We did not book our trip until after Christmas, as we also considering going to a land resort in Mexico, Jamaica, or Aruba. When we made the reservations for the trip, we had originally booked an air/sea package thru Celebrity, flying out of Harrisburg, PA into San Juan. Since we booked only six weeks before the cruise, we made full payment at the time of the booking. We received a great rate of $699 per person for a Category 9 inside cabin on the ninth deck, with an additional $517 for the airfare.
A few weeks before our sailing date, I called my travel agent to check to see if the flights for the cruse had been assigned yet. She checked with Celebrity and called me back, saying she had some "good news and bad news". The bad news was that Celebrity had canceled our original reservation and could not secure bulk airfare out of Harrisburg for us. When the credit card was given to Celebrity for final payment, the Celebrity agent failed to perform a final step to accept the payment, and the reservation was automatically canceled after one week. The good news was that Celebrity realized that it was their mistake, and would be upgrading us to a Category 3 outside cabin, and would include transfers from the airport to the ship and the return trip to the airport without charge.
Since Celebrity could not acquire bulk airfare on such short notice between Harrisburg and San Juan, our travel agent checked the fares and found it would be about $750 from Harrisburg. Since airfares are more expensive out of a small airport such as Harrisburg, we booked nonstop flights from Washington Dulles (about 100 miles from our house) on United for $572. The flights to and from San Juan were uneventful and on time during both legs, with the return flight into Dulles arriving 30 minutes early. The flight to San Juan was 100% full, while the flight back to Dulles had a few empty seats. Each flight featured a full length movie, and choice of a hot entree for meals.
Embarkation was very easy, with no lines at check-in. No more than five minutes after stepping off of the bus, we were on the ship and heading towards our cabin.
As previously mentioned, we ended up with a Category 3 cabin on the 8th deck aft, cabin 8269. Celebrity calls this cabin a "Deluxe Ocean View with Picture Window ".
It is much larger than a standard outside cabin, and features two bedrooms, one with a queen size bed (not two twins pushed together), plus three single beds in the other bedroom. It also has a large window overlooking the back of the ship.
This was a great cabin in a terrible location. The additional room in the cabin was very nice. However, the cabin is located at the very back of the ship, directly above the Savoy nightclub. At night, we could hear the group playing in the nightclub below us. This was not a major drawback, as most nights we were in the nightclub enjoying the music and dancing. By the time we went to the cabin to go to bed, we were so tired we would fall asleep almost immediately.
The problem with the cabin was that it was located above the aft thrusters used to position the ship when entering or leaving a port. I had read about this in other reviews, and the claims were not exaggerated. When these thrusters were in use, the rear of the ship and our cabin vibrated violently. The drawers in the dressers and the sliding door between the bedrooms would open, and our toiletries on the bathroom shelves would be knocked over. It would also awaken us each morning earlier than we had planned. Since we only paid $699 each for the cabin for the week, it wasn't enough to ruin the trip. I pity the passengers who pay the premium price for a Category 3 cabin and have the same experience that we did. The Orion Dining Room, which also is located in the rear of the ship, experienced the same vibrations, with glasses and silverware vibrating and rattling on the tables.
Our cabin steward was very efficient. Towels were replenished at least twice per day, and our water pitcher and ice bucket were always full.
The meals on the Galaxy were the best we have ever had on a cruise. The dinners in the Orion Dining Room were all excellent. Each night there was a choice of three or four appetizers, three soups, two salads, five entrees, and several deserts. The entrees would always include a seafood dish, a pasta entree, and some type of beef. The other two choices would vary among other choices including veal, pork, chicken, and turkey. Lobster Tails were on the menu on the second formal night, and they were large tails. Many passengers ordered two of the tails for their entree. For an appetizer, Shrimp Cocktail of some variation was offered three or four different nights.
Service in the main dining room was good. Our waiter and assistant were both thorough and competent.
The meals in the Oasis Cafe were also very good. We ate all of our breakfasts and
lunches in this area. The breakfasts would include several hot items served buffet style, a large array of fresh fruits, baked goods, and hot and cold cereals. Each morning there also was a station preparing either fresh omelets or waffles. Lunch choices included many hot items, a large choice of salads, fresh soup, and fruit. The outdoor grill by the swimming pool also offered hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, and pizza for lunch. Service in the cafe was very good. Waiters would carry the trays of the female passengers and anyone else who needed assistance. Waiters would also circulate the cafe during breakfast refilling coffee mugs. When we were finished with breakfast or lunch, our trays and plates would be promptly removed from the table.
Entertainment on this cruise was excellent. The shows in the Celebrity Theater were all very good to excellent. The band in the Savoy Nightclub, Xtasea, was the best Caribbean style band we have heard on a cruise, and they also played on the pool deck many times.
The Celebrity Theater is well designed. The are no support poles obstructing views. The theater has two levels, and we never had trouble finding two or four seats in the center of the first level. Three production shows were presented during the week. The set designs and costumes were very attractive. The singers and dancers were all first-rate.
The shows on two separate nights featured Garin Bader and David Lucas. Bader is a pianist and magician. His first show was much better than I expected with a good mix of classical and contemporary music. His second show featured his magic and illusions, along with a few musical numbers. Lucas is juggler and comedian. His comedy routines had the audience laughing and his juggling ability was second to none.
One of the evenings featured the violinist Dominique Starosta. Much like Garin Bader, I enjoyed her much more than I expected. She also performed a wide variety of music from classical to country to the theme song from the Harlem Globetrotters, Sweet Georgia Brown.
The production shows and the music of Garin Bader and Dominique Starosta featured Louis Lemay & the Celebrity Orchestra as backup. This orchestra performed flawlessly and was a welcome addition to the shows.
The ship also featured musical duos in the Stratosphere and Rendezvous Lounges. However, I cannot comment on these, as we did not visit these lounges when they were performing.
This was a Southern Caribbean itinerary, beginning and ending in San Juan. Ports-of-Call were St. Croix, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Thomas. There was only one day at sea.
The first stop was St. Croix. We chose the ship's excursion to Buck Island for snorkeling. When I first received the cruise documents, I noticed this shore excursion was priced at $55. I immediately thought I could get a tour to Buck Island locally for less cost. However, after researching information about St. Croix, I realized that the National Park Service controlled access to the island, and only a select few tour operators were permitted to take customers to the island, and times of the independent tour operators did not match the ship's arrival and/or departure time. The tour was well worth the money. The snorkeling was the best we have ever experienced. The reef was large and colorful. We saw more fish around this reef than any other previous locations. The guides were very experienced and helpful. The 30 minute boat ride to and from the island was relaxing.
The second stop was St. Lucia. We took the 7 hour Land & Sea Tour, which cost $70. One other reviewer said it was the best excursion he had ever taken, and we agree with his comments. The tour was a combination catamaran ride and bus trip. The first three or four hours were spent sailing on the catamaran, including stopping at a cove for one hour to swim, snorkel, or lounge on the beach. The trip on the catamaran included complimentary fresh fruit, soft drinks, and a wicked rum punch called "Jungle Juice". The catamaran ride included impressive views of the twin Pitons. After sadly leaving the catamaran, we boarded buses for the return trip back to the ship. The buses made stops at an active volcano, a botanical gardens, and a plantation for a delicious native lunch.
The following day was spent in Barbados. My wife had read about a wildlife preserve that had rare green monkeys roaming throughout it. We decided to take a taxi to the preserve. We found a cab outside of the terminal, and agreed upon a price of $40 for the round-trip. The cab ride to the preserve took 30-45 minutes, and the admission price was $23 for the two of us. However, there were no monkeys to be found, as they leave the preserve in the morning and head into the jungle for the day, returning about 4:00 for their feeding. Although there were no monkeys, there was lots of other wildlife, including deer, peacocks, flamingos, turtles, and iguanas freely roaming about. After we spent about 90 minutes in the preserve, our cab driver took us on an island tour back to the ship, including stops along the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, where the surf is very rough and at St. Johns church, which is the oldest church on the island and sits on a hill overlooking the Caribbean. Barbados also had a small shopping mall across the street from the terminal that featured a store full of pay telephones. Several of the phones were direct connections to AT&T, which allowed us to use our calling card to phone home to check in with our daughter.
The next day was a relaxing day at sea. The weather in the morning was cloudy with one or two brief showers. I think the captain noticed bad weather ahead of us, as he stopped the ship in the middle of the sea for about an hour while some dark clouds passed in front of the ship. The afternoon turned out sunny and hot, with great music by Xtasea by the pool.
Thursday was spent in Antigua. We spent the day at the beach located at the Royal Antiguan Hotel, which was gorgeous. The resort is definitely the nicest we have seen. The cab ride was $12 each way. There was no admission charge to use the beach, as the hotel is located on a public beach. There were jet skis, parasailing, and water skiing available for rentals. The hotel had a nice beach bar and restaurant, and lounge chairs were available for non-hotel guests for $5 each.
Our last day was spent in St. Thomas. We are not big shoppers, and therefore not big fans of St. Thomas. If the cruise ships did not stop in the port, we would not be at all disappointed. In the morning, we walked the mile or so into town and spent a few minutes walking along the streets. For the afternoon, we went snorkeling at Coki Beach, since we have been to Megan's Bay in the past. The snorkeling was good at Coki Beach, but not as good as Buck Island. The beach itself was disappointing, as is was small, rocky, and not very clean. My wife and I decided the next time we are in St. Thomas, we will make the walk into town for the exercise, and spend the rest of the day on the deserted ship.
Overall, this was an excellent cruise, the best we have had. Even though every room in the ship was occupied, it did not seem crowded. There was always plenty of areas to go for quiet and solitude.