We just returned from the 9/30 sailing, and are happy to report the B itinerary was wonderful. The lava fields at Sullivan Bay and the tour of the bird nesting grounds at North Seymour were breathtaking. Snorkeling beneath Pinnacle Rock was among the best I have experienced. Our guides, especially William Cox and Fatima Fernandez were outstanding.
I can answer any last minute questions as the experience is very fresh, but I must first address the revolt that occured among the passengers soon after boarding.
As many of you know, the 9/30 sailing was Xpedition's first after what had been scheduled to be a 15 day dry dock in Panama, during which deck 6 would be reconfigured with 4 suites and a new fitness center. We later learned from the California man assigned to head the project, the dry dock took place in Cartegena. That cost 5 days of transit (with 100 men per day assigned the work...it's close to 5,000 man hours)
Result: We arrived to find deck six CLOSED!!! No hot tub, no spa, no fitness area. The Blue Finch Bar on Deck 5 was also closed, used instead as the initial storage for snorkel gear which would normally be on deck 6. The Beagle Grill on 4 was also closed! We were also told there would be no bridge tours...as the noise from the contruction one deck up was off-putting. I have my own theories about the bridge tours, which I will share later.
The loss of deck 6 also meant the loss of its public space, including a public restroom, and an interior staircase.
Having heard a chorus of discontent, the hotel director did manage to get at least the hot tub open by Wednesday, altough it was surrounded by construction workers, construction noise...and construction debris.
While all these areas were closed initially, we did find something we didn't expect: Sawdust EVERYWHERE. The ship was filthy. Dust in our drawers, sticky construction adhesive on our window sill, and new carpet so new it produced fuzz balls with everystep.
Beagle finally opened for a lobster lunch Wednesday, then for burgers the rest of the cruise. Blue Finch never opened, nor did the fitness center. It isn't open as I type this either. It was torn to shreads Sunday morning only hours before Itinerary A was to board.
It was clear early on the ship would not be ready, yet X did nothing to communicate to its 1st post-drydock passengers what they would experience, and how the cruiseline planned to accomodate them.
One of the most glaring errors on X's part involves the ship's captain. He appeared the first night at the welcome toast, and offered no apology, no explantion, no nothing. HE WAS NEVER SEEN AGAIN!!! He even skipped the farewell toast, leaving it to the hotel director and Pricilla the chief purser to deal with the guests and their complaints. It was insulting.
As we are elite with X, we had to ask for, and were granted, free laundry to make up for the massage we were denied due to the lack of a spa.
Some of us got letters signed by Xpedition vice president Bill Ramos apologizing for the ship and promising contact from the cruiseline. I'm sure they will offer something. I'll post what it is.
They ship may be fully operational by the 10/14 sailing. Let's hope so.
Luckily, Galapagos is not about the ship, it's about the place. And the place is wonderful!
Jim & Marie