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Cruise Views

Galaxy's New Universe Is Cold Alaska

March 16, 1997|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Slater and Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month

Celebrity Cruises' 77,713-ton Galaxy, on its way to an Alaska summer season, is scheduled to make its first West Coast call at San Diego May 5 and Los Angeles May 6. It will be the largest cruise ship to transit the Panama Canal and to operate in Alaska.

Before the new ship debuted in December, the line had changed its year-round Caribbean schedule to allow the Galaxy to join the smaller Horizon for the 1997 summer Alaska season and, perhaps not coincidentally, compete in northern waters with Princess Cruises' new pair of megaships, the 77,000-ton Sun Princess and Dawn Princess.

The Galaxy is second in a series of three vessels built with Sony, which created interactive shipboard technology and entertainment venues. Century, which made its debut in December 1995, was the first. The Mercury is scheduled to begin service this fall and make its Alaska debut in the summer of 1998.

Overall, the Galaxy is more attractive than the older Century. One of the most appealing areas is the enclosed Oasis pool, covered with a retractable glass sunroof that should be popular in Alaska. A garden cafe has tables and chairs around the pool and a corner grill to supplement the large buffet in the adjacent Oasis Cafe.

A vast space, 10,053 square feet, is dedicated to the AquaSpa, with a hydrotherapy bath, hydro jet massage, mud therapy, aqua meditation, seaweed wraps, sauna, steam room, massage and beauty salon.

The 925-seat theater contains a hydraulic orchestra pit to raise and lower the musicians during shows, and the sight lines are excellent from all five tiers of seating. The center of the stage revolves, a 48-cube video wall projects live close-ups of performers, and laser and fog special effects are generously employed.

The two-deck Orion dining room with its grand stairway is dominated by a ceiling dome with the Earth and constellations depicted. The cuisine, supervised by London's three-star Guide Michelin chef Michel Roux, continues to excel. The success of the food aboard relies more on freshness of ingredients and cooked-to-order immediacy than elaborate menus or intricate dishes.

The wood-paneled Michael's Club, with a resident cigar-maker, is set aside for cigar smokers after dinner. Also trendy is the new Martini Bar at the Savoy, with a list of 26 martinis.

While there are larger and more elaborate suites on board, the top deck sky suites, 246 square feet plus a large private veranda, should please any sybarite with their all-day butler service, 24-hour room service, TV/VCR/CD player, interactive cabin TV, voice mail, terry-cloth robes, personalized stationery and the like. They're priced from $4,795 per person, double occupancy, plus air add-ons. When booking one, look carefully at the deck plan: A scalloped design along this deck means some cabins have much larger verandas than others.

A standard outside cabin measures 172 square feet and includes most of the perks above, except for the butler service and VCR/CD player. Alaska cruise prices for these begin at $2,395 per person, double occupancy, plus air fare.

The smallest cabins are insides that measure 171 square feet with all the standard amenities, priced from $1,945 per person, double occupancy. Eight cabins are designated wheelchair accessible.

After the two repositioning cruises, an April 20 departure from Fort Lauderdale and May 6 departure from Los Angeles, the Galaxy will make weekly seven-night round-trip sailings from Vancouver, Canada, cruising the Inside Passage and Glacier Bay and calling in Skagway, Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan.

For a free color brochure, see a travel agent or call Celebrity Cruises at (800) 437-3111.

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