by Bob Cosetta
October 26, 2001
Just returned from Galaxy, sail date 10/26. This was our first time on Celebrity. Three prior cruises were with RCL. Enchantment 2x and Splendour of the Seas. We chose this cruise because of itinerary and price. As you will read, we are into beaches and not shopping so there will be no info regarding that subject. It might help to know that most of the staff was European. My wife and I are in our mid-forties, are not party animals but like to have fun when we vacation.
The weather was very good. Most every day experienced a shower from 15-45 mins. Not unexpected. Smooth seas for the entire week.
The ship appeared to be in good shape considering she is about 5 yrs old. We never did quite figure our way around the ship. I think it was because we are used to RCL and the Centrum on their ships. On Galaxy, you can't get to the center of the ship and determine which direction you need to go. However, we got better as the week went on. We always knew how to get to the Orion Restaurant and the Fortunes Casino. The one day at sea, there didn't seem to be a lack of lounge chairs around the pool that I have experienced in the past.
St Thomas- Went to Magen's Bay as our 1st visit on our 1st cruise, it rained the entire time. Very nice. Calm clear water with facilities on premise. It wasn't crowded as we were the only ship in port. This was the case for all of the islands. However, personally like Sapphire Beach with views of St John's better.
St Kitts- Went to Turtle Beach. Quiet but rocky beach. Very difficult getting in and out of the water. We were able to see the not so wild monkey's. You could hand feed them. They were a big hit. Beautiful views of Nevis. Group of children came to beach and performed dancing and singing in traditional costume. This island is absolutely beautiful. Taxi driver stopped at a mountain vista and we got some fantastic photos. The island seemed to be very affluent. Driver showed us one section in the mountains which locals refer to as Beverly Hills.
Barbados- Went to the Boatyard. Very nice beach with clear water. There was a $10 admission which includes lounge chair, umbrella and 8 Boatyard chips to be used for drinks. Each chip was worth 1 US Dollar which was equivalent to 2 Barbados Dollars. Frozen drinks were $15 BD's. Water sports were available-jetski, parasailing,etc... Nice island with an extremely busy downtown area. And we were the only ship docked.
Margarita Island- Much larger than expected. Very good road system. We had read that Playa El Agua was very nice. It was extremely beautiful with big surf and clear waters. The beach was clean and very long. Not many people in the area we stopped at. This meant the local vendors kept circling trying sell everything from Aloe to sunglasses. They accepted a "no gracias" and would move on. I'm not certain it was worth the 1 hour drive each way from the ship. In addition, the taxi drivers speak little or no english. I speak a few words of Spanish so I could only ask limited questions about the island and points of interest. I'm sure the people of this island would love to share their knowledge given the opportunity. They also drive very old and "scary" vehicles. My wife and the couple we were travelling with did not feel safe in our vintage late 70's Chevy Caprice :)
Aruba- Another beautiful island. However, it is nothing like any other Caribbean Island that I have seen. It reminds me more of Cancun. Very developed and modernized. Very good road system. Went to Palm Beach. It seems that none of the hotels want to rent chairs or facilities to cruise passengers. We entered around the Mill Resort ( 100 yr old windmill imported from Holland on site) and checked with the first 3 hotels we encountered heading north. None were willing to rent chairs as they are reserved for hotel guests. We ended up at a small portion of the beach just south of the Radisson Hotel. There was a beach vendor called Itito's ( or something like that) Chairs for $5. Beach is absolutely perfect for swimming or lounging. Calm waters, no rocks, hot sun. The Jolly Roger pirate ship anchored right here. Small pier had Dunkin Donuts and coffee, bar and small restaurant. Some shade available. Downtown was less than 1000 ft from the ship. Stores, casino's, Carlos and Charlies all within easy access.
As I stated earlier, this was our first time with Celebrity. I'm not certain if I would sail with them again. If the price were right or they had a great itinerary, I would probably go. However, this cruise line is not for me. Some of my personal observations are as follows.
Positives- ship hotel staff in general are very friendly and courteous. Everytime you pass someone in the corridor, you were greeted with a smile and good morning,etc... Our bar waitress, Aneta from Macedonia was pleasant. At our insistence, she sang a song in her native language and then translated it for us. It was a love song and was very nice. Our assistant waiter, Milos (sp)from Slovakia was very attentive and friendly. He was a Boston Bruin hockey fan so we got along well. The afternoon tea was very good with stange combinations of sandwiches (strawberry jam with american cheese.) It filled the gap nicely before late seating. The pizza wasn't bad either. In the dining room, the Cream Brulee (sp) was fantastic as was most of the desserts. I did try the frog legs and some other things you wouldn't normally order at a restaurant. Ate most breakfasts in dining room as the Oasis cafe buffet is served to you rather than self serve ( don't understand that part.) My opinion is that buffets are in place so you can select the portion you want, the crispness of your bacon, etc... by the way, this applies to the lunch buffet as well. In the dining room, the eggs benedict were perfect and delicious and the wait staff were very attentive.
Negatives- The dreaded muster drill was by far the worst I have experienced. Our muster station was in one of the lounges and started at 10 pm. After standing there for 15 minutes in life jacket, we were then directed outside for another 15 mins. I am all for safety, but you lose people's interest after awhile. The 15 mins outside would have been sufficient.
It seemed most of the tables in the Orion dining room were for parties of four. Although we were travelling with another couple, we had requested a table of 6-8. We really enjoy meeting other people and discussing our travels and what we experienced that day. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Our waiter, Pedro from Portugal was efficient but all business. He only opened up to us one night to discuss how the Portuguese gov't took over his island but treat them like second class citizen's. It seemed that all of the wait staff were very business like and didn't smile too much. This might be how some people like it but I personnaly found it to be too stuffy and formal. On my previous cruises, I found the waiters and assistants to be very personable and fun. Again, this might not be the image Celebrity wants to portray.
I found the food to be good but not great. From what I read, Celebrity would be head and shoulders above RCL. I found it to be the same and in some cases worse. Most of the beef was overcooked ( medium rare came out as medium at best) and was not very tender, except the fillet mignon. The fish dishes were very good however as was the lobster tail. To Pedro's credit, he discouraged me from ordering a couple of entrees that were of questionable quality. One was a veal dish and the other was a roasted lamb ( not the rack of lamb which was good.)
The entertainment was spotty at best. The tribute to Broadway was very good. The dancers ( especially the ballet duo) were very good considering the motion of the ship. How do they do it? The Chinese acrobats were good as well. They also had a comedian who was great. His name was James Stephens. He had the place in an uproar. He was out on deck later that night ( Caribbean Party) and many people were taking pictures with him. The other nights, the entertainment was just ok. Of the four lead singers, only one was really good. I am certainly not an expert, but in my opinion, they were just average and not as good as what I have experienced in the past.
Conclusion- This is a great itinerary. Nice islands with great beaches. If you like to shop, you can find good deals on St Thomas and Aruba. The staterooms were good sized ( we were Vista deck, verandah midship, port side.) Very clean and stateroom attendants were invisible. I prefer the wait staff to be more outgoing and look forward to the evening conversation with them. Or at least an environment that let's there personality come out. I observed none of this the entire week. No horse racing, no pool contests, boring trivia contests. My opinion is that Celebrity fits right between RCL and HAL.
Please feel free to email me with any questions you have. I will try to answer them as best I can.