We sailed on the Celebrity Xpedition in May 2018 to the Galapagos, on the inner loop itinerary. As many others have said, the service, food, and crew were excellent. We were met at the Quito airport by Celebrity and basically were in ... Read More
We sailed on the Celebrity Xpedition in May 2018 to the Galapagos, on the inner loop itinerary. As many others have said, the service, food, and crew were excellent. We were met at the Quito airport by Celebrity and basically were in there hands until we returned to the JW Marriott in Quito a week after boarding the ship. All aspects of the trip were well done, and every one of the Celebrity folks was helpful, and easy to work with. The naturalists were knowledgeable, interesting, and really enhanced each excursion. Also as others have said, the excursions are why you sign up for this cruise.
Others on this board really helped me decide what to pack and what to leave home. I strongly suggest you get a list of items to pack and follow it - especially the wide brim hats, shoes, long sleeve shirts (for sun), and sunblock (at least SPF 50). My wife and I are 66 and 67 respectively and in reasonably good shape with minimal problems getting around. That said, we were pretty tired by the end of the week. As explained in other posts, the daily itinerary follows the same pattern - a morning excursion, back to the boat by lunch, and an afternoon excursion. Almost all of the excursions have an easier and more challenging flavor. We did the more challenging on all but a couple, which involved long, climbing walks... The snorkeling also comes in two flavors - "off the beach", which is exactly as it sounds, and deep water - which is where you are taken by zodiac to the snorkeling spot and jump in off the zodiac. Water is too deep to stand, and currents can be much stronger. Water temperature was about 74 - 77, and Celebrity provides wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins.
One suggestion - bring some sort of book/app/device that will help you identify constellations. Star gazing is outstanding - no light pollution.
I give the trip 5 stars because the excursions were well done and the experience on the ship was very good. Read Less
My trip highlight was swimming side by side with a Penguin. The adrenalin was rushing as I found myself swimming competitively to keep up with a feeding penguin.
It was a bonus to add a pre-trip to Mashpi with the Galapagos trip. It ... Read More
My trip highlight was swimming side by side with a Penguin. The adrenalin was rushing as I found myself swimming competitively to keep up with a feeding penguin.
It was a bonus to add a pre-trip to Mashpi with the Galapagos trip. It completed our Ecuadorian adventure from cloud forest to islands.
The onboard dining experience was excellent. They walked me personally thru every meal to assure me what I could choose as gluten free.
The daily onboard and offboard activities were planned to perfection and the guides / photo instructors added value with their knowledge to point out things that would have been easily missed.
The local guides added value and expertise to the experience. It was also a plus to have Sven Lindblad and his mother on the trip and to know that they genuinely care about their customer's experience and supporting populations in the areas where they offer expeditions. Their interest in helping maintain and restore the local culture and ecology is outstanding and speaks well for the company. To see and hear them in person confirmed to us that we picked the right company to tour with.
Look for us on future expeditions. We're already looking ahead and making plans. Read Less
We wanted the "Silversea Experience" in an Expedition cruise to the Galapagos. Silversea did not disappoint...everything from enough zodiacs to accommodate all guests, with no "downtime" waiting for transportation, to ... Read More
We wanted the "Silversea Experience" in an Expedition cruise to the Galapagos. Silversea did not disappoint...everything from enough zodiacs to accommodate all guests, with no "downtime" waiting for transportation, to the professionalism and friendliness of the entire crew was exactly what we were expecting. An added bonus was the wonderful cuisine created and prepared by the Ecuadoran Head Chef. Meals, especially dinners, were a delight with new and varied Ecuadoran dishes to sample each night. One area which could use some "tweaking" would be in the Outdoor Grill...the space is relatively small, with open, non-reservation seating at lunch time, and given its popularity, can be quite crowded and noisey. No such problem at dinner however as dining in the Grill is by reservation only in the evening. Dining in The Restaurant...the main venue for dining at breakfast, lunch and dinner always had ample room to dine graciously...with buffet at breakfast and wait service lunch and dinner. Read Less
We had gone on the Celebrity Xpedition for an inner loop trip a few years ago and we wanted to do the outer loop this time and then go on to Peru to visit Machu Pichu. On this trip, we went with 4 other couples.
We flew into Quito, ... Read More
We had gone on the Celebrity Xpedition for an inner loop trip a few years ago and we wanted to do the outer loop this time and then go on to Peru to visit Machu Pichu. On this trip, we went with 4 other couples.
We flew into Quito, Ecuador from Atlanta and were met by Celebrity guide. She was great and had our luggage collected and on the bus to Marriott hotel withing 45 minutes of arrival. The hotel was great, food really good and service wonderful. Celebrity had people available throughout our stay to make sure we had the correct paperwork, tickets, luggage, etc. The tour of Quito was very good and buses were comfortable.
Transfer to the airport, flight from Quito to Baltra, and transfer to ship were fairly smooth. Two problems: First, we had to leave for the airport at 6:00 because of Quito airport runway repairs. This meant early arrival to Baltra and waiting for ship to be ready for us. Baltra did provide a waiting room with drinks and snacks, but extremely hot. Second problem was luggage. We had been told by Celebrity to pack a separate suitcase for extension to Machu Pichu and leave this suitcase at hotel in Quito. When we got to Quito, we were told we would have to take extra suitcase with us. This meant paying extra luggage fees of $45 per suitcase.
The ship and cabin and staff were amazingly wonderful. Our cabin, 504, had a balcony, but we seldom used it except to dry clothes. The large outside area on deck 5 had very comfortable seating, great views and all our friends had room to join us there. Staff brought food and drinks to us frequently. Wonderful space. 2 or 3 changes of clothes were needed each day because of heat and humidity so we used the ship's laundry twice. Some did laundry in room, but this meant a cabin full of wet clothes.
The food was great and plentiful. Meals were served in main dining room. Lunch was also served at grill on Deck 3 and Dinner was served, with reservations, on Deck 4.
Most of our group was too tired at end of day and I have no idea about evening entertainment. There was something each evening after dinner, but I missed it all.
Before dinner was a naturalist talk about the next day's activities, These were very well done and extremely useful. Advice was given as to difficulty, activity level, best clothes and shoes, insect repellent, and water.
The excursions were as described and the best part of trip. These are the reasons we went on trip, and they did not disappoint us at all. I would do this again if there weren't so many other places to visit!
Machu Pichu extension: Most of this trip was great, including fabulous hotel and food, excellent guides (Thank you Ronald and Aracelli), and amazing sites to visit. I climbed about 100 stone steps to top of Sun Temple, and Ronald had to help me get back down.
Two problems with the extension:
First, the flight from Baltra to Quito stayed on the runway for nearly an hour with no air conditioning and nothing cool to drink. Service was terrible throughout the flight. One of my traveling companions passed out from heat and dehydration and was unresponsive for several minutes. The flight attendants did nothing to help, not even getting ice or cold water. Luckily there were several doctors on board who took control and got what was needed. Other passengers provided whatever was asked.
There was a 4 hour layover in Quito before our flight to Lima. We had access to the VIP lounge, so the wait was not terrible, but it did add hours to our long day of travel.
Second problem was location of hotel in Lima. We had to drive over an hour to hotel in the horrible traffic of Lima. This meant we arrived at hotel after 10pm, too late for dinner. Up early the next morning for the drive in Monday rush hour traffic back to the airport for flight to Cuzco. Why not use the airport hotel and save all this time?
The hotels were amazing and I would have been happy to vacation in any one of them. Just walking through the hotels was an adventure. The train ride to Machu Pichu was incredibly beautiful, dinner on the train coming back was even better. Machu Pichu was more beautiful than expected. Walking and climbing was difficult at times and a walking stick was quite helpful, as was my husband's arm. I did not like the cafeteria for lunch, it was crowded and smelled badly. I'm not sure if there were any alternatives, it may have been best place available. I did like the beer.
We visited the Sun Temple on 3rd day in Peru, another difficult climb but also amazingly beautiful and worth the climb to top. I forgot climbing poles and relied on Ronald and husband to get me down.
I did not care for the pottery stop, or the llama farm and shopping stops. Others of the group did like them, but I would have preferred more time at the Sun Temple.
Our Cuzco tour was excellent, the hotel was a treat. This was my favorite vacation ever and I am so very lucky to have been able to do this. Read Less
Celebrity runs a top notch operation in the Galapagos. From our arrival to departure we were well taken care of! The tour guides were informative on land and the naturalist offered their vast knowledge on the islands. The whole tour runs ... Read More
Celebrity runs a top notch operation in the Galapagos. From our arrival to departure we were well taken care of! The tour guides were informative on land and the naturalist offered their vast knowledge on the islands. The whole tour runs like a well oiled machine....with safety of the passengers always present.
The ship is smaller than any I have ever cruised on, but perfect for this location. Lack of internet is a issue I think Celebrity needs to address in this day and time. I'm sure almost all passengers would be willing to pay for a high speed internet package.
The food was typical cruise fare....good, but not highly seasoned! I found the seafood to be the best choice almost every night! The beef was not good and lacked flavor! The Dinner Under the Stars was disappointing! The menu is the same every night that Dinner Under the Stars is offered. Service was slow and sketchy! I would not book that option if I went again.
The service in the dining room was also slow and spotty.....Dinner almost always taking almost two hours.
The crew was great, always greeting us and taking care of our needs! The charter flight out to Baltra was good and I did upgrade to First Class.
We checked off almost every creature on the Galapagos list! Snorkeling was excellent and I urge everyone to do the Deep Water Snorkeling...it was the best! The zodiac rides along the coast were an enjoyable change from the hiking. Information was given every day regarding the excursion and the clothes, shoes, rain gear, sunscreen, and bug spray needed! We had rain only one day and hardly ever felt a bug. Sunscreen was a must...Hot! Hot! Hot!
On our final day in Quito we picked the Spa option and it turned out to be the Piece de Resistance to our whole trip! After the rigorous excursions....a spa day was the perfect ending! I would highly recommend!
This was truly the trip of a lifetime and I checked it off my bucket list! Read Less
If you're looking at the Galapagos then you understand you are paying for access to one of the most remote and extraordinary places in the world. The Xpedition is NOT a high-end luxury cruise ship - it is an EXPEDITION class ship, so ... Read More
If you're looking at the Galapagos then you understand you are paying for access to one of the most remote and extraordinary places in the world. The Xpedition is NOT a high-end luxury cruise ship - it is an EXPEDITION class ship, so understand the difference and manage your expectations. It is however all-inclusive, extremely comfortable and has a crew that is phenomenal.
Having just returned from this trip I can honestly say I'm extremely glad I did tons of research before booking--my family believe we chose the best trip for us. Be sure you understand the level of physical activity required---its really HOT, and humid, and you need good balance and mobility to deal with many stairs, getting on/off moving zodiacs, and hikes on various types of terrain including large, uneven lava rocks and sand.
We were especially glad we chose one of the largest ships cruising the Galapagos--my husband and I got motion sickness as did many other passengers - I didn't believe it would be a problem on such a large ship, supposedly in the calmest season--WRONG. Consider getting a patch before you leave and head off any problems. Dr. Mary, the onboard physician, was great in visiting my room and providing fast-acting medication and advice: avoid alcohol, and drink lots of juice, water and soft drinks.
PACK LIGHT! Our family of four each took only rollaboards and were able to keep our luggage with us instead of turning it in the night before departure in Quito and upon return on Sunday. The Laundry charges on the Xpedition are incredibly reasonable---$1 for a pair of socks and $2-3 for a shirt ,pants or shorts. Back the next day or same day with a surcharge. Total charge for all four of us for the week, less than $100--totally worth it! I'd recommend three pairs of lightweight pants with zip-off legs, t-shirts and lightweight long-sleeve shirts with UV protection. STAY AWAY FROM RED/PINK AND ORANGE clothing for excursions---some wasps are attracted to these colors! Some people changed to nicer clothes for dinner (khaki pants/polo shirts for men and capris or sundresses for women) We did not and did not feel out of place. Teva or Keen closed-toe water sandals are perfect, but if you're more comfortable with traditional hiking boots for difficult/uneven terrain, then wear water sandals for wet landings and change once onshore. The Xpedition supplies large brown towels in your cabin for snorkeling and beach activities. Do consider packing one-way snorkels if you plan on enjoying the opportunity - choppy water can quickly make you sick if you swallow too much saltwater. Recommend 2 bathing suits as putting on a wet one is difficult - Celebrity provides regular snorkels, fins, masks, wetsuits and float vests if you desire. Yes the ocean feels cold but once you're in the water the wetsuits provide excellent buoyancy and warmth--I'm very cold-blooded and I was fine. Deep water snorkeling requires good swimming skills and the crew frowns on float vests in these instances. Know your limits!
The sun on the equator is unbelievably intense---take a wide-brim hat with a chin-strap you can tighten (its windy!), 2 pairs of polarized sunglasses (in case you lose or break one), water-resistant high SPF sunblock and apply it regularly, ditto sunblock for your lips. SPF 60 sunblock at the Quito Marriott was $26, and SPF 80 sunblock was $20 at the Quito airport--pick some up before your flight to Baltra. The Xpedition has a VERY limited shop onboard, mostly hats, sunblock and clothing---pack carefully since you might not visit a town until the end of your tour. Biodegradable shampoo/conditioner/body wash and bars of soap are supplied in all cabins of the Xpedition, as are cotton balls/cotton swabs, sewing kit and bath/hand towels and wash cloths. One nice terry robe and two pairs of terry slippers in our clothes closet
Also necessities: Bug spray with DEET, lightweight rain poncho, and I'd recommend a small, lightweight headlamp for watching the numerous animals which are active at night around the boat (sharks, sea lions, turtles, fish, birds, etc) A Monocular (as opposed to binoculars---the ones in each room aren't that great and its much easier to focus one eye on a moving ship or zodiac than two) underwater video/still shot camera for snorkeling, small backpack for taking stuff on daily walks/excursions. At least one pair of socks to wear with boots provided for tree-planting and tortoise ranch.
Can't say enough about the Xpedition's crew: their level of customer service is simply outstanding--its essentially 'whatever you want, whenever you want' There were at least 8 choices (each) of appetizer/starters, mains/entrees and desserts each night for dinner---most were very good with a few misses. Red and white wine offered with dinner but the wait staff would bring you a cocktail , champagne, soft drink/iced tea or whatever you desired. Its important to keep in mind that you are 800 MILES from the coast where much of the ship's supplies are coming from--remember this if you feel something isn't quite 5 star quality.
Make a reservation to tour the bridge (interesting) and to dine under the stars at least one night for dinner, and don't miss the daily briefing before dinner where you will learn about the next days' activities and excursions and sign up for your choice.
TV in the rooms offered 4 movie channels (not on-demand) and several Galapagos documentaries on a loop - the latter were excellent and added to our experience. Board games were also available in the lounge - WiFi is dreadfully slow and you should just expect to be without it for the duration while at sea/out of port.
My husband got me a one-hour massage for my birthday which was fantastic - and a bargain at $90 (plus discretionary tip) Work-out room is very small, but hot tub on top deck is good size and popular!
We liked our Junior Suite Cabin - which offered a full-size (NOT Queen) bed and twin-size sofa bed which was also very comfortable - nice linens and the air con sufficiently cooled the room. We LOVED our private balcony which allowed us to sit outside in the morning with coffee or at night under the endless stars on display. Would've been nice to have a coffee maker in the room but it was available from 6 am on each morning on the aft deck, just a few steps away from our room. Nice small mini-fridge which was stocked with various soft drinks and water. A small plate of sliced fresh fruits showed up in our room after the morning excursions, and a few small amuse-bouche-size appetizers appeared in the afternoon. A bottle of champagne the day of arrival and another bottle of cabernet sauvignon later in the week. Wonderful Ecuadorian chocolates on our pillows every night with turn-down service. Read Less
I recently completed an Antarctic adventure by Quark Expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavor. Our trip to Antarctica was unforgettable; it truly is the last slightly untouched, unspoiled, except for the effects of global warming, place in ... Read More
I recently completed an Antarctic adventure by Quark Expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavor. Our trip to Antarctica was unforgettable; it truly is the last slightly untouched, unspoiled, except for the effects of global warming, place in the world. We booked our trip through a specialty agency specializing in adventure trips and they were able to answer a lot of questions to insure this was the correct trip. I had numerous questions about my physical ability to do the trip, as I am not 30 something years old. They answered my questions to the point that I was reasonable assured that I could physically “do” the trip and enjoy it. For me at least, this is a very (insanely?) expensive trip. However, Antarctica has been one place that I have wanted to see for 30 plus years and realized if I did not go now, I would never see and experience it.
The basic itinerary:
1. Travel from home to Buenos Aires, Argentina – This was independent portion of trip or not included in trip fees.
2. Tour Buenos Aires (Expedition Trips/Quark Expeditions).
3. Travel by charter flight (Expedition Trips/Quark Expeditions) from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina.
4. Tour Tierra del Fuego National Park (Expedition Trips/Quark Expeditions).
5. Board Ocean Endeavour (Quark Expeditions). Leave evening day 1.
6. Crossing The (Dreaded) Drake Passage (2 days). The Drake can be rough, this was a calm passage. Day 2
7. Crossing The (Dreaded) Drake Passage (2 days) and 1st zodiac outing at Shetland Islands. Day 3
8. Antarctic Sound – 2nd and 3rd zodiac outing and kayaking (Yes, I opted for kayaking and extra $). Day 4
9. Explore Mikkelsen Harbor and Hughes Bay, Cape Herschel – 3rd and 4th zodiac outing and kayaking. Day 5
10. Explore Wilhelmina Bay and Cuvervulle Island in the Errera Channel – 5th and 6th zodiac outing and kayaking. Day 6
11. Explore Useful Island and Gerlache Strait – 7th zodiac outing and kayaking, 8th zodiac and kayaking replaced by following packs of Orcas. Day 7
12. Crossing The (Dreaded) Drake Passage (2 days). The Drake can be rough, the return was reasonable calm passage. Day 8 & 9
13. Arrive in Ushuaia return flight to Buenos Aires and return (independent portion of trip or not included) to home. Day 10
The food was great, but one sort of expects this on a ship. Meal times were announced and everyone ate in the dining room. Breakfast was hot and cold buffet, lots of choices, plus made to order eggs. Lunch was buffet again, but the menu of items would change. Dinner included choice of soup, salad, entrée and dessert. Dinner generally consisted of 3 choices available – fish, red meat, and pasta or veggie option. For dinner, the wine stewards offered choice of a white or red. Chef could also adjust for dietary needs. One service the dietary staff did that was helpful, when going through the buffet, especially crossing the Drake when the ship would rock some, is to carry your food to a table, they had their “sea-legs”, some of us did not. I looked forward to meal times, not only for the great food and new items to try, but also with such an international shipmate listing, who you would be dining with including Adventure Team staff this generated lots of lively conversation ranging from where you live, occupation, what you did and saw today to where to next.
The entire ships’ crew was very experienced and it was obvious that client satisfaction and safety is first priority. The ship’s crew were divided along three main divisions, Ship’s Captain and Engineering staff to operate the ship, Hospitality included Galley staff, housekeeping, laundry and administrative, and Expedition Team an incredible group of dedicated Antarctic and Artic professional with and incredible collections of backgrounds and abilities. The Expedition Team members were readily accessible between excursions and many gave presentations during the two days crossing the Drake and after dinner. All the presentations were well prepared and interesting. I had studied for this trip, so some was a timely review of information I had previously been exposed to, however, the enthusiasm of the presenter kept it interesting and at each presentation, I did receive additional new information. I also noticed that many of the Expedition Team attended their teammate’s presentation. During excursions or on deck the Team members were very knowledgeable about subjects out of their main area of expertise and enjoyed sharing. All staff demonstrated a genuine concern for Antarctic wildlife and sustainability. Every staff member I had contact with was the type of person you would want to have in your organization.
The pre-trip information was excellent as to what to bring and not bring. We were able to pack the proper clothing to stay warm and comfortable whether on deck, in the zodiacs or kayaks. The key is to dress in layers and make sure your base layer is comfortable and wicking. The ship store also has a good selection of layering items if you forgot something, or feel you need additional, plus their prices were reasonable. I bought a pair of waterproof pants that I neglected to obtain ahead of the trip.
Everyone was a little anxious about cross the Drake Passage as the Drake is known to have 6 to15 foot rolling swells, if you are lucky, as the Drake can be either a Shake or a Lake. It takes about two days to cross in either direction. December and January are better times to go as unless the ship sails into a storm you will avoid the 30 ft. waves. If you are susceptible to motion sickness (I am!) visit your Doctor and inquire about the “patch”, transderm scopolamine, if it is right for you and follow directions explicitly. It worked great for me on this trip. The ship’s Doctor, Dr. Wayne Jonas, was excellent and always available to discuss your situation and gave solid medical advice. You should also try to board ship well rested. Eat only moderately the day before and avoid greasy foods and excessive amounts of alcohol. Once on board pack your gear away immediately, storing it so it won’t become dislodged or need organization later when the seas aren’t so calm. It’s a good practice to avoid overheating both in your cabin, eating or anywhere else as this can bring on motion sickness. Reading in bed is another activity you might wish to avoid.
It is rather obvious this type of trip may not be for everyone, example; my wife did not want to go and does not want to go even after seeing all the photos I took and listening to my inexhaustible tales of exploit. My daughter who accompanied me would like a return trip. As I stated at the beginning, for me at least, this is a very (insanely?) expensive trip. However, with 198 passengers and crew and staff of 130 to 150 and experiencing how things are done, I can understand the cost. Activity level can be somewhat high if you decide to do as many kayaking excursions as possible, or do the climbing, skiing options, and climbing to the top of the snow/ice covered island for the better view. But many guests did just the zodiacs and on landings, walked along the shore, or picked a good spot to sit and watch the parade of penguins.
I am the traveler that even thought I had a wonderful time and experience somewhere, I tend to cross it of the list as having been there and there are so many new places to experience. Antarctica is different; it was so much more than I expected, and there are so many additional sites to explore that I would truly enjoy a return and with the Quark Expeditions Team. Read Less
The Galapagos was on my bucket list. My college roommate and I had booked this cruise and waited 2.5 years for it to come to fruition. We had a great time, however both of us and our husbands got sick in Quito. As part of the ... Read More
The Galapagos was on my bucket list. My college roommate and I had booked this cruise and waited 2.5 years for it to come to fruition. We had a great time, however both of us and our husbands got sick in Quito. As part of the cruise-tour, we ate where Celebrity took us. Both our husbands got sick just before they embarked on the Xpedition. My roommate and I got sick at the end of the tour after eating salad at the Marriott. I believe the food on the ship was safe. The food on the ship was okay. It was not the same quality as what you would find on a regular Celebrity ship. Our room was comfortable and quiet. It was nice to roll out of bed, walk down the hallway to breakfast. I found the staff on the ship to be pleasant and enjoyed being with a small group of people. The Naturalists were good. Some were better than others. With the exception of getting sick, we had a lot of fun. Read Less
We took this cruise as Antarctica was on our bucket list and we were not disappointed. The cruise left from Buenos Aires and the terminal and embarkation were great, no problems We did miss our stop in the Falklands Islands due to bad ... Read More
We took this cruise as Antarctica was on our bucket list and we were not disappointed. The cruise left from Buenos Aires and the terminal and embarkation were great, no problems We did miss our stop in the Falklands Islands due to bad weather in the Drake passage. despite the bad weather the trip wasn't too bad but maybe is not for 1st time cruisers. Our cabin was great good view and large size. A lot of lectures and the debriefs were held in the grand salon which had a good capacity. If there were performances you didn't have to get there early to get a seat, I believe most of the passengers could be accommodated here. We found that the colonnades dining room was better than the main dining room which seemed a bit slower, but the food was good in both. A lot of the time we ate on the patio (deck 8) as we enjoyed the views and being outside. The expedition team was great and there were informative lecture's everyday. They were always willing to help and answer questions, and they worked so tirelessly to make the Antarctica experience one that you could not easily forget. Going ashore in the zodiacs was an experience in itself, and the crew were fantastic checking your life vests and gear to ensure your safety there was always someone there to assist with getting your boots on and off and wash the guano off the boots which happened most days that we had landings, we even did kayaking in Antarctica which was great paddling amongst the icebergs. I thoroughly enjoyed my Antarctica experience
Seabourn have a great team and Service through out the ship was excellent from the cabin staff guest services and deck crew as well as the waiting and bar staff. After Antarctica we travelled through Patagonia and ended in Valparaiso Chile, disembarkation went very smoothly. Would definitely do the Antarctica experience again with Seabourn and their expedition team no hesitation. Read Less
We were not interested in the Quito add-on portion which is normally sold along with the cruise, so against the advice of a Celebrity Onboard Sales Rep, as well as several cruise critic posters, we booked the seven night only option, and ... Read More
We were not interested in the Quito add-on portion which is normally sold along with the cruise, so against the advice of a Celebrity Onboard Sales Rep, as well as several cruise critic posters, we booked the seven night only option, and we are glad we did. We enjoyed a trip of a lifetime, and like Frank, did our way.
We left LAX on the Thursday before the cruise was to begin. We flew into Guayaquil (GYE) and spent the night (or half of it) at the Sheraton a half mile from the airport. We then flew to GPS Friday morning. We booked two nights at the Galapagos Suites, a lovely B&B which I highly recommend. We arranged airport pickup and were met at the airport by the taxi driver regularly used by GS. He helped us with our luggage as we boarded the bus (free) which would take us from GPS (Baltra Airport) to the canal. There we boarded the ferry which took us from Seymour Island to Santa Cruz Island (cost $1). We then were driven in a pickup (our cab) to GS ($38). We spent two nights in Puerto Ayora exploring the town, visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center, and also Tortuga Bay (home to a lovely beach and lots of marine iguanas- if you are lucky, you may see sea turtles swimming in the bay as well).
As luck would have it, another couple who was sailing on the Xpedition was also staying at GS. We shared a cab (the same pickup and driver)- this time being dropped off at the canal since by this time we knew what to expect and didn't need help with our luggage ($18 total for four people). We then took the ferry back across and boarded the bus which brought us back to the airport. We got there way before anyone from Celebrity arrived, and the airport personnel directed us to the VIP Lounge where the Celebrity guests gather before leaving the airport. Finally, the rest of the passengers arrived on two different planes, including the charter. One guest fell in front of the entrance to the Lounge and had to be helped in. Two passengers arrived in wheelchairs. I didn't notice any of the passengers using wheelchairs while onboard, however, please remember before booking this cruise, this is an adventure cruise- "it is a trip- not a vacation" as a fellow passenger described it. You will be walking on lava rocks sharp enough to tear your shoes (I should know), walking on other uneven surfaces, and climbing across terrain which quite frankly I wouldn't think to walk across if a naturalist wasn't guiding me. This is definitely NOT a typical Celebrity cruise, so please, do your research on it before booking if you have mobility issues or health concerns.
We left the lounge in small groups and were taken by bus to the other side of Seymour Island where we boarded Zodiacs which would take us to the Xpedition. We enjoyed a buffet lunch, a mandatory boat drill, the distribution of our snorkeling gear, and a circumnavigation of Daphne Major. Dinner was in the Darwin Restaurant and music in the Discovery Lounge (talented guitar player).
Each day there was a morning excursion and an afternoon excursion. Monday on Espanola Island (one of the islands Darwin did not visit) included a beach walk and an optional beach swim or snorkel. In the afternoon, you chose either a long walk on rocks or a short walk on rocks and sand. Tuesday was spent on Floreana Island and included an easy walk and optional beach snorkeling in the morning and a visit to the Post Office Bay in the afternoon to see the old barrel. There was an optional advanced snorkeling activity to Champion Island. We did the beach snorkel and watched a sea turtle eat, so cute! Wednesday was Isabela Island with a choice between a long walk on volcanic rock or a shorter walk in the morning and either a long walk or short walk with optional beach snorkeling in the afternoon. The long walk was a fitness walk with few stops for pictures. I could do that at home, so DH and I chose the short walk which was flat and easy and allowed for photos. Thursday was spent on Fernandina and Isabela Islands with a long or short walk on lava rocks and an optional deep water snorkel recommended for experienced snorkelers only. We swam with two sea lions- so fun! In the afternoon there was an optional deep water snorkel recommended for experienced snorkelers only. We skipped that one. In the later afternoon, we took a Zodiac ride along the cliffs and coastline. Friday we returned to Santa Cruz Island visiting South Plaza Island with easy walk choices and a rockier trail to Dragon Hill, where we didn't see many animals (three flamingos and a few types of finches, but we did enjoy the peace and quiet. Very tranquil location. Saturday was spent visiting the Charles Darwin Station and planting trees in the highlands where we saw the Giant Tortoises in the wild. We also had a lovely buffet lunch at a ranch and local dancers performed for us.
We asked various dinner companions who had gone on the Quito portion what we had missed. One passenger said that we did miss out, but when pressed for one thing that we missed in particular, he said "a city with three million people". Another passenger said we missed going downhill too fast on buses on narrow streets, and two passenger said we missed seeing the Equator exhibit and several churches. So, sorry Quito, but for us, it sounds like we saw more, and enjoyed more experiences in Puerto Ayora.
The ship was nicer than I expected. Everyone was so nice. The dinners were tough for vegetarians, but I always found something to eat. The cabin was small, but we liked it. If you are interested in the three cheapest cabins, book well in advance as we did and save $1000 or so per couple. On Sunday morning, we were taken by Zodiac back to Seymour Island and taken by bus to the airport. We took a flight back to GYE, and stayed another night at the Sheraton, which is a very nice hotel (highly recommended). On Monday, we went from GYE back home to LAX on Copa (also recommended).
Will I return? No, I don't think so. We saw so many animals, plants, birds, etc. - we really saw all we needed to. I loved this adventure. This is the only cruise I have taken which left me in tears on the last night. It affected me that much. It was a bucket list trip- a journey back in time. Truly a magical trip. If you are adventurous, don't let anyone talk you out of booking the seven night only option. With a little research and planning, you will be able to create a tailor-made experience that works best for you. We explained to another passenger how we had made our plans, and what we had experienced in town pre-cruise, and she said that she had considered the seven night only option, but had been talked out of it by posters on cruise critic. That's too bad. If you like the type of trip in which you deplane and are met at the airport by your tour company and don't have to lift a finger to do anything else the rest of your vacation, then the Quito option is a good choice, but for those of you who prefer doing things your own way, book the seven night option and party on. Just make sure you are ready physically for the experience, it would be a shame to travel all the way to the islands only to be forced to spend most of your time onboard. Unlike other ships, the Xpedition serves as your hotel, not as your source of entertainment. That can only be found by putting on a pair of comfortable and sturdy shoes (perhaps hiking boots) or beach shoes and exploring these incredibility diverse, beautiful islands. Read Less
We choose this ship for it size and itinerary. Before we booked our cruiser, we read reviews on the Cruise Critics web side and we were not despondent! We strongly advise to take "CRUISE PACKAGE" which includes 2 days in Quito ... Read More
We choose this ship for it size and itinerary. Before we booked our cruiser, we read reviews on the Cruise Critics web side and we were not despondent! We strongly advise to take "CRUISE PACKAGE" which includes 2 days in Quito before cruise and 1 day after, including flight from Quito to Baltra and back. The whole crew including environmentalist (land excursions guides) were very friendly, professional and accommodating. The cruise Director Ms. Britinia Espinoza (PhD) provided us with priceless information each evenings about next day excursions. Base on this information we could make decision which one we should take cording to our physical abilities. Each evening we were provided with newsletter about next day activities on the ship as well on the land. Celebrity is using Xpedition ship to provide these cruises for more than 10 years. We are retired couple and ease of traveling and site seeing is very imported to us and this cruise met our expectations. Read Less
We booked the 11 day trip with Celebrity. A day to fly in, a day to explore Quito, 7 days onboard the Xpedition, a day back to Quito, a day to explore Quito on our own until we flew out the day after. Flights in and out of Quito were ... Read More
We booked the 11 day trip with Celebrity. A day to fly in, a day to explore Quito, 7 days onboard the Xpedition, a day back to Quito, a day to explore Quito on our own until we flew out the day after. Flights in and out of Quito were with Delta then American. Nothing special to report. Celebrity was waiting for us and quickly got us on a bus to the hotel (about an hour from the airport).
Day Tour of Quito: Visited the Basilica del Voto Nacional (ticket to get inside); the Church and Convent of St. Francis (San Francisco); Compania de Jesus (Jesuit Church); and Independence Square/Plaza Grande. In that square, you can see Carondelet Palace (seat of government), the Cathedral of Quito, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Municipal Palace, and the Monument to Heros statue in the middle of the square. After an excellent lunch at Sucre’s Theatrum restaurant, it was off to visit the Equatorial Line Monument ad Museum. We found this tour to be very informative as well. Later that evening Celebrity transported us to the La Gloria restaurant for another excellent dinner.
In the morning, you go back to the airport and board a plane chartered by Celebrity to fly to Baltra. The experience on this plane was top notch. Certainly better than our flights to and from the United States. The week at sea was the inner loop itinerary. During this time, we visited Gardner Bay, Suarez Point, Cormorant Point, Champion Island, Bahia Post Office, Moreno Point, Urbina Bay, Espinoza Point, Vicente Roca Point, South Plaza, Dragon Hill, and Puerto Ayora (Darwin Research Center, local fish market, and the forest restoration project in the Highlands). The schedule is set pretty much the same each day….breakfast, morning excursion, lunch, afternoon excursion, themed party, discussion of the next day, dinner. Not much entertainment on board but the Discovery Lounge usually had something going on….and of course that’s where the bar is. I think every night though you sleep well after a hiking/snorkeling day especially the day on Floreana Island. That day consisted of a long hike, 2 open water snorkels, a short walk, and a Zodiac ride. Usually, each excursion came in a long and short version. You can do the long or the short hike and still participate in all snorkeling. Zodiac landings come in two versions. Wet and dry. Dry means a very basic cement structure or rocks. Wet meant stepping into the ocean but no more than 12 inches of water. After each excursion, you were greeted with a snack, drinks, and a wash cloth. You need to heed the warnings about this cruise and be prepared for various weather conditions and be in good physical health. If you are in good shape, this isn’t difficult even if you do the long hikes and the snorkel trips.....but the terrain can be tricky. A few people fell down and needed some first aid (a cleaning and a band aid). I used Merrell hiking shoes and Keen closed toed waterproof sandals. While each island was unique in terms of terrain and vegetation, amazingly a lot of the same animals, birds, and reptiles were surviving everywhere. One of the open water snorkels we got good video of tons of turtles and playful sea lions. I would have done video of the white tipped shark but I was so surprised to see him that I only have a couple of pictures. The day in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, I would recommend you sign up for the restoration project in the highlands of Santa Cruz. The day starts off with a visit to the Darwin Research Center with an opportunity to do some shopping in the downtown area. Don’t forget to watch the sea lions & pelicans beg for the fish guts at the local fish market. Next a bus will take you to the highlands where you don boots and given 2 trees and a spade. You’ll need that spade to work hard to break up that volcanic soil. After you plant your trees, you’ll go to the Rancho El Manzanillo for a very good buffet lunch with beer & wine. Then you will be treated to local entertainment followed by walking the property to see dozens and dozens of land tortoises. You’ll get back in plenty of time to stop at the bar, eat dinner, and then head to the final night’s slide show of the trip.
On the day you get off the ship and fly back to Quito, you’ll have a chance to do some shopping at the La Mariscal Craft Market. Don’t miss it. Probably the best prices of the trip for souvenirs. That night, dinner was at the La Hacienda restaurant in the hotel. It is an excellent meal with excellent local entertainment. Choose the baby beef!
Our last day in Quito was “on our own” though there are additional Celebrity excursions you can pay for. In our case, we booked a horseback ride with the Green Horse Ranch (not through Celebrity). We had a blast. We were picked up in front of the Magic Bean coffee shop (about 10 minutes from the hotel) and transported to the Pululahua volcano natural reserve. Then we went down and down into the bottom of the volcano to get to the ranch. The ride down is on a dirt and winding road. The views are spectacular. Stop for a picture or 5. Once on the ranch we were greeted by Astrid Muller, the owner. We were provided gloves, books, helmets, etc. I road Sam and the Mrs. rode Mithril. Along with 2 other people, we headed off along the trail for about 2 hours before stopping for lunch with the volcano crater in front of us and the lava dome in back of us. The views are breathtaking. Then it was back in the saddle for another 2 hours continuing on new trail and not just going back along the same trail we came on. We passed haciendas with gardens, cows, dogs, pigs, horses, chickens….but only in the valley. The horses were sure footed though we were often on narrow, rocky paths with overhanging trees and bushes. The horses looked as happy as we were with our time in the saddle.
Carlos (Celebrity employee in the hotel lobby) recommended “Hasta la Vuelta, Senor” for supper. Happy hour was from 6-8 pm (2 for 1 cocktails). Corn nuts and spicy sauce came as soon as we sat down. We had the sweet plantains with cheese as a starter and then ordered the sea bass and the grilled shrimp dinners. There was no room for dessert. This place was about 2 blocks from the JW Marriott. Easy to get to! Loved it.
Celebrity’s hotel of choice was the JW Marriott in the business area of Quito. It was very nice. Great wifi, wonderful breakfast, gorgeous flowers everywhere, spacious rooms, and service was always provided with “my pleasure”. The hotel’s restaurant’s (La Hacienda) dinner the night after getting off of the Xpedition was superior. Celebrity did a great job selecting this hotel.
The Ship: We liked everything about the ship. Our cabin (405) was convenient to everything….a few steps to the Discovery Lounge and the ship’s office. The excursions (all done by Zodiacs) were great; the food excellent with lots of seafood and bakery; the staff very friendly & helpful; the information well explained; and the protocols for every evolution was done like clockwork (e.g. handling of snorkel trips with wet suits). Only minor complaint would be that the WIFI connection is poor at best but I suspect that it isn’t the ship’s issue since my cell phone carrier (T-Mobile with MoviStar) only worked inside the Quito airport and nowhere else. There was a small newspaper every day in the ship’s office for those who needed the news, sports, and a crossword puzzle. Surprising to me was that the Xpedition was a single screw (variable pitch), single rudder ship. It does have stabilizers but only in use above 6 knots. While she carried spare blades for the prop, they can’t be changed out without getting to an appropriate facility for repairs. Basically, the Xpedition spends 2 years at sea or at anchor. She only ties up in a port when she is scheduled for maintenance (for about a month in Panama).
Ship’s Crew: Everyone was courteous and very attentive. Ana was great behind the bar lounge. Freddy was great as our waiter each night in the dining room. Virginia kept our room impeccably clean. Fernando Caicedo was impressive as I saw him a lot helping out his staff….in the lounge, in the dining room, on deck by the grill, and behind the bar. There were so many excellent employees on board (e.g. Luis, Leo, Xaiver). The guides and the Zodiac coxswains were all terrific!
Celebrity employees that were ashore (hotel, tours, transportation) were also wonderful (e.g. Carlos Sarango at the Celebrity desk inside the Marriott). Everything ran like clockwork….transports, instructions, paperwork, day excursions. Everything….that people needed bottled water, Galapagos fees, luggage tags, etc. all handled behind the scenes.
Weather/Time of the Season: All the weather sites predicted rain but actually the weather was terrific. Not too hot. Maybe once we got some drizzle. Because of the location among the volcanoes and the equator, I think the weather predictors just always say “rain” just to be on the safe side. Sea state was slight but the Xpedition does roll around a bit but I didn’t hear anyone say that they got seasick. We saw every type of wildlife that we hoped to….in multiple locations. The guides said everything is here (in varying quantities) all year long. Our trip in late OCT, early NOV, though was excellent for seeing many your sea lion pups because it is berthing season. Temperatures were low 80s/high 70s each day which made hiking very comfortable compared to other times of the year. I never wore a jacket though once I wore a long sleeve shirt. Another good reason for this time of the year is there were few bugs…mostly some flies in heavy concentrations of sea lions and some mosquitoes near a swampy area inhabited by flamingos. In any case, we never needed our DEET product. The open water snorkeling was chilly. Even with the “shorty” wet suits, most people wanted to get back on the Zodiacs after 30-45 minutes. Sea temps varied but were 61-63 degrees most of the time. Best tip is to head to the hot tub after you get back on board the ship!
All in all, this trip was a well coordinated effort by Celebrity! Flights, hotel, transportation, cruise, and back again went off without a hitch. Want to see the Gallapagos? Celebrity is the way to go but demand is high. Most people on board booked 2 years out. Read Less
We booked this cruise two years ago and it turned out to be our 51st cruise. We read extensively about the Galapagos Islands and determined that the Celebrity Xpedition was the right answer for us. We told some of our friends and ended ... Read More
We booked this cruise two years ago and it turned out to be our 51st cruise. We read extensively about the Galapagos Islands and determined that the Celebrity Xpedition was the right answer for us. We told some of our friends and ended up with a group of 13 people on the cruise that sailed on September 25, 2016. What a great adventure!
We arrived in Quito several days early and took a cab to the J W Marriott. I know some of the older posts talked about taking great care in selecting a cab, but I found that all the yellow cabs at the airport appeared to be licensed. I asked the driver for the cost and we were quoted $25 for the 45 minute ride to the hotel, regardless of the number of passengers. Because of luggage, my wife and I took one cab by ourselves.
The Marriott is a world class high end hotel and was a pleasant surprise. The beds were comfortable, the air conditioner could cool the room at night. The covers were quite heavy and that interrupted my sleep, but that is not unusual . . . my wife slept just fine. The room had plenty of 110 volt outlets for USA plug-ins. They also had some 220 volt European outlets. We ate in the Hotel Restaurant, The Hacienda, a steakhouse, and it was very good. Breakfast was included and it was served on the floor just below Registration. It was very well done and you could choose from a wide variety, including a juice bar. We ate at some restaurants suggested by the Marriott travel office and had two very different, but outstanding meals.
When we flew to Baltra, the trip took about 1 1/2 hours and we were served a meal on the plane that was better than expected. We checked in thru Customs and waited for the Zodiacs. Before long, we had our first of many Zodiac rides to the Xpedition, our home for the next 7 days. Then life becomes a blur. Talks explaining the next day activities, breakfast in the morning, choosing long walks or short walks, snorkeling adventures, back for lunch, either naturalist seminars or a nap, out for the afternoon long or short walk, a possible deep water snorkeling adventure, back to clean up, a few cocktails, listen to the description of tomorrows activities, sign up for the activities you want to do, off to dinner, maybe some conversation after dinner, then to bed. That is a typical day. Every morning and every afternoon, you had a different area to discover. For the rest of this review, I will just mention items as they come to mind.
We all tried to minimize the amount of things we brought with us to this cruise. The reviews all cautioned that your baggage allowance on the plane was 44 pounds for checked luggage and only 15 pounds for carry on. We got close to this but were over for sure on the carry one. As it turns out, Celebrity charters this flight, so we do have a lot more leniency. If you keep you weight under 50 pounds for checked luggage, no one will say anything. Nobody even weighed the carry on luggage . . . we were at about 22 pounds each. You can upgrade to a business class seat on the plane to and from Baltra. They just upgraded the aircraft they use and now they have 12 seats available. It costs about $100 per person each way. It is on a "first come, first serve" basis and must be done once you get the the Marriott Hotel. Those that arrived early to the Marriott already had the seats taken by the time the later folks arrived, so if that is something you want to do, check with the Celebrity desk immediately, once you get to the hotel.
The excursions were fantastic. But none of us in our group were prepared for the reality that there are no restrooms on the islands you are going to visit ( except two towns that you visit). As they say ' the only thing you should leave behind is your footprints". As such we learned to plan our intake knowing that it would be 2 to 4 hours before we were back on the ship, depending on the long or short walk. They could make extra zodiac trips back for emergencies. From my perspective, everyone seemed to adapt just fine and there did not appear to be any issues.
We had packed some foil wrapped snacks (nuts, candy, crackers) that we thought we could put in our pack and bring with us on the excursions. We were told "NO", no food of any kind goes on the excursions. If you have a medical condition that requires some food, it would be given to your Naturalist Guide and they would distribute it to you. Once you visit the Islands you notice, there is no foil or paper of other scraps littering the area. They have a very good rule and should adhere to it. We did eat some of these things while on the ship, but in retrospect, I would leave that at home next time.
We were there in the cool part of the year and it was not the rainy season. Just some quick stuff. Rooms had plenty of 110 volt outlets and they provided an power strip, no need to bring that. They provide binoculars in the rooms. Not high quality, but we seldom used them. The sun intensity is real, bring plenty of sun screen. We brought lots of bug spray ( pump, not aerosol) and never used it . . . . and never got any insect bites . . . but I would bring some if I came back. Many people wore long pants that zip off to make shorts and long sleeve light weight safari shirts. I brought water shoes. got them wet twice. Last time we had a wet landing, I did like the Naturalists . . . rolled up my pants and went barefoot. All the water landings were sand beaches and the maximum water depth was 16 inches. Take your hiking shoes in your pack and put them on once you land. I carried a very light pair of water shoes that I wore back on the Zodiac since you must have shoes on to get back on the ship. Some of the excursions on the lava field, up the mountain slopes and to the hill high point did require some walking. I was very glad I packed my walking boots with ankle support due to past sports injuries to my ankles. We had a very light rain just once for about 10 minutes. A light poncho is all that we needed. Everyone seemed to wear the wide brim hats or Panama hats . . . that were originally made in Ecuador and exported to Panama . . . . the locals story and they are sticking to it. Celebrity will supply you with snorkel, mask, fins, and a wetsuit. They also have walking sticks for those that want them on shore excursions.
Sorry, this has gotten way too wordy. In the final analysis, this was one of the very best experiences we have ever had on a cruise. Celebrity did a fantastic job, the crew, officers, Naturalists, room stewards, chef, bartenders, etc were second to none. We were fortunate to share this adventure with a group of passengers from all over the world that were truly fun travelers. We appreciated everyone of them. We would rate it in our top five cruises taken out of 51. I hope some of this helps you along the way. Read Less
This is not your usual 'holiday', so if you want lazy days, taking it easy or even quiet solitude, do not book this cruise. However if you want to feel like an explorer, dont mind being up and off early in the morning, love ... Read More
This is not your usual 'holiday', so if you want lazy days, taking it easy or even quiet solitude, do not book this cruise. However if you want to feel like an explorer, dont mind being up and off early in the morning, love wildlife and remote places, this is the experience for you.
Everything is meticulously well organised, and works like clockwork with great success but you are not organised or bound up, so its up to you what you take part in. We were up for everything and wow! what an experience! This is a small ship so dont expect shows and grand entertainment, but if your focus is wildlife you'll be in bed by 10pm like most of us were, ready to go again in the morning.
The standards in the transportation, safety, dining, guides, were everything you would expect on a cruise and more. Small details added so much more, drinks of any sort, and snacks awaited our every return to the ship, on deck as we shed our life jackets, wet suits and personal belongings. Naturalists would provide so much information to enhance visits ashore and there was always enough time to watch those albatross feel the wind beneath their wings and take off, or watch the pelican dive on the fish the penguin had taken the time to corral in the bay.
Food on board was plentiful and of a good international choice. Especially impressed with the lunchtime barbecue
I could write a book, a review is not going to do this experience justice! Read Less
Wow well what a trip of a lifetime. We booked this trip 2 years ago and it was definitely worth waiting for. The trip to the equator was amazing did not expect the experiments etc. From the flight to the islands with wonderful food and ... Read More
Wow well what a trip of a lifetime. We booked this trip 2 years ago and it was definitely worth waiting for. The trip to the equator was amazing did not expect the experiments etc. From the flight to the islands with wonderful food and champagne to embarkation everything went very smoothly. Cabin was a bit on the small side but was to expected because of the size of the ship. Food and drink was very plentiful and very very tasty, all the staff were second to none and could not do enough for you Shore excursions were excellent /had a nightly briefing on what to expect the next day. Naturalists were all very good, Christina was our favourite, but probably only because we had her most times. It truly is a magical place to visit, even saw a feral cat chasing a land iguana!!!! getting on and off the zodiacs was great fun especially some of the wet landings. We had a great laugh during some of those. Even a visit to the bridge was very informative. A lovely gesture was that every one was given a CD of our trip with group photos and the animals and birds that we actually saw.
From penguins, diving blue boobies and the posing sea lions to name a few of our favourites....the list of wildlife and birds was endless.
The only fly in the ointment was a very badly behaved young boy who quite frankly was an embarrassment to most of his family......not really a holiday for children, but saying that all the other children on board were very well behaved.
All in all well worth every penny and cant believe its all over :( Read Less
Although the accommodations are not luxurious, they were comfortable and adequate. The adventure was unbelievable! We spent little time in the room and most of our daytime hours were off the boat. We kayaked, hiked, went on skiff tours and ... Read More
Although the accommodations are not luxurious, they were comfortable and adequate. The adventure was unbelievable! We spent little time in the room and most of our daytime hours were off the boat. We kayaked, hiked, went on skiff tours and snorkeling was available. We saw humpback and orca whales, bald eagles, puffins, bears and even the Northern Lights!!! Unbelievable beauty and breathtaking experiences being so close to calving glaciers, misty islands, amazing tide pools and feeding bears. The staff was so enthusiastic and informed that it was contagious. I felt VERY safe all the time whether on the boat or kayaking or hiking. The food was terrific, varied and abundant and the on board staff so helpful and cheerful. There were games, movies and a bar for down times.
The other guest were from all over the US and world and so much fun to hang out with. I would go again without any hesitancy! Read Less
We were encouraged to join my sister and brother-in-law of their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Galapagos. They were considering a much smaller ship, but after I saw Celebrity offered on of the biggest ships in the region I suggested ... Read More
We were encouraged to join my sister and brother-in-law of their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Galapagos. They were considering a much smaller ship, but after I saw Celebrity offered on of the biggest ships in the region I suggested Celebrity and we joined them. We had been on their larger ship before in the Greek Islands.
1. We were immediately whisked from the airport in Quito into a van within 2 minutes and on our way to the wonderful Marriott ( very similar to the one I had stayed at in Palm springs). The hotel had a marvellous included large scale breakfast, and also a farewell dinner in their terrific Hacienda steak house.
2. Next day Quito city tour with guide and armed guard ( must be necessary) was very good, and included lunch at a local restaurant was top quality.
3. Pre-checked luggage at our hotel before heading off to the airport for their charter flight to the Galapagos , and short wait in a private lounge at the airport made life wonderful.
The food was very good on the ship, lots of variety. Alcohol included, and we soon discovered if you asked the better bottle were kept below the bar in a cabinet. Bombay Saphire gin martinis!
The nature walks and snorkels were wonderful. We are in our early 50's and did the harder (longer version) of all the walks. I did the snorkels from shore and saw tons of amazing fish, sea turtle etc. Did not do the deep water snorkels since I was not that comfortable. Saw tons of sea lions, crabs, birds, iguanas etc. Didn't disappoint in the amount of creatures we saw.
They entertainment was basic but we met a lot of nice people and had dinner/drinks with them every evening. One night the naturalists put on a small music show, another night music in the lounge or karaoke .
The overall experience was wonderful and the staff were very accommodating and friendly. A fabulous experience . Celebrity hit the spot. Read Less
Chosen specifically for the opportunity of seeing polar bears which was successful many times over.The ship and crew together with the guides were all first class and all our needs were well taken care of especially the safety aspects ... Read More
Chosen specifically for the opportunity of seeing polar bears which was successful many times over.The ship and crew together with the guides were all first class and all our needs were well taken care of especially the safety aspects which couldn't be faulted.the pre-cruise arrangements were also very well arranged including transportation,hotel,staff to advise on the exact arrangements for boarding the ship etc.Each days activities were specified during the evening review which included the proposed sailing routes etc. which obviously were subject to sea/weather conditions.The conditions included the range of the ice shelf which at the time we went had receded quite a way which meant we travelled further north than the ship had ever been due to the skill of the captain and crew.In fact at one point we were less than 500 miles from the North Pole.Each guide was an aspect in their own subject and questions were answered in a very informative way.Would be happy to repeat this adventure. Read Less
Two days delay at the departure , 4 days "lost" because have to go 36 hours in Murmansk for Russian territory check-out (at least what have been said to pax ) Quark staff does best as he can do onboard - Many intesrestind ... Read More
Two days delay at the departure , 4 days "lost" because have to go 36 hours in Murmansk for Russian territory check-out (at least what have been said to pax ) Quark staff does best as he can do onboard - Many intesrestind landings on shore by zodiacs or even twice by helicopter -Russian Mi6) Some good and even excellent -2or3-expedition staff -with very professional lectures during sea days - Have really two days of icebreaking thick ice on Laptev sea , and 2 nice days with interesting landings and hélico flight at Franz-Josef land . Restaurant staff was extremely kind and helpful with good service - Food & dining very correct , little bit basic but allways tasty - (Austrian catering company) As 92 pax onboard , nobody is doing such a kind of "expedition" for food, beverage, or night entertainments and dances - Really great experiences with polar bears sightseeing , with walruses on few of the most remote and limited access - and controlled - islands in the world (i.a: Russian arctics islands : Vilkitsky, Bolshevik, Belkovsky,Wrangel ,Novaya Zemlya, Franz-Josef land ) with landings and hélicopters flights - Only an icebreaker can bring us to these parts of the world (Russian North East passage/route on half world circumnavigation -) This was a unique "Icebreaker-expedition" voyage in Russain arctic , permitted only this year , and with no other expecting for next years ! Read Less
I came back to Quito with my 8-year-old daughter, plus a bus-full of new friends yesterday afternoon, with our new Galapagos skin (red, tanned, and slightly peeled) and our Galapagos heart (purified, fulfilled, and hopeful). Now, sitting ... Read More
I came back to Quito with my 8-year-old daughter, plus a bus-full of new friends yesterday afternoon, with our new Galapagos skin (red, tanned, and slightly peeled) and our Galapagos heart (purified, fulfilled, and hopeful). Now, sitting in my room in JW Marriott, we are already missing "the Galapagos Grip", which we've enjoyed and trusted in the past 7 days of our voyage.
The Galapagos is truly a wonderland. It's not that green, not that rich, not that convenient, but it's a place that makes you forget almost everything else, but to embrace the amazing beauty of nature, and the company of each other. We didn't get one single 8-hour sleep in the whole trip thanks to all the activities (shore excursion 2-3 times a day, daily briefing at 7:15pm, dinner at 7:30pm, then party at 9pm), but even my 8-year-old never complained, she always got off her bed as soon as I woke her up, because she knew that there were so much to see, and so much to enjoy. I'm sure other friends will chime in very soon, so I will just list some highlights from kids perspective:
1. Each island is unique in its own way, so you see all kinds of different landscapes in very short period of time, colorful sandy beaches (gold, white, red, green), volcanic surfaces, rocky terrain...
2. So many animals to encounter during shore hikes, zodiac rides, and snorkeling. Sea lions, birds, turtles,tropical fishes, giant tortoises, sharks, etc. It's like watching Animal Planet, no, it's like you are in Animal Planet.
3. Well-organized shore excursion activities, always with 2-3 options. My daughter signed up all our activities herself, she almost always choose option 1 (the more challenging ones), and she didn't miss one snorkeling (including deep-water snorkeling), and didn't miss one science talk and after dinner party. I didn't expect her to be this adventurous but she was fully motivated to absorb everything she can.
4. Super friendly crew members and super knowledgable and trust-worthy naturalists. Seems like everyone remembered our names and room number starting day one, so we really felt at home. The naturalists not only served as our guides, but also our protectors during the zodiac rides. I remember one afternoon we had free time in town for shopping, my daughter got a little bit nervous, but once we returned to the pier and met our naturalist, she relaxed right away.
5. High quality food, more than enough healthy options for both kids and adults. My daughter decided to spoil herself with Piña colada and potato chips every day, but that was after relatively healthy meals, and she is the Galapagos, so I controlled myself and didn't say anything.
6. Great friends. This probably can't be planned ahead, but we were lucky enough that 2 other families with wonderful kids were on board this time, and all the kids (8-14) were glued together after a short warm-up. They cartwheeled on the beach, spent hours on solving the puzzle together, and talked and giggled all the time. Quite often, I felt abandoned by my daughter, just kidding. :) Of course, I enjoyed mingling with adults too.
Now that we have to pack again and spend another 12 hours to go home, before I wrap up I just want to say, it's all worth it. Galapagos and Celebrity will always have a special place in our hearts, and even though we don't know when yet, we surely will be back. Hopefully we will see some familiar faces then.
P.S: The rating below (all 5-stars) and the "AMAZING [so much fun]" part were given by my daughter, who just woke up from a 10-hour long sleep. :) Read Less
The main reason for taking this cruise was to see exotic Greenland and Iceland at the same time. This cruise only offered 1 stop in Iceland after leaving Reykjavik but I spent a full week in Iceland on my own using a rented car to ... Read More
The main reason for taking this cruise was to see exotic Greenland and Iceland at the same time. This cruise only offered 1 stop in Iceland after leaving Reykjavik but I spent a full week in Iceland on my own using a rented car to appreciate that wonderful and scenic island. We were lucky to have smooth sailing the whole trip, slightly bumpier going across to Greenland but still pretty smooth considering. Weather was also in our favour 90% of the time, with fog lifting when appropriate. All of the stops on this itinerary where worthwhile and Hurtigruten does a great job of getting everyone off and back on with their small tender boats (max. 8 people). Generally, the stops were interesting enough on their own but most stops had excursion options if you wished, like escorted hikes, glacial boat rides, kayaking, etc. Two stops included a guided hike without charge. The first stop in Greenland included a natural warm water spa which was fun to partake with a small changing hut nearby.
The regular cabins are done well while the suites (which I had) are that much better in the bedding, amenities, wine & beer at lunch/dinner, espresso/cappuccino at breakfast, 2 bottles of water and chocolate each evening and housecoats to keep. The vast majority of the crew and staff are friendly and helpful. The front desk staff stood out for me. Most of the expedition team are interesting, friendly and approachable. Among 14 expedition team members, there were only 2 natural English speakers and the rest were mostly from Germany originally (although 1 was from Netherlands, another from Poland, 2 from Greenland and 1 other from Iceland). All lectures, information sessions and excursions were in 2 languages: English and German. I am sure the Germans had it easy with so many German native speakers in the team, but the lectures in English were often difficult to follow or at least awkward to listen and understand, except when the very interesting and knowledgeable Canadian guy lead a session or a group/excursion ashore. Of the 12 European expedition team members, I would say 2 of them had great English (as a second language) and 2 more were pretty good, while the rest ranged from OK to terrible English.
Food was EXCELLENT overall with a good variety and different menus such as Norwegian (of course), Greenlandic, Filipino, sea food and lots of great lamb.
All of the service staff (restaurant, bar and stewards) were from Philippines. They worked very hard and most were super friendly.
The Fram ship is fantastic and well dressed for sailing polar waters in great comfort. The decorations around the ship are interesting and well done, relating to polar expedition history and the original Fram vessel from the 1890s. There is a wonderful lounge and bar on the top level, 2 hot tubs, good size gym, 2 lecture rooms, a bistro and games room and a spacious and well appointed restaurant at the stern on deck 4 (of 8). There are also great outdoor viewing spots on decks 5, 7 and 8.
One day, we could not get to our planned port of call because of too many icebergs blocking the entrance. To make up for this, the captain stopped in a strategic spot in a large fjord with several stationary icebergs around and we spent a few hours exploring these bergs close-up with the small tender boats (either 7 or 10 pax at a time, depending on the boat size). This was an unexpected great surprise which really added a wonderful experience to all to feel the wonder and awe of these creations of nature.
The last 3 days on this trip were perhaps the most memorable starting with viewing the ice berg factory at Ilulissat, then stopping at a small hamlet where we got to visit inside a Greenland home for coffee and sweets, participated or watched a football match between the Fram crew/guests and the village (they won easily), enjoying some Greenland music in a sing-along with villagers, and on the final day a well orchestrated day of visiting the Greenland ice cap, looking for animals (Musk Ox was spotted) and a wonderful outdoor meal before being flown overnight to Copenhagen on a chartered Airbus 330 Greenland Air flight ... which was also excellent with open bar, full hot breakfast served, headphones and in-seat personal entertainment system.
This was a super experience with an excellent and appropriate ship which is well thought out and executed by Hurtigruten. Highly recommended. Read Less
We sailed from Broome to Darwin through the Kimberleys. The scenery was breathtaking. The daily excursions were full of interest as well as unique and very enjoyable. The staff were amazing. They could not do enough to assist us. You ... Read More
We sailed from Broome to Darwin through the Kimberleys. The scenery was breathtaking. The daily excursions were full of interest as well as unique and very enjoyable. The staff were amazing. They could not do enough to assist us. You would only have to ask for something once and they acted right away. The tour leaders were so knowledgeable. They bent over backwards to make the tours full of interest. The food was absolutely delicious. The breakfast and lunch were buffet style and the evening meal a la carte. There were many healthy options to choose from. The ship was spotlessly clean. At 6pm every day there would be a recap of the day's activities and then an explanation of what would occur the next day. They told you what to wear, what to take. The safety level was fantastic. I would strongly recommend Coral Expeditions and I would have no hesitation to book another cruise with them. Read Less
After 6 National Geographic/Lindblad trips, we made a change and went with Zegrahm Expeditions. What a huge difference after only one trip, we will never go back. We are heading to the Pantanal in Brazil with them in just a few weeks for ... Read More
After 6 National Geographic/Lindblad trips, we made a change and went with Zegrahm Expeditions. What a huge difference after only one trip, we will never go back. We are heading to the Pantanal in Brazil with them in just a few weeks for our second trip.
Far better organization on the ship and the food was better. Even lobster, shrimp and tuna - you won't see any of that on a Lindblad ship.
Organized expeditions searching for wildlife, much more adventurous Zodiac trips, diving, snorkeling and they paid extra for us to have a daytime crossing of the Panama canal. We even got to keep our snorkeling equipment. This trip was hard to beat and a huge improvement over National Geographic trips.
Financially, the trip cost was a lot less, beer and wine with lunch & dinner was included. We did 7 dives which were all included, all gratuities were also included, and I got to fish off the back of the boat. You get $80.00 each to buy some free clothes (Columbia) before your trip and $50.00 to buy maps and books of the places you will see during your trip. Most expedition ships take you to the same places, you will not miss a thing. We even went into the Darien Gap area near Columbia where the native Indians still live a subsistence lifestyle. You also receive a very professionally done DVD of your trip for free vs. $75 with National Geographic.
The National Geographic "Costa Rica" trip goes to 2 countries. The Zegrahm Expedition trip went to Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Honduras and Belize. We did dives in all of them for free vs. $100.00 per dive with National Geographic.
The Zegrahm trip was much less expensive than the National Geographic trip considering the initial trip cost plus expenses averaged out per day. The National Geographic trip for the same number of days would have been over $14,000 more than what we paid on Zegrahm.
The Zegrahm trip was fun, exciting and very adventurous. We had 75 people on board, but we never felt crowded and there were 3 - 4 different options to pick everyday for adventures. We had full days of seeing and doing things from the minute we arrived. They seemed to know what it takes to keep people from getting down and complaining. It was one of the happiest groups of people we have ever traveled with. We loved it. Read Less
I believe other reviewers miss the point in comparing their experience on Silver Galapagos with other cruises. The Galapagos is a closed, tightly regulated market; only ships exclusively dedicated to the Galapagos can operate there. So ... Read More
I believe other reviewers miss the point in comparing their experience on Silver Galapagos with other cruises. The Galapagos is a closed, tightly regulated market; only ships exclusively dedicated to the Galapagos can operate there. So the question is not how Silver Galapagos compares to Silversea or other cruises outside the Galapagos; the question is what is the best way to visit the Galapagos. Unless you want to be on a small boat with a group of 16, the answer is almost certainly Silver Galapagos.
You come to the Galapagos to see the animals, plants and landscapes of these unique islands, not to eat, drink and party on a boat. So job one for any company operating there is to get permission to sail the best possible itineraries, and then to attract and retain the best possible expedition leaders and guides. This Silverseas has done. Everything else is secondary.
Silver Galapagos carries 100 passengers, the maximum permitted. The ship is the largest and best equipped operating in the islands. The all-Ecuadorian staff (required) makes up in enthusiasm and warmth what they may lack in polish. In terms of true hospitality, they could teach a thing or two to their Silverseas colleagues operating in international waters.
The room for improvement lies not with the crew, but with Silversea. They erred in investing too heavily in cosmetic improvements, and insufficiently in the infrastructure of the vessel. In the choppy waters of the Pacific, the stabilizers were "undergoing maintenance," and apparently had been for months. The nicest suite, recently gussied up, was plagued with mechanical problems such as broken doors and non-functing electronics. If Silversea wants to continue to associate its brand with this ship, it needs to invest in the vessel, and also invest in the crew. If they want to retain the best people, Silverseas should strive to be regarded as the best employer in the Galapagos. Read Less
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in ... Read More
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in Madrid airport. The first section of the flight was considered short haul so any food or drink had to be paid for. This was not explained in advance so came as a surprise. We arrived in Madrid at night and all outlets for coffee, snacks etc were closed. There was food etc on the long haul section but this was a couple of hours into the flight so we hadn't eaten for over 12 hours. The aircraft was fairly basic and the cabin crew mostly non existant. However, on arrival at Santiago transfer to the ship at Valparaiso was smooth and interesting. We were soon in our cabin.
The ship only holds a maximum of about 350 passengers with no dedicated facilities for children. Most of the passengers were of retirement age and above. There is one, small swimming pool, a spa room and a small but reasonably equipped gym. It has an excellent library.
We spent half the cruise in a small cabin on the Aegean deck with an outside window. This was comfortable enough; clean; more than enough storage space (including under the beds for the cases) and a small but perfectly functional bathroom. The second half we transferred to a Balcony Suite on the Sun Deck. This was lovely; very comfortable with a large balcony. There was a big, comfortable bed; settee and armchair; coffee table with a fruit bowl which was regularly filled; desk with chair and fridge. This does come at quite an extra cost though (considerably more than bigger cruise ships). This deck was below the Promenade Deck and we did have a slight issue with the thumping overhead of the early morning joggers (as early as 6.00am).
The ship is very nice with plenty of comfortable lounges. There is a very pleasant, covered outside seating area at the back of the ship where you can also eat. I cannot praise the crew enough who gave their guests their constant attention. Service was excellent and the quality of the food was consistently very high. Both restaurants are Freedom Dining and waiter service. We took most meals in the Swan Restaurant and the waiters soon got to know us along with our likes and dislikes. Most of them are Filipino and eager to please. Tips are included in the cost of the cruise. Particular thanks go to Sherwin, Mark, Danny, Randy and Willard.
There are a series of lectures each day. Personally, we found the subjects too random and somewhat unrelated. We would have preferred them to be more aligned to the areas/countries that we were visiting and what we could expect to see and experience. Entertainment was gentle and more low-key than on a bigger cruise ship. The cocktail pianists were very good. There was a three piece band who were also very good but somewhat let down by a very average vocalist. There was also two Opera singers; these were particularly good in the second half of the cruise. The only show was presented by some of the crew which was very good fun. You have to admire their eagerness to please and to show off their national dances and costumes.
Excursions were very varied and prepaid within the cruise price. There were plenty to choose from to suit all interests and physical capabilities. They were very good and gave us the opportunity to both see and experience the areas that we visited. As the cruises were marketed as 'Discovery cruises' there was little opportunity to spend any own time in the towns with no Shuttle buses from the ship. However, this was made clear at the time of booking.
If you like a cruise ship with larger swimming pools, a theatre, cabaret bars etc then this is not the ship for you - it is a quieter, more gentle existence. However, although we enjoy the larger cruise ships, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Minerva. Thank you. Read Less