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Sail Date: April 2012
We agree with most of the information provided in reviews contained in this forum but with less enthusiasm. I will add some personal thoughts. The itinerary was fine but after seeing bluefooted boobies, sally lightfoot crabs, sealions, ... Read More
We agree with most of the information provided in reviews contained in this forum but with less enthusiasm. I will add some personal thoughts. The itinerary was fine but after seeing bluefooted boobies, sally lightfoot crabs, sealions, marine iguanas, frigate birds, lava lizards, little birds, for two days they all became somewhat old after that. The contracted guides were excellent but Carlos and Marvin really stood out. The zodiac drivers had good skills. The cruise director did little more than present a briefing on the following days activities and checked people off the boat on each zodiac event. He made no attempt to get to know any of the passengers. Viewed two BC documentaries on the Galapagos during the afternoons and they were good. would have enjoyed more enrichment activities. The food was OK and well presented but nothing really exceptional. The wines were very nice. Stuck with fish dishes most nights and it was tasty most evenings. Breakfasts and lunches were average. Sitting in the aftmost section of the vessel resulted in delays in eating dinner. Dinner should have commenced an hour earlier. I got really sick on the morning we disembarked, was it the lobster the previous dinner? Ran into some other passengers in Cusco post-cruise and they mentioned the same GI tract illness and they had eaten the lobster too. Maitre'd Fernando was extraordinary, likely the best I've seen in over 35 cruises, he couldn't do enough for us, very friendly. He did a nice job of organizing my wife's birthday celebration. He was the hardest working person in the crew. Saw the Captain twice at the Welcome Aboard and Farewell meetings. He didn't mingle at all. Was not on the bridge when we toured it. So glad we opted to do Cusco and Machu Picchu on our own post-cruise as we saved thousands over what Celebrity was charging even with staying at the obscenely expensive Sanctuary Hotel for one night. It was easy for me to put together a nice 5 day post-cruise land excursion package. The snorkeling was poor (limited visibility) at best (was this bad luck or was it normal?), the Xpedition provided equipment was adequate. Opted not to try snorkeling the final opportunity because I had been so disappointd earlier and I understand I missed the best day of snorkeling. Perhaps I've been spoiled by really great snorkeling in the Tahiti area. The cabin was fine and the attendant was wonderful. The beds were comfortable and the linens were fine but the bathroom was a bit on the tiny side. Compared to our Silversea experience in the Antarctic on Prince Albert II (now Silver Explorer), Celebrity Xpedition comes in a distant second in nearly every category. All in all, we had a good Galapagos cruise but I think 5 nights vs. 7 nights would have been ideal. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
The cruise around the Islands of the Galapagos was great. It far exceeded expectations and we were very happy. It seems that all the cruise lines are under the fist of the Galapagos Islands and have some very stringent rules they must ... Read More
The cruise around the Islands of the Galapagos was great. It far exceeded expectations and we were very happy. It seems that all the cruise lines are under the fist of the Galapagos Islands and have some very stringent rules they must follow. Like, food from approved sources, staff must all be locals, Islands must be visited by select timetables, the Guides must be employed by the Galapagos Islands government. So bearing these contrictions in mind, only a few things can be improved on. The food was adequate and not up to normal cruise ship standards. The guides, although knowledgeable, if you get a not so good one, your stuck. On the Xpedition there were at least 6 guides and I would say that 2 were outstanding, 2 were good and 2 were not so good. The cruise director is a complete waste of time and I would bet that he did not know the names of as little as 2 passengers by the end of the voyage. More interested in surfing the web and checking people off the ship and back on. The tours were great and it is all you expect and more. The staff on board were fantastic, so attentive and helpful, the Maitre D, Fernando was the best I have ever seen. I would recommend this cruise to friends and would advise people to go now. The staterooms were roomy and good. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
We have just returned from the Galapagos Cruise with Celebrity Xpedition Cruise A departing 26FEB12 Although we had originally booked and planed on travelling on what is now Cruise B over a year ago we tried to make the best of the ... Read More
We have just returned from the Galapagos Cruise with Celebrity Xpedition Cruise A departing 26FEB12 Although we had originally booked and planed on travelling on what is now Cruise B over a year ago we tried to make the best of the experience given that we had 3 days advance notice from Celebrity that our trip of a life time that we had planned on is now all rearranged My wife and I had this trip planned specifically for our wedding anniversary on 29FEB this is our once in every four years chance to do a great celebration. After contacting Celebrity we were told that they had been aware of the change since January 2012. We were also aware that the new regulations were to be in effect as of 2012 per the Galapagos national park system. I understand that itineries can change without notice, but what we were upset about was the lack of notice or caring from Celebrity. We went ahead and continued with our 10day package that included a two night pre departure stay in Quito at the JW Marriott hotel. We had decided to do an additional night on our own at the Marriott hotel so that we would be rested before the actual tour started. When we enquired at the front desk as to what time the representatives would arrive at the hotel we were advised that they would be there at 1830hrs so we decided to delay dinner so we would be sure to meet with Celebrity and get all of the correct information for the remainder of the tour. Well the Celebrity representatives did not show up until after 1930 HRS so this resulted in our cancellations of our dinner and folklorico show. You would have thought that as long as this program has been operating that they would have at least this part down. The next morning for the full day City tour and Equator monument and dinner was great, that evening we took our luggage to the holding area that Celebrity arranged and transferred the checked bags directly to the airport we did not have to do a thing. Sunday morning we all met in the lobby Celebrity issued our boarding passes and off to the airport we went to catch our chartered flight on Aero Gal to Baltra, very smooth, very nice. From the Airport we transferred to the Zodiac, sea lions there to greet us and then off we go to the Xpedition. The ship's crew was very welcoming and assisted us with our carryon baggage to our rooms. In the afternoon we all regrouped with a welcoming cocktail and then proceeded to start our adventure by circumnavigating Daphne Major and Daphne minor. We noticed at this point that Cabin temperature was as we got ready for dinner. As we continued with dinner we noticed that the dining room was also very warm and we dismissed this as they were adjusting the temperature to the outside but that evening our cabin never cooled down. The next morning we discussed this problem with other passengers and they advised they were having the same issue in their cabins but only on deck 3, decks 4 and 5 were very cold they said. Of course Deck 3 is also where the Darwin restaurant was located so needless to say the Dining room was also very hot with the kitchen close by. We complained to the purser and several officers all week about the heat and no one cared not until one passenger almost fainted due to the heat and then they tried to resolve the issue by only giving her a small fan in the cabin Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
The first thing I have to say is that for anyone considering going on this cruise, I HIGHLY recommend it. Definitely the trip of a lifetime, and the most fun and stress free vacation i have ever had. I'm going to break my review ... Read More
The first thing I have to say is that for anyone considering going on this cruise, I HIGHLY recommend it. Definitely the trip of a lifetime, and the most fun and stress free vacation i have ever had. I'm going to break my review down into sub headings, so that if you are wondering about a specific topic you can scroll ahead without having to sift through my entire review. Arrival in Quito - Flawless experience. Was met by a celebrity representative at the airport in quito upon arrival, and was immediately escorted onto a bus along with other celebrity guests and brought to the five star j.w. marriot hotel. J.W. Marriot Hotel - The hotel is nice, has a lovely outdoor pool and hot tub, and the rooms are spacious with a shower and a bath, and roses on the beds. Celebrity has a special hospitality desk set up in the lobby, so check in was quick and painless. Tour of Quito - The tour of Quito done by Celebrity is very well planned and allows everyone to see the main parts of the city effectively without being too tiring. My only advice for Quito is to definitely go and see the equator; they give you an opportunity to go back to the hotel after lunch if you are tired, but you can nap on the bus on the way up to the equator park and it is something you definitely don't want to miss out on! The tour in Quito is also a good opportunity to by paintings and bags and scarves from the native people, as here you will have the most time. Dinner was at Carmines Restaurant, and everything was lovely. The owner was extremely friendly, making sure everyone liked their food, and he even brought a woman at my table an extra dessert after he overhead her talking about wanting to try another one on the menu. My only other comment about Quito is due to the timing of my celebrity cruise, i got to be in quito for New Years, which was an amazing experience. The locals have so many fun traditions and it was really neat to be able to experience ecuadorian culture in such a big way. Charter Flight from Quito to the Galapagos - lovely flight on new-looking charter AeroGal plane. The plane was comfortable, and breakfast was served with real cloth placemats and napkins and metal silverware. Baltra Airport - It took only about ten minutes to get through the galapagos customs and bag check (they open your carry ons to make sure you don't have anything that could harm wildlife or carry diseases). Past the security check everyone was met by two of the Xpedition Naturalists who told us we had 20 minutes until we would be taken by bus to board the ship. There are quite a few little shops outside the airport selling t-shirts, hats and other souvenirs, so i was glad for the 20 minutes to look around and buy a few things. The prices were very reasonable. After that everyone boarded a few buses which took us to the dock. Boarding the Xpedition - At the dock you can see the Xpedition anchored offshore in the bay, and everyone is given lifejackets to board the zodiacs. The zodiacs take groups of about sixteen people, and the celebrity crew are wonderful about helping you to get your carry on onto the zodiac. Boarding the zodiac is a simple step from the dock onto the front of the boat where there is a few steps with a handrail to help you into the boat. In addition, the Naturalist on the zodiac teaches you the "galapagos handshake" (like shaking hands but grabbing each other's forearms instead) which they do every time to steady everyone when getting on or off the zodiacs. Stateroom- I was in an oceanview stateroom. I found that the bed was comfortable, and the room didn't feel cramped like i thought it might. The bathroom has a fairly roomy shower with a glass door and even a small cabinet for placing toothbrushes hairbrushes etc. There are also two large closets in the stateroom ( one for each person) and these provide lots of room to put away all of your clothes. Stateroom Attendants - My stateroom attendant was Salome, who was wonderful. I swear every single time i left my stateroom and returned, she had been in there and re-made my bed, re-stocked the mini fridge (full of sprite, water, and coca-cola) and left ecuadorian chocolate on my pillow. She even folded my pyjamas every morning and tucked them under my pillow, and then while i was at dinner, would come back in and lay my pyjamas out on the bed and turn down the corner of the covers! Food - It is definitely impossible to go hungry on this cruise. BREAKFAST was always a buffet served in the Darwin Restaurant that included bacon, eggs, french toast, pancakes, an omelette station, many fruit options, some yogurt, granola, cereal, and a couple other things. LUNCH was usually a themed buffet in Darwin's Restaurant (mexican, ecuadorian, etc.) with the alternate option of a hot dog, hamburger, chicken, or fish at the Beagle Grill. THe only exception was one day where darwins was closed because there was instead a delicious bbq out by the beagle grill. They had grilled steak, lobster, hamburgers, sausages, hot dogs, corn, a salad bar, and many more things i was too full to try. DINNER is always held in Darwin's Restaurant and is served to your table. There is a standard menu of appetizers and entrees that you can always order (like ceasar salad, steak, chicken, fish, and a few others) and then there is also a daily menu of 5 different entree options and some different appetizers and desserts. All of the food is good, it's not gourmet or extravagant, but i didn't experience anything that i disliked. Waiters - the waiters and bus boys were all very friendly and provided excellent service. The always came around promptly to refill water and wine glasses and ask if you needed anything. Some of them did not speak very much english, but smiled a lot and always got someone else to help you if they didn't understand your request. Juan was my waiter for the majority of the nights and was amazing, greeting me by name and asking about my day. Maitre D - the maitre D while i was on board was Mauricio. I have only the most excellent things to say about him. He asked me my name once on the very first day and remembered it the entire cruise. He also was very charming greeted everyone with a smile whenever they came into the dining room. He was constantly making sure everyone's meals were going well, and i even saw him carry an older lady's plate and take her arm to escort her up the stairs when she wished to eat her lunch up on the patio. Everyone on the cruise loved Mauricio, his english is very, very good,and he was good natured enough to jump in and help people out during karaoke and talent show nights. Cruise Director - the cruise director while i was on board was Bitinia. She did a spectacular job every night at the briefings outlining the excursions for the next day and answering questions. Also, there was a crossword puzzle challenge on the second last day, and my group finished first. That night at the briefing she called my crossword puzzle group up and gave us all celebrity Xpedition t-shirts. It was a lovely gesture and a great souvenir to have! Naturalists - The six naturalists on board during my cruise were Veronica, David, Manuel, Carlos, Freddy, and Fabricio. All were knowledgable and friendly, and must be saints to put up with dumb questions, and people asking the same questions over and over again because they were not listening the naturalists the first three times. Veronica - very cheerful, and enthusiastic, and remembered my name David - told neat little stories Manuel - hardly ever wore shoes, even on sharp rocks! apparently he grew up not wearing them He was also extremely kowledgable. Carlos - high fived me every time he saw me, and did hilarious impressions of all the galapagos animals Freddy - sung in the talent show (he was very good) and showed me pictures of his two little girls: so adorable! Fabricio - great sense of humour, and is a very thorough guide. He is always being told to hurry up over the xpedition radios that the guides carry because we are only supposed to be on the islands for 2.5 hours at a time, but he was so busy pointing out interesting things that his group was always pushing the time limit. Learned a lot from him. Panga/ Zodiac Drivers - they were all very skilled at manoeuvring the boats to make it easy for everyone to get on/off and to make sure everyone could see the wildlife that was around the zodiacs. There were four of them, but the only one i talked to was Freddie, who did not speak much english, but he was very nice. He smiled a lot and made sure to point out wildlife to me when i was sitting near him. Discovery Lounge and Bar- lovely gathering space for all of the guests. The nigtly briefings were held in here, and then after dinner the evening entertainment was also held in this place.I personally spent a lot of time in here when on the ship instead of spending it in my cabin, because it was fun to sit with new people and play cards, or chat, or read a book. It was also good because you could always go get some juice or coffee or water from the bar whenever you wanted. Bridge Visit - there is an option to visit the bridge of the ship while onboard and i highly recommend it. You just have to sign up in the guest services area after you are onboard. The navigator shows you all of the equipment in the bridge, and talks about how the boat works, and has very interesting stories that he tells. I forget his name but the navigator taught me a lot on the bridge tour and it is definitely worth checking out! Snorkelling - the snorkelling was tons of fun. The boat provides wetsuits, masks, snorkels, and fins, so you don't need to bring any of your own gear. All of the equipment is in good shape and they had adequate wetsuit sizes for everyone. The Advanced Deepwater snorkel was by far the best, and if you have no difficulty swimming, i highly recommend choosing to do it. Even if you do not have any snorkelling experience, you will be able to do the advanced snorkel as long as you feel comfortable not being able to touch the bottom. Well that is everything that i could think of to mention specifically in this review. All of the wildlife was incredible and all of the excursions were definitely worth going on. The difficulty of the walks is not extreme, but for older cruisers who would have trouble on uneven, rocky terrain, i recommend taking the easier excursion options as opposed to the difficult ones. You will see practically all of the same wildlife and will not be at risk of falling or feeling unsteady on your feet. That is all, hopefully you already have, or are planning to go on this wonderful cruise! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
We left Atlanta, Georgia and flew directly to Quito, Ecuador. We stayed at the beautiful JW Marriott and toured with Celebrity the city of Quito. On Sunday we flew on a chartered flight to Baltra, Ecuador to begin our Expedition of the ... Read More
We left Atlanta, Georgia and flew directly to Quito, Ecuador. We stayed at the beautiful JW Marriott and toured with Celebrity the city of Quito. On Sunday we flew on a chartered flight to Baltra, Ecuador to begin our Expedition of the Galapagos Islands. We just got back from our Dec 4th sailing, we were in #305. We had a great little cabin, 165 sq ft. The window was a good size and we never felt like we were a sardine in a can. Great closets (2) and shelves. We had plenty of room. No need to pay for a cabin a floor above, they are the same size, unless going to a Suite. The bathroom was also larger than most. It had a nice size shower. We used 2 duffelbags and they fit nicely under the beds. We kept the configuration of 2 twins. They were narrower than a twin andmummy shaped. I did not want to get stuck against the wall. When not at home we sleep on our own side of bed. Be sure to take a power stip for charging cameras, etc. The ipod connection on the alarm clock was loose so had to play with it to hear music. The news on the TV was 3 weeks old. Get the daily print out of news from guest relations. There were some good old movies. We were never in the rooms except to sleep, including, almost daily naps. Go rested up as you are in for a real treat of trecking around enjoying al of the animals. We saw everything, including the albatross - wow what big wing spans. We had the best cruisers on our trip, can't say good enough about all of them. The average age was maybe early to mid 60's. Had some in 40's and several in 70's who were in great shape, better than us. Everyone switched around at night to eat with new people, had such a great trip!! Could go on and on about it. The first two days the hiking was the hardest, on round smallish boulders. After that it was much easier. Loved all of the sea lions, especially the curious babies. So adorable!! The snorkeling was wonderful, so glad we got the Canon D10 waterproof camera. It is 12 megapixels and was excellent. The movies underwater and above were excellent. The above water pictures were also excellent. Jim has an SLR Canon EOS20 and my pictures were almost as good as his. What was good was it is a sealed cameral so water, dust and sand would not hurt it. I love my penguin pictures of it coming out of the water and hopping and waddlig up the hill of lava rock. Sooo cute!! I only liked one meat meal at night. Lunch seemed better, especially the cookouts. The fish was fresh and very good. All around I would say the food was fine, not there for the food. Always a good variety. A highlight was the lunch at the Opera House. We had Stahl, an opera singer sing for us. WOW, what a surprise, he was excellent. He is from Ecuador, but was also raised in the NW US, Houston and Toronto, Ontario. His english is excellent and he did some Sinatra, Crosby and then a mix of other music. Super nice person, bought his cd and proceeds to to a childrens charity in Quito. We had Alex Lomas for a tour to Octavalo on Friday. We learned so much, he is very attentive, along with the driver. He is very knowledgeable, speaks excellent english and did everything to be sure we were happy with our tour. We learned about him from previous Expedition cruisers, and saw only excellent reviews o him. We also did a tour on Monday after returning to Quito after the cruise. That tour was to the Mindo Cloud Forest. David and Iris from England joined us. Have never seen so many hummingbirds in my life. I was soexcited as some landed on my fingers! Made my trip!! If I think of something that is important to you I will write again, if you have any questions ask away. jms28732 at bellsouth dot net Celebrity did an excellent job on this trip 5 Stars across the board!! Thank you Celebrity for making this a trip of a lifetime!!! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2011
In reading other people's reviews, we noticed a constant theme which was, "trip of a lifetime" and that proved to be the same with our trip. If you are planning on taking this trip as a relaxing cruise, think again and ... Read More
In reading other people's reviews, we noticed a constant theme which was, "trip of a lifetime" and that proved to be the same with our trip. If you are planning on taking this trip as a relaxing cruise, think again and change to another ship. This trip was one of the most active that I have been on and everyday got better and better. However, let me digress back to the beginning. We arrived in Quito on Wednesday night as we had tacked a couple extra days on our stay to give us more time to unwind. We stayed at the J.W. Marriott so we could roll into the Celebrity pre-cruise package, which I would highly recommend. The hotel is nice, but not as nice as other J.W. Marriott hotels that we have stayed in. We took the Celebrity "city tour" on Saturday and found it to be well organized but somewhat boring. Others seemed to enjoy it and the lunch that was provided was great. Some reviews I read indicated the area around the hotel did not appear to be safe and not near any shopping. That is not correct. There is a three story very modern shopping mall that is a 10 minute walk from the hotel which we went to and were impressed. Anyway, on Sunday, we loaded up on the buses to the airport for our flight to Baltra. We left our luggage in the care of Celebrity and the next time we would see it would be in our stateroom. The airport was an easy experience and we were soon on the chartered A319 Airbus for the two hour flight. The service on the plane included a great hot meal and any drinks with outstanding service. This was the start of perfect service that would continue throughout the week. Upon arrival in Baltra Airport, we quickly moved through customs and were on another bus being moved to the harbor. That drive took all of eight minutes and we were escorted out to large Zodiac boats for the Zodiac trip out to the beautiful ship. On that note, be sure to wear appropriate clothing and shoes for the Zodiacs. They can be a little challenging to board! Upon arrival at the ship, we were handed ice cold towels and taken to the lounge where we were served cold Champagne and were briefly told what to expect that day. We were then taken to our rooms where another chilled bottle of sparkling wine was waiting for us. The tour of the ship took less than five minutes and then we had the usual lifeboat drill, which was painless. We pulled up anchor and were on the move within an hour. By four thirty in the afternoon, we were changed and heading back to the Zodiac boats for our ride to the first island! Our first island had us stepping over baby sea lions, Iguanas, walking by Blue-Footed Boobies and every other bird known to mankind it seemed. The most amazing part is that none of the creatures seem to be afraid of you. They either stare at you or just plain ignore you. After spending a couple of hours there, we were back on the Zodiacs heading to the ship. Walking up to the rear deck from the water line we were greeted by live music and a mini bar with iced-down beer, wine, cold water, appetizers, or you could go inside and get something stronger if desired. The following days proved to be as exciting as the first. There are different levels of activity, from strenuous to easy. We chose the strenuous and averaged quite a few miles walking each day. The snorkeling was fabulous. The sea lions (and you will see fur seals later in the trip) watch you get in the water and the baby ones immediately come swimming over to play. I had been told that anything you do in the water, the sea lions will mimic. I did not believe it until the sea lions tried to repeat my movements. I blew a bunch of bubbles and one swam up to my mask and blew a bunch of bubbles in my face....too cute to describe. The sea lions took off for a few minutes and I did not understand why until I saw the shark under me. The white tip reef shark is not aggressive and makes for a good photo op if you can get it. Each day there are two excursions in the morning and two in the afternoon. The night before you pick one morning and one afternoon. Of the two in the morning, one is more walking than the other, and the same for the afternoon. I am 57 years old and in decent shape and did not have any problems with the harder ones. The entire crew is fantastic, especially the Naturalists. The food was good, however, there were problems with the service in the dining room. If you are expecting service like the large cruise ships, this won't live up to it. I learned that the cruise line can only hire the local Ecuadorian citizen and it appeared we had a new group who were in training with limited English. However, they were all trying extremely hard to please and I was not on this cruise for a dinner party; so no worries. All throughout the week the Naturalists had been taking photos, and on our last night we were treated to an amazing Power Point slide show of our photos and were then given a free CD of the show. A very classy touch. We had the suite with a balcony which was very nice, however, I am not sure it is needed. We did not spend much time on the balcony as we could just walk out of the room and take a few steps and be on deck with a better view. If you have the extra money, then go for the suite but if not, don't waste your money on it. The transfer back to Baltra then to Quito was just as painless and we never touched our luggage again until it appeared in our room at the J.W. Marriott later that afternoon. Overall, if I had to rate this experience between a 1 to 10, I could not....I would have to rate it a 100. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
I am not going to go into day to day detail as it has been done before and all is accurate. Celebrity definitely does a superb job in the Galapagos. From the airport to the JW Marriot, meals on land and on the ship the staff are all ... Read More
I am not going to go into day to day detail as it has been done before and all is accurate. Celebrity definitely does a superb job in the Galapagos. From the airport to the JW Marriot, meals on land and on the ship the staff are all very professional and make it a seamless vacation. It is very inspirational to be in a place where the wildlife has no fear of humans. I travelled with my husband, we are both in our 50's and always did the long walk with no issues. This trip lived up to everything we could imagine and we would go back in a minute if given the chance. We saw every type of mammal, reptile and bird we expected we would see and more. The naturalists were fun, interesting and very proud of their country. We had Manuel, William, Fatima, David, Jorge and Marvi. Jean was our cruise director. All did an excellent job. The bar/restaurant staff were all very attentive.We stayed in the least expensive stateroom and had plenty of space, 2 closets and a roomy bathroom. Meals were excellent. We loved the fresh cold towels given out after the tours. Not an additional dime to spend on this 11 days unless you wanted to purchase souvenirs or Internet minutes on the ship. Not the cruise you want to wait too long to do as getting on the zodiacs from the wet landings can be a bit challenging if you have limited mobility. We hated to leave such a beautiful and serene country! Would recommend to anyone who is a nature lover. Hats off to Celebrity for a job well done!!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
We went on the same cruise as Patthecruiser and had the stateroom next door to his. My comments are similar to his. This was an overall wonderful experience. The small ship with only 92 passengers meant that we got to know nearly ... Read More
We went on the same cruise as Patthecruiser and had the stateroom next door to his. My comments are similar to his. This was an overall wonderful experience. The small ship with only 92 passengers meant that we got to know nearly everyone on the cruise. They were a mixture of Brits, Canadians, and Americans. Being all inclusive was very convenient. It was nice not to have to pull out your card and sign for every drink. This is an expensive cruise but when you figure that all the excursions are included and there are no on-board extras except for massages, the cost is not unreasonable. Being a small ship means there are no fancy stage shows, climbing walls, or putting greens. That's alright, though, since the focus of this cruise is the environment. There are no sea days in which to kill time, and the excursions where you have the opportunity to see some outstanding flora and fauna are all the entertainment needed. I agree that some of the servers appeared to be inexperienced and this resulted in some mixed up orders and slow service. But they made up for it with a positive, friendly attitude and a desire to do well. The shore excursions were all led by experienced Naturalists. They were all great - passionate about their country, knowledgeable, and personable. They were what took this cruise to another level. I was suprised at the number of seniors on this cruise. It's not a sedate trip. They offer two options for each excursion which is good for the less active. And yet, nearly everyone on board was active and taking advantage of the more challenging excursions. They tend to exaggerate the difficulty of the excursions. My experience is that they are not as challenging as described. Overall, the quality of service on board and onshore was first rate. The two nights in Quito before the cruise and one night after make for a more relaxed trip. Quito is worth seeing once. An old city of 2 million at more than 9000 feet. The time in Quito included a fairly interesting day excursion, two very good dinners, a good lunch, and breakfasts. This is really an all-inclusive cruise. There is no where else in the world like the Galapagos. This is a once in a lifetime trip. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2011
Amen to "the trip of a lifetime." Plan on a lot of walking and never a dull moment, but everything was so well done and coordinated by Celebrity. I can find nothing to fault about the entire cruise. You all will have the best ... Read More
Amen to "the trip of a lifetime." Plan on a lot of walking and never a dull moment, but everything was so well done and coordinated by Celebrity. I can find nothing to fault about the entire cruise. You all will have the best time, but will be worn out at the end of each day. Sorry ours is over. (8/28 sailing) Wish Celebrity could find another spot in the world to do a similar cruise. Loved the size of the ship - would NOT have wanted a smaller ship with the waves and the boat movement. We did nothing to avoid sea-sickness (no patches or medicines) and had no problems, but I am glad the ship had stabilizers. Be sure you do a BRIDGE TOUR; this was the best such tour I've ever been on, most informative. We brought only a small carry-on and a backpack apiece so nothing had to be checked on the flight to and from Quito. We had plenty of clothes. Brought only shorts and shirts, one pair of long pants for Quito and a rain jacket; everything was very informal. Took a pair of water shoes and our Sketchers SHAPEUPS. The Sketchers were THE best for walking on the lava. Did bring our skins and were extremely happy that we did. We did not use the wetsuits that the ship provided at all. The skins kept us plenty warm and were much more convenient than the wetsuits. We did ALL of the snorkel trips available. We are accustomed to our own fins but used theirs and were happy enough. We did bring our own masks and snorkels, however. Brought a small notebook computer to download pictures each night. Be sure to say "hello" to the Captain; he is extremely pleasant and no one talks to him. He enjoys talking to passengers. Try to watch the National Geo series on the Galapagos BEFORE you go, if possible. They show it on Nat Geo WILD often. You will recognize the birds, lizards, etc when you see them. The crew was fantastic - very helpful. Best food ever - lobster 5 times. THE best desserts. I usually don't eat dessert, but these were a perfect small size and were delicious. Naturalists were so well-prepared, friendly, and helpful. They led discussions on life on the Galapagos, geology. Took pictures throughout the trip and presented us a CD at the end of the cruise. The Cruise Director was very informative and caring about the safety of all of us. The hotel in Quito was lovely, full of roses. Nice stay there. Celebrity had everything on land well-organized so everything went smoothly. The restaurant was delicious - Carmines. The entire cruise was flawless with respect to Celebrity's involvement. Can think of nothing negative to report. Kudos to Celebrity. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2011
We booked this trip 18 months in advance after visiting a travel show. I was a little concerned because I didn't think the Galapagos cruise on Celebrity could be as good as everyone said, but I was wrong... It was better. We have ... Read More
We booked this trip 18 months in advance after visiting a travel show. I was a little concerned because I didn't think the Galapagos cruise on Celebrity could be as good as everyone said, but I was wrong... It was better. We have never sailed Celebrity before, but now I will try their other ships. The care this company takes of its clients is just incredible. We were met at baggage claim in Quito by a porter who took our bags through a scanner for us, led us to the Celebrity representative and loaded our bags in the bus. From here on out that Celebrity representatives took care of our every need until we boarded the plane to Baltra and again when we returned from the cruise. We arrived at the JW Marriott at about 9:30 pm and were greeted with juice. This hotel is beautiful, there are roses everwhere and when we came to breakfast on Saturday morning I was amazed by the view of the Andes. The tour of Quito was very well done and included a lovely buffet lunch at the Theater Restaurant. Then it was off to the equator monument ( you've got to do this just to say you have been there!!). After a couple of hours back at the hotel we were taken to Carmine restaurant which I loved as we sat outside on a very nice patio. By this time we were all beginning to make friends and this was to be a feature of the cruise; we would come to know nearly everyone and everyone was so friendly. The last thing before bed was to take our bags downstairs to be locked away for an early morning inspection and transport to the ship. You can carry liquids in hand luggage so it is not a problem to part with you suitcase. Sunday morning we filled out some forms before boarding the bus to the airport. Without our luggage it was so easy. We boarded our plane for a flight that American airline companies should emulate. The flight attendants were attentive, the plane was clean and the meal was served with real silverware and napkins. It was about 2 hours to the islands and our first glimpse of the ship. Arriving in Baltra was equally easy, just had to have our forms stamped and we were outside to meet our Celebrity naturalists. A short bus ride took us to the dock and our zodiac ride to the ship which was anchored in the bay. The ship is gorgeous, I was so glad that we had chosen it. We came to love the Beagle Grill at the back (stern) as it was the meeting place before and after excursions, when we were greeted with drinks and snacks. We tended to eat lunch here and also sit here in the late afternoon after returning from the second excursion, talking with new friends and watching the sun begin to set. We would pop to our cabin at about 6:45 to shower and change for the evening briefing in the Discovery Lounge, by Jorge our cruise director. He was so happy, friendly and informative. Every evening you sign up for the excursions you want to do the next day. Win are in our late 50s and always did the long walks with absolutely no problems. We also did not use walking sticks as we didn't find walking on rocks difficult. The walks may be longer than some people normally do, but they are generally not steep and they are very slow as people are listening to the naturalists and taking photos. I cannot speak highly enough about the naturalists... They are friendly, know their stuff, work very hard and enjoy themselves singing on some evenings. Of course we had our favorites, but that is a matter of style not of competence. They are also so helpful getting people in and out of zodiacs. There were a couple of days with largish sea swells, but no-one had a problem and we had some very old people on our trip. The naturalists just know what they are doing. Our favorite excursion was on Monday afternoon on Espanola. It is a beautiful walk to a cliff overlooking a wonderful coastline and blow hole; but the diversity of the wildlife was incredible and I was moved by the behaviors and beauty of the waved albatrosses that we saw. My second favorite was on Sunday afternoon to North Seymour as this is the first landing and everyone is awe struck by the Boobies, Frigates and Sea Lions. Third for me was Fernandina on Thursday afternoon where we watched young sea lion pups playing and loads of marine iguanas. While I loved those three excursions, I enjoyed every one.... This is a cruise where you can't wait to get off the ship and discover new delights on land. Every evening we would eat with different friends in the Darwin Restaurant. The food was fine, I mostly ate the local fish on the menu. The best thing about dinner was learning about our fellow passengers, they were so well travelled. There was generally something to do in the evening, but we just didn't tend to stay up late as it was always an early start each morning. We did love watching the stars from the bow on deck 6; we enjoyed watching sharks in the water when they turned on the lights one night, and we loved the crossing the equator party. Most of the time we were in bed by 10:30 or 11:00. We booked a suite with balcony and I am glad we did. The balcony was lovely and there was just that extra room to move around. Each afternoon we were greeted with Hors D'oeuvres in our cabin and there was always a bowl of fruit. The boat does rock on the first two nights and on Friday night, because we are underway rather than at anchor. We loved the rocking and never felt sick, but I know a couple of passengers did feel the effects. Everyone was so sad when the cruise ended and many of us were glad that we had 1 night back in Quito. We left the ship at 9:30 am on Sunday and just waiting in the airport until they called us to go through passport check to the departure lounge. Then we were on board and flying away from our ship which we could see in the bay. Back in Quito our luggage was taken care of again and we were whisked away to the hotel. We didn't go shopping, just relaxed and went to dinner at 7:00 in the hotel. This was when we said goodbye to so many of our new friends. The ship sends out an email list, so many of us will stay in touch. On Monday, a shuttle and representative took us to the airport with plenty of time. Quito airport is simple to negotiate with Celebrity's help and we were soon at our gate and on our plane back to the USA. I will never forget this vacation and I will recommend it to all friends. I don't believe anyone does the Galapagos better than Celebrity. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2011
My wife and I recently cruised on Celebrity's Xpedition seven-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands. (August 28 through September 4, 2011.) We went with friends of ours (who extended their trip to Peru). We had a terrific time. If I ... Read More
My wife and I recently cruised on Celebrity's Xpedition seven-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands. (August 28 through September 4, 2011.) We went with friends of ours (who extended their trip to Peru). We had a terrific time. If I were to rate the overall cruise experience on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best I would rate the cruise a 9. We flew nonstop from Atlanta to Quito (only 4.5 hours) and arrived a day earlier in Quito. One of the great features of the Celebrity cruise is that virtually everything is included. Celebrity books all of the passengers (a full ship is about 90 passengers) at the JW Marriott in Quito. Celebrity then conducts a full-day tour of Quito that includes a visit to the old city, lunch, a visit to the equator monument, and then a very nice dinner at a local restaurant. On Sunday, Celebrity books a charter flight through Aerogal on what seemed to be a brand new Airbus 320, from Quito to Baltra, a 2 hour flights. (Our friends, my wife, and I arrived in Quito a day early, and we spent the day traveling outside of Quito to Otavalo and other towns. Well worth the extra day.) In other words, with Celebrity, you feel like you're getting your money's worth. The ship itself is perfect for the type of cruise. Virtually everything is included, except for certain alcoholic beverages. Unlike other cruises we've been on, the Xpedition does not charge for beer, soft drinks, bottled water, etc. In addition, all of the excursions are included. Generally, at each stop in the islands, there are 2 excursions -- one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Since the ship cannot dock at the islands, you must take a zodiac raft in order to get on the island. Most of the landings are "dry", although some are "wet." These rafts seat about 16 people, are driven by one of the ship's crew, and there is an outboard motor on each of the rafts. The drivers are actually quite skilled at maneuvering these rafts through water that is sometimes choppy. There are also opportunities for snorkeling at some of the stops. The wildlife is phenomenal -- you will see giant tortoises, penguins, blue-footed and Nasca boobies, cormorants, lizards, iguanas, cormorants, pelicans, etc. These animals have no fear of predators so you can get very close. I've never seen anything like this, and highly recommend. One of the most amazing sights was Kicker Rock, an enormous outcropping in the middle of the ocean, that we saw at sunrise against a black sky. It looked golden in the sunlight. Be sure to take advantage of the Zodiacs that go out in the morning so you can get close to Kicker Rock. Also, I recommend reading "The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time", by Jonathan Weiner. Celebrity recommend the book; I bought it and it was excellent. It made my trip even more meaningful. The only criticisms are these: (1) I wish the naturalist's briefings each evening had gone into more depth about the flora and fauna we were going to see. Many of the briefings covered the logistics, such as wet landing, dry landing, type of hike, etc. (2) Sometimes the pace of the hikes seemed too "rushed." I would have welcomed being able to spend more time on each island. Bottom line: this is a great ship, a great cruise, and a wonderful opportunity to see nature, unspoiled by man. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2011
We are just back from an 11 day trip to the Galapagos on the Xpedition on May 1st and suffice it to say, it is everything we expected and more. I can see why this is the #1 ranked cruise on this website. This is the ONE trip I have been ... Read More
We are just back from an 11 day trip to the Galapagos on the Xpedition on May 1st and suffice it to say, it is everything we expected and more. I can see why this is the #1 ranked cruise on this website. This is the ONE trip I have been wanting to do my whole life and my expectations were very high. The trip exceeded my expectations. This website helped me plan and I wanted to "give back" with my review and some suggestions.We are a married couple in our mid 40s - we love to cruise. I am a girly-girl and DH is a guy's guy who likes the dive. This was my bucket list vacation (yes even girly girls like animals! I was, however, fearhul of the hiking and outdoor stuff!) We arrived in Quito on April 29th. The plane was over an hour late, but as promised a very nice Celebrity rep (Adriana) was waiting once we got our luggage. Our bags were immediately taken and put on a bus. Once everyone on the flight was there, we made a short 15 minute trip to the Marriott. We were promptly greeted with fresh juice and a very organized check in. The room (on floor 8) was spacious with a nice king bed and huge bathroom. I immediately went to the cafe and got coca tea just to stave off any altitude sickness. We got up early on Saturday for a nice tour of Quito with well-versed guides. We visited several sites, included some unbelievable churches. Don't miss the tour - it is really nice and even if you've seen churches before, you've not seen ones like these - unbelievable. The lunch has changed from prior years and is not at the Crater restaurant. We ate, instead, at where dinner used to be - the Theater Opera House restaurant . If you get there first (we did) you can eat on a balcony - so nice! The food was plentiful, white glove service and wonderful! We ordered a ½ bottle of wine - be sure to ask the price - it was $35 - quite good but pricey. Next it was off to the equator monument. It was fun to go there - there were a few little trinket shops there - nothing very nice. Also throughout the day young kids were selling scarves, etc. for next to nothing. We were careful with our valuables, as suggested by X. Sat. night we had dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was rushed, somewhat small servings and just OK - the dEcor was lovely. You got one glass of wine and it was very expensive to buy more (only by the bottle) - I think they wanted us out because they wanted to serve "real" paying customers maybe? We ate fairly early at 6:30 pm. We took luggage to the waiting Celebrity guides in the lobby area that evening after dinner. They were apparently checked overnight for any items (food etc) that can't be taken to the Islands. You are allowed one checked 44 lb bag and one carry-on plus a purse, etc. There was a scale in the lobby if you needed to weigh luggage (TIP: We packed separate bags before we left - one for our days in Quito and a separate bag for the Galapagos - we weighed the one for the Islands before we left to make sure we were within the limits. We left our Quito locked bag with the Marriott bellman and retrieved it after we returned to the hotel after the trip to the Galapagos.). We woke up early on Sunday and went to the fabulous breakfast buffet at the Marriott - so many choices. We did not experience any altitude sickness while in Quito, but I drank several cups of Coca tea everyday. We went to the airport in Quito - this was the only place were Celebrity didn't help much - the reps at the airport were no where to be seen and on the plane were not helpful - you were kind of on your own as to how to get around. The private charter plane was great - straight trip to Galapagos from Quito - nice service - free movies, etc and wide seats. Most middle seats were left open. There was a funny event on the plane- when you are almost there the attendants open the overhead compartments and spray the bags for "pests" not allowed in the Galapagos - not a big deal - it didn't smell or anything. One lady started screaming she was so upset! She said she called X three times and was told her natural food would not be sprayed??? Made quite a scene!Once we landed, we promptly went on a bus, taken to the pier - sea lions all around already! We took the zodiacs (with carry-ons in hand) to the ship (a 5 minute ride) and were greeted with drinks and warm welcomes. After a introductory talk, we were escorted to our cabin.We were in room 506, a suite - lots of folks say a suite isn't necessary, but I was glad for it - we had extra room and a balcony to store and dry wet, smelly clothes and other stuff. The room was nice and neat, if small. I can't imagine staying in one of the smaller rooms as this was pretty tight. As for motion, the boat DEFINITELY moved a lot the first two days and the last two - people mentioned it a lot. I took Bonine everyday and did fine, but getting ready for dinner, showering, etc was a feat! Stuff was falling off the dressers, etc. It was very rocky. The stabilizers don't really work well, because of the shallow hull. So after you settle in, you have lunch in the dining room - the food onboard is good, not great - service is nice. You are then introduced to the naturalists and told about the afternoon excursions to North Seymour Island -basically every day (usually before dinner) you have the head naturalist explain the two morning and two afternoon excursions - you then sign up for which you want - most days there are "long" and "short" walks. Some are harder than others. We pretty much did all long walks. As far as long walks, let me say that if you are in reasonable shape, you can do them - but be aware the terrain is often very, very rocky and easy to slip, fall or twist an ankle. Some folks on our walks did have a hard time. It is very hot and humid. By the end of the week, the long walks were dwindling in attendance, as folks figure out they were not all that easy. They also tell you whether you will have a wet or dry landing - most are wet - take wet shoes (such as keens) with closed toes for hiking OR use your bare feet, take a towel to dry off feet and put on your shoes. The first afternoon you go to North Seymour. I recommend the long walk. We saw many wonderful birds, boobies and frigates as well as iguanas. The dinners at night are in the dining room - we met wonderful people from India, London and Canada and quickly made many friends and dining/excursion companions. The next day (Monday) was absolutely fabulous - we woke early for a zodiac ride around kicker rock - beautiful! We saw lots of wildlife and got great photos. We then did a long walk and then to the interpretations center - you can shop for a few minutes in town (although the last day on Sat has better shopping) - we saw lots of boobies, iguanas and some sea lions. That afternoon we did the long walk on Espanola - this was so great! We saw so much wildlife - one sea lion actually came up to me and nuzzled me! So exciting. Photos everywhere! However, this hike was challenging On Tuesday, the highlight was the deep water snorkel at champion island. The day before, we got wetsuits from the ship (we brought our own fins, mask, snorkel and were glad since we knew they fit well). The deep snorkel was awesome! Lots of fish and I swam multiple times with many, many sea lions - they were right next to me!!!!!! So fun!Let me say that the first days of this trip were the best - the best wildlife and excursions - Wed on Bachas Beach and Bartolome Island were good , but the snorkeling was not too great - it was saved when we found three little penguins and swam with them for a while - that was fun. Thursday's highlight was the long walk on Isabela in the am when we saw giant tortoises in the wild - we got within inches of them!! Again, snorkeling was mediocre - not much to see. This time of year the water was not bad and you really didn't need a wetsuit - cold at first, but you got used to it. Friday morning's long walk in Santiago was really cool with lots of marine iguanas, and fur seals and other great wildlife. That morning (if I recall correctly) the snorkeling was better and we again enjoyed fun with sea lions - some saw turtles and a shark. Speaking of sharks, a few nights the captain turned the boat lights on in the water attracting fish, flying fish, sea lions, pelicans and many sharks - fun to watch them chase each other - don't miss this! Also, during the day it is fun to watch the boobies bomb-diving in the water - and one days we saw hundreds of dolphins just off the ship - amazing! Saturday was about the Charles Darwin Center where we saw Lonesome George and other giant tortoises and there was good shopping for jewelry, t-shirts, wooden animals, etc. in town. The afternoon was a muddy and not so great hike to the highlands to see a few more tortoises. Sunday am, it was back on the plane - be aware there is a long hot wait at an "outdoor" airport in the Galapagos before you board the plane to Quito. There is some shopping, but it is hot and a long wait. We were glad for the cool plane ride. Back at the hotel, we checked in again and then went on a nice shopping tour - the market was especially nice for scarves, blankets, sterling silver jewelry and other trinkets - the second stop was more upscale and quite pricey. Dinner was at the hotel - very good!!! Try the steak - delicious!The next day (day 10) most folks left. We opted for the 11 day plan, which allowed a nice day of rest. We slept in and I had a very inexpensive massage at the hotel - we sat at the pool with was heated and very nice - then we packed and went to dinner at Zazu - this place is AMAZING - huge portions of top notch gourmet food - we each had an appetizer, salad/soup and dinner with several drinks for about $80! This meal would have cost us 3 times as much in the US - it is as nice as any high end place in NYC or other major city at much lower prices. Definitely if you can, try Zazu. The only downer of the 11 day is that the morning we were to leave, no one from X met us - we were panicked and arranged for Marriott to take us to the airport - clearly X dropped the ball on this as they were supposed to take us. Overall, X does a great job coordinating all activities and making this trip super easy and wonderful. The service onboard is top notch - drinks are free flowing and everyone is so nice. The naturalists are all wonderful. We especially love Jorge and Manual. All were good. As far as tips, here we go1. When you book, try to see if you are traveling on the same cruise as a group as if so, change dates. Celebrity really should not allow this, but on our cruise there was a group from Paul's Cruises out of Texas. The leaders of this group were very loud and rude - they basically commandeered the ship and refused to "share nicely with others." The 30 some in the group ate every night at the only three large tables in the dining room - they were asked to move one night to allow us to eat with our group of friends and wouldn't - which meant all other guests had to eat at smaller tables, even if you wanted to eat with others. They took over entire excursions, etc. with no regard for fellow passengers. Most frustrating, on the last night at the Marriott we asked the hotel to reserve a table for 12 so we could eat (finally) with newly found friends. The table was marked reserved, but when we arrived Paul's Cruises owners and group were at it. We explained that it was our table and they said "too bad - we are here now." So rude - it really upset me. So, learn from me, don't travel with a group or at least this group. The ship is too small to be taken over by a group of unaccommodating and unpleasant folks. We didn't let it ruin our vacation, but it would have been nicer without this group.2. Pack plenty of clothes for excursions or plan to do laundry. I took about 7 bottoms (hiking skirts as I am a girly girl, shorts, etc), 3 bathing suits and 14 tops for excursions. I used all of this - you will need to change after every excursion because you sweat so much - especially tops. Also, think neutral colors. I bought very light wicking stuff so was able to get it within weight limit. You will need good walking shoes with an enclosed toe area - walking on volcanic rock can lead to stubbed toes. I brought keen sandals for water with a closed toe box and wore those the most. I also had open toe merrells which I wore on the easier excursions and a hiking sneaker which I wore only twice. Strangely, a lot of guides wore crocs, which is what my husband wore. 3. Don't worry about dressing up for dinner - nice capris and a top or a cute simple dress etc. - men wore khakis or jeans and golf shirt etc. I took bottoms (skirt and capri) that could be worn twice. I also only brought two pair of short heels. 4. It is hot - bring a hat and plenty of sunblock. Lots of folks got burned. Bring lots of water on the excursions (supplied by the ship) 5. We took 7000 photos - we had a Nikon D40X SLR with two lenses and a Nikon D7000 with a 18 to 200 lens - and we had a canon point and shoot with underwater case and strobe light - if you have an SLR take it - you will be so glad - some folks with point and shoots just couldn't get the shots - we got some really really cool stuff including wildlife in motion - You cannot believe all you will see - on one island the birds liked our lenses and landed right on our cameras! And the frigates and sea lions and boobies - OMG you will want to remember this trip!!!!! Of course I will cull those 7000 way down, but we shot lots on continuous mode and with a fast camera and lens, got some incredible photos! 6. Consider an inexpensive external harddrive and bring a laptop for the trip if you want a lot of photos. We were able to download and categorize photos every day and at the end of the trip, used our harddrive to exchange photos with others we met - we now have their photos as well - AND the ship's naturalists take photos and give you those at the end of the cruise - so fun! 7. Bring medicine you may need such as motion sickness (as the boat rocks), stomach illness, etc. There are no bathrooms on excursions so you want to be in good health! 8. As I mentioned, if you are on the 10 or 11 day plan (which I recommend since X handles everything and the Quito tours and dining, etc are nice) pack two bags - one pre-packed and weighed at 44 lbs for Galapagos - keep the other bag at the hotel. 9. Try to make this trip when you are in reasonably good shape - the long walks are really very cool, but can be somewhat difficult - you don't want to miss a thing! 10. If you go, make sure you and others with you understand that this is a vacation about wildlife - no downtime or fanciness - there are lizards and spiders, etc everywhere - some folks on our cruise were actually taking their walking sticks and "shooing" away the wildlife! What the hey! If you love wildlife, like me, prepare to be amazed - and even if you are not a nature, hiking gal (which I most definitely am NOT) - you will love this trip if you enjoy wildlife - the hikes, etc. are so worth it to see these animals. I am sure I forgot something, but have a great trip - I cannot say enough about this vacation. We are already talking about going back! It is just top-notch - the best! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
All in all it was a wonderful experience that I am so glad I was able to enjoy.Pre-Cruise - We were on the 11-night cruise tour and arrived in Quito at about 10:00 PM on Friday, May 20th. After clearing Customs and Immigration we were me ... Read More
All in all it was a wonderful experience that I am so glad I was able to enjoy.Pre-Cruise - We were on the 11-night cruise tour and arrived in Quito at about 10:00 PM on Friday, May 20th. After clearing Customs and Immigration we were me inside by Celebrity personnel and escorted to the bus. Their people took our luggage and the next time we saw it was when it got to the room. This was to be a much appreciated trend throughout the trip. We were greeted with refreshing towels, the schedule for the next 2 days, and a fruit drink at the hotel, received our room keys quickly and went up stairs for a much needed night's sleep. The next day there was a delicious breakfast buffet and then it was off to a city tour. Quito is very historic and we enjoyed the tour very much. Lunch was an Ecuadorean buffet at the Theater Restaurant. The food was delicious but the time we spent at the restaurant was far too long. perhaps they were waiting for a singer who arrived and was very good. After lunch it was off to the Equator Park. This was quite an ordeal (a long time spent in traffic for a stop that was not worth the time it took). There was shopping (a recurring theme) and a monument, but the bright spot was the live music going on. The Ecuadorean music is really enjoyable and it was fun to watch the local people (including children)dancing and enjoying themselves. Dinner that night was at Carmine's, an Italian restaurant that had a first rate fresh catch of the day - sea bass.Cruise - The next day was Sunday and we were up early for breakfast and then off to the airport for the flight to Baltra to meet the ship. The plane to be used was shared between AeroGal and TACA and was delayed getting in from Lima. As a result, we were probably 2 hours late leaving Quito. The plane is chartered by Celebrity and does not make the usual stop in Guayaquil. It is a pretty new Airbus 320 and the middle seats were left open. Very comfortable. We arrived late in Baltra, but made it on board in time for us to make the scheduled afternoon excursion to North Seymour Island just north of Baltra.Over the course of the 7 day cruise we had incredible wildlife sightings. The animals really do not have a fear of man and live their lives a few feet from where you are standing with no concern at all. Absolutely astounding! I won't try to relate the details of every stop and all the excursions. I will just say that whether you come to see birds, reptiles, land or sea mammals, beautiful landscapes, meet some genuine and incredibly warm people, learn the history, and otherwise experience a unique place you will not leave disappointed!Excursions - There are usually 2 options in the morning and 2 options in the afternoon. One will be geared to those seeking a longer, more physically strenuous activity and one less so. Both options will usually offer similar wildlife opportunities. On those days where there is a beach snorkel opportunity, it will be included in both options. The exception is the advanced Champion island snorkel.Naturalists - They were by and large excellent and well versed in the wildlife, island history, terrain, geology, etc. Many were native to the Galapagos Islands. They work on a rotational schedule so you might well have some that we did not work with. You will undoubtedly have your favorites, but ours were Al, Jorge, and Juan Carlos. The Zodiac (Panga) drivers were also excellent in maneuvering the boats for loading/unloading and to get photographs.Service - The Celebrity personnel in Quito worked very hard escorting us and trying to make sure things went smoothly. The hospitality desk in the lobby was helpful, but could have been manned a little longer during the day. Service was first rate on the ship. The Guest Relations staff was terrific. They could handle any problem or request promptly and completely. Our cabin attendant, Silvia, was outstanding as were the bar and dining room personnel. They all worked very hard to make the cruise enjoyable.Food - It ranged from fair (meat) to very good (the fresh local fish was excellent). The only seafood that was sub-par was the yellow Fin Tuna - somewhat mushy and probably frozen. The lunch theme buffets were interesting and the Ecuadorean was our favorite. The BBQ on deck one afternoon was a highlight. Breakfast was always a good meal with omelets to order and lots of fresh fruit available. Post-Cruise - The flight arrangements back to Quito went a little smoother than those coming to Baltra. The chaos hit when we landed in Quito as those going on to Machu Picchu were left looking for the Celebrity reps as those of us who were staying in Quito went to the buses. Things at the Marriott were the same except the bed was horrible. Probably the worst night's sleep of the trip. After a few minutes to freshen up we were out on a shopping tour - a local market and a higher-end gallery. Both were interesting. The farewell dinner was in the La Hacienda steakhouse at the hotel and the food was very good after the third attempt to get the steak cooked correctly (medium kept coming back blood rare). There were only two extra-cost excursions offered the next day unless you wanted to book something that would be private. We opted to try the Mindao excursion and it was OK but not great. I cannot really recommend it. We also heard the Otavalo excursion was somewhat disappointing. We were flying out that night (Monday) and got out of the room quickly upon return. We then learned we could have stayed in the room since they had us leaving the next day but by then it was too late. Oh, well. A fairly long wait in the lobby and then we were off to the airport with time to spare. we cleared check-in, Immigration, Customs, and a thorough hand-luggage search at the gate. Then it was off on our flight home.Final word - If you have the opportunity - GO!!!!!!!! It is a unique experience and if you love wildlife it is an experience not to be missed. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
For our 20th anniversary my husband and I cruised the Galapagos on the Celebrity Xpedition in March 2011. We opted for the 10 day option which included 2 nights pre-cruise in Quito and 1 night post-cruise. I'd recommend this option ... Read More
For our 20th anniversary my husband and I cruised the Galapagos on the Celebrity Xpedition in March 2011. We opted for the 10 day option which included 2 nights pre-cruise in Quito and 1 night post-cruise. I'd recommend this option to everyone as Celebrity takes care of you from the moment you clear customs in Quito to the moment they take you back to the airport for your return. The extra cost of the additional three days is a bargain considering they take care of all your transfers, your luggage, your sightseeing, your tours, your meals, and eliminate any hassle you'd have to deal with doing it yourself. This is our 5th cruise and we've never used a cruise line for ANY tours, transfers or hotel options in the past. We always think we can do it for less and better on our own. This time, I say go with Celebrity. They make it worth it. In every way, this trip exceeded our expectations.A little background: I spent a considerable amount of time researching the different options for seeing the Galapagos, and after having experienced Celebrity, I'm confident we chose the best option for the money. We saw the National Geographic ships and the smaller ships cruising the Galapagos and the Xpedition certainly looked more appealing in every way. Yes, it's a lot of money up front, but after you experience the cruise and don't have to pay an additional dime, you realize that it wasn't so much after all. The only extra costs are any shopping you do on the ship or islands (limited opportunity), diving (approximately $250 pp which we opted not to do), Quito airport departure tax, and computer/internet rental on ship.) Compared to a regular cruise with gratuities, shore excursions, pictures, alcohol, specialty restaurants, shopping, etc....the extra costs on the Xpedition are minimal.Best advice we got:-Take more memory cards than you think you'll need-Take pictures of the daily schedule each day so it's easier to categorize your pictures post trip-Take a camera with video capability rather than two separate pieces of equipment. Less to carry and more time to capture memories without hassle of changing equipment.-Take a fanny pack for excursions rather than a backpack. The fanny pack was not as hot and heavy and held a few water bottles and extra camera equipment.-Know how to use your camera and switch between settings, especially if it's an underwater camera (i.e..camera to video, etc..)Things we were surprised by:-The luxury of the Xpedition! I'd expected a small ship wouldn't have the luxuries of a large ship, but it did. Beautiful public areas, bars, artwork, great food and service, and the cabin amenities of a large ship. The staff was amazing and deserves kudos for their hard work. -The contrast between the luxury and raw nature of the Galapagos: you see all this amazing wildlife up close and personal. You're hot, sweaty, awestruck and content, but then you board the Xpedition and are greeted with a wet washcloth to wash your face and hands, live music playing, complimentary beverages and snacks. Wow.-Night activities were really fun. I thought everyone would go to sleep immediately following dinner, but there was always something fun going on put on by the cruise director and naturalists. Salsa dancing, stargazing, Crossing the Equator party, and a talent show were some of the night time activities. -The food was really good! Favorites were any type of seafood and the few times there were barbecues outside with tons of fresh grilled fish and meat.-Staff was super! Cabins were always clean, smiles were abundant, service was good. One evening between the second excursion and dinner the cruise director made an announcement that the captain had seen dolphins off the bow of the ship. The sun setting in the Galapagos with dolphins performing for you..what more can you ask? -Movement of the ship is very noticeable - I specifically went with the Xpedition over a smaller ship hoping to avoid movement and seasickness. Thankfully, I had no seasickness, but if you're prone at all, take meds, ginger, pressure bands, etc.. just in case. The movement is significant.-Sharks! Don't miss the dozens of sharks every evening and/or early morning feeding in the ambient lights of the boat. Items we're glad we had:-lens cleaners for cameras-quick dry clothing to hand wash and quick dry in room-cameras for both of us including underwater cameras. We had a total of 4 cameras including my point and shoot, his SLR, my Canon D10 for underwater and a borrowed Olympus Stylus for his underwater. We were able to capture different shots that wouldn't have been possible with only one camera to share. At one point a baby seal came up and sniffed and touched my husband. If he'd have had the camera, we would have missed the shot.-Sunglass straps-Defog for our snorkel equipment. It was never offered that we saw. If you're really into snorkeling you'll want it.-Fanny pack rather than backpack for excursions - less weight, less of a sweaty back.Wish we'd had:-Febreze - all that wet, sweaty clothing/shoes get smelly-More socks for wearing tennies. I found sand got in my Keens and gave me blisters. I'd have preferred wearing tennies with socks more often. Your experience may vary..-Small notebook for making notes on excursions regarding what naturalists say. A few people had these and I envied them. Only important if you're the type of person who wants to remember and record the details. Advice:-Do your research regarding when to take this trip. We simply went with the cheapest rate we could find within a time frame. Luckily, it worked for us, but might not work for everyone. March was hot, hot, hot. We were ok with that, but for some it would ruin their trip. You could not sit on the deck without an umbrella. Everyone was dripping sweat on the excursions. On the positive side, we didn't need use wetsuits for the snorkeling. Also, everything was green and lush due to recent rainfall. Luckily, we only experienced rain one day. Also, some animals are only seen certain times of year. If weather and particular animals are important to you, do your research. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2011
Like all the other Cruise Critic correspondents, we had a great time in the Galapagos - we have done 37 previous cruises and this was probably the best. We Brits can fly from Europe to Quito direct, via Madrid or Amsterdam, but we ... Read More
Like all the other Cruise Critic correspondents, we had a great time in the Galapagos - we have done 37 previous cruises and this was probably the best. We Brits can fly from Europe to Quito direct, via Madrid or Amsterdam, but we prefer to take more time so we booked the cruise and stay package separately and then sorted out our own flights - London/Miami by Virgin Atlantic and Miami/Quito by American Airlines. We stopped off in Miami for two nights on the way out and one night on the return. Ecuadorian immigration was very efficient at Quito and the Celebrity staff met us at airport arrivals. A bus then transferred us to the nearby JW Marriott hotel for a two night stay which included a full day tour of Quito and lunch and dinner in local restaurants. The flight to Baltra was by local airline 'Aerogal' on a brand new Airbus 320 chartered by Celebrity. The only problem everyone had was the luggage allowance. The brochure says a maximum of 30 lbs each for checked in luggage and 14 lbs for cabin bags - the reality is that checked in luggage can be 45 lbs each and the carry on baggage is usual airline standard - so all that careful packing was unnecessary! The ship can take up to 100 but there were only 80 on our cruise - mostly Americans and Canadian, with some Germans, and three British couples. The average age was about 60 (though there were a few in their 20s) and we were all of a similar mind - surprisingly, relative few people were regular cruisers and for many, this was their first experience of cruising and Celebrity. They were great company and there were some very interesting discussions on the differences between our respective countries. This is most definitely not an R and R holiday, it's more like a safari - up early for a trip, back for lunch and then out again in the afternoon on another trip, drinks, socialising , dinner, and early to bed. The weather was also very hot, especially on the afternoon trips - but Celebrity gave out free water and recommended at least two bottles each to take with you before you left the ship. Our stateroom was on the middle deck and, while obviously smaller than the bigger ships, it was perfectly adequate - though the double bed (actually two singles) against the wall took a bit of getting used to. The shower was a good size and there was always hot water - with the heat you need to shower after every trip! There was a lounge with a well-stocked bar (all drinks and water are included in the price), plenty of deck space (much of it with awnings for shade), and a hot tub and plenty of loungers for those who like to lie in the sun. A small gift shop stocked sun cream, insect repellent and a range of lightweight clothing and internet access was via a wi-fi connection in the lounge. The food was good. Breakfast was a buffet with eggs and waffles cooked to order if you wanted, and then a themed buffet lunch, or burgers/chicken served at the Beagle Grill at the rear of deck 4 - there was an excellent outdoor sea food barbecue there one lunchtime. There was also a good choice on the dinner menus with local sea food and fish a prominent feature (we had lobster three times and it was some of the best we have had). The wines were good quality South American and glasses were refilled quickly. There was one dinner out on deck which had a fabulous atmosphere - a great pity that they did not do more of it as the dining room is a bit dull dEcor wise. The choice of excursions suited everyone, whether you preferred hard or easy walks, boat rides or snorkelling. My preference was the zodiac rides which took you to the parts of the islands you could not walk to but my wife preferred the walks. You see a huge variety and number of animals and birds (land and marine iguanas, tortoises, turtles, sea lions, fur seals, blue footed boobies, frigate birds etc etc) and they really are not scared of you. There is also the opportunity to see sharks and dolphins while the ship is going from island to island (and one night the ship puts lights on over the water to attract them). The stars in the southern hemisphere are fantastic - one of the officers used a powerful laser to point out the star constellations while you lie on the sun beds staring into the sky. For those interested in the ship itself you could arrange visits to the bridge and the engine room. The naturalists on the ship (one to every sixteen guests) are knowledgeable and informative and they also double up as cruise directors' staff in the evening. There is a short talk before dinner outlining the following day's activities and on the last night, an excellent power point presentation of the weeks' cruise - and you are then given a copy CD free! Our return to Quito on the Sunday was well organised (with access to Baltra airports' executive lounge) and Celebrity staff took care of all the transfers to the airport on the following day. If you want to see the Galapagos in 5 star comfort the Xpedition is the way to go. It has every thing you could possibly want - great service, a very friendly crew, good food and drink, and interesting fellow passengers - a perfect cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2011
We are in our seventies and this was our 7th cruise. Exploring the Galapagos was something that had been on our "to do" list and it turned out to be a trip of a lifetime on a perfect ship. Many people have offered comprehensive ... Read More
We are in our seventies and this was our 7th cruise. Exploring the Galapagos was something that had been on our "to do" list and it turned out to be a trip of a lifetime on a perfect ship. Many people have offered comprehensive reports on Xpedition. We will offer a few comments that we think need to be re-enforced. Overall we spent 10 days on a very classy program on board one of the best cruise ships in the world. Celebrity Xpedition has an award-winning environmental program and is reportedly the most eco-friendly ship in the Galapagos. In our opinion, there is no better way to see the Galapagos than travelling with Celebrity Cruises on Xpedition! Bookings - As always, we worked with our favourite travel agent, Marie, at Marlin Travel in Ottawa. Celebrity offered an all-inclusive 10 day program that we accepted and added air transportation through them. Of note, Celebrity also offers one additional day in Quito on the return from the Islands. The JW Marriott hotel in Quito (five stars +) had an extensive list of one-day tours in and around Quito that may be of interest to some. In addition, Celebrity also offers an extension to Peru to visit Machu Picchu for a total of 13 nights. Details are available on their web site. The Celebrity web site is relatively easy to navigate and manage your reservation. Completing all the forms on-line prior to departing home is highly recommended. The thing to remember is that Celebrity does not notify you (phone, mail or e-mail) that your luggage tag order is available, or that the Guest Ticket Booklet is on your electronic page. You need to log-in on Celebritycruises.com then manage your reservation. The luggage tag order form will appear on the reservation summary page. The Booklet is visible only when you fill-in the on-line check-in. All this starts to occur around 45 days prior to the cruise. The personalized Guest Ticket Booklet mentioned above is superb. It is 48 pages long and has all the information one could hope for. We did not get this last year when we cruised on Equinox so it may be a new feature or just for the Xpedition. A few weeks before leaving we even got a glossy version in the mail thought our travel agent with more baggage tags. It is something to behold and keep as a souvenir! Getting to Quito - We travelled by train from Ottawa to Montreal, stayed at the Marriott (a five-star hotel) right in the terminal then flew American Airlines the next day from Montreal through Miami to Quito. The North Terminal (American Airlines) at Miami is new and very impressive. It is spacious, clean, and offers a multitude of shops, restaurants, and bars. The Celebrity brochure and web site limited baggage weight to 30 lbs (13.6 kg) which was not mentioned in any other reliable source such as the airlines that travel to the Galapagos. Reports from travellers that had used Celebrity Xpedition all mentioned that they saw no signs of their baggage being checked for the 30 lbs limit and many reported that they had exceeded that weight limit without any challenge. In December 2010 the revised Exotic Cruise e-brochure stated 40 lbs (18.2 kg) as the baggage limit. On arrival in Quito our guides told us that the limits were 45 lbs for checked baggage and 17 lbs for carry-on! Not really sure why the misinformation but if you use the airlines limits you cannot go wrong. Quito - The flights Montreal-Miami-Quito and return went very smoothly. We did have to do a "go-around" arriving in Quito due to weather but the second approach was successful. On arrival in Quito we were met by the Celebrity staff and from then on until we boarded our flights northbound everything, and we mean everything, was taken care of. We did not even have to retrieve our luggage; it just appeared at our hotel room door. The JW Marriott hotel in Quito is a five-star hotel in every respect. Separate check-in for Celebrity, cold drink on arrival and a superb room. The room we had was huge with a large bathroom that included a soaking tub, separate shower stall and all amenities possible. Keep in mind that Quito is at almost 9400 feet above sea level and the lack of oxygen is noticeable. You have to walk slowly and not strain. The locals drink coca tea which they say helps adapting to the height. It is not very good tasting and we certainly did not notice any effect. The day spent in Quito was a classy affair. City tour, excursion to the equator monument (45 minute bus ride each way) and the evening dinner completed the day. The lunch was at Carmine, a first class restaurant while the dinner was at the National Theatre for an excellent meal accompanied by a recital given by a local tenor. Soft drinks and juices were provided but alcohol had to be purchased separately. Checked baggage had to be turned in to the staff by 10 pm for overnight inspection to protect the Galapagos environment. They were kept under supervision by Celebrity security. The bags re-appeared in our ship stateroom the next day. Transfer to Baltra and back - This was done by AeroGal an Ecuadorian airline flying new Airbus A320 that were pristine and the service first class. We were delayed one hour on departure but overflew Guayaquil thus regained some time. All the headrest covers, tablecloths (yes, tablecloths) flight attendants aprons bore the Celebrity Xpedition logo. The meal was what is normally provided in business class. As it is a charter flight each couple got three seats thus it was most comfortable. A very classy affair indeed. Embarkation - There is a special arrival procedure using park entrance passes provided by Celebrity then it is on the Zodiacs called "pangas" in the islands. The ship never docks thus the pangas are used everywhere and you become an expert getting in and out of them. We were then greeted on board with fresh wet towels and a welcome drink. Very simple procedure on board as we had photocopies of our passports for them and a credit card at the ready. We were then taken to our stateroom where a welcome letter waited with a program for the rest of the day. A program for each day was in our stateroom every afternoon. Xpedition cruising - A couple of things that should be emphasised are that while ashore on excursions you should be wearing earth coloured clothing in order not to attract insects (bright red is not an earth colour!) and walking sticks are almost essential. The ship provides walking canes but if you own real walking sticks with good handles, shock absorbers, and are collapsible for your checked baggage you will find the hiking a lot easier. It is an adventure/exploration undertaking not a leisurely Caribbean cruise with lots of sea days. In fact, there is no free day unless you decide not to participate in events. The ship is very stable underway as it uses stabilizers but there is a rolling motion when at anchor. We were not affected by that at all. Some people wore patches (scopolamine) for the first few days. The cabins were well laid-out with ample storage space and comfortable beds although unusual in that they are mummy type single beds put together but they do not make a double bed. The bed against the wall is a little more difficult to access but having them apart takes space away form the sitting area. The food was exceptionally good with many selections at all the meals. Breakfast buffet offered Belgian waffles, omelettes, and eggs made to order. Lunch buffet was also good with the odd BBQ on deck. Dinner was a five course meal with a great selection every night. The waiters all speak English and are very attentive. The wines are from Chile and Argentina and are all very good. On the second day we came back to our stateroom to find a bottle of Chilean sparkling wine for being in the Celebrity Captain's Club. Nice touch. There is a lounge and three bars but that is about it. There is also a small pool on the top deck and a spa that offered excellent massages we were told. They try to put on some entertainment every night with the help on the single on-board musician who was very talented and the amateurs amongst the crew and some passengers. They even had a Karaoke night and an Equator crossing ceremony. Perhaps the two best evening events in our opinion was one night when the ship turned off all its exterior lights except for the navigation lights so that we could see the stars. It was spectacular! On another night, while at anchor, the ship turned on all its spotlights drawing many fishes. We saw 7 sharks roaming around the ship with sting rays, sea lions, flying fishes and pelicans. Most of the passengers went to bed early because many a morning the first excursion left at 8 a.m.! Every evening before dinner the tour director gave an outline of the activities for the next day including the excursions available. They are divided by level of intensity for ease of handling by the passengers. After his talk we selected our activities for the next day. Each panga carries a maximum of 16 passengers plus a sailor and a naturalist/guide. Individuals are not permitted by the National Park to explore on their own, you must be with a guide and each guide is a trained naturalist. The ship had 6 naturalists (formally trained and examined yearly) who we found to be simply excellent. They were all very passionate about the islands, the animals and nature. They spoke good English but you had to stay close while hiking in order to hear them well. The pangas are relatively easy to get on and off at the ship and on most of the "dry landing" but can be a challenge on the "wet landing" or in the surf. You also need to wear a large amount of sun block because you are at the equator and likely pink from the northern climes. We wore water shoes (Teva) that proved to be an excellent choice. It is recommended that you wear covered water shoes as the ones with holes allow a lot of crushed coral and lava sand to infiltrate the shoe. In addition, you can easily get a sun burn on the exposed skin if your sun screen is washed away in the salt water. Some of the "trails" are really on large boulders and not groomed at all. It can be a challenge and the walking sticks are a definite advantage. On occasion we saw more while doing a "Panga" cruise along the shore than did people walking on the same shore. The lava formations and the wildlife are breathtaking. Water bottles were available everywhere and needed hiking in the heat and sun. Sun screen is mandatory. Disembarkation - Smooth as silk. The night before disembarkation we met the crew for a farewell and a slide show of our cruise. They gave us a CD with the PowerPoint presentation and additional pictures. What a wonderful gesture! The bags were taken as late as 6 a.m. to re-appear at our hotel room in Quito! On the last morning you leave the ship at 9 a.m. in order for them to prepare for the next group of passengers yet the flight does not leave until shortly after noon. It is a long wait in an open aired terminal with a minimum of facilities. We checked in as a group, went through security about two hours before our charter flight. We were then taken to the VIP lounge which meant that there were ceiling fans and a bar that served free non-alcoholic beverages (you could purchase alcohol separately). AeroGal provided first class service to Quito with another excellent meal. Transit through Quito - On arrival in Quito we were taken to the JW Marriott then offered a shopping excursion before dinner. Dinner was in the main dining room of the hotel where we were offered an excellent dinner with music as a farewell gesture. Return home - No major problem but keep in mind that transiting through Miami can be time-consuming. What seems to never change is the customs, immigration, security coming back north from Quito. It is a tedious and long process only to find yourself outside the security zone after customs thus you have to go through security again and lose your duty free liquor if you did not take the time to put it in your checked luggage immediately prior to leaving the customs area. Cost - When Celebrity says it is all-inclusive it really is. All gratuities, guides, porters, excursions, hotels, meals, water and alcohol on board were included. You only had to pay for your shopping and alcohol ashore! In our opinion it is excellent value for money. Recommendations - We would unreservedly recommend Celebrity Xpedition to anyone wishing to visit the Galapagos. It is a classy affair on board one of the best cruise ships in the world. Do not forget sun block, walking sticks, good walking shoes and good water shoes, two bathing suits if you are doing snorkel, sun glasses, camera with lots of memory, and scopolamine skin patches if the ship movement might bother you. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2011
We have just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands and LOVED IT! We booked the 10 day tour through Thomas Cook in the UK and this included flights, transfers, accommodation in Quito for three ... Read More
We have just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands and LOVED IT! We booked the 10 day tour through Thomas Cook in the UK and this included flights, transfers, accommodation in Quito for three nights (2 pre and 1 post cruise) and 7 nights on the Xpedition in a suite. It was expensive, but worth every penny as the cruise was so personal, friendly and adventurous. There were 93 on our cruise mainly made up of American and Canadian guests with a few from Europe and a couple from Australia. The average age was around 55 and there were no children on our trip - personally, I don't think this holiday would be suitable for children due to the average age of the passengers, the itinerary and excursions (which are all animal based) and the entertainment in the evening. Others may disagree with this comment, I do not have children, but I'm certain that there would not be enough to keep them amused during the week. I am not going to detail the itinerary as so many other reviews do this and I'm certain that an hour by hour description does not make interesting reading. Just to say that this is an active holiday - there are at least two trips every day and there is a choice between a long walk and a short walk for each location. They say that you don't miss out on the short walk, but there are some sights you would not see if you opted for the short walk every time (the blow hole is one example where the long walk is necessary) The number of animals you see each walk is tremendous - they are not exaggerating when they say that the animals are not afraid of you and you can approach quite close without scaring any away. Bird life is abundant, although it was difficult to identify every bird you saw as many are similar in colour and size, but the naturalists who accompany you are full of details and information. We sailed between 13th February to 20th February and were very lucky with the weather as it did not rain at all during our excursions. Be prepared though, it is hot and humid and the long walks can be tiring as you are on your feet for over two hours without shade or seat. The food on the ship was good. There was a breakfast buffet, with eggs and waffles cooked to order; either a buffet for lunch, which was quite often themed, or burgers, hot dogs, chicken or fish served at the Beagle Grill on deck 4; dinner consisted of a good choice, 4 course menu which included steak, lobster, and local fish. Quality of the food was very good and there was plenty of choice to satisfy any faddy eater. Drinks of course are included in the price and there was plenty on offer - good choice of wines, spirits and bottled beers, which were welcomed when you return to the ship after the excursions in the afternoon. There is plenty of opportunity to snorkel and all equipment is provided. For experienced snorkelers/divers there is only the one option for a more advanced excursion, although I did not take this option (I'm one of those non-snorkelers) I understand that this was very good with lots of sightings of turtles, seals and sharks. Our suite was very comfortable - a lot smaller than suites on the big cruise ships, but we expected this. Towels are changed three times a day and our balcony was a pleasant retreat in the evening after sunset as it was very pleasant temperature at night before retiring. There is some entertainment arranged in the evening after dinner - talent show, crossing the equator party, star gazing, cheese & wine, karaoke etc - but to be honest, I think most of us were so tired after the days activities, that most people retired after dinner. But the party people had plenty to keep them up later into the night. Our fellow travellers were all of similar minds - there to enjoy the nature, take photographs and have a good time. Many have cruised a number of times and discussions regarding cruise lines, destinations and problems is high on the agenda. There were only 2 couples from England on the cruise, which did surprise us. I hope that this review may put other residents of the UK at rest if they think that Celebrity Xpedition is more for Americans than us Brits. Yes, there were a lot of American and Canadians on the cruise, they were great company and on such a small ship, you get to know lots of people who will become friends after a week. There is enough space for you to enjoy your own company but it is so much nicer to be with a group that are on holiday to enjoy themselves. I was concerned that a big sh There is a lot of choice of small ships doing this cruise around the Galapagos Islands, but the Xpedition is a great choice as you get that big cruise service as well as plenty of options for excursions. I'm sure that the small ships that cater for only 16/20 people cannot give you more than one option per stop. I suffer from seasickness and have been quite ill on other cruises. The ship can be affected by the waves and currents and at times it was quite rocky, especially at night when moored. I took a couple of tablets on two occasions when I thought I might be affected, but I was not ill at all. I was also concerned about the zodiacs which are used to transfer you from ship to land on every occasion. I never felt ill at all on these as they were fast and not at all "rocky". To end - the Xpedition is a great choice for cruising the Galapagos with great service, wonderful crew and enough adventure to satisfy any one's desires. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
This is not a detailed review about each stop as this has been done, but one about enjoying life. The stars of this cruise are the animals large and small, land and water. We went in the quote "rainy season" and never had a ... Read More
This is not a detailed review about each stop as this has been done, but one about enjoying life. The stars of this cruise are the animals large and small, land and water. We went in the quote "rainy season" and never had a drop. We went when people said you won't see a lot of animals and we checked off everyone except the albatross (as we new it would not be there). There were babies of all species and some even enjoying each other .... The ship is perfect for this voyage and the crew is great the hotel manager has this all under control. Some of the passengers were a bit snobbish and stuck to their own group they were traveling with and made this a little unpleasant when stuck on their panga. You learned quickly who you wanted to hike with and most were eager to share the enjoyment of nature. The guides were tops making things fun in the heat and sharing their wealth of knowledge with a laugh along the way. Always keeping you safe. The food was fine we did not eat meat but the fish,chicken and side dishes were plentiful and well presented. I have traveled many places on different lines and they have this down to a science. Thanks Celebrity for sharing this part of the world with my husband and I it was his 60th birthday present and he said he could not of had a better one. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2011
We flew from DFW to Miami, then from Miami to Quitoon January 21, purposely breaking the flight up into two legs with a long layover in Miami, which gave us time to go into South Beach for a great lunch and little sight seeing. We arrived ... Read More
We flew from DFW to Miami, then from Miami to Quitoon January 21, purposely breaking the flight up into two legs with a long layover in Miami, which gave us time to go into South Beach for a great lunch and little sight seeing. We arrived in Quito at around 11 p.m. We saw no jetways at the airports in Ecuador, so be prepared to go up and down stairs to get on and off of the planes, both in Quito and Baltra. Clearing customs only took about 10 minutes. Interestingly, once you cleared customs and picked up your luggage you had to get in line to have your luggage run through an x-ray machine prior to leaving the secured area. Once outside the secure area, we were met by several people bearing Xpedition signs. Their porters took the luggage and transferred it to the bus, for the 10 minute or so ride to the hotel. At the hotel we were met with cold glasses of tree tomato juice, and immediately given our keys. The Marriott was a beautiful hotel with so many large arrangements of roses in the lobby that you could smell the roses when you entered the hotel. Our room overlooked the pool, and was clean, beautifully decorated and roomy. We were not asked to give a credit card imprint at the hotel, and our guide suggested paying for incidentals in cash. Breakfast was available the next morning from 6 to 9. It was excellent. There were several kinds of fruit and melons, some of which I had never seen before. There was an omelet station, where they would also cook eggs to order. There were also regional dishes, including tamal and ceviche. My husband had the ceviche both mornings, and said it was excellent. Tea, either regular or coca, and coffee was offered, and when I asked for hot chocolate, it was promptly provided. Once on the buses for the morning tour, we were given meal choice sheets facilitate service for both lunch and dinner. The choices were fixed menus, so that when you chose your entrEe, you were also choosing the remainder of your meal. I had chicken and lunch and steak for dinner, and both were excellent. At lunch juice, tea and soft drinks were available for free. They greeted our party with glasses of sparkling wine, but if you wanted further alcohol, you had to pay. At dinner I ordered a half bottle of wine, which was very reasonable priced. Our Saturday was very full, with the city tour, lunch and the afternoon trip to the Equatorial Line. We enjoyed the morning, but felt that the Equatorial Line Monument and Museum were something of a tourist trap (yes, we still made the mandatory picture with one foot in each hemisphere). That night, after our dinner at the Theatrum Restaurant, we had to have our luggage downstairs between 9 and 11:30 so that it could be inspected early the next morning by the Galapagos Agricultural authorities. You could not put a lock on you luggage, however Celebrity put plastic security locks on it, and a Celebrity employee stayed with the luggage all night long. We would next see our luggage in our cabins on the ship. Breakfast was available the next morning from 5 to 6:30, and at 6:30 we boarded the bus for the airport. We had already been given our boarding passes, so we were able to go through to the boarding process fairly quickly. We were told that since we had a charter flight, we were not limited on liquids that could be taken aboard in the carry on bags. On the flight each couple had 3 seats across, so there was plenty of room to spread out. Champagne was served, along with a light meal. A variety of movies was available on the plane, along with music and video games; free earphones were provided. Once the plane landed, there was a delay while the ground crews had some discussion on which steps to push up to the plane, and once off we had about a 30 minute wait for the buses to arrive to pick us up. That was just enough time to look at all of the little shops and have a soft drink or a beer in the little food area of the airport. Once we got to the boarding area, where we all made our first sea lion pictures, we were quickly loaded onto the zodiacs. On board we were met by the naturalists, who broke us up into small groups. We had a quick champagne toast, and the naturalist talked about what the remainder of the day was to be like. Afterwards we went to our cabin for the first time. Our bags were already there. The rooms are small, by cruise ship standards, but neat and clean. We kept our two beds separate, to make it easier for both of us to get in and out of the bed. The bed was fine for me, at 5'4", but a little small for my 6'3" husband. There was only one sheet and a duvet on the bed, and he had to work to keep the duvet covering his feet. I am sure that if he had told them, they would have provided a second sheet, but we just never got around to it. There is a small fridge in the cabin, stocked with soft drinks. We left a note asking for extra diet drinks, and there were always diet drinks in the fridge. Every time we left the cabin our cabin attendant rushed in to check the fridge and straighten the beds. The bathrooms are small but functional. I liked the glass enclosure, as opposed to a shower curtain that you see on some ships. There was shampoo and body wash, both of which I used and found adequate. The hair dryer worked fine for my short hair, but might not work as well for someone with longer hair. After the mandatory lifeboat drill, lunch and a some time exploring the ship (it only takes about 15 minutes to see everything there is to see), we arrived at North Seymour Island. I will not say a lot about the different islands, as so much had been said by others. Cdboyle wrote a very comprehensive review of his December trip describing the excursions on each island. His review was so comprehensive, that anything I say would be redundant. In general, however, I have to say that I saw more birds and animals than I ever imagined at closer range than I thought would be possible. We were happy to see the waved albatross even though we had been told they had already left the islands. The excursions were all excellent, and the naturalists were all knowledgeable, my favorite being Graciela. We are in our mid 60's and took all of the excursions described as more physically difficult, and didn't find any of them to be especially difficult. We checked out the wet suits, but found the water so warm that we only used them once. We only snorkeled three times. At one of the beaches, the water was so rough that they basically told us we should not snorkel. At another, the undertow was strong that I felt uncomfortable in the water. My husband, however, snorkeled there. We both snorkeled at Floreana Island were I saw turtles, sea lions, rays and numerous fish in the water. Returning from excursions you were met with cool wash cloths and cold beer, wine or soft drinks along with snacks. The food on the cruise ranged from adequate to excellent. I am not a huge breakfast eater, but did get an omelet one morning, which was really more of a frittata. There was always fruit, cereal, yogurt,cheese, bacon, waffles made to order and some kind of potato. For lunch there were burgers, fish and shrimp at the grill on deck. In addition, there was a station that prepared savory crepes with various fillings. Inside there was a lunch buffet with a good selection of dishes. The pastry chef was excellent, and there were many South American/Hispanic selections at for dessert at lunch including alfajores, tres leches cake, and flan. The lunch highlight was either the day they barbequed on deck, with an actual charcoal grill. There were lobster tails, shrimp, sausages and burgers, along with grilled corn and a selection of salads. Every dinner entree I had was good. Pasta carbonara, chicken cordon bleu, risotto, surf and turf, a roast beef dish, roast chicken and a pasta dish were as good as I have had on a larger ship. My husband had fish several nights and said it was good. The only jarring note was the cheese and fruit plate I ordered for dessert one night. The cheese was dry and oily as if it had been plated much earlier in the day. Entertainment on the boat took the form of nightly cocktail parties with featured drinks which preceded the naturalist talks about the next day's excursions. There was also a naturalist music show, a karaoke night, Crossing the Equator party, talent show and a slide show of the trip. The National Geographic specials on the Galapagos were shown on two afternoons, and there were naturalist talks on other days. One night there was a wine and cheese tasting prior to dinner. On the last night our bags had to go out in the hall before bed. We did not see them again until we arrived at the hotel in Quito. Getting off the ship was a breeze; however we did have almost a 2 hour wait at the airport at Baltra. We were finally moved to the "executive" waiting area, executive meaning ceiling fans over the wooden benches. Arrival at Quito was quick and painless. We arrived at the hotel where once again we were greeted with cold juice. This time the staff from the spa was giving mini chair massages in our meeting area, a nice treat. There was just enough time to go to our room and leave our carry on luggage before we left for the shopping trip. The first stop was a local market with the usual touristy type things, scarves, ponchos, nativity sets. The second was a higher end shop with artisans' goods going from 20 or so dollars up to the thousands. Our flight was at 7 a.m. the next morning, and we had to leave the hotel at 4:30. We took off just after 7:00, landed in Miami just after 11:00 had lunch at the airport in Miami, caught our next flight and were back in Dallas by 5:30 All In all, it was a wonderful trip. Like all of my trips, it was the "trip of a lifetime." Then I begin planning a new trip, and it becomes "trip of a lifetime." The Galapagos trip is something special, though, and it will always stand out as one of my favorites. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2010
ABOUT US John and I (Carolyn) are retired university professors in our early sixties, who have been cruising since October, 1991. This was our first cruise with Celebrity. We are Elite Captain's Circle members on Princess but ... Read More
ABOUT US John and I (Carolyn) are retired university professors in our early sixties, who have been cruising since October, 1991. This was our first cruise with Celebrity. We are Elite Captain's Circle members on Princess but have also cruised on Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Costa, and Commodore. Most of our cruises have been in the Caribbean but we have also cruised to Alaska, the Panama Canal, the Mediterranean/Greek Isles, Scandinavia/Russia, Hawaii, French Polynesia, South America/Antarctic Peninsula, the Far East, the North Atlantic (Greenland/Iceland), and the Norwegian Fjords. For shore excursions, we prefer nature and wildlife tours that involve snorkeling, SCUBA diving, or hiking. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves, or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles, and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food and good times. Our preferred souvenir is a small regional or national flag. On this trip, I was looking for a flag from Ecuador. ABOUT THE REVIEW Other reviews give extensive information on the ship, cabins, food, etc. Our reviews are usually not like that; they are primarily a diary of what we did in the various ports, including links to tourist sites and maps. However, the details of this ship and the daily excursions have been exhaustively discussed on the CruiseCritic.com megathread "Xpedition - Anyone recently back?" (boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=158948) and in the member review section. Therefore, I will not be repeating many of those details, but instead will be mentioning a bit more about Quito and some hikes we were able to do on-our-own on two of the islands (Days 4 and 9). SUGGESTED RESOURCES Galapagos: A Natural History Guide, Seventh Edition (Odyssey Illustrated Guides) by Pierre Constant (2009) This book has been repeatedly revised and the new additions as not integrated seamlessly into the text. In fact, it reads like a high school term paper. Nevertheless, it has good, concise descriptions of the history, geology, and flora/fauna of the Galapagos Islands and includes many useful illustrations, tables, checklists, and color photographs. It also has maps (slightly outdated) of hikes that you can do on-your-own at two of the stops. It is available on www.amazon.com. Galapagos Islands 1:420,000 Travel Map by ITMB (International Travel Maps and Books) This waterproof map has icons to indicate the wildlife typically found on each island. It is available on www.amazon.com. Galápagos: The Islands That Changed the World (2007) This is a 3-part series from BBC (Parts 1 and 2 were shown onboard the Xpedition). It is available for rental from Netflix or for purchase at www.amazon.com. PACKING NOTES We each brought a 22-inch rolling suitcase (clothes, shoes, personal care items) and a carry-on bag (travel info, cameras, binoculars, medicine, change of clothes) that would fit under the plane seat. After packing, the suitcases weighed 30 lbs. each and the carry-ons weighed about 10 lbs each. We each wore or packed a hooded wind breaker, a fleece shirt (needed to get to/from RDU and in Quito), 2 pairs of convertible pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 bathing suits, 6 long-sleeved travel shirts, 4-5 t-shirts or polo shirts, wide brimmed hat, lightweight rain poncho, and 6 changes of underwear/socks. We brought our bungee cord clothesline and washed out socks and underwear a couple of times. Some people brought dressier clothes for dinner. However, we merely showered following each afternoon excursion and changed into the clean clothes that we would wear to dinner and on our excursions the next day. While many people bring large backpacks for the excursions, we used belt packs that have sufficient room in the pack section for a rain poncho and sundries plus two water bottle pockets; we attached our binoculars to the waist strap. We also brought/wore 3 kinds of footwear: Keen Voyageurs (low-top, warm-weather hiking boot) - for the plane, Quito, and all dry landings Columbia River Runners (water sports shoes/hikers) - for all wet landings Teva-type sports sandals - for wearing on the ship DAY 1 (FRIDAY, DECEMBER 10) RDU TO QUITO, ECUADOR We flew from RDU to MIA to UIO on American, arriving at 7:00PM. On the flight, you fill out an Ecuadorean entry form that should be kept with your passport and surrendered at passport control when you leave Ecuador. However, if you lose it, no sweat --- you can fill out another one upon departure before entering the passport control line. Immediately after passing through passport control and claiming our luggage, we were met by a Celebrity representative. She told us to turn our luggage and baggage claim checks over to a porter (bags would be delivered directly to our room) and led us to a bus for the 15-20 minute ride to the J. W. Marriott (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/uiodt-jw-marriott-hotel-quito). It was raining lightly and the traffic was horrendous, so the ride took over 45 minutes. During the ride, we received a brief overview of tomorrow's schedule and the first of many warnings not to venture out from the hotel on our own. At the Marriott, we received a welcome fruit juice drink. There was a special table set up where we checked in (no credit card imprint or cash deposit needed) and received a handout with the next day's schedule. Celebrity also had a courtesy desk set up in the lobby. Because we had gotten up at 3:45AM to make the flight to MIA, we turned in soon after our luggage was delivered. The room had two bottles of water, the usual bathroom amenities, plush bath robes, and bath slippers. We did not notice any problems with the altitude, aside from a slight headache that was easily remedied with aspirin. DAY 2 (SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11) QUITO The day started with a buffet breakfast --- typical American breakfast items, some Ecuadorean dishes and eggs/omelets cooked to order. At 7:30AM, we were directed to board one of 4 tour buses, each identified by a sign (ours was a toucan), to begin the Quito city tour (www.frommers.com/images/destinations/maps/jpg-2006/2830_quitoattractions.jpg). Throughout the tour, we were discretely accompanied by Celebrity security personnel to chase away peddlers and beggars. On the way to the Old Town, we filled out forms for our lunch and dinner choices. The lunch was 3 courses, with 3 choices for each course; dinner was a choice of one of three 3-course meals. Several people wanted their food plainly cooked (e.g., broiled chicken or fish with no sauce) and such requests can be noted on the form. Our first stop was at La Basílica del Voto Nacional (www.frommers.com/destinations/quito/A30930.html). The exterior is interesting because the gargoyles include local fauna, such as tortoises and iguanas, as well as mythical beasts. The interior was not particularly impressive, except for the stained glass and a view of La Virgen de Quito through a doorway. Although our guide repeatedly called this statue of the Virgin Mary an angel, she is winged because she is depicted as the Woman of the Apocalypse (Revelation 12:1-18). The statue is visible from many places in downtown Quito. Next on the tour was El Centro Cultural Metropolitano (www.centrocultural-quito.com/ccmq.php) for a pit stop followed by a brief tour of the ground-floor exhibit on Joaquín Pinto (the Michelangelo of Ecuador). Next we visited the foyer of the Government Palace and our guide pointed out other buildings around La Plaza de la Independencia (www.frommers.com/destinations/quito/A30937.html). This was followed by a tour of La Compañía de Jesús (Jesuit Church) (www.frommers.com/destinations/quito/A30933.html). This church is a mixture of Gothic, Moorish and Baroque styles and is lavishly decorated with gold leaf. This was the only sight where photos are not allowed, but picture postcards are available at the gift shop (50 cents each). Our final visit was to Iglesia de San Francisco (www.frommers.com/destinations/quito/A30939.html). This church is under major renovation, which it desperately needs. A huge banner imprinted with a color photograph of the main altar completely obscures that altar and most of the church's major works of art. Two older ladies did not feel that they could negotiate the steps up to this church, so the security person stayed with them while the rest of us toured. At this point, we were bused to Carmine Ristorante (www.carmineristorante.com) for lunch. We were welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, but only water and fruit juices were included with the meal. We thought the food and service were very good and enjoyed the outdoor seating area (although most people sat inside). However, it seemed odd to be eating Italian food in Ecuador. After lunch, we drove for about an hour to La Mitad del Mundo, where there is a monument marking (inaccurately) the equator. Despite the fact that the real equator is about 600 feet to the north, we all took pictures straddling the equatorial line painted on the walkway. It was very windy here, especially at the top of the monument --- we were glad to have the wind breakers and fleece! After taking an elevator to the top, you walk down the stairs and there are exhibits at each landing. Outside the monument are some other museums (not included in our tour) plus many souvenir stands and food outlets. I found a nicely-made embroidered Ecuadorean flag that was a step up in quality from the usual printed variety. After the long ride back to Quito, we had about an hour to relax before heading out (in a downpour, but there are umbrellas on the buses) for dinner. We were strictly warned not to leave the restaurant on our own under any circumstances. The Theatrum Restaurant and Wine Bar (www.theatrum.com.ec/English/index.html) is on the second floor of the Teatro Sucre. Here we were supposed to have a beverage (fruit juice, soft drink, or beer) included with the meal. However, the waiters only seemed interested in serving those who were purchasing wine. Our table mates had to ask 4 times for a beer and were well into their main course before it was finally served to them. Those of us who ordered wine were never offered our complimentary beverage. The waiters seemed harried and not particularly happy to be serving our large group. However, the wine was excellent and the beef was very good. Towards the end of the meal, we were entertained by a tenor (www.stahlmusic.com) with a fine voice. After dinner we returned to the hotel to prepare our bags for the flight to the Galapagos Islands. We brought them to the Librería, where Celebrity personnel applied flexible locks and guarded the bags all night. After being opened for an early-morning inspection by the Galapagos Agriculture Authorities, they would be re-locked and taken directly to the airplane and then to the Xpedition for us; we would next see our bags in our cabin. Because this was a charter flight, we could carry liquids of any size in our carry-on luggage. DAY 3 (SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12) QUITO TO BALTRA (EMBARKATION DAY) After breakfast, we were given our boarding passes and Galapagos entry form at the Celebrity Courtesy Desk. Although our guides repeatedly stated that the $10 pp entry fee would be charged to our shipboard account, ours had already been paid through our travel agent. We were warned that if we lost the entry form, we would have to pay another $10 to replace it. Celebrity was so concerned that we could not hang onto these pieces of paper that they collected them right after we boarded the ship and returned them to us the night before disembarkation. After milling around the lobby for awhile, we were bused to the airport for the flight to Quito. Despite repeated statements by the guides that there would only be two people in each 3-person row, the flight had few empty seats. During the flight there were great views from the left side of many volcanic peaks around Quito. One was smoking and was probably Tungurahua, which erupted most recently on December 4. A snack and breakfast (not worthy of comment) are served during the flight. Shortly before landing, all of the overhead bins are sprayed to eliminate pests. This flight seems to be delayed frequently and we arrived almost 2 hours late. Once we finally landed in Baltra, we were hustled to buses and whisked away to the marina in Aeolean Cove. There we saw our first wildlife --- sea lions, colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs, and frigate birds --- as we boarded the Zodiacs (pangas) and motored over to the Xpedition. The Xpedition never docks, except when it goes into dry dock every 2 year for maintenance; access to and from the ship is exclusively by means of the pangas. We were welcomed onboard with sparkling wine, completed some embarkation formalities, were shown to our cabin, and had a quick lunch before the lifeboat drill and our first excursion. Our cabin was cozy but adequate. The large shower had a glass door, which was a nice change from the usual body-hugging curtain. Bath robes appeared on the second day. There is one small pair of binoculars in the cabin for use during the cruise; bring your own. Chocolates were left on the bed at turndown on a few nights. Food on the ship was good to very good, but note that we mostly ate the seafood items. Breakfast was a buffet in the Darwin Restaurant or a continental breakfast at the Beagle Grill on deck. The buffet lunch always included an excellent mixed seafood ceviche (with traditional accompaniments, such as popcorn). The BBQ lunch on Day 7 was outstanding; we had seconds of the grilled shrimp, fish, and lobster. Each afternoon, snacks and beverages are available on deck as you return from the afternoon excursion. The open-seating dinner had a surprisingly large number of selections. The dinner menu is always displayed in the lounge and there is a sign-up sheet to indicate your choices. However, it was never announced or mentioned in the daily program that we should sign up, so few people bothered to do so. There is not a huge amount of evening entertainment on this ship, which was fine for us. A young man played a keyboard on deck and a piano in the lounge. There was a talent show, karaoke night, and a "Crossing the Line" ceremony to initiate the pollywogs. This crossing ceremony was very tame compared to those we have seen on other ships (which have involved being smeared with spaghetti, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, etc.) and King Neptune had only a stuffed fish to kiss (not a real one). Other evening entertainment included turning on the ship's lights to attract marine life. Often star gazing is also offered, but the skies were mostly overcast every night of our cruise. The last night, the Cruise Director presented a slide show of 200 photos taken by the naturalists during the cruise. A disk with 900+ photos taken by the staff was given to each couple or single and is a great souvenir of the cruise. DAY 3 (SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12) NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND As those who have followed the megathread or read the reviews know, almost every Xpedition excursion comes in a long walk/short walk version; the short walk activities include extra time exploring in the Zodiacs. Each excursion is led by a trained naturalist and passengers go ashore in groups no larger than 16. A briefing is held each evening to describe the next day's excursions (degree of difficulty, gear needed, what you might see, etc.). Following the briefing, you sign up for the excursions you want. Everyone gets the excursions he/she wants, but it is not usually possible to change your choice the next day (unless you decide not to go at all). The excursions are also described in the daily program, which is distributed to each cabin. Celebrity lists excursion descriptions for the Xpedition online at www.celebritycruises.com, but those descriptions are out of date. Nevertheless, I will reference the excursion codes below in case that might help someone. The two choices for the first excursion were: 4:30-6:45PM Long Walk Activity - Dry Landing at North Seymour Island (YG03) 4:45-6:45PM Short Walk Activity - Zodiac Ride & Dry Landing at North Seymour Island (YG04) On our long walk (about 2 K/1.2 mi), we first passed through a large colony of Blue-Footed Boobies. Here we saw many chicks and some limited adult dancing activity. The booby nesting area overlaps that of a large frigate bird (both Great and Magnificent) colony. Again, we saw many chicks and adults plus some eggs. The males were quite diligent about inflating their red throat pouches to attract females. Some of the inflated pouches were huge in comparison to the rest of the bird's body. Along the path we saw an abandoned warbler nest (with eggs) in a cactus. We were also fortunate to encounter a large Land Iguana standing on its hind legs and snacking on an Opuntia (prickly pear cactus). As we looped back to the beach, we began to encounter Galapagos Sea Lions (including pups) and Marine Iguanas. One section of the beach had great surf and we were thrilled to see sea lions body-surfing in the waves. Other wildlife/plants that we saw for the first time on this excursion: Galapagos lava lizard, Red-Billed Tropic Bird, Brown Pelican, Swallow-Tailed Gull, Yellow Warbler, some sort of Ground Finch, Ruddy Turnstone, Carpenter Bee, Sesuvium. The overwhelming number of wildlife encounters on this excursion made it our favorite! DAY 4 (MONDAY, DECEMBER 13) SAN CRISTOBAL & ESPAÑOLA ISLANDS Today there were 3 official excursions plus our unofficial on-our-own excursion. Early morning excursion (only one choice): 7:00-8:00AM Early Circumnavigation around Kicker Rock - Zodiac Ride Only (YC02) Geology buffs should not miss this magnificent tuff formation, illuminated by the rising sun. The sheer cliffs of Kicker Rock (AKA Leon Dormido - Sleeping Lion) are home to many sea birds and crabs. This was where we first saw the juvenile Sally Lightfoot crabs, which are black for camouflage against the lava. This formation actually has several channels between the cliff walls, but we were not allowed to pass through these in the panga. After viewing the rock from many perspectives, we returned to the ship to prepare for the morning excursion. Morning excursion (only one choice, but we did an on-our-own hike instead): 9:00-11:30AM Dry Landing at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (YC03) This excursion features a very short bus ride to the National Park's Centro de Interpretacion on San Cristobal Island, followed by a return bus ride to the end of the main street of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and ample shopping time. After reading reviews of this excursion, we decided that our time would be better spent doing an on-our-own hike on the trails above the Interpretation Center. Our guide book had a rough map of the trails and we ran our plan past the Cruise Director, who simply warned us to take extra water and be sure to make the last tender back to the ship at 11:30PM; he said that Celebrity is considering adding this hike to the Interpretation Center visit to provide a long walk activity option. The CD also informed the naturalists that we were approved to leave the organized groups once we arrived at the Interpretation Center. The paved trails begin at a sign behind the Interpretation Center. We were unsure of the distances and time needed, so we headed directly for the stairs to the mirador (viewpoint) atop Cerro de las Tijeretas (Frigate Bird Hill). We reached the viewpoint in about 15 minutes (quick pace) and were rewarded with a panoramic view of the coastline. Due to the sparse vegetation, we could also see almost the entire paved trail system beneath us. It was clear that we would have plenty of time to hike the entire loop back to the Interpretation Center, as opposed to retracing our steps. Now that we knew the extent of the trails, we could explore a bit of the unpaved trail along the cliffs at the top of the hill and then hike the remainder of the paved trails at a more leisurely pace. Along the path we saw San Cristobal lava lizards and Mockingbirds. From the mirador, the trail drops down to the shore of Las Tijeretas Cove, where there is a sea cave that resounds with sea lion barks (although w did not see any there); pelicans were nesting on the cliffs. The trail climbs another hill to a statue of Charles Darwin surrounded by examples of Galapagos wildlife. Continuing on, there is a spur trail to Playa Carola. This beautiful beach was covered with sea lions and featured biting flies. The flies did not bother John, but they got some of my A- before I was able to protect my arms and legs with insect repellent wipes. In contrast to other areas we visited in the Galapagos, there was a lot of trash along these trails. I picked up as much as I could (including a snorkel mask) and discarded it at the Interpretation Center. I wished I had brought a bag to collect more. We hiked for about an hour including multiple stops and estimate that we covered about 2 K/1.2 mi. We had expected to walk back into town, but there were still people from the Xpedition and one of the naturalists touring the Interpretation Center. We made a quick pass through the exhibits, but did not feel that they added significantly to our Galapagos experience (especially since we had already seen the BBC show and read the guide book recommended above). We took advantage of the bus back into town, where we walked along the waterfront (many sea lions, crabs, and birds) and did some window shopping. Although we are not great shoppers, there appeared to be more souvenirs available here than later in Puerto Ayora. After returning to the ship and enjoying lunch, everyone was outfitted with snorkeling gear as the ship proceeded to Española Island. During the passage, we saw Spinner Dolphins. Afternoon excursion (two choices): 3:30-6:00PM Long Walk Activity - Dry landing at Española Island (YC04) 3:45-6:00PM Short Walk Activity - Dry landing at Española Island (combined YG05/YG06) The long walk (about 3 K/1.8 mi) at Punta Suárez provides an opportunity to observe vast numbers of Espanola Marine Iguanas, also known as Christmas Iguanas due to their red and green coloration. As we left the jetty, there was a lighthouse that was being used by a Galapagos Hawk as a perch for spotting prey. Crossing the point, we proceed through the marine iguana nesting grounds to a rocky beach area where Nazca (Masked) Boobies were nesting. We saw many chicks, including ones that seemed to have hatched within the previous few hours. There were also many Blue-Footed Boobies and Swallow-Tailed Gulls (which we saw mating). Continuing on to a cliff area, we had a striking view of a blowhole. Above the cliffs, Red-Billed Tropic Birds and Waved Albatrosses were soaring. Turning inland, we entered the "Albatross Airport" where we saw an adult's distinctive take off and other adult pairs rubbing beaks. This nesting area was filled with albatross chicks, which would fledge within the next couple of weeks; many were flapping their wings for practice. The chicks were also well along in shedding their brown down to reveal the white feathers underneath --- one seemed to be sporting a Mohawk haircut! Returning to the beach area near the jetty, we encountered a multitude of sea lions and many nursing pups. Other wildlife that we saw for the first time on this excursion: Green Sea turtle, Española lava lizard, Audubon Shearwaters, Lava Gulls, Lava Heron, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, American Oystercatcher, Galapagos Dove, Galapagos and Española Mockingbirds, Large Cactus Finch, and Wandering Tattlers. DAY 5 (TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14) FLOREANA ISLAND Today there were 3 excursions offered. Morning excursion (only one choice): 8:00-11:30AM (8:00-10:0AM for those doing the Champion Island snorkel) Long Walk -Cormorant Point - Wet Landing (EF02) Heading inland from the beach, we were fortunate to find Flamingos feeding in a very large brackish pond. As we crossed the isthmus to the beach on the other side, the naturalist pointed out many indigenous plants: Scalesia; Galapagos Daisy; Black, White, and Red Mangroves, and Salt Bush. Although this is a beautiful white-sand beach, we could not swim here because the water is teeming with Diamond stingrays, which are easy to see against the white sand through the clear water. We could also see Sea Turtles mating offshore. The dunes along the beach are turtle nesting areas. This hike was about 2K/1.2 mi. When we returned to the landing beach, those of us doing the Champion Island snorkel returned to the ship to gear up for that. The other passengers could relax longer on the beach or snorkel there. Mid-morning excursion (only one choice): 10:30AM-Noon Advanced Snorkel Activity - "Champion Island" (EF03) For the deep-water (12 - 15 meters; 40 - 50 ft) snorkel at Champion Island, we were asked to don our wetsuits on the ship and not wear our shoes. We rode in the pangas past the Devil's Crown Volcanic Cone to Champion Island; this takes about 25 minutes. This is a drift snorkel; the naturalists are following each group with a panga and you can signal to get out whenever you wish. We, of course, stayed in until the last possible moment because this was a spectacular area to snorkel. Although the Galapagos's cold waters (it was about 68 °F this day) do not allow the extensive reefs found in the Caribbean, we saw brain coral and barrel sponges. We also saw 2 Galapagos sharks, a school of about 2 dozen Golden cow-nose rays, pencil sea urchins, sea stars, and many tropical fish (King angelfish, Yellowtailed surgeonfish, Galapagos grunt, Panamic sergeant major, Blue chin parrotfish, Mexican hogfish). Near the end of the snorkel, we were joined by sea lions, who spiraled around us playfully. The water was a little cloudy and the sky was overcast, which made it hard to get good pictures. Nevertheless, this was the best snorkel activity of the trip. After returning to the ship to warm up and have lunch, we saw whale spouts and dolphins as the ship sailed to the other side of Floreana for the afternoon excursion. Afternoon excursion (only one choice): 3:30-6:00P Zodiac Ride, Short Walk- Wet Landing - "Baroness Lookout" (EC03) As we approached the landing beach, we first explored a shallow area looking for juvenile sharks. We could only see their shadows. Then our panga went to the other side of the small bay, where we a rocky outcropping with a few Galapagos penguins. There were also many sea turtles in the bay. We landed on the beach for a short hike (about 90 m/300 ft) to steps that lead up to a viewpoint and great views. Along the way, we saw Floreana lava lizards and more finches. Back at the beach, we saw sandpipers (Spotted and Least) and Semi-palmated plovers. Later in the evening the ship repositioned to an anchorage off Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island. This was a night for marine observation, with wildlife being attracted to the ship's lights. We could not get good photos but managed to see several sharks swimming around. Then we saw a flying fish that suddenly disappeared when it was eaten by a sea lion! DAY 6 (WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15) SANTA CRUZ AND BARTOLOMÉ ISLANDS Today there were 2 excursions offered. Morning excursion (two choices): 9:00-11:30AM Wet Landing - Long "easy" Walk (YB02) 9:30-11:30AM Beach Activity - Wet Landing (YB03) The long "easy" walk went to two brackish ponds in hopes of seeing flamingos. We did not see any flamingos; however, we did see Black Necked Stilts, White Cheeked Pintail Ducks, and a Great Blue Heron. This beach is also a favorite nesting area for sea turtles; we saw turtle tracks leading to a nest. Walking back to the landing area, we saw a hermit crab and some remnants of the World War II barges that ran aground on this beach ("bachas" is distorted pronunciation of "barges"). Although advertized as a good "practice-your-snorkeling" site, we thought the wave action was very rough for beginners. We are experienced swimmers and SCUBA divers, but still managed to get roughed up by the heavy surf. The visibility was not very good because of all the sand roiled up by the waves. Nevertheless, we did see a good assortment of fish. When we were reboarding the ship, there was a group of frigate birds hunting nearby. One caught a small eel (Moray?) and they began fighting over it. The eel was dropped into the water, but quickly recaptured and swallowed. Afternoon excursion (two choices): 3:30-6:00PM Long Walk "To the Top" Hike Activity - Dry / Wet Landing at BartolomE Island (YB04) 3:45-6:00PM Zodiac Ride/Isthmus Hike - Short Walk - Wet Landing at BartolomE Island (combines YB05 and YB06) Our excursion started with the infamous 1.5 K/0.9 mi, 358 step hike "To the Top" of the central volcano for fantastic view of BartolomE Island' tuff and spatter cones, as well as the iconic Pinnacle Rock. Our young naturalist and a few of the passengers had some difficulty with this climb, even though there are several overlooks where you can catch your breath and enjoy the view. Along the way we saw lava tubes, lava cactus and Tiquilia (which only grow on lava), the Galapagos Painted Locust and, of course, the ubiquitous lava lizards. After returning to the Zodiac, we motored over to the beach where the short walk groups had landed. On the way, we saw several Galapagos penguins. We hoped to snorkel here with penguins and sea turtles, but again the sea conditions were not very good and we only saw some fish. The short walk groups had better luck as they walked to the beach on the other side of Pinnacle Rock and saw a sea turtle come ashore. DAY 7 (THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16) ISABELLA AND FERNANDINA ISLANDS Today 2 excursions were offered, plus scenic cruising. Morning excursion (two choices): 8:00-11:30AM Long Walk - Urvina Bay - Wet Landing 8:00-11:30AM Walk and Beach - Urvina Bay - Wet Landing As we approached the beach at Urvina Bay, a Spotted Eagle ray swam right alongside the panga. There were many sea turtles in the water as well, some of whom were mating. The long walk (about 4 K/2.4 mi) goes along a rocky shore before turning inland. We saw more turtle tracks leading from a nest where eggs had probably been laid the previous night. This area was uplifted in 1954 due to a volcanic eruption. Bleached coral heads (now 5m/7ft above sea level) abound and sea urchin spines litter the ground. Many land iguana nest in this area and their burrows were everywhere. The trail was blocked in several places by males, which we had to walk gingerly around. Wasps were buzzing around but did not bother anyone in our group. We also saw cattle egrets and Small Ground finches. However, the highlight was observing a small female giant tortoise. We had been discouraged by the Cruise Director from snorkeling at this site and were kicking ourselves when we saw others snorkeling with the sea turtles. We had to content ourselves with walking back along the first part of the trail and watching them and some mating rays from the shore. As some consolation, we spotted our first flightless cormorant. After returning to the ship, we saw a pod of dolphins hunting. One group was still returning in a panga, so their driver was able to approach the pod and get some great photos of the dolphins' performance. Scenic Cruising along Isabela and Fernandina Islands (YK03) The Bolivar Channel between Urvina Bay on Isabela Island and Espinoza Point on Fernandina Island is noted as a good place to spot whales and dolphins. We did see some whale spouts and (with the aid of binoculars) see their backs and dorsal fins. These could have been Fin, Sei, or Minke whales, but there was no way to know for sure which kind. We also saw a disturbance in the water that was getting closer to the ship. Eventually we could see that this was a dorsal and tail fin snaking sinuously through the water. It didn't look like a shark, but the question was resolved when a marlin leaped into the air! John went off to ask the Cruise Director about this. While John and the Cruise Director were talking and looking out the lounge window, the marlin swam right alongside the boat and they got a close-up look at its beautiful blue back. They also got to see it leap a couple of more times. Afternoon excursion (two choices): 3:30-6:00PM Long Walk Activity -Espinoza Point - Dry Landing Fernandina Island (YK04) 3:45-6:00PM Short Walk Activity Dry Landing The landing at Espinoza Point is on a tongue of sharp lava rocks. Marine Iguanas are everywhere: underfoot, sunning themselves on the rocks, and swimming in the water. The trail passes through an iguana nesting area and it is difficult to comprehend the enormous number of these creatures that we saw on this excursion. Most of this walk (1.5 K/ 0.9 mi for the long option) is over lava flows --- both aa (rough) and pahoehoe (ropey) types --- and the footing is uneven. Some Flightless Cormorant nest at this site also. We saw them swimming in the water (along with sea lions, iguanas, and sea turtles) and holding out their vestigial wings to dry. One thing we had thought we would NOT see on this trip was the elusive Galapagos Snake. However, one was spied in a sand-bottomed lava crevice. Further along, fishermen had assembled a partial whale skeleton, stark white against the black lava. As we walked back to the landing, we passed tide pools containing tropical fish, such as the Blue-Eyed Damselfish and the Four-Eyed Blenny. DAY 8 (FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17) SANTIAGO/SAN SALVADOR/JAMES AND SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS Today there were 2 excursions offered. Morning excursion (two choices): 8:00-11:00AM Santiago Island - Wet Landing at James Bay - Long Walk Activity (YH03) 8:00-11:00AM Santiago Island - Wet Landing at James Bay - Zodiac Ride Activity (YH04) The long walk (2 K/1.2 mi) activity here is another geology-buff's dream. After the wet landing on a black-sand beach, the trail climbs past the remains of Puerto Egas, a former salt-mining operation. Once atop the small tuff cliffs, the trail passes through a dry open area where we saw a flock of Smooth-Billed Anis hunting in unison. The trail ends at a large lava flow, with many lava tunnels that have collapse to form grottoes and bridges. One grotto is called "Charles Darwin's Toilet" --- the round lava shaft fills to the top and empties with the surge of the surf. This is also the place to see Galapagos Fur Seals (actually a type of sea lion, not a seal). We also saw an American Oystercatcher with a chick and an abandoned oystercatcher nest with an egg. Returning to the beach, we had a fantastic snorkel opportunity. Numerous sea turtles were feeding in this area and seemed totally oblivious to the snorkelers. John was able to take some wonderful photos of the turtles feeding and swimming. Afternoon excursion (two choices): 3:30-5:30PM Santa Cruz Island - Dry Landing at Dragon Hill - Long Walk and Beach Activity (DH02) 3:45-5:30PM Santa Cruz Island - Dry Landing at Dragon Hill - Short Walk and Beach Activity (DH04) Although Dragon Hill, or "Cerro Dragón," is named after its population of land iguanas, we only saw a couple on our long (2.3 K/ 1.4 mi) walk. We didn't see any of the feral donkeys or flamingos either. We did get to see a forest of Palo Santo (incense) trees and some great views from the top of the hill. Back at the beach, some people snorkeled but we passed on this one. The naturalist said there are sometimes nurse sharks under a ledge but no one saw them. DAY 9 (SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18) SANTA CRUZ ISLAND Today there were 2 official excursions plus our second unofficial on-our-own excursion. Morning excursion (only one choice): 8:00-11:30AM Charles Darwin Research Station - Long Walk Activity - Dry Landing at Puerto Ayora (YI04) This excursion starts with a short bus ride down Charles Darwin Avenue to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Because it was Saturday, the Research Station was only lightly staffed. Our naturalist showed us a nursery that sells native plants and encourages the local residents to use them in their gardens. She also explained an exhibit that displayed the different types of Giant Tortoises and their ecology. After this introduction, we went to the tortoise rearing cages, where the young are raised until they are old enough to be released into the wild. There were many other enclosures with mature tortoises that are part of the breeding program. One enclosure houses "Lonesome George" --- the last remaining Pinta Island tortoise. George has two seductive females of a related species cohabiting with him, but unfortunately no hatchlings have ever resulted. The tour ended at another enclosure where we could mingle with a half-dozen large males --- a wonderful photo op. At the previous evening's briefing, the Cruise Director had said that passengers were free to remain in Puerto Ayora after the morning excursion and either join up later with one of the groups for the afternoon excursion or return to the ship when the afternoon groups landed. We decided to take advantage of this second opportunity to strike out on-our-own. After we had our fill of the tortoises at the Research Station, we used a map from our guide book to walk over to the mirador on the other side of town. This is the start of the trail to Tortuga Bay, which was formerly an excursion (YI02) offered on the Xpedition. When we ran the idea of this idea past the Cruise Director, he said that on future voyages he would include a better map of the town in the daily program for others who would had the stamina and interest to make this hike (round trip distance about 6 K/3.6 mi). At the mirador, you should sign the trail register. The attendant there spoke limited English (and I have limited Spanish), but she was pleased that we wanted to hike the trail, explained about the wildlife we might see, and warned us against trying to swim at the beach (Playa Brava) because of the strong currents (our Cruise Director had also mentioned that there are a lot of sharks there). There are refreshments for sale at the mirador, free restrooms, and a viewing platform, which has a good view of Puerto Ayora and the harbor. The trail is paved all the way to Playa Brava and passes through a typical arid coastal zone with large prickly pear and candelabra cacti plus many lava lizards. Playa Brava is another beautiful beach and the surf was up; we saw a sea lion body-surfing. The dunes above the beach are sea turtle nesting areas and are posted with warning signs. Further down the beach is a large colony of marine iguanas and a huge forest of Opuntia (prickly pear cactus). There is a trail through a forest to a large protected lagoon, which is popular for swimming. There were many people (local and visitors) enjoying the warm water. We merely walked along the shore of the lagoon, spotting a pelican nesting in a mangrove and a few fish in the lagoon. We relaxed for awhile under the shade of a mangrove. John was resting his hand on the trunk and a curious finch seemed to think he was a potential lunch; it hopped right up to his hand and almost pecked him before deciding to fly away (and before I could get a photo). Hiking back along the beach to the trailhead, we saw four young men attempting to surf. We watched for a while and they were joined by more surfers. As we walked back to town along the trail, we continually encountered surfers carrying their boards to the beach. We also were mildly surprised to meet a group of 6 other people from the Xpedition heading to the beach; apparently they had previous visited to Puerto Ayora and knew the beach was worth the hike. Once back in town, we attempted to do a little window shopping. However, most of the stores were closed, perhaps due to siesta or because they knew the majority of the turistas from the Xpedition would not be back until after 3:00PM. In any case, we had some time to kill before the afternoon excursion. We walked along the harbor and found a good place to sit in the shade and watch the boats, sea lions, and iguanas. One iguana doggedly swam completely across the harbor for some inscrutable reason. There were many small iguanas at the harbor, but only a few sea lions. When we saw the first panga head to shore for the afternoon excursion, we went over to the pier and were allowed to join that group. Afternoon excursion (only one choice): 3:00-6:30PM "Highlands" Activity - Dry Landing at Puerto Ayora (YI03) This excursion starts with a 30-minute bus ride to the Santa Cruz highlands. Along the road, there are many farms, which border the National Park. Those of us on the left side of the bus began to spot giant tortoises in the fields and even right alongside the road. We stopped at Rancho Mariposa, a private farm where the tortoises roam freely. Our group started its hike (1-1.5 K/0.6-0.9 mi) in a lightly wooded area and quickly encountered a female tortoise blocking the trail. Many pictures were taken; she did not appreciate being considered so photogenic and hissed at us. As we continued on, we began to see more tortoises --- a few here, a few over there. We also stopped at a large collapsed lava tube that is now filled with ferns and other vegetation. Our guide led the more agile down into the tube in hopes of spotting owls; alas, none were home on our visit. Finally, we emerged into a very large pasture area where there were dozens of tortoises doing various tortoise-y things. There is a pond where we saw tortoises drinking, as well as some ducks. This sounds matter-of-fact but these giant tortoises are amazing creatures. We had been warned that rain was forecast for the highands and this was the point where it started to rain lightly. John and I pulled out our dorky plastic ponchos so that we could spend a bit more time marveling at these creature; those who were unprepared departed for the visitor center, where complimentary hot coffee and tea awaited. We reluctantly headed to the visitor center and tried the coffee. We generally only drink coffee with chicory or other strong versions (like espresso), but the Galapagos coffee was very good. It did not hurt that the proprietor added a shot of rum to each cup. There is a small gift shop selling bag of coffee beans, hand-painted t-shirts, and various souvenir items. There was time to shop when we returned to Puerto Ayora, but we just walked back to the pier to catch the Zodiac back to the ship. DAY 10 (SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19) BALTRA TO QUITO After breakfast, we boarded the Zodiacs for the last time to return to the dock on Baltra. After arriving at the airport, we had about an hour to patronize the various gift shops before being herded through the security and check-in lines and into the VIP lounge. I'm not sure what made it VIP except that there were ceiling fans, more comfortable chairs, and two small bathrooms. Some of our group tried to occupy an air-conditioned room that was designated as reserved for guests of some resort, but they were evicted by airport personnel. Eventually, the plane with the new load of Xpedition guests arrived and we boarded the same plane to return to Quito. There was an unmemorable lunch served on the plane and beverage service was spotty. Back in Quito, we were glad that we had put the wind breakers and fleece in our carry-ons. In addition to being chilly, it was raining and would continue to do so for the rest of our time in Quito. After checking back in to the Marriott (another welcome fruit juice drink, special check-in table, and handout) we had a short break before about one-third of us took the shopping tour. We spent about 45 minutes at a local market that had many, many stalls with all sorts of souvenirs (multiple versions of La Virgen de Quito), jewelry, blankets, and scarves. I did not find the vendadores pushy or aggressive. It was helpful to know a little Spanish, especially because I wanted some scarves in shades of brown (marrón). After that, we went to a much more upscale (translation: expensive) craft store, Galería Latina (www.galerialatina-quito.com/english.htm), for another 45 minutes. We returned to the hotel a few minutes before dinner at the Marriott's Don Porfirio restaurant, where we had a Mexican buffet (one soft drink included). We thought the food was OK. DAY 11 (MONDAY, DECEMBER 20) QUITO TO RDU We did not have to set out our suitcases last night; we simply had to bring them to the lobby prior to boarding the buses for the ride to the airport. Our flight was at 10:30AM, so our bus left at 7:30AM. Once at the airport, we said goodbye to our Celebrity escort, checked in, paid the $40.80 pp exit fee, and went through passport control and security with no problems. When you pay the exit fee, stickers are placed on the back of your boarding pass; these were checked at least 4 times before we boarded the plane. Another interesting thing was the additional security check (search of hand luggage) at the entrance to each gate waiting area. We saw bottles of water being confiscated at this checkpoint, even though they had been bought after the main security checkpoint. Also, if you leave the gate area (e.g., to visit the restrooms), you must show your boarding pass to re-enter. We had more than enough time to visit all the airport shops. The flight to MIA was uneventful, with another forgettable lunch. John had worried about the 2-hour connection time in MIA, but we arrived early and (once we had negotiated the airport maze) passport control and customs went quickly. We arrived at our gate well before boarding started for our flight home to RDU. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2010
This Cruise exceeded my expectations for those of you who want a good nights sleep here's a daily log Day 1 December 3, 2010.. We leave our home headed for the Miami Airport. We are picked up by Dennis our affable driver. ... Read More
This Cruise exceeded my expectations for those of you who want a good nights sleep here's a daily log Day 1 December 3, 2010.. We leave our home headed for the Miami Airport. We are picked up by Dennis our affable driver. He is a retired Gendarme, who drives on the side and is a Golf Course starter to supplement his retirement benefits. He always has a story to tell and puts us in a great mood. We travel down interstate 95 to the Miami airport. At the Miami Dade County line, there is a change in the atmosphere, the drivers speed faster, cut in and out of lanes for no apparent reason all rushing to get somewhere/nowhere in that never ending quest to play que es muy macho!!!! We arrive at the American Airlines terminal. I feel like we are truly entering the modern Casablanca. Endless lines of mixed mElanges of people trying to go somewhere with alot of obstacles to overcome, the ticket agent, TSA people all scurrying about all trying to make that last flight to Lisbon. We get past the ticket counter and now enter the TSA Conga Line. We remove our shoes, socks, stripped down to our dignity by a scanner. After scanning, I am selected to be patted down by Olga, who is a PDS5 TSA employee(Pat Down Specialist 5). I look at her and remark that was pretty snappy the way you put on your govt issue blue latex gloves. She smirks and tells me in her Eastern European accent, that she is really a proctologist but due to Obama care cutbacks she does this for supplemental income. She further states that what she is about to do to me is considered by the TSA as a "Shovel Ready Project". Well to mangle a Chris Rock line, fear not fellow passengers... There is no Sex in the Pat down line.. On the way to the gate we meet Sean Penn , we eyeball each other and nod. He eyeballs me and my wife, smiles and moves on into the Admirals lounge. Its good to be the King. Next stop the airplane gate, we sit around waiting to be allowed our passage, Into the Cattleshute, oh I mean airplane. We take our seats, the plane is full. At the gate we talk to an expat living in Quito. We await the stewards/stewardess to strap us in, toss us peanuts and hose us down. The free movie was "dinner for schmucks", once you tasted the food you felt like one for flying Coach. The meal was interesting, prison food at its finest. The plane a 757; 3 across 2 aisles someone did not shower, screaming babies, it was the longest 4 hour flight ever. None of the onboard entertainment worked the overheads were flickering... all in all it was great to land in Quito. It took approx. 2 hours to clear customs, get our luggage and have Celebrity transport us to the Hotel. If you thought Miami drivers were bad the ones in Quito are on a suicide mission. Cutting off buses bumper to bumper congestion, it was truly an amazing spectacle. I think Miami drivers get their training in Quito. We missed our dinner reservation to Zazu and ate the hotel. The JW Marriott in Quito is a truly clean and beautiful hotel, attentive staff and the food is average. Ecuador uses US currency so no conversion hassles. Since Quito is at 9000 feet, I drank a lot of Cocoa tea for headaches etc. This weekend is Quito's 474th Birthday, so tonite and for rest of weekend, there are street parties, loud music , drum banging,people dancing in trucks and buses, lively and festive. It's their 4th of July and fireworks, hard to sleep but I enjoy the tumult. Tomorrow we tour the city, go to the equator line. Time for bed. Sat. Dec 4, 2010 Quito the city tours A comprehensive and exhausting day. We toured old town Quito, San Francisco Cathedral and about 2 others. A lot of gold on the walls with Baroque and Rococo decorations. The Spanish knew how to plunder and put the indigeneous populations to work. Very interesting but over the top tributes to G-d `and man. Such great wealth in a poor economic climate and city with a lot of run down buildings. My spouse decided to start her own foreign aid program. From now on I will call her the mad scarf woman of Otalvo(a native tribe). She bought approximately 20 scarves from Otalvan women street vendors for her office. I bargained hard, but the price shall remain a secret. We also visited the presidential palace saw a lot of police and military presence, we were concerned because of the police protests a few weeks ago. But our tour guide said all was calm and the people are very friendly. There are a lot of street musicians, jugglers candy sellers, scarve ladies and vendors all trying to sell anything to make a buck. As part of the tour went to a restaurant called Carmine's for lunch. It was upscale Italian and very good. Carmine is an ex New Yorker who found life more fulfilling in Quito. The ravioli and cerviche were home made and the cannoli's and tiramisu were to die for, per my tablemates from California and Michigan. After lunch we went to the Equator monument and ethic/indigeneous culture museum. We took a lot of pictures and got our passports stamped 000. So now, I can state that I straddled the EARTH. The Mad scarve woman struck again and more were purchased. I took away her money...Now she will focus on a gifts for the kids. Dinner is in a half hour at Celebrity picked restaurant, called Theatrum. It is upscale, but I wish they could take us to a local place to eat traditional food. I have been to Cusco and sure could use another Cuy for dinner. I am back. We had dinner at the Theatrum Restaurant in the natl theatre of Quito on Avienda Sucre. Food was okay but when you serve 90 people it's not a gourmet adventure. They had a singer named Stahl sing for us during dinner. He did opera, and of course Sinatra. He was great doing the lounge songs but opera etc not so good. I understand the logistics of all of us in one place. Next go round will seriously consider breaking off and street dining on our own. However, we are meeting nice folks.. Have to get up at 5am tommw to get the plane to Galapagos land.. This was a tiring but excellent day. Sunday Dec 5, 2010 Baltra Galapagos and North Seymour We get up at 5am eat breakfast check out of the hotel and off to the airport. We depart on Aerogal airlines to Guyaquil and then to Baltra. Flight was pleasant and uneventful. At Baltra we clear customs, take a bus ride to the docks board our zodiac to the Ship. Cabins are cozy, the crew seems really nice. Our Naturalist was Freddy, who leads us on a rocky walk tour of North Seymour Island. The Zodiac ride to the Island was fun. This is an amazing way to start our trip. We came up close with sea lions, seals, frigate birds and Yes, the Blue Boobie. Black Iguana marine lizards, who bunch together to keep warm, like escaped convicts in a Turkish bath. Regular land iguanas, big and yellow and little lava lizards, quick and spotted, live in the lava rocks. Also saw red rock crabs(Sally Lighfoots), the color of bright red and yellowish spots. Got some great pics. Observed Frigate birds, the males puff out a red pouch to attract female Frigate Birds, takes them 40 minutes to be fully puffed and then they can keep it puffed out for four days. I am waiting for the ****** jokes. Its tough to walk over all the boulders it takes concentration and good balance. Our naturalist, Freddy explains the wildlife species to us and it's truly a wonderous place. We are truly awed. Pictures are a must see. WE then had dinner, food not so memorable, the first night, but we are here for the Boobies. After dinner head out to Deck 7, Capt cut the lights and we can see the stars, bright crisp, luminescent and unobstructed by man. Boat is a little rocky. Got a glass of brandy sitting outside as I am typing this and feel really peaceful. Tomm'w we start day at Kicker rock at 6am wake up call.. Well that's all for now. Buenos Noches. Monday Dec 6, 2010 Kicker Rock and P. Basquerizo Island San Cristobal Started out the day with a 7am zodiac ride around Kicker Rock. Saw swimming dolphins, some turtles, bunches of birds and interesting rock formations. Our guide this am was Juan Carlos. Very knowledgeable.. Water is slightly rocky at all times. Get used to it because you will feel the motion of the Ocean. It is truly interesting what nature can evolve into when man stays away. Although in the 18th and 19th century, the turtle fisherman(Europeans almost wiped out the Turtle population b/c Turtle oil was used for oil lamps). FYI Kicker Rock was formed by a Volcanic eruption where the ash mixed with water to create one Tuff rock. After the rock there was breakfast, had pancake yams with cheese verrrrrrrrrrrrry interesting the crew is making this an interesting time. We met some more folks this time from Las Vegas, South Africa, etc. An interesting and eclectic group. Breakfast is over, so know we head into the town of Puerto Baquerizo via zodiac. We went to the History museum and the elusive search for dark Ecuadoran chocolate. My wife bagged 2 bars.. The port has the Galapagos history museum. I learned the natives are called Galapaganos and in the early 18th century convicts were sent here to serve as slave labor, most died, a lot of crops failed and the soil is really not condusive to agriculture. We walked some of the streets and saw the obligatory t shirt shops etc... just not motivated to buy anything yet. Here we go, this pm we tried on wet suits for tommw swimming with fishes sea lions and marine iguanas. I managed to slip into a wetsuit, so the whale will swim with the fishes. Hope they show me some respect as a landshark..My wife is roaming the ship, and has made a lot of new friends. She met people from Jburg South Africa that are friends and know our other friends in Floridan. We have another nature walk this afternoon on San Cristobal. Lauren is taking the 2 mile walk over rocks. I am taking a 1 mile plus zodiac tour of the island because I want to see the red crabs and sealions and seals. This am I watched a pod? Of dolphins swimming in front of us with turtles passing underneath the Zodiac. Quite a sight for the eyes, pity the shutter speed on the Olympus 6020 does not match up. A disappointing camera. Off to the afternoon adventure. videos of mamma and baby sea lions running around. Great pictures of Blue footed boobies with newly born boobies. In addition, saw Darwin finches and red headed lava lizards.. David our tour guide was very knowledgeable. A lady slipped on the rocks, but no injury. The walking is hard over very slippery and loose boulders. Also saw white Nasca boobies.. They have longer beaks and of course are white with a few dark feathers. Lastly a lot of pictures of very bright red crabs on the rocky beaches .. also have videos of sea lions braying and screeching and some great shoreline pictures. The wildlife is fearless and you can get very close but beware because the Marine iguanas spit at you like camels. All in all a great day. Tomorrow is snorkeling in 68 degree water. Had dinner and table consensus was that the food is good even with limited selection which is understandable due to small size of ship. However, service is off and very uneven either they have new wait staff or they are understaffed. Food is delivered cold and sometimes raw . The coffee is not so good. However I am not here for the coffee. I am here for the Birds, bees sea lions etc. Dec 7, 2010 Floreana Island Suarez island aka Espanola and Baroness Point This morning we did Floreana island. This place is now uninhabited but at one time in the 1800'shoused a german countess and her 3 lovers. Jealously and murder then ensued and now its just the birds, crabs and sea lions and penguins. We toured the island and I got some great crab shots and bird footprints in the sand. The water is brackish and thus great for crabs and shrimp which attracts Galapagos flamingo's. They eat the shrimp. Also this island has Darwin finches with beaks that crack coffee like berries for food. On one of the beaches we saw stingrays, turtle nests, turtles. Lauren snorkeled in 65 degree weather and swam with sea lions and fishes. I swam in the not so hot tub. I will snorkel tomorrow. Thus far, this trip has really lived up to expectations and given the motion of the ocean, this size ship is perfect for me. Best part of this am was a picture I got of a sally lightfoot land crab in full color scampering across the black lava rock and a sea lion sunning itself on our Zodiac without a care in the world Suarez Island , a zodiac ride and a walk up to Baroness point lookout. At one time this island was inhabited by a mad german dentist, Dr. Ritter. He was a real piece of work. He was a vegetarian yet was murdered by eating a poisoned chicken prepared by his lover/Mrs. Strauss who later died in a nuthouse in Germany, go figure. The island is temperate with green starting to come up. But it looks very brown/brackish like it was devastated by a forest fire. I schlepped up to the lookout point and got a few picture of Darwin finches doing their thing on a tree branch. In the surrounding bay, I got pictures of sea turtles, stingrays(both courtesy of my wife). Other people got pictures of Sharks and there were a few penguin sightings. Our naturalist once again was Freddy who explained the local wildlife and vegetation to us. The leaves on the trees here turn upward to try to collect the limited amount of rainwater. Also saw white nasca boobies and blue footed boobies dive straight down into the water to spear a fish with his beak and rise right into the air to eat his catch. These birds are fast. Tonite the naturalists entertain us with Native ie Galapagos music and dances, Cumbia anyone? Our naturalist, is a great act... Freddy and the Marine Lizards, he has taught them to spit on demand.(Joke).. Seriously, they are very entertaining. In addition, tonite is star gazing and shark watching...Well time to go but I continue to be impressed by everything except the dining room service. It is a work in progress but I didn't go on this ship for the food or service so nothing really to bitch about, and the Maitre D and Hotel Director are bending over backwards to please everyone, it appearsd to be an issue of short staff in the dining room. The Capt turned on the stern lights. We got to see Pelicans and flying fish, Pelicans eating flying fish and 3 to 4 white tip sharks swimming around the pelicans. They must have had a good meal recently because they left the pelicans alone. As the sharks swam by, they flopped their dorsal fins in salutation to me, their brother from another mother. Wed Dec 8, 2010 Las Bachas Santa Cruz Woke up before sunrise to catch the sunrise unfortunately it was a cloudy morning maybe tommw. However, I was rewarded got quite a few pics of Pelicans nesting on the Zodiacs, sharks swimming by(camera not fast enough to capture), birds in flight and the sea lions playing with each other. Then went to brkfast. After breakfast took a zodiac to Las Baches beach for a long walk in flour sand. Got addtl pics of Darwin finches , frigates and albatrosses in flight. Then in a marshy area we came across a flock of Flamingos feeding on shrimp. They were a sight to behold. Also got some good color shots of baby black marine iguanas on lava rocks and sally lightfoot crabs on lava rocks. Freddy our naturalist, explained the evolution of the birds by stating once they crossed the equator into the Southern hemisphere they were trapped because of shifting wind and sea currents so they evolved hence the development of their beaks to survive. Waded into the shallow water to observe baby clown fish, and a zebra fish.. It was white with orange eyes and black stripes. This afternoon I have a massage with LULY and then a long walk and snorkel on Bartolome.. Here we were guaranteed to swim with the Penguins.. We shall see.................. NOT FEELING WELL WENT FOR A MASSAGE. This was the best massage I have ever had in my life by Luly an Ecuadorean who studied massage in an Israeli Cardiological institute. I am soooooooooooooooooooo relaxed that I have to crash for awhile. My spouse is getting the penguin shots, I am crashing. This lady truly has magic fingers. If I had one wish it is for Luly to come home with me. This is a trip highlight. If you ever do this cruise and LULY is the massage CURE therapist do it you will be glad you listened. . The Olympic 6020 POS camera sizzled out on me today, so I am glad I bought the old cannon as a substitute/backup. Dec 8 2010 Bartolome San Salvador As a result of the best massage I ever had, I fell asleep and spouse went snorkeling and on the 768 step walk up an old Volcano. While snorkeling and saw sharks, multi colored fishes and penguins. we crossed the Equator into the Northern hemisphere. The water is now rockier and the ship be swaying. We get certificates for crossing the equator. This year alone we have crossed the equator and artic circle(Azamara Journey). When we visited the Equator monument in Quito, I straddled the line between two hemishperes I had achieved the fireside theatre line, and satisfied the immortal line" How can you be in 2 places at once and not anywhere at all". Well tonite I crossed that line and the seas went from calm to agitated , just like life, the ambient environment can change in a flash. Had a hokey but fun ceremony put on by the crew when we crossed. Dinner food is okay and the staff is ever helpful.but the service leaves a lot to be desired . Well that is all for tonite start at 7am tomorrow for a day that hopefully will feature GIANT Turtles, more penguins assorted fauna and flora Thurs Dec 9 2010 Urvina bay Isabela Island This am we hit the beaches of Isabella Island. It was formed by a Volcanic eruption in 1954 when it emerged from the sea. It is populated by Large tortoises, big land brown iguanas, the Galapagos hawk, the ever present Darwin finches and hermit crabs. We walked around after making a wet landing in very cold water. On our schelp led by naturalist Veronica was eventful. Got to see a lot of iguana big yellow ones including 2 who were fighting over territory. In addition, got a great pic of a Galapagos hawk in a high tree. Got some beautiful face shots of lizards, tortoises and a lava lizard. Also, some great closeups of a hermit crab emerging from a spiral shell. When we got back to the room we got a signed certificate stating we crossed the equator. Nice souvenir. Now its off to watch for dolphin whales and sharks oh my!!!! This afternoon we were surprised by an Officers BBQ. The head chef is from Cuba. So all the grilling sauces were unique. On the menu were grilled Chicken in a white wine base sauce. It was out of this world. I asked for the recipe. Also served were fresh beef empanadas made sweet with raisins and other things. They also bbq'ed fresh shrimp the size of your fist, lobster tails and an assortment of other meats and fishes. It was truly a spectacle. During the meal an Orca broke the surface and did a side flop back into the water. He also did a whale tail salute. There were running sea lions and dolphins also. Sadly, my camera was to slow to capture the action, so I just enjoyed watching the action. The Music director ie one guy with an electric piano was and is great, just the right mix of Spanish themed music to accompany the lunch and home made Sangria. I think one of the tunes that he was playing keeps rattling in my head, hear the music as we gently sway come dance with me. Do not know what movie its from but it keeps going round and round. Time for a bridge tour. Ole. Jacob is the music director and is doing a great Dec 9 Punta Espinoza Fernandina This was a lava formation with coral beaches. It had sea lions playing, marine lizards a plenty, lava lizards a walking and an American Oyster bird, with a long scarlet red beak that he uses to get into oyster shells. We came across 2, a male/female combo guarding a nest in lava with a few eggs. There were also plentiful cactus plants growing in lava and the bones of a whale /s ea lion bleaching on the lava rocks in the sun. Our guides name was David and he knows his stuff. Espinosa point is a breeding ground for black marine lizards. There were hundreds if not thousands of them of all shapes and sizes al over the lava rocks. Got some great videos of them swimming towards shore. Likewise, I got videos of sea lions frolicking in these little tidal basins. They are so cute I wanted to take one home as a coat. WE also saw more marine iguanas sallylightfoot crabs and bleached bones of a sea turtle. FYI the lava flows are called Aa and Pahoe lava flows. We also found out the islands move 5cm per year towards the mainland.. time to shower for dinner. Dinner was interesting. I had ecuadorean matzoh ball soup chicken soup with little dough balls and carrots and noodles. Followed by Octopus in a marinara sauce. The crew then put on a talent show of native folkloric singing and they also had a trained iguana that played Ukelele and sang somewhere over the rainbow(Okay too many Rum runners as the liquor is free onboard). A passenger from Hawaii then did a native dance and the night was over. The seas are calm but the boat is swaying to the ocean breezes. Dec 10, 2010 Puerto Egas San Salvador aka St. James Bay Santiago. Here we did an 1.5 hour zodiac ride, we saw a lot of fur seals, sea lions, marine iguanas swimming, lava herons oyster cracker birds lava flows and green lycans. Lauren took some really great picts of the various species.went snorkeling, saw a school of fish and then a 900 foot sea lion flashed by. Actually a baby sea lion that was swimming around me and wanted a close view of a kosher orca. After the sea lion, a marine iguana swam right by my face. It freaked me out. They look fearsome in the water he showed his teeth and I was frightned. Got out of the water and took more pics of baby sealions/fur seals etc. Lauren swam with turtles and saw a shark.. Well time to go to lunch. Tommw is the last day.. what a bummer. Dec 10 Dragon Hill Santa Cruz This afternoon was a blast. Had an Ecuadoran Mexican buffet, all types of beans served and literally jet skied to the island. This place is interesting it is a combo of green, red and brown. Most of the terrain is sandy with large lava rocks in red and brown. It also has a lot of coves that harbor all types of fish massive amounts of frigates, herons, boobies and pelicans fishing the birds. Its an awesome sight seeing a boobie dive straight down beak first into the water to spear a fish. This island also had flamingos and I have some great pics. They are majestic, their necks craned digging in the marshy bottom for food. Also saw some big fat iguanas all over, yellow in color. Our naturalist, David named the iguanas after the other naturalists.. These naturalists are impressive and take the time to explain the local geology, fauna, flora and animals to us. This has been one heck of a cruise. Tomorrow we see giant land turtles at the Charles Darwin research station. In addition, this island has a lot of wild burros. We didn't see any but they left their markers behind. The sunset a few minutes ago and the sky was blazing. Tonite the Capt will lead a star gazing show and tell on deck 6 with lazer pointers. We also cross back into the Southern equator tonite as we make our way back to Baltra Island. We did karaoke tonite it was hilarious. Spouse and our new found friends did girls just want to have fun.. and then promptly fell asleep. I butchered a Temptations song but I sold it on the dancing... Then I did NY Ny and I believe the ghost of Sinatra slapped me for poor singing. Had a great time and a lot of fun. Sat Dec 11, 2010 Puerto Ayora Santa Cruz This island has the Charles Darwin research center. We zodiac into Pt. Aroya, it is on the Island of Santa Cruz and as stated kown for the Darwin research center. This place protects the natives in the Islands ie Turtles and Iguanas. Its most famous inhabitant is a Turtle named lonesome George. He is 180 years old and the last of his kind. They have put him into a protected area with 2 females but nothing happened. Then they tried manual manipulation to harvest some sperm. Imagine putting on your resume "turtle Jerker". However this did not work either. So George sits alone. They are going to ship him to a condo in Hallandale, where he will be surrounded by other people who's plumbing does not work. In addition, we saw dome shaped land turtles/tortoises. The dome is for their shell shape and saddleback turtles. Their shells resemble a saddle and allow them to crane their necks really high to get food. After 2 years the turtle's shell hardens as a defense against predators. We also saw land iguanas, baby turtles, eggs of turtles and baby 2-10 year old turtles. This afternoon we are going to a Turtle farm to pick out our personal ashtray. Well after seeing the turtles and lizards at the Darwin Center we went shopping for coffee and chocolates. Well this afternoon we went to a turtle farm to see the dome turtles in the wild. So we walked thru a national forest and turtle farm, passing thru the town of Santa Cruz. I am amazed at the poverty and semi slum and tidy of the non tourist part of the city. The walk is slippery and you had to look down because turtles are prolific. We got to see them walking, standing and generally doing turtle stuff. Its nice to meet a species I can outrun in case of emergency. I also learned that it takes the turtle approx. 2 years to walk from the lowlands to the Highlands so they can breed.. today our guide was Juan Carlos once again saw iguanas but its getting old. Best part seeing turtles stretching and walking around. Saw some flora and moss trees that were very eerie New Orleans in fashion. Dinner was good, the steak diane outstanding. I ended the cruise by being LULYIED one last time. She fixed my low back and feet. A great way to end the day. After dinner, packed and went to view the stars and see the sharks and pelicans swim by the boat.. once again I am truly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and spend a week in this magnificent part of the world and meeting new friends from NJ, NV, Mich California hope to cross paths with them all again in the future. THE NIGHT ENDED WITH SHARKS, PELICANS AND LITTLE FISH CIRCLING THE BOAT. ALSO DID SOME STAR GAZING Sunday Dec 12 2010 Baltra to Quito `We took our last Panga zodiac ride for a dry landing from the ship to the airport. Baltra airport is like Casablanca heavy security, waiting in the heat for or last minute pictures. and yes 23 tourist shops for last chance shopping. This is the complaint coming up. Ha what a lie plane was late with no reason why. DEAR CELEBRITY THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO KEEP US AT AN AIRPORT FOR 6 HOURS(Baltra) , THEN WE GET INTO quito LATE AND THE STORES ARE CLOSED so no crafts shopping AND they take us to an ART/CRAFTS GALLERY WITH PRICES REALLY really high that stayed open just for us. The farewell dinner at the hotel was a waste of time ther than for convenience. Basically , they served Mex buffet and divided the tables into 2 rooms, with 2 guitar players. So everyone ate and ran. This was a poor way to end a great cruise, sorry to say. The airport drop offs start early so Fly safe everyone and a happy New Year to all. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
My wife and I signed up for Celebrity Xpedition's 10-day package. We made our own airline arrangements and flew to Quito, Ecuador on November 5, 2010, arriving there after 9:00 PM. After a smooth transition through customs and baggage ... Read More
My wife and I signed up for Celebrity Xpedition's 10-day package. We made our own airline arrangements and flew to Quito, Ecuador on November 5, 2010, arriving there after 9:00 PM. After a smooth transition through customs and baggage claim, the Celebrity representative was waiting for us (and others in our group). From that moment until we arrived back at the airport to come home, Celebrity handled everything flawlessly. This truly was an "All Inclusive" vacation—expensive but worth every penny. We had a 15-minute bus ride to the J W Marriott with a Celebrity representative on-board to give us a run down of what to expect at check-in and the itinerary for the next day. This was followed by a welcoming drink and hors d'oeuvres in the lobby, a check-in that took no more than a minute, and baggage delivered from the bus to our room. We were settled in our room in less than 1½ hours after the airplane touched down. The J W Marriott is a first class hotel. Regarding altitude at Quito: My wife had a little difficulty initially with the altitude at Quito, which is 9,200 feet. From what I have read, it helps to stay hydrated, avoid alcohol, take headache medicine and drink the coca tea that is readily available. The breakfast buffet at the Marriott was good, not great. At 9:00 AM our group boarded the busses for the day-tour of Quito. I think there were three busses. There were about 24 people on our bus. Our Celebrity guide was Rodrigo. Whichever bus you get on is the one to which you are assigned until you go to the airport the next day to leave for the Galapagos. And Rodrigo was with us all the way, explaining the itinerary, what to expect, pointing out sights of interest and offering information about the history and culture of Ecuador. There is not enough time to see very much of Quito on the day tour, which I would rate as fair to good. Rodrigo was an excellent guide and took very good care of our group. We made several stops in the morning—the Basilica, the Presidential Palace, another church, and the city square. We were taken to a nice place for lunch (Carmine's), where we were greeted with a glass of champagne as we came in the door. In the afternoon, the bus took us to the Equatorial monument, approximately 45 minute bus ride. There are shops and activities there. We spent some time there before returning to the Marriott by 4:30 PM. At 6:30, we boarded the bus for the Theatro downtown, where we had a good dinner and were entertained by singer known as Stahl. By now we had met quite a few people that we would get to know during the week. Back at the Marriott, we put our luggage outside our room (except for our carry-on) before 9:30 PM. The next time we saw this luggage was in our cabin onboard the Xpedition the next day. To reduce the weight of the luggage, we put it in duffel bags and left our roll-on suitcases at the Marriott for the week—no problem. The only reason in my mind that this is a good idea is that it makes it easier for those loading and unloading baggage onto the Xpedition. I believe the weight limit for the luggage on the flight to Galapagos was 44 lbs. for checked luggage and 17 lbs. for carry-on, but it has been less than this in the past. I am not aware that the weight was ever checked. What I had read about clothing needed for this trip was absolutely true: You do not need a lot and many take too much. The dress is casual at all times and there is a lot of variance in the way people dress. But nobody cares. There is a good laundry service on the Xpedition, although it is one of the very few things that is not free. After another buffet breakfast at the Marriott on Sunday morning, we boarded the bus to the airport at 7:00 AM. Celebrity has this transfer worked out beautifully. Fifteen minute bus ride, straight into airport security, then on to another bus to the airplane. We didn't even sit down or wait anywhere. The name of the airline is AeroGal and I believe most, if not all of the passengers are with the Xpedition trip. The plane lands in Guyaquil (Ecuador's largest city) to pick up additional passengers, and then on to Baltra, one of three islands in the Galapagos that has an airport. We did not get off the plane at Guyaquil. On both legs of this flight we were served a light breakfast (which makes three counting the one at the Marriott). Transfer from the airport to the ship is also seamless—short bus ride to a pier and then load into zodiacs (pangas) to get to the Xpedition. There were 89 passengers on our trip—I believe the capacity of the Xpedition is 92 passengers. The Xpedition does not dock at any port. Everyone going to or coming from the ship does so by panga. We watched the arrival of supplies one morning from the town of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz. The supplies came by a small barge towed by a panga. Check-in aboard the Xpedition was very efficient and included a "Welcome Aboard" drink, handed to us as we stepped onto the ship. We were in Cabin 401, which is as close as you can get to the center of the ship. Our cabin was an "Ocean View", and was very satisfactory. We had been booked into Cabin 420, which is as close as you can get to the Bow, but for some unknown reason were changed when we boarded (which was fortunate for us because there is less rocking and rolling near the center of the ship). Typical Daily Itinerary (approximate—times do vary): -Breakfast around 7:00 AM -First Excursion 8:00 AM -Back on Board the Xpedition by 11:00 AM -Lunch at Noon -After Lunch: Rest and/or attend film or lecture in Discovery Lounge -Second Excursion 3:00 PM -Back on Board the Xpedition by 6:00 PM -6:30 to 7:30 Cocktail party at Beagle Grill or Discovery Lounge -7:30 Presentation regarding next day's itinerary in Discovery Lounge -8:00 Dinner in Darwin's Restaurant -10:00 Usually some entertainment provided by Naturalist/Celebrity staff. One night the exterior lights are turned on to attract sea life and birds; sometimes the lights are turned off on the top deck to allow the viewing of the night sky. Excursions on the Xpedition: Each night before dinner, there is a meeting (cocktail party) in the Discovery Lounge, during which the Cruise Director explains about the following day's excursions, the choices (long-walk or short-walk), what to look for, what footwear is appropriate, dry or wet landing, whether there is a snorkeling opportunity or not, etc. The presentation includes a slide-show. People then sign up for the long-walk (higher intensity) or the short-walk (lower intensity) for the next day's excursions. There are two excursions per day (three on Monday). There are five or six pangas on board, which are lowered into the water prior to each excursion. Each panga carries approximately 16 passengers, the boat pilot and a Naturalist. During the week, a total of 10 islands are visited, and 14 excursions are taken. The procedure for embarking and disembarking is very efficient. The Naturalists help you step on and off the panga, which sometimes is bobbing up and down, depending on sea conditions. Each time you board a panga, you have a Naturalist on board and you stay with the same group of approximately 16 during the entire excursion until you get back onboard the Xpedition. All excursions include walking on an island except the Monday morning excursion to Kicker Rock, which is solely a zodiac ride with a Naturalist onboard. Not everyone does all the excursions, but we didn't want to miss anything so we did all the excursions and I was not disappointed. We did all the long walks (high intensity), but I understand the short walks are merely abbreviated versions of the long walk, with some additional time onboard the pangas searching for sea life. Every excursion is unique. The Guest Booklet provided by Celebrity contains a list of animals and birds that you might see. This is a good checklist to have with you during the excursion if you are like me and have trouble remembering what you saw or what the names are. Note: When you arrive back to the Xpedition, you are greeted with a refreshing drink and some hors d'oeuvres. Following are my notes regarding the excursions (chronologically): North Seymour Island. After lunch on Sunday, the first day aboard the Xpedition. Approximately 1 mile hike, terrain is challenging, with uneven surfaces and boulders. We saw hundreds of Frigate Birds, Blue Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, and Sea Lions. They are everywhere. We also saw marine and land iguanas and many other types of birds. As is the case with most all the wildlife in the Galapagos, the animals have no fear of humans—you can get up close and personal with them, although you are not allowed to touch them. You need to watch your step because you might step on a creature if you are not careful. Kicker Rock. The first of three excursions on Monday is a panga ride around Kicker Rock. To be there at sunrise is an awesome experience, not to be missed. We saw lots of birds and some sea turtles. San Cristobal Island. Visit to the Interpretation Center and a shopping opportunity at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The islands are largely uninhabited by humans. Exceptions include small population centers on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz islands. Espanola Island (aka Hood Island). Afternoon excursion on Monday is a hike approximately 1.9 miles. Terrain is challenging, with uneven surfaces and boulders. Again, we saw hundreds of Blue Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, marine iguanas, sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. We also saw a Galapagos Hawk and two juvenile Waved Albatross. This was one of my favorite hikes. Floreana Island. Tuesday morning excursion is a hike approximately one mile, first to a brackish pond in search of Flamingos (we did not see any here) then across an isthmus to a white sand beach. We saw blue herons, a lava gull, more sea lions. We headed back to the Xpedition early to get ready for the deep water snorkel near Champion Island. A 15 minute panga ride was required to get to Champion Island. Only approximately 20 people participated in this event—it was billed as an "advanced" snorkeling activity and I had read that the seas can be very rough here. We did not find that to be the case the day we were there. The water was slightly murky, but we did see lots of fish and a baby sea lion swam with us the whole way. The afternoon excursion is a wet landing and a short walk to the "Baroness Lookout". The Naturalist tells about the intrigue and mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Baroness and her two lovers. In the bay on our return trip to the Xpedition, we saw several sea turtles, a shark, a ray and many more sea lions. Wednesday morning excursion to Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island is an easy walk to two lagoons in search of Flamingos (still none to be seen). We did see other birds and there is a snorkeling opportunity here. Wednesday afternoon excursion to Bartolome Island is a favorite of many. There is a hike to the top of the volcano (374 feet high, 358 wooden steps). The view from the top is incredible. We boarded the pangas for a cruise around Pinnacle Rock and saw several Galapagos Penguins. Afterwards, we snorkeled in the bay next to Pinnacle Rock. The water was very clear here and we saw lots of fish and interesting volcanic formations. Some saw sea turtles and sharks here. Thursday, after crossing the equator twice, the morning excursion is at Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. An easy hike of approximately one mile. On the beach we saw a nesting sea turtle laying eggs. We saw lots of finches, mockingbirds and a young giant tortoise. We snorkeled here. The water was slightly murky. A sea turtle swam with us. On the way back to the Xpedition, we saw turtles mating in the open ocean. The channel between Isabela and Fernandina is the place where one is most likely to see dolphins and whales. We did see several Bryde Whales. The Thursday afternoon excursion is at Fernandina Island, the youngest and most volcanically active of the islands. The hike is fairly short on dark lava rock. Here we saw marine iguanas, sea lions, Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos Hawks, Sally Lightfoot Crabs, and lots of other birds. In the water we saw sea turtles and rays. The marine iguanas are everywhere, hundreds of them. This was one of my favorite hikes. Santiago Island. Friday morning hike is easy, approximately 1.4 miles. Half is along the coast. We saw lots of birds including yellow warblers, white egrets, yellow crowned night herons, mockingbirds. Again, there are lots of marine iguanas. Here we saw fur seals, another species of sea lion. We also snorkeled here, not my favorite. Friday afternoon was back to the north end of Santa Cruz Island and a 1.5 mile easy hike around Dragon Hill. Here we finally saw Flamingos and lots of bird species. We skipped the snorkeling opportunity here. Saturday morning on the south side of Santa Cruz Island to the port of Puerto Ayora. Short bus ride to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we saw Giant Tortoises in the captive breeding program. We saw Lonesome George, the last member of the Pinto Island race. Afterward, we walked back through town. This is a shopping opportunity. After lunch onboard the Xpedition, the Saturday afternoon excursion begins with a 25 minute bus ride starting at Puerto Ayora to the Highlands. The hike is an easy hike, less than a mile. We saw several Giant Tortoises, a Vermillion Flycatcher and other bird species. We went into a cool lava tunnel. I missed seeing the owls, but others did see them. We stopped at a farm where we had a nice break and cup of coffee. While there was a light mist, we did not experience extreme mud, nor did we have a problem with ants. Post Cruise: Disembarkation from the Xpedition is handled very efficiently. Checked luggage is left outside the cabin before bedtime. There was a considerable wait at the Baltra airport. I believe it is necessary to get passengers off the ship early to get it ready for the next cruise. The airplane bringing the next bunch is the same one you take back to Quito. There is a shopping opportunity at the Baltra Airport. After arrival back in Quito, the transfer to the JW Marriott is again handled very efficiently by Celebrity. In the late afternoon, the schedule includes a bus trip to two shopping venues. Some of our group skipped this. Dinner was a Mexican buffet at the hotel, with a band entertaining us. The meal and the entertainment I would rate as good. Our flight was very early the next morning. The Marriott's breakfast buffet was open at 3:30 AM and we had a light breakfast. Celebrity made sure we arrived at the airport with plenty of time for check-in. Fitness: I did not consider the excursions physically demanding. However, on several islands, the walking is on un-even surfaces, with fairly large boulders and the footing is tricky It is important to watch where you step and that is difficult because you are at the same time trying to see all the sights and take photos. On our trip, Elsie (86 years old) did every excursion, including the hike to the top of the volcano at Bartolome. This was the most physically demanding excursion, but the Naturalists stop several times for breaks and photos. There are two or three fitness machines on the top deck, but I don't know of any who found the time to use them. Walking Sticks: Just prior to boarding the panga, you have the option of taking a walking stick that Celebrity provides. I found these very helpful for the following excursions: North Seymour and Espanola. Other excursions where a walking stick might be useful: Fernandina and Santiago. Most of the other excursions are easy walks. Temperature and Weather: For our week in early November, the weather was mild. Only one day did we experience any rain and it was only a mist for a short time. I believe the temperature was in the 70s and 80s the whole week. Early mornings and evenings can be cool and a light rain jacket is recommended. I wore the jacket on some excursions and was not uncomfortable. The water temperature is cold, but not as cold as I expected. I believe it was in the 60s, maybe 70s at times. Snorkeling: Celebrity furnishes wet suits—most are half suits with short legs and sleeves. Some have long sleeves. We were able to get the long-sleeve wet suits, and I would recommend asking for a long-sleeve suit. We also had previously purchased "skins". With the skins and the wet suits, we were quite comfortable in the water. It was not as cold as I had expected, but the temperature did vary, depending on the island. If I remember correctly, there were six snorkeling opportunities, and we snorkeled five times during the week. The water was very clear in some places and somewhat murky in others. My favorites were Champion Island (deep water snorkel), Bartolome and Isabela. We swam with sea lions, sea turtles and lots of colorful fish. Some saw sharks. We saw sharks, but not while snorkeling. The sharks do not bother humans. Naturalists: They are excellent, well educated, helpful and knowledgeable. Our Naturalists were Fredy, Fatima, Veronica, William, Manuel, and Juan Carlos. They are much more than tour guides—they are a wealth of information about anything Galapagos. Our favorite was Fredy. Our cruise director was Jorge, also excellent. Seasickness: The sea can sometimes be pretty rough. For our trip, it was very rough the first day we boarded the Xpedition and the day before we disembarked. The remainder of the time, the sea was fairly calm. We had put on the Scopolamine patches behind our ears before our flight to Baltra. They helped and we never experienced any seasickness. I took mine off after the third day on the Xpedition. The patch is not without side effects. For me it caused very dry mouth and some disorientation. Service: Outstanding. The level of service provided by the entire Xpedition staff, as well as the Celebrity staff in Quito, is first class, and beyond any we've experienced on prior packaged trips or cruises. Food: We found the food on the Xpedition to be the one thing that was less than perfect. The food was mostly good, and there were plenty of choices. However, some of the food was poor to fair. In our experience, the breakfast food was the least appetizing—with scrambled eggs that were runny and dry cereal that was stale. The hamburgers at the Beagle Grill were somewhat bland. All the fish, pasta and steak dishes I ate were good. We did not take advantage of Room Service. Insect Repellant: I understand insects can be a problem at certain times of the year. For our trip in early November, we did not need insect repellant anywhere. Down time: This cruise does not offer a lot of down time if you want to participate in all excursions. Dinner is served late, excursions start early and there are at least two excursions per day. This is an active vacation and many are worn out at the end. It is good to get some rest during the day, between excursions. This is a good time to take a nap. Summary: If you require a casino, three days at sea, shopping at every port and a midnight buffet, this is not the cruise for you. If you don't like a structured itinerary, you may be disappointed. The Xpedition is a small ship, a unique and active adventure. It truly is "all inclusive"—you can put your wallet and credit cards away. Celebrity takes care of everything. It is likely that you will get to know most of your fellow passengers, some very well. Before the week is over, you will have been on excursions with all of them. Much of what you see in the Galapagos cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. And you will see a lot. Many of the postings I read called this "the trip of a lifetime" and I very much concur. The long running thread called "Xpediton—Anyone Recently Back" on cruisecritic.com is an excellent resource for the Celebrity Xpedition adventure. Thanks to all who have posted there. The information was very helpful. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
This is an extremely long rambling review but if you can make it through the whole thing I believe I've answered most of the questions I myself asked prior to this trip. Your Fitness: If you can walk a mile in about 30 minutes (even ... Read More
This is an extremely long rambling review but if you can make it through the whole thing I believe I've answered most of the questions I myself asked prior to this trip. Your Fitness: If you can walk a mile in about 30 minutes (even mall walking) without feeling exhausted then you can easily handle the walking part of the hikes even the long ones. Note no hike was longer than 1.75 miles and you walk them in 2-3 hours. Because of the length of time on each hike you will be standing for the 2-3 hours; there is usually no place to sit down. If you can't be on your feet for that long then do not take the long hikes. The only other limiting factor is your balance/mobility issues. On several hikes you will walk on rocky or uneven terrain; very rarely is the hike on perfectly level clear paths. If you can handle this, even slowly and/or with hiking sticks, then you will have a wonderful time. If you have major issues on uneven terrain then you will not even be able to do some of the shorter hikes because the paths are the same. The ship only has stairs (no elevator) and you will have to climb up and down fairly steep stairs to get on/off the ship but there are handrails. Hiking Sticks are available on the ship (think wooden sticks) but there are not enough for everyone if the ship is full and several people use two. This was a problem on our trip. I used the sticks the first day on both hikes and needed them for balance because of all the boulders. Also, a reminder, unless you are in a town the only place to go to the bathroom is on the ship. Pangas: If you don't already know, the only way to and from the ship is by Panga(Zodiacs). Dock/Ship to Panga is easy. You will be handed onto the ship/dock by the guide and then you will use the steps/ladder to climb down/up into the boat. The staff will take your backpack/stick from you while you board to free your hands and then pass it to you. Dry Landings are pretty much the same. Wet Landings are actually easy as long as you don't mind the wet part; I did all of the Wet Landings barefoot and then used a washcloth to wipe off my feet. Wet Boardings are more interesting, especially if you are short but they do have a step (think of an old fashion wood swing) on one side that you can place your foot on and using the ladder rail to pull yourself onto the panga. Your butt will get damp on the pangas, accept this or dress accordingly. Exercise Equipment: There is 2 ellipticals, 2 treadmills, 1 bike, 1 small weight machine. Several people on our trip used the equipment. The hikes really don't give you much exercise, I even considered using it but it was a vacation :-). Exhaustion: Several people/reviews talk about how you need an extra day in Quito to recover from this trip. There is so much down time daily that I'm not sure how people get so exhausted unless they are staying up super late. Note we only went 1 time zone from EST to CST which may have helped us some. Room: We stayed in Suite 501 (we were upgraded from 509 on the Thursday before we left - the PH never sold on our trip). I LOVED this room. The American outlet (3 prong) is what the clock is plugged into; when you unplug the clock to plug in your power strip the clock will remember the time. There is no clothesline in the shower but they have an over-the-door hooks which I thought was better. I personally thought the bathroom and room were good size. The shower is a glass door. Our beds were two twins pushed together with a gap created by the two frames touching each other (others have described this). After the first night, I left a note for our steward, Salome, requesting if it was possible to make a queen bed. Later that morning she had eliminated the gap and we had a queen bed. Whatever she used did not cause any bumps/lumps and lasted the whole week. We had a sofa in the room that comfortably sat 2 people and pulled out into a bed with a real, but thin, mattress (we looked). We had a TV we never watched and a frig always filled with sodas, and water but nothing was ever very cold, I preferred to go to the bar for an iced drink. There is also a desk, which I used for storage (note the blow dryer is in one of the drawers). We had a balcony which was tight but could sit two with a small table. When you were sitting in the chairs, sofa, or bed you could easily see the water and views even though most of the balcony isn't glass like on other ships its metal. You no longer get chocolate every night but we did get it two nights. The chocolates were just small plain pieces not the fancy box people use to talk about. Our luggage fit under the bed no problems but we only had carry-on size (45 linear inches). The room got cool/cold when we turned the air on at night, during the day we had the air off with the glass door open when we were there. The room is extremely sound proof; we didn't even hear the anchors unless we were awake. The only problem with this is it is extremely difficult to hear someone knocking and I mean knocking hard. Safe is still difficult to use, we failed twice to get ours to work. Neither safe on the ship or Marriott will hold a normal laptop (14/15 inch widescreen), if you have a smaller one it might. Shampoo/Conditioner are in the shower, bar soap, bath gel, lotion, sewing kit are all in the bathroom. We did get champagne in the room on arrival, we had a bowl of fruit (which we asked Salome to take away because it was going to waste), and we got appetizers in the room (which weren't bad but note they always have some snack in the bar/grill during the cocktail time). Ship: We had 91 guests on the ship and it never really felt crowded. The Blue Finch was never opened and we asked the Hotel Director about it and he said it was too cold for the guest. It was also the reason he gave for not having more meals outside. The Library was always locked, not sure why but the sign said they would open it for you. They also have movies but we never looked at the list. Several people used the laptops, I saw 5 going at once one day. Still cheaper to use an Internet Cafe on the two town days, Puerto Baquerizo and Puerto Ayora. The only stairwell we are allowed to use is the ones midship; the ones in the middle of the rooms on the port side are for staff only. And taking a turn around the deck takes about 30 seconds. Food/Room Service: The Food is okay to good but it would be very difficult to go hungry. The only excellent item we had was a dessert called Chocolate Crunch. I wonder if the Executive Chef, Lazaro Fleitas, is a graduate of a Culinary School or just a cook (like me ?); reasons to follow. All of the fish was cooked well but it was all kind of bland; white fish with no sauce or seasoning. I'm not talking salt/pepper seasoning; I'm talking herbs, salsa, sauces, etc. The sides are also bland, I think most nights it was a boiled potato (shaped differently) or plain rice and very plain vegi (again no seasoning that you could taste). One night we had the fish with a chimchirri; the chimchirri had no garlic in it which if you cook is the main ingredient. A mushroom risotto on the menu was a portabella mushroom with a little pile of brown rice; again not a risotto. So after a few nights of this I decided to start ordering other things and the meals improved. I had moussaka which though it didn't taste at all like a greek moussaka, wrong seasonings, it had a very unique and good taste. I also ordered a pasta dish that once you put on the parmesan cheese again had good flavor. For Lunches the World Buffet at the Grill (Great seafood) and the Mexican Buffet at the Restaurant were the two better ones. You can easily pick up your food at the restaurant and go sit outside or as others did grab something from the grill and go down into the restaurant. I'm a dessert fiend and we had some good desserts but they did serve different colors of jello every day (you do not have to eat it ?) We discovered that we had trouble having dinner from 8 pm to 9:30 pm and then going to bed soon after (we are early to bed, early to rise people). This had nothing to do with seatmates, we tried twice to eat in the Restaurant at night, and it was the length of time and the noise level where I couldn't hear my tablemates to have a normal conversation. So DH and I had dinner in our room through room service on all the other nights. Now let me preface this that the Xpedition is not geared towards people eating frequently in their rooms, Service is not the problem it is communication. Most of the crew on this ship does not speak good English; we even had trouble with the Guest Relations not understanding us - my Spanish is extremely limited to only a few words. But once I learned the trick, what we received for dinner was exactly what I asked for. We did have a balcony room but I would have no qualms about asking for delivery to the Blue Finch which was a wonderful place and could even handle a group or family at the multiple tables. For anyone else who would like to do this, the tricks are: 1) Go preview the menu near Guest Relations/Bar; 2) Write Down what you want but be choosy about your keywords - for example: we ordered Shrimp Bisque one night what we got was Shrimp Cocktail. I watched the Guest Relations write it down correctly but the person who filled the order just saw the word Shrimp (we did have soup spoons that night so someone else had read it correctly). 3) Remember if you order Ice Cream Desserts they will melt, so eat first ?. 4) We picked 8 pm because 7:30-7:45 is the briefing time. Dinner always arrived on time. 5) Be sure to order other things like bread, butter, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, etc. because it is hit or miss if they will show up or not if you don't ask for them. 6) If you want the nightly wine order it, anything else get it yourself from the bar after the briefing and bring back yourself. 7) Enjoy the dinner, place the desserts by the TV, go up to your own private hot tub for a while, then come back to enjoy dessert. 8) While we were in the hot tub, Salome would remove the dishes. I never complained when we received a wrong item, we just ate it. Breakfast had similar problems; if you order something very specific like fried eggs you will get it exactly as you want; if you order that you would like 1 each of the 2 juice choices offered today you can end up with anything. If you want butter, jam, etc again must be very specific. We would call for breakfast around 7 am every morning and they would deliver in 10 minutes (one morning they told me would be 15 min and they made it in that time). Remember my comment on the soundproofing, we didn't hear the delivery one morning even though I was waiting for it (DH was in shower), Guest Relations called and said he was ready to deliver, I felt terrible the guy had to carry the tray up and down the stairs extra times because I didn't hear the knock. Our normal breakfast was coffee, 2 juices (mix n match), and a plate of slice fruit for the two of us. I would sometimes go down myself a little later to the dining room and grab a couple pastries or banana bread (if you request them on room service you end up with weird things). Shopping in the Islands: Puerto Maquerez was T-shirts, touristy stuff. The problem is you might find a T-shirt you like hanging on the wall but finding one in your size seemed extremely difficult to me. So selection was very limited. Puerto Ayora seemed to have better shopping but was also more expensive, maybe your suppose to haggle which I don't do well. We didn't buy anything but some local snacks at the grocery store. I personally thought the Baltra Airport had the better shopping and you have plenty of time on the day you are leaving to shop here. I got a handpainted T-shirt and Tile here and felt the prices were reasonable. The place where I got the handpainted T-shirt (about 6 stores up on the left) gave a free Galapagos Passport Stamp if you bought something. Quito Bus Tour - we filled 4 buses, they did a good job, and we saw several churches and some of the town. We did a little bit of walking but city walking. If you do want to do the Equator Monument you need to take the elevator up and the stairs down. The Guides all spoke decent English. We never felt unsafe, but the sellers are pushy. The scarves that everyone talks about buying for $2 each, I found at one of the shops at the Equator that still had the "Made in China" tag on it. I have a tough time believing that they are handmade by the locals. We did buy a few things at Equator Shops which I think could possibly have been made locally. There is lots of bottle water on the bus, and all the places they take you to use the bathroom have TP now. The first one though you have to pay 10 cents before you enter and then they give you a little TP (if you need more bring your own). That is 10 cents for everyone (male and female). Bring hand sanitizer because they may have water to wash up with but no towels or soap frequently. Lunch was at Carmine's Restaurant - the food was good, not special. Unfortunately we ended up next to the pianist, who was good but made it hard to hear our tablemates (I know this seems to be my problem but I do not have any deafness). The water was sitting on the table in glasses, I did not feel comfortable with drinking it so we stuck to the juice which I really liked it was cantaloupe. Dinner at the Theatre was okay. There are a few tables for two, we grabbed one of them. Here they have bottled water on the table and you could have beer at no extra charge. The singer wasn't bad but old school. If you know who the Rat Pack is and like their music then you will probably enjoy it. This is just the start for late, drawn out meals. Quito again: The last dinner at the Hotel is now in a conference room and the food was very poor. They even miscounted and didn't have enough meals to serve. One of our tablemates didn't get his food for over 20 minutes after the rest of us. And this occurred at more than one table. Celebrity is trying to fill our days with cultural events but I wish they had left this as was where everyone went to the Hotel Restaurant and ate at their own pace. The Folk Dancing at the beginning of dinner was good, but then they went into what I call Modern Dance not Traditional Dance and I didn't care for the interpretations. I enjoyed the music and wish they played that during dinner instead of the canned music. The pre-dinner time is in my opinion stupid. They serve hors d'ouerves in the hallway outside the conference room. In this hallway is about 8-10 vendors selling local crafts; it is extremely crowded and those who wanted to go shopping did so for 1.5 hours before the dinner. Flights: The Flights are fine. You get seating assignments based on your rooms. Top Suite gets First Class on the plane and then down. We didn't make First Class but we were Bulkhead; there are other people on these flights besides the Xpedition people. Luggage limits are the new higher ones but we saw people with way too much luggage and they didn't stop anyone. You stop in Guayquil both ways. Going to Galapagos you get fuel (can't go to the bathroom), some people disembark, some embark and they load tons of cargo. Return trip is similar but I don't think they load cargo because we weren't on the ground very long. You get fed on both legs of the flight both ways and I thought the food was decent. I especially liked the yogurt with frosted flakes. Marriott: Juices were better than the ship, 1st room the bed was a little hard, 2nd room the bed was great. The room and bathroom are huge and all amenities like soap, shampoo, etc are supplied. You get 2 bottles of water in your room that are free (one was by the coffee pot and the other was next to the bed, the really small bottles in the frig cost money. We supplemented these with ones bought from the "bakery" down downstairs, they cost $1.25 or taken from the bus after the tour. The breakfast at the hotel is very good. DO NOT leave anything important in your luggage that you put out at 5am; I accidentally left my IPOD in the front inside pocket of my suitcase forgetting to transfer it back to my backpack for the flight. It was stolen. Naturalist - Jorge, Myra, Jose Luis, Freddie, Juan Carlos, Fatima and Jorge (goes by George) was our Cruise Director. I put the list in order of how I liked the naturalist. We were usually on the 1st or 2nd panga going out; just because we are always early. We also took the last panga once just to see what the difference was, none that we noticed. ALL of the Naturalist are extremely knowledgeable, personable, and speak English well. The problem I had with Fatima was you are frequently walking single file, 16 people stretched out especially after a sighting and everyone needs to take pictures; she would frequently talk to the front of the group and the back of the group would have no idea what was being said. She wouldn't get us all together and then repeat what was asked or what she already said to the front of the group. It is very tough to stay with the front of the group because you can get behind someone who wants one more picture, or is just having difficulty with the terrain. Another example with Fatima was we had spotted a land iguana and again about 8 of us still taking pictures, she had just left, we all saw a feral cat. We had been told to report them. We tried but when I walked around the corner to tell Fatima, I was next in line, she was gone, I could not see her in the 200 feet of trail ahead, so I walked very quickly and didn't catch up to them for probably about ¼ mile to tell her about the cat. We had her several times and she "ran" all the time. Hopefully it was a fluke for Freddie, because I really liked him, but he picked on one of the older ladies one day and it really turned me off; especially since this lady was keeping up very well with no complaining. Juan Carlos we only had once but he seemed very good. Weather: "When it's hot it's hot, when it's not it's not". I didn't create the quote but I loved it and in Sept it was true. We had several days at the beginning when it was fully cloudy the whole day with mists/rain on and off. The rest of the days started off cloudy and turned fully sunny. Daytime temps were low to high 70s, nighttime mid 60s to 70s. Water temps were around 68 for us. Several naturalist mention that the rains start in Dec and go through Feb/Mar. Rain means a good storm for 20-30 minutes but note in Jan/Feb 2010 they had rains all day for multiple days; it affected the ecosystems for several of the animals. And as some reports also told it was HOT! In Feb/Mar/Apr 2010 even got to 104 degrees one day according to one of the naturalist. Snorkeling - We did bring our mask and snorkel; we wore the wetsuits which helped but the temperatures weren't that bad around 65-68 (this is the same temp as when we snorkeled in the Keys in January.) We had 6 opportunities. Champion Island which they work hard trying to convince you not to take. They call it a deep water snorkel but most of my snorkeling has been in water over my head in which I'm not allowed to or can't touch bottom so no biggie. On our trip the water was calm and you get in the water by going over the side of the panga and return by climbing a straight ladder from the water (standard from other snorkel trips we have done). I missed the shark on this trip but we had a single young sea lion that wanted to play and I did so by diving and rolling. The sea lion will approach you from behind, belly to belly, and kind of touch your mask; it definitely freaks you out a bit but it was great fun. Be sure you know how to clear your mask of water because you will be smiling and laughing so water does get into your mask. Someone mentioned to me later that if you blow bubbles the sea lion considers that playing also. If you don't do Champion Island you can do Cormorant Point; people there said they swam with sea lions. We skipped the 2nd snorkel after the Flamingo search because it was labeled a practice snorkel and we didn't expect to see much (also asked our naturalist who agreed). People enjoyed it but it wasn't special (ie. Different from other places we have snorkeled). We did the 3rd one after Bartolome and saw some big fish (including sharks), lots of starfish, penguins (we saw out of water, some saw in the water), this was probably our clearest snorkel. The 4th snorkel at Urbina Bay was unsafe so no one snorkeled, waves were crashing against the rocks which means so would we. The 5th snorkel at James Bay was a good one, lots of sea turtles and sea lions and fish (sharks again), but clarity was poor. The 6th snorkel at Dragon Hill was like swimming through a salad bowl (someone else's description) and even though we saw some fish and sharks, everyone cut this one short. None of the Snorkels had truly clear water, but it's been a long time since we can remember truly clear water; and the clarity, roughness of water and what you see will vary from day to day and hour to hour so these descriptions are true of when I snorkeled only. Also I thought I would freak about the sharks and I did a little when I saw my first one but they totally ignore you. They swim by you but don't look at you or come back around so it's kinda like did I just see a shark. Keep in Mind: You will spend time waiting. You will wait on the dock before the initial boarding of the ship and you will wait at the airport when it's time to go back to Quito. This is just common sense because they have to have some time with no guests on the ship to get it ready for the next group. We heard several people complaining about. Also the Newsletter you get each day can be wrong. They obviously repeat them and they would frequently say things like the Blue Finch is open (never was), Buffet outside at Grill (only the 1 day), or Outside Night Dining (never was). That everyone on this trip wants to see and take pictures of the same things you do. We had people who hogged the prime locations videotaping or snapping pictures, we had people who would go off path or way ahead possibly scaring the animal into hiding or flight (think tortoise in the shell hiding, land iguanas scurry away) of course this ruined it for everyone. Alcohol: The liquors offered are fine name brands, a few examples Dewars, Tangeray, Amaratto Disarnno, Stoli; if it's out so you can see it you do not have to pay extra for it. You can request a double, a virgin anything, or lighter alcohol. Our bartender Jacobo was wonderful, and we never really had any waits for drinks except the one time we were on the last panga back from the shore. The STAFF is PHENOMENAL! If you ask for something they will do it sometimes you don't even have to ask. They really do try to make everyone's trip special for them. I don't know how they remember all the faces from week to week but they will ask you for your drink order in one part of the ship and then deliver it to wherever you were heading. We brought just over $300 in cash, small bills; this included our $40.80 exit tax ($81.60 for two or us). I wish I had brought a little more money we came home with less than $40 but we didn't use a credit card for anything. You can pay your bill on the Xpedition with cash; you do not have to even given them a credit card imprint unless you are paying that way. We did give extra small tips (not expected, not implied by anyone) to our room Steward, our favorite bartender, and to the poor woman who had to lug our dinner to our room every night. We saw everything we were "suppose" to see. We missed the snake (what a shame ?) and whales. We did see dolphins, sharks, turtles, boobies hatching to few weeks old, boobies mating, penguins mating, albatross flying, albatross babies, sea lions from a few days old to seniors, tortoises, owls, hawks, and most of the other birds that are unique to the islands. We went on every excursion and if there was a difference we took the long one, and we tried to do all but one of the snorkels. I know some people say you can skip an excursion but if you are healthy I wouldn't do that we had fun and learn something on every excursion and that was the whole point of the trip. Also, you can choose not to get off the pangas if you can't do the hike portion. Basic day 6:15 - 9:15 am Coffee/Croissant on Beagle Grill 7:30 - 9:00 am Gift Shop Open 7:00 - 9:00 am Breakfast Buffet in Darwin Restaurant 9:00 - 11:30 am Excursion 12:00 pm Lunch either at the Beagle Grill (hamburger, fish, hot dogs, pizza) or Darwin Restaurant (Different Theme Buffets) 2:00 pm lecture/movie/demo - length varies to 15 minutes to couple hours 3:30 pm - 6:00 pm Excursion 6:00 - 7:30 pm Gift Shop Open 6:30 pm Cocktail Time (different specials if you want to try them) 7:30 pm Nightly Briefing 7:45 pm - 9:30 pm Dinner 9:45 pm some form of party Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
We have recently returned from a 10 day trip including 3 days in Quito and 7 days on the Celebrity Xpedition. Prior to our departure, we scoured a multitude of websites looking for information about what to expect. So much of what we read ... Read More
We have recently returned from a 10 day trip including 3 days in Quito and 7 days on the Celebrity Xpedition. Prior to our departure, we scoured a multitude of websites looking for information about what to expect. So much of what we read helped us prepare for this exciting venture. I decided that I too wanted to offer some of my experiences in the hope that it would help some future travelers be better prepared for their adventure. I do not intend to review what was done on each excursion as that information is readily available everywhere. My intent is to try to provide some information which will help you decide to take Celebrity or if you have already chosen this cruise, how to prepare for it. Upon arrival in Quito, we were quickly met by representatives from Celebrity, our luggage was taken from us and we were boarded onto a bus for a brief 15 minute ride to the hotel. Upon entering the lobby of the JW Marriott, we were offered hot towels and fresh local fruit juice while our check in was expedited. We were booked in the PH Suite for the cruise and therefore requested 2 rooms or a suite at the Marriott to accommodate our party. This was confirmed prior to our departure from the US, however upon arrival, Celebrity did not have a record of it. A quick check at the front desk resolved the oversight and we were given a suite as well as a second room. Additionally, about 30 minutes after check in, we received a call from the front desk asking us if we would like to have the room adjoining our suite so that our party of 3 could share the common living area. We graciously accepted and within 5 minutes someone brought us a key to our new room. Within a very short period of time, the bellman delivered our luggage to the appropriate rooms, although we have no idea how since there was no identification on the outside and we never identified our bags at the Quito airport. Just the first bit of magic Celebrity pulled off during our visit. We enjoyed a quick drink and snack in the bar and turned in for the evening. Saturday: We awoke refreshed in our lovely accommodations and went to the assigned dining room for breakfast before starting out on our first excursion. The Marriott served up a wonderful buffet breakfast including a variety of indigenous foods as well as some American standards to make anyone feel comfortable as well as provide you with an opportunity to sample some local fare. There was no check to sign, no gratuity to leave, just a friendly "gracias" as you acknowledged you were with Celebrity and provided your room number. We quickly boarded our busses on time and left for our Quito City tour. The busses were comfortable, the guides knowledgeable and fluent in English and the coolers filled with complimentary bottles of water. I am not a fan of pre-planned cruise excursions and usually plan my own, however there did not appear to be many offerings in Quito, so we opted for the tour included on our trip. Nothing against Celebrity, but I am not a fan of multiple church visits and drive bys of tourist attractions. I prefer to walk the streets, poke in shops, watch people and get a feel for the city. I knew what I signed up for and it reinforced my dislike of bus tours. Additionally, as this is a tour which seems to draw an older crowd, I was dismayed when there was a virtual coup on our bus of people who decided an hour was too long to spend at the equatorial monument and museum and convinced the guide that they needed to go back to the hotel to rest before dinner. On the plus side, Celebrity delivered what they promised, including lunch at a wonderful restaurant which offered beautiful outdoor seating in gazebos in the garden. We were told that lunch was included, however alcohol was not. I guess that only applied if you wanted something other than the glass of champagne handed to you as you entered the grounds of the restaurant. The restaurant staff was efficient, pleasant and eager to please. For veteran cruisers, the food was a cut above what is typically found in restaurants selected for excursions. As other guests rested in their rooms prior to dinner, my husband opted for a massage at the Marriott spa which was quite affordable and excellent. Good references also for the exercise rooms at the Marriott. A great place to work out the kinks from travel. Quick note: I read many reviews which indicated that public restrooms did not provide toilet tissue. You must pay for it - if it is even available. I found this hard to believe for a capital city, but as a believer in user reviews, I tossed some travel size Charmin in my bag. GREAT MOVE! I was a hero to my family. Sunday: Transfer to the airport was quick and easy and by 8:00 we were on our way to Baltra with a brief stop in Guayquil to pick up passengers. As we will come to expect, Celebrity fed us twice on the flight in addition to our buffet breakfast at the Marriott before leaving. Once we arrived in Baltra, we had approx 45 minutes for some unknown reason to wait for the busses to the port. Conveniently, there just happen to be dozen or so souvenir shops to help us pass the time. Not sure if this was an intentional delay, but as we could see our ship out in the water waiting for us, we were all very anxious to get moving and begin our journey. Once it was confirmed that enough people had bought hats, tshirts and stuffed animals, we boarded our busses to the port. Now the real Celebrity experience began. We were met on deck with a cold towel and a mimosa. We were taken to the lounge where we handled some administrative stuff and then were individually escorted to our cabins. As promised, champagne and fruit plates greeted us there. That of course was only to tide us over to lunch 30 minutes later. Our first excursion that day was N. Seymour Island. We opted for the "long walk", which was not very long in distance, but more than 2 hours in duration and very rocky terrain. No matter what you have read, nothing prepares you for the wildlife you will see EVERYWHERE! Nor will you be prepared for the experience of a sea lion coming right up to you and sniffing you to see if perhaps you are his relative. The sights are extraordinary and your senses will be overloaded by large iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea lions, nesting frigate birds, etc. Upon return to the ship, we were greeted with cool towels and glasses of wine or beer . We were given instructions on when/where to go for our next day's briefing and the time and place of our next meal. If only we had time to digest our LAST meal first. After dinner - it was off to bed for just about everyone so that we would have the energy required for the next day. Monday: We were given the option of a pre-breakfast excursion to circumnavigate Kicker Rock. We opted in and I strongly recommend you do too. Yes, you can see Kicker from the ship, however that experience is nothing like being in a small Zodiac and looking up at the blue footed boobies and Sally Lightfoot crabs 20 feet away, The morning sun casting a golden glow over the rock is spectacular. This was the first reminder that we should take advantage of every opportunity presented because you never know what it will bring. As we were circling Kicker, a ray leaped out of the water spinning and showing off. That was followed by the sighting of a whale by one of the zodiacs. In a flash all four of the zodiacs which went out were chasing the trail of the spouting whale. Park regulations are very specific about everything, and at the 15 minute mark, we were informed that we were no longer allowed to follow the whale so we turned back to the ship - with still enough time to have breakfast before our next excursion. San Cristobal: We went to the Interpretation Center, which was somewhat interesting, but difficult to pay attention as you could hear sea lions barking from a nearby beach and we really wanted to go see them. We were then driven into town to do some shopping. We poked into 2-3 shops but quickly tired of the T-shirts and shell animals. We walked down to the beach area where we were welcomed by sea lions everywhere, on steps, in the park, on the beach. They could care less about humans and allowed us to get very close and have great photo opportunities. My son sat down on a bench and a baby sea lion walked right over to him sniffed a little and then nibbled his arm. Apparently he was not the correct flavor so away he walked. We bought nothing in town and spent our entire time ashore watching blue footed boobies dive for fish, Sally Lightfoot crabs scamper across the rocks and sea lions laze in the sun and pose for photo ops. From what we heard on deck, the only real purchases made were those who found the electronics store and were able to purchase cameras, memory cards, battery chargers, batteries and other items which somehow never made it to the suitcase before leaving home. When our time was up, back on the Zodiacs to return just in time for one more meal. Espanola: In the afternoon, we again boarded our Zodiaks and headed to Espinola. We anticipated with excitement the thought that we would be able to glimpse some of the species known to the island, but when on a nature safari like this you never know what you might see. We were just hoping to not get "skunked". Talk about underestimation! This island was so full of iguanas, blue footed and nazca boobies, albatross and albatross babies, we didn't know which way to look first. We saw every animal not only in pairs, but by the hundreds. We had finches who followed us down the trail, we had boobies who were standing in the trail doing their dance and would hiss at you if you got in their way. After all, you are a visitor to their island. We saw an incredible amount of wildlife and it was all breathtaking as was the visit to the blowhole along the beautiful coast. The biggest concern was that you could never quite decide if you should watch where you were walking so that you did not fall, or whether you should watch for wildlife. A note of caution: The hike is approx 2 hours of walking over rocks - not a smooth path. The Park service cleared the vegetation along the path, but left the rocks were they lay. You must wear good walking shoes/sneakers and pay close attention. It is an unstable path, but not a hilly walk. If you can at all handle the conditions, don't miss this walk Needless to say, after starting the day very early at Kicker Rock, walking through San Cristoble and then the high intensity walk through Espanola, it was all we could do to make it the next day's briefing and dinner and then head to the cabin for some needed rest. The reason this ship has no real nightly entertainment is that there is no who can stay up past dinnertime. Our 22 year old son who was traveling with us was really looking forward to taking advantage of the all inclusive alcohol offering on the ship...that is until even he was worn out at the end of the day and headed straight to bed after dinner. Quick Note: We are definitely experiencing rough seas these first 2 days. None of my family is prone to seasickness, however we are all wearing Scopalomin patches and feel great. Not sure if the same would be true if we did not have the patches, but based on the way the ship is rocking, I am glad we did not take the opportunity to test our fortitude. Tuesday: Floreana Island This morning we had our first "wet landing" and a hike through Floreana. Jumping over the side of our Zodiak clutching our gear felt a little like the opening scenes from a new season of Survivor. We were greeted on the beach by what we now consider "old hat" a few sleeping sea lions and some blue footed boobies. We had an easy walk along a dirt and gravel path where we saw the lone flamingo and evidence of turtle nests. We shuffled (and there is an art to this) into the ocean up to our ankles and were quickly surrounded by rays. The water is a little cloudy, so photos are difficult, but watching them appear and disappear was great to experience. Then, back to the site of our Survivor landing. At that point, you had the option to go back to the ship, snorkel off that beach, or go on the advanced snorkeling trip. We were given wetsuits, flippers, masks and snorkels the previous day. I spoke with the cruise director the previous day and he assured me that both trips would see the same wildlife and there was no real difference, other than the advanced trip would fight more of a current and have to embark and disembark over the side of the Zodiak. Being assured of the same sights, I opted for the lazy trip off the beach and watched as my son and husband headed off to the advanced trip. The water was quite cool, however once you got in and started seeing sea lions and large turtles swim around you, you forgot all about the chill in the water. You would periodically hear someone yell "turtle" and then everyone would head to that spot to watch. This was followed by "Sea Lion" and we would all swim in another direction. Sort of like an adult version of Marco Polo. Eventually, we all made our way back to shore, helped each other get out of our wetsuits, rinsed our gear bags and shoes so that we took no sand off the islands, and then hopped back on the Zodiaks to return to our land of comfort. For the first time in days, I actually felt hungry and was looking forward to another meal aboard ship. As we came back on board, the crew was there waiting to take our gear and hang it to dry for our next snorkeling adventure. A hot shower and I was ready for the rest of the day. My family returned from the advanced trip about 30 minutes later and I am sorry to say that they had a better excursion than me. Although they did not see turtles, they interacted with many more sea lions and saw octopus and what sounds like larger schools of beautiful fish. Based on their recounting of the adventure, it was not really "advanced" and anyone who can swim and negotiate their way over the rail of the zodiak can handle the trip. The buzz in the dining room was palpable as people at every table were recounting their stories of what they saw as well as how many of each. On a ship this size, you can't help but know just about everyone on board. Wednesday Another great day as we boarded the Zodiaks late in the morning (9am) to head to Bachus Beach. I am not going to recount all the activities as they are available in many places. What I will say is that when given the opportunity for an adventure, you should take it. After the morning hike, we were able to go snorkeling off a white sandy beach. During the snorkel, we had sea lions approach and were able to spot 2 giant rays After lunch and afternoon siesta aboard ship, we headed out on the zodiacs for a wildlife spotting expedition. We were fortunate to see a penguin as well as several sea lions and sea turtles as well as a small shark. Once we made our wet landing we embarked on the "long hike" up to top of the volcano. It was moderately strenuous, but it was done on a boardwalk, which made walking easy, but the incline was relatively steep. However, your reward for making it to the top was an absolutely spectacular 360 degree view of the islands. If you are at all capable of making this trek, it is well worth it. No picture you can take will capture the beauty of the sight, so make sure you come out from behind the camera lens for a few moments to just enjoy viewing. Thursday: We left early this morning to head to Isabela island where we were in search of giant tortoises and land iguanas. We did see beautiful specimens of both in various locations along our walk. Unfortunately, it appeared as if the largest population was wasps - everywhere. They were not particularly aggressive, but for someone who is terrified of them as well as allergic, I will say that this was not my most enjoyable excursions. Several of us could not wait to get out of the brush and back to the beach so we could leave the wasps behind. Silly us, who knew that the wasps in Galapagos enjoyed the beach as much as we did. We had left our dive bags on the beach before we left on our hike. When we returned, we found our dive bags covered with wasps, apparently attracted to our yellow beach towels. Thankfully my husband braved the bees and brought me my equipment near the water. We suited up and off we went into the 65 degree water. It was chilly, even with wet suits, but you forgot all about it when you saw the first turtle swimming right next to you. We saw several large sea turtles, schools of beautifully colored fish and several very large rays on the bottom. We continued playing Marco Polo Galapagos style, and headed off whenever someone popped up yelling "turtle" "rays over here", etc. As we headed back to shore, we were greeted by a very playful sea lion who kept swimming through our group, jumping around us, nibbling a wetsuit and giving us many photo ops. It was a great snorkeling adventure which you should not miss. We boarded our zodiacs back to the mother ship, where we were greeted again by cocktails as well as the always awaiting platters of appetizers. After all it had been 3 hours since breakfast, and lunch was not being served for another hour. As we sat on deck talking to the other passengers about what they saw and our next excursion with beers or cocktails in hand, our ship was surrounded by frolicking, feeding dolphin and a few sea lions. It was a great way to unwind before we headed back to our cabins to shower before lunch. We were sidetracked by a Guest Services officer who wanted to offer my husband and I free massages if we were interested. Don't have to ask me twice. So, after lunch, we both managed to squeeze in a massage prior to our afternoon adventure. Lulu did a great job and it felt like one more Celebrity magic touch. I must admit though that I believe this was offered to us as guests in the Penthouse Suite. Unlike larger cruise ships where suites are filled with amenities, that is not the case here. The PH suite is really just two cabins opened up to each other with a joint living area and dual balconies. There is no real additional services which could be provided on board, so I believe it was just Celebrity's way of saying they appreciate our business. The afternoon excursion was a walk on Fernandina Island. Whatever your expectations are, be prepared to be overwhelmed. There is nothing that can prepare you for the abundance of wildlife you will see. The shear magnitude if the wildlife is stunning! You need to watch your step as you explore so as to not step on a tail of one of the thousand marine iguana's you will see. Once again you will encounter sea lions who are so cute you can't help but photograph them, as well as the flightless cormorants. Hopefully you heeded earlier advice and brought an abundant supply of memory cards. In a small area, and in one photograph, you can see Sally Lightfoots, sea lions, cormorants, blue footed boobies, sea turtles and some lava cactus! Wildlife viewing does not get any better. Upon return to the ship, you can enjoy more wine/beer/cocktails and hors d'ouveres with your shipmates and exchange stories about what each group saw. A lovely interlude before dinner. The good news is that you do not have to run back to your room to dress for dinner. Most everyone was on deck until about 6:30 and then went back to the cabin to put on clean, not fancy clothes for dinner. We all met again for our briefing for the next day's activities, sipped the cocktail of the day and signed up for tomorrow's excursion. On to dinner and then for most, back to the cabin for a good night's sleep. We have an early start in the morning and want to feel refreshed. One passenger asked to have a naturalist do an evening seminar on the stars which have been extraordinary in the evening. The request was accepted and at 9:15, the exterior ship lights dimmed. Unfortunately it was an overcast night and no stars were visible. Oh well, they will try another night. Friday; Santiago: We awoke this morning to our first overcast day with a light mist falling. Not a day you would typically plan an outdoor adventure for, but we layered our clothes, picked up our snorkeling gear and boarded the Zodiaks for Santiago. We had a great walk over the island and as usual saw huge amounts of wildlife - sea lions, fur seals, more iguanas - just in case you did not see enough the previous day, sea turtles and a variety of birds. The sad thing is that the wildlife is so abundant every day that you actually become jaded very quickly and find yourself walking away from some species because you have seen them enough. The good news though is that the wildlife is so abundant that you don't have to look far to see your favorite creature, and viewing is very rarely hit or miss. If the island has that particular creature, it is EVERYWHERE you look. As there is most days, you have the option after your walk to go back to the ship, walk along the beach or go snorkeling. It is very hard to pass up the snorkeling option because there is so much to see and almost always the probability some curious sea lion family will want to interact with you. Here's the catch, which serves as a deterrent for many. The water today was about 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with a wet suit it was cold. If possible, when you are given your snorkel equipment, try to get a long sleeved wetsuit. It makes a huge difference. No matter what you wear, the water is cold, but having totally covered arms is critical. Everyone who opts for snorkeling heads to the waterline to suit up and encourage each other that you will only be freezing or a moment and then you will be fine. It helps if you believe that and again once you start seeing wildlife, you forget that your fingers and toes are numb. We saw lots of large sea turtles, beautiful fish, unusual underwater flora and of course had our sea lion encounter. If you can handle it - DO IT. Santa Cruz: This afternoon was all about managing expectations, For the past six days every island we visited was full of abundant wildlife everywhere you looked. Santa Cruz was more like what I had expected before my arrival. Long walks looking and hoping for wildlife sightings. The island is desolate, covered by dormant shrubs and cactus. During our 2 hour visit we found approximately 4 land iguanas and several finches. Nowhere near the abundance we had been accustomed to. At the end of the excursion we were offered the opportunity to snorkel along the coast with the expectation of finding sharks. Since we had finally warmed up from the morning snorkel, we opted out of this adventure and headed back to the ship for the ever awaiting wine, beer cold water and appetizers. When later groups arrived back, they confirmed our suspicion that this was a snorkeling trip not worth the effort. The water was murky and there was no sea life to be found. By the time they arrived back, we were well into our second drink and enjoying the onboard music, and the opportunity to enjoy the views from the deck. Saturday: This morning we went to the Charles Darwin Research station where we saw a variety of tortoises and learned about the efforts to study and save the various species. While it was very interesting, it seemed more like a zoo experience and after spending the last several days seeing a plethora of creatures in their natural habitat, it was difficult to see these tortoises in pens built to mimic nature. I appreciate the work that is being done there, but it felt like a zoo. The highlands excursion in the afternoon was much more exciting. We drove a while out of town and then turned down a long dirt road which dead-ended at a private ranch. It was here that as you got out of the busses you looked through the vast fields and there were tortoises everywhere. Roaming loose - just the way they should. It was a great afternoon. After the return to town, we were given the option to do a little more shopping, or head back to the dock to catch a panga back to our ship. Most people had had enough of the t-shirt stores and headed straight back to the ship. After all, by now, we all knew that there would be cool towels, little appetizers and wine/beer/cocktails/sodas waiting for us when we returned. Sunday: It is a very sad morning as we have our last breakfast aboard the ship and await the pangas to take us to shore to meet the busses which would take us to the airport. While standing on deck our last morning, we were treated to the site of a whale and a calf off in the distance. And as we got to the dock, as if planned, there were pelicans, blue footed boobies, sea lions, and sally lightfoots all posing for their last photo op. At the airport, we were again given our mandatory 45 minute opportunity to buy one last stuffed animal, hat, or t-shirt. We were then escorted to the Celebrity VIP lounge to await our flight back to Quito. It really was a very nice waiting area and we all shared last minute memories before we boarded the planes. Once we checked into the Marriott, we were given the option to take a shopping tour. Our first stop was "the Market" - think flea market - more scarves, carved animals, tshirts, backpacks. An interesting way to spend an hour, but don't count on making a lot of purchases. From there, we were taken to a more upscale gallery which had some very lovely crafts, sweaters, weavings, jewelry, etc. Higher prices than the market, but not excessive and certainly tempting. Our last evening together, we were invited to a ballroom at the Marriott for a final dinner and a performance of Ecuadorian folk dance. What they did not tell us is that there would also be hors devours served while we had the opportunity to purchase more Ecuadoran crafts. Most people did not have money with them so purchases required a quick run back to your room if you wanted to buy anything. The performance was enjoyable but seemed a bit touristy - quite unlike the previous 10 days. Most went to bed right after that as the first airport transfer left at 4:30 am. To the Marriott's credit, they opened the dining room for breakfast at 3:00 am for anyone wanting to eat prior to heading to the airport. We headed out at 6 am for the 9:00am flight to the airport. My only complaint is that during the night, American Airlines posted a flight delay of more than 3 hours. Celebrity either did not check that, or they chose to deliver us to the airport early. Needless to say, we sat in the Quito airport from 6:15 am until 12:30 pm when our flight finally boarded. Here is a hint, if you head to the far rear corner of the boarding gate, you can access the free wi-fi and entertain yourself for a little while. I managed to tear through the 150 plus emails crowding my inbox. One less thing I will need to do when I finally get home this evening. If only I could sort through my photos as easily and force myself to delete any of them. Those sea lions are so cute....... So, it may sound trite, but a visit to the Galapagos Islands really is a trip of a lifetime. I have been to many remote areas of the world and am still awed by the sights we saw this week. The passengers on this ship are well traveled and well heeled. Everyone has a story about their safari in Africa, their trip to Antarctica, travel to China or Cambodia or Russia. We did not meet anybody who were in this trip as their first cruise or their first trip out of the country. For the most part, the crowd was a little older - 60s and up, although there were couples in the 50s, with their high school or college kids and one family even had their daughter who I would say was approx 11. We also had one young honeymoon couple. Regardless of age, everybody enjoyed the camaraderie of their fellow travelers. Jumping on and off the pangas several times a day and sitting cheek to cheek with a stranger brings out new friendships. Notes: Photography: Don't shop for new clothing for the trip - Buy more memory cards! Whatever you think is enough - double - or maybe triple that. Although you think you can limit the number of pictures you take, there are demons inside you that force you to take just one, OK 10 more pictures of the sea lions you meet that day, because they are cuter than the ones you photographed yesterday. And no one can resist just a few more pictures of blue footed boobies doing the mating dance. And who could resist photographing ugly albatross baby chicks, etc, etc. Thanks to my husband's forethought, we brought along a laptop - not to keep in touch with the outside world - who cares - we are in the Galapagos Islands - but rather, we use the laptop to download our cameras every evening so that we can start the day with empty cards. Dress: If you have done any cruising before, you probably think that you will at least have to get dressed for dinner - Forget about it. As I looked around the dining room last night I was surprised at how casual it really was. Leave the silk at home - it will much happier at home with the other fancy clothes. On this trip, khakis and polo are the uniform. If you don't have khakis, don't worry, jeans are equally prevalent and equally acceptable. It was foreign for me to see people in shorts on a Saturday night on a cruise. NOBODY CARES! It is nice to come back to the ship after an excursion and shower and put on clean clothes - if time permits - but this is a laid back environment where any conversation concerning dress is more about Keens vs Tevas or the latest offering of Columbia Sportswear. One more note about dress. The weather is unpredictable and layers are key. Early morning and evening can be cool. Yes, you are on the Equator, but that does not mean hot. Most days I have started with a polo and a light jacket which by 10 am ends up in my backpack, only to be pulled out by about 5 pm again. Tour groups: Fifteen minutes before the posted excursion times, a general announcement is made indicating wet or dry landing as well as an invitation to come down to deck to gather. You are handed your required life vest for the zodiak ride and then the strategy begins. Everybody starts positioning themselves in certain areas in an effort to make sure that they are not in a group which may not include the "right people" After the first day or so, you know who slows the group down, who always asks stupid questions, who is compelled to point out every pile of animal feces - in the event you want to photograph it and who you just can't seem to have a connection with. Each Zodiak holds 16 people plus the Naturalist. You will stay with this group for the entire 2-3 hour excursion, so you want to choose wisely - to the extent you can. No matter how had you try, every group always ends up with at least "one of those people". The good news is you get to reselect your companions on each excursion. Naturalists: One of the key reasons to select Celebrity is the level of their Naturalists. These are more than tour guides. They are a wealth on information on anything Galapagos related. Their English is excellent and they are all charming and interesting. During your cruise, you will most likely end up with all of them at one point, and it truly does not make any difference which one you get - there has not been one that we have been unhappy with. Towel Animals: If you are really looking for a review of towel animals, then you are looking at the wrong destination. After communing up close all day looking at sea lions, turtles, flamingos, penguins, etc what you really want to come back to is a cool towel, an icy drink and some fun conversation. There is not a towel animal to be found! Every day though there is a fresh platter of fruit in my cabin and every evening is a platter of appetizers. After all, you have to have something to nibble on before dinner, right? Footwear: If you want to be "part of the club", then Keen's are the way to go, and I would say more than 50% of the people have Keens. Tevas follow as a close second. After that, there is a variety of footwear from other manufacturers. The wet landings are not as dramatic as they sound. Several people who do not have water shoes opt to take off their shoes on the zodiak and for the landing and then put them on when they hit dry land. I would say that should be a last resort, because then you have to carry towels to dry off our feet before you start off on the hike of the day. There is a drawback to the Keens also, although they are verrrry comfortable. You do pick up sand and junk in your Keens, and the exact thing that makes them so appropriate for his type of trip - foot comfort and protection, also makes it more difficult to shake the junk out of your shoes so you are not having foot exfoliation while you hike. I would still recommend them, but they are not perfect. Additionally, although we leave our Keens out on the balcony to dry, they do not ever seem to dry. Not a big deal. At night, it becomes a classy operation and I switch to Eccos or flip flops. I do have a pair of moderate heeled sandals with me, however the ship does rock and walking in anything other than flats could be a challenge - especially after an evening of free flowing alcohol. Remember - heels and shorts are not a good look on this trip. Exercise: There are a few pieces of exercise equipment on Deck six, however they do not beckon you to test them out. Clearly they have been impacted by exposure to salt air and are less than inviting. On any given day, the excursions will provide you with some level of exercise and my recommendation is to take the week of and then hit the gym hard when you get home. To date, I have never seen anyone using the equipment. Night life: LOL - You should definitely not skip the naturalist presentation every evening at 7:30. It is brief, maybe 15 minutes, but tells you everything you will need to know for the next day - wet/dry landing, snorkeling options, best clothing choices, etc. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the specialty cocktail of the evening. After dinner, you can take a stroll up to deck 6 to view the stars, or make an appointment with the massage therapist for some reflexology before you turn in for the evening. There is usually an evening event such as disco night, passenger talent shoe or Karaoke. From what I hear, they are poorly attended as most people head to their cabins after dinner. Necessary equipment: You must bring a backpack. As you head out on the excursions you will always grab one or two water bottles. You will have camera equipment; you may have a towel as well as need a place to drop your jacket. Backpacks allow you to keep your hands free. Everybody has one and you should too. Hats are part of the "uniform". The sun is strong and it is good practice to wear one. It should however be one of the dorky expedition hats which tie under the chin. Baseball hats will blow away - not a good choice. If you don't have one, don't worry. You are expected to buy a Galapagos one during your 45 minute wait at the Baltra airport. You can buy one emblazoned with boobies, penguins, sea lions and a multitude of other critters. Underwater photography: If you are planning to snorkel, you probably want to plan for some type of photography equipment to capture sea lions frolicking underwater, or the huge sea turtles you will almost certainly encounter. There is also a huge variety of beautifully colored fish. Your equipment does not have to fancy - lots of people have disposable underwater cameras. Many options also exist to purchase relatively inexpensive waterproof cameras or dive masks with digital cameras built into them. You will want some way of capturing what you see. Suntan lotion: This sort of goes hand in hand with the requirement for hats. The sun is strong, and the weather temperate, so you do not realize you are burning until it is too late. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2010
This was my wife and my 21st cruise and 11th on Celebrity. As others have said, this was a "bucket list" cruise. We have put it off for years mainly for the cost. At first glance these cruises seem expensive. However, when I look ... Read More
This was my wife and my 21st cruise and 11th on Celebrity. As others have said, this was a "bucket list" cruise. We have put it off for years mainly for the cost. At first glance these cruises seem expensive. However, when I look at the cost of an outside cabin on say the Celebrity Summit, the cost of wine, soda, bottled water. When I calculate the cost for 2 shore excursions a day for 6 days. When you calculate the cost to get into the National Park in the Galapagos. When you include the transportation from the airport to the hotel (we did the 11-night package), the flight to the Galapagos and the quality of the tour guides. It really isn't that bad of a price. Well we finally jumped in and took the 11-night package. We decided that you never know when they will shut the Galapagos down and the cost wasn't going to get cheaper. As stated we booked the 11-night package which includes 2-nights before the cruise in Quito Ecuador at the J.W. Marriot. Since we live in the country of Panama, Celebrity Air Packages were not an option. It was easy for us. We booked a direct Copa flight from Panama City to Quito and arrived around 1 pm. After reading the Celebrity literature and reading posts we were confused on the weight limits. Celebrity tells you it is 30 lbs for checked and 14 lbs for carry on. We had read that it was 40 lbs for checked and others closer to our cruise posted that they now charter their own plane and don't use commercial TAME so there was no limit. We decided to error on the side of caution and limited ourselves to under the 30 lb checked. We chose the 11-night because, 1) we wanted to see Quito and 2) we thought we would need the day and a half on the back end to unwind. This wasn't going to be our typical, don't get off the ship, lay around the ship eating and reading cruise. This was going to be a full bore, high octane, see everything and do everything cruise. A "you can rest and sleep when you get home" cruise. FRIDAY, MAY 21. We flew direct from Panama City, Panama to Quito on Copa Airlines. We departed at 11 am and arrived at 1pm in Quito. Once we arrived you move through the Quito airport. You enter into Immigration. You enter the turn styles to the booths. A light indicates the booth number when it is ready and you head over to that booth number. You give them your incoming immigration forms to the agent and they print your incoming stamp on your passport via a computer printer. Once through you collect your luggage. Our bags were one of the last ones off. We then headed through customs. We gave the agent our customs card and put our bags through the scanners and then out the door. Celebrity was right out side and easily identifiable. They had a sign with our name and the Celebrity name on it. We were the only ones arriving at that time so we went to the Marriott van and jumped in and off to the JW Marriot. The day was about 65 degrees and it started to rain as we were heading to the hotel and it rained the remainder of the day. We were at the hotel by 2:30pm. Check in was very easy. Our room was ready. Celebrity gave us a form that showed what the next day's activities would be along with the times. We then went up to our room with our luggage. The JW Marriott is a very nice hotel. There is plenty of room. Several restaurants, shops and sitting areas are in the hotel. The room was nice and standard Marriott style. The king sized bed was comfy but if you are 6' or taller your feet will hand over the end. The room had free water but don't take the sparkling water. That is not free. The only down side is the quality of the towels. Not good for a JW Marriot. Internet is not free but is available for a fee. The staff was friendly and outstanding. We took a cab $3 to Zazu restaurant. On TripAdvisor it is the #1 rated restaurant in Quito and it deserved it. I put our review on TripAdvisor for Zazu so I won't go into details here. We got a taxi back and went to bed. SATURDAY, MAY 22 Breakfast is at the Bistro Latino on the lowest floor. It is between 6am and 9am. It was very good. There was a large selection of hot and cold items and an omelet bar. We were to meet in the lobby at the Celebrity desk that is right over close to the check in area before 9 am. We departed at 9am for the old part of the city. It takes about 30 minutes to get there. There are two bathroom breaks and the churches and the architecture is incredible with all the hills. You can buy scarves cheaply along with other hand made craft items. This is the time to do it. The locals approach you right after you get off the bus. Make sure you bargain with them. It is expected. Our guide told us that on most items you can get 30% to 50% off. We are in old town until approximately 12:30. We then boarded the buses and left for the Crater Restaurant. There were about 60 of us and we had 4 buses with around 15 of us in each bus. The bus is large and you have a lot of room to move around. There are plenty of cold water bottles on the bus so make sure you take one as you tour around. Sun protection is a must. The sun is very strong in Quito even though it feels cool out. We arrived at the restaurant at 1 pm. It is a fairly small restaurant. It has an incredible view and as the afternoon went along. The day started a little cloudy but had cleared up by the time we arrived. There are three choices. One was just a grilled chicken with veggies. The second was the same grilled chicken with a sauce they called "Coq au vin" sauce, and then they offered spaghetti. We started with an Ecuadorian soup that was very good. The chicken dishes we okay at best. We then had a flan for desert. Water and sodas were included. Wine is not and was very expensive at $6 a glass. There are bathrooms here. After dinner we were all outside and took pictures of the scenery. The residence house had an Alpaca tied up and every one was getting pictures with it. The Alpaca seemed to be used to it and tolerated the pictures well. We were then off for a quick trip to the Equatorial Line Monument and Museum. This is pretty interesting being at Latitude 0.0. Lots of picture opportunities being in the north hemisphere and then the south or straddling the line being in both hemispheres at the same time. You can climb to the top of the monument for pictures. There are many shops and there are bathrooms here. We head back to the hotel at 3 pm and arrived at the Hotel by 4 pm. That gave us 2 hours to unwind before heading out to dinner. At 6:15 pm, we all met in the lobby and we were taken by bus to the Sucre's Theater Restaurant. You had to fill out a form saying which of the main dinning options you want. There was a beef, chicken and a pizza option. The food was very good. It started with a soup or salad depending on the main course you choose. Wine is not included. The restaurant has an extensive wine list and is reasonably priced. One note for you diet soda people. Many of the restaurants or shops do not have Diet Coke (Coke Lite). We were back in the hotel by 9ish. SUNDAY, MAY 23 The day dawned early and sunny. We were ready for the Galapagos adventure to begin. The first thing is that you have to put your bags out by 5am. You can't leave them out in the hall overnight like a cruise since it is a public hotel and they might not be there at 5 am. Breakfast was downstairs again. It is between 5am and 7am. They only had one server getting coffee and tea and with 60 people it just didn't go well. Many of the food items weren't ready even at 5:30. This was strange since the Hotel goes through this every Sunday. At 6:30am you go to the Celebrity desk and pick up your boarding pass for the flight to the Galapagos. At 7:15am we boarded the buses and we were off to the airport. We were at the airport by 7:30am. We entered the domestic terminal and the Celebrity staff got us through the line quickly and without any waiting. You put your bags through the scanners and then you are in the waiting area. One important note. Celebrity at this time has a private charter with AeroGal. The weight limits are 45 lbs and not the advertised 30 lbs. I have no idea if the checked bags were ever really weighed since I left the a 5 am and didn't see them until we were on the ship. Once inside there are only 5 gates. The Celebrity person was worthless. She just went got coffee then plopped down by the gate. Most people didn't know she was there and we really didn't know what to do. We had read we could use the VIP room and we could and did. It is a very small room just to the left by gate N2. Most just set in the main area wondering what gate we were at and if we would be called. At 8am they (AeroGal) rounded us up and we walked out to our plane and boarded. Going we had a larger 737. Everyone had a row of three seats to them selves. That was nice. We used the middle seat to store things. We took off just after 8:30 and flew 30 minutes and had to land in Guayaquil. We were there for 35 minutes. They picked up staff here that were joining the cruise. We did not get off the plan. We were off and in the air by 8:45 and on our way to Baltra in the Galapagos. We arrived at 11:30am and as we came in we could see the Xpedition out in the bay. We were ready to go. Upon arrival you disembark the plane via stairs. It is nice in that they open both the front and back door so it is a quick disembark. You then move into immigration. Yes, the Galapagos have immigration and you get another form. It costs you $10 a person and that is NOT included in the price of your cruise. It is charged to your room charge on the Xpedition and you pay that at the end of the cruise. The first person checks to make sure that your passport has an entry stamp when you entered Ecuador. The second takes care of the entry visa for the island. Once you are done with that you go through and exit outside. There are restrooms but you are rushed. They move you to buses quickly and the bus takes you a couple miles to the pier. There you disembark the bus. We lined up and waited for the zodiacs. A few people asked the dock people if there was a restroom around and there was so a few went to the bathroom while we waited. It was a great start because while we were waiting there were sea lions around swimming and one was right on the dock that we had to go down to board the zodiacs. The zodiacs arrived and we put on life vests. This is a ritual that you will repeat many times a day for the next 7 days. You also learn the Galapagos hand shake and it is very important in getting on and off the zodiacs. We were on the first zodiac and there were 16 of us along with the driver and a naturalist. It was a quick 5 minute ride out to the boat. It overcast but the day was comfortable. The sea seemed fairly calm and the ride was fine. We were helped out of the zodiac and up the stairs from the landing site on the back of the ship. There we removed our life vests and were then taken in to the Library and Discovery Lounge. They are basically the same area. We sat down and Nuria the Chief Purser and her staff welcomed us and checked us in. They took us to our room 303. Our checked bags arrived in about 30 minutes. The rooms were fine. There was plenty of room. The bathroom was nice and the shower was big and had a glass door not the nasty plastic ones that stick too you the entire time you shower. Water pressure and temperature was fine. The only funny thing was that the beds are cot like and shaped like coffins. The top is wide and tapers down at the feet. They cannot be put together and there is a night stand in between them. I found them comfy if narrow. The only issue is that they have a comforter blanket but no sheet. So I was either too hot or had to set the AC so low my wife would be cold. The refrigerator is stocked with some soda but mainly water. The staff keeps it stocked all day. You'll need the water. Lunch was an International Cuisine buffet lunch at the Darwin Restaurant. It was very good. Many options and a pasta bar. The service was excellent (as it was all cruise). The wine was very good. If they weren't serving a wine you like just ask for it. They had reds (Cabs, Merlot, Malbec, blends) and whites (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and blends.) It was great not having to give the waiter my cruise card to be charged for drinks. At 3pm we had the naturalist welcome briefing in the Discovery Lounge. The life boat drill was at 4 pm. As soon as that was done we were ready for the first activity at North Seymour Island. There were only two choices and they tended to be the same type at each stop. Option 1 was at 4:30pm. Long Walk Activity - Dry Landing at North Seymour Island. 2km (1.2 miles) walk on an uneven path (and they aren't kidding) with small boulders along the path. Through the island trail we have the possibility to observe frigate birds and possibly Land Iguanas. You will arrive at a beach area where Galapagos Seal Lions, Blue Footed Boobies and Marine Iguanas can be observed. Due to the rocky nature of this trail it is suggested to use good footwear and possibly a walking stick (they provide if you want). Total duration about 1.5 hours. Option 2 was at 4:45pm. Short Walk Activity - Zodiac Ride and Dry Landing at North Seymour Island. Zodiac ride along the coastline searching for Galapagos Fur Seals, Lava Herons, and Swallow Tailed Gulls. The Geology of this region is quite impressive due to the limestone that is trapped between two layers of basalt lava, this area is exposed allowing us to observe these formations. We will make a dry landing that has approximately 100 meters of small boulder terrain (1 km or .6 mile hike). We anticipate Blue Footed Boobies, Galapagos Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, and Frigate birds. We chose Option 1 and we gave it a sounding A+. Notes, if you have balance issues, take a walking stick from the ship. If you are going to take pictures (and you will-a lot of them) don't take a walking stick. You just can't manage it and the camera. I know I tried it and learned that I didn't need the stick and I was always dropping it or if I tucked it under my arm I was always trying to kill someone with it when I swung around to take pictures. We knew it was going to be good because as soon as we got off the zodiac on the Island there were Sea Lions just laying right there on the dock. We had to walk around them. Birds were already there. Within minutes we saw our first of many Blue Footed Boobies. I love Boobies... There were dozens upon dozens of Frigate birds with their puffed out red chests. They are so cool. The dance and the whistling sound that the Bobbies make is so cool. Watching them do their court ship dance is really a thrill. The rainy season has ended by the end of May and things are already drying out. North Seymour is a very desert like Island. It is rugged and there are cactus everywhere. We also saw many Land Iguanas. They are very big and colorful. Little Lava Lizards are running every where. You will see them on all the islands. There were many Sea Lions especially with their young. We saw many nursing and they were within 3 feet of us. Mom wasn't worried and we were never threatened by them. We were just like a rock or tree to them. We made it back to the zodiac and we were back on the Xpedition by 6pm. As you get on the ship you rinse your feet and shoes off depending on how sandy or dirty they got. You get a cold towel and that felt good wiping off the sweat and dirt. Then up to the Beagle Grill on the back were they have some snacks, soda, water, beer, wine or you can go right in to the bar for a drink. Everyone hung out to about 6:30 to 6:45. The first meeting and the Captain toast was at 7:30 pm and dinner followed at 7:45 at the Darwin's restaurant. Dinner was very good. There is usually a couple of appetizer, a cold soup and a hot one, two salads. The main course usually has two specials, a beef dish, a chicken and a vegetarian dish. There are several deserts and ice cream. They serve a different white and red wine each night. If you don't like either of those wines, ask them to get a different one and they will. They also will bring mixed drinks, sodas, ice tea as well. We went to bed early. The ship can rock bad. It is not like the mega ships. Even though it looked calm there was a lot of right and left motion. I was starting to feel it. In fact I felt so bad I barely slept. My first bad was I didn't start my motion sickness prevention as soon as I got on that afternoon. Many people were feeling it as well. Please note that they do not have the "patch" on the ship. MONDAY, MAY 24 Monday dawned early. I hadn't slept and I was really motion sick. I just wanted off the ship. The first thing you can do is the 7am Early Circumnavigation around Kicker Rock on the Zodiac. Yes, I did much better on the zodiac. It is a real must do to see Kicker Rock up close. The formation is really interesting. There were a lot of birds that nest there. The water and currents can be rough and strong. Again that didn't bother me like the Xpedition motion. You are on the 45 to 60 minutes. We rated this an A. We were back on board and we had breakfast at 8am and then off for the morning land activity. There is only one activity. 9am Dry Landing at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. "Disembarkation by groups at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for a visit to the Interpretation Center (Human History Museum) followed by a short walk on the main street of Puerto Baquerizo". The Interpretation Center is interesting but we didn't have enough time for us. We went around and read the information on the history of the Galapagos. There are many buildings and we only got around to a couple of the them. There are bathrooms here. We then were bused back down to the town. The town is very clean and there are a lot of shops to buy items at. It is a good opportunity to get items you want. It is also a good photo opportunity. There are also a lot of Sea Lions all around especially in the community park area and on the beach right in front of it. When you are ready to go back, you just head to the pier and the zodiacs will take you back. We waited right up to the next to last zodiac to go back. I wasn't ready for the rocking of the ship. Back on the ship the normal routine was to get off the zodiacs and go to the room dump the stuff and return to the Beagle Grill on the aft where drinks and snacks were set up. We always had a pre-lunch drink. The Discovery Bar was always open for mixed drinks if you didn't want the drinks at the Grill. Lunch was always from noon to 1:30pm. The grill was normally open at the Beagle Grill for chicken, hamburgers, fresh grilled fish (yum) and french fries. A Galapagos Buffet was served at the Darwin Restaurant. I found that I like the lunch food the best. They will get you whatever you want to drink from the bar. Ice Tea is very good if you like non-alcoholic drinks. After lunch I was starting to feel bad again with motion sickness. Several others were having issues. Several asked the Captain if this was going to be like it the whole cruise. The answer was no. This stop was always rough and there was nothing much they could do to reduce the motion. What made it worse is at 1:30pm if you plan to snorkel you go up to Deck 6 to get your gear. The ship was rocking so bad that water was gushing out of the hot tub. A man was standing in line and water jumped out and he was totally soaked. That is how much the ship was moving. After getting your gear you sign that it is okay and take it back to the room. I lay down and couldn't wait to get off the ship to dry land. That was only two hours away. The afternoon activities were at 3:30pm Long Walk Activity - Dry Landing at Española Island. "Point Suarez hike, approximately 3 km (1.9 miles) over rough terrain (medium-large boulders found along the entire path). With this activity we have an opportunity of sighting Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Hawks, Sea lions, and Mocking birds to name a few. As we hike to a cliff area we will find a picturesque view with a blowhole along the coastline. Good shoes for this activity please." Duration is 2.5 hours. The second is at 3:45pm Short Walk Activity - Dry Landing at Española Island "Zodiac ride along the beautiful coastline of Española Island. Excellent opportunity to observe many types of shore/sea birds, including Audubon Shearwaters, Naca Boobies, and various species of Storm Petrels. Immediately following the landing we will proceed inland passing two sea lion haul out areas. This hike will not continue to the above mentioned cliff area. Good shoes for this activity please as we have medium-large sized boulders along the entire path. (1.5km/.9 miles). 2 hours. This was one of the very best stops. Make sure your batteries are charged and you have plenty of film/memory. The Sea Lions are right there, marine iguanas, mocking birds come right up to you. Blue Footed Boobies abound and you haven't gone 30 feet... It is a lovely rocky shoreline with hundreds and hundreds of birds nesting and flying. You will see Masked Boobies and yellow billed albatrosses. The albatrosses are very, very cool. The bright colored red/blue/yellow crabs are every where. They are very cool. The blow hole is very interesting as well. There is a lot to take in on this island. We returned to the ship a little before 6pm. I was feeling good from being on land so we sat and had a glass of wine at the Beagle Grill. Bad move. Ship was still rocking and I started to feel bad. I then went to the daily briefing for the next day at 7:30 in the Discovery Lounge. I was really feeling bad. I knew I shouldn't have gone to dinner but I did. I managed part of a salad and one bite of fish and left. I couldn't drink wine nor any of a Diet Coke. I laid down at 8:30 pm and was out cold. I was told at dinner that tomorrow it would smooth out. They were right, I could feel when they hit calm waters at 11 pm that night. TUESDAY, MAY 25 We arrived at Floreana Island and dropped anchor a little after 6am. I woke up feeling great. The water was smooth and the ship wasn't moving much. We went down to breakfast at 7am. We sat with one of our new friends Lori. She was on the cruise with her two young adult sons. I told her how motion sick I had been. She said she had some ginger root pills and asked if I would like some. I told her yes and she jumped up and we went and got them. That is what I loved on this cruise. Everyone was friendly and they were willing to help out others. A big thanks to Lori! We then head to the room to prep for the morning activities. Today is the first chance to snorkel. The activities for the morning were: 8:00 am "Long Walk - Comorant Point - Wet Landing. We will make a wet landing on a beach that has a large amount of Olivine crystals that were part of the volcanic history of the site. Continuing into the interior we find two plant species that are only found at this particular site, eventually arriving to a very large brackish pond. Flamingos, Stilts, and White Cheeked Pinitail Ducks are commonly sited here due to the amount of food present in the pond. We continue on the trail, crossing an isthmus arriving to a fine white sand beach which has a high coralline content. At the coralline beach it is usually easy to spot small rays, turtles and sharks from the seaside area. Please be careful not to walk on the back dune area for this has sea turtle nests. Sandals with straps are sufficient for this hike of 2 KM (1.2 miles) also you may land without shoes if you choose. Please take your snorkel equipment as we have a chance to snorkel from the beach area." 2: hours 10:30am "Advanced Snorkeling Activity - Champion Island. After a 25 minute Zodiac ride we will arrive at Champion, a small satellite island of Floreana. This island is one of the very few that holds a Floreana Mocking bird population. Floreana Mocking birds were present on Floreana during Charles Darwin's visit in 1835 however they promptly left the island when cats were introduced in the eighteen hundreds, and are only found on the satellite islands. This island has rocky slopes going to depths of 100ft. We will enter the water from the Zodiac at a depth of 40-50 ft eventually ending at a shallow bay where many sea lions can be found. Apart from the playful sealions we may encounter Spotted Eagle rays, small sharks, Pacific Barracuda, and Pacific Green sea turtles. (1.75 hours) We took only did the Long Walk. There were very few birds. We saw 3 flamingos and 1 of them was dead plus they were at a distance so it was hard to see them. It was very dry with only a little greenery. There were some birds that flew in the distance. The coralline beach was beautiful. The sand was soft and white. The ocean is so clear there. We got back to the beach and we put on our wet suits and snorkel gear. The snorkeling was poor. There was a turtle in there. There was very little fish and the water was very murky. If you have snorkeled in the Caribbean or Hawaii, it will be poor. If this is your first time, know that this is not good snorkeling. We did not do the 10:30 advanced snorkeling. If you did that you had to be at the beach at 10am and go back to the ship. I wish we would have done that. People who went on it said the currents were strong in places but not terrible. There wasn't much to see but they did have several sea lions swimming with them and that made it totally worth it. We rated the morning activity a C. We were back on the boat by 11am. Went to the room to clean up after snorkeling. When you get back you have to take your wet suites out of the bag and rinse them in water that they have out for you and then hang them on hangers with your room number. You then dunk your bag with the snorkel gear in the water to rinse them off. The staff then takes the bags and hangs it up. Make sure you get everything out of the bag before rinsing it because it will get wet plus the bag doesn't go back to your room. Today's lunch was great. It was an Italian Buffet that they set up outside at the Beagle Grill under the sky. The day was excellent and there were plenty of options. I think I hurt my self with all I ate... We hung out around the ship until the afternoon activity. There is only one and it leaves at 3:30pm. The activity is "Zodiac Ride, Short Walk - Wet Landing - "Baroness Lookout". Light zodiac ride through a mangrove area possibly observing Pacific Green sea turtles, spotted eagle and golden rays, great egrets and lava herons. The small islands that we navigate around are formed of "Pillow" lava, lava flows that are produced underwater making an interesting formation. We will proceed to make a wet landing at a beach which requires water shoes or sandals for the disembarkation. This area was used in the 1920s as a lookout for arriving ships. From the beach area we will climb a steep switchback trail that is about 300ft in length ending at steps and a viewing platform. Because everyone does this activity and we were on the first zodiac we did the climb first. Floreana Island is a very dry island and the hike is hot because it is in the afternoon. The zodiac ride is the best part. We saw sea turtles, many sea lions on land and in the water and on our way back to the ship we saw our first Galapagos penguins. The are very cool. They are small and blend in to the volcanic black rock unless they stand up and their white fronts stand out. Very cool. We rated this an A- mainly because of all the cool things we saw on the Zodiac. We headed back to the boat around 5:30. When we got back there was a guest on the landing deck of the ship. A sea lion had climbed up and was sleeping on the deck. Was we got boarded the ship from the zodiac, he didn't budge. Pretty funny. The crew said it is the same one and he comes on board every week at this site. Dinner was in the Darwin Restaurant and was very good. That night we had the Naturalist Party in the Blue Finch Bar were they crew performed. They were very good. From dinner time till 10:30, the ship moves to the next site and drops anchor. At 10ish to 10:30 they turn on the outside lights and it attracts a lot of sea life. We saw 5 large sharks, several sea lions that chased the flying fish and we had a couple of pelicans hanging around. It was very interesting to see them come in and out of the lighted areas. We really enjoyed this evening. They will also do stargazing at 10:30 but it was a full moon so it wasn't going to be very good so we went to bed before they started that. WEDNESDAY, MAY 26 The day started at 6:45 and breakfast was at 7am then we were off for the first activity. The activities were 9:00am "Flamingo Search- Wet Landing Long "easy" Walk" This is a short hike along a beach area, which has a very small amount of rocky terrain for which sandals are sufficient foot ware. We will visit two different brackish ponds found at opposite ends of the beach. These ponds occasionally have Greater Flamingos, Black Necked Stilts, White Cheeked Pintail Ducks, and other shore wader. Upon our return to the landing area we have an opportunity to swim from the beach. This beach is good to "practice your snorkeling" site. 9:30am "Beach Activity - Wet Landing" We will make a wet landing at Bachas Beach for a chance to relax on the beach. Guests are allowed to walk on the immediate beach area within sight of the Naturalists. Please be aware that there are Pacific Green Sea Turtle nests present on the back beach area. For this reason the back beach is out of bounds. You may find yellow tailed surgeon fish, parrot fish and the small Galapagos Damsel fish. We chose the 9am activity. Wasn't much animal life. One crane, two flamingos and a lot of crabs. You also could see the metal posts from the old barges that got stuck and sunk on the beach here. There was a path in the sand where you could see that a sea turtle came ashore over night to deposit eggs in a nest. That was cool to see. We didn't snorkel but we did see sea turtles out in the water and a two oyster catchers that were hunting on the beach. We just walked the beach. It was nice beach on a sunny day. Very relaxing. We gave this a B. We were back on the ship by 10:45am for our morning cocktail. Then off to a World Buffet Lunch in the Darwin Restaurant. We then went up to deck 5 for some shade, reading, and to watched the world go by. The afternoon event is on Bartolome island. This is a great island. It is so rocky and mountains all around on other islands. The beach area is beautiful as well. There are two activities. At 3:30pm "Long Walk To the Top hike Activity - Dry/Wet landing at Bartolome Island. You will hike on a trail to the top of the hill at a height of 374 ft. The trail is about 1 mile with 358 wooden steps. Along the trail we have two viewing platforms where we may rest on the way to the top. After returning to the zodiac we will proceed to land (wet landing) at Bartolome Beach for snorkeling and swimming. If you chose to swim/snorkel please leave your equipment at the stern of the ship when you disembark so they can transport it to the beach. At 3:45pm "Zodiac ride/* Isthmus Hike - Short Walk - Wet Landing at Bartolome Island". You will start with a zodiac ride along the coast searching for penguins and enjoying the geological formations. The volcanic cones that we see have been exposed by erosion allowing us to see a central solidified lava flow. Along with the cinder cones we can also find small lava tunnels that have flowed into the ocean. After a wet landing at Bartolome Beach we will proceed to cross the Isthmus that separates the two main beaches. We will search for Galapagos Hawks, sea turtles and different shore birds. When the tide is high we may find close to this beach white tipped reef sharks. Sandals are acceptable for the walk. We chose the first option. It is one of the top 3 activities we did. The track is all on a wooden path but it is hot, no shade and you go up high. Thank goodness for the two stops because there were a few people that really struggled. The scenery is totally volcanic and very interesting. The remnants of the lava flows are very prominent and many times looks like folds. The other fun part is that the lava is very, very light. The Naturalist will pick up a large piece that you would think would weight 60 to 80 lbs but it is very light (maybe 10 lbs). They pass it around and you can get your try with it. A lot of "He-Man" pictures are taken at that time. The afternoon was totally clear. When it is like that the view from the top platform is breath taking. You aren't doing this part of the activity for the animals. That is later. The views and the landscape are amazing. We got back to the zodiac and did a quick tour of the landscape. It was great. We found 6 or 8 penguins and sea lions were about. After that it was off to the beach. In my opinion, this was the only good snorkel place. We were lucky in that we had a penguin, small reef tip sharks, and a sea lion close by the beach and they swam or played with those in the water close to shore. Not only did the snorkelers love it but those watching on the beach had a great time watching the penguin's antics. There are many bright colored fish. We are good, experienced snorkelers so we went around the tip to the area to where we saw the penguins on the zodiac ride. They were in the water there and on the cliff ledges. There are also the biggest starfish I have ever seen in the wild. I bet many were a foot across and there were at least 20 of them and may be more than 30. They were a very colorful red. Going back we saw a huge sting ray resting on the bottom about 15 feet below us. It didn't move but it was cool to see it. We were one of the last ones out and last ones back on ship. We rate this a solid A+. We went and got ready for dinner and then had a pre-dinner drink at the Beagle Grill. The moon was just past full and it was a beautiful evening. This is a great night. After dinner between 9:45 and 10:30 pm we cross the equator and King Neptune and his band of nasty pirates make an appearance and elect a Queen and the find slaves to worship her. It is a hoot and with all the young cruisers (who were the slaves) it was even more hilarious. Add a touch of alcohol and it is a total riot. After words it is Disco time. Everyone had a great time. Do not miss this event no matter how tired you are. It is just down right fun. THURSDAY, MAY 27 The day dawned clear and beautiful and continued through out the day. We were just off Isabela Island. Breakfast at 7am as normal and then we were ready for the morning activities. There is only one activity this morning. It starts at 8am. "Long easy Walk - Urbina Bay - Wet Landing" We will begin with a wet landing at this very small bay. This landing site is one of the most difficult due to the inclination of the beach. After landing we will proceed behind the beach area to search for Giant Land Tortoises and Land Iguanas. The trail is approx 1 mile returning to the main landing beach. This terrain is mixed with compacted ash, gravel, and sand. After the hike there is a possibility to have a short swim and snorkel. Duration 1.5 hours. Once we got to the landing site, they warn that it is difficult or can be. It may be but at our landing it was fairly easy. This was an interesting hike in that about 50 years ago an earthquake raised the land about 40' and while you are hiking you can see the old shore line and rocks that you can walk on that still have the old coral on them. There are huge land Iguanas. There were also several young land turtles. We made it back to the beach and snorkeled. It was okay. We saw three turtles but they were far out. There were some colorful fish and rocks but you had to go out a ways. The snorkeling was okay. We were back on the boat by 10:45am. We rated this activity as a B+. Back onboard the ship, we then changed and went up on the deck for a drink. At 11:30am we lifted anchor and we started through Urbina Bay. During this time you look for whales and dolphins. We saw two Humpback whales. They were sometimes close to the ship and sometimes away. The captain went over by them 200 yards away and cut the engines. We stayed with them for about 30 minutes. They didn't breech or sound, but you could see them and you would get good looks at their humps when they came up for air. Then it was off to lunch and a Galapagos lunch buffet in the Darwin Restaurant. There were two afternoon activities. The first is at 3:30pm "Long Walk Activity - Espinoza Point - Dry Landing Fernadina Island" A dry landing on an uneven but flat trail of approximately 1 mile. The landing area may be a concrete dock or exposed slippery lava rocks depending on the wave action and tide level. Aa and Pahoe-hoe lava flows are found here along with the incredible volcanic scenery. As we walk towards the point we can find one of the largest Marine Iguana "colonies" here in the archipelago. Scattered among the iguanas we may also come across Galapagos Flightless Cormorants nesting along the coastline. Duration: 2.5 hours. At 3:45 is a "Short Walk Activity Dry Landing". 1 hour. We chose the long walk again. This is a very rugged, volcanic landscape. The old lava flows are very obvious and cool looking. Some of them looked like twisted licorice. There are hundreds if not thousands of the black and gray marine iguanas. They are every where and piled 2, 3 and even 4 high on top of each other. Colorful crabs are every where by the sea shores. There were also many sea lions around. Sea turtles were visible just off the shore. There were 3 to 5 of them hanging out in the water. There were two flightless Cormorants showing their small, unusable wings. They were very interesting. This is an excellent island and deserves an A rating. We were back on the boat for our early evening drinks and then off to get ready for the next day briefing and dinner. Dinner was on the back deck by the Beagle Grill and up on Deck 5 by the Blue Finch Bar. It was a beautiful night and dinner was excellent. It was nice eating out side. After dinner was the talent show. We had a few very talented individual. One gentleman played and sang well and sounded like James Taylor. Two young girls (in their 20s that's young to me...) wrote a song about the cruise called the "Galapagos Go-Go". It was a good time. FRIDAY, MAY 28 Another sunny day dawned. Breakfast as usual and there were two activities for Santiago Island at Puerto Egas. The first was the 8:00 am "Long Walk Activity - Wet landing at James Bay" Along 50% of the trail we will have a coastal walk. There is a possibility to find shore birds and iinter-tidal species in the tidal pools. At the end of the coastal walk we come upon lava tunnels that have collapsed allowing us to view crystalline pools and a resting area for the Galapagos Fur Seals. We will continue inland along a very flat compacted ash trail returning to the landing beach. At the beach you can swim and snorkel. Distance 1.4 miles. 3 hours. At 8:15 "Zodiac ride Activity - Wet Landing at James Bay" 30 to 40 minute zodiac ride followed by a wet landing at Port Egas. At the beach we have a very small and easy walk on the beach to search for Sea Lions and shore birds. This is followed by an opportunity to swim and snorkel. We chose the first option. The trail is easy and packed ash and dirt. Nothing much on it. Very dry area. The lava rocks are very cool but it is treacherous. If you have balance problems this is not for you. There weren't many animals and only 1 fur sea lion. Of course our Naturalist didn't take us close while other groups got close to the fur sea lion. From our distance it looked like a regular sea lion from the distance we were at. I was unimpressed with this island and this tour. Part of it is how good the Naturalist leads you and how in to it they are. William was not it. I found him to be disappointing. He was on the plane back to the main land Ecuador at the end of the cruise and I don't think his heart wasn't into it. We didn't feel like snorkeling so we just went back to the ship. People said it was just okay snorkeling and there wasn't much there. This only got a C+ and the only reason I gave it that was because of the interesting lava formations. Back on the ship we had several drinks and watched the others return. We then headed to a Mexican lunch buffet at noon in the discovery restaurant. It was good. They had a burrito bar and it was very good. After lunch we went up by the Blue Finch bar and had drinks and read. It was a relaxing afternoon. We anchored off of Santa Cruz and were to go to Cerro Dragon. There were two activities this afternoon. 3:30pm "Long Walk Activity - High Intensity Activity Dry-Wet Landing at Dragon Hill". A 1.5 mile hike inland to search for Land Iguanas. Darwin Finches and arid zone vegetation. You will pass a small brackish pond that occasionally has flamingos and other waders. One third of the trail has small boulders to walk on so please bring good shoes. Upon return to the beach you will have an opportunity to swim and snorkel. 2 hours 3:45pm "Beach and Swim - Short Walk Activity Dry-Wet landing" The zodiacs will transport you for a landing at Dragon Hill. We will stay at this small beach to swim or snorkel. If you choose your Naturalist can take you on a short hike (10 to 15 minutes) behind the beach area to a small pond that might have Flamingos, Black Necked Stilts and White Cheeked Pintail Ducks. 1.5 hours This was another disappointing site. There was not much vegetation. It was very dry. We did see four Land Iguanas. Again, I was uninspired and unimpressed with the Naturalist. They say this hike. It was not a hike it was a race. Once we got to the half way point the Naturalist took off like it was a race. I have pictures to prove it. There were times that he was 300+ yards ahead of those mid pack and those at the end were even further behind. When we got to the beach I didn't feel like snorkeling so back we went. Rating a C because I'm feeling generous. Today's disappointment was part that these islands don't have much going for them (at least at the end of May). In addition, the attitude of the Naturalist today just made it close to a waste. It was really a downer to me. Tonight before dinner was the Margarita Cocktail party. Margarita's were all around but if that is not your taste you can get what ever you want from the bar or the waiters will bring it to you. The briefing was at 7:30pm as is normal every night and then dinner was at 7:45 like always. Dinner was tasty. I found the dinner food to be very, very good. It is not big ship quality, but I didn't expect it to be. I always found something to eat and I never went away hungry. After dinner in the Discovery Bar on Deck 5, it was Karaoke night. This was a hoot as well. There were a few who could sing but others couldn't but it was fun. Then off to bed. SATURDAY, MAY 29 It is hard to believe that today is the last day. It has flown by. Up and ready for breakfast at 7am and then we got ready for the mornings activity. Today we are on Santa Cruse Island all day at the town of Puerto Ayora. The town is the biggest and there are hotels, restaurants, shops, and stores. There is only one morning activity. At 8am you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. It is a short bus ride from the pier to the entrance. From there you must walk to the center. The Naturalist takes you there. You go through all of the turtle farm areas. I admit I wasn't looking forward to this. It turned out to be very interesting and the turtles are very interesting. Lonesome George is interesting but he wasn't as big as I thought he would be. Others made the same comment. You have an opportunity to get close to the giant turtles. They are huge. After the tour you are on your own to either take the bus back to town or walk back to town. If you can do it, walk back. It is worth it. There are dozens of shops and things to see. This is the best chance to buy any souvenirs. There is some shopping time after the afternoon outing but there isn't much time. Do your shopping now. The town is clean and well kept and there are a lot of options. Also stop by the public area. They will probably cutting up the morning's catch. They were on our trip. There were dozens of fish cut up and a dozen huge tuna. It was funny to watch the pelicans hanging around and one lone sea lion waiting for the scraps. Zodiacs start back to the ship at 11am and last zodiac is noon. I rated this activity an A-. We got back at about 11:45am and went right to an Ecuadorian lunch buffet in the dinning room. After words we were up on deck 6 reading. As Elite members on Celebrity we each received a complementary 25 minute massage with Luly. She is very skilled and it was excellent. What I loved about it was that unlike the big cruise ships all Luly was there for was to give the massage or the service you bought. She was not trying to sell me products I didn't want or need. That was nice. I hate that on the big ships and I don't even bother with a massage on them. After that it was time for the afternoon outing. There is only one in the afternoon. You leave the ship at 3pm and catch a bus at the pier where you take a 30 to 40 minute bus ride to a turtle farm where you walk around looking for the large Land Turtles in the wild. We found one out in the open. The other three we saw were partial viewings because they were tucked away back in the wooded area. They were hard to see but it was fun when those monsters started moving. Small trees, shrubs and grass came crashing down. It was like a small tank moving through. There are bathrooms there. There is an old shell and people can get into it and try doing push ups to see how heavy the shells are. This is quite funny and a big photo opportunity. There are a couple of souvenirs shops there as well. Then it is 30 minutes back to town. From there you are dropped off at the pier for more shopping. We got back on board by 5:50. Zodiacs run from 5:45 to 6:30. Back on they had an Ecuadorian Beer Party on deck 4. Then at 7:30 it was introduction of all the crew and a thank you and farewell toast by the Captain. Then a slide show showing pictures that the Naturalists had been taking through out the cruise. It was wonderful. After dinner when you get back to your room a copy of the slide show and all the pictures that they took are on a CD for you to take home with you. It was really a very good job. Then off for the final dinner that was under the stars on deck 4 and on deck 5. It was funny, they lowered the grills down via the cranes they used to lower the zodiacs. We are thinking those look like charcoal but know surly not. Yes they are. It was really funny. We have pictures of the charcoal started and flaming and the ship is rolling right along to Baltra with the flames dancing in the breeze. They cooked all kinds of items on the grill. Lobster, shrimp, red snapper, yellow fin tuna, chicken, beef, sausages. They had salads and other items. I had at least 4 lobsters and 3 skewers of shrimp and one tuna. Oh it was good. I think I hurt myself. It was excellent. One note, be carful with the Chicken. My wife got it and it was not close to being cooked. Back in the room you have a letter telling you about disembarking. They ask that your luggage that is to be checked at the airport be put outside your room that night or before 6 am in the morning. We put ours out that night because we didn't want to get up any earlier than we had to. SUNDAY, MAY 30 We were up by 6:45. Breakfast is served from 7 to 8:30am. You have to be out of your room by 8:30 am so that they can get the rooms ready for the next victims. You then set around on deck 4 and 5 until the zodiacs depart to take you back to the airport. This starts at 9:20 am. You are at the airport at 9:30 am. You then have an hour and a half out side the airport. There are many shops to buy any final gifts and the prices are reasonable for being at the airport. Since we did the 11-day package, our airfare was included back to Quito. About 40 minutes into it the Naturalists gave us our boarding passes. At 11 am were allowed into the terminal and went right to the VIP room. It is a very nice and comfortable room. One note, there is a bar in there. First, the liquor is not free. It was $5.50 a drink. Soda was free. They did not have beer or Diet Coke. The bathrooms are nice. The plane with the new passengers comes in at 11:30am (same time we arrived). It took them 30 minutes to disembark and to clean the plane. We boarded up at noon and were in the air by 12:15. It was a smaller plane plus there were about 8 staffers that were done with their contract and they were going back to Guayaquil. Because of that most seats were full and we did not get a row of three seats to ourselves on the way back. We stopped at Guayaquil and were on the ground for 40 minutes and then off to Quito. We landed in Quito about 3:00 pm. One note on our trip. Saturday before we returned we found that a volcano 3 hours south of Quito erupted and they had closed the airport at Guayaquil due to the smoke and ash hazard since the winds were taking it south and close to Guayaquil. Well it was operational Sunday for us to land and go on to Quito. The bad news for the 8 guests that booked the Lima trip was that they were to disembark in Guayaquil and then catch a flight to Lima, Peru. Well they weren't flying to Lima from Guayaquil due to the volcano. Of course no one told them or the Celebrity rep so they got off the plane. We all wished them the best of luck not knowing they couldn't fly from here. Fifteen minutes latter to our surprise they are coming back on board. They had to fly to Quito and Celebrity arrange for a flight from Quito to Lima. Sad part was they were going to loose time in Peru. I hope it turned out okay and they had a good time. Back at the Marriott by 4pm, check in was easy. They still had our charge card on file and 4 staff people doing checkin. We were in with in 5 minutes and in our room. You can just hang out at the hotel or at 5pm you can go on a 2 hour-2 stop shopping excursions. Celebrity had two buses ready. About 40 of us went on the shopping tour. The first was a local market with all kinds of leathers, table cloths, clothing, jewelry and other items. You could negotiate most prices. They did not budge on tee shirts or on coffee. We bought a table cloth and a table runner. We were there for about 45 minutes until 6 pm. We then went to an upscale shop that closed at 6pm but was open till 6:45 just for us. The prices were very high. If you wanted Alpaca clothing or items, they had it. They have many other up scale items besides the Alpaca items. There were some things in the $10 to $40 range but most are expensive. We caught the bus and were back at the hotel before 7 pm. Dinner is at La Hacienda restaurant in the hotel and is open seating. They did let you make a reservation to sit with your new friends if you wanted to. We ended up going in and two of our new friends came in and joined us. You had a choice of 3 main courses (Chicken, beef, fish). The chicken was very good as was the fish. Our friend order her steak medium well and it came out medium-rare so it had to go back to cook. When it came back it was like Panama beef. It is grass feed so the beef is a little tough and has a gamey taste to it. She wished she had just got the chicken. The meal was fine but we were in a corner and they kept forgetting about us. A glass of wine is included in the meal. Our table mate was polite but decided to see if we could get anything out of them for forgetting us. They agreed to give us a second glass of wine. That made it worth the wait! After dinner, we went up to bed. MONDAY, MAY 31 This was our 11th day. Many people were catching the transports through out the morning to go to the airport. We got up after 7 and wondered down for the breakfast. It was a good breakfast again. We decided just to hang around and relax that morning. We went out by the pool to read. At 1 pm we went to Zazu again for lunch. It was as good as before. Our friends that we had dinner with the night before (Anna and Deb) were at the table next to us. So we spent the time talking with them again. They were leaving in the afternoon to go to Peru on their on (not through Celebrity). It was great for them that in their rate they have the day pass and get to keep the room right up until they left. That makes it nice if you have an afternoon or evening flight. Since I now knew the way back from Zazu to the Hotel, we walked back. It was easy and since it was day light we didn't feel threatened. We walked around a little around the hotel. There really isn't much there. We went back and read some more and relaxed. We then had a 7 pm light dinner at the Mexican restaurant in the hotel. It was very tasty. The Marriott has a kiosk that you can do advance online check-in for your air travel and no you can't check email on it. I recommend that you do this. We did and it was nice to have that done. We then went up to bed because we had to get up a 3:45 am to be down in the lobby for the shuttle to the airport. TUESDAY, JUNE 1 Celebrity did a great job. They give you a list of all the flights that they know guests are leaving on (Monday and Tuesday) and they tell you what time the shuttle leaves. We were on Copa this morning and our flight left at 6:55 am. Our shuttle was at 4:30 am. When we got down there at 4:15 we checked out. Celebrity was there with a bus. There were suppose to be 6 of us but at 4:30 only four of us were there. Celebrity knew who was missing and went to the desk and found that the people already had checked out and left on their own. We boarded the bus and we were at the airport at 4:45. Celebrity helped us get a porter for our bags and went in with us and showed us where to go to check in at the airlines. The porter dropped us off first at Copa and then right next to us was the American check in. American had a long line. For us, we were lucky the Copa line was empty. We walked right up and checked in. The important thing to know is that there is a country exit tax of $40.80 a person. You go there after you have your boarding pass and check in at the airline counter. It is very, very important to know that you can only pay with CASH. No credit card, no debit card, no traveler checks. If you don't have it, you don't leave. End of story. After you pay the tax, they put stickers showing you paid on the boarding passes. You then head up stairs past shops and enter the Immigration area. When we were there it wasn't busy yet. We went right through. Once through you go through the metal detectors. Once inside there are 4 gates upstairs numbered A1 to A4. The US bound flights are down at A3 and A4 because you get your hand luggage inspected before you go to the waiting area for your flight. For us going to Panama we just sat down. No other inspections. We were in the lower area that had gates B1 and B2. There is a cafe in there and several shops. We were called and we had to board a bus to go board our flight. I don't think American had to do that but don't know for sure. We took off by 7 am and we were in Panama by 8:30. Made it through our Immigration, claimed our bags and were home by 11 am. FINAL THOUGHTS. This was our first small ship cruise and first all inclusive cruise. It was really wonderful not having to worry about if the drink was included and having to pull out my ship board card to pay. The quality of the food was very good. We had no complaints. I think lunch was the best. Enjoyed breakfast and dinner. One note, if you like omelets in the morning, go to that station first and order your omelet, find your seat, and then get your other items. They will bring it to you and sometimes it can take 5 to 10 minutes depending how many people are waiting or that have ordered. They make fresh waffles for you but for some reason Friday and Saturday they didn't have that. If you want waffles, don't wait until the end they may run out of batter. Please don't try and compare the food to the large ships. They just don't have the supply chain or the resources. If you really think about it the food is quite excellent. All drinks and wines are available for all meals. If they aren't serving the wine or drink you want, just ask them to get you the one you want. They are happy to do it. The staff is incredible. The only ones that I felt were less than enthusiastic at times were the Naturalists. Freddy was excellent. A couple others were good. The other two seemed like they were ready to go home and less than enthused. The ship does rock and roll. If you have motion sickness issues, be prepared. The first days were the worst (Sunday and Monday) and the seas were seemed calm to me. I can't imagine it at other times of the year when the seas are higher. The zodiacs were fine and fun. There was only one dry landing that was a little tricky. The crew is really concerned about making sure you get on and off safely. The wet landings can be a little tricky getting back on the zodiacs. I didn't have any issues but it took a day or so for some to finally get the trick. The other cruisers were fantastic. We had people from all over the world (Asia, Australia, England, USA, Canada, and probably other places). We had a great time. Get to know as many people as you can. It was an important part of the cruise and added a lot of value. The islands and animals were very amazing. Try to get an understanding what the weather, animals, and plants will be like when you want to go. My review is what it was like at the end of May. Other times of the year, the animals, fauna, seas, climate, etc. will be different. Do as much as you can. You can relax and unwind when you get home. Finally, respect the Galapagos. Follow the instructions of the Naturalist. Be courteous. Others will be along and want to see the sea turtle path so don't go messing it up by walking all over it like happened on our cruise. Also if you are in the front of the line on the activities, remember others in the middle and the back probably can't see or hear the guide. Please take your pictures and let those in the middle and back come forward to hear and observe. 16 in a group is really too big. If you are in the back, you really miss a lot if the group isn't courteous or aware. Have fun. You are on a trip of a life time. Happy Sailing - John Read Less
Celebrity Xpedition Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.3
Entertainment 3.0 3.6
Public Rooms 3.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 1.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 5.0 4.9
Enrichment 4.0 4.7
Service 4.0 4.8
Value For Money 3.0 4.5
Rates 5.0 4.5

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