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Live blog of first voyage of Flora in the Galapagos, post pandemic


DrKoob
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Good morning Flora fans, 

My bride (BellKat) and I are on the first post-pandemic voyage of Celebrity Flora and I am live blogging it with photos for anyone who is interested. It is so awesome to be back traveling. We are in Quito right now and waiting to fly our charter out to Baltra today and board Flora. Our Celebrity guests here at the fabulous EB Hotel have been wonderful and it is great having the Director of Flora Sales and Marketing sailing with us. 

 

I am posting this on my blog as well but I am not sure Cruise Critic will link to it. So here's what I had to say. Sorry, the video was too big to post here. 

Disappointing Flights

As I mentioned in an earlier post on the blog, our buddy Mike Preisman took us to Miami Airport at 2:15 am so we could get there by 3:30 which would be the recommended three hours before our 6:30 am international flight on Copa Air. This flight had been hard to come by so we took what we could get even if it meant that we had to get up way before dawn.

If you have never heard of Copa Air, they are the national airline of Panama. Originally we had a non-stop flight on American Airlines but that was cancelled last weekend and the best we could do was a one-stop trip from Miami through Panama City to Quito. The good news was we still got to keep our business class seats on both flights. But that turned out to just be an OK thing as Copa Air's idea of business class differs widely from what we have experienced in Business or First class before.

When we arrived at the airport we were so early that there was no place open to even grab a cup of coffee. In fact there was no place open at all. To grab anything. And to the best of my knowledge nothing opened before we took off at 6:38. On our flight we got two cups of really bad coffee, a ham and cheese croissant and a very dry granola bar. The seats were much like US domestic air FC seats. Fairly comfortable but certainly no place to lie back and sleep. I need to mention we were flying on a Boeing 737-8. You will see why in a minute.

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Our flight from Miami to Panama City was just a little more than two hours. We arrived in Panama City in just enough time to get from our arriving gate to our departing gate. Once we reached our new gate, we boarded within minutes. And once on board we were pleasantly surprised to see full lay down seats in a section that looked like a true business class section. And this was on exactly the same 737-8 plane that we had just gotten off. Sadly, this flight was just about 90 minutes so even though we had the seats to sleep in, there just wasn't time to sleep.

When we saw the seats we thought maybe we would get something a little better to eat and drink but that was not to be. We were offered a bag of pretzels, a small bag of cookies and a can of Perrier for me and a ginger ale for Kathleen. One thing I am very happy about is that we did not spend our own money to upgrade as Celebrity arranged our air. If you ever get a chance to fly Business class on Copa Air, give it a pass.

Quito!

We did it! We finally arrived in Ecuador and we have much to report if you are planning on cruising the Galapagos with Celebrity post-pandemic...at least for awhile.

When we landed in Quito we made it through customs in no time and with a minimum of questions. There was a temperature check and we had to show our vaccination cards but after they checked those, we headed to passport control. We were very lucky because our flight (which was not full) was the only international flight landing at the time and being in the front of the plane, we got to the health check and passport control very quickly. Our luggage took a little longer so getting through customs inspection (they didn't inspect anything) took a little longer. Once on the other side of security in a very nice and clean airport we used the facilities and I was about to try and contact Celebrity here in Ecuador when a man walked up to us holding a Celebrity sign. Within minutes we were in the van and on our way to the EB Hotel.

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Pre-COVID this was an 11 day trip with two nights and a full day in Quito before the Galapagos segment and then a day after in Quito as well. But due to the COVID conditions Celebrity wanted to keep us out of downtown Quito. So instead of the regular hotel they use (The JW Marriott–Quito) we were at the EB Hotel near the airport.

If you are coming, do not worry about it being near the airport. These three photos show you the area around the hotel.

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We have been here for at least five hours and have not heard a single airplane.  By keeping us near the airport we will be able to go right back to the airport tomorrow morning for our flight to Baltra where we embark on Flora.

The hotel itself is modern, new and beautiful and the rooms rock. Here's a quick tour of ours. It is easier to see the video if you click the headline at the top of the e-mail and read the entire post in a web browser.

[videopress qkKKQVXY]

As you can see. it is pretty darned impressive. A true suite which we did not expect at all. Kathleen says to tell the ladies that if you are staying here, the products in the bathroom are all very high quality so you don't have to plan for those. And Celebrity left us some really nice water bottles, a bottle of horchata (a plant-milk based South American beverage) and a health goodie bag with a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer.

After getting settled into our suite we found lots of info from Celebrity including instructions about the included dinner and breakfast as well as all the hoops we will need to jump through before we can get on the plane to Baltra and the islands in the morning. Here's our schedule:

Breakfast is 6:30 to 10:00 either in the restaurant or via room service. But either way we have to have our luggage in the hall outside our rooms by 8:00 am when they will collect it for inspection by the Galapagos Agricultural Authorities. They are making sure we have no organic materials coming into the islands that could change the environment there. To be honest, I totally understand their doing this but I hate the idea of them going through my bag because everything BARELY fits in the small carry-on I am taking for this trip. I have to be VERY careful when zipping it up or I will either break the zippers or catch my clothing inside. But we did find out later that we don't have to put out our carry-ons. That made me happy as I don't want them messing with my camera or this MacBook Pro.

We are also scheduled (we don't have our time yet) to be health-screened sometime between 7:00 am and 11:00 am. We will have to go to their health screening room, get our temp checked (mine has been taken twice today already) take an antigen test, provide proof of vaccination and be approved for our flight.

At 11:00 am they will load us into vans and move us back to the airport for the 90 minute charter flight to Baltra. I will give you a full report on that flight tomorrow if the internet connection on the ship is a good one.

Celebrity seems to have this all really well taken care of. We have seen some folk in the lobby area we know are on the ship with us and we met the head of sales and marketing (Susanna) for Celebrity Galapagos who will be sailing with us. But I also know that some poor folks won't arrive until the last Copa flight in tonight at 11:30 pm and they will have to be up doing the same things we will have do to tomorrow.

If you are sailing on Flora while they are still doing their pre-cruise at the EB hotel, here's a tip for you. Request a parking lot view. We have a pool view and it faces west. And the afternoon sun beating against the windows (even though it is only 60F something outside) has made our room really warm. I have the thermostat set to 18 C but the AC just can't keep up with the sun and it's 23C in the room right now. Love the view from here but wish it was a little cooler and hoping it cools down once the sun sets in the next 15 minutes.

Another note about the hotel; because of the lousy food on the plane we were ready for lunch when we got here and the restaurant in the hotel (Tabla Bella) makes superb food. Kathleen had a wonderful salad and I wanted to try two Ecuadorian appetizers. I got the empanadas (they were OK) and something called an arepa. It's two pieces of masa stuffed with avocado (they LOVE avocados here), shredded, braised beef and cheese with a side of their wonderful avocado sauce to dip it in. Pics are below to make your mouth water.

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Dinner! STOP THE PRESSES! 

I was going to finish with lunch because the rest of the afternoon was us trying to catch up on our sleep but we just returned from seeing/doing three things that I have to write about before I go to bed. First, there was the MOST AMAZING SUNSET right outside our window. The worst part was there are no windows that open or landings above the ground floor where I could get a picture. But I was able to lean around the reflection in our window to get a few shots. 

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The second great thing that happened is that when we went down to dinner we stopped by the Celebrity desk that is now set up in the lobby so they could check our vaccination cards and get us set up for a health screening in the morning. While we were talking, Susanna came by (I mentioned her above) and said that because of all our air problems they were going to upgrade us to business class (the larger seats) on the flight to Baltra tomorrow morning! How awesome is that? 

And then it was dinner. We thought lunch was good but this was beyond my wildest imagination. When we had first gotten to our rooms there was a menu of our choices for dinner. Four appies, four entrées and four desserts. I am hoping you can see our choices by clicking here. If it is gone by the time you read it just know all the choices were amazing. So both of us had the roasted tomato salad with burrata to start. Then Kathleen had the chicken and I had the pork. I stopped the presses for the pork. I have to say that was/is one of the top ten dishes I have ever had in my life. There was just so much going on and so much of it done perfectly. It was so good, when we come back after the cruise, I will order it again. And dessert was the Ecuadorian 65% cocoa chocolate mousse. I have had many chocolate mousses in my life but this one was beyond belief. I can't even begin to describe it. Sadly, we were so busy talking with the people at the next table (Jamie from Devon, UK and Katherine from Miami) that I forgot to take a picture of the dessert, but here's the most amazing pork dish I have ever had. I wish I could do justice in describing it.IMG_3958-300x225.jpeg

We had also asked the bartender to make us an Ecuadorian cocktail before dinner and he made us this wonderfully dry cocktail he called blue beard. It was amazing. Just like the entire dinner. This is one I will remember for years to come. We went all in on Ecuadorian tonight and we are happy we did.

 

Jim

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Thanks for the update! Good to see that Celebrity has been able to rebound so well for the Quito segment.

In shortening the pre-cruise portion - were you given any type of compensation at all?

 

We've already booked air with the assumption that pre-cruise will be two days in Quito and are wondering how soon we'll know if that changes.

 

Looking forward to your posts.

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2 hours ago, DrKoob said:

The hotel itself is modern, new and beautiful and the rooms rock. Here's a quick tour of ours. It is easier to see the video if you click the headline at the top of the e-mail and read the entire post in a web browser.

[videopress qkKKQVXY]

Thank you for posting a live review. I can’t imagine what economy class got for food or seats if thats what business looks like on Copa lol. 
 

I’m not super techy and don’t see a link to the email to see the video and am only seeing a few pics, the rest just have numbers. Where do I find your blog so I can read the full review? Enjoy your trip! 

Cathy 

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1 hour ago, Barwick Cruiser said:

Thank you for posting a live review. I can’t imagine what economy class got for food or seats if thats what business looks like on Copa lol. 
 

I’m not super techy and don’t see a link to the email to see the video and am only seeing a few pics, the rest just have numbers. Where do I find your blog so I can read the full review? Enjoy your trip! 

Cathy 

Hi Cathy. I got warned the other day not to post it but if you Google my name (Jim Bellomo) it should the first thing that pops up. 

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We are at the airport for the charter flight to Baltra. Big news this am was having to do a. PCR COVID test (up the nose) and not an antigen (spit) as advertised. 

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Looking forward to your reports; we're booked for late May/early June next summer, so it is encouraging that things seem to be going so smoothly for your group.  Can you clarify; you initially booked the 11 day  trip but the pre-cruise day in Quito was cancelled?  Is the free day after the cruise also cancelled?

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Kathleen and Jim, enjoy your cruise, I'm sure it will be a wonderful one. 

 

Galapagos is amazing. I've got very fond memories.

 

Following [and comparing...😁]. Thank you for taking the time to review.

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Sorry this took so long. If you have been on Flora, you know they keep you very busy. 

 

The Galapagos and Flora-Day 1: The story of the Grumpy Git

 

This was written starting on Sunday but I haven't been able to get it out until today (Tuesday). They keep us very busy. So it looks like I will be about two days behind from here on in.

It's Sunday morning and I am going to start this post now while I have a few minutes. We are waiting in our Quito hotel lobby for our charter flight from Quito to Baltra where we will tender (Zodiac) out to Flora for our Galapagos adventure.

This morning we had to have our checked bags in the hall outside our hotel rooms by 8:00 and we went down for our health screening at 7:45. We had been told it was just an antigen (spit) test but it turned out to be a full PCR, up the nose, test. Our first one (if you can believe that) and now I get what everyone complains about. Not that bad but still brought a tear to my eye. Breakfast in the hotel did not live up to the two previous meals but I guess the chef has to sleep sometime and leave the food in the hands of his assistants...who kind of failed. It was just "fine" with our first cup of coffee being cold, my "Everything" omelette having nothing in it and no jam for the rolls and croissants but it was still satisfying and should get us through until we have a box lunch (I am assuming) on the plane...which we are off to in about 10 minutes.

Eight hours later

We are onboard and have been VERY busy. At this point, I am being what my friend Paul would call a "grumpy git." I get that when things are off from what I expected, I find that I forgot something, or something does not go the way I had planned. Hopefully I will get over it.

Ten hours later

It is now 3:45 am and I am not over it. In fact, this is the worst night I have ever spent on a cruise ship or maybe on vacation, in my life. I have been awake since 1:30 am (went to bed around 10:00). I am sitting in a lounge on the top deck all the way forward. For a variety of reasons I am not able to sleep. Noisy stateroom, noisy ship. Horrible pillows–my neck aches. Ship is rocking and rolling. I sat in bed for more than two hours trying to get back to sleep before I just got the hell out of there and let Kathleen sleep.

For those of us who have this sleep affliction (although I have slept GREAT every night since we left home) of waking up and not being able to get back to sleep, this is NOT the ship to do it on. On most ships if I can't sleep, I can get up and go find a quiet place to sit and do stuff like this (writing or working with my pics). But on Flora that is impossible. This tiny lounge at the front of deck seven is the only place I could find. All the public areas on deck four are in pitch black darkness with doors closed. I have not seen a crew member anyplace. This is one of the benefits/problems with a small ship I guess. But...this lounge sucks because it is playing what I call thump-thump (electronic music) at a volume level that is not helping my massive headache. Much of my grumpiness now is due to my lack of sleep and inability to find someplace to just sit and write that is quiet and warm. Where I am is cold and noisy. the ship is really rocking and being on the top deck all the way forward is not a good place to be so I will have to go down and see if I can find someplace better.

I found a spot on deck three. The chairs are really uncomfortable but at least the music is better and not as loud. So let me explain where things went wrong.

We did leave the hotel right on time and made it to the airport. This is where I have to add that if you don't like waiting in lines, producing document after document then this cruise (at least for the next few months until the world returns to more normal times) is maybe not for you. I had to show my passport and other docs at least five times yesterday. That doesn't sound like a lot but it does mean that I usually had to stand in a fairly long line to do it. I have also filled out at least four forms (that could easily have been sent to me as PDFs way before the cruise for me to fill out and bring with me).

(Note from Kathleen - BRING AT LEAST ONE PEN - YOU ARE GOING TO NEED THEM!) Some of those were health forms, others for all kinds of things like one promising to not do anything bad I while I am in the islands (future Flora cruisers should note here that you can bring absolutely no food to the islands. That includes pre-packaged granola bars—the penalties are pretty big so leave everything edible at the hotel or on the plane).

I think things really headed downhill when we got in the Zodiacs to head out to the ship. I am trying very hard to find a way to phrase this that does not sound like I am whining or don't understand how the crew feels but I can't, so I will just tell it as I see it. Please know that since you aren't on the first cruise back like we are, hopefully some of this will not happen to you if you decided to do this cruise. But I digress.

[caption id="attachment_7335" align="alignright" width="300"]IMG_3961-300x255.jpeg The airport greeter[/caption]

When we got off the plane as we headed into the terminal we saw our first Galapagos animal–an iguana waiting to meet us. Actually saw two. Once in the airport they had a really nice lounge ready for us to wait in until they could call us to take a short bus ride to the Zodiacs. I was all smiles. But this is where things started bothering me. I am not sure what we did or who we offended but somehow we always seem to be called last for every line. The cruise director came into the lounge and started calling numbers for people to board the bus and went through the all of deck five including the stateroom numbers on both sides of ours without mentioning ours. Then she did half of deck six. Then we were finally called in the next to last group. This played out poorly a little later on.

Since this was the first ship back post-pandemic the crew led by our gung-ho hotel director was really trying to celebrate the reopening. I totally get that. But that meant they wanted each of the Zodiacs to arrive by itself so the 12 or so people on board could be escorted into this hallway on deck 3 where they blew horns and danced and chanted about how happy they were to have guests back on board. If it had been any other circumstances, I would have thought it was great but to make sure that each Zodiac had group had a separate welcome, they delayed each one out in the water for almost 40 minutes.

What should have been a five minute ride to the ship (we were even told it would take about five minutes—we could see the ship) turned into a thirty+ minute ride. We were not prepared for that. No sunscreen, no hats, no water. They did try and make it interesting by taking us near the coast where we could see some of the local birds (pelicans, blue-footed boobies and a few others) but the entire time we were baking in the sun. I personally was totally frustrated because here we were seeing all these great birds and my camera was in my camera bag and I could not get to it. I had my phone with me but the photos I got with it did NOT make me happy at all.

After baking in the sun for all that time we finally got on board the ship around 4:00 and went through the welcome by the crew, were able to pick our carry-ons back up (they had been sprayed with disinfectant) and then the scheduling started. I tried to find a way to describe it but I think it is better to just show you the schedule and then give you some details. I should also say that this schedule is not printed anyplace on paper. If you don't have a phone/tablet/laptop, you are out of luck. Again, another COVID thing? Not sure. Here's the schedule for day one.

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Let's start with the first item. Because we were driven around baking in the hot sun on the Zodiac for almost 40 minutes (we knew this was what was occurring because our Zodiac driver kept radioing the ship to ask if he could bring us on board) we didn't arrive in time to get anything to eat. So at this point it was the snack they gave us on the plane that was going to hold us until dinner which was supposed to be at 7:15.

As you can see there was a "mandatory meeting" at 5:00. So between when we finally got on board and got to our stateroom it was almost 4:20. In that time between getting on board and the meeting at 5:00 pm we are supposed to do the following: 1) Go to our stateroom, get settled and meet our stateroom attendant so they could explain how the room amenities work (we still have not met that person as of Monday morning). 2) Go to deck seven to attend the new post-COVID muster drill where we sat at a table with a naturalist (just the two of us) and had our life jackets explained to us. 3) Then go back to the stateroom and unpack and sometime before 5:00 find time to get something to eat. I have a video tour of the stateroom but I will have to publish it later. My laptop battery is almost gone. 

We were able to do most of that (other than eat) by 5:00 but just barely. So at 5:00 pm when the "mandatory" meeting was supposed to take place we are sitting in the Discovery Lounge ready to hear all the important stuff they needed to tell us. Strangely enough, we were sitting there alone. People started straggling in about 5:10 or so and the actual meeting we were there for did not start until pretty close to 5:30.

8105332-1-300x200.jpgAs you can see from the schedule this meeting was supposed to transition (in the same place) into a "snorkel safety briefing," and it did. Then our hotel director (a very nice and well meaning guy) had another surprise planned for everyone. We stopped the meeting and went up to deck seven (top deck) so that we could sail away from where Flora had been anchored. The other Celebrity ship in the Galapagos (Expedition‚ which is not sailing yet) was off our port side and many of her crew were standing outside waving to us while the ship's horn went off and the crew on the Expedition shot some water in the air from hoses on their back deck.

After that it was time to distribute the snorkeling gear so we went back to our stateroom to wait for them to call us down to pick it up. Again, we are one of the last staterooms called. But eventually I did go down and get my wetsuit, snorkel, mask, flippers and small life vest. You get to leave much of this stuff (other than the snorkel and mask) in a big mesh bag near where you get on the Zodiacs so that's a good thing. Kathleen has decided that she is not going to attempt snorkeling so she didn't get any gear. I am still not sure I want to snorkel either but I thought I better get the gear anyway, just in case. More about that tomorrow.

This might be a good place for me to talk about logistics. I like to be organized when I travel. I like things to be planned. When I don't know how something is going to go, I worry. Right now  I am sitting here typing this and I am worried about what is going to happen at 8:45 am this morning. I guess I will find out (and I did...it went fine).

Hopefully I will feel better about this after I have done it and things will just come together but I am not at this point holding out a lot of hope. You will have to come back later or tomorrow to see how I manage all of this. I know I will be surprised. Of course the way I am feeling right now, I may not go at all.

Back to the schedule. After I got my snorkel gear squared away, it was 7:05 so we had missed the Captain's Welcome Aboard Toast but we still needed to get to the excursion briefing. These briefings take place every evening. The cruise director (who is also a naturalist) explains what excursions are available the next day, their degree of difficulty and what we can expect to see. Then when she is done, you see one of the other naturalists and sign up for the ones you want to do. You sign up for one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Here is tomorrow's schedule:

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We have chosen to do Option 3 in the morning and in the afternoon Kathleen is doing Option 2 and I am doing Option 1.

So we again, since it is 7:05, think we are late (unavoidable since we weren't called to get snorkel gear until 6:45). But we get to the Discovery Lounge to find we are almost alone again. There is an entertainer playing an out-of-tune piano loudly so we sit down to wait. Lo and behold we find out that we have not missed the Captain's Toast...it still hasn't happened yet. It is now around 7:20. They start the toasting. The captain (a very nice fellow) makes a nice toast and attempts to get us all to do the wave with our glasses held high. I am hungry, tired and have a headache and I am not in the mood. I just want to get this over with and eat dinner and go to bed. But no! Not only is the captain making a toast so is someone from corporate and so is the hotel director who tells us a long story which at any other time I would probably been moved by. Right then, I just wanted to be moved along.

Finally at around 7:40 we get to the briefing. The cruise director does an excellent job and we find out all about what we will be doing the next day (yesterday). We then get in line and sign up for what we want to do and finally it is time for dinner. At 8:00 pm (approximately). The last time we ate anything at this point is on the plane around noon. At home I have dinner ready at 5:00 and I can be adaptable but this is just too much.

We have dinner in the dining room (all that is available tonight). It seems very strange to sit in a ship's dining room in shorts and sandals but that's what we do. Most of the people there are similarly dressed but some have gone and changed. Where they are getting the clothes from is beyond me with the limitations of weight imposed for the flight from Quito to Baltra.

We sit at a socially distanced table for four (there were six chairs–more about the COVID restrictions later on) with a very nice couple (John and Laura) from Southern California. The service and food are Celebrity good (really excellent) but there are again problems with some things. No paper menus. Just like your favorite takeout joints at home, you scan a QR code with your phone. Only problem with that is we had four people at the table and I was the only one with a phone that had set up their internet account (free WiFi which you had to have to access the menu) so we had to pass my phone around. And to be honest even though I have a pretty decent phone, I have a really hard time reading menus and schedules on that size screen, even with my reading glasses on. All this does mean that I can post the URL links to the menus and you can see them.

I ordered a shrimp ceviche with avocado that was superb. My main course was listed as seafood rice but it was really seafood risotto. Lots of shrimp but no octopus (even though it was in the description). I wish I had taken a photo of it because it was beautiful but I just plain forgot. Kathleen had a beet salad and an excellent Ecuadorian  chicken dish. We both had Ecuadorian wine (she had white, I had red) and both wines were excellent. Dessert was a "buffet" of red, white and blue things because it was Independence Day. They had cupcakes and donuts and pies and ice cream, all decorated in red, white and blue. When I say it was a buffet, I mean that you could look at it but then you told your server what you wanted and they brought it to your table. Another COVID thing.

It's almost time to go back to the stateroom and wake Kathleen and get started on what I hope will be a better day but I am not sure. So I will add a few pics at the top and see you tomorrow. Hopefully feeling better and with some amazing flora and fauna shots.

PS: Kathleen normally proofs these but she only got through half of this so I want to get this online so I am going to go with it as is. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. One should never proof and edit their own work. More photos tomorrow. I promise.

 

More tomorrow. Things get a lot better.

 

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Sorry, Jim, for your early disappointment. Hope things will improve.

 

I was very impressed with the top notch (down pat?) experience X provided 9 years ago.

 

One of the things I've considered when booking such an expensive cruise was the ship's size.

 

I went with the biggest -- Xpedition, and it was the right fit for me.

 

Another consideration was that should I find myself with much younger people than me, or very different "socially", it will not be in a vessel of 30-50 people.

 

Almost 100 -- opens more possibilities to take another Zodiak "next time" 😉

 

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Hopefully thing will get better tomorrow.  I understand what you are saying about the rocking and rolling of the ship at night.   I agree the rocking and rolling of these small ships at anchor in calm waters is worse than anything I've ever experienced on a larger ship in motion.  No one ever warned us about this motion at night.

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3 hours ago, DrKoob said:

...

More tomorrow. Things get a lot better.

 

Thanks for all the details regarding your first day, and for your sanity I really hope it gets a lot better. I remember on our Nov 2015 Xpedition cruise around the Outer Loop I had Montezuma's Revenge (from some Quito restaurant) for the first few days and I definitely remember one night where it seemed like there were 20 foot waves and our cabin was at the front of the ship! Fun times!! But don't worry, it's the Galapagos and pretty soon you'll hopefully be overwhelmed on a regular basis as we were by some wonderful experiences you'll have with the incredible animals there! 😎 

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Thanks for the update.

So sorry you are having such a bad experience.

We did the Xpedition in 2018 (going again this fall) and I can assure you our personal experience was nothing short of exceptional all around. Plus we both slept very well.

 

I hope they work the bugs out.

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Thanks for the information - we appreciate it!   We are going on the Xpedition next year since our Galapagos cruise was canceled this year.

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Things get a lot better on Day 2

 

After our first day Kathleen told me it would all work out. And it has. First with my non-sleep incident and then yesterday Kathleen got herself a migraine headache after lunch and stayed in bed until this morning. But everything has worked out and today (Tuesday-Day 3) was marvelous. Day 2 for me (without the migraine) was also amazing. Especially the afternoon walk. More about that later.

Question and Answer Time

But first I have had some questions. Here's the answers:
1) There are 57 passengers on the ship (max is 100) so we have it pretty nice.
2) Things have calmed down as far as this being the first cruise back. Everything is now back to normal (from what we have been told by the crew).
3) The food (especially lunch and dinner have been superb. Lots of fresh fish and great Ecuadorian dishes for me to try. Their food is amazing with things really being fresh. It kill me to overhear those at the other tables ordering "steak or chicken and not that weird food." I am always all in on the local food. And unlike most cruises, this one gives you the ability to eat like a native. And their food is so much healthier.
4) We have two choices of places to eat. There is an open deck grille on deck 7 and the regular dining room on deck 4. You can pretty much wear anything you want to either. I have been going to both in shorts, Martini Mates izod shirt and sandals. I might dress a little better tonight because we are eating with the captain. But since all I have with me are Tevas and hiking boots, I won't be too fancy.
5) The captain and about 95% of the crew are Ecuadorian. The hotel director is from Canada (near Toronto) and we have seen a few other badges with different countries but not many.
6) The naturalist guides are incredible. They seem to know everything. Most of them have been doing this for 10+ years or more. I hang on their every word. And I can't believe how much I have gotten into science on this trip...already. We have a world renown scientist/geologist/oceanographer (Ellen J. Prager) on this cruise and she is so interesting. Went to hear her talk about the geology of the islands today and it was really good.
7) We figured out why most of the ship was always late to everything. The ship operates on Quito time. Ships of over 40 people sailing the Galapagos are asked by the national park to do that. It regulates the number of people on each island. But the guides (who are supposed to be the ones who tell us about that) forgot. Kathleen and I had known that from our research, thus we were always on time. Others were running about an hour late. Quito is on CST and the Galapagos run at MST. Once they got that through everyone's thick head, things are going much more smoothly.

I think that covers the questions. I will be happy to answer any others. Just post them as comments.

Now let's talk Monday. Here was the schedule:

Screen-Shot-2021-07-05-at-2.59.40-AM-300

In the morning we chose to do the Gardner Bay Beach walk and swim or snorkel. The walk was awesome. That's where I got all those crazy sea lion pictures. They are a hoot. But as much as I loved the walk, I did not enjoy the snorkel. Previously I had mentioned that I had tried snorkeling a few months ago in a hotel pool but people, it's not the same. For one thing, even though I had tried the snorkel, I had not worn flippers. That messed me up like nobody's business. I have never worn flippers before and I found myself just tossed about and not able to do much of anything. I could see the bottom directly below me. I could even feel it with my knee but darned if I could stand up. Also, I did give it a try for about five minutes but saw nothing but the bottom. When I asked someone coming out of the water who had been snorkeling for a while, they pointed to a rock formation about 2/3 of a mile out and said, "You have to go over there to see the best fish." For someone who does not swim on a regular basis and is not incredibly comfortable in the water, that was it for me.

Especially since most of the rest of the snorkeling is off a Zodiac in deep water with strong currents and they are really telling us you have to be a good swimmer (I am not) and an experienced snorkeler (I am not that either). So for this week I will stick to  the beach and putting my feet in.

Speaking of putting my feet in you may notice on the schedule that it says "wet landing" or "dry landing." When we do the wet landing, the Zodiacs have this really cool front end that bends down so that you can just walk off into about a foot of water. When we do a dry landing, they are able to put us on rocks or a pier.

In the afternoon, I had a dry landing on another part of Espanola (Pt. Suarez). Kathleen had developed her migraine and was sleeping in our darkened stateroom...which gets very dark. Even though window/sliding door is the full width of the stateroom, it has great blackout curtains that open and close with a switch. How cool is that—motorized.

That afternoon hike was mind blowing. We walked through groups of sea lions, then on a very, VERY rocky trail through albatross nesting areas seeing the albatross, blue footed boobys, Nasca Boobys. (formerly known as masked boobys), Galapagos Hawks, Espanola snake, marine iguana, frigate birds and a few other specimen I can't remember. Just suffice it to say that you couldn't look one way or another without seeing something. And getting close to it. I specifically took some photos that show humans as well so you can see how close we could get to the animals.

I have so much to tell you but I wanted to get this posted so you would know that all is well here in Galapagos-land. So here's some pics.29095247_EspanolaAft050.thumb.jpg.6ad97365cc5a381be66fb7ceca43376c.jpg235908664_EspanolaAft061.thumb.jpg.885b5e9f397c7d66926134388b83d6e7.jpg1657842236_EspanolaAft062.thumb.jpg.6cbdd3369bb05715dd1da9e30610aba8.jpg1779242204_EspanolaAft074.thumb.jpg.fb93115397a11244745b8aead71eb8ec.jpg1746112125_EspanolaAft046.thumb.jpg.5de422a759ff15dd24104f8fb592eff2.jpg1180757821_EspanolaAft065.thumb.jpg.aa458dfa8609fdad4db65120b2279608.jpg1921591021_EspanolaAft066.thumb.jpg.8d6ace03d62c5bb23a074c5002f01e91.jpg

 

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On 7/6/2021 at 12:47 PM, dani negreanu said:

Almost 100 -- opens more possibilities to take another Zodiak "next time" 😉

 

Hi Dani,

They plan well and there is NEVER a time when you can't go when and where you want. It's too well planned. Can't say enough good things about the Flora and her crew.

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5 hours ago, sippican said:

Thanks for the update.

So sorry you are having such a bad experience.

We did the Xpedition in 2018 (going again this fall) and I can assure you our personal experience was nothing short of exceptional all around. Plus we both slept very well.

 

I hope they work the bugs out.

Just some post pandemic bugs to work out which they did.

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Thanks for sharing...I was considering a Galapagos cruise but the rocking and rolling would be a no-go for my wife, who gets motion sickness pretty easily.

 

I on the other hand love the rocking and rolling.

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