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