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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:

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. 

 

We were told that when the put Flora in service they had to give up a number of spots on Expedition. For that reason, they now have the naturalists in guest staterooms. Celebrity's allotment is not per ship, but per company. I got that right from Captain Patricio and from Fausto who is Celebrity's rep in Quito.

 

 

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20 minutes ago, DrKoob said:

 

Celebrity's allotment is not per ship, but per company. I got that right from Captain Patricio and from Fausto who is Celebrity's rep in Quito.

 

 

 

But there is some limitation on how Celebrity's allotment is allocated by ship (beyond the well known cap of 100 passengers max) because Celebrity famously could not retire Xploration and transfer its allotment of 16 passengers over to Xpedition.

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21 hours ago, DrKoob said:

 

We were told that when the put Flora in service they had to give up a number of spots on Expedition. For that reason, they now have the naturalists in guest staterooms. Celebrity's allotment is not per ship, but per company. I got that right from Captain Patricio and from Fausto who is Celebrity's rep in Quito.

 

 

 

The Xpedition used to house passengers on deck three. That entire deck is now allocated to crew or ship-related spaces. Passengers are now housed on decks 4, 5 or 6.

 

Also, I believe mahdnc is correct. When Flora came into the fleet, Celebrity believed they could reallocate their passenger slots as they saw fit, planning to assign the licenses from both Xploration and Xperience to Xpedition. They were sanctioned by the government and denied the request to combine the numbers . That is why only 46 passengers on Xpedition per sailing. The reasoning was said to be based on the desire to limit the number of larger vessels.

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Day 5–Morning Fernandia, Afternoon Isabela

 

First, if you are following this blog note that I posted twice yesterday (Sunday). I hope to get this one out early Monday but it may be later. So you didn't get two e-mails by mistake, there is another post.

Morning on Fernandina

In our previous daily episode (interrupted by those pesky questions and answers) we had finished the afternoon of day four. Day five found us exploring Fernandia Island in the morning and going back to Isabela Island in the afternoon but we had moved to Punta Vicente Roca. Here's our Day Five schedule.

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As you can see, in the morning we had a choice of a long or a short walk. I took the long one and Kathleen took the short one. My long one was excellent as we got to see more of the usual animals and I finally got some good shots of the Sally Lightfoot crabs as well as lots more pictures I like of the marine iguanas, sea lions and a Galapagos hawk. Today's walk was all over some incredible lava with huge fissures as you can see from the pics.

Afternoon cruising around Isabella

Our afternoon choices were fairly limited. Since we SURE would not be doing the "Deep Water Snorkel" we had a choice of a tender ride or a tender ride. We chose the tender ride 😜. We took the earlier of the two because they wanted to use the later ones for the people coming back from the snorkeling.

 

This one was very cool. Even though we are seeing some of the same animals, we are seeing totally different habitat and varying landscapes. This one included sightings of lava gulls, female frigate birds, more blue-footed boobys, sea lions and penguins again! YEAH! We also got to see some amazing geology. Here's what we saw:

 

As I write this, we are sitting in the airport in Quito waiting for our flight to Miami. Had to be awake at 2:50 to make this flight at 6:30. The airport is packed. It took us an hour to get through all the checks and we are in Business Class so we were quicker through check in. Then we had go through security (computers out, belts and watches off but you can keep your shoes on which is good since I have my boots on and they are a pain to lace)

 

It seems as if all the flights in and out of Quito are either very early in the morning or very late at night. Part of our group that was going to Houston left around midnight and others around 2:30 am. We did not hear of anyone who had a midday day flight so everyone was either up really early or still up really late. Looking at the departures boards it looks like very little departs Quito after about 9:00 am until late tonight. That is only a good thing in one way...unlike Miami airport where everything was closed prior to our 6:30 am flight down here, here everything is open. I told Kathleen with the schedules the airlines have in Quito, this is the only time they can sell anything. And when I say everything is open, I mean EVERYTHING! You can buy a Panama hat (which comes from Ecuador) at 30% off right in front of me 😜.

 

Sorry guys and gals, for some reason it will not let me upload photos today so you will have to head over to my blog to see them. Just Google my name, Jim Bellomo and you will find it.

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17 hours ago, sippican said:

 

The Xpedition used to house passengers on deck three. That entire deck is now allocated to crew or ship-related spaces. Passengers are now housed on decks 4, 5 or 6.

 

Also, I believe mahdnc is correct. When Flora came into the fleet, Celebrity believed they could reallocate their passenger slots as they saw fit, planning to assign the licenses from both Xploration and Xperience to Xpedition. They were sanctioned by the government and denied the request to combine the numbers . That is why only 46 passengers on Xpedition per sailing. The reasoning was said to be based on the desire to limit the number of larger vessels.

That is exactly what Fausto told us. And since he runs all of Celebrity's operations in Ecuador, he should know.

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Day 6–South Plaza and Santa Cruz

Good day readers! As I write this I am sitting in our good friend Cathy's living room in Wellington, Florida. As I think I mentioned before I am planning on doing four more posts after this one. One to cover Day 7, another to answer questions, a third to talk about the ship and our stateroom (with video) and the last one to kind of sum things up...with a very few complaints, so stick with me please.

South Plaza Island

Just off Santa Cruz Island (the Galapagos most populated island) are two very small islands, North and South Plaza Islands. On a map they look like two halves of a circle with missing pieces at the top and bottom. Smaller boats (up to 30 people) anchor in between them during the night. Here's what our schedule looked like:

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This morning we again had the choice of a long or short walk. Kathleen took the short walk and I took the long one. This one was a real eye opener. Not for the fauna (because as you will see in the photos, there were plenty of the usual suspects) but because of the flora. All of the islands we had been on before this had been either green (foliage), black (lava) or brown (scrub brush) but South Plaza was lit up like New England in the fall. Not on trees but on the ground. And the cacti looked like a forest sometimes...after a fire when only a few good trees are still standing.

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It was drop dead gorgeous. Especially since the weather was also pretty good or a long walk. This was the windiest island we were on. And that meant the amazing seaman who drive the Zodiacs had a heck of time getting us on and off. We thought that was the toughest we had seen them have doing a dry landing...until that afternoon. So here's my pics of our morning hike. I truly loved this walk as it was like being in an entirely different type of island.

 

Dragon's Hill, Santa Cruz Island

In the afternoon we headed to the island of Santa Cruz for what we were told would be a "fast walk." Which meant as our cruise director Betina told us, "More walk, less talk." But it seems we found time for both. I want to add here if you take the longer walk, it is fast. We were moving. I walk 4-6 miles a day at home at just over 15 minutes per mile and I found this one to be strenuous. Mostly because of the trails.

This is called Dragon's Hill because of the plethora of land iguanas of very large size. So you will have to endure a few more to those. But to me the big revelation (for the second time that day) was the geology. Many of my fellow walkers felt it looked like Mars (with water) or the Moon (again with water 😀). Check out the photos to see what I mean.

 

One thing to know if you take this walk—it is HOT! Even with a breeze. So take lots of water. You will need it. And thus ends day six. I really liked this day. Just when I thought they couldn't show us anything different, they did. These were two awesome hikes I would not have wanted to miss. But day seven was even more different. I should have that for you tomorrow but later in the day as we don't fly from Fort Lauderdale today until 6:30 pm EDT and don't arrive in SEA until 10:00 pm PDT. So who knows how we late we will get up. Plus I want to walk, need to shop for groceries and then collapse 😀.

 

First bunch of photos are from the morning and second from the afternoon. At least Cruise Critic let me upload them this time. Captions are on my blog.889505470_SouthPlaza272.thumb.jpg.dceac2037551db04acb7b9e7b97d2096.jpg57164057_SouthPlaza273.thumb.jpg.9d7323a051ef575775095e235be276f6.jpg1771976213_SouthPlaza274.thumb.jpg.5305e3443916c4f74a39534c17068939.jpg848384666_SouthPlaza275.thumb.jpg.76b84a3388a060a08827a24acdab995d.jpg1106056936_SouthPlaza276.thumb.jpg.bc9ea1d86ca5d998f55c229df7b19451.jpg1556166658_SouthPlaza277.thumb.jpg.806fac2b584150042752070065a2d7b2.jpg830601246_SouthPlaza278.thumb.jpg.0411c32e40d60a5df6f088cf19e9cc9e.jpg1081371256_SouthPlaza279.thumb.jpg.92825d116f4106531f7b4e473e58f5e4.jpg902669062_SouthPlaza284.thumb.jpg.bbd9ace3444eeb1e55023695ee12279b.jpg1175803823_SouthPlaza285.thumb.jpg.9c0d9d6da9e598ac98b184a2e2d3cc8a.jpg1184255785_SouthPlaza286.thumb.jpg.bfb61645a3f30ae06d0d4405bcedeafd.jpg1550993568_SouthPlaza290.thumb.jpg.f2369a7e757d8140b9bae6433ffa3c5f.jpg615539798_SouthPlaza291.thumb.jpg.df2a07bd4729b16fb033668888921f0b.jpg

 

These are the afternoon shots from Dragon's Island

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Those photos are just breathtaking! 

 

We were recently informed by the Galapagos Desk that all travelers in our party would need coverage for both medical  and evacuation. were you asked to provide proof of either. (Sorry if I missed this in earlier posts.)

 

Any talk about when the extensions may open - both Quito and Machu Picchu?

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On 7/13/2021 at 1:30 PM, sippican said:

Those photos are just breathtaking! 

 

We were recently informed by the Galapagos Desk that all travelers in our party would need coverage for both medical  and evacuation. were you asked to provide proof of either. (Sorry if I missed this in earlier posts.)

 

Any talk about when the extensions may open - both Quito and Machu Picchu?

I went onto Celebrity earlier today and saw that they are selling the Machu Picchu packages beginning in October. I hope that helps

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On 7/13/2021 at 1:30 PM, sippican said:

Those photos are just breathtaking! 

 

We were recently informed by the Galapagos Desk that all travelers in our party would need coverage for both medical  and evacuation. were you asked to provide proof of either. (Sorry if I missed this in earlier posts.)

 

Any talk about when the extensions may open - both Quito and Machu Picchu?

We’re on Flora mid August and they are saying that our 10 day, with 2 days before and 1 day after the cruise is on.  Finger crossed that they don’t shorten our trip

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5 hours ago, CruznTheWorld said:

We’re on Flora mid August and they are saying that our 10 day, with 2 days before and 1 day after the cruise is on.  Finger crossed that they don’t shorten our trip

We are taking the 10 day package. Changed our air departure without ever notifying us..just happened to find out im my AA apt. Was supposed to have early afternoon in Quito. Now don’t arrive until after midnight. No mention if hotel has changed. 
Leaving Miami Aug 6, i HOPE 

 

Strange Celebrity can send me emails trying to get me to buy future cruises but can’t send me one about change to my booked one. 

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4 hours ago, Pilgrim70 said:

We are taking the 10 day package. Changed our air departure without ever notifying us..just happened to find out im my AA apt. Was supposed to have early afternoon in Quito. Now don’t arrive until after midnight. No mention if hotel has changed. 
Leaving Miami Aug 6, i HOPE 

 

Strange Celebrity can send me emails trying to get me to buy future cruises but can’t send me one about change to my booked one. 

Did Celebrity change your flights or did AA?  We are on the sailing after yours, my TA was told that our docs wouldn’t be available until a week or 2 prior.  I’m trying to schedule a private tour for the last day (our flight out is at midnight) but I’m concerned about committing in case Celebrity makes changes.  

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1 hour ago, CruznTheWorld said:

Did Celebrity change your flights or did AA?  We are on the sailing after yours, my TA was told that our docs wouldn’t be available until a week or 2 prior.  I’m trying to schedule a private tour for the last day (our flight out is at midnight) but I’m concerned about committing in case Celebrity makes changes.  

I don’t know which changed or flight. Just found out by checking my AA apt. Then had the change confirmed by TA. 

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Some of these airlines may be updating flight schedules, as they have been experiencing pilot/staff  shortages...

 

We booked our Delta flights via Flights by Celebrity.  A few weeks ago, Delta notified me of a significant flight change.  Checked my Celebrity account, which showed the old schedule.  I did not get a notification from Celebrity until 10-14 days later.  So I guess it took that long for Celebrity to update its passenger accounts and forward an appropriate email.   Just guessing...

 

We also are interested in booking a private tour on the last day, as our flight leaves at midnight.  But also concerned about last minute Celebrity changes, what the schedule will be for testing on the last day to return to US, and now, news of lambda variant spreading through So American countries, including Ecuador, Peru, etc.  

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17 hours ago, Sdory28 said:

I went onto Celebrity earlier today and saw that they are selling the Machu Picchu packages beginning in October. I hope that helps

 

We are sailing in October. Hopefully that is correct. Two in our party have the MP extension (and have paid for it) but when I spoke to the Galapagos Desk, they said they had no idea when they might resume.

 

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Day 7—Santa Cruz Island and the Giant Tortoises

 

Our last full day in the Galapagos found us on Santa Cruz Island. This was a very different day as there were no choices to be made about where to go today. Everyone on the ship was going to the same place...to drive across Santa Cruz Island. One thing that was different on this day were that we were all asked to wear masks for the first time off the ship in the week. This was because we would be meeting others who were outside our ship's safety bubble.

 

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After our Zodiac ride to the northernmost point on the island we hopped on busses to drive the entire length of the island to the Charles Darwin Research Center. But on the way an amazing thing happened. You see, so far every island we had visited had either been dry lava rock or dry scrub brush and rock. But Santa Cruz Island is split in half and as we drove south towards the Darwin Center and climbed in elevation, the dry, arid land turned to...rain forest. Seriously, all of a sudden we were driving through clouds. And it was raining. What a huge contrast to the entire previous week of weather.

 

After driving through some rain, farmland and finally a small town, we arrived at the Darwin Center.  The Center is all about keeping alive all the different species of giant tortoises from all the different islands. They have hundreds of turtles of all ages. The smallest are segregated by the island they came from. Then as they get older they are put into the same pens but with numbers on their shells that indicate the island of their origin.

In still another enclosure were some fully grown giant tortoises. They are truly amazing creatures. These were being kept apart because they can't be sure which island they came from and they do not want to cross-pollinate species. As you can see from my photos, these animals are amazing. Later in the day we would see them in wild.

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After our visit we headed back into the hills to visit the Manzanillo Ranch for lunch but before we got there we stopped to do some community service. Celebrity supports a reforestation project that removes invasive species and replaces them with the kind of plants that are native to the island. It was an interesting experience. Because we were planting them a ways off the road, our bus stopped (blocking half the road) and we got out and found a row of chairs and a pair of rubber boots that we swapped for our shoes. We then grabbed a trowel and two seedling trees and then we headed into the jungle. There we found pre-dug holes that we dropped the seedlings into and from there we just covered them, took pics of each other, changed our boots (while they stopped cars—it was almost funny to see this row of chairs standing on the road) and we were off to Manzanillo Ranch for lunch.

At the ranch they had a very nice covered area where a delicious buffet lunch was served. Again, just like the ship, no one was allowed to serve themselves and all the servers were masked. Lunch was tasty and was followed by an Ecuadorian folk dance performance by students from the island dressed in colorful, traditional colors . Celebrity has been supporting this group for a while including sending them to a folk dance competition to Italy.

 

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I need to mention something that was so typically Galápagos. While I was taking these photos of the dancers in a covered area at a ranch, all I had to do was turn around in the exact spot where I was standing to take this photo. A giant tortoise that seems to have come along to see the performance himself.

After lunch we were allowed to go onto the rest of the grounds on the ranch to see the tortoises close up. Some notes about that short walk. As we started to leave the enclosure, the rain picked up and that meant my camera went into my dry bag so I didn't get very many pics of the big guys in the wild. But I had so many from the Darwin Center, that was OK with me. Another thing that was very interesting was when a fellow traveler asked our naturalist who owned these tortoises, the ranch or the National Park that bordered it? His answer was, "No one owns them. They own themselves and can go anywhere they want on these islands. That is our  law." In fact we were told if you were a rancher or a farmer, you could be fined for using any fencing that would block the tortoises from migrating. Speaking of migrating, our friend Fausto who runs the Celebrity operations in the Galapagos told us he had been to the ranch less than two weeks before to finalize the lunch plans and when he was there he saw two or three tortoises. Two weeks later while we were there we saw hundreds. They were migrating to the higher elevations. There were so many on the road leaving the ranch, it made it hard for our bus driver to get off the property. Think of driving in a sheep ranching area and running into a bunch of sheep on the road and have to stop until they moved. Now imagine it at tortoise speed 😀.

 

After our tortoise experience it was back to the ship for our final dinner, packing to leave and sad farewells. But in the meantime, here's the balance of today's pics. I will be back tomorrow with some notes about Flora and to answer some questions.

 

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Again, sorry there are no captions. I can only type them once and they are on my blog. Google Jim Bellomo and it is the first thing that pops up.

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15 hours ago, CruznTheWorld said:

We’re on Flora mid August and they are saying that our 10 day, with 2 days before and 1 day after the cruise is on.  Finger crossed that they don’t shorten our trip

 

From what we heard they are holding to the 9 day schedule until September but that is not official.

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9 hours ago, Pilgrim70 said:

We are taking the 10 day package. Changed our air departure without ever notifying us..just happened to find out im my AA apt. Was supposed to have early afternoon in Quito. Now don’t arrive until after midnight. No mention if hotel has changed. 
Leaving Miami Aug 6, i HOPE 

 

Strange Celebrity can send me emails trying to get me to buy future cruises but can’t send me one about change to my booked one. 

 

If you read the start of this thread, you will see this happened to us with a week to go until we flew. American cancelled the flight and did not inform us even though they had our e-mail and phone/text number. You should go back and read what happened. I believe it is in a prior post. And American has cancelled that midday flight until further notice, maybe for good. We got in midday by using Copa Air. Celebrity is recommending you DO NOT go into Quito due to COVID and crime. I think there is a 90% chance you will still be at the EB and not the JW Marriott. The EB is an outstanding hotel. 

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55 minutes ago, sippican said:

 

We are sailing in October. Hopefully that is correct. Two in our party have the MP extension (and have paid for it) but when I spoke to the Galapagos Desk, they said they had no idea when they might resume.

 

 

Those onboard in the know felt it would be September. You will be refunded a small amount for the difference in days. 

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2 hours ago, savethepandas said:

Some of these airlines may be updating flight schedules, as they have been experiencing pilot/staff  shortages...

 

We booked our Delta flights via Flights by Celebrity.  A few weeks ago, Delta notified me of a significant flight change.  Checked my Celebrity account, which showed the old schedule.  I did not get a notification from Celebrity until 10-14 days later.  So I guess it took that long for Celebrity to update its passenger accounts and forward an appropriate email.   Just guessing...

 

We also are interested in booking a private tour on the last day, as our flight leaves at midnight.  But also concerned about last minute Celebrity changes, what the schedule will be for testing on the last day to return to US, and now, news of lambda variant spreading through So American countries, including Ecuador, Peru, etc.  

 

If it works as ours did, once you fly back from Balta you will be given an appointment in the later afternoon when you must go for a COVID test. You get the results in about an hour. You can't get a boarding pass from any airline leaving Quito without the test results. I would not make any plans for that day. We didn't reach the hotel until 4:30 and our test was at 6:45. We went to dinner (X paid) and then got the test results. By that time it was too late to get a boarding pass so we got them at the airport at 4:30 am the next morning.

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43 minutes ago, miltonplane88 said:

awesome pic's cant wait till 11-17 to go!!! Where did that hat with the covering to the neck come from?

Thanks

 

Our hats were gifts from our Celebrity Business Development Manager when we first booked the cruise in 2018. Don't think you can get them anymore. Love that hat. 

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On 7/13/2021 at 10:30 AM, sippican said:

Those photos are just breathtaking! 

 

We were recently informed by the Galapagos Desk that all travelers in our party would need coverage for both medical  and evacuation. were you asked to provide proof of either. (Sorry if I missed this in earlier posts.)

 

Any talk about when the extensions may open - both Quito and Machu Picchu?

 

See my previous answers about the extensions. And yes, we were also told you HAD TO HAVE medical and evacuation insurance and it was REQUIRED by the National Park of Ecuador. We have friends who had taken the cruise before and they had to show proof of insurance but we did not. I think that may have been because of all the COVID stuff just got in the way. 

 

If you go without either of those insurance policies, you are NUTS! Even though there are two doctors onboard Flora, there are no major medical facilities on the islands. Medical Evacuation insurance is a MUST. 

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