Hi Got2gocruzn!!...here is our Trip Review.......
Celebrity “Exploration” (16 passenger Catamaran) Trip (note-this is NOT the celebrity “Expedition” .......just returned February 2020- Long post
As we didn’t see too many trip reports from Celebrity “Xploration” I wanted write a bit about our trip.
This is the first type of small boat cruising our family has done so we didn’t really know what to expect as we’ve only cruised larger ships most recently with Celebrity on the Eclipse last February to Antarctica and the Solstice from Sydney to Aukland in February 2017. And at least 10 others on Rccl, Hal, Disney & Princess.
We are a family of 3 (our daughter is 9).
We booked our flights on our own (1/2 the others on our boat booked thru Celebrity). We flew to Quito and spent the “night” at the airport Wyndham (nice hotel and very close)-5 minutes. Since we gave the hotel our arrival flight information they actually had someone in customs holding a sign with our names on it to escort us to the hotel van. We have heard the van only goes every 30 minutes.......van location is a bit obscured and out the front of the airport to the far right. My sister in law opted to take a taxi for $5 as she came in later than us and just seems easier.
Booked our our flights on Latam with a stop in Guayaquil (deplaned some passengers and picked up others-stayed on board)to Baltra......took about 3 hours total.....Airbus 319. We decided to spend 2 nights in Puerto Ayora prior to boarding the Exploration and happy we did.
After taking the ferry across the channel we negotiated with a taxi driver to take us to El Chato tortoise reserve then to our hotel...$50 plus $5pp entry fee. Stayed about an hour and half...very cool!
Also, did the Charles Darwin center on our own and walked the 30-40 minutes to Tortuga bay, then the lagoon....surprised at how many people were at the lagoon.....decided to pay the $10pp to take the boat back to port instead of walking back. Pretty hot.
Had dinner the first night at Garrapata ......we all enjoyed our dinner! Second night, we ate one of the local kiosks.......was ok.....glad we tried it as it was fun.
Our hotel in town was the Coloma Galápagos.....based on TA reviews......comfortable rooms, really no complaints, only noise was from fellow guests dragging their luggage up/down stairs.......no elevators for those who might need, good AC, breakfast was good for us......Honor bar......but beer wasn’t very cold.......grocery store at port within 10 min walk, good for stocking up on small groceries, snacks, wine, water, etc.
We arranged for the same driver to pick us up the morning of our cruise departure to take us back to the ferry with a short stop at Los Gemelos.......for a 20 minute sightseeing walk.
Arrived at airport, after ferry then short bus ride. Found the celebrity representative inside the terminal where they had a small roped off area with water and a few snacks while we waited for the others to arrive by Celebrity charter flight. Got there way too early.......never could find out a definitive time that we were supposed to arrive, but just hung out and enjoyed a cold beer and people watched.
There is no Wi-Fi available at the Baltra airport.
Took another bus (5 minutes) to the port (near the airport) where the boats arrive and depart. Got on the exploration zodiac and within 10 minutes were greeted And escorted to the lounge where we were introduced to everyone, briefed, given a welcome by our entire crew with a champagne toast, then off to our room, to unpack.....and told haha.....be ready in less than 30 minutes for our first outing!!!
We had 2 types of cabins......room 303 upper deck our daughter shared with her aunt and our room 203 with a small balcony. Rooms were a nice size with a good size shower. There was shampoo, body wash and conditioner. Lots of storage space (drawers, closet, clip hangers & wall knobs).
Blow dryer. Our daughters room received 2 bathrobes, although we never did but never asked either. Rooms had flat screen TVs but we never even turned ours on. Used the on board Wi-Fi often, however it was “island slow”.
Also, if you want binoculars you seem to need to ask for them. We brought our own. They will also supply you with snorkeling gear/fins and wet suites. We opted to bring our own. Probably half the guests brought their own gear.
Also brought large clips to hang wet cloths out to dry on our balcony.
The small indoor lounge was used for “just sitting”, watching some interesting documentaries, going over the next days activities and/or lounging. There is a chest of board games and a number of interesting books on the Galápagos as well as some books left by prior passengers, but I’m serious when I say “we joked that there wasn’t enough time to shower in a day as we were kept that busy!!!
They also have a small assortment of T-shirts, face guards (for the sun.......which all the locals wear as the sun is so strong) and saw some toiletries.
Dinning occurred indoors at one long table buffet style. We did not go hungry on this trip and the chef made something different every night......never had a bad meal!
Next deck up had a full bar and another long table for seating, then the top deck had loungers, chairs, and hot tub. Shaded and non shaded areas.
We were a bit worried as to the size of this boat however, we are so happy we chose the xploration and not one of the larger boats! Every single one of the crew were attentive without exception and you can tell that the safety of each passenger is taken seriously.
Our fellow passengers were awesome too!!.....from all over the United States and 1 couple from Europe. Age range wise, there was 1 couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, young retirees, & those of us who still work full time & 1 child.
About the excursion choices.......
We as a group had varying physical limitations........some extremely fit to those who knew their own limitations and took things at a slower pace or opted out of some activities. For example, I opted out of a more challenging deep water snorkeling trip as I’m not as comfortable in stronger currents whereas others were totally fine. In this case I stayed aboard and relaxed with some of the others.
At other times some would opt to do a zodiac ride (with a celebrity crew member driving the zodiac) to view the scenery/wildlife instead of an afternoon snorkeling trip for instance.
Being that there is only one naturalist on board this size boat we did “one land based trip at a time”......meaning there are not two choices of “land” opportunities to chose from at a given time as you must be escorted by a naturalist while on inhabited islands.
However, there were many days we’d do 2-3 types of excursions. Some going on one, a couple, others all of them....just based on how you feel as an individual.
Hopefully this makes sense. I never got the impression anyone felt left out and didn’t get to do what they wanted to do.. Again, we had an amazing group of fellow passengers and we were all were able to compromise and prioritize with each other.
Our family never felt held back and the excursions were always talked about the night before during pre-dinner briefing (with cocktails). So as a group we could decide what we’d like to do.
Wildlife we saw-
Blue footed boobies, Naztec boobies, water and land iguanas, small lizards, snakes (just 1), sea lions and their babies, pelicans, sea turtles, hammer head sharks, white tip and Galapagos sharks, sting rays, eels, brilliant colored fish.....and more.
This trip Honestly went beyond our expectations........crew just outstanding....both Ecuadorian captains were friendly and always kept us safe. We had naturalist Edwin......awesome! And Fernando who is in charge of the hotel staff was just wonderful/ always anticipated your needs!
3 nights of very wavy conditions.....bring meds, patch or wristbands if u need.......I wore wrist bands one night. Some were bothered others slept thru it.....(was kind of fun), still .....so worth the trip so don’t let the wave conditions change your mind.
Overall the Weather was beautiful......sunny and hot! One walk we did to see a crater on Isabella island was misty with a bit of rain. We brought packable rain jackets. Also our visit to the tortoise reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz had a bit of misty rain.....and one morning in Santa Cruz we woke to poring rain, but cleared up after awhile.
Food on board very good and plentiful.......always!!! Buffet style all three meals.....dinner and lunches always a fish, meat or Veggi option.......wine, beer and mixed drinks whenever you wished.......breakfast.....cereal, breads, made to order eggs.....There are 2 filtered water refill stations, coffee, tea all day.....
The staff were amazing and attentive with our daughter too.....getting her involved in our activities.....walks, swims, snorkeling, making a special message in a bottle she”found”in the water and also making her “plain” pastas too. She told us she liked being the “only kid” on board.....
We seriously need a vacation after this very, very active trip!
But would totally do it again!
Right now we are sitting in Quito waiting for our late night flight home reflecting on our amazing trip and can’t believe it’s over!