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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman

Celebrity Cruises' GALAXY
Sailing: June 2002

by George Hall

Background is 30-plus cruises on several lines. George early 50's, Linda late 40's. We were traveling with good friends we met 10 years ago onboard Zenith. This was our first 10-day cruise.

We elected to drive to the Baltimore area a day early, staying in White Marsh Hampton Inn 8225 Town Center Drive, Baltimore, MD 21236. This relieved us of any concern about arriving on time. Our friends drove from NY on the day of sailing without difficulty. The Hampton Inn is fairly new, costs $110 with taxes at AARP rate, provides complimentary continental breakfast, and is located within easy access to large modern mall and several restaurants. It is about 14 miles from the ship terminal. 

We were advised to arrive at dock after 2 pm by cruise line fax. We elected to go to the dock at around 12:30 since we felt might as well be there as anywhere else if we had to wait. As it turned out it was perfect timing this trip anyway. Upon driving into Dundalk Terminal, we were asked to show our tickets and given a pass to enter. Then drove to long term parking area located near ship. We pulled up to a large container where we stopped and they took our luggage. It was placed in the large container which is then, when full, placed onto a truck and delivered to ship. We then drove and parked our cars to await transport by shuttle bus to actual terminal embarkation. 

We were lucky that shuttle buses started taking passengers about 5 minutes later. Buses were dropping people off returning from cruise in an adjacent lot. The shuttle bus drops you a short, up the ramp, walk from entrance instead of in front of the door. This was fine for us but presents some problem for those older that had carry-ons. Upon entering there was a metal detector system which all carry-ons purses and so forth were fed through. I noted that most stuff passed through without staff even looking at screen, so much for security. 

Upon entering the embarkation area there was a pretty long line starting to form. We identified ourselves as Captain Club members and were directed to a separate entrance line for Captains Club and Suite passengers. There we were quickly processed. The desk staff seemed surprised when she called up our reservation and then asked if we had filled in our information online (a new feature of Celebrity's web page) and we advised we had. She said it confused her for a moment as that we were the first she had seen so far. We were issued our onboard cards (sign in and cabin key same card), which was marked SELECT, the new designation of Captains Club members with 6-10. We should have actually been ELITE with over 10, but frankly I give up, having given all dates etc., and accept whatever status they wish to give. The only difference I noted between SELECT and ELITE so far is a separate disembark lounge area serving continental breakfast. Our friends being CLASSIC members did not have that so we wouldn't be using it anyway. 

They had just started boarding about 1 PM, so we were fortunate to get to go right onboard. We were directed to our cabin location (not escorted probably because of early embark and availability of staff), a cat 2 number 9103 outside veranda cabin. There we found our new Captains Club information packets and coupons as well as dining assignment. The NEW Captains Club enhancements, okay I'll take what I can get but I remain of the opinion that it just isn't that big a deal. The priority boarding and disembark remains the only feature that really impresses me. Everything else is SALES oriented as a base and really just makes me feel like they are trying to sell me something. Here's what I mean. Casino coupons - $5 match play at table, can't use as a bet, just a match play. $12 coin for $10 coin purchase. Okay real $2 and you could cash in and make $2. FREE Etrusscean or some such spa treatment WITH of course, a purchase of $80 or more of spa service. This was where they put you in a room with some mud stuff you ladies like to smear on yourself and you get to smear it on yourself, in other words no staff involved in treatment hence only cost them the room and some mud. Sorry, ladies, I know you know better than I, a mere male, and that this does something for you. Bottom line for me, no big deal again and only FREE after you spend $80 or more. Was FREE for Linda since she spends that amount and much more anyway. They also recommended you bring a friend to help you put the mud on, friend was no charge too. 

Now as I said, Linda spends a few dollars in spa, probably around $400 (she works hard and certainly enjoys a little luxury). I was under impression that the Aqua Spa was available to passengers on day they had spa services at no charge, wrong. This is only if you are on particular package that day. Linda had 10 minutes between services and attempted to use Aqua Spa for the 10 minutes, "oh no" she was told, there is an additional charge. She said forget it but just another mark against the alleged big deal status of being SELECT or ELITE or whatever. Additional Captains Club stuff was costly routine invitations to "parties," free watered down cocktail, sales pitch and so forth, we passed on all. Nice touch was two roses in Cabin on bed second night. Invitation for behind scenes look at Celebrity showroom backstage area. We didn't take it but since I can't figure what they would sell you there might actually be a little free "bene" if you wanted to see backstage. 

So in case you didn't notice, I am less than impressed with my new found Captains Club status. I don't like it when they think I am stupid enough to think they are doing something for me as a good customer when all they are really doing is trying to get me to use and buy more paid services. Cabin, clean and reasonable size with comfortable bed. Balcony, nice enough with two chairs and a foot rest and table. Reasonably private although not totally. Galaxy cabins have a regular door to balcony versus a sliding door, sliding doors are nicer in my opinion. Celebrity continues to provide a water carafe, which is a nice touch. Small ice bucket and a mini refrig filled mini bar loaded with soda's and small booze bottles. You are charged as used and replenished by your steward. Two sodas comes to $4.95 with tip. 

I heard several people complain about drink prices. Normally I accept that drinks are NY priced and offend many from other parts of country but even I noted that prices are higher than even NY prices. Liquor and soda stores did landmark business in ports. Although carry-ons were checked and security did ask if there was bottle of booze in carry-on they did not try to confiscate it, although one guy looked like he was thinking about it. Talking about prices, I will admit I didn't really pay to much attention, bought one photo think it was $9.95 now instead of $5.95 or $6.95 as in days gone by. That doesn't bother me because I just don't buy them anymore with maybe one exception if photo is really great. Did have to spend money on real coffee at Tastings. Coffee onboard is the syrup instant that just doesn't make it. I am told that dinner coffee is brewed. The coffee at Tastings is espresso and cappuccino and worth every penny to get that start up blast of caffeine I need. I noted that all the cruise staff get their coffee there too. 

I didn't find too much nickel and diming though. Ice cream was readily available in Oasis Buffet. Lots of advertisements to buy things such as towels provided in cabin FREE for use on shore also have card with them, you may buy towels for $28 each to take home (pool towels available at pool). I presume if you forget them at beach the same $28 will be added to your account. Robes provided in cabin as well, yes you can buy those too. Martini glasses in martini bar, you can buy them for home, also a cook book, CD's of recipes, menus, heck, I would bet if you wanted a replica of the Captains uniform they would try to get one made up for you to buy. Again, unlike years past when I felt that cruise was special, I am now constantly made aware that it is merely another business trying to sell me something. It always was but just so apparent now and so taken to the extreme. For me it just takes so much away from the experience. 

The 10 day itinerary has a lot of sea time. Both weather and circumstance made this very noticeable. First weather was rainy much of the time, something that was just a case of bad luck you must live with. A large bad weather system covered much of the area during our cruise. Nothing horrible, just overcast and drizzly. This limited deck time, in fact both deck parties were moved inside which is just not the same. Again I understand that weather is weather and cruise line is off the hook for this one. 

Second, on the 2nd day the ship came to a halt at sea for about 20 minutes and then started again. We were advised that an engine problem occurred and that we would be skipping Belize and spending a full day in Key West for repairs. This was fine with me since Belize was not on my must see list but many were unhappy. It also added another day at sea where enough existed already. Celebrity was gracious enough to render a $50 per person (think $25 for 3rd and 4th) onboard credit to our accounts. For me that was a plus, for those wishing to visit Belize they were not real happy. The great thing is that Key West was sunny and I was meeting a buddy vacationing there at Sloppy Joes so had more drinking time ashore. 

Cozumel it rained all day but we went to Chankanaab lagoon and the ladies swam with the Dolphins while Tom and I enjoyed the bar and some great appetizers. We all then went swimming and headed back to ship. I can remember when a cab ride in Cozumel was $3, now it cost $10. BUT NOTE they will try for more so set your price beforehand with driver. I tried to do that (sign on pier said cab to Chankanaab $10) but driver ignored me like he didn't understand and started off. Fine, when we got to lagoon he says $15 dollars. We said, rather in his face I admit, $10 and no TIP! He quickly said OK, OK. Sometimes it pays to be two guys 6'2" and 200 lbs. The ladies had gone in taxis provided with Dolphin tour. Note it also costs $10 a person to enter Chankanaab, you pay as taxi enters. The tour includes this fee at $99 for package and includes transportation. We jumped into cab on way back with them and got a free ride. Since driver didn't attempt to hold us up over that he was tipped well enough to have covered ride cost anyway. 

We were first in Cozumel in 1984, when it was mostly shacks and straw market. Now it has really built up into shops, new roads, and of course higher prices. We actually stopped in Cozumel a different day than scheduled due to itinerary charges and EIGHT ships were all in, a very busy place. We also were tendered in on this stop. CoCo Cay was a beach day, also tendered, and also overcast, still a nice day. Because there was no sun many didn't put on sun block. Don't make that mistake. You still get burned as evidenced by many who suffered sunburn that evening. 

Nassau, yeah a sunny day! We normally don't get off in Nassau but decided to break from tradition just to get off the ship for a while. Turned out to be a good move since we found some nice Cohiba cigars at reasonable price. Being loyal Americans we burned all the evidence of our Cuban cigars before hitting American soil. They were gooood :) 

Again, sailing back to Baltimore the weather was overcast but it was warm at least. Hopefully most doing this itinerary will find sun. This is really the first time in many Caribbean sailings that we ever saw such continual crummy weather. Such is the luck of the draw. The seas for most part were calm enough and ship was nice and stable even in moderate seas. 

Dining was hampered by a tablemate from hell that I won't bother going into. In 30 plus cruise we have been blessed with many a great new tablemate friend, several of which we still remain in contact with so I guess we were do for this one. The nights she didn't attend dinner were great! There were three of those, fortunately. Food itself was excellent and service impeccable and we have no complaints on that. In fact, all the Galaxy staff were friendly and provided excellent service including our cabin Steward Luis. Only the Maître d' left something to be desired but that isn't unusual. Cabin room service was excellent as well. Ship was clean and appeared well taken care of. Oasis buffet was fine although the pasta station uses enough garlic to chock a horse. You can barely walk past without gasping for air. The beverage area as always is a pain. We always recommend bringing along large plastic cups since Celebrity has the smallest drink cups I have ever seen. They also seem to have a problem keeping beverage areas filled and operating. I would think that they were trying to sell me sodas except that bar service was near non-existent in buffet area as well. We were prepared at least with our large cups. 

Disembarkation - We were advised that Customs would board in Nassau and that we would receive a designated time to report to Customs while sailing home. We received a note to report at 5 pm to the Celebrity lounge with completed Customs form and passports, etc. We did so and line wasn't bad, we were checked off manifest and then saw Customs guy who stamped our form and we were done. No one asked to see passport or anything else. You retain Customs form to hand over on disembarkation. Despite this pre-Customs operation, the ship still didn't clear for disembarkation until around 12:00 pm on the day of arrival even though we were docked on time at 10 am. While we waited in Celebrity lounge (for Captains Club and suite disembarkation) we noted over 40 cabins called to report to Customs in the library. Don't know if these were people that had decided they didn't have to report as directed when we were at sea or something else. 

Those who haven't sailed since 9/11 should note that everyone reports for Customs/Immigration now, unlike past days of just non-US citizens. Eventually they called clear and disembarkation started by color and number. We were one of the first, found our luggage and a porter (porters were not that plentiful but better than last year) and were taken to large buses where our luggage was loaded into them and then we were driven to the parking area. In parking area we were left off with luggage in one area and it was suggested that we go get our cars and bring them to the luggage rather than try to carry it all to the cars. Only way to do it really unless you are a pack mule. We were in the car and on the highway by 1:30 pm. 

The weather and one tablemate did indeed impact on this cruise for us. A GOOD cruise nonetheless, but frankly far from the best cruise I have taken. I have always enjoyed sea time, but the combination of bad weather and sea time, coupled with this being a 10-day cruise made me ready to head home. You shouldn't be dissuaded, though, if you are scheduled for a sailing. I would presume your weather will be better, as will your tablemate.

As I said it was a good cruise, I'm just used to great cruises, so I guess our number was up. 

NOTE: Parking is $5 per day, paid in cash only upon entry to lot area. Much better than NY's $18 a day price. Lot appears secure as it is in container area, which I am sure is maintained secure. I didn't have any problem with our cars nor note anyone that did.

Photo Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

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