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silver03

Review from 6/11 Xpedition to Galapagos. LONG...

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Anyone who is considering taking this trip, DO IT. It was the best vacation we have ever had. Celebrity has a winner on its hands. Ok, here goes:

 

Ship: As most of you know, the “ship” is a lot smaller than most cruisers are used to. But with the 90 or so passengers, we never felt crowded. The rooms were more than adequate, with every room having an ocean view. The decks had plenty of room for anyone who wanted to lay in the sun (or shade). At night, they would turn the lights off at the very front of the ship for stargazing, which was amazing. The head naturalist, Jason, and the captain came out a couple of nights to point out constellations and any other things of interest. The sixth floor also had a hot tub, which was great after snorkeling in the cold water or a morning of hiking. The fifth floor has the Blue Finch Bar with the nicest bartender. The 4th floor had the discovery lunge which is where cocktail parties/briefings about the next day’s activities were held. I guess there wasn’t an abundance of activities to do ON the ship, but after all of the activities OFF the ship, everyone seemed to be too tired to notice. The hot tub (which was never full) or taking naps (either in your cabin or on the deck) seemed to be the activities of choice when we were at sea for those few hours between ports. There was also a small gym and sauna.

The 3rd floor housed the Darwin restaurant. This is where we had buffet breakfast (including a great omelette station,) buffet lunch (which featured a good pasta station) and a casual sit down dinner. You can also eat lunch on the 4th floor at the outdoor beagle grill, which served hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, salad, etc. Breakfast was consistently good, dinner was always great, but lunch was usually just ok. We never went hungry though. We did hear through the grapevine that the chef was having a hard time receiving his orders from the Ecuadorian suppliers. Some background… Celebrity had to jump through a lot of hoops to be able to cruise the Galapagos. They had to hire abut 90% locals and had to order their food through the local growers/farmers. We would see deliveries being made at sea (A little beat up boat would speed up to us and unload boxes.) Anyway, the chef would order certain ingredients and would rarely receive everything that he ordered, so he had to make do with what he had. I guess I’d say that the food wasn’t the best I’ve ever had on a cruise, but I didn’t go on this one for the food. I would rate the food a 4 out of 5 overall. Highlights: Fresh fish, fresh juices, and especially the homemade ice cream, YUM!

Staff: Although the majority of the crew was new to working on cruise ships, they were very eager to help and consistently went above and beyond to give us excellent service. This was definitely the best service I’ve received. I don’t know what else to say about that.

Excursions/Naturalists: The naturalists were the guides who lead us on all tours. They are trained and licensed by the Galapagos National Park and stay with you for the entire week. They were unbelievably knowledgeable and made this trip what it is. They truly enjoy what they do and it shows. Their enthusiasm was infectious! Everyday we had two excursions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We were able to choose between high, medium, and low intensity choices. “High” usually consisted of a hike, “medium” was a walk on smoother terrain, and “low” was a boat ride around the island. This varied based on the different islands. I can give more specifics if anyone is interested. We had the option of snorkeling at least once a day, regardless of which option we chose. They provide snorkeling equipment for us. We were told that they will also be providing wetsuits but they did not arrive in time for our cruise. Luckily my husband and I brought our own because the water is surprisingly cold, especially since we were on the equator. TIP: Confirm that they have wetsuits, otherwise bring your own, you won’t regret it! Also, there was an option to scuba dive once or twice. There was an extra $80 charge for this. I did not do this so I don’t have much info on it, but it was available. They definitely kept us very busy and I feel that we got everything we paid for and more.

We saw the most amazing animals all of these species co-existed with each other! I don’t want to ruin it for anyone but I will say that it was just an amazing experience. They really didn’t care that we walked right by them and sometimes had to step over/around them because they were in our path!

 

Fellow Cruisers: Being on a small ship of about 90 passengers was a wonderful experience. We really got to meet almost all of the different passengers. We all had the common interest of seeing the world which made a great starting point for great conversations. There was no assigned seating at meal times, so we sat with different people almost every time. Towards the end, we sat with people that we formed the closest bonds with, but it was great meeting everyone. There were literally people from all age groups. There were two 9 mo. old babies and retirees and everything in between.

 

Pre-cruise tour: We had a tour of Quito the day before the cruise and it was wonderful. They showed us Old and New Quito. We also visited the equatorial line and museum which was really interesting. We stayed at the JW Marriot in Quito, just a few minutes from the airport. It was a very nice hotel with a great pool. We did have one problem. A Celebrity rep. was supposed to pick us up from the airport when we arrived and take us to the hotel, but they did not. Granted, we did have to change airlines that day because our original flight got cancelled (that was a whole other ordeal, which has nothing to do with celebrity so I wont get into it.) I did call Celebrity to give them our new flight info, but we ended up taking a cab to the hotel. Celebrity was very apologetic and paid for our cab ride and then some. I’m letting it slide because everything else was great, and let’s face it…$hit happens.

 

Oh, someone asked if we go to the same island twice. We do. There are so many things to do there that they give you two opportunities to do it all. It proved to be an excellent idea. Otherwise it would have been so hard to decide what to do there.

 

Please let me know if I missed anything or if you have any questions. I could talk about this trip all day (as you can tell by the length of this post.)

 

Jane

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Hi and welcome back. I noticed on a map that of the route that the ship takes, you cross the equator at sea three times. Is there any type of ceremony when this takes place. Do the pollywogs become shellbacks with Neptune in attendance?

 

It is quite an experience crossing the equator while at sea, and I am wondering if Celebrity upholds this maritime tradition?

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Hi and welcome back. I noticed on a map that of the route that the ship takes, you cross the equator at sea three times. Is there any type of ceremony when this takes place. Do the pollywogs become shellbacks with Neptune in attendance?

 

It is quite an experience crossing the equator while at sea, and I am wondering if Celebrity upholds this maritime tradition?

 

No, we didn't do anything special for it, but I believe it was pretty late at night each time it happened and most people were sleeping. :)

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Wow ! Great review....

 

Were you able to take any pics of the ship ?

I would love to sail that ship one day !

 

thanks again...

 

 

Radio

;) ;)

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Radio! Wow...I haven't seen you on these boards in forever! Weren't we on a Princess cruise together? Out of SJU???

This is a cruise I would love to do. Need to start saving though. Can you give us a cost?;)

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I 've feel like I've been here forever....;)

 

 

Hmmm....maybe we met on Galaxy from Baltimore....or Grand Princess from FLL.

 

I don't know what happened to all my posts...I was getting so close to 1000...

 

Radio

;) ;)

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Hi Jane,

 

The Xpedition sounds great. I'd love to hear more about the excursions on each island. I've got a ton of questions about the Xpedition. Please email me if you prefer to take this offline.

 

Which island was your favorite? I've read Skyscrapers review from the week before you went that shows some of the excursions. Any problems with booking an excursion? Was one level of activity more popular than the others? Did the excursions have a max to how many people can sign up? If you do a medium or low intensity level excursion do you see less? How was the snorkeling? Was the equipment good? Should we bring our own equipment? I've read about luggage restrictions going to the Galapagos. Any problems with this? What did you pack? What was the typical attire on the boat? What kind of shoes did you use on the excursions, especially the wet landings? Did you like the itinerary? Did you look into other yachts in the Galapagos? If so, which ones? Why did you choose Celebrity over the others? What kind of film did you take? Any suggestions for picture taking there?

 

Thanks for posting your review!!

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We took over 1000 pictures (about 350 digital and the rest are on film, being developed.) Also, as we closed our accounts on the last day, we were given a cd with almost 600 pictures that the naturalists took throughout the week.

 

Cost...it varies quite a bit depending on which category you choose, from what i hear. We spent $7400 for 2 people, which included EVERYTHING. Airfare from Chicago to Quito; airfare from Quito to the islands; 3 nights at the Marriot; admission to the Galapagos national park ($100pp); all meals on AND off the ship (at the Marriot as well as two great restaurants in Quito); all drinks on board (no one was charged for premium drinks, although that may have been because it was the inagural cruise?); tips; all excursions (except scuba). The only things we had to pay for were souvenirs and the tax to get out of Ecuador (paid at the airport, $25pp). We were in the lowest category and I really felt that it was more than sufficient. The rooms, as well as the entire ship, are completely redone and spacious with a smart layout. One thing I forgot to mention is TRY TO GET A CABIN TOWARDS THE BACK OF THE SHIP. Since the ship is so small, you can hear the anchor going up and down, regardless of which floor you are on. It usually comes around the time we were waking up, but I still prefer a good old-fashioned alarm clock.

 

Keep the questions coming!

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kcsc:

 

***Which island was your favorite?***

It's hard to pick one island because they are al so different, but i will say that one of my favorite exoeriences was on Espanola Island, where we saw the albatross mating. It was an amazing sight. I also really enjoyed Port Ayora because it has a great town. Great souvenir shops and great cafes/bars to see how the locals really live.

***I've read Skyscrapers review from the week before you went that shows some of the excursions. Any problems with booking an excursion?***

Well, you dont really "book" and excursion. The night before, after the briefing, you go up to a podium that has a list with everyone's name, and you check of what you want to do the next day.

***Was one level of activity more popular than the others?***

Towards the beginning, I'd say most people signed up for high intensity, and it slowly changed to medium. In my opinion, this is partly because we were getting tired, and partly because the medium intensity excursions were more interesting in the latter part of the week.

***Did the excursions have a max to how many people can sign up?***

No, there was no max or min. With such a small ship, they were able to play it by ear and just split up the naturalists according to how many people wanted to do what. Groups are usually split into 10-15 people. There was one option (turtle bay) that only had 2 passengers and they still went.

***If you do a medium or low intensity level excursion do you see less?***

No, but you may see different things depending on the port. There was actually one time that we heard that the people that took the low intesity (zodiac ride) saw a lot more than we did on the high intensity that day. It just depends on being at the right place at the right time. Sometimes, one high intesity group may see more than another just because they got there earlier/later.

***How was the snorkeling? Was the equipment good? Should we bring our own equipment?***

Snorkeling was better in some places than others. As I said before, the water was cold on all the islands. Sometimes the water was murkier than I would have liked, but what can you do. One day that I definitely did not enjoy was Monday morning. The currents were a little to strong for me and there wasn't really much to see, IMO. The rest of the days were worth it. We brought our own equipment, but from what i could see, the onboard equipment was more than adequate. They give it to you the first day and you use the same equipment for the duration of the cruise.

***I've read about luggage restrictions going to the Galapagos. Any problems with this?***

Most people seemed to stay within the 30lb limit but no one seemed to check. The restriction seemed to be for the flight from Quito to Baltra. We did not stick to that limit (because we didn't know about it)and no one said anything to us.

***What did you pack? What was the typical attire on the boat? What kind of shoes did you use on the excursions, especially the wet landings?***

The ship was very casual. There were no formal or even semi-formal nights. The rule was, no swim suits in the dining room. In the evenings, men seemed to wear slacks/jeans and tshirt/polo shirt. No one really cared what anyone was wearing. Quite refreshing. I brought a pair of sneakers for dry landings and Tevas for wet landings. Some people brought hiking shoes, but i was fine as i was.

***Did you like the itinerary?***

I LOVED the itinerary, as did everyone I spoke with. They did an excellent job giving everyone an option for everyone and really showed us the best of the islands. We were never bored and really enjoyed every moment.

***Did you look into other yachts in the Galapagos? If so, which ones? Why did you choose Celebrity over the others?***

We saw a few other boats and were VERY glad that we chose Celebrity. I did some research before we booked and prices seemed to be similar across the board. All of the other boats looked very old and rundown. They seemed inferior to us and our fellow shipmates. I dont know firsthand, but it really looked like the people on the other boats were "roughing it." We also heard that some boats stayed on one island per day, with only one excursion. Maybe because they weren't fast enough to get to another island? Just a guess. I don't remember any specific names of boats.

***What kind of film did you take? Any suggestions for picture taking there?***

We took mostly 400 ISO, with a couple rolls of 200. We also took one of those disposable underwater cameras, which is 800. Since the weather was sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, 400 seems to be a good choice. Suggestions: Take way more film than you think you will need. We did and still ran out. We had to buy 5 more rolls in the gift shop.

 

I hope this answered your questions. Let me know if you have more!

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Thanks Jane! I'm getting so excited about going!!!

 

A couple more questions, on Wednesday of the cruise (I believe) there isn't anything scheduled on the intinerary until you arrive at Bartolome, Wednesday afternoon. The previous port, Cerro Dragon, looks to be very close and departs at 2AM. What did you do this morning? Was it just relaxation time? Any activities planned on the boat? Did you feel this was needed? Also, I don't know much about Cerro Dragon like I do with the other islands. What did you do and see here?

 

Thanks again for a great post and all your help!

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Thanks Jane! I'm getting so excited about going!!!

 

A couple more questions, on Wednesday of the cruise (I believe) there isn't anything scheduled on the intinerary until you arrive at Bartolome, Wednesday afternoon. The previous port, Cerro Dragon, looks to be very close and departs at 2AM. What did you do this morning? Was it just relaxation time? Any activities planned on the boat? Did you feel this was needed? Also, I don't know much about Cerro Dragon like I do with the other islands. What did you do and see here?

 

Thanks again for a great post and all your help!

 

We had an excursion planned for every morning and every afternoon, including Sunday afternoon, after departure.

 

Wednesday morning we were at a port called Bachas Beach. We had two options: 1. A flamingo search, which involved a short hike along the beach and over slightly rocky terrain looking for flamingos (my group saw 2.) Then we had some time at the beach to swim and sunbathe. Option 2 was just the beach. It was one of the more relaxed ports with fewer options than most.

 

Cerro Dragon had a few options for us as well. 1. A hike looking for land iguanas and flamingos with an option to snorkel off the beach. 2. "advanced snorkeling" about 3 miles away from the ship. I realized that THIS was the snorkeling that I didnt enjoy, contrary to what i said in the original review. The snorkeling on monday was great. The snorkeling on Tuesday afternoon at Cerro Dragon was not as enjoyable (murky, currents, not much to see.)

Option 3 was a zodiac ride along the coast of santa cruz and venice island.

 

Hope this helps.

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Thanks for the wonderful review :) !! I get more excited about this trip everyday. One more question - what about motion sickness on that size ship? We've heard that the currents can be a bit rough in the Galapagos and folks do get sick. I'll be bringing a motion sickness drugs but what was your opinion and what seemed to work for people if indeed it was an issue? We will be in cabin 506 which is middle I think - so that should help with motion.

 

Cheers!

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Thank You, I've read your full review and seen your pics and it looks just wonderful. Thanks for all the details.

Marilyn

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Thanks for the wonderful review :) !! I get more excited about this trip everyday. One more question - what about motion sickness on that size ship? We've heard that the currents can be a bit rough in the Galapagos and folks do get sick. I'll be bringing a motion sickness drugs but what was your opinion and what seemed to work for people if indeed it was an issue? We will be in cabin 506 which is middle I think - so that should help with motion.

 

Cheers!

 

Eliot:

Great question! I forgot to address this. The currents were definitely rougher than I've ever experienced. I dont get seasick, so I cant give you first hand info, but... Many passengers that tend to get seasick on bigger ship had patches and medicines and no one (to my knowledge) got sick. As long as you have something for motion sickness, you should be fine.

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I see insect repellent is recommended. Did you need any? What kind is best for the Galapagos? Thanks again!

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I see insect repellent is recommended. Did you need any? What kind is best for the Galapagos? Thanks again!

 

We brought insect repellant and never used it. There was one island that had flies, but they were nothing more than a nuisance (and people that had bug spray on said it didn't help.) On Saturday morning we stopped at Post Office Bay on Floreana Island and thereis a wasp problem there. They were everywhere, but as long as you dont bother them, they dont bother you. Insect repellant (at least the ones that people brought with them) doesnt work on wasps anyway.

Other than that, we didnt really have a problem with insects.

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Hi, do you need any kind of more "Eco" freindly suntan/sunblock lotion? Can you purchase it on the ship?

 

 

 

Bill

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Hi, do you need any kind of more "Eco" freindly suntan/sunblock lotion? Can you purchase it on the ship?

 

 

 

Bill

 

Bill,

No, we were never told to use certain types of products. As long as you dont throw the plastic bottles overboard, there are no restrictions. We used our usual Coppertone Sport.

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Nice review, will be there early March. Did they tell you the temperature of the water? Any more information on the scuba diving as to conditions, depth, days available?

 

John

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Thank you for your great review. We are considering the Xpedition to Galapagos to celebrate our 20th anniversary later this year, so your travel review is timely. I have a few questions...

 

1/ Did you book your cruise through a TA or directly through Celebrity?

 

2/ Did you have Celebrity book the Marriott and flight from Quito to Baltra?

 

3/ How far in advance did you book the cruise?

 

4/ Any suggestions on what to pack? Did pax tend to dress up for dinner and were there any formal nights?

 

5/ How was the time you spent in Quito?

 

We did the Sea Dream I in the Mediterranean in October, 2002. It was our first cruise and we loved it! I believe SD had a capacity of 110, so the two are similar in size.

 

Ingrid

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Thanks for the review. We decided at the very last minute to take the July 9th trip. We are taking our kids 18 & 14. Is there anything that we should not leave home without?

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Hi Jane,

 

I am going on the Xpedition Galapagos July 4, 2004. Can you please tell me if you saw the turtles in the wild in the highlands(or had the option to)? Can you only see them in the Darwin Station?

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Sorry it took so long to respond, I was out of town for a wedding this weekend!

 

Starsjohn-The water temperature was between 70-75 degrees, depending on the island. On our cruise, scuba was not a pre-planned activity. On the first night, the head naturalist asked for a show of hands to see how many people were interested in diving and they planned it from there. I believe they had one opportunity to dive, and that was on Saturday afternoon, in lieu of going back to Port Ayora. From what I heard, that particular location was just "ok" for diving. They said that they didnt see anything more than what we saw snorkelling. Maybe from now on they will plan a scuba excursion at a better port since they saw interest. I wish i could be more help...

 

Ingrid,

 

1. We booked directly through celebrity. At the time, our TA quoted us the same price as Celebrity so we cut out the middle-man.

 

2. Celebrity did book the Marriot and the flight from Quito to Baltra. It was including in the 10 day (and 11 day) package price. It was much easier that way.

 

3. We booked in February for our 6/11 trip.

 

4. Dress was casual, shorts/t-shirts during the day. For dinner, people wore whatever they were comfortable. Some people dressed up a little, some people were casual. Jeans, skirts, nice slacks. T-shirts, polo shirts, anything goes.

 

5. Quito was great. Celebrity arrainged a day tour of the city and surrounding areas. We saw old Quito, which is beautiful. They also took us to the Equator. There was a nice museum and souvenir shops. A lot of fun.

Hope this helps!

 

Cayohueso:

The obvious things: Lots of sunblock, a camera (if digital, buy a bigger memory card, if film, bring much more than you think you'll need.) Also, a european voltage adapter. There is one regular outlet in the bathroom but its only for shavers. Find out if the ship will have wetsuits. If not, bring them. Thats all i can think of right now...

 

Sweetave:

You will have the option of the Darwin research Station or going to the highlands. Luckily, if you choose one the first time you go to this port, you return to this port again saturday and can choose the other option. Have fun!

 

Let me know if you have any other questions!

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I have read quite a few warnings on safety concerning snatch and grab and pickpockets. Did you have any issues in Quito?

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I have read quite a few warnings on safety concerning snatch and grab and pickpockets. Did you have any issues in Quito?

 

The only thing we noticed were little boys running around trying to give us shoeshines (even those who were wearing sandals.) As with any place you travel, just keep your valuables close. We didn't hear of anyone in our group having any trouble.

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