We took the eight-day Galapagos cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition. While the Galapagos animals and environment are the core of the trip, Celebrity does finesse the supporting logistics. Like many visitors, we weighed up the big ship/small ship option. The Xpedition, at 100 pax, is the largest vessel operating in the Galapagos. Other vessels are 15-20 pax. Some friends said a larger ship may not be able to get close in, maybe Zodiac transfers will take longer? But we detected no difference and these guys are good at mobilising people into boats. So, any delays would be more than compensated by having much more space, menu variations and other 'large boat' facilities, like the spa.
Airport meet and greet arrangements were good, as were transfers between Quito and Baltra, the embarkation port. The charter flight was good - B737 with meal service for a two-hour flight. The JW Marriott in Quito is a fine hotel and the day tour of Quito was first rate. Baggage arrangements were also first class.
The vessel is well suited to the locale, which is essentially a new island or site every day, with a morning and afternoon excursion. There is enough time to rest up between the morning and afternoon excursions.
The vessel is flat-bottomed with shallow draught, so is subject to a lot of lateral movement, even at anchor.
Cabins are comfortable, a bit small (except suites on decks 5 and 6). Bathrooms are good and bedding acceptable.
Staff on board were hard to fault in any way. Bar service was fantastic and service in the restaurants was terrific. The Maitre de, Se'or Fernando, is one of the most attentive hosts we have encountered in many years of travel. One evening, when the restaurant was crowded and I mentioned I had a hearing problem, Sr. Fernando set up a table on an outside deck (upper level) and personally delivered our dinner and poured the wine! Quite exceptional. This gentleman should be cloned by all cruise lines.
The cruise director, Sr Jorge was also first rate.
The naturalists were excellent, and exhibited broad knowledge of flora, fauna and landscape. One of the primary interests for us was the geology and geomorphology of the Galapagos. And the ocean currents and climatic issues. While the guides satisfied most general queries, they may not have the depth required for the visitor with a strong interest in this area. In summary, spend more time in pre-reading on geomorphology and climate and less on the animals. The naturalists know the animals backwards.