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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Celebrity Cruises

MV Galaxy

Rating:Four Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Celebrity Cruises
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1996 / 1999
Length / Tonnage: 866 / 77,713
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 935 /1,870
Officers / Crew: Greek / International
Operating Area: Caribbean, Mediterranean

Review by Christopher Smith, TravelPage.com, Associate Cruise Editor

Think of it like this...not quite a dozen years ago, the passenger/cruise division of the great Chandris organization decided it no longer wanted to be the dish cloth of the cruise biz...it wanted to be the table cloth. Chandris felt the time had come to move from their great past as carriers of migrants from Europe and Australia, and carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers from four continents who paid affordable rates for great cruises in ships perhaps grown threadbare....but they had one hell of an enormous following...what veteran cruise passenger did not know the BRITANIS....I know I did....and our Cruise Editor, Mark Goldberg, worked on her for a time....and when not working in her, sailed often as a passenger...and just loved her. It was a good, simple, honest product, and people loved it.

Forgetting, or maybe turning their backs on where they came from, Chandris formed their "upscale" division, Celebrity Cruises, fully intent on positioning themselves as the cruise line between Crystal and the rest of the market. Never mind that no such niche in the business existed then, nor exists now.....at least not at tariffs required to operate in the black...from almost the beginning Celebrity has had to discount like crazy. It brings us to ask this question: Can a cruise line thoroughly rebuild an old monster (the GALILEO, rebuilt as Celebrity's MERIDIAN) and build from scratch five impressive new cruise liners, three of them megaships, and make money at rates beginning at $600.00 per person per week? Apparently not, because the balance sheets that had been Celebrity Cruise Lines ran hundreds of millions of dollars into the red. Defend them, oh you lovers of this fleet.....but old die hard Chandris fans, happy enough with the AMERIKANIS, VICTORIA, BRITANIS, ELLINIS, and a couple of REGINAs, feel no pity that the Chandris people had to sell out. They sold us out.....so goodbye to them! Another thing about these ships they built....we find they have no character, no personality, little to recommend them but pretension....and their itineraries have not appealed to us. Based on brochure rates, we find their competitors do the same thing for a lot less money and attitude.

Not so long ago a ship's uniqueness was best identified by the crew......notwithstanding the occasional eccentric passenger or those who stood out in the crowd, the crew brought their home countries with them....so a Greek crewed ship made you feel as if you were in an Athenian taverna, an Italian ship sent your mind off to enchanting Venice, and a French crew had you humming La Marseillaise. The Galaxy has a international crew....so there is no pervading atmosphere at all. It's a modern hotel, nothing more, nothing less. So benign is the ambience that most of your fellow passengers will not remember the name of the ship within two years of taking the cruise. Decorative themes in some of the public rooms are but a weak attempt to evoke images of varying cultures or of the "good ole days".....but the results are ertzatz at best.....and are no more evocative than Hollywood movie sets or exhibits one visits at EPCOT.

The entertainment is Las Vegas style.....and it's probable at least one of the musicians will appeal to you. Much of it is digitally enhanced (this company just loves electronics), on occasion lip synced, and in some lounges just too loud....but it's professionally choreographed, it's pretty to look at, and if you're not in the mood to gamble, shop or watch a movie, it's something to do at least. But for the most part, you won't come away from it thinking "Gee, that was really special....I'll never forget it".

The Galaxy is huge....at almost 78,000 tons, Celebrity has managed to equip every conceivable modern convenience in her. Thankfully, there's nothing overtly tacky about her. So understated is she in many places, in fact, that sometimes she resembles the lobby of an upscale office building. But an important thing to consider is that you won't be dining or sleeping or paying much mind to these spaces. The food and service departments on the Galaxy are just fine.....and so are the cabins.....and since much of your trip, whether you admit it or not, will be spent eating or sleeping, you'll have nothing to worry about if you sail on the Galaxy.

Public Areas
Despite the appearance that Celebrity Cruises has a cold heart....they spared no expense in supplying these ships with the finest materials to decorate their innards...and by all accounts, the Galaxy is the most successful of the five ships built for the company. There are a couple of rooms on the ship that we really love....and it's probably because Keith Hobbs, United Designers Group, went all out to make the Rendevous Square, Champagne Bar and Orion Restaurant signature pieces of this giant liner. A mural equal in whimsy to the white-on black mural by the New Yorker Magazine's Saul Steinberg that American Export Lines fitted behind the bar in the smoke room of their combi liner EXCALIBUR in 1948, Galaxy's mural colors music and dance, serving as a backdrop to the orchestra platform in the Rendevous Square.

Don't let publicity pictures fool you...there aren't ashtrays on every table. Color, light, and comfortable chairs, set this room a step above the ordinary on the modern cruise ship. It doesn't feel like a crowded room but it can happily host almost 300 passengers at a time. Michael's Club in the Galaxy is every bit as charming as those on her sisters, but those cigars get to me. And while I'm showing some mean spirit towards this gigantic shoe box on the water, I wonder why a deck called Entertainment Deck provides little but opportunities to spend money....between the rather pretty Savoy Night Club and Bar (where you can toss a few dimes at the bartender....although that won't come near paying for your drink) to the Celebrity Theater balcony forward... from Fortunes Casino where I doubt your fortune is going to win you much of a jackpot....you head forward where several hundred feet of shops and shopping are relieved only by the Interlude Bar where weary purchasers can set a spell, put their legs up and order a stiff one....this deck reminds me of that old airline joke....What does the OLYMPIC in Olympic Airlines stand for? Answer....Onassis Likes Your Money Preferably In Cash...man! they sure made it easy to separate you from a pile while on this ship!!! The Galaxy has a neato observation lounge...the Stratosphere Lounge, where wood veneer accents in both blond and teak combine to offset the icy blues of the upholstery on chairs and banquettes....and the room feels cool as ice and looks like the concept was cloned from the CRYSTAL HARMONY.

Yeah, the Galaxy is awfully pretty, but that's not enough for me. I require the warm atmosphere familiarity brings....and a ship 77,713 gross tons with a crew of almost 1000 just can't deliver it....no way can I meet them, and no way can they meet me. And when I take to water, I like to be in a ship with a much smaller cast of characters. I have never once had the urge to spend the night under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, and as impressive as this ship is internally, she's about as personable as any public building. On the plus side, there's oodles of room...on deck and inside....and there are quiet nooks and havens too.....so the all important comfort quotient will be easily satisfied. For the active among us, and for decadence at a price (bring your Celebrity Signature Account Card....or your first born for collateral).....massages, facials, body restorations, and so forth.....the Aqua Spa is available on the Resort Deck up forward.

The Orion Restaurant is a stunner. I guess it has to be a visual come on, because they have to do something to make you feel like you matter when you are, after all, only one of 1,100 people who can be served at one time in here. Think about that, if you will. This room, a design statement in color, light, metal and fabric, underneath a polar projection world map in the center of the ceiling, has to be able to feed 1,100 people at one time. If you believe that of that number, you can much matter, I've got a great bridge to sell you, and I just got off a ship where we were forty passengers, and how I felt about things seemed to make a difference. The restaurant is an extremely comfortable two deck high room, with tables in all sizes and shapes....it's a room furnished with comfortable chairs, too....large enough to prevent crowding at the larger tables.

Just a couple of years ago, a big sales point for taking a Celebrity cruise was the food.....with menus inspired by chef Michel Roux, and top notch galley crew to prepare it, it was almost a given that you would leave the ship's dining room with a smile. We have reports that the quality has slipped.....this has become a bit of an epidemic in the cruise line.....as fleet sizes increase, and fares decrease, something's gotta give....and the easiest thing to cut is the food. I'm not saying the food isn't good anymore....it's fine....but it's on average, not much better than rival companies' offerings.....so you'll be well fed, but probably not wowed.

Perfectly serviceable, if not memorable, buffets for breakfast, lunch and midnight are available in the Resort Deck's Oasis Cafe.

Cabins on the Galaxy are roomy, well planned and are as bland as oatmeal....except the suites.....they are visual stunners, and lovely to look at. At a generous 171 square feet for inside cabins, and 172 square feet for outsides, standard grades have two lower beds that in most cases, are convertible to a king, sufficient drawer and wardrobe space, a pleasantly arranged bathroom with shower, a mini bar, hairdryer, safe and television. In a bit of trickery, for which we should slap the hands of Celebrity Cruises, some deluxe cabins....and even mini suites.... are identical in size.....but with a far more efficient use of space, they feature a small sitting area and the television also has a VCR. The mini suite has a tiny veranda, only 42 square feet in size.....but is a whopping $2,420.00 (brochure rate) more for a couple for a seven day peak season cruise! Oh yes.....besides your porch, you get a bathtub too!!! A category 1 Suite is the equivalent of a mini suite on competitors....into a modest 246 feet Celebrity has squeezed two lower beds convertible to a king, a sitting area with a sofa bed and a larger bathroom with tub. The veranda is 79 square feet....for only $1200.00 more per couple, you can have identical accommodations but with a giant 179 square foot outdoor play area.

Only the Royal Suites and Penthouse Suites deserve the "suite" moniker. At 537 square feet of inside living space, with 94 feet to call your "yard", the Royal Suites have a bedroom, a regular living room and dining area, a dressing room with walk in closet, and a whirlpool tub and stall shower. For over $1856.00 PER COUPLE PER DAY (brochure rate), you might enjoy a 1,101 square foot Penthouse Suite....with it's 118 foot veranda. These apartments remind me of a "Circuit City" appliance store.....they're fitted with a 32" Sony multifunction, interactive television in the living room and bedroom; a VCR in the living room and bedroom; a laser vision player, projector and 100 inch flat screen; an audio system consisting of a pre amplifier, amplifier, tape deck, CD player and infrared wireless headphones; individually controlled lighting system; security camera with 5.9" LCD monitor; fax machine; AND cordless phone. I haven't checked, but I'm certain batteries aren't included....and I'd take caution plugging in my hair dryer....circuit overload, you know! Oops....the cabin includes a hair dryer already! Though they don't waive the fee for pay per view movies on the TVs in standard cabins, they might give you this service gratis if you fork over the frankly vulgar rates the line charges for all this. Assuming your butler doesn't trip on all the extension cords, he'll be happy to serve full meals, canapes, whatever you may want and pretty much whenever you want. Notwithstanding the butler service, I must pause and wonder.....if you thrive on having all the gadgets, phones, faxes and such in these suites.....why bother to leave the office?

Who Goes
Although Celebrity's advertising caters to those in the 30's and 40's age group, you'll find all types on board. The cabins are large enough to provide comfort to families.....so on holiday and summer trips, keep that in mind. The line's fixation with all things up to date......electronic gewgaws, pay per view movies in the cabins....to name a few, are to reel in the more affluent, on the go type of vacationer.

Galaxy spends the winter in the Caribbean sailing from San Juan on Southern and Western itineraries. In the spring she crosses the Atlantic in the spring for a series of summer cruises to the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. A typical 10-day Western Mediterranean itinerary departs from Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples (Italy), Mykonos (Greece), Santorini (Greece), Valletta (Malta), Barcelona (Spain), Villefranche (France) plus three days at sea. In the fall, Galaxy returns to North America for a series of Canada and New England cruises before repositioning to Baltimore Maryland, offering round-trip, 10-night Western and Southern Caribbean sailings. She finishes up the year with a series of Panama Canal sailings.

Over the past several years the quality of the food, and level of service on board the Celebrity fleet has been inconsistent. While this is not necessarily unique to Celebrity, throughout this period the company continued to promote itself as the "highest-rated premium cruise line in the industry" and a company whose vessels are "consistently recognized with five- and six-star rankings". Unfortunately, the reality is that the company could not be what they claimed to be because the fares they collected did not permit them to operate the type of product they aspired to be.

Recently though, Celebrity has implemented a series of initiatives designed to improve all aspects of shipboard service. These initiatives grew from a the results of a quality assessment program that was conducted fleetwide. While these initiative has helped improve the onboard experience, keep in mind that not all of these initiatives are available on some of the older vessels in the fleet.

So do these changes mean that you will now have a great cruise if you take the Galaxy? Probably yes. But will your cruise be extra special, giving you something other lines cannot? That depends on your expectations. Keep in mind she is one of the older vessels in the Celebrity fleet. If you are looking for a step up from Carnival or Royal Caribbean you most likely will be pleasantly surprised with your Celebrity experience. If however you are really looking for the five and six star product promoted in Celebrity advertising, you may have a hard time finding it on board.

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