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Galapagos: Current Challenges, Returning to "Normal"??!!


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On another CC Board, there was a posting of a key story on the current situation for those in the Galapagos.  Wow!  Great insights about the impacts there for the people and creatures at this location.  We had planned a first-time visit there in early 2021, but we have scrubbed that booking (and gotten back the sizable cash payments made) due to the many uncertainties as to when and how these situations will return to some form of "normal".  

 

From this Los Angeles Times story written by the AP/Associated Press on May 11, they had this headline: “The islands that once inspired Charles Darwin struggle to adapt to the coronavirus ” with some of these highlights that I found most of interest: “How soon the Galapagos Islands might be able to reopen is unclear. Ecuador’s government is allowing for a gradual opening in three stages. But the final stage is not a full return to normal and does not call for resuming national or international flights."

 

Here are more of their story details: "The islands have a rich history of scientific investigation and discovery since Darwin arrived aboard the Beagle in 1835, noting that species on the relatively new volcanic islands bore key differences from those in continental South America.  Humans have caused the islands irreparable harm, wiping out thousands of whales and tortoises, introducing invasive species such as insects, wild pigs and goats, and damaging the delicate vegetation.  Before the coronavirus, sudden life-threatening ailments among tourists, fishermen and others on the Galapagos Islands were considered so rare that hospitals didn’t have a single intensive care unit bed.  The island chain’s famous isolation is now heightening its hardship.  For seven weeks now, not a single tourist has arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage site.”

 

Full story at:

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-05-11/pandemic-upends-life-on-isolated-idyllic-galapagos-islands

 

Sounds like it will be, sadly, a decent period of time before things return to having regular cruise schedules for this unique location.  Other reactions, information and background about the Galapagos to share here?

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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   23 hours ago,  Fletcher said: 

Ecuador has been hit hard by the virus with Guayaquil the epicentre of the outbreak.  Cruises have been blamed, of course. Currently all flights are grounded.  No tourist has stepped foot on Galapagos for seven weeks and the local economy has collapsed.  Some 30,000 people are unemployed.  There are also more than 100 Covid cases on the island and there is a Celebrity cruise ship with 50 crew members with the virus.

Above is an excellent summary and follow-up by the experienced and savvy Fletcher.  

 

In addition, from the Reuters newswire two days ago, they had this headline: “As Guayaquil stabilizes, Ecuador's capital braces for virus wave”with these highlights: “As the coronavirus outbreak in Ecuador’s largest city of Guayaquil begins to stabilize, the government is bracing for worsening spread in the highland capital Quito, where at least six people have died in the streets in the past month.  Guayaquil was at the center of one of Latin America’s worst outbreaks of the novel coronavirus in March and April. Cemeteries ran out of space and families stored relatives’ dead bodies in their homes or on the streets as the virus strained the health system’s capacity to collect them. But authorities’ attention is now turning to Quito, whose 2.8 million residents are under a strict lockdown to contain the virus’ spread.”

 

As I understand, a number of the Galapagos Islands cruises would do pre- and post-cruise time in Quito.  Clearly with the virus hitting their capital so hard just now, things are not going to be back to "normal" in an upcoming, quick timing period.  

 

Full story at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-ecuador-idUSKBN22R3BH

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Things seems to be closer for "opening up" in the Galapagos.  BUT, for us, much as we would like to see the Galapagos for the first time, we are being somewhat "conservative" as to when this situation will be completely "safe" and conditions proper to avoid any health risks with the airline flights, being with in larger groups, dining styles and densities, etc.  

 

Below are a couple of recent news stories and links related to that question when things return to "normal" in the Galapagos Islands..  From MSN and Fox News in the past day, they had this headline: “Traveler stranded in Galapagos during pandemic shares 'unique' lockdown experience” with these highlights about a traveler who has been "locked down" in this unique location.  This includes this info item as to when the restrictions will be lifted: local state of emergency is slated to lift on June 15.

 

Below is another link from two days ago with this web headline: "Here is How Latin America is Reopening; Country by Country Report".  Their reporting has these details for Ecuador: "The country opened its airports in Quito and Guayaquil, resuming both domestic and international flights. However, very few airlines have resumed operations. Restaurants can reopen in most cities with a maximum capacity of 30%."

 

Full stories at:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/coronavirus-traveler-stranded-in-galapagos-during-pandemic-shares-unique-lockdown-experience/ar-BB155XHX

https://nearshoreamericas.com/latin-america-reopening-country-by-country/

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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  • 1 month later...

Good news for these scenic islands and people like us who want to visit there.  

 

From the Travel Section of the London/UK Telegraph today, they had this headline: “Galapagos Islands to reopen to tourists after wildlife blooms during pandemic” with these highlights: “The Galapagos Islands, the showpiece of Ecuador’s tourism industry and one of the world’s wildlife wonderlands, is set to gradually reopen to visitors in the coming weeks.  The country announced lockdown measures on March 12, closing its borders to foreign travellers three days later. One of the South American countries worst hit by Covid-19, Ecuador has confirmed 62,380 cases to date and 4,821 deaths – though only two deaths have been reported on the Galapagos Islands.  On July 1, the government officially reopened the Galapagos National Park, though there is a lack of flights between Seymour airport, on the island of Baltra, and the mainland.

 

Full story at:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/news/galapagos-islands-ecuador-to-reopen-tourism-in-weeks/

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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On 5/14/2020 at 12:28 PM, TLCOhio said:

On another CC Board, there was a posting of a key story on the current situation for those in the Galapagos.  Wow!  Great insights about the impacts there for the people and creatures at this location.

 

Terry thank you for this information and all the links but could you also give us a link to the CC Board and post that you are referring to. I would like to read that post as well.  Thanks in advance.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Peregrina651 said:

Terry thank you for this information and all the links but could you also give us a link to the CC Board and post that you are referring to. I would like to read that post as well.  Thanks in advance.

 

Below are a couple of links on the Silversea CC Board that might be of interest and/or help.  The first two are more about cruising in the Galapagos, including about the new Silversea ship headed to there that might start sailing in September.  Maybe??!!  The other one is about the many steps in order for cruising to be successfully re-started.  Much needs to happen and "come together", including for testing, air flights, countries/ports opening up, consumer confidence, etc.  

 

Hope this is of help.  Let us know any follow-up questions. 

 

THANKS for your follow-up question!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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15 hours ago, TLCOhio said:

 

Below are a couple of links on the Silversea CC Board that might be of interest and/or help.  The first two are more about cruising in the Galapagos, including about the new Silversea ship headed to there that might start sailing in September.  Maybe??!!  The other one is about the many steps in order for cruising to be successfully re-started.  Much needs to happen and "come together", including for testing, air flights, countries/ports opening up, consumer confidence, etc.  

 

Hope this is of help.  Let us know any follow-up questions. 

 

THANKS for your follow-up question!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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Isn't the Origin built on the same plans as Celebrity's Flora? I wonder how they will differentiate the experience?

 

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2 hours ago, sippican said:

Isn't the Origin built on the same plans as Celebrity's Flora? I wonder how they will differentiate the experience?

 

YES, excellent point/question as to the Silver Origin and Celebrity Flora BOTH being built at the same Holland ship yard and to very much the same general specifications.  Since the Silversea sailings will cost more, I am sure they will try to pitch that their "quality" is better and that their "Butler service" makes an important advantage.  But due to the laws there, the staffing for both ships must be from people in that country, there are limits on the food supply that Silversea could offer, etc.  Silversea has had more and longer experience in this market and they will claim that their guides are better experienced.  The good news is that there are a number of different ship offerings to consider, including from National Geographic Lindblad that has been there the longest time period.  Plus, it might also be important to consider either the pre- and/or post-cruise options to see how that fits your interests, budget, etc.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Silversea updated their website two days ago and they currently have most of their cruises to start back around late October or early November.  Now, Silversea shows their first scheduled cruising to be with the new Silver Origin sailing in the Galapagos Island to start on  September 19, 2020.  Will that shiny new ship start sailing there in mid September??  Strongly doubt it!!  Realistically, we know those dates are probably way too optimistic.  Most expect, like happened with Princess cruises, that maybe, if and if, mid-December might be the earliest when sailing from U.S. ports can resume.  

 

Originally, we were scheduled to sail on the Silver Origin in late January 2021.  But in mid March, we scrubbed this planned Galapagos sailing due to the serious financial and health challenges and uncertainties. Too much money was tied up and at risk.  Could not afford that type of gamble!!  This week I found out that while the Galapagos have been opened up, but that the big hold up is getting flights through the Columbia-based Avianca Airlines from Quito, etc., in  Ecuador, to the Galapagos Islands and back.  Avianca has been trying to operate under challenging bankruptcy conditions and does not want to fly its planes half-full or less.  That's part of the "chicken-and-egg" challenge??!!  Many passengers now do not want to fly on planes too full and excessively crowded, but Avianca and others cannot dig out of its "financial hole" without a healthy level of customer use.  Then for customers such as us who are older and more at risk, the limited and maybe crowds flights from Miami to Quito also concern us, too!!  Many questions and much uncertainty.  We want to see and enjoy the scenic and historic Galapagos Islands.  BUT, only when things are more certain and safe.  

 

Overall, in my view, we are still a long, long way from the needed "tools" for testing, airline flights, port/countries being open, etc.  Am watching now on TV the three top national medical experts testifying before a key Congressional committee as to the various steps being taken and required for the future.  Things are progressing in some areas, but "it" will not be known and solved with certainty by October or November.  December?  January?  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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Thank you for your insight on this. DH and I are booked on Expedition to the Galapagos in October. Like most peoole, we booked this over 2 years in advance. We've not canceled simply because we've been holding out hope that life during the pandemic, and all of the circumstances surrounding it, would get better. This was to be my DH's 50th birthday present/trip, but I think it makes *me* more sad than him...that there's a strong chance we'll be canceled.

 

Such is life, and we must all be safe, and contribute to the safety of our fellow neighbors to get through this. Now...to figure out what we'll do for his 50th?!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/2/2020 at 3:07 PM, TravlGrl said:

Thank you for your insight on this. DH and I are booked on Expedition to the Galapagos in October. Like most peoole, we booked this over 2 years in advance. We've not canceled simply because we've been holding out hope that life during the pandemic, and all of the circumstances surrounding it, would get better. This was to be my DH's 50th birthday present/trip, but I think it makes *me* more sad than him...that there's a strong chance we'll be canceled.  Such is life, and we must all be safe, and contribute to the safety of our fellow neighbors to get through this. Now...to figure out what we'll do for his 50th?!

 

Glad that you, TravlGrl, are being smartly "realistic" and very creative in seeking options for if and when your October sailing will be probably be scrubbed.  Good luck!! 

 

Sadly, my most recent information says . . .  that an October date is not very realistic.  Sorry!  Right now, if you arrive in Ecuador, you must first go through a 14-day, stay-in-place quarantine.   No certainty now as to when that quarantine will be removed by Ecuador's government. Plus, getting air flights from mainland Ecuador out to the Galapagos continues is near "Mission Impossible"!!  And, having decent flights from key airports such as Miami in red-hot South Florida are limited and somewhat less than attractive to those older who do not want too much for health/safety risks.  You could summarize . . . "other than those little details, everything is fine".  Right?  

 

Am I missing something with that summary and background?

 

Hope you and your husband enjoy his 50th.   

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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2 hours ago, TLCOhio said:

 

Glad that you, TravlGrl, are being smartly "realistic" and very creative in seeking options for if and when your October sailing will be probably be scrubbed.  Good luck!! 

 

Sadly, my most recent information says . . .  that an October date is not very realistic.  Sorry!  Right now, if you arrive in Ecuador, you must first go through a 14-day, stay-in-place quarantine.   No certainty now as to when that quarantine will be removed by Ecuador's government. Plus, getting air flights from mainland Ecuador out to the Galapagos continues is near "Mission Impossible"!!  And, having decent flights from key airports such as Miami in red-hot South Florida are limited and somewhat less than attractive to those older who do not want too much for health/safety risks.  You could summarize . . . "other than those little details, everything is fine".  Right?  

 

Am I missing something with that summary and background?

 

Hope you and your husband enjoy his 50th.   

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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Yep, the sailing was cancelled. 😦

 

At least with a delay we may have a better experience when we DO sale, anyway. X is reducing passenger capacity to 48, so we're looking at re-booking over Thanksgiving 2021. Have not tried Lindblad but was considering it, but just cannot justify an additional $4k.

 

Now...to figure out what we'll do for his milestone. Major cabin fever here, probably like everyone on CC!

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2 hours ago, TravlGrl said:

Yep, the sailing was cancelled. 😦

 

At least with a delay we may have a better experience when we DO sale, anyway. X is reducing passenger capacity to 48, so we're looking at re-booking over Thanksgiving 2021. Have not tried Lindblad but was considering it, but just cannot justify an additional $4k.

 

Now...to figure out what we'll do for his milestone. Major cabin fever here, probably like everyone on CC!

Oops...typo! *Sail, not sale. Could go for a sale though too!

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19 hours ago, TravlGrl said:

Yep, the sailing was cancelled. 😦

 

At least with a delay we may have a better experience when we DO sale, anyway. X is reducing passenger capacity to 48, so we're looking at re-booking over Thanksgiving 2021. Have not tried Lindblad but was considering it, but just cannot justify an additional $4k.

 

Now...to figure out what we'll do for his milestone. Major cabin fever here, probably like everyone on CC!

 

The passenger reduction on the Xpedition happened over a year ago due to licensing issues encountered when the new Flora began sailing. Celebrity had hoped to combine licensing from their two smaller ships, but was not allowed to do so by law. We have sailed on Xpedition when it was full capacity, but are rebooked for next year and hoping the numbers will stay at 48. The company continues to explore legal options to increase the passenger numbers on Xpedition, so one never knows. 

So sorry your sailing was cancelled. Hopefully you will get to enjoy the beautiful Galapagos in the future.

 

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20 hours ago, TravlGrl said:

Yep, the sailing was cancelled.  At least with a delay we may have a better experience when we DO sail, anyway. X is reducing passenger capacity to 48, so we're looking at re-booking over Thanksgiving 2021. Have not tried Lindblad but was considering it, but just cannot justify an additional $4k.  Now...to figure out what we'll do for his milestone. Major cabin fever here, probably like everyone on CC!

 

Appreciate the follow-ups and details from TravlGrl and sippican.  Will be interesting to see what happens (or not) . . . AND when . . . for this South American country and in these scenic Galapagos Islands.

 

On the Silversea Cruise Critic board, the experienced Fletcher posted: "I can't see the Origin taking on any passengers until deep into 2021. The mainland is one thing.  Island groups are especially vulnerable.  Pitcairn, for instance, has recently announced a total ban on all cruise ships until April 2021."    Good point as to how these smaller island groups have unique situations and challenges with their vulnerabilities.  

 

As schedules are scrubbed and adjusted, it might be a good opportunity to check out ALL of the many good options for exploring there.  I have found some excellent reviews for Quasar Expeditions.  Their toll-free number is 888.502.9503. They are owned and operated by an Ecuador family with a long history of success in these islands.  There are a variety of pro/con factors to consider as to the size of the ship you would be using, their depth of  experiences there, etc.  We had been booked for the new Silversea Silver Origin in late January 2021.  That adventure was scrubbed in March and we are now waiting to see how all of these various issues are managed and solved.  Good luck to TravlGrl and others as you research and plan for the future. For us, Silversea might be used.  Maybe not.  It depends on value, costs, quality of the experience, how the overall "package" fits together, etc., etc.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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2 hours ago, sippican said:

 

The passenger reduction on the Xpedition happened over a year ago due to licensing issues encountered when the new Flora began sailing. Celebrity had hoped to combine licensing from their two smaller ships, but was not allowed to do so by law. We have sailed on Xpedition when it was full capacity, but are rebooked for next year and hoping the numbers will stay at 48. The company continues to explore legal options to increase the passenger numbers on Xpedition, so one never knows. 

So sorry your sailing was cancelled. Hopefully you will get to enjoy the beautiful Galapagos in the future.

 

Aaaaaaah...did not realize the capacity was reduced that long ago! THANK YOU for that info, as we'll keep tabs on that topic in the event we do stick w/ X and don't switch to another supplier. Two-three years ago I'd researched several options, but we landed back to X based on value and familiarity.

 

Like TLCOhio mentioned, now is probably a good time to revisit all options. Might just place the deposit on the X Nov. 2021 sailing to save the cabin, but research additional expedition companies to see if anyone changes my mind.

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20 hours ago, TravlGrl said:

Aaaaaaah...did not realize the capacity was reduced that long ago! THANK YOU for that info, as we'll keep tabs on that topic in the event we do stick w/ X and don't switch to another supplier. Two-three years ago I'd researched several options, but we landed back to X based on value and familiarity.

 

Like TLCOhio mentioned, now is probably a good time to revisit all options. Might just place the deposit on the X Nov. 2021 sailing to save the cabin, but research additional expedition companies to see if anyone changes my mind.

 

The Xpedition remains one of the most value-packed Galapagos experiences out there IMHO. That is why we have chosen to return. When we sailed there were 100 passengers onboard and it was still a fantastic voyage. We had considered the Flora, but I just can't justify the cost. If the passneger count remains at 48, that will be an added bonus. Have you considered the Lift & Shift option? Your cruise fare would be protected. FWIW, the sailings for 2021 are filling up quickly because they are not only accommodating new bookings, but those from cancelled and shifted 2020 sailings.  When  you are comparing, be sure to take into consideration the number of actual Galapagos ports and days spent in the National Park. With Celebrity you get two excursions per day (they give choices for each block) and visit two islands per day, for seven days. Also take into consideration the inclusions; hotel, air, all meals, guided excursions, transfers, alcohol and gratuities. Best of luck!

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/17/2020 at 10:29 AM, sippican said:

 When  you are comparing, be sure to take into consideration the number of actual Galapagos ports and days spent in the National Park. With Celebrity you get two excursions per day (they give choices for each block) and visit two islands per day, for seven days. Also take into consideration the inclusions; hotel, air, all meals, guided excursions, transfers, alcohol and gratuities. Best of luck!

 

Great above tips and suggestions from the highly-experienced sippican.  Many various factors and details to compare and consider.  You might also add as a point to check as to what pre- candor post-cruise options that might offer.  There are many good potentials to consider.  Our view is when you travel this far of a distance, you might as well "MAXIMIZE" the opportunities to explore and experience as much as possible.  BUT, then there can be limits as to how much time and budget each traveler has available??!! 

 

From this below publication earlier this past week, they had this headline for the current top story about and affecting this island group: Huge Chinese Fishing Fleets Threaten Galapagos’ Amazing Marine Life” with these highlights: “More than 300 foreign fishing ships, almost all Chinese, have been sitting in international waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands since late July.  As these vessels are in international waters, their presence is technically lawful. They are reportedly fishing for squid and have been coming to this location for four years. However, the ecological reality is that fish do not recognise state boundaries and therefore fishing at this scale so close to the Galapagos Marine Reserve implies a serious risk for endangered, migratory species found within the protected area such as whale sharks and hammerhead sharks. The news has led to an outcry in Galapagos. Locals there still clearly remember the 2017 capture of a Chinese fishing ship that was found inside the marine reserve with thousands of sharks onboard, including endangered species.”

 

Here is more background from their reporting:  "This latest incident is a stark reminder of the incongruous nature of the law of the sea, which recognises that the ocean is an interrelated whole yet takes a zonal approach to regulation that results in a mismatch between law and natural ecosystems. International waters, or the “high seas”, make up 61% of the ocean but a fragmented legal framework allows only weak regulation of human activities."

 

Full story at:

https://www.adventure-journal.com/2020/08/huge-chinese-fishing-fleets-threaten-galapagos-amazing-marine-life/

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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Picked up yesterday some good, positive updating regarding the Galapagos Islands.  This is independent of Silversea and it is background that I trust to be solid and credible.  First, the Galapagos and Ecuador has been "opened up" without the need to do a two-week quarantine immediately upon arrival in that country.  Second, air connections between mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos are now slowly starting to become available.  The number of flights is still somewhat limited, but this is still a slow progress somewhat forward.  My guessing now is that maybe in November or early December that some larger cruise companies such as Silversea, Celebrity, Lindblad, etc., could (maybe) start sailing again.  

 

As I understand, if planning to do this trip, there will be a need to take Covid-19 test BOTH before flying to Ecuador AND immediately prior to boarding the ship in the Galapagos Islands.  There still could be varied "twists and turns", but at least there is some "light at the end of the tunnel".  Another experienced expert views these timing potentials still as "fluid" depending if the infection rates would go back up in Ecuador, etc.  

 

THANKS!  Enjoy!  Terry in Ohio

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 8/15/2020 at 12:46 PM, TravlGrl said:

Major cabin fever here, probably like everyone on CC!

Not all for us. We're now on our fourth road trip in as many months. Will be hitting Seattle (family there) and then to Yellowstone!

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On 8/17/2020 at 7:29 AM, sippican said:

 

The Xpedition remains one of the most value-packed Galapagos experiences out there IMHO. That is why we have chosen to return. When we sailed there were 100 passengers onboard and it was still a fantastic voyage. We had considered the Flora, but I just can't justify the cost. If the passneger count remains at 48, that will be an added bonus. Have you considered the Lift & Shift option? Your cruise fare would be protected. FWIW, the sailings for 2021 are filling up quickly because they are not only accommodating new bookings, but those from cancelled and shifted 2020 sailings.  When  you are comparing, be sure to take into consideration the number of actual Galapagos ports and days spent in the National Park. With Celebrity you get two excursions per day (they give choices for each block) and visit two islands per day, for seven days. Also take into consideration the inclusions; hotel, air, all meals, guided excursions, transfers, alcohol and gratuities. Best of luck!

 

 

Silversea is comparable to that. I have no idea about the price.

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12 minutes ago, clo said:

Not all for us. We're now on our fourth road trip in as many months. Will be hitting Seattle (family there) and then to Yellowstone!

Seattle is my home! Be good to her. 🙂

 

We contemplated renting an RV this summer and hitting the road, or perhaps I should say that *I* contemplated that. DH cannot stand driving, with every ounce of his being. Oct/Nov/Dec has travel on the horizon, however. Safe road-trippin to you!

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15 minutes ago, TravlGrl said:

Seattle is my home! Be good to her. 🙂

 

We contemplated renting an RV this summer and hitting the road, or perhaps I should say that *I* contemplated that. DH cannot stand driving, with every ounce of his being. Oct/Nov/Dec has travel on the horizon, however. Safe road-trippin to you!

Our daughter is 43 and went to UDub for undergrad so we've been visiting a long time and it's one of our fave places. Travel well.

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2 hours ago, clo said:

Silversea is comparable to that. I have no idea about the price.

 

Yes, I believe the Origin, the new Silversea ship was built to be very similar in design to Celebrity's Flora. For most sailings, the price of the Xpedition trips remains significantly less than these two beautiful newer vessels. (Of course, the cabins and amenities are not the same.)

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