Cruise on a luxury liner: The SS Galaxy

The SS Galaxy is impressive. Crossing three simulators and on the order of 600 metres long, it is the single largest structure that we are aware of in Second Life. (If there's something larger than the SS Galaxy, by all means let us know!)

We took a trip to the SS Galaxy this week, and crawled over it from stem to stern, to see exactly what it offered, other than just an event venue.

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Arrival

There is a ferry from (and to) Sagittaria, or you can simply teleport. Either way, you arrive at port, on a quay with a gangplank that leads to the Galaxy's doors. The ferry arrives every ten minutes.

The quay has the feel of a real world quay: aluminium decking, steel fences, the sound of seagulls.

A tall ship, the Tradewind, shares the quay with the Galaxy. The Tradewind is far smaller, providing a clear contrast between the best of its era and the best of the modern.

There are several activities you can indulge in on the quay itself, including inner tube races and a 'watersnake' boat.

Entering the ship, the lobby gives a feeling of opulence. Unfortunately, it also gives a feeling of advertising. It's unpleasantly reminiscent of Atlantic City casinos - an atmosphere of wealth and beauty, marred by a desperate desire for your attention. There are enough attention-grabbing items between you and the actually helpful information (the ship model and the directory map at the far end of the room) to be seriously confusing at the outset.

Once you get to the back of the room, click on the Galaxy Weekly sign to receive your copy of the week's event schedule. You can also find the event schedule on the SS Galaxy's web page, at http://www.ssgalaxy.com/. As with a real-world cruise ship, the SS Galaxy has a wide range of events running all the time.

Facilities

Aft (left) of the lobby is a shopping mall. We found fashion, furnishings, vendor systems, and even sushi available for sale here. As with any shopping mall, the range changes as shops do.

Immediately above the shopping mall is the Rainbow Cafe. Sit and talk with your friends, while looking out through the clear glass at the rear deck. There are outdoor tables here, as well as deck chairs to lounge on. Watch the helicopters using the heliports; or the avatars using the golf driving range (balls guaranteed not to harm the Second Life wildlife!) or the skydiving gear. There is a jacuzzi outside the cafe, to soak in after a hard landing.

This area has a clean, modern feel: wooden floors, sleek metal chairs and glass-topped tables, and colored panels of lights between each of the wide glass windows of the Rainbow Cafe.

Tucked away in a nook just forward of the shopping mall is the 8-Ball Lounge, a pool-hall done in monochrome shades of black, gray and white. The only color comes from the felt on the table, and the booze bottles behind the bar. Two decks up, there is another almost-hidden secret, the penny arcade. From the Rainbow Cafe, go forward till you pass the stairs. It will be on your left, and there is a map of the ship on your right.

If you go up the stairs from the Penny Arcade you come to the ship's theatre. This theatre will show movies - the movies available and the session times are listed in the Galaxy Weekly newsletter.

Going down from the theatre one level and out the door, you come to the outer part of deck 6, which is devoted to activities. A pair of rock climbing walls are coded to allow climbing races. Yoga mats can help stretch your avatar's muscles and calm your mind, and there are classes on Mondays at 9AM. There is also a skeet shooting platform, and a jogging track that circumnavigates the deck.

Still in the aft section of deck 6, there is a ballroom with a domed clear roof, and pose balls set to allow avatars to dance a variety of ballroom, latin and modern dances. The dining room and bar are forward of the ballroom, and all three rooms have the opulence of the lobby, but without as much intrusive advertising.

Moving to the middle of deck 6, you come across the skating rink and the Glacier Cafe. Both are together under another of the ubiquitous glass roofs, but the decor this time is more relaxed. The chairs and tables seem plastic, and the floor is a rather interesting tile texture in pleasant shades of blues and grays -- except, of course, for the ice rink, which is done in ice blue-white. The room feels relaxing, and there are sounds for the two fountains, and the trees wave - presumably with the motion of the ship (since the room is enclosed, and there is no theoretical wind).

No cruise ship is complete without a luxurious pool, and the SS Galaxy's pool is called the Coral Lagoon. It's in the mid section, forward of the skating rink. The pool's bar has a coral theme, and nominally has a fishtank built into it. The pool area has two jacuzzis, a diving board, a slide, and (of course) a large pool, with li-los. Oddly, there is also a line dance floor. There are, of course, more of the plastic chairs and tables, and more deck chairs.

Cruise ships are famous for being romantic, so the SS Galaxy has a wedding chapel and a reception hall. Both are decorated mostly in monochrome, with accents of wood shades, greenery, and roses. The ceiling of the wedding chapel has a tasteful blue-and-gold pattern. The reception hall has chairs and tables for the wedding breakfast, pose balls for dancing, a bar, a buffet, and some of the more upmarket accoutrements of a wedding: a champagne fountain, a glass swan, and a baby grand piano.

At the very prow of the ship, on the topmost deck, is the Starlight Lounge. This is the smallest of the public spaces on the ship, and forms a cozy nook to watch the water from. It's definitely an upmarket place, with plush and cozy seating, and marble for the bartop.

The middle decks of the ship are reserved for the staterooms, but the lowest decks of the ship are again public spaces. At the prow is the most luxurious spa and fitness center we've ever seen, with marble floors near the water and thick carpet elsewhere. Marble pillars decorate the room, and swans or geese trail water from their mouths into the shallow indoor pool. There is, of course, another jacuzzi here, and a sauna. The weights area, while well-equipped, seems almost to be an afterthought. Towels are supplied.

For those who desire a restaurant experience, but do not wish to eat at the main dining hall, there is a Japanese restaurant on deck 1 forward. The setting is a Japanese garden at nighttime, with the walls fenced with bamboo, and the upper walls and ceiling painted with stars. Two small buildings inside the garden house tables and low cushions, making semi-private dining spaces. There is also a sushi counter to dine at, if you prefer to sit on chairs.

The nightclub on deck 1 was closed for renovation when we visited. Deck 2 forward is an art gallery. When we were there, it was showing Hawaiian flower prints by Stan P. Cox II.

Midships deck 1 is a lovely garden, very detailed, with two more jacuzzis. There is another wedding chapel, this one without the accompanying reception hall, and done in shades of brown. The aft half of deck 1 midships has a lounge in the center, with a baby grand piano and a dance floor. To one side is a bar, with a lot of comfortable low chairs and several TVs. To the other is the Nova S. Straaf art gallery.

Aft of that, you return to the initial reception lobby and hospitality desk, and the shopping mall.

Staterooms

You can, of course, choose to live on the cruise ship. There are a variety of residences at prices ranging from L$50 a day to L$5500 a week. Unoccupied residences have the curtains open so you can see in, and some of them have unlocked doors - check the suite out before you rent it.

The actual rental devices are blue 'For Rent' boxes beside the doors. Occupied rooms have the info symbol instead of 'For Rent': the resident may wish to have open curtains or an unlocked door, but the place should still be treated as private property.

The cheapest are the cabins, available on deck 2 in the midship sim, and decks 4 and 5 on the aft sim. The cabins are little more than a place to sleep and somewhere to sit, all in the same room.

Staterooms have a separate sleeping and sitting rooms, and also have a balcony with a view of the ocean. Single suites have a similar arrangement, but much more space. Staterooms and single suites are limited to deck 3.

Double suites have two floors, each with two rooms and a balcony, and doors onto both decks 4 and 5. Each floor has a similar amount of space to that in a single suite.

The VIP suites, like the double suites, have two floors and open onto both decks 4 and 5. There are two choices of VIP suite: the standard and the star. The star comes furnished, and gives a better indication of how the rooms can be used.

In the VIP star suites, the upper floor has a bathroom and bedroom, and the upper balcony has a pair of outdoor chaise lounges. The lower balcony has a conversational arrangement. The lower floor has a lounge area and a dining area in the larger room, a sitting area in the wide hallway, and a kitchen in the smaller of the two deck 4 rooms.

There are two honeymoon suites, with balcony, spacious bed, and comfortable bathroom. The dining table in these suites sits two, the couches are comfortably snug for two, and (continuing the theme, of course) the suites have two levels.

The two Captain's Suites occupy the foremost section of the ship, and cross decks 3, 4 and 5. They're have all the facilities one could wish for, including a kitchen, a dining room, and a private bar. And three balconies.

Final thoughts

Well, we liked it. There's nothing quite like the SS Galaxy in Second Life, and in a world full of wonders, its uniqueness, size and comparatively opulent mundanity actually work in its favor.

If you've never been on a real world cruise ship, the Galaxy shows you what it might be like. Despite being - on surface appearance - more normal than most places in Second Life, the SS Galaxy is just as much a fantasy for many of us as the most outre fairyland or futuristic mecha sim. If you have traveled by cruise ship, or have worked on one, the Galaxy offers you a chance to enjoy a cruise ship without being trapped with rude fellow-passengers, no seagull droppings, and full access to the most expensive luxury lounges.

There are tight places in the structure, and you will want to use Mouselook (first-person camera) to get around in some parts of the ship.

Spanning three simulators isn't easy. It is possible to fall through the decking when crossing the simulator borders. It is regrettable, but there doesn't seem to be much that can be done about that. It's also too big to get the whole thing on camera, even at maximum draw-distance, and any photo that encompasses a significant portion of it belies the sheer scale of the beast.

Worth visiting.

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This article was originally published on Massively.