February 2, 2007
My husband, sister-in-law and I sailed on the Galaxy for 10 days around the Southern Caribbean (Feb 2-12) embarking and disembarking at San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was, on the whole, a most enjoyable cruise.
Celebrity's pre-cruise, on-line registration, on-board account set-up and shore excursion booking was easy and wonderfully efficient. Moreover, Celebrity was most agreeable about cancelling a shore excursion we decided not to take once on board. Our check-in at the port in San Juan couldn't have been smoother or quicker thanks to the on-line registration and pre-printing of X-press boarding passes.
We were all pleased with our staterooms a veranda cabin and an inside cabin. We really enjoyed our veranda. Eating breakfast while docked beside a sun drenched Caribbean hillside dotted with small whitewashed houses was as close to Paradise as one could get! While the verandas are designed for two (2 chairs, 2 footstools, and a round table), our steward found us a 3rd chair and we were still very comfortable for our 'happy-hours' before dinner.
The veranda stateroom was in the 'concierge class' and we enjoyed the little extras especially the daily fruit bowl and hors d'oeuvres. Our Steward and his assistant kept the stateroom in wonderful condition. The 'welcome' bottle of champagne however, was not 'welcome' (we don't really like champagne) and our steward, with some difficulty, eventually managed to exchange it for an indifferent bottle of white wine. We later learned that the wine steward in the dining room will produce a better exchange at the dinner table.
Internet access was easy and always available, although expensive.
All the staff on board were friendly, polite, and helpful. Although the ship could use a face lift in some ways, we were quite satisfied with the cleanliness and the condition of the dιcor throughout. We also appreciated the many opportunities for hand disinfecting on coming aboard and upon entering any dining facility, and the hygienic management of the buffets. Food was excellent, on the whole, particularly the dinners in the formal dining room. The shore excursions were good and we especially enjoyed river tubing in Grenada, the ostrich farm in Curacao, and the de Palm Island snorkelling in Aruba.
We did have a few 'Could Do Better' comments.
We were warned in the literature beforehand that 10 day cruises had 3 formal nights. Therefore my sister-in-law and I shopped and packed accordingly. For some unexplained reason, this 10 day cruise only had 2 formal nights which was infuriating and resulted in wasted provisioning and packing. Room service breakfast, although very useful, was a bit hit or miss orders often inaccurately filled, sometimes cold (the eggs), and in my sister-in-law's case, delivered from 30 to 45 minutes early (i.e. she would tick 7:30-8:00 and it would arrive at 6:45!). 'Creamers' used everywhere except in the formal dining room are non dairy and are composed of tropical oils.
We were in #1165 on the Penthouse Deck which is an aft cabin. Something about the ship's engines wakened us every morning early when the ship began to slow down as it approached port a sudden added noise and vibration made us feel as though we were sailing over railway ties! It was as if the ship's huge propellers were reversed, something like what happens when an aircraft hits the runway and reverses the jets. My sister-in-law noticed nothing of the sort in her interior cabin well forward. One of our closets had a vent shaft going up the middle, severely restricting its hanging space. Non-smoking on deck would have been nice and only those tolerant of second-hand smoke would survive in the casino.
The desserts were invariably disappointing everywhere on the ship they appeared to be mass produced and tasted as such.
We dined at the late sitting each evening (8:30 pm.) and enjoyed a daily 'happy hour' on our veranda watching the sun set. The policy of Celebrity prohibiting the bringing of alcohol aboard left us at the mercy of the ship for cocktail beverages. Notwithstanding that while sailing the high seas we were in tax free status, the price of alcoholic beverages aboard resembled any big city downtown bar - $5 to $8 U.S. for most cocktails plus the automatically imposed 15% gratuity charged on any and every shipboard transaction. The only permissible way to have a bottle of wine or spirits in your stateroom was to order it through Guest Services and a 1 litre bottle of Gin or Scotch cost some $60, although that included a small offering of cocktail peanuts and 6 cans of mix of your choice. We learned that a number of passengers brought liquor in their suitcases on initial boarding notwithstanding the stern warnings in the pre-cruise literature, but noted that upon returning to the ship after going ashore, the electronic scanning of hand baggage resulted in numerous bottles of locally bought wine and spirits being confiscated to be held and returned only at the end of the cruise. We would conclude that unless a cruise was composed largely of temperance organization members, Celebrity's enforced monopoly on the supply of alcoholic beverages on board is a significant fiscal strategy on its part.
The evening entertainment in the Celebrity Theatre was really very good, with the song-and-dance routines and musical accompaniment demonstrating considerable talent and much hard work. We also saw a couple of very good movies in the Celebrity cinema, although either they started 5 or 10 minutes before the appointed hour or half of those on board seemed to have malfunctioning watches.
Announcements about landings and departures made on the ship's public address system were inaudible in the staterooms. This may have been to convenience a few who were not interested but we wished we could have heard what was being said. By contrast, on occasion, including the crew lifeboat drill, instructions intended only for the ships crew boomed loudly through all the staterooms so the system capacity is there.
Finally, the disembarkation process was as efficient and well-planned as was the embarkation. Arrangements to go through immigration and customs and check luggage aboard flights immediately after stepping ashore and then being transferred to the airport luggage-free was a wonderfully organized event. Overall, Celebrity's logistical organization of booking, registering, embarking, going ashore and return, and eventual disembarkation was marvellous, and light-years ahead of our last cruise with them five years ago.