We booked our recent cruise on the Xpedition in May 2012 and with much anticipation finally departed the US midwest at the end of January 2013. Since we always do our own air we decided to go to Quito a few days early to both escape the cold weather and to see the sights. Quito was easy to get to; a three hour flight to Miami and then four hours to Quito arriving early evening. We booked our room at the Marriott which is the same place Celebrity books people so there was no problem with accommodations.
We had our own guides for the first two days and visited the Cocopaxi National Park and visited the highest volcano in the world and afterwards had lunch at a small nearby hacienda. A gourmet dinner at the Theatrum in Quito topped that day.
The next day we drove with a different guide to Otavalo and Cotacachi for some shopping and sightseeing. This guide was Christian Valencia who was one of the best guides we haver ever had.
The next day we joined the main group from Xpedition for tours of Quito and then the next day flew to Baltra on a charter flight. This is where the actual cruise began.
The ship was perfect for this type of trip. In our case very friendly like minded North Americans, Brits and some Aussies. About 96 pax. People were interested in the Galapagos and generally more highly educated and knowledgeable.
Zodiacs were the prime form of transportation to and from the ship. At least twice a day we left the ship to go ashore or snorkeling, morning and afternoon. Generally off the ship by 8 AM and back for lunch. Then back on the Zodiac mid afternoon to see more. They avoided the heat of the day and besides there was lunch to consider.
Each Zodiac had a driver and a naturalist. The naturalists could not have been better! All locals with a great command of English, a good sense of humor, delight in their work, very knowledgable and especially safety conscious.
We saw an exceptional amount of wildlife: land iguanas, sea iguanas, blue footed boobies, frigate birds, sea lions, crabs, sharks, rays, star fish, sea turtles, tortoises, pelicans and untold numbers of other birds.
We missed whales and albatross as they were somewhere else.
Breakfast and lunch were buffet with open seating and dinner was open seating with wait staff and a menu. Staff was excellent. All drinks were included but really the ship was quiet by around 10-11 PM as morning came early.
This was a great trip for nature. Some agility needed but not a big deal as most hikes were easy. Snorkeling was safe and water warm.