we mentioned our concern, the waiter got coffee for our table from the coffee bar each night, and this resulted in some improvement. We had asked for a table for six, but got a table for four. This worked out all right, but can be limiting, and there seemed to be many tables for four.
The staff seemed very well organized and embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly. Questions and concerns were addressed graciously. The entertainment was quite uneven; a wonderful concert by a female stage star of the West End was the high point, and a concert by a very corny instrumentalist was the low point. The ship's singers and dancers worked very hard and were excellent.
The only complaints I would have are the price-gouging situations. These include especially the transfers from Rome to the port of Civitavecchia, and from the ship to the airport. The price is $80 per person each way, which seems unreasonable. Also, there is a great computer facility with about 16 computers available, good instruction and classes -- but the e-mail costs 60-75 cents a minute, even with the package plans.
The negatives seem minor in light of the overall wonderful experience we had on this cruise. The weather was perfect, the waters serene, and the historic and beautiful sights awesome. I wouldn't hesitate a moment in taking this cruise.