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Cruising Aboard the Galaxy

Art on the Ocean

After six days of custom-made weather sailing aboard the Galaxy in the Western Caribbean, it rained for part of the last and seventh day. Nevertheless, we did not suffer any disappointment. No port stops had been scheduled for that Saturday and while others might have bemoaned the lack of sun in the morning, we followed the same routine that we might have during inclement weather at home. We looked at art.

The Galaxy is the second in a trilogy of Celebrity ships designated as museums at sea. Christina Chandris, art consultant to the line, assembled more than 450 works by over 150 recognized and emerging artists in a variety of media, dating from the late 1980s and the 1990s. Mrs. Chandris's goals are "to add a totally new dimension" to the cruising experience and "to give the guest the opportunity to live among these works."

The avant-garde collection includes not only painting, sculpture and photography but video, conceptual and installation art. A few of the better-known artists whose works are displayed in the public corridors are Joan Mitchell, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons. Lithographs, drawings, woodcuts, acquatints and assemblages are some of the descriptions on the identifying plaques.

Hydrotherapy bath, Aquaspa (sm), The Galaxy

The curator has done a superb job of arranging the art, which is positioned so that it can be shown to maximum advantage in relation to the space available. Artists' works are mostly grouped together for the best viewing experience. Guest relations has a printed self-guided tour leading the viewer through every area from decks five to 12 and pointing out the highlights.

Perhaps you might discover some unfamiliar artist who catches your eye. For us it was Christiane Richter. The untitled water colors on paper with solid backgrounds and bright shaded borders evoked the reaction that Christina Chandris intended, "to develop a personal response."

We liked the ship's design, which is light, airy, contemporary and lacking in glitz. Galaxy is much like a floating resort and the number of on board activities (80 hours of fun on sea days, not including the music) seems endless. Of course, it takes a big ship to provide the space and staff for all that entertainment. Nevertheless, because of the service and the design— there are many intimate corners —the experience is not unlike cruising on a smaller boat. You might, for instance, socialize at the Martini Bar; the Champagne and Caviar Bar; Michael's Club, a lounge where cigars are hand-rolled for smokers; and Tastings, which offers specialty coffees.

Also new and innovative is the Sony Wonder Suite where computers are available so that guests unfamiliar with the internet can receive instruction and explore a functional model of an individually created Galaxy intranet in a non-threatening atmosphere. The computer room is just one of many technological installations. The Celebrity Network allows guests to access information using interactive TV in their cabins. They might, for example, preview shore excursions and reserve space without having to attend lectures and stand in line to purchase tickets.

Spa services and gyms are very important elements of shipboard life. No passenger could fault the exercise and beauty treatments program on the Galaxy. Designed specifically for Celebrity by the Steiner Group of London, the 10,000-square foot AquaSpa(sm) features water treatments and is one of two of the most technically advanced spas at sea. Michele and Clive Warshaw, the originators, call it an "adult playground, but one that is good for you."

They describe the hydrotherapy bath, a pool with jets at several stations that massage different parts of the body, as "getting into an alka seltzer bath."

All 35 pieces of equipment are the finest and the most up-to-date, especially the virtual reality bikes, which combine cycling and video games. Trainers are on hand and classes are offered throughout the cruise. To join the frequent fitness program, consult the daily schedule for the starred events, such as golf putting and basketball. Prizes are awarded for accumulating a specific number of points.

Those who are concerned about fitness while vacationing will also consider the problem of being confronted with too much food and too many food choices. They need not be. Michel Roux, famed London chef and consultant to the kitchen, has produced a lean and light menu for lunch and dinner. Even room service offers light fare.

Galaxy had only been in the water about a month when we sailed on it. Nevertheless, everything seemed to be running smoothly from the spectacular shows in the stunning theater to the well-planned shore excursions. We were told that there is more to come, such as a package that includes a physical exam, fresh blinis in the Caviar Bar, teas at Tastings and new trips onshore.

There are 55 connecting cabins, allowing families traveling together to configure suitable accommodations. One caveat, none of the regular rooms have bathtubs so if a long soak and a Jacuzzi are on your list of musts, reserve a suite.

Celebrity Cruises. Tel. 800-437-3111. www.celebrity.com

Spring 1997