What can I say about the trip of a lifetime? It's been close to one week since our return and my husband and I are still talking about it constantly.
On June 2, we flew from Toronto, Canada, to Quito and were welcomed at 11:00 pm by Carlos and an assistant. We were the last people out of customs because our luggage had been pulled from the carousel by baggage handlers and set aside. However, it was only a couple of minutes before we found it and were on our way. There was a small bus with a number of others from our flight waiting and we were immediately handed bottles of cold water which we drank while we made our way to the hotel. The Marriott was beautiful and there were welcoming cocktails, munchies, and wet towels waiting in the lobby even though it was close to midnight. We were shown to our room and our luggage was delivered quickly.
The next morning we rose early excited about the day's excursion around Quito. After a tasty breakfast, we climbed onto the small shuttle buses at about 9:00 am and set off. It was very interesting touring the old city of Quito and seeing the view of the city. We got stuck in traffic jams a couple of times, but that only added to the adventure. The Crater Restaurant food was very good and we were seated with some lovely people. Our only complaint had to do with dinner that night. The Marriott decided to rent out one of the rooms to a private party and there was also no seafood buffet in the ballroom. We dined on a buffet in the "coffee shop" and although the food was only adequate, the company of the people we had met on the shuttle that day more than made up for it. We celebrated the 45th wedding anniversary of a couple from California and had a wonderful time.
The next morning we picked up our TAME boarding passes in the Marriott library and boarded the bus to the airport and Galapagos. Our flight to Baltra was quick with a meal thrown in during the 1 1/2 hour flight. At Baltra we were greeted by our cruise director, Jason, and waited in the VIP lounge where we were greeted by a Naturalist and given cold drinks and a few instructions. Then off we went to get on the Zodiac and head for the ship, stepping over sea lions on the way.
We had the smallest room on the ship but it was more than adequate, and there was plenty of room for everything. I only heard the anchor once and that was the last night. I was very impressed by the small things provided like Q-tips and cotton balls as well as a converter to use for the electrical items we brought. There is also a small clothesline in the shower, although it took ages for anything to dry. There was a TV set that had a few channels, but we were much too busy to watch anything. The maid service is excellent and we had a constant supply of clean towels.
I can't say enough about the service on the ship. Everyone tried so hard to please and they constantly had smiles on their faces. Lavinia, Pedro and the others in the bar (my memory is failing). They were constantly asking what we wanted to drink and seemed to appear out of nowhere to open doors. The dining room staff was super and I wanted to take them all home. We seemed to sit more often at the table of Steven and I adopted him for a week. Whenever I entered the dining room he said "hi mum" and gave me a big grin. Manuel, Christian, the maitre d', and Juan were also wonderful. The meals were excellent and there was a good variety. My husband ordered a lot of steak and except for one night, found it to be very good. Lunch and breakfast were buffet and for the size of the ship there was a terrific selection.
The icing on the cake, of course, was the excursions and the Naturalists. To Freddy, Willie, Fabio, Nacho, Luis and Jaime---Thank You. You gentlemen made this trip a dream with your helpfulness and information. I wish that I had brought a tape recorder to help me remember everything you told me. And Jason, the Cruise Director, was fabulous and very helpful. He taught us so much at the gatherings and was so friendly that I felt like I had known him forever. I won't talk about the excursions, because you really have to be there. All I can say is that I am 63 years old and took many high-intensity excursions without a problem. If I did get into trouble the Naturalist was there to help.
The last night we had a slide show showing pictures taken by the Naturalists of the passengers visiting the islands. Many of the women, including myself, were in tears. Then all of the staff shook hands with the passengers and thanked them for coming. I didn't want to leave these wonderful people.
We had a slight problem on the TAME trip home. My husband has claustrophobia and we forgot to ask for an aisle seat. A photographer, who had been hired by Celebrity, put some children in our seats and asked that we not break them up. We stupidly agreed and my husband had a panic attack when we landed in Guayaquil for refueling because he was sitting on the inside seat. Thanks to the psychologist and psychiatrist who realized what was happening, we got through the rest of the trip to Quito without serious problem. The Celebrity staff in Quito was wonderful and brought oxygen for my husband and helped us get him up to the room. By the next day we were ready to leave for home.
To anyone who is considering this trip---don't wait. It is truly wonderful!