by Sue Rapaport
July 12, 2007
We began our cruise on 12 July and completed it on 23 July. Although every vacation has its ups and downs, overall our experience was positive. Galaxy provided us service that "exceeded expectations" just like their motto states.
Once we boarded our ship we were escorted to our room and upon arrival decided to visit the spa facilities as the appointments fill up quickly! We were escorted through the facility and given an excellent tour. We were excited to see the different treatments, gym, sauna, and thelossotherapy pool! We immediately booked massage treatments and purchased a pass to have unlimited use of the T-pool. Although it was only mid-afternoon on embarkation day, there weren't many appointments open for massage. Since there was no way to book online in advance, I surmised that the spa's reputation precedes them. I later realized why.
Upon return to our room, we noticed that we had all but one piece of luggage awaiting us. Between the time of discovery and before dinner, our luggage miraculously arrived after we jovially repeated our room number and the colour of our missing bag to the room attendants on passing them countless times while trying to navigate our way around the ship. From then on, we had a great relationship with the room attendants. They were more than willing to go above and beyond their typical duty at our request. After noticing the pitcher in our room was filled with water and we had an ice container as well, we asked for two carafes and were pleased to find them refilled each time we'd leave our cabin. The attendants kept our room immaculate and even steamed the carpets, as well as our linens, when we'd discovered a couple of ants scurrying about.
We tried changing our dining from main seating to evening, but gave up after seeing the long line of people wanting the same. Our Assistant Maitre 'd was very pleasant. Our table mates were a very nice couple from New York. We had a great time conversing with them and the couple at the table next to us. We didn't have the best table in terms of placement, but I think that we had the best company, waiter, assistant waiter, and wine service. There were several instances where we'd make a request and our waiter was more than happy to comply. I would tell him the time that I'd have my spa appointments and he'd take care of arranging the food arrival so that I didn't feel rushed. I even had ample time for dessert!
The first night of the cruise, I received my first massage from the AquaSpa. I practically lived there for the rest of the cruise. The massage was by far the best I've received. My massage therapist would cater each massage to my personal needs. After my first massage I knew that I had no worries for the remainder of the cruise. I was taken care of so well that although I've had insomnia since I was 10, I was able to sleep like I've never slept before. The spa was nothing short of amazing! We loved working out everyday in their large gym. We would stack steps in order for our DVD player to fit between the windows and we'd work out on the elliptical machine while watching movies or listening to music. The T-pool helped our overworked muscles relax and was a lot of fun to use. We would go at least once a day, sometimes twice. We also loved going in the sauna after our T-pool session.
Besides hanging out in the spa, we found lying out in the sun was relaxing as well. The deck chairs were very comfortable and there were always clean towels to use. We found the pool staff to be very friendly and kind in bringing us water upon request. Occasionally, they'd offer cold towels, which were rather refreshing.
Shore Excursions & Itinerary
I remember our hours on Mykonos with great pleasure, and Santorini. In general getting on & off the ship was easy. In Santorini, the shopping was excellent, we loved Oia and Perivolos beach. We went to Delos while we were in Mykonos and had an awesome lecture on the history of the island. We were docked until midnight, so we managed to get in some shopping and Baklava!
We found the best prices and the best purchases in Kusadasi. It was absolutely breath taking at sunset! I was able to watch the ship pull away from dock while working out in the gym.
In Athens we booked a private tour with Spiros (http://www.athenstaxi.net/). We went to the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Cape Sounion, and Poseidon's Temple. The water at the beaches looked more than tempting, but we didn't have time to go swimming as well.
In Naples we used Gennaro (www.SorrentoLimo.com). Also a fantastic driver and great gentleman. We used him to do the Amalfi Coast drive and go to Herculaneum. We saw so much more than the ship's tours did and Gennaro made us a reservation at a restaurant in Ravello that must have the most beautiful view in the world. I highly recommend him and intend to use him in the future.
In Santorini we used Nikos (www.Santorini.us) (arranged for us by Markos and his wife Anna) and they also arranged for an archaeological guide named Katherina. Akrotiri is becoming one of the most important archaeological excavations in the world but it is a complicated, hard to visualize site and you might as well not even go see it if you are not with a competent guide. It was a fabulous day and Nikos said at the end that we had seen more in that one day than most people do in a week. We went to Akrotiri, Oia, climbed the mountain to Ancient Thera, visited the main museum, a winery and some Byzantine sites and generally hiked and drove all over the Island. The archaeological guide was really great. Nikos also brings his camera and takes pictures of your family all day and hands you a CD at the end with really great pictures on it. This is probably controversial but we really enjoyed our guided tour of Santorini and I think they are well worth the money if you want to really see the sites in a day.
In Istanbul and Kusadasi we used a local tour operator called Byzance (http://more.at/byzance) They took us everywhere we wanted to see and was well worth the money since you get so much more information when you see these places with a guide than on your own. In Istanbul the essentials are the Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and, if you have time, the Topkapi Palace although, for me, this last one is not a "must see." The Spice Bazaar is also interesting but you can see the same thing on a larger scale in the Grand Bazaar. We absolutely loved our day in Kusadasi/Ephesus. Our guide, Sam and driver were both very cordial and kind, we loved the countryside and everything we were taken to see.
Mostly these are in good condition given that Galaxy has now been in service for just about 10 years. I was particularly impressed with the main dining room, which is well-decorated and has a stunning centre-piece staircase down which to make a grand entrance. The theatre too was especially impressive; no signs of wear or tear, good decor, excellent sightlines; we enjoyed it. The bars and lounges were perfectly OK; good seating, good decor, in a generally restrained manner -- Galaxy could never be mistaken for a Farcus designed ship! The only area that looked worn was the Stratosphere lounge (the forward-facing observation lounge, up high on deck 12) in which a number of the super-full-height windows were clouded with corrosion. The buffet areas seemed to be rather less crowded than on other ships I've been on. The open decks were pretty much as normal; crowded on sea days, much less so on port days. The promenade was not walk-around, but you could walk from just aft of the bow on one side, round the stern, to the equivalent starting position on the other side.
Food & Service
The buffet was also good, much better than on Sinfonia last year. For a start, the hot dishes were hot! There was always a wide choice, and it seemed well-prepared and fresh. The all-day pizza was good on the one occasion I had some, as was the burger I ate one afternoon -- definitely made from decent-quality beef.
We also ate a few ice-creams, which were perfectly OK. It was just unfortunate that we also had ice-creams from shore-side gelaterias in Taormina and Capri, and those were ice-creams to die for.
The bathroom was efficient; the shower was certainly a bit bigger than on Sinfonia, and I wasn't constantly getting the shower-curtain wrapped around me. There were some marks of wear and stain in the wash-basin, but other than in appearance these made no difference. Everything in the bathroom area worked.
Overall we were pleased with the cabin, and we found it significantly roomier and more comfortable than the cabin in Sinfonia. One thing -- the air-conditioning was a bit loud, louder than on Sinfonia, and it took us a few nights to get used to it.
There were some other acts: A lounge duo in the Rendezvous Lounge early on most evenings who went down well, a lounge pianist who was struggling a bit in the Martini Bar area, and at least one other band late at night who didn't have much of an audience. But the quality of all the acts was at least good, and generally very good.
The sea days were pretty quiet. I went to a lecture and disgraced myself by falling asleep! We also went to a trivia quiz and a wine tasting. They were OK -- we didn't bother with any more of the wine tasting program. Most of the ship activities were of the art auction/napkin-folding display type. We didn't really bother, and took the opportunities to rest on deck.