May 2007 Destination:
Our 11PM arrival in Quito was met by a friendly Celebrity rep, holding up a sign, and his assistant who immediately took charge of our baggage. A short bus ride to the JW Marriott hotel, and they had our pre-registration about done; we just signed a credit card slip got our room keys and headed to bed. In the hotel lobby, we began to experience altitude sickness, dizziness, shortness of breath & nausea. Quito is 9,500 ft in elevation. The following day, we had a nice tour of Quito, and then the next morning we headed to the airport to fly to Baltra, Galapagos. Left our suitcases outside the room and they were transported to airport, checked for us. We were just handed boarding passes and off we went, on a pleasant 2 hr flight on TAME, the Ecuadorian national airline. At Baltra, our luggage was taken care of and a short bus ride to the port, where we boarded the inflatable Zodiacs for a short ride to the Xpedition. Got a friendly greeting, with champagne, our baggage soon was More
outside our room doors and off we went. We soon learned that not only are the meals included, but also cocktails. If you wanted a real exotic brand of liquor, then it was charged, but nearly everything that us common folk drink was gratis. Each meal you had several entree choices in the main dining room, and also there was an open air grill. A few nights when it was nice, we dined out on the open deck with full dining room food & service. Each day consisted of morning and afternoon shore excursions; the evening before, the cruise director would give details about the next day and then you could sign up for either low, medium or high intensity activities. My wife and I are are in our 60's so we opted for low intensity most of the time. On several days there was snorkeling; most wore wet suits as the water was a bit chilly. Every shore excursion was included in the cost of the cruise package; all were handled with the large inflatable Zodiac boats which held about 15-20 people, and had 100hp outboards, so they moved quickly. Some shore excursions were "dry landings"; others involved a short wade in knee deep water to get ashore. The food on board was perhaps not as good as on a larger ship, but it was definitely sufficient; one day some fishermen showed up with a big basket of lobsters so we had those for dinner - quite good! I wont try to list every type of animal we saw, but they included iguanas, sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, whales, and of course the giant tortoises. Also a small colony of miniature penguins, only about a foot tall. Sea lions were everywhere we went. There was a "no touching" rule about animals as they don't want them to get human diseases and they could also bite us. There are only a couple of the islands that have small towns, but otherwise, there are no restrooms, so you have to plan ahead. Most excursions were a couple hours after meals, so that timing helped. After debarking, we flew to Guayaquil, that is the 8 of us from the ship who had opted on the extended tour to Machu Picchu. We had a short tour of Guayaquil, then flew to Lima, where we stayed in the Country Club Hotel, a luxurious place. One night there and then we flew to Cuzco, which has an elevation of 11,500 ft. There we stayed 3 nights at the Monasterio Hotel, another great facility, built in 1595 as a monastery. You could get oxygen pumped into your room at night ($30 a night); we did not get it as we figured it would just make things worse the next day. We had some nice tours in that area, including the Sacred Valley. The last day we rode the Hiram Bingham Orient Express train from Cozco to Machu Picchu. It is a narrow gauge train, but strictly First Class. The first car was a power car & kitchen, then a full diner with booths, and the rear car had a full bar and brass rail open platform; all food and drinks were free. After a 3 hour ride, then we disembarked and had a bone-rattling, hair raising bus ride up the mountain to Machu Picchu. MP is "only" 8,000 ft up, so the altitude was not as big a problem. They don't believe in obstructing this magnificent place with handrails, so watch your step. A misstep could mean a fall of a few feet or a few thousand feet, depending on where you are. The next day, flew back to Lima; had another tour; they gave us a day room at the hotel and then a late night flight back home. We've dealt with Celebrity before and this trip further confirmed our satisfaction with them in every respect. Everywhere we went, they had a rep to meet us, take care of our luggage; all hotels were 5 star, all meals were included both on ship and on shore, all at very nice restaurants. Celebrity is a class operation, no doubt about it. Less
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