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Old October 13th, 2002, 03:03 AM
Jonathan Rhodes
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Default Galaxy to New England and Canada in a wheelchair - Review

I am pleased to report that 'Galaxy' was the best wheelchair experience I have ever had on holiday either on land or at sea. I went on the September round trip from Baltimore to Canada and New England. I hired an electric wheelchair for the occasion - a must because of all the carpet - unless you have a tireless pusher!

Check in was a breeze. We were taken down the 'Captain's Club' priority line (neither of us are members) and, in spite of the complication of having 'foreign' (British) passports, we were on board within five minutes of arriving at the terminal building. The 'ordinary' line was, I am told, an hour and a half long at the time! Thus started 12 idyllic days during which absolutely nothing was too much for Celebrity's staff to do to make my life as easy as possible.

Our cabin no 5056 on Plaza Deck was enormous (at standard outside cabin rate). There was enough space to turn and park a stretch limo, let alone a wheelchair; the bathroom had every conceivable rail - and several inconceivable ones, which I never worked out - a shower seat, and plenty of turning space. The tilting shaving mirror is a touch of genius! The cabin had enough cupboards for a large family to store all their clothes for a round the world cruise. One was even big enough to stow my manual folding wheelchair!

We were given a great table near the upper door of the dining-room so that I didn't have to run the gauntlet of chairs and tables and they made sure that they kept me a space in the theatre for shows. As I said at the beginning, nothing was too much trouble.
Although the ship was full, there was never any real wait for the elevators, which were large enough to turn round in a Jazzy Powerchair inside. In the bars and buffets, there was always someone to carry my tray or drink for me. There are accessible washrooms dotted around the ship. Only the very top deck is inaccessible and it is so small, all it boasts is a funnel and the golf-driving net!

At ports of call, the crew made sure that I was escorted on and off the ship. At one stage, when a flight of steps was involved, they transferred me to one of their chairs and four hefty sailors carried me down then went back and carried my powerchair down.

The food and service were all that Celebrity's reputation leads you to expect. The whole experience was an object lesson in what can be done for wheelchair travellers. At the end of the cruise, we were first off the ship, our luggage waiting in a separate place for us and within minutes we were back at Baltimore station waiting for our train to New York. The shock of returning to the real world was the only 'downer' of the whole cruise. I decided there and then that Celebrity would see me again, to which end I am in the process of booking for Constellation's Transatlantic cruise from Puerto Rico to Harwich next April. If it is only half as good as my trip on Galaxy it will still be worth every penny!
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