My husband and I are in our early 40s and this was our second trip on Xpedition. We took the 10-night cruisetour in Sept. 2007 and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to return. We decided to take the 13-night Galapagos cruise B with Machu Picchu this time. Xpedition only had a single itinerary last time so we had a hard time picking between the A and B itineraries for this trip. There were aspects of each that we really wanted to see again. North Seymour Island was the deciding factor for us since that was our favorite stop from the previous trip.
We booked cabin 502 (same as previous cruise) to be close to the Blue Finch Bar. On our previous cruise, the bar was open so we were able to run out the door, get drinks, and return to our cabin - very convenient. The bar was never open for this cruise so we had to go downstairs to deck 4 for drinks, but not really a big deal. We recognized some faces from our previous cruise. The cabin layout was changed slightly to add a loveseat, which made it more cramped than before but we managed. There is adequate storage in the cabin and in the bathroom. The beds are not very comfortable at all - thin, lumpy mattresses. I asked about getting a foam pad for the bed but was told they don't have any.
There is only 1 -110V outlet but a couple 220V outlets. My camera battery charger will use either so I was able to charge my batteries off the 220V and use the 110V for other things. I noticed when I had my laptop plugged into the 110V supply that the power would fluctuate quite a bit. My battery symbol would change from "charging" to "battery" every few seconds. A couple people onboard mentioned that their camera batteries didn't seem to be charging correctly. I didn't have a problem with mine - the 220V supply seemed steady.
The internet connection (Wifi) was unreliable. We were initially given 3 free hours. I used about 10 minutes of mine then lost the connection and couldn't get it back to log out. I lost all my minutes but was given more after I mentioned the problem at guest services. There were many times that I was unable to connect at all. The staff at guest services told me that I was the only person onboard who was having problems and it was because I was using a Windows based computer (which she called "obsolete technology") rather than an iPad. As she was explaining that I needed to buy an iPad, another passenger using an iPad came in to complain that he couldn't get a connection. I could understand if she had said the connection will be slow or even non-existant since we were in the Galapagos, but saying the problem was due to my using WIndows didn't make any sense.
I think overall the food was better this trip than last time. Xpedition offered a nice variety of choices and I was mostly satisfied. There were a few things (chicken and grilled items) that turned out dry.
The ship was still having problems with stabilizers. I didn't get seasick, but I was almost rolled out of bed one night due to the ship's rocking. We had problems with drawers and doors opening/closing due to the rocking. It was very annoying at night. We tied the handles together on the closet to hold them closed. We shoved Kleenex between the drawers and casing to keep them from opening/closing. Those are tricks we picked up from previous cruises where we had occasional problems. On Xpedition it was every night.
In general the guides do a good job of explaining the excursions available. The one failing was Sullivan Bay. I don't think they correctly depicted how rough the terrain really was for the longer hike. The trail was a dry landing but required being able to take a large step out of the rocking zodiac then walking across sharp lava rocks with loose stones. I am very mobile and brought hiking shoes with ankle support so I was fine. It was also very sunny that day so the black lava rocks were really hot. An elderly couple on the tour did not realize how bad the trail was. They were having problems keeping up with the rest of the group. I informed our guide that they had dropped way back and we should let them catch up. His reply was they should have picked another excursion and he kept walking. I agree that they should not have taken this walk, but I was upset that the guide showed such disregard for their safety. If one of them had fallen, they could have been seriously injured on the sharp rocks.
Celebrity does a fanastic job with the Galapagos portion of the trip. I only wish the Machu Picchu portion had been that good. Of the passengers onboard, 24 of us continued to Lima. We flew from Baltra to Quito on the charter flight with the all the other passengers from Xpedition. Once in Quito, we were told that we would have to wait about 10 minutes for our luggage to get off the plane before checking our bags for the flight to Lima. We were left standing in the middle of the terminal for almost an hour before our luggage showed up. We checked in for our flight to Lima then had another couple of hours to wait at the airport for the flight. Celebrity booked us at the Colony Club hotel in Lima, which is a beautiful facility. However, by the time we arrived in Lima, got through immigration and customs, and spent an hour driving to the hotel, it was almost 11 PM by the time we got to our rooms. We had to leave in the morning to drive back to the airport to catch our flight to Cusco so we were only in the room for about 9 hours. I would have preferred a hotel closer to the airport to eliminate the hour transit time each way.
We stayed at the Montesario Hotel in Cusco, which is a converted monastery. The rooms are rather small but the location is nice. When we arrived at the hotel, my checked bag was missing. Our guide didn't seem to understand why I was upset about the missing bag. He kept telling me that I needed to go on a tour and I could find my bag later. I was adament that I needed that bag since it had almost all of my clothes. He eventually agreed to have another staff member look for it. It had been delivered to the wrong room and was finally located. I also noticed that my name was misspelled on the paperwork for the hotel. I pointed this out to our guide who said it wasn't a problem. It was true that it wasn't a problem for the hotel but would be a problem later.
We were divided into 2 groups of 12 for the tours, each with a guide. I was not impressed with the quality of our guide. She didn't like to answer questions and would repeat the same information several times. A couple times when people asked questions she would say that she didn't want to discuss that right now. Several people in the other group had nothing but praise for their guide so I wished we had been in his group.
We saw several of the Incan sites in the Sacred Valley but also got stuck doing the obligatory cruiseline shop tours. I would rather skip the alpaca sweater shop and silver shop since those items hold no interest for me. I know some people feel that a cruiseline approved shop is preferable and many people made purchases at the shops.
The train ride to Machu Picchu was nice but I wished we had a couple more hours to spend there. The city is facinating and really needs a full day to explore it rather than just the 3 hours we had.
We returned to Lima the day after Machu Picchu. When I checked in for the flight from Cusco, the agent informed me that the names on my passport and boarding pass didn't match. Celebrity had booked the flight and had misspelled my name again. I asked the agent what would happen and he told me that I might not be allowed on the plane and would have to buy another ticket if one was available using my correctly spelled name. I was upset since I had expected Celebrity to make sure my information was correct. My name was spelled correctly for all the Galapagos paperwork. I informed our guide again about the misspelling of my name and asked what would happen if they wouldn't let me board the plane. He shrugged it off and said I would be responsible for purchasing another ticket and getting to Lima on my own. I know how strict they are about passport name exactly matching the boarding pass name for US flights so I was afraid I wouldn't be able to fly to Lima with the group. Since it wasn't long before our flight, my husband and I wanted to go through security rather than sitting in the lounge to see if I would have a problem. Our Celebrity guide wouldn't come with us so we went on our own. The agent at the security area didn't speak English very well so she had us move aside while she called another agent over who spoke some English. He asked us a few questions before speaking to the first agent in Spanish. My Spanish is very limited and from the way they were gesturing, I kept thinking that they weren't going to let me through, but he finally gave me my passport and boarding pass and let me into the gate area. I was so relieved that I must have said "Gracias" a dozen times.
The flight was uneventful after that and we arrived in Lima around noon. We were supposed to make a 45 minute stop at a museum then have lunch. Our guide got bogged down in the details at the museum so our 45-minute stop took over 1.5 hours. We continued the tour and were supposed to have some time at the end to visit a few shops but our guide said we had taken too much time at the museum so no shopping. I was a disappointed because I wanted to pick up something for a nephew.
I really enjoyed the Galapagos cruise. I don't know that I would do it a third time, but the second trip was definitely worthwhile since we got to see the islands during dry season previously and rainy season this time. The tour of Machu Picchu was a reminder of why I stopped taking ship tours. I thought it would be nice to leave the planning details to someone else, but I realized what a mistake that was. I prefer to set my own pace and make my own arrangements for what I want to see.