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Caribbean Holiday Cruise - Part I

Author: arubalisa (More Trip Reviews by arubalisa)
Date of Trip: December 2006



We are a family of 10 spanning 4 generations -- 3 adults (early 40's), 2 adults (mid 60's), 1 great grandmother 90+ and 4 children (girls ages 10, 13, 17 and a boy age 12). Family cruise history: HAL, Renaissance, Cunard, Princess, NCL, NCL America, Carnival, RCI, Celebrity, Costa, Chandris/Fantasy, Majesty, Delta Queen Steamboat, American Hawaii Cruises. My grandmother is in her 90s and has cruised for over 60 years. For obvious reasons, I won't list all the lines she has been on...

Overview

This being a cruise over Christmas and New Years, there were mostly families aboard. Many of them, like ours, spanned generations. As a matter of fact, we were at late seating dinner at a table for ten. The adjacent table was also a family of ten traveling together and of the same age groups and generations as our own. Overall amongst the families, there was a wide variety of age groups and, I can happily report well-behaved children. On this particular voyage we observed more ill-mannered adults than children.

Just my personal preference, but with 7 ports and 3 days at sea on an 11-night cruise, this was an exhausting trip. Then even the days at sea, you could not sleep late, otherwise you would not be able to obtain a chaise lounge anywhere on deck. The itinerary would have been perfect as a 13 or 14 night sailing with 3 or 4 extra days at sea. The Galaxy is doing a 13-night holiday sailing next year with 8 ports and 4 days at sea so not sure if that is better or worse?

Transportation to San Juan

Due to a sailing right before Christmas and anticipating being unable to obtain affordable airfare, the 10 of us were booked through "Celebrity Air" from our 3 respective home cities. All flights were on the same airline, Delta, and were routed in each direction, through Delta's hub in Atlanta. This included 3 people who lived in Florida and departed from Fort Lauderdale only to have to fly north to go south. Weather up and down the entire eastern US was terribly rainy on the day we sailed and there were numerous flight delays. Luckily everyone in our party made their connection in Atlanta.

Arrival in San Juan was about 30 to 40 minutes late. Celebrity representatives were waiting for our flight at the baggage claim. After claiming luggage, it was outside to deposit it all at the luggage truck and then across the street to the waiting motor coach. Porters were readily available to assist people out to the awaiting trucks. With families traveling for 11 nights, believe me when I tell you there was tons of luggage EVERYWHERE. My brother with 2 teenage girls opted to pay the excess weight limit charge and limited them to one suitcase each. IMHO, in his case, a porter would have been less expensive.

Embarkation

Upon arrival at the terminal, everyone entered the terminal and was greeted with juice or water and, even if you had completed your paperwork and completed your online check-in, there was yet another form to fill out for Tortola immigrations. So close yet so far and not aboard just yet.

Lines for check-in and security were not long if existent at all. Cruise line agents were efficient, pleasant and plentiful. It was at this time that my brother realized he had left his jacket, brand new and a Christmas present, on Celebrity's bus which transported us over from the airport. Needless to say, by the time he ran outside, that bus was long gone. Celebrity, to their credit said they would try to track it down and sure enough they did and the jacket was delivered to his cabin 2 days later in St. Martin!

Our daughter was issued an ID bracelet with her lifeboat muster station in the event there was an emergency and she was separated from us. Ship staff could then easily take her to where she was supposed to be. As a parent this was very reassuring.

The ship was due to sail at 8 pm and it was just before 4 pm. Eventually due to the heavy rain up and down the entire east coast of the US, the ship delayed departure as well as the muster drill. First stop was Tortola, being a quick hop from San Juan it was not a big deal. Upon boarding we were greeted by some of the ship's staff, offered juice or champagne and pointed in the direction of our cabins. Finally! We begin our voyage!

The Ship

The Galaxy has a great layout. Our cabins were on deck 9, the swimming pool and Oasis Cafe are on deck 11 and the dining room for us was on deck 6. With a cabin located closest to the elevator, this was a very easy arrangement for my elderly grandmother to walk around the ship without having to walk a "mile" to get anywhere. Her cruise on the Golden Princess nearly killed her with the mileage she had to walk to get around.

The condition of the Galaxy was fine. Maybe a tad more worn than last year, but I hardly say anything which would "ruin" a cruise. That is, unless as we all know, you are someone who is sailing her for the first time and expecting gleaming, shiny, newness all around you. With the exception of some rust needing paint touch up, the ship is clean. One night I was walking across the pool deck to get to the spa and they were out pressure washing and scrubbing the pool deck which many complain is so old and worn, and thought to myself perhaps that is one reason why it is so worn! And no they have not replaced the windows in the Stratosphere! Yes, they do look like hell from the outside, but for me personally, I never go up there so they do not bother me :-)

The Crew

As was the case last year, everyone we encountered on the ship was extremely pleasant and helpful. There were plenty of smiles all around and many many familiar faces. There were many times in the Oasis Cafe when someone would offer to carry my tray and I had to politely and with a smile, ask one of the waiters or waitresses to carry the tray of someone else "who REALLY needed the help."

Our wine steward, waiter and waiter's assistant and dining room cocktail waiter from last year's cruise are all still on the Galaxy, along with many, many other familiar faces, so I guess that has to say something in of itself. The Galaxy's crew has some amazing camaraderie and takes great pride in their ship.



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