by Michael Wainstein
August 15, 2005
The Galaxy set sail in 1996 and is the second largest category of Celebrity's fleet, and after having sailed on the Summit I was a bit apprehensive, especially after reading some of the ship's reviews. I am happy to report that, all in all, the ship and the experience were overwhelmingly positive with a few strong reservations. The staff, like on all Celebrity ships, is excellent, friendly, and willing to do just about anything to please. The food was outstanding and the facilities were generally good, with one exception and that was the fitness center. The veneer of the Galaxy needs an update, with many exposed surfaces cracking and rusting. From a distance, the Galaxy is beautiful, but upon closer inspection, it definitely shows its age and could use a thorough refurbishment. There were many things that didn't work, and repairs didn't seem a high priority.
The best aspect of the onboard experience was the food and the lovely staff that took such good care of everyone in every area of the ship.
The worst aspects were the overabundance of kids running around without supervision, the fitness center, the rudeness of the people in the spa and the lack of care of the equipment. For my mother, the worst part was the the way they nickel and dimed you from the moment you walked on board until the moment you left. It seemed like they were always selling you something.
After the very simple and fast embarkation, we were sitting at the pool and a waiter came by and offered us a drink, some cold concoction. I thought that was really nice, until he asked me for my card so he could charge me for it. I was shocked frankly, that they would actually walk around with a tray full of drinks then once you take one, ask you to pay for it. Same was true disembarking at port. They were handing out bottles of water, which I thought was a very nice touch, until they asked for the card to charge me 2.50. I gave back the water and bought a bottle in town for 50 cents. I don't mind being charged for things if that is the way it is going to be, but to offer as if complimentary then once you've accepted, ask to charge is very tacky.
Because this was a late August trip, many Europeans brought their kids, and they overwhelmed almost every aspect of the trip. They were everywhere. I never once got in the pool because it was overrun morning, noon and night by kids. Even the adult Jacuzzi, clearly marked as adult, was always full of kids and never once did anyone from Celebrity ask them to get out of the adult pool. The kids were definitely in charge.
Embarkation and Disembarking
Embarkation was very fast, but even though we were one of the first groups on board it took 7 hours before our luggage was delivered. This meant no swimming, and wearing clothes that had been on our backs since leaving the states over 20 hours before. Bring a small bag with a change of clothes to avoid this problem. Disembarking was excellently organized, with bags ready and waiting once you arrived on land. I was sad to say goodbye.
The biggest drawback to the room was the constant drone of the air conditioning system and the creaking of the metal ceiling as we sailed. I bought a pair of earplugs and was fine. But when the creaking and the droning was happening it sounded like you were inside an airplane. It was loud enough to be annoying. There wasn't much engine rumble where I was. I felt it a little bit, but really it was very smooth sailing up on deck 9. I understand that on Deck 4, it could get pretty rough when the engines were at full steam.
The bathroom is very small, but works well. The shower was spacious, but the water temp was wildly unpredictable depending on the time of day.
The stateroom attendants did an amazing job of cleaning and maintaining the room. There was a morning cleaning and an evening turn-down service. I had a concierge class cabin on the Summit, but I couldn't tell the difference between that and the premium balcony I had on the Galaxy. That made me realize that the concierge class stateroom at about 400 more per cabin really was not worth the money. Even the ice bucket and water was always refreshed throughout the day in my cabin.
The pools were small, like on most ships, and there were 5 jacuzzis, one of which was adult only. However, never once on the entire duration of the cruise did I see only adults in that whirlpool. There were always children and no one seemed to notice or care. The main pools were always over run with kids and I never used any of them. The area around the pools provided sufficient number of deck chairs, although chairs in the shade poolside went very fast. There was a bar and barbeque buffet with burgers and fries poolside and drinks were available, as was food, from roving waiters.
There were at least 7 bars onboard, each with live music around dinner time. The drinks were very reasonable, but be careful of the large martinis they charge 9.50 for. I was in one bar and had a cosmopolitan for a cost of 5.75, very fair I thought. Then later, upstairs in another bar, I had another cosmopolitan, which seemed identical, but the bill came and the charge was 9.50. I asked why and the waiter said this one was 4 ounces and the smaller were 2 ounces. It was clearly apparent that they were almost identical, so for the remainder of the cruise, I ordered "small" cosmos and they were always nice sized.
The spa and fitness center
The spa treatments are very pricey, but on sea days they were full. I never used the spa outside of the pool. The men's showers were a disgrace. There were two showers that sprayed directly into your face as you turned them on. The hot/cold knob on one was broken and even though I told the staff, it was never fixed for the duration of the cruise, making it impossible to control water temperature. The shower stalls were old, cracked, with bad water pressure, and looked like they belonged in a rotting city gym, not on a first class cruise liner.
There is a large wrap-around gym with about 10 weight machines and 14 aerobic machines. The machines look out onto the sea. On the first day, 4 of those aerobic machines and one of the weight machines was out of order. I asked the gym attendant when they would be fixed and his answer to me was, "Don't worry, it won't ruin your cruise." I was very surprised by his reaction and very disappointed. I felt like a jerk for saying anything yet here I was on a five star cruise and one treadmill, one elliptical machine and two stairmasters were broken. He told me they'd be fixed in a day or two, but they remained inoperative for the entire cruise. On five out of ten days, when I went in the gym, there were people waiting to use machines. Had all machines been working, there would not have been a line. I brought this up with the spa director, who didn't seem to care, and again with Guest Services, who responded by asking me how they were supposed to fix the equipment while at sea. I said they were broken on the first day and during the last cruise and continue to be broken. He said he would check into it, but nothing was ever done about it. In all I spoke to four people about the situation, and never once did anyone say they were sorry for the condition of the equipment. They were all defensive and treated me as if I had no right to bring the matter up.
My feeling is that such oversight is inexcusable especially since there were five days that I couldn't get on a machine. The gym was very important to me, and the experience of my cruise was compromised as a result of the condition of the gym. There is no excuse for this.
Outside of all that, the gym offered classes in Pilates, Fitball and Cycling at a charge of $10 per class which I found outrageous, and then they offered stretching, aerobic and stop classes at no charge. The classes were well taught, but ran only 45 minutes. The instructors put on an air of friendliness, but they weren't really friendly and after I bugged them about the equipment, they became less friendly.
Entertainment and Activities
The main shows ranged from bad to good. They had a juggler one night that was very good, and a man playing the xylophone who was amazingly talented, but after two Rossini overtures on the xylophone, it was time to move on to something less frenetic. The big cast shows were a mixed bag. The first show, a Broadway revue, had a very weak book linking together production numbers. The talent was nothing spectacular, save for a few dancers and singers. The cast was not high-end Broadway talent, more like "just out of college" level talent. The second show was absolutely the worst thing I have ever seen on a ship. It played on the elements of Earth, Sea and fire, and was ridiculous. The musical numbers were done in Indian outfits at one point, and other such tacky outfits and set pop songs to an ethereal beat. I don't know what they were going for, but by the half way point, many people had left. The third show was equally terrible, a Rock and Roll revue that was worse than bad theme park. The final show, a salute to dance in different cultures, was their best. In this show, they actually explored the different ideas so you weren't moving from one number to another with frenetic pace and the talent was shown off to its best advantage.
Beyond all that, there were bridge games, bingo (which was cancelled due to lack of interest just about every day), trivia games, pool side games, a disco every night with a very good D-J, children's clubs, a library, IPOD rentals, lectures and films. The usual cruise fare. I don't know what the children's club actually did because the children were constantly running around the ship loud, and unsupervised. By the end, the only children's club I was aware of were the hordes congregating on all the stairways from deck to deck.
There was also a shopping arcade with some very good deals. The casino was also very nice, but there were not enough Black jack tables. I found it very frustrating to go down there and the two $5 minimum tables would be full with people waiting, and the $25 minimum table and the poker tables were empty, yet they never opened additional blackjack tables to get those waiting into games. When asked about the situation, the manager was very rude and short with his explanation. Seems surprising since the main purpose of the casino is to make money. But by the end of the cruise, perhaps because people were out of money, the lines grew shorter and shorter. The dealers were very nice, although not very aggressive with the house rules.
If I sailed again, I would avoid high summer season time when families tend to travel, and I would probably opt for their newer vessels like Summit or Constallation. They really need to get their act together in the gym and with the kids.