Celebrity Xpedition Cruise Review by ginal: Galapagos X July 19-29 2013
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Galapagos X July 19-29 2013
Ill just write my review in time order-so you can follow along. We were on Itinerary B-10 night package. Remember this is winter in Quito and the Galapagos. A group of 4: 2-mid 50s, 1 -75 year old, 1-27 year old.
Before I begin-I was affected by the Altitude in Quito on the Pre and Post Nights. More people were affected on the Post Nights. I was glad I had prescription medicine from my doctor, and so were the people who took some. Take Altitude meds with you just in case!!
We arrived in Quito at 11pm-at hotel by 1:15am. When you arrive in Quito you go thru customs, out thru the doors, the Celebrity Representative will direct you to give luggage to porters. You must wait for everyone to de-board plane, go thru customs, and meet up. Dont rush. You will get on a bus to the Marriott. The bus ride is 1 hour long. Information will be given to you on the bus.
When you get to the Marriott, you will pick up room keys and get itinerary for next day at More the Celebrity Desk. A beautiful hotel with a warm water pool and hot tub. The bathrooms had separate showers and large soaker tubs. Service here is excellent. Small set of gift shops with some unique items. 3 restaurants mostly serve Mexican style food. Nice little coffee/sandwich/ice cream shop in hotel. HINT: room keys only work for your floor, if your party is split between floors it makes it a little difficult.
HINT: Try to get access to Executive Lounge on 9th floor, I had a Marriott number. Drinks such as water, coke are free all day long. Different foods are also served during the day for snacks, breakfast, desserts, etc. (I spent a lot of time here.) Free WiFi also.
Remember all food is part of your pkg. from this point. Buffet Breakfast was served 6-9 am. I never went but others in my group said it was like Embassy Suites on steroids-made to order omelets, hot and cold buffet.
9:30 depart for City tour that includes a very nice lunch. A 45 minute drive, with only 20ish people to a bus. There will be bottled water available free on the bus. They urge you to drink all day. We visited 2 cathedrals- one of them was overlaid in gold. Lots of old world culture. Saw a lot of government buildings and the culture of Old Town Quito. I took pictures of young boys giving shoe shines in the square and learning to paint in the plaza. Crime is bad, so don't wear jewelry or flashy stuff. You have a security guard and your tour guide. We felt safe-but it is a problem, at one point a policeman rode on our bus. If you have read other reviews they talk about the opera singer at lunch. He was fine, lasted about 15 minutes, yes he was loud, but enjoy it for the experience. Try to sit on balcony, we didnt and wish we had'overlooked a square. This is your first taste of different varieties of ices. The guava was delicious. You will have different ices each day on the ship.
After lunch they will take you back to hotel if you do not want to do the afternoon section. Or bring you if you just want to do afternoon and not morning you just have to request it.
Afternoon drove about 1 hour to the Equator Monument. We had about an hour here. Had fun taking pictures and seeing the museum inside the monument. HINT: go up the elevator and do the museum on the way down. HINT: front side has lots of people taking pictures, go to sides or back where there is nobody to get good pics. Stand and try to hold up globe and let someone take your picture.
Back to hotel at 4:30 and then at 6:15 board bus again to go to Carmine Restaurant for dinner. Try to be one of the first in the restaurant because I think the 1st floor rooms are prettier. Plus dont have to climb stairs. Lemon chicken was best I have had. Desserts were all good. Back at hotel 8:15.
Youll take your luggage down to Celebrity desk between 8-10pm and you wont see it again till on ship. HINT: pack your clothes and shoes in Ziplocs or plastic so if there is a shower your stuff woTy get wet. WARNING: your bags will be handled by a lot of people before it arrives on ship.. .put all meds, anything of value, electronic cords and batteries in your carry on. HINT: people carried on a lot more than the recommended on small bag, several had medium size roll-on suitcases. So dont worry about size all that much.
Breakfast is 5-7am same as day 2
6:30 am you will pick up boarding passes at Celebrity Desk
7:30am transfer to airport-again this is a 1 hour bus ride; they will have bottled water available for you. You will be taken to a special lobby to wait at the airport, and then load on a charter plane. HINT: they now have 1st class seating on this plane if you want to upgrade, I think it was $30 a person. Really didnt think it would be worth it. Meal was nicely presented with linen napkins. Ours was a quiche, which was quite good. 2 hour flight to Baltra.
Upon arrival to Baltra, you must go thru customs (yes again!). Then the Celebrity representatives take you to a special waiting room with drinks, snacks, cushy chairs, sofas to wait for the buses to take you to the pier to catch the pangas to the ship. 10 minute bus ride to Pier and 5 minute ride on Pangas to ship.
From there the vacation is in full swing. A buffet lunch was served when you boarded ship and the first briefing was at 3pm when you got your keys to your stateroom. All meals will be in the Darwin Restaurant on Deck 3 or outside grill food on Deck 4. All talks are on Deck 4 in the Discovery Lounge.
You will get fitted for wetsuits at 4pm. Believe me if you are going in Galapagos Winter July thru Oct.- you will want the wetsuits- it was COLD. HINT: We also bought swim shirts or rash guards for this trip'glad we invested. The $45 was well spent on these shirts. Have snorkeled a lot of places, but never in cold water so the extra layer the shirts provided was nice.
Every Day On Board Ship:
Dress Code is Casual. I took too many clothes, but enjoyed not having to wear the same thing over and over. Supper most people did dress a little nicer, Capris or pants for women and nicer shirts for guys. No suits or formal wear. Only one guy kept coming in his bathing suit-YUCK!! Plenty of space under beds for suitcases.
There is a nice small gift shop on board for shirts, backpacks, and postcards.
Breakfast is Buffet, but you can get things cooked your way. My mom got her toast cooked really dark every morning.
Lunch is Buffet in Restaurant that was themed each day such as Italian or Mexican OR something different on the back of deck 4 each day such as Crepes, Hamburgers, and Sandwiches with standard fries, salad offerings. We checked out both before deciding what to eat. Plenty of choices and Shrimp was available every meal cooked a million different ways.
o Morning excursion is 8ish to 11ish
o Afternoon excursion is 3ish to 6ish
o Wet landings are in 1-2 ft of water on sandy beach-need beach sandals or water shoes (there are sharp rocks)
o Dry landings are hard to maneuver on small outcrops of lava rock-need good tennis or hiking shoes
o Two options are usually given for each time period-one is a longer hike. One of our group always chose the longer hike. I usually chose the shorter, so hopefully, I can give you insights to both.
Each night around 7ish there is a slide show presentation that highlights the next day's excursions. HINT: they show pictures of the landings, tell how hard it will be, give you a good feel for the limitations of each excursion. You will also sign up for which excursion you are doing here and then head down to supper.
Dinner is 7:30-9pm each evening. It is a 4 course meal. You can choose from the Classic Menu which is the same every night or from the Different nights selections. We mixed and matched all week. HINT: If you have never cruised before: you can order 2 of something, or 3 salads or 2 entrees any combination you want. I ordered just a baked potato for my entre several nights. Over the week we had Crab, Octopus, Shrimp, Calamari, Lobster (several nights), Steaks (several nights), many different kinds of fish, vegetarian options, etc..etc..etc. HINT: the first night is the only night for Creme Brule. I should have got two. Everything was prepared well and served expertly. Red and White wine was offered with every meal or you could order drinks. I had an Oreo Milkshake each night; husband had tea, the others Sprite and Coke OR of course the never ending supply of alcoholic beverages.
Seating is open at lunch and supper. We sat at the very back at supper, since that is where the bartenders doubled as waiters. My group congregated at the bar during the day, so at night we enjoyed having the same staff.
Morning Excursion- Santiago Island: Wet landing-flat terrain for walk-then optional snorkel. Both walks were on the same path BUT the longer one went a little farther across beautiful land bridges. HINT: I went on the shorter one and missed this and it was my only regret on the choices of excursions for the whole week. I took pictures of lizards, iguanas, birds, sally-lightfoot crabs, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies(BFB). This island had black sand beaches. You could snorkel, go back to the ship, or just hang out on the beach after the walk.
There were six opportunities to snorkel on this trip. It was cold, not unbearable, but just very different than what we expected. There were plenty of fish to see, but the water was full of plankton so our pictures are not great. Still enjoyed the experience.
Afternoon Excursion- Rabida: Option 1 was long walk (didnt see as much wildlife as option 2) and snorkel. We did option 2, which was a zodiac ride, short walk, and snorkel. A zodiac and panga are the same. We took pictures of all kinds of wildlife: BFB, iguanas, manta ray, pelicans sitting on nests. The panga drivers work very hard to be sure everyone gets the pictures they want. They will maneuver and circle till everyone is finished. The short easy walk took us to see flamingos. Then we were given another chance to snorkel off the red sand beach. HINT: Try to be the last one on the pangas. You will keep your feet dry, and have more maneuver room to take pictures. We learned to count people or hang back in the line, to be last on the pangas. I think option 2 was the best choice this afternoon based on feedback from others.
Morning Excursion-Elizabeth Bay: Everyone takes the same tour of a Mangrove by the pangas. You sign up for 8 or 10 am. HINT: Be on the 8 am, 1st panga if you can, because you see the birds, stingrays, turtles, etc that havent been disturbed by other pangas full of people. The pangas do stir up silt which makes it hard for later groups. We saw penguins also.
Advanced Deep Water Snorkel- 3-4pm: This was snorkeling off the panga in deep water. We did not do either of these since the water was cold. Mixed reviews from the people who came back. Some pangas saw more than others, but I think they swam with some sea lions.
Afternoon Excursion-Tagus Cove- 4:30pm: Option 1 was short panga ride and a long walk. Option 2 was extended panga ride and optional short walk. The walk involved a dry tricky landing and then 150 stairs straight up to look down into a caldera (small lake ringed by the mts.) The long walk went farther than the short walk, but did not see anything different. HINT: The panga rides were very different. On the extended ride you actually took the panga inside a small cavern. I was glad we took the extended ride or we would have missed the cavern and I took a lot of video of penguins and pelicans frolicking. HINT: You dont have to take the hike, can just do panga ride and then back to ship.
My take on the Ship
We were in Suites 602 and 604. The suites on deck 6 are the largest. Our beds, bath and floor space were larger than the others on the ship. Suite 604-now the Royal Suite, does show the correct floor plan on the Celebrity website. BUT 602 and the Penthouse Suite floor plan are very wrong on the website. They are both much nicer and roomier.
o That said: we also had to climb stairs all day long. Meals were on 3rd deck, entertainment and bar on 4th deck, pangas on deck 3. The only things on deck 6 were the hot tub and massage room. Down and up for breakfast, down and up morning excursion, down and up for lunch so you see what I am saying.
o Also, I agree with fellow reviewers. The air conditioner does not keep up on deck 6. It was winter and the high was in the 80s, but the room NEVER got cold. It was comfortable, but not cold. I cannot imagine staying in the room when it is summer in the Galapagos.
o We all agreed that a cabin on deck 5, even though not as big, would have been better. More convenient to everything.
The ship does ROCK. But we enjoyed it for the experience that it was. It was worse the last two nights, but every ship in the harbors was rocking. I took one Bonnie every day and had no problems. No one else in our group took any meds. I did take the Patch, but didnt use it. We did do the drunken stroll across the room many times, but it is just part of the experience. A few of the passengers complained of the movement the last two days-but I dont think it made anyone sick. HINT: if you get sea sick bring meds you will need them.
HINT: Take a good flashlight-such as a mag light. Some people had them and could spotlight sharks and sea lions after dark in the water. It was fun to watch. We never had the crew do this as some other cruise critic reviews stated they did at midnight. So take your own.
Ship is beautiful and well maintained. The crew takes pride in their ship. They were outfitting it with new decking on the back.
Every excursion is well-planned, organized, executed, etc etc. You will be amazed at how well they issue life-jackets-get you on pangas-get you off pangas-get lifejackets. The naturalist and crew will help you on and off the pangas with their special handshake.
They give you a wet bag for snorkel gear and have an organized system of hanging wet suits and bags upon the end of each snorkel. We brought own snorkel and masks, but they had plenty. We just left ours in the wet bag till the last snorkel trip. You dont keep wetsuits and snorkel gear in room. HINT: I wanted a prescription mask so I went on Amazon and ordered on for $50. It was the best snorkeling, because I could see. Best $50 spent.
And YES there is WIFI on the ship. It is only in the Discovery Lounge, but we and everybody else used it every day. It is FREE---no limit on hours per day. All the brochure information is wrong on this. Also, they have 6 PCs and Macs that you can check out. HINT: You can download pictures on computer then transfer to a flash drive. A lot of people did this. I played on my IPAD no problem.
Morning Excursion-Santiago Island: Both Option 1 and 2 have the same easy dry landing over black lava rock which was a little tricky to walk, but my mom and another older lady did it just fine. Option 1 is course a longer walk (1.5miles) but they did get to do something neat that the shorter walk (option 2, 0.03miles) didnt. HINT: Option 1 They got to actually crawl down in a lava tube to their waist and stick their heads out for neat photo op! So if you like to walk this made some neat pictures. HINT: Take pictures close of up the lava formations that you are walking on-really neat rope and swirls.
BBQ on the Back Deck-They bbq-ed every meat, seafood, chicken you could think of. You just filled your plate to the brim. We sat close to the grill so we could watch them. Enjoyed everything they cooked-huge shrimp, lobster, fish
Afternoon Excursion-Bartolome Island: Okay Option 1 is the 380 stairs to the top then snorkel. The 380 stairs are built into a boardwalk system and at the top you get beautiful pictures of islands and crystal blue water. No wildlife. Okay, I admit, I skipped this one and went on Option 2 for a panga ride and snorkel. We didnt see much, but the water was pretty choppy. Snorkeling again was okay the water it was hazybut lots of fish. Each time you snorkel you are given a pretty large area, so you dont snorkel into each other. Pangas stay out patrolling, so if you get tired or need help they are there.
Morning Excursion-Santa Cruz, Bachas Beach: Again Option 1 and 2 are the same except the walk is longer on Option 1. This was a wet landing and a beach walk to see the flamingos. Easy walk and gorgeous beach. Then snorkel or go back to ship on pangas.
Advanced Deep Water Snorkel- same as Day 5
Afternoon Excursion- North Seymour Island: The dry landing here was very tricky, but you can do it. Youll encounter a few rocks in the trail at the first and then sandy for the rest of the way. <First, let me explain that the Galapagos is not, was not on my Bucket List I brought my mom who has always, always wanted to visit the Galapagos on this trip of a lifetime. I had no expectations, I was just going to enjoy everything.> This turned out to be my Oh My Gosh Wow, Really excursion. On this island we got to see Blue Footed Boobies (which I didnt even know what was) doing their mating dance. We also saw Frigate Birds (which, again I didnt even know what was) doing their mating dance. I took video and was just entranced to be a part of this. It really did make this a trip of a lifetime. So take advantage of everything because you dont know when the wildlife will really put on a show.
Turn in Snorkel gear.
Morning Excursion-San Cristobal Island: Option 1 is a long walk, a museum about the Galapagos history, then town time. Option 2 is the museum and then town time. The museum is well worth taking a minute or 5 to read about the Galapagos. It tells about the pirates, the local economy, the wildlife. Then you have a chance to so a little souvenir shopping. This is mostly the basic souvenir town, but we enjoyed walking the waterfront street. We bought T-shirts, postcards, etc.
Afternoon Excursion-San Cristobal Island: Only Option 1. Beach walk and swim. The beach was nice and long for a stroll. Sea lions and sally light-foot crabs everywhere. Postcard blue water and lava rocks made for nice pictures. Some hardy souls and kids played in the water. Turtle tracks up the sand dunes, but you could not follow them. Pangas went back and forth, so you could stay 30 minutes or 2 hours.
This brings me to my only negative of the whole trip. Entertainment was non-existent, except the following two things. *Galapagos Trivia at 6:45 was fun. This was the only game of the whole week. *Karaoke at 9pm. Only nighttime entertainment worth going to, the rest were pretty sad. Everyone is the lounge sang every song. We had loads of fun.
Morning Excursion-Santa Cruz: Only option is to the Highlands to see the Tortoises in the wild. You land in Port and are transferred by bus to the Highlands. It takes about 45 minutes to get there. HINT: if it is wet they have rubber boots for you to wear. This is an easy walk to see the tortoises. You can do the walk and wait in a nice covered pavilion. They serve you a snack after the walk and of course all the water you want. HINT: Try to get on 1st panga and 1st bus. Hit is hard to see tortoise head out of its shell, better chance if you are the 1st guests there.
Afternoon Excursion-Santa Cruz: Only option is to go to the Charles Darwin Station breeding facility. Again a bus ride. It was interesting to see baby turtles and how they are raising them and studying the genetics. You see saddlebacks and dome tortoises. If someone has hard time with distances and uneven ground they will shuttle them right to turtles. The rest of us had to walk about a mile. Easy walk with boardwalks and lanes in the center.
Shopping: After the turtles you have a couple of options. 1. Go back to ship. 2. Walk down Main Street and shop. Okay, I love to shop for different types of items to bring back from my trips. HINT: The best shops were right outside of the Research Station. So walk out of the Station and on the right was the beginning of a couple of blocks of fun browsing.
If by this point you are dying for M&Ms or real chocolate. Go left at pier 1 block across street is supermarket.
Suitcases were put out in hall by 5:30 am to be taken to the airport. You wont see them till Quito, so dont put anything in that you might need or dont mind losing. Again remember, how many people will touch your luggage. They give you zip ties to put on your bag.
Every review I have read, tells nightmares of this day. I thought it went really smooth. Baltra has built a new airport-but it is NOT air conditioned. Didnt have any complaints. -Out of room by 8am. -on board pangas around 9:30 -- airport at 10am -- about 10 stalls of shopping for last minute items at airport, and food court then thru customs (painless) and into a private waiting area with drinks and snacks --- 12pm board charter plane for Quito, with a nice lunch. ---land and transfer to Marriott (of course this is that 1 hr drive again). We did encounter a rock slide on way to hotel that shut traffic down for 3 hours; thank goodness our driver just went on around. Our luggage took forever to make it through.
Afternoon Excursion: Shopping in Quito. We were taken just 10 minutes away from the hotel to a local crafts mall to bargain and shop for blankets and souvenirs for about an hour. Crowded, watch your wallets, but lots of fun. Then we went to an expensive art gallery for an hour.
Back to the hotel for a nice supper at La Hacienda.
Alas-the buffet breakfast is the last meal and farewell to the all-inclusive food and excursions.
Our plane did not leave till midnight. We had the use of our room till 5pm. I opted to pay $100 to keep it till 8:30 when the bus left to take us back to the airport. We elected to laze around the hotel. Other groups went on excursions. HINT: Celebrity add-on excursions are way-overpriced. Go to the hotel business office and they will arrange a tour at a much lower cost that suits your needs. We did go the mall that is 5 blocks awaydont bother way over-prices. A pair of womens Crocs was $79. Bad area of town and could not get a taxi to take us back to hotel. Had to walk no walk really fast---bad area.
WARNING: Missed our connecting flight because plane left Quito an hour late due to ice on wings. Yes thats ice on wings in July at Equator!!! If you go thru Houston they had 5 different lines we had to go thru to make it thru customs. It took over an hour and we did it fast and were 1st class so got to skip to head of some lines.
Clothes: We bought hats, shirts, pants at Bass Pro. Some people wore baseball caps, but they tended to blow off on the pangas. Hats with chin straps worked better. If you snorkel, on those 4 excursions you will wear your swimsuit to hike, then put on the wetsuit. I bought swim shorts, some put shorts over swimsuits. I had one long sleeve and one short sleeve fishing type shirt and wore those on most excursions. My husband had several of these and did the same. They do recommend no bright colors on excursions since it attracts insects. You need one pair of shoes to get wet, such as Teva type sandals( mine were generic brand), the closed toed type were popular. These are for wet landings. Tennis shoes or hiking shoes for the lava type excursions. Realize that if you sit in back of panga your shoes are going to get wet! We had a different pair for supper. I bought a $10 pair of sandals to wear every night.
Backpacks: All reviews said you needed backpack. So we bought one. A better buy would have been a belt to hang a water bottle. You dont need to take bug spray and sunscreen on to the islands. At the most you are there 2 hrs. Water is really all you need on the excursions. Everyone was lugging this huge backpacks we quit taking anything but water in ours. I didnt have any problem with my camera vs water either on the pangas. Just stuff in life jacket. HINT: dont buy plastic backpack-gets way to hot. Less
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