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Judy S

xpedition 12/5 just back WOW!!!

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We just returned from the 12/5 sailing of the Xpedition, and we had a fabulous time. From the time we arrived until we left, Celebrity took very good care of us. We took the two day precruise and an extra day at the beginning since we used FF miles to get to Quito. The JW Marriott was a lovely hotel. There was always bottled water in the room (for free). It isn't recommended to drink tap water in Quito, no ice etc. We asked the taxi "starter" to arrange for us to hire an English speaking driver for a day. Well, his English was about as good as our Spanish, but for $12/hr, we managed. He took us to the Solar museum next to the equator monument. The ship's tour doesn't go to that museum which is where the "real equator" is according to GPS. It's about 100 yards from the monument which also has a very interesting museum.More riding around and ended at the marketplace down town. There's another one in the park and the ship's tour takes you there on the last day.

As for the ship, everyone from the captain, Fausto, to the naturalists to the crew were most gracious, accomodating and helpful. The captain greeted us as we got on board and as we left shook everyone's hand and thanked us for sailing with him and wished us safe travels. The naturalists were a wealth of information and were genuinely thrilled to be doing their jobs. We land lubbers were grateful for their strong "Galapagos grip" getting us on and off the zodiacs. We did get better at it as the days went on. I'd say the highlight was the morning on a "low intensity" zodiac ride around an island when we were exploring a shallow cave. The zodiac pilot turned the craft around, facing out when a passenger pointed and shouted "dolphins!!" Like a bat outta Hell, the pilot hit the gas and we were in hot persuit. The other three zodiacs followed and we spent a while chasing a pod of dolphins putting on a show for us. What a thrill!

We were in "civilization" three times. Who knew that there were 20,000 people living in the Galapagos? We were able to email and use phones there. Phone cards for $4.00 were available at the hotel and were usable on the islands where there was a town. Otherwise, there are no "facilities" in the wild. A number of us came down with the "Galapagos gallop" during the trip. It hit me in Quito before we even left, but mostly it was all short lived. If someone needed to get back to the ship sooner than scheduled while we were hiking around, or on the beach, it could usually be arranged.

One evening we had a very clear night, so there was stargazing on the top deck. On the last night there was a fabulous powerpoint presentation of our cruise which was a big hit. We all got a copy as a parting gift. There was also a local folkloric group to play music, sing and dance for us.

As for the 30lb. weight limit on the flight, that is FROM QUITO TO BALTRA. We were able to leave a bag at the hotel during the cruise. They told us not to worry about the weight limit too much because it all averages out. Just don't go hog wild.

Hiking boots were helpful, but good "walking sneakers" for the most part were enough. There were plenty of "serious" walking sticks to use. For wet landings, water shoes or any closed toe type of similar thing would work.

Any questions? I'd be happy to answer. I think the washer needs to be reloaded. LOL

Regards to all our fellow travelers: Cruisergal, Goldendaze, twoJacks, ppard and everyone else we met and shared adventures with. Where do we go next?

 

Jim and Judy

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Hi there,

 

Could you describe a bit of what you mean by Gallop? With all the health related issues that have "plagued" these boards, I am curious as to where you believe it was picked up.

 

Did you eat in any restaurants in Quito or in the hotel?

 

Thanks for any input...

 

FEBRUARY 13 - will come soon!

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Judy - Thank you so much for posting so soon. I am waiting for your sailing group to comment before I make my reservations. My first choice is this time next year. I just want to hear about the animal life you saw. The more I learn the more confused I am about which time of year is the best time to go! How was the weather? How was the water temps? How good/bad were the waves? AND...did you see a variety of wildlife?

Thank you, and any other cruisers who will be commenting, so much.

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By "gallop" I'm refering to stomach upset: the runs to be specific. I got sick in Quito the morning we left for the ship. Another passenger also got sick in Quito. There might have been more, but I don't know of anyone else. There were some who got sick onboard. Mine lasted just a day, but others had it for longer. We had eaten in the hotel. Mind you, my husband ate everything and didn't get sick at all. Go figure. We were told to only use bottled water in Quito, and the hotel supplied plenty. We even brushed our teeth in bottled water just to be sure. Just take Immodium and Pepto in case. As for the food on the ship, all provisions had to be brought in from Ecuador. Same produce, same possibility for traveler's tummy. Most of us were using Purel or some similar product for hand sanitation during the day.

As for wild life, we saw blue footed boobies, penguins, pelicans, flightless cormorants, frigates, flamingos, egrets, gray herons, dolphins, sharks, sea lions (and babies), land and marine iguanas, sea turtles, giant tortoises, lava lizards, and probably more that I've forgotten. We don't snorkel, but those who did saw quite a bit. Some locations were better than others. They told us that in June and July there is more vegetation and probably more wild life. As it was, we weren't disappointed with what we saw. January to May is rainy. More vegetation, but you're hiking in rain.

I hope I've answered your questions. Go! Have a great time! G-d created the earth in six days and then He rested. Then Charles Darwin showed up at the Galapagos to see how He had done it.

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Another great report. Did you buy the phone cards at the Marriott in Quito or in Galapagos? Did you use the internet cafe in Santa Cruz?

 

This is such a memorable vacation. We relive all the wonderful memories with every new report. Thanks for sharing.

 

I entered 2 photos that I took in Galapagos in a Nationwide Digital Photo contest and both pix made the website's gallery of finalists. The animals are so awesome and cooperative. One photo was taken from the zodiac raft with a lot of help from the driver who saw me trying to get a specific shot & repositioned the raft to make it possible. Great staff on Xpedition.

 

Ingrid.

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Bought the cards at the hotel. Found a couple of internet places in Santa Cruz. If you have a concierge room at the hotel, or at least the privileges, you get 15 free internet minutes a day. Otherwise it was reasonable enough.

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Go! Have a great time! G-d created the earth in six days and then He rested. Then Charles Darwin showed up at the Galapagos to see how He had done it.

 

Love that. Thank you for posting. Glad you had a good time despite 'Galapagos Gallop'. Being able to recommend a product with such enthusiasm even after being sick testifies to its value. Can't beat the graciousness of this crew, the beauty of the Galapagos and the wonder of Quito all in one well orchestrated package.

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Hello All,

Hope you each had a safe trip home. A few were leaving today to return. I am so tired and have a little upset tummy so I will be taking it easy today. Judy's report was great. I will post my thoughts and a few recommendations when I have my wits about me. Too tired right now to think straight.

 

Had a fantastic time. No really big negative issues! The product is top notch all the way.

 

More later,

Mary Ann

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I have not have a chance to post a review of what a wonderful time we had on the Xpedition. You sure did a great job of summarizing the adventure. I just happened to log on during a quick lunch break and here was your message. We so enjoyed meeting you and Jim. I will be in touch and hopefully will "see" you here on the board. Off to a deposition .... Laura from Indiana.

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Has anyone taken the "11 nighter"? That's what we're scheduled to do, with 2 nts pre and post-cruise with Celebrity. The many reviews I've read seem to all be the 10 nighter. If anyone has done the 11 nights or heard of anyone who has, how were the last days spent in Quito?

 

Sounds like you all had a great time on the latest cruise. DH suffers terribly from motion sickness and the doctor now recommends the patch on our cruises. He's also concerned about the "wave action" (small ship) as another poster asked. Any comments? Or were all the "illness" related things due to the "Gallop"? Did anyone feel seasick? How high were the waves & did you feel the seas were rough anywhere?

 

The last several cruisers reported pretty low water temps....low 70's at best. How did you find things?

 

Did anyone on the latest cruise hear of the ship undergoing any particular sanitation procedures due to the GI upsets reported? I've read a lot under the thread "What to Bring and Do" and some of those reports are pretty scary.

 

It sounds like everyone comes back thrilled with all the wildlife they saw and the tremendous adventure, but also pretty tuckered out. Do you think people started with excursions that were too high intensity and is that something you would plan out differently?

 

Question on the excursion to the Darwin Center/Lonesome George/some shopping. Is that one the "moderate"? If you don't do that one, is there another excursion that takes you for a walk in the hopes of encountering a tortoise or two "in the wild"? Just that one of the reviews said they weren't that impressed with their choice for that excursion and wonder what other options there might be. I loved reading about "low" energy excursions that ended up seeing dolphins, chasing after whales, etc. What an unexpected surprise for "laying back" a little!!:)

 

The "virtual" review on CC suggests that at times the reviewer wished there were more simple, perhaps earlier dinners available without taking up a major part of the evening. Maybe they were also feeling just too tired, so settled on room svc (sandwich type thing). Did anyone else feel that way? Is dinner around 8 pm? What time are the nightly briefings?

 

She also mentioned wishing to have some snacks available after the late afternoon excursion. Did anyone else "feel hungry" at that time? Was there anything provided?

 

Welcome back cruisers and please - could anyone jump in who's been on the trip - would love to hear as many opinions as possible! Thanks so much for all your wonderful info & comments:D !

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We did the 10-night. Can't help you there.

 

There were times when the rolling was more obvious. Our Stateroom was in the front of the ship, but neither of us is prone to motion sickness. The patch might prove useful for DH. Did not hear of anyone suffering from motion sickness during our week. Several pax were wearing the patch.

 

The dozen or so pax who became sick the week of 11/7-11/14 were "illness" related. For some it started in Quito, for others after embarkation. We had a sinus infection/cold that seemed to spread during the week. Not much you can do about that. One pax was hospitalized & in intensive care upon returning to the States. Last I heard, he suffered a gall bladder incident. I would continue to monitor the boards for reports on how Celebrity is managing the "illness" outbreaks and whether they begin to subside. If I were going in the next few weeks, I would pack some of the meds suggested by others on this board. Best to be prepared.

 

Some people are more sensitive to changes in diet. That being said, I noticed quite a few people in Quito drinking the water & iced drinks. You need to exercise good judgment in food & drink choices. That extends to the planes to/from Quito & Baltra. Wherever possible, opt for cooked foods vs. cold dishes. Remember that lettuce is generally rinsed with the local water prior to serving. Neither of us were sick all week. Maybe we were just lucky, or maybe we have stronger constitutions... we never get sick in Mexico either.

 

Choose excursions that match your level of fitness. When they describe the hike as "rocky" or rough terrain, they mean it. The presentation generally includes a picture of the footing.

 

We were disappointed in the Darwin Institute. However, DH is a research scientist so we may have had higher expectations. There are 2 days on that island. The ship cycles back. If you choose the Darwin & shopping on the first pass, the second stop you can opt for the tour of the Highlands where the Giant Tortoise are viewed in their natural habitat. I believe the Darwin is a moderate or low intensity. They drive you to the Institute & you walk around a path with the naturalist. There is a gift shop at the Institute. After the walk you have the option to walk back to Town on your own, or take a taxi. There are shops along the road back to Town and in the downtown area.

 

Room service is always available. The next day's presentation is at 7:45 p.m. followed by dinner at 8 p.m. After dinner most people retired or went to the lounge or deck for a night cap.

 

The Beagle Grill on deck is generally open all day for sandwiches & snacks. Anytime you want a snack, the staff will provide it. Just ask. No food or snacks are permitted on the excursions unless you have a medical need in which case you need to inform the naturalist. I cannot recall ever being hungry on this trip. Food is always available. We had chips, nuts, sandwiches in the lounge whenever we wanted.

 

Hope this helps. Post or email if you have more questions.

 

Ingrid

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I agree with Ingrid. We were never hungry at the end of the day. When we returned from the morning activity, we were greeted with chilled towels and juice, in the afternoon we got chilled towels, juice, and a light snack. Some snacks were better than others. The mini tuna sandwiches were better than the plantain thing. You could always order a sandwich from room service. As for "wave motion". We were in room 312 and noticed more motion at anchor than while navigating. It wasn't distressing. Some passengers wore patches the whole time, or sea band bracelets. The zodiacs rode pretty smoothly. We never felt any wild rides. As for the anchor chain, we did hear it but it was generally not in the middle fo the night or predawn. It served as a friendly reminder that "we had arrived" at the next stop. The water temperature was around 70F. Being from New England, we didn't have a problem with it. Others found it cold. Wet suits were available for those who snorkeled. As for the illness situation, no one asked us upon arrival if we had been/ were sick at embarkation as they sometimes do on larger ships. I can think of about 5 or 6 on the 12/5 sailing (myself included) who were ill. Not all passengers felt the need to contact the doctor, so I don't know if they even know how wide spread the problem is.

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Hi everyone,

 

Just found this board and have been reading posts. My brother & his wife took the Celebrity Xpedition in Galapagos a few months ago. They still talk about what a great time they had. I am thinking about going in 2005.

 

One of the things my brother told me was that the Staff makes a difference. He said all the Naturalists were knowledgeable but some were better than others and more personable. Same with the service staff. I guess there's no way to know who is going to be assigned to your particular cruise.

 

What staff was on the 12/5 sailing? Who stood out among the Service staff and the Naturalists? Do they all speak fluent English?

 

I am 27 and it seems like most of the pax are older. Will I feel out of place on this cruise?

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Don't feel you are too young. Most people our age either don't have the money or only care about having drinks and frivolous fun. If you want to explore and see natural beauty, age is not a factor. My husband and I are going Feb 13. We like talking to older people, they have experience and interesting things to say. Frankly we are so out of shape, we'll probably be on the low intensity excursions!

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All of the naturalists spoke fluent English. They all were a wealth of knowledge, and were personable. It's hard to know who will be working your sailing since they work 3 weeks on, and one week off. As for the ages of the passengers, we are in our mid 50's and found that everyone from 30's to 70's were friendly. On this type of trip, just about everyone is well traveled and able to converse with everyone both young and old. Everyone has a story to share and something interesting to add to the mix.

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My brother told me that he had a very difficult time understanding one or two of the Naturalists & a lot of service staff. Also in Quito, he said the guides spoke English but their accent made it very difficult to understand what they were saying. I would be upset if I traveled that distance and paid so much money and then could not understand what was being said!

 

Just thought I would get other people's opinions before booking.

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I agree with your brother. I too found that I had to listen very carefully in order to translate the heavily accented English of a couple of the guides. However, I could make sense of it. In fact I admired the Ecuadorians' patience with me. I am sorry that I know only one language. The only times I needed to really explain something was to my steward. I wrote the notes in English and asked the head naturalist/host to translate that in writing. That worked well.

 

I would encourage you not to worry about this. Perhaps like me, you'll feel excited that you are able to use your own knowledge of the topic to fill in the missing 'dots' to draw a complete picture. If not, ask for clarification. The guides are learning as they practice. This is not a barrier just a speed bump. :D

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Frankly we are so out of shape, we'll probably be on the low intensity excursions!

 

Please don't feel that the low intensity excursions are not as good or as interesting as the high intensity excursions. They simply offer a different perspective. In fact, I was on the low intensity zodiac one day with my father and two other passengers, and we were taken right up to the blowhole, and up close to where two bull sea lions were fighting, both things that people who took the higher intensity excursions saw. But we were able to do it in comfort. ;-)

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What a wonderful trip! Jerry and I enjoyed meeting you and so many other friendly cruisers. Great group of people, wonderful staff, great service--couldn't be happier with the trip. As an example of how accommodating the staff is, I showed up just as the last zodiac left the ship for the trip around Kicker Rock. I told them not to bother, but they brought out another zodiac and I was given a private tour with just the driver and a naturalist.

 

We are in our late 60's-early 70's and had no problem doing activities at any level. However, we skipped the 'survival of the fittest' and the high intensity trip that was mostly over boulders--wish we'd gone on that one. On the other high intensity with boulders, we didn't use a walking stick as didn't want to be encumbered while taking pictures. The key is to watch where you put your feet and stop before looking around and taking pictures. Another reason to watch your feet and not to back up without looking is to keep from stepping on the wild life. It's everywhere and is more apt to walk up to you than move away. The groups are small--usually 8-14 people per naturalist, and anyone needing assistance is given it.

 

We don't like cold water, but got along fine wearing the wetsuits. The snorkel equipment was good so you don't need to bring your own. If you like to snorkel, do it every chance you get--you can't anticipate which trip will have you swimming with sea lions, penguins, sea turtles, and rays, or seeing an octopus or a sea iguana feeding on algae under water.

 

We were next door to Judy and thought the seas were pretty calm; we didn't hear of anyone being seasick. The weather was great; never needed the rain gear and the temperature was comfortable. We drank the water and used ice at the Marriott, but we were lucky and didn't have any more problems than usual. On most trips we need the Imodium at least once, but that always takes care of it. I had sinus problems before we left so used the 12 hour Sudafed twice a day the whole time and was able to fly and snorkel without any problem.

 

I'd recommend taking the 10 day trip and booking extra days at the JW Marriott on Marriott's web page. A month or so before the cruise, the least expensive room I could get was $169 per night, so I booked the extra nights at the Mercure, instead, for $70 per night. (The Mercure is located nearer the shopping and Indian market so is actually a more convenient location than the Marriott. It is supposed to be quite nice, recently updated, and just a little step down from the Marriott.) About a week before the cruise I checked Marriott's web page again and was able to get the two nights with breakfast for just $89 per night, so booked that and cancelled the Mercure. Marriott's breakfast buffet is very good. Dinner in the same restaurant was good and reasonable. I can recommend the fried banana appetizer and the shrimp and coconut casserole and Jerry liked the beef tenderloin (can't remember what they called it). These are large portions and come with the salad bar. We shared the appetizer and some potato soup and had way more than we could eat.

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HI Boops - Thanks for adding that great information. I especially liked your comment about not backing up because you might step on wildlife. WOW! I also couldn't get over the fact that you had a private zodiac/guide. Just one question, you mentioned a salad bar. You ate the salad? Everything I read says to stay far away from salads because of the fact they're washed in the local water. You didn't seem to have a problem. That's great news.

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Hey all 12/5 cruisers! I admire everyone who has already gotten their act together enough to post. I agree will everything that has been said by the 12/5 returnees.

 

We were with this bunch and had the best time. There were pax from all over the country (and some from out of the country) and of varying ages and abilities. Everyone seemed to be well traveled and all had something interesting to contribute.

 

We are 41 & 42 and felt very comfortable with all the passengers. Most people that take this type of trip are in pretty good shape and all have similiar interests (the animals!!!). I was impressed with how agile most of the older passengers were. I hope I am that active down the road!

 

This was a good time of year to go as I felt we saw every type of animal that we set out to see.

 

We had no problema communicating with the staff. They are a really good group. Also had more than enough food available. The good thing about this trip is that it is so active you could eat whatever you want cause you burn it off!

 

I also am not sure about the illness issue. We were not affected but were careful about water, ice, salad, etc. I am not sure whether there is a virus or if it is the fact that some people's systems are very sensative to changes in diet. I think a precautionary slug of Pepto daily could help in warding off turista type problems.

 

We found the snorkeling to be some of the best around. We are avid scuba divers but did not dive on this trip as we did not want to miss top side activities. The water was cool 68 - 70 but this is fairly typical for the area. It will warm up a bit as the summer/rainy season approaches but if you are sensative to cool water I would suggest bringing a full wet suit that fits properly. I brought a 7/5 mm suit and could have snorkled all day. We saw marine life that we usually only see diving ie: white tipped reef shark, rays, octopus, eels, and some very large/colorful fish. I could go on but you get the idea.

 

The excursions were well timed with the morning usually starting 8-9am and the afternoon around 4 pm. This gives you a good amount of time between excursions to eat/relax and also keeps you out of the midday sun. We were pretty tired by the end of the trip but it also has to do with the amout of air travel involved. The pace of the land excursions is pretty good and there is always the opportunity to go low intensity if you need a break - remember, this is a vacation.

 

 

That's it for now. Hi to Mary Ann, Judy, and Laura. It was great to travel with you guys. Where's Gillian?

 

"See" you on the boards.

 

Dara

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SandyR5, I wouldn't normally have salad, but trusted Marriott would wash it properly as I didn't think they could afford not to. If they were not careful, we would already have been in trouble as we had been drinking the hotel tap water. (In China, the hotels all had notices warning you about tap water--I thought Marriott would do the same if it was necessary.) There were a number of items available at the salad bar so you could skip the greens and still enjoy it. The fresh fruit and different juices at the breakfast buffet were wonderful. On the plane coming to Quito I talked to a native who now lives in San Francisco. He said he got sick from eating at one of the nicest restaurants in Quito--the oil the food was fried in was rancid. His advice was if something doesn't taste right, don't eat it.

 

One of the other threads indicates intestinal problems were pretty common on earlier trips. That didn't seem to be a factor this time. I did notice that the staff was doing a lot of cleaning/disinfecting of the cabins and public areas.

 

Bette 'Boops'

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Thanks Bette for replying. Glad you were well and I just can't wait to experience this cruise.

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I'm wondering how difficult it would be for a group of my friends to organize our own trip? Can you stay in a hotel on one of the islands and have a local travel agent organize tours with a guide or naturalist?

 

How long will the government allow visitors to stay in the Galapagos? I wonder if the food is okay to eat & if you can get bottled water at the hotels? My brother tells me he saw hotels & restaurants in Santa Cruz. Is that the only island that is inhabited? Has anyone found links to websites for individual travel to Galapagos? If so, please post or email me at cruiserjen@yahoo.com

 

A few of us are considering doing an extended visit to South America and spending some of that time in Galapagos. We're not convinced that Xpedition is for us.

 

Any suggestions welcome.

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How long will the government allow visitors to stay in the Galapagos? I wonder if the food is okay to eat & if you can get bottled water at the hotels? My brother tells me he saw hotels & restaurants in Santa Cruz. Is that the only island that is inhabited? Has anyone found links to websites for individual travel to Galapagos? If so, please post or email me at cruiserjen@yahoo.com

 

A few of us are considering doing an extended visit to South America and spending some of that time in Galapagos. We're not convinced that Xpedition is for us.

 

Suggest that you ask on Fodors.com. Go to Latin America forum and do a search on Galapagos and Ecuador. You will find lots of ideas for other guides and ships.

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