Galaxy, southern Caribbean, 2/15/02 My not-so-Humble Opinions
I must admit that while being a true Celeb fan, I started my vacation with a bit of trepidation after reading some post 9/11 reviews. When we arrived in San Juan, we retrieved our luggage(5) as we were instructed to, and ushered outside the baggage claim, only to search for 15 minutes for the place we were to go. It was across 4 lanes of airport traffic, to a small Celebrity sign. We were then told to leave our luggage out there on the sidewalk, and walk to our bus, back across the same 4 lanes of traffic and about 600 feet away from where we started .I’m sweating,( I’m not slim, and I saw no porters) limping along with my cane, dragging 5 pieces of luggage, and not happy.
Now I’m wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Well, Celebrity REALLY dropped the ball here, especially when I found out friends I was traveling with didn’t have to get their bags, and they got to the ship just fine. This, I was to find out, was the ONLY ball they dropped in 7 days !
The new Pan American terminal is great. Big, clean, and fast to get through!
We were on the ship in no time. We entered the Grande Foyer and were immediately awed by the surroundings. Very classy, no glitz, just light woods, white columns and trim, and a jumbo piece of art that is actually a rear projection, with fresh flowers everywhere. A uniformed attendant grabbed our carry-ons and escorted us to our room.
We had a category 2 stateroom, with balcony, and it was fabulous! Although I feel it was a bit overloaded with furnishings (it could have used a bit more git-around room) it was clean, Beautifully decorated in light woods , off white trim & walls, and art. (This ship had about 2 million dollars worth of real original art). It had a swing-out glass door onto a cozy 4x8 or so balcony with teak planking and hand railing, with a Plexiglas rail. The bath had the largest shower I’ve ever encountered on a cruise ship, and for me, that’s a “Big” thing! Hair dryer was hotter-n-hel, but water was over chlorinated for my taste.The water the room steward brought in with the ice-water-glasses was much better for drinking. Lots of storage, and an easy to use safe, and mini bar.(a very MINI bar).Our cabin steward Jeme did as he was supposed to, keep our room clean, freshly supplied, and do so invisibly. He was excellent.
As we had been on Century and Millennium, we were accustomed to the style the Galaxy exuded, and while not up to Millennium standards as to latest accoutrements ,(It REALLY needs internet access) it was a bit nicer than Century in that it had the movable cover over the rear pool, and was a bit better laid out. The shops were well stocked and naturally pricey, but with quality logo merchandise, as well as liquor, jewelry and perfumes. The bars were ok, but the drinks were somewhat weak. The cova café was nice, as was the Tastings bar. Rendezvous was great, but the singing duo were awful, and here is where Celebrity has an 11 year history of picking borderline talent . The only show I bothered to see was Cirque du Galaxy, which was pretty good , but I had heard the rest were not so hot. I liked the band Voltz.
Now- The Food.
Michel Roux is still the best, and has not let me down. From the lightest flakiest pastries, to the seafood, to rich red meats and tasty pasta, to the most INCREDIBLE desserts on the face of the earth, dining was the Premier Entertainment for me! We brought along two friends who are both schooled chefs, and I was prepared to hear a plate by plate breakdown of the mistakes and mis-cues. I was delighted when they both agreed that on the whole, the food was great, especially when considering 3000 plus meals a day. I purchased a set of menus, and will endeavor to have them scanned, so I can post them. They themselves are works of art. We also partook of a somewhat abridged version of a galley tour. It is an impeccably clean atmosphere. In the area of buffets, they have actually seemed to improve over millennium. The buffet food was as good, and in some cases better, than the dining room food. In reality, we all agreed that Breakfast was better in the buffet that the dining room ! Dinner, though was an event not to be missed. Our waiter Bartosz , and assistant waiter Lukas, were a real team. They didn’t try to be our buddies, and didn’t make with the small talk. They were very professional. It was obvious to me that doing it right was VERY important to them.
They also were very concerned when we couldn’t finish a dish that it wasn’t because we didn’t like it. They, as the room steward, did exactly what they were supposed to.
A word here about being somewhat disabled . I walk with a cane much of the time, and a buffet line with tray and cane can be unwieldly .Every time, with out fail, a staff member came over and took over the tray, and escorted me though the different stations, getting my choices, and drink, and escorted me to a table. Some times while walking slowly down a corridor, I would notice a staff member behind me at a distance, being totally quiet even tough I must have been slowing him up in his duties. I would stop to let them pass, and only then would they apologetically pass. Ditto the ramp staff.
As for the shore excursions, I never use them. After more than a few cruises to the Caribbean, we always go out to the taxi stand and arrange our own tours at less money, or a van and driver to ourselves for the same money.This was the case here.
St. Tanzanite. That’s what they should call St Thomas. We took a taxi tour with a wonderful surrey(enclosed cab-open passenger area) driver named Sinclair in taxi 1000. He made me appreciate an Island that I had written off a long time ago. The four of us had a 3 hr tour with a surrey to ourselves for $120.00 with tip.
St Kitts. As my sleep was disturbed by the usual movement of docking, I awoke at 6 AM and gazed out the balcony door, to see one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. This island has a MAJOR mountain, the very top still in the clouds, and rolling green hills of sugar cane. We visited Kitts on Sunday, a day the whole island takes off. No shopping. We toured the beautiful countryside with a wonderful driver named Joe Ward, taxi # T1709.Also around $100.00 for 4 people, 2 ½ hrs.
` Isla Margerita: This could be the “Private Island” Celebrity lacks, if the locals would sink the necessary dollars into a beautiful site. Nice beach, wave runners, quad ATV’s, a nice little bar, and phonetic versions of Sting on the steel drum. Needs 200 more lounges and sunshades, and a bar person to troll the beach, as people got tired of the walk back & forth. Lounges with sunshades $5.00-come early, REAL early!! The people I talked to said stay away from the tours, 45 min. to town!! This is really the middle of nowhere. You only have about 6 hrs total here, and the beach is close to the ship, so you can go back to eat lunch!
Barbados: we had a great driver , Marlene( at the taxi stand outside the terminal area, the ones at the terminal are a ripoff.) who did a 2 ½ hr tour. Lots to see, would go back tomorrow. Great cultural interests, and Bridgetown is a great walk through. Have lunch in the Ideal rest. on the 3rd floor of the Cave-Sheppard department store. Real fabulous local foods, cafeteria style, and real cheap!
Aruba : one very large sandbar. Good shopping, great beaches, Carlos & Charlies near the ship after dinner!! My wife had a yard high Marguerita.
The day at sea was a bit rough for some, with rather high winds, this was where the covered pool at the back would come in handy. We stayed on our covered balcony for much of the afternoon.
We had a 10:15 AM flight back to JFK, and after reading some of the reviews, I was concerned about not getting to the flight on time. This is where Celeb excelled. We were issued “Rush” baggage tags, and were told to be at the theater for customs review (now for all passengers)at 6:15AM, and to be in the Grande Foyer at 7 am. We were off the ship and on our way to San Juan airport by 7:30, and checked in by 8. The luggage followed us in a van, and they unloaded it onto the sidewalk, which lead to a bit of a “feeding frenzy” but all in all , was a very very fast experience.
As I sit here writing this, I am reminded of past cruises. My honeymoon and first cruise on the late great Meridian, The big red tub to Bahamas, Horizon, Song of America, Nordic Empress, Norwegian Crown-all to Bermuda, with the Crown through the middle of Hurricane Bonnie, Vision of the Seas through the Panama Canal, Century Western Caribbean, Sensation eastern Caribbean, The pre-stretch Dreamward, and Millennium with the cruise-addicts.They were all great cruises in their own ways, yes, even the 12 hours with 55 foot waves in Hurricane bonnie! This one will go down in my memories as one of the best.