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


DrKoob
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1 hour ago, Sdory28 said:

I’ve got my Teva’s ready for the wet landings. I will bother you with a quick question though. Your husband has mentioned his hiking boots- Are they sneaker height or high-top height? We have both and would prefer to only bring one pair 😉

Definitely the high tops. The lava and the day we saw the albatrosses would have been horrid without the ankle support.

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11 hours ago, jsiegel said:

Thank you so much for your Live From notes.  I'll be sailing on the Flora this coming February on a back-to-back to get both inner and outer loop.  Looking at the  menu you posted, I do hope that they repeat the menus each week as there were multiple choices that I'd love to try.  Ceviche, yeah!  Plus the other local specialties.

 

What cabin are you in?  Our cabin is towards the front of the ship so I am concerned about motion.

 

Enjoy what remains of your cruise. 

 

Jackie

Jackie, 

We are in 522. If I were you and it is available I would move back behind midships. One other benefit of being in 522 is that to go down to deck 4 (where everything happens) there is a back staircase that drops you right to the back of the Discovery Lounge. It is awesome. If you stay on the starboard side you will see more sunsets. And I truly believe if you have a traditional balcony you will enjoy it more than the Infinite Balcony on Deck 6. People have told us they can't open their windows when we are stopped because of the flies from the islands coming in. Plus the AC turns off when they are opened. We are VERY GLAD we picked a traditional balcony. 

 

The ceviches rock. More about food soon.

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1 hour ago, Sdory28 said:

Indeed! I’m still trying to decide if we should get skins to prepare for snorkeling. When we did the Great Barrier Reef we were only provided shorty suits (from what I’ve read Flora does the same) and all I can remember is how cold I was! 
 

I’ll probably buy them right before we leave and keep the tags on for return in case we are okay without. 

 

I have been in the water twice, once in a shorty with a rash on under it and I wasn't cold at all. Neither has anyone else complained. Our naturalist/scientist buddy Ellen Prager (she runs the science side for X–Google her--she is AMAZING) has been doing long swims and snorkels in her swimsuit as have others. 

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1 hour ago, BellKat said:

I heartily agree. We learned so much from a tagged thread in the Galapagos boards - especially about clothing & what you should bring & what you don’t need to bring.

Thanks for the information - I did look at those posts quite a bit before our Galapagos cruise was canceled in May 2020.  Now we aren't booked until later in 2022 and we are on the Northern loop now because that date worked the best for the couple we are traveling with.  I'm sure we would enjoy either one!

Reading this post makes me even more anxious for our cruise!

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On 7/4/2021 at 8:15 AM, DrKoob said:

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.

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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

Question: was all the COVID testing you had on the trip covered by Celebrity or your own extra expense?

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, DrKoob said:

 

I have been in the water twice, once in a shorty with a rash on under it and I wasn't cold at all. Neither has anyone else complained. Our naturalist/scientist buddy Ellen Prager (she runs the science side for X–Google her--she is AMAZING) has been doing long swims and snorkels in her swimsuit as have others. 

I did google Ellen and now I want her to be my buddy too! Do you know how long she’ll be aboard, our cruise is 7/25

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47 minutes ago, Sdory28 said:

I did google Ellen and now I want her to be my buddy too! Do you know how long she’ll be aboard, our cruise is 7/25

Unfortunately Ellen is leaving tomorrow with us.

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9 hours ago, LordTickTock said:

Question: was all the COVID testing you had on the trip covered by Celebrity or your own extra expense?

It was covered by Celebrity. We took one test before we boarded & I believe we will take another test tomorrow. 

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Food, Food and More Food

Don't worry. I still have more fauna and flora photos for you but right now I need to address the biggest question people have asked me  "How is the food on board." So here goes. I promise to get to the other questions later. Many may have to wait until I get back to Quito, Florida or home.

Before we left we had read comments on the Cruise Critic boards about Flora that the food "wasn't up to the standards of the rest of Celebrity's ships." And since we have been on board we have had discussions about the food with numerous people. Some expressed the same view.

 

So if you know me personally, you know I love to eat, I love to cook, I just plain love food. But I am an adventurous eater. My favorite food in the world is octopus. I will try just about anything once. I have eaten grasshoppers at Mariner games. Don't get me wrong...I am not Tony Bourdain. He truly would have eaten anything. I do have some limits but mostly I like new things. And when I am a foreign country, I like to eat cuisine from that country or other nearby countries and cultures.

 

This is our 21st Celebrity cruise and I can honestly say that overall, this is the best food I have had on any of them. Have I had better meals on Celebrity? Yes. In the old United States Dining Room on Infinity, in Quisine or at The Porch or Lawn Club Grille on Reflection I have had some great meals. But day in and day out I have enjoyed the food here on Flora more than any other. Let me explain.

 

Breakfast, which is a buffet but in the dining room has been good. First I need to say that since the second day of the cruise, we have been greeted by every single person in the dining room (and pretty much every part of the ship), by name. I feel like I truly am a Celebrity. I guess that's one of the good things about a small ship but these people try hard and are great at their jobs even on a smaller ship.

 

Back to the buffet. I should add here that post-COVID you walk around the buffet with a server and he/she puts food on your plate. (all crew are wearing masks). But what I love about that is if I want an omelet that is made to order, I get my other items, leave my plate with the server who helped me and a few minutes later, it appears at my table.

 

Plus, let me tell you some other amazing things that have happened while I was picking out my food. Geovanny and his wonderful bride Natalia have poured our water, grabbed us a cappuccino from the adjacent Discovery Lounge, put two croissants on my bread plate, brought me my marmalade and are waving to me as I walk back from the buffet area. And then they are back in no time to make sure everything is OK. It's like a miracle and easily the best service I have had anywhere in the fleet or maybe in the world. And yes, it is a small ship but the dining staff (pictured below) is also small and you would never know it. I can't say enough good things about them.

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Not only is this the kitchen staff but the awesome guy on the right hand side is the head chef. And can he cook.

Back to the food. Lunch has been a buffet every day in the dining room. I should add that you can also go up to the Grille on deck seven for a burger, fries, quesadillas or guacamole and chips and a few other specials but we only did that one day. It was fine but not what I was looking for. We did LOVE the fries up there. The burger needed sauce of some kind. We didn't go back. Not because we didn't like it but because we can get that food at home. We wanted something different.

 

So each day in the dining room the lunch was a buffet (served the same as breakfast) each day with a different theme. We had Aztec (authentic Mexican), Spanish, Amazon (combining cuisines from countries on the Amazon River) and of course Ecuadorian. All had a huge selection of interesting food. There was also sandwich makings, a bunch of salads that fit the theme (I got an octopus salad on the Spanish buffet) and a carving station but I can't tell you about it because the other dishes were so good I skipped it. I can get ham, turkey or prime rib in the USA or on any other cruise ship.

 

Dinner for us was always in the dining room. We usually ate with friends we had made on shore hikes, tender cruises or walks as well as people we had talked to at the hotel in Quito. This is a very friendly ship. You can get a table for two but there is never a shortage of parties to join in on. On two nights we were "supplied" with people to eat with. One night we were invited to join Captain Patricio and Chief Engineer Paul at dinner. We have eaten at the Captain's Table on previous cruises but this was different. Usually it is you, the captain and about 12 other people. This time it was the aforementioned two and just us. That's it. Keeping the conversation going was fun but the two of them were a joy to have dinner and great conversation with.

 

The next night was "Dinner with A Naturalist" and you get to join your favorite of the naturalists who lead our tours each day and have dinner with them. We we joined by one of our favorites (they all are really), Juan Carlos. A few minutes after Juan Carlos sat down, a gentlemen asked if he could join the three of us...Fausto. Fausto is the head of all operations for Celebrity in the Galapagos and that was a SUPERB dinner. We learned so much about both of them but also about all the things Celebrity is doing in the islands.

 

So the dinners were pretty much three courses; appetizer, entrée and dessert. For long-time Celebrity cruisers Flora even has the "left hand side of the menu" with all the standard fare (shrimp cocktail, steak, salmon, chicken, onion soup, etc.) but we never ordered from that side. We did overhear (at an adjacent table) people saying, "I am sure glad they have this side of the menu and we don't have to eat the weird food." Boy did they miss out. I love the "weird food." So we have decided that what people were complaining about on Cruise Critic were the non-adventurous eaters.

 

Today as I was writing this I also realized I have done something on this cruise I have never done before...eaten fish every day. Sometimes twice a day. There are so many amazing ceviches, fish entrées, fish salads that I could not pass them up. And all (except the salmon on the right hand side of the menu) were done in an Ecuadorian style. That was it for me.

 

This style is also a lot lighter and healthier than our usual cruise fare. We leave the table feeling full but not stuffed. The food is healthier and more fish and vegetable based. This is how I try and cook at home and the tastes were fabulous. Ecuadorian sauces rock.

 

And the desserts (especially with Ecuadorian chocolate) are not to be missed. WOW!

One other very special thing happened last night (Day 6). On the afternoon before Kathleen and I were outside the dining room looking at the menu for that night. I was kind of sad because nothing looked totally Ecuadorian and/or interesting (I ended up having an amazing scorpion fish) when the Maitre d' walked up and heard me complaining that there was no Ecuadorian options. He said if I really wanted to try some Ecuadorian food, he could make it happen. We thought nothing of it and I enjoyed dinner that night. The next night we were with our friends Jamie and Katherine and the waiter said he had a special surprise for me.

The chef had put an Ecuadorian appetizer on the menu for that night. But when we ordered I told our waiter how much I loved octopus (as did our dining companions) so all of a sudden we had a big octopus salad full of avocado and the amazing tomatoes we have been having all week. It was awesome.

 

But then when we ordered our entrées, he brought them (octopus and spaghetti with a beer-achiote sauce)...but then also brought...Sango! This is a dish we were told that is cooked in every Ecuadorian home. It is a fish stew with a base of plantains and rice. I cannot begin to tell you how awesome it was. It had shrimp, scallops, squid, cod and octopus (I have had octopus six times on this ship so I am VERY happy). Kathleen was not thrilled because it has shellfish so she couldn't eat it but Jamie (our dining companion from Devon, UK—who loves beer, F-1 and futbol) and I loved it and between us we devoured two big serving plates. We were so much in a hurry to eat it I forgot to take a pic. But I did get the octopus salad.

 

Do I have any criticisms of the food? Just one. In the morning some of the items on the buffet that are meant to be hot, aren't. At least by the time they got to the table. That's why I have an omelet every morning because I can be sure it will get there hot. The potatoes, mushrooms, etc. that should be hot are often not. Other than that it was my kind of food. Lighter, healthier but delicious.

 

And I almost forgot one of our favorite food things on board. When you come back (twice a day) from your off ship hike, walk, Zodiac ride, when you get off the Zodiac and take off your life jacket, check in, get your cold towel to cool off and go up some stairs there are nibbles. Lots of nibbles. Usually little sandwiches but sometimes desserts too. One day there was even a bread snack with three kinds of bread (an incredible vegetable-topped focaccia) with almost perfect Spanish olive oil and Italian balsamic. I ate all of mine and Kathleen's too. I included some pics of what you get when you walk back on. So much more than the lemonade or hot chocolate on most Celebrity ships.

 

Below are some pics from our meals. Check out the paella. Those prawns were bigger than my forearm! And delicious. Yum! 

 

Sorry, all the photos would not upload. You will have to check my blog to see them. Just Google Jim Bellomo and it should come up.

 

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On 7/8/2021 at 5:48 PM, kathynorth said:

Don't forget to do a bit of stargazing during the trip, especially keep a look out for the southern cross.

We went up to deck 8 to look at them about three nights ago. Half the sky was cloudy ☹️. But we went up last night and saw it (Southern Cross) and everything else. It's amazing. 

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Day Four–Afternoon on Isabella

In our previous episode...before the food, we were on Isabella Island in the morning and afternoon found us there as well but Flora had moved north to Urbina Bay. Our choices were a short walk or...a short walk, with snorkeling. If you have been reading all of this, then you know that we are NOT snorkeling so for us it was just a short walk. That was OK because by today, we were exhausted.

Here's the Day four schedule:

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As you will see from the pictures, we joined naturalist Juan Carlos and found our first land iguanas as well as some finches. Finches are a huge part of the Galapagos as they helped Darwin formulate his theory of evolution. While there are finches on every island, they have all adapted into almost another species. Some of have grown longer beaks to be able to grab for seeds that are deeper into brush, while others nest on the ground as there are no predators to bother them.

 

So when I post the gallery, you will see that most of my pics are of finches and land iguanas. The land iguanas are much more colorful than their marine iguanas who are mostly black to hide themselves on the rocks onshore. The land iguanas also blend in very well to their hot and dry environment being predominately tan, orange and red. In the case of both iguanas, if you are here, you have to be very careful where you walk when you are in their environment because it would be easy to step on one. It always amazes me when we are walking and I see one sitting less than a food away from my foot.

 

So, here's the pics with some captions. Back soon with answers to the rest of the questions I have and with Day 5. I am writing this on our last morning on board and it's 9:04 am and we don't get off the ship until 11:40 so I have two solid hours to write and do photos. Remember to see captions for the photos, you will need to drop by my blog. I can't post the URL but you can find it by Googling Jim Bellomo. 

 

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Thank you for all your helpful info.  We are sailing the outer loop on Aug. 15 so you have answered so many of our questions.  One more that I have, what has the weather been like?  Your pictures have been amazing, are you using a SLR camera or are you able to get close enough to possibly use the camera on your phone?

 

I look forward to reading your blog every day!

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Your description of the food they serve sure made my wife very happy as she loves seafood.

One of the reasons we keep going back to Azamara is the crew and how special they make you feel. Sounds like your experience on the Flora is very similar. Makes the cruise special and as you said even wanting to go back at some point. Thanks for all the hints as to what to expect. Makes planning much easier.

John and LiLi

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Ohh your posts are bringing up wonderful memories of my own cruise on the expedition....and yes the food was wonderful and Juan Carlos was on my trip as well.  Thank you for letting me relive a wonderful cruise.  

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You got questions...I got answers

I keep promising to answer some questions so here we go (we Kathleen and I) may have answered the on here already but people reading my blog had not seen them and there are some new ones from the blog:

  • In shortening the pre-cruise portion - were you given any type of compensation at all?This question comes from the fact that originally Celebrity had us booked on an 11-night trip that included not just our seven nights on Flora but two nights pre-cruise and one night pos- cruise in Quito (with some meals and a full-day tour) but with COVID they decided to cut back to a nine night with no tour of Quito either before our after the cruise. The answer is yes, we were refunded a little less than $400. This doesn't sound like a lot when you realize that the difference between the 11 night package and the 7 night cruise. But if you are doing just the 7 night cruise, you have to find your own way to Baltra. So part of the trip that we were not refunded for was the single night pre and post in Quito as well as our charter flight to and from Baltra. All we lost was two nights, one before and one after and two breakfasts.
  • Were the fully vaccinated pax due to cruise line mandate, or did it just work out that way ie: no 5% unvax allowed onboard? Why were crew still in masks if vax'd? Was there a decrease in crew or full compliment?Vaccination was mandated for anyone eligible to be vaccinated. And since the youngest people on board are two 8th graders (who are a hoot) who are already vaccinated, we are at 100%. I suppose if people wanted to bring kids under 12 there would be some not vaccinated. The crew wore masks all the time because if there is one case on board, they might be banned from landing on any of the islands so they are just taking one more step in staying safe. I applaud them for that. And I asked and the crew is at full complement. The service has been amazing and we loved having only 66 people on board. We were told the next cruise would have just about that same number.
  • Are there any staterooms that hold more than two people?
    Nope! Not a one. Even the suites are limited (by the National Park and not Celebrity) to two people. That means if you want to bring the kids, they have to have their own stateroom. It is to make sure that there are NEVER more than 100 guests on board as there are 50 staterooms. And to get to 50, they had to give up some staterooms on their Expedition ship.
  • 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.
    We have not had any problems that affected us adversely. It was just a pain some time. Others who are not used to sailing have had problems but we have felt a LOT WORSE motion on bigger ships than we did here in the Galápagos on Flora. The motion, for us, was not that big a problem...until a huge thump happened in the middle of one night. Freaked us out and I searched the entire stateroom to find the source of the crash. Couldn't find it in the middle of the night. The next morning we realized that it was an unopened bottle of champagne that had been sitting on our small table in front of the couch. It has fallen over along with the full ice bucket it has been sitting in. It completely disappeared into the drapes of the window so I didn't find it until morning. Carpet was wet but the bottle did not break. One other problem we had was the shower door kept slamming open and shut but we fixed that by shoving Kathleen's sandals under the door. Celebrity might consider having a door stop for the shower (best shower we have ever had on a ship).
  •  If you have time can you find out if a scuba diving option is offered aboard Flora?
    Sorry, no scuba, just snorkeling.
  • I am an experienced snorkeler and on our trip I had trouble getting into the water then managing my flippers due to the strong current. On the next beach snorkel I wore my Keens in the water instead of the flippers and swam (slowly I might add) over to the rocks.
    On the more difficult snorkel trips (off the Zodiacs) they will not allow you to go unless you are wearing flippers.
  • Looking at the  menu you posted, I do hope that they repeat the menus each week as there were multiple choices that I'd love to try.  Ceviche, yeah!  Plus the other local specialties.
    I checked and YES, they do repeat the menus with slight variations. And they completely redesign them on a periodic basis. Not sure if that is quarterly, or yearly. I will try and post all the menus eventually.
  • What cabin are you in?  Our cabin is towards the front of the ship so I am concerned about motion.
    We are in 522, a traditional verandah in the aft area of the ship. We would book it again in a minute and if you have a forward cabin, I would see if you can move back. People we met who were in the front of the ship did feel more motion but not by a lot. One of the things we loved about our stateroom was that there is a kind of "secret" stairs at the back of the ship that led up and down and hardly anyone had discovered it. We used it all the time.
  • You have mentioned that you are on the "Outer Loop Cruise." What does that mean and is there an "Inner Loop Cruise?"
    Yes, we are on the Outer Loop. This is where we have gone:
    Screen-Shot-2021-07-11-at-7.57.55-AM-300
    And here is what Celebrity calls the "Inner Loop."
    Screen-Shot-2021-07-11-at-7.58.07-AM-300
    As you can see, some stops are the same (not many). We have been told the Outer Loop is more about animals and birds and the Inner Loop has the most beautiful scenery. We have loved this vacation so much that we are actively making plans to come back and do the inner loop.
    Our scientist friend Ellen who plans and organizes the off ship tours tells that the park requires them to have the two different trips to limit the number of people on each island. We totally get that. It is not just a ploy by Celebrity to get us to come back. 😀 BTW: I would not JUST do the inner. My favorite two days (BY FAR) were on Española and Floreana, neither of which are on the Inner Loop. So if you do one, do the Outer.
  • About footwear, any notes?
    Yes. I have two pairs of footwear with me. With size 13 feet, that's all I can fit in my luggage. I wore my hiking boots (up to my ankle and helpful on the rocks and lava) on the plane and had Teva sandals in my bag. I have worn the Tevas on all the wet landings. Bare feet are NOT allowed in the Zodiacs. I have also worn them on short walks. Has not been a problem. The hiking boots have been a godsend on the long walks. Especially the ones over rocks (Española walk on Day 2) and all the days we were walking on lava. All of these long walks were on dry landing days so they never got really wet. And always know that whenever you return to Flora they have a station where you have to wash off (with brushes) your footwear to make sure no biological material is transferred from one island to another. This is another park rule and a damn good one. Lastly, I wore shorts and sandals in the dining room most nights as did just about everyone.
  • Was all the COVID testing you had on the trip covered by Celebrity or your own extra expense?
    We were tested pre-cruise with a PCR test at Celebrity's expense. We were originally told that we would also be tested as we got off but as of this morning (I am waiting to leave the ship) they have not said that we will be tested as long as we are vaccinated. We know that vaccination allows us to enter the USA without a test so maybe we won't have to. They are being extremely cautious and we don't blame them. I will let you know in a future post if we do have a post cruise test. BTW: All guests tested negative pre-cruise so we felt very safe. But yesterday we were off the ship at the Darwin Station (with non-Flora people) and we were asked to wear masks all day. Some people were not happy with that. They need to grow up (sorry for the editorializing but this really ticked me off as they have asked so little of us, COVID-wise).
  • I did google Ellen (the Celebrity Science adviser) and now I want her to be my buddy too! Do you know how long she’ll be aboard, our cruise is 7/25.
    Sorry no, Ellen has been here for two weeks and she is on our flight to Miami tomorrow morning. Her presence has added much to our trip. I have learned so much from her. I call her the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of the Galapagos but she is so much more and a great speaker. She was here a week before we got here touring all the islands with the naturalists to check trails and conditions. Then she stayed on for our cruise. I learned early on that she is a early bird like I am and was almost always out on the first Zodiac. I made a point to be in the Discovery Lounge early to be in Group 1 to leave the ship because as I told my fellow Group 1 friends (who also got there early most days)...the Early Bird gets the Ellen. And it was always worth it. She rocks. I think Celebrity should advertise (do you here me Sussana?) when she is onboard and have a "Cruise with Ellen!" She is that good.

I think that's every question I have received either here in the comments or on Cruise Critic where I am posting this as well. If you have more, I can address them as soon as I get caught up with the rest of our trip.

As I mentioned earlier in this post we are waiting to get off Flora right now. My plan to finish up my Flora blog is to post Day 5 later today or tomorrow and then do a post on the ship and our stateroom followed by Day 6 and then some general stuff and Day 7 (Giant Tortoises) finishing up with some general comments so I can answer more questions then. See you soon...here online.

And welcome to all my new blog followers. You rock! So glad to have you here.

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1 hour ago, jogruffy said:

Your description of the food they serve sure made my wife very happy as she loves seafood.

One of the reasons we keep going back to Azamara is the crew and how special they make you feel. Sounds like your experience on the Flora is very similar. Makes the cruise special and as you said even wanting to go back at some point. Thanks for all the hints as to what to expect. Makes planning much easier.

John and LiLi

John, 

We have sailed on Azamara (with Captain Smith–the greatest captain ever) and loved the personal relationship with the staff but this is even better because it is six times smaller. If you do a Flora cruise you will love it.

 

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1 hour ago, CruznTheWorld said:

Thank you for all your helpful info.  We are sailing the outer loop on Aug. 15 so you have answered so many of our questions.  One more that I have, what has the weather been like?  Your pictures have been amazing, are you using a SLR camera or are you able to get close enough to possibly use the camera on your phone?

 

I look forward to reading your blog every day!

 

Thanks so much for your compliment. You can use your phone, many have but my best shots have come with my Nikon D810. It's a five pound camera with lens and I shoot only in RAW so I have to process every photo. If you aren't a photo nut like me, your phone or a small point and shoot would work. But sadly no one with a phone will ever get some of the shots I got (like the flying flamingo) that is one of my favorite shots of ever.


WOW, I forgot about the weather. It has been awesome. Sunny, cloudy, breezy. Enough to keep you cool when the clouds come and blow a breeze your way. Temps are never over 80 and the humidity is no where near as bad as many places we have been (Aruba, Panama, SE Asia). We had rain yesterday in the rain forests when we went to see the giant tortoises but it was pretty much just a drizzle. They supply you with ponchos (of course I forgot to take mine) but otherwise we have not been too hot anyplace. Ellen has told us that the "wet season" (December to May) can be hotter and more humid. We think (and she has told us we are right) that July or August might be the best time to visit.

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1 hour ago, DrKoob said:

You got questions...I got answers

  • I did google Ellen (the Celebrity Science adviser) and now I want her to be my buddy too! Do you know how long she’ll be aboard, our cruise is 7/25.
    [Snip] Then she stayed on for our cruise. I learned early on that she is a early bird like I am and was almost always out on the first Zodiac. I made a point to be in the Discovery Lounge early to be in Group 1 to leave the ship because as I told my fellow Group 1 friends (who also got there early most days)...the Early Bird gets the Ellen. And it was always worth it. She rocks. I think Celebrity should advertise (do you here me Sussana?) when she is onboard and have a "Cruise with Ellen!" She is that good.

 

 

Darn, maybe Ellen will come back when I'm onboard in February.


I'm glad to hear you are an early riser.  Your first post about trying to find an open and quiet place when  you couldn't sleep had me concerned.  If that happens to me, at least I have my Kindle that doesn't bother my husband if he's still sleeping.  However, I like an early morning cup of coffee.  What's the earliest one can get some coffee?  I'm usually drinking my morning cup at 5 a.m. at home.     And with all the morning activities, I'll need the time for it to work through my system or do without.

 

I agree with you on the "weird" food.  Why travel if you are not willing to experience new tastes?  The always available menu has no appeal to me.


Thanks again for all your updates and answers.  And the photos.

 

And as to your recommendation of getting a cabin further back, as of April this year our sailing next February is sold out.  I'll check with my agent as it gets closer to see if we can move.  We are on deck 5 with the standard balconies, so that's good.

 

I hope your flights home are better than your flights getting to Quito.

 

Jackie

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, jsiegel said:

 

Darn, maybe Ellen will come back when I'm onboard in February.


I'm glad to hear you are an early riser.  Your first post about trying to find an open and quiet place when  you couldn't sleep had me concerned.  If that happens to me, at least I have my Kindle that doesn't bother my husband if he's still sleeping.  However, I like an early morning cup of coffee.  What's the earliest one can get some coffee?  I'm usually drinking my morning cup at 5 a.m. at home.     And with all the morning activities, I'll need the time for it to work through my system or do without.

 

I agree with you on the "weird" food.  Why travel if you are not willing to experience new tastes?  The always available menu has no appeal to me.


Thanks again for all your updates and answers.  And the photos.

 

And as to your recommendation of getting a cabin further back, as of April this year our sailing next February is sold out.  I'll check with my agent as it gets closer to see if we can move.  We are on deck 5 with the standard balconies, so that's good.

 

I hope your flights home are better than your flights getting to Quito.

 

Jackie

Hi Jackie, 

We are in the airport in Baltra so I can't get an official answer for you on the coffee but the earliest I saw anything open for any food or even coffee was 7:00 am Maybe you could get an espresso before that but I am sure no one is there before 6:30. ...we asked a fellow cruiser and he said and I agree that even though I am an early riser, after you start getting off the ship, you are so tired you sleep as long as you can.

 

You should have your TA look now and keep looking every few weeks. Cancellations are rampant right now because travel is like dominoes. Example: We had a Med cruise scheduled for this fall but because this one got bounced a year we rescheduled it to 2022. If I knew your exact date, I could check it for you. 

 

Jim

Edited by DrKoob
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Posted (edited)
On 7/9/2021 at 3:25 PM, Kylie said:

 What is the difference between Northern and Southern loops?

 

The Xpedition does Northern and Southern route itineraries. The Flora does Inner and Outer.  They are alternated because the Galapagos National Park has very strict regulations about the number of times, frequency and number of people allowed at the stops.

IMHO - North Seymour Island has been a favorite stop for many!

Edited by sippican
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4 hours ago, DrKoob said:
  • Are there any staterooms that hold more than two people?
    Nope! Not a one. Even the suites are limited (by the National Park and not Celebrity) to two people. That means if you want to bring the kids, they have to have their own stateroom. It is to make sure that there are NEVER more than 100 guests on board as there are 50 staterooms. And to get to 50, they had to give up some staterooms on their Expedition ship.

 

I know it is possible to book 3 in a stateroom on Xpedition since we got a quotation a couple years ago.  A couple of things I learned:

  1. you cannot book it online yourself, you have to call Celebrity because they have to check to see if they have the capacity to do it.
  2. The cruise fare for the 3rd person is usually more expensive than the 1st/2nd passengers!  This is true for two reasons.  First, there is no reduction in fare for the 3rd person which at first seems strange but makes sense after you think about the all inclusive nature of the cruise and how there is a severe limitation on the total number of passengers.  Second, there is usually a discount/promotion available and when there is one, it is usually only good for 1st/2nd passengers.
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Posted (edited)
55 minutes ago, mahdnc said:

 

I know it is possible to book 3 in a stateroom on Xpedition since we got a quotation a couple years ago.  A couple of things I learned:

  1. you cannot book it online yourself, you have to call Celebrity because they have to check to see if they have the capacity to do it.
  2. The cruise fare for the 3rd person is usually more expensive than the 1st/2nd passengers!  This is true for two reasons.  First, there is no reduction in fare for the 3rd person which at first seems strange but makes sense after you think about the all inclusive nature of the cruise and how there is a severe limitation on the total number of passengers.  Second, there is usually a discount/promotion available and when there is one, it is usually only good for 1st/2nd passengers.

My understanding is that the National Park has capped the passenger capacity size of all vessels to 100. Since the Flora is a 100 passenger sized vessel (50 suites X2 passengers) there is no allowance for a third person. The Xpedition and the Xploration will have the ability add additional persons because of the smaller size. 

Edited by Sdory28
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11 minutes ago, Sdory28 said:

My understanding is that the National Park has capped the passenger capacity size of all vessels to 100. Since the Flora is a 100 passenger sized vessel (50 suites X2 passengers) there is no allowance for a third person. The Xpedition and the Xploration will have the ability add additional persons because of the smaller size. 

 

For what it's worth our quotation for 3 in a cabin was when Xpedition was permitted for 96 passengers.

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