Celebrity Xpedition Cruise Review by mbernst106: An Awesome Experience which cannot be captured in words
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An Awesome Experience which cannot be captured in words
We have recently returned from a 10 day trip including 3 days in Quito and 7 days on the Celebrity Xpedition. Prior to our departure, we scoured a multitude of websites looking for information about what to expect. So much of what we read helped us prepare for this exciting venture. I decided that I too wanted to offer some of my experiences in the hope that it would help some future travelers be better prepared for their adventure. I do not intend to review what was done on each excursion as that information is readily available everywhere. My intent is to try to provide some information which will help you decide to take Celebrity or if you have already chosen this cruise, how to prepare for it.
Upon arrival in Quito, we were quickly met by representatives from Celebrity, our luggage was taken from us and we were boarded onto a bus for a brief 15 minute ride to the hotel. Upon entering the lobby of the JW Marriott, we were offered hot towels and fresh local fruit juice More while our check in was expedited. We were booked in the PH Suite for the cruise and therefore requested 2 rooms or a suite at the Marriott to accommodate our party. This was confirmed prior to our departure from the US, however upon arrival, Celebrity did not have a record of it. A quick check at the front desk resolved the oversight and we were given a suite as well as a second room. Additionally, about 30 minutes after check in, we received a call from the front desk asking us if we would like to have the room adjoining our suite so that our party of 3 could share the common living area. We graciously accepted and within 5 minutes someone brought us a key to our new room. Within a very short period of time, the bellman delivered our luggage to the appropriate rooms, although we have no idea how since there was no identification on the outside and we never identified our bags at the Quito airport. Just the first bit of magic Celebrity pulled off during our visit.
We enjoyed a quick drink and snack in the bar and turned in for the evening.
Saturday: We awoke refreshed in our lovely accommodations and went to the assigned dining room for breakfast before starting out on our first excursion. The Marriott served up a wonderful buffet breakfast including a variety of indigenous foods as well as some American standards to make anyone feel comfortable as well as provide you with an opportunity to sample some local fare. There was no check to sign, no gratuity to leave, just a friendly "gracias" as you acknowledged you were with Celebrity and provided your room number.
We quickly boarded our busses on time and left for our Quito City tour. The busses were comfortable, the guides knowledgeable and fluent in English and the coolers filled with complimentary bottles of water.
I am not a fan of pre-planned cruise excursions and usually plan my own, however there did not appear to be many offerings in Quito, so we opted for the tour included on our trip. Nothing against Celebrity, but I am not a fan of multiple church visits and drive bys of tourist attractions. I prefer to walk the streets, poke in shops, watch people and get a feel for the city. I knew what I signed up for and it reinforced my dislike of bus tours. Additionally, as this is a tour which seems to draw an older crowd, I was dismayed when there was a virtual coup on our bus of people who decided an hour was too long to spend at the equatorial monument and museum and convinced the guide that they needed to go back to the hotel to rest before dinner. On the plus side, Celebrity delivered what they promised, including lunch at a wonderful restaurant which offered beautiful outdoor seating in gazebos in the garden. We were told that lunch was included, however alcohol was not. I guess that only applied if you wanted something other than the glass of champagne handed to you as you entered the grounds of the restaurant. The restaurant staff was efficient, pleasant and eager to please. For veteran cruisers, the food was a cut above what is typically found in restaurants selected for excursions. As other guests rested in their rooms prior to dinner, my husband opted for a massage at the Marriott spa which was quite affordable and excellent. Good references also for the exercise rooms at the Marriott. A great place to work out the kinks from travel.
Quick note: I read many reviews which indicated that public restrooms did not provide toilet tissue. You must pay for it - if it is even available. I found this hard to believe for a capital city, but as a believer in user reviews, I tossed some travel size Charmin in my bag. GREAT MOVE! I was a hero to my family.
Sunday: Transfer to the airport was quick and easy and by 8:00 we were on our way to Baltra with a brief stop in Guayquil to pick up passengers. As we will come to expect, Celebrity fed us twice on the flight in addition to our buffet breakfast at the Marriott before leaving. Once we arrived in Baltra, we had approx 45 minutes for some unknown reason to wait for the busses to the port. Conveniently, there just happen to be dozen or so souvenir shops to help us pass the time. Not sure if this was an intentional delay, but as we could see our ship out in the water waiting for us, we were all very anxious to get moving and begin our journey. Once it was confirmed that enough people had bought hats, tshirts and stuffed animals, we boarded our busses to the port. Now the real Celebrity experience began. We were met on deck with a cold towel and a mimosa. We were taken to the lounge where we handled some administrative stuff and then were individually escorted to our cabins. As promised, champagne and fruit plates greeted us there. That of course was only to tide us over to lunch 30 minutes later.
Our first excursion that day was N. Seymour Island. We opted for the "long walk", which was not very long in distance, but more than 2 hours in duration and very rocky terrain. No matter what you have read, nothing prepares you for the wildlife you will see EVERYWHERE! Nor will you be prepared for the experience of a sea lion coming right up to you and sniffing you to see if perhaps you are his relative. The sights are extraordinary and your senses will be overloaded by large iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea lions, nesting frigate birds, etc. Upon return to the ship, we were greeted with cool towels and glasses of wine or beer . We were given instructions on when/where to go for our next day's briefing and the time and place of our next meal. If only we had time to digest our LAST meal first. After dinner - it was off to bed for just about everyone so that we would have the energy required for the next day.
Monday: We were given the option of a pre-breakfast excursion to circumnavigate Kicker Rock. We opted in and I strongly recommend you do too. Yes, you can see Kicker from the ship, however that experience is nothing like being in a small Zodiac and looking up at the blue footed boobies and Sally Lightfoot crabs 20 feet away, The morning sun casting a golden glow over the rock is spectacular. This was the first reminder that we should take advantage of every opportunity presented because you never know what it will bring. As we were circling Kicker, a ray leaped out of the water spinning and showing off. That was followed by the sighting of a whale by one of the zodiacs. In a flash all four of the zodiacs which went out were chasing the trail of the spouting whale. Park regulations are very specific about everything, and at the 15 minute mark, we were informed that we were no longer allowed to follow the whale so we turned back to the ship - with still enough time to have breakfast before our next excursion.
San Cristobal: We went to the Interpretation Center, which was somewhat interesting, but difficult to pay attention as you could hear sea lions barking from a nearby beach and we really wanted to go see them. We were then driven into town to do some shopping. We poked into 2-3 shops but quickly tired of the T-shirts and shell animals. We walked down to the beach area where we were welcomed by sea lions everywhere, on steps, in the park, on the beach. They could care less about humans and allowed us to get very close and have great photo opportunities. My son sat down on a bench and a baby sea lion walked right over to him sniffed a little and then nibbled his arm. Apparently he was not the correct flavor so away he walked. We bought nothing in town and spent our entire time ashore watching blue footed boobies dive for fish, Sally Lightfoot crabs scamper across the rocks and sea lions laze in the sun and pose for photo ops. From what we heard on deck, the only real purchases made were those who found the electronics store and were able to purchase cameras, memory cards, battery chargers, batteries and other items which somehow never made it to the suitcase before leaving home. When our time was up, back on the Zodiacs to return just in time for one more meal.
Espanola: In the afternoon, we again boarded our Zodiaks and headed to Espinola. We anticipated with excitement the thought that we would be able to glimpse some of the species known to the island, but when on a nature safari like this you never know what you might see. We were just hoping to not get "skunked". Talk about underestimation! This island was so full of iguanas, blue footed and nazca boobies, albatross and albatross babies, we didn't know which way to look first. We saw every animal not only in pairs, but by the hundreds. We had finches who followed us down the trail, we had boobies who were standing in the trail doing their dance and would hiss at you if you got in their way. After all, you are a visitor to their island. We saw an incredible amount of wildlife and it was all breathtaking as was the visit to the blowhole along the beautiful coast. The biggest concern was that you could never quite decide if you should watch where you were walking so that you did not fall, or whether you should watch for wildlife. A note of caution: The hike is approx 2 hours of walking over rocks - not a smooth path. The Park service cleared the vegetation along the path, but left the rocks were they lay. You must wear good walking shoes/sneakers and pay close attention. It is an unstable path, but not a hilly walk. If you can at all handle the conditions, don't miss this walk
Needless to say, after starting the day very early at Kicker Rock, walking through San Cristoble and then the high intensity walk through Espanola, it was all we could do to make it the next day's briefing and dinner and then head to the cabin for some needed rest. The reason this ship has no real nightly entertainment is that there is no who can stay up past dinnertime. Our 22 year old son who was traveling with us was really looking forward to taking advantage of the all inclusive alcohol offering on the ship...that is until even he was worn out at the end of the day and headed straight to bed after dinner.
Quick Note: We are definitely experiencing rough seas these first 2 days. None of my family is prone to seasickness, however we are all wearing Scopalomin patches and feel great. Not sure if the same would be true if we did not have the patches, but based on the way the ship is rocking, I am glad we did not take the opportunity to test our fortitude.
Tuesday: Floreana Island This morning we had our first "wet landing" and a hike through Floreana. Jumping over the side of our Zodiak clutching our gear felt a little like the opening scenes from a new season of Survivor. We were greeted on the beach by what we now consider "old hat" a few sleeping sea lions and some blue footed boobies. We had an easy walk along a dirt and gravel path where we saw the lone flamingo and evidence of turtle nests. We shuffled (and there is an art to this) into the ocean up to our ankles and were quickly surrounded by rays. The water is a little cloudy, so photos are difficult, but watching them appear and disappear was great to experience. Then, back to the site of our Survivor landing. At that point, you had the option to go back to the ship, snorkel off that beach, or go on the advanced snorkeling trip. We were given wetsuits, flippers, masks and snorkels the previous day. I spoke with the cruise director the previous day and he assured me that both trips would see the same wildlife and there was no real difference, other than the advanced trip would fight more of a current and have to embark and disembark over the side of the Zodiak. Being assured of the same sights, I opted for the lazy trip off the beach and watched as my son and husband headed off to the advanced trip. The water was quite cool, however once you got in and started seeing sea lions and large turtles swim around you, you forgot all about the chill in the water. You would periodically hear someone yell "turtle" and then everyone would head to that spot to watch. This was followed by "Sea Lion" and we would all swim in another direction. Sort of like an adult version of Marco Polo. Eventually, we all made our way back to shore, helped each other get out of our wetsuits, rinsed our gear bags and shoes so that we took no sand off the islands, and then hopped back on the Zodiaks to return to our land of comfort. For the first time in days, I actually felt hungry and was looking forward to another meal aboard ship. As we came back on board, the crew was there waiting to take our gear and hang it to dry for our next snorkeling adventure. A hot shower and I was ready for the rest of the day. My family returned from the advanced trip about 30 minutes later and I am sorry to say that they had a better excursion than me. Although they did not see turtles, they interacted with many more sea lions and saw octopus and what sounds like larger schools of beautiful fish. Based on their recounting of the adventure, it was not really "advanced" and anyone who can swim and negotiate their way over the rail of the zodiak can handle the trip.
The buzz in the dining room was palpable as people at every table were recounting their stories of what they saw as well as how many of each. On a ship this size, you can't help but know just about everyone on board.
Wednesday Another great day as we boarded the Zodiaks late in the morning (9am) to head to Bachus Beach. I am not going to recount all the activities as they are available in many places. What I will say is that when given the opportunity for an adventure, you should take it. After the morning hike, we were able to go snorkeling off a white sandy beach. During the snorkel, we had sea lions approach and were able to spot 2 giant rays
After lunch and afternoon siesta aboard ship, we headed out on the zodiacs for a wildlife spotting expedition. We were fortunate to see a penguin as well as several sea lions and sea turtles as well as a small shark. Once we made our wet landing we embarked on the "long hike" up to top of the volcano. It was moderately strenuous, but it was done on a boardwalk, which made walking easy, but the incline was relatively steep. However, your reward for making it to the top was an absolutely spectacular 360 degree view of the islands. If you are at all capable of making this trek, it is well worth it. No picture you can take will capture the beauty of the sight, so make sure you come out from behind the camera lens for a few moments to just enjoy viewing.
Thursday: We left early this morning to head to Isabela island where we were in search of giant tortoises and land iguanas. We did see beautiful specimens of both in various locations along our walk. Unfortunately, it appeared as if the largest population was wasps - everywhere. They were not particularly aggressive, but for someone who is terrified of them as well as allergic, I will say that this was not my most enjoyable excursions. Several of us could not wait to get out of the brush and back to the beach so we could leave the wasps behind. Silly us, who knew that the wasps in Galapagos enjoyed the beach as much as we did. We had left our dive bags on the beach before we left on our hike. When we returned, we found our dive bags covered with wasps, apparently attracted to our yellow beach towels. Thankfully my husband braved the bees and brought me my equipment near the water. We suited up and off we went into the 65 degree water. It was chilly, even with wet suits, but you forgot all about it when you saw the first turtle swimming right next to you. We saw several large sea turtles, schools of beautifully colored fish and several very large rays on the bottom. We continued playing Marco Polo Galapagos style, and headed off whenever someone popped up yelling "turtle" "rays over here", etc. As we headed back to shore, we were greeted by a very playful sea lion who kept swimming through our group, jumping around us, nibbling a wetsuit and giving us many photo ops. It was a great snorkeling adventure which you should not miss. We boarded our zodiacs back to the mother ship, where we were greeted again by cocktails as well as the always awaiting platters of appetizers. After all it had been 3 hours since breakfast, and lunch was not being served for another hour. As we sat on deck talking to the other passengers about what they saw and our next excursion with beers or cocktails in hand, our ship was surrounded by frolicking, feeding dolphin and a few sea lions. It was a great way to unwind before we headed back to our cabins to shower before lunch. We were sidetracked by a Guest Services officer who wanted to offer my husband and I free massages if we were interested. Don't have to ask me twice. So, after lunch, we both managed to squeeze in a massage prior to our afternoon adventure. Lulu did a great job and it felt like one more Celebrity magic touch. I must admit though that I believe this was offered to us as guests in the Penthouse Suite. Unlike larger cruise ships where suites are filled with amenities, that is not the case here. The PH suite is really just two cabins opened up to each other with a joint living area and dual balconies. There is no real additional services which could be provided on board, so I believe it was just Celebrity's way of saying they appreciate our business.
The afternoon excursion was a walk on Fernandina Island. Whatever your expectations are, be prepared to be overwhelmed. There is nothing that can prepare you for the abundance of wildlife you will see. The shear magnitude if the wildlife is stunning! You need to watch your step as you explore so as to not step on a tail of one of the thousand marine iguana's you will see. Once again you will encounter sea lions who are so cute you can't help but photograph them, as well as the flightless cormorants. Hopefully you heeded earlier advice and brought an abundant supply of memory cards. In a small area, and in one photograph, you can see Sally Lightfoots, sea lions, cormorants, blue footed boobies, sea turtles and some lava cactus! Wildlife viewing does not get any better.
Upon return to the ship, you can enjoy more wine/beer/cocktails and hors d'ouveres with your shipmates and exchange stories about what each group saw. A lovely interlude before dinner. The good news is that you do not have to run back to your room to dress for dinner. Most everyone was on deck until about 6:30 and then went back to the cabin to put on clean, not fancy clothes for dinner. We all met again for our briefing for the next day's activities, sipped the cocktail of the day and signed up for tomorrow's excursion. On to dinner and then for most, back to the cabin for a good night's sleep. We have an early start in the morning and want to feel refreshed.
One passenger asked to have a naturalist do an evening seminar on the stars which have been extraordinary in the evening. The request was accepted and at 9:15, the exterior ship lights dimmed. Unfortunately it was an overcast night and no stars were visible. Oh well, they will try another night.
Friday; Santiago: We awoke this morning to our first overcast day with a light mist falling. Not a day you would typically plan an outdoor adventure for, but we layered our clothes, picked up our snorkeling gear and boarded the Zodiaks for Santiago. We had a great walk over the island and as usual saw huge amounts of wildlife - sea lions, fur seals, more iguanas - just in case you did not see enough the previous day, sea turtles and a variety of birds. The sad thing is that the wildlife is so abundant every day that you actually become jaded very quickly and find yourself walking away from some species because you have seen them enough. The good news though is that the wildlife is so abundant that you don't have to look far to see your favorite creature, and viewing is very rarely hit or miss. If the island has that particular creature, it is EVERYWHERE you look.
As there is most days, you have the option after your walk to go back to the ship, walk along the beach or go snorkeling. It is very hard to pass up the snorkeling option because there is so much to see and almost always the probability some curious sea lion family will want to interact with you. Here's the catch, which serves as a deterrent for many. The water today was about 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with a wet suit it was cold. If possible, when you are given your snorkel equipment, try to get a long sleeved wetsuit. It makes a huge difference. No matter what you wear, the water is cold, but having totally covered arms is critical. Everyone who opts for snorkeling heads to the waterline to suit up and encourage each other that you will only be freezing or a moment and then you will be fine. It helps if you believe that and again once you start seeing wildlife, you forget that your fingers and toes are numb. We saw lots of large sea turtles, beautiful fish, unusual underwater flora and of course had our sea lion encounter. If you can handle it - DO IT.
Santa Cruz: This afternoon was all about managing expectations, For the past six days every island we visited was full of abundant wildlife everywhere you looked. Santa Cruz was more like what I had expected before my arrival. Long walks looking and hoping for wildlife sightings. The island is desolate, covered by dormant shrubs and cactus. During our 2 hour visit we found approximately 4 land iguanas and several finches. Nowhere near the abundance we had been accustomed to. At the end of the excursion we were offered the opportunity to snorkel along the coast with the expectation of finding sharks. Since we had finally warmed up from the morning snorkel, we opted out of this adventure and headed back to the ship for the ever awaiting wine, beer cold water and appetizers. When later groups arrived back, they confirmed our suspicion that this was a snorkeling trip not worth the effort. The water was murky and there was no sea life to be found. By the time they arrived back, we were well into our second drink and enjoying the onboard music, and the opportunity to enjoy the views from the deck.
Saturday: This morning we went to the Charles Darwin Research station where we saw a variety of tortoises and learned about the efforts to study and save the various species. While it was very interesting, it seemed more like a zoo experience and after spending the last several days seeing a plethora of creatures in their natural habitat, it was difficult to see these tortoises in pens built to mimic nature. I appreciate the work that is being done there, but it felt like a zoo.
The highlands excursion in the afternoon was much more exciting. We drove a while out of town and then turned down a long dirt road which dead-ended at a private ranch. It was here that as you got out of the busses you looked through the vast fields and there were tortoises everywhere. Roaming loose - just the way they should. It was a great afternoon. After the return to town, we were given the option to do a little more shopping, or head back to the dock to catch a panga back to our ship. Most people had had enough of the t-shirt stores and headed straight back to the ship. After all, by now, we all knew that there would be cool towels, little appetizers and wine/beer/cocktails/sodas waiting for us when we returned.
Sunday: It is a very sad morning as we have our last breakfast aboard the ship and await the pangas to take us to shore to meet the busses which would take us to the airport. While standing on deck our last morning, we were treated to the site of a whale and a calf off in the distance. And as we got to the dock, as if planned, there were pelicans, blue footed boobies, sea lions, and sally lightfoots all posing for their last photo op.
At the airport, we were again given our mandatory 45 minute opportunity to buy one last stuffed animal, hat, or t-shirt. We were then escorted to the Celebrity VIP lounge to await our flight back to Quito. It really was a very nice waiting area and we all shared last minute memories before we boarded the planes.
Once we checked into the Marriott, we were given the option to take a shopping tour. Our first stop was "the Market" - think flea market - more scarves, carved animals, tshirts, backpacks. An interesting way to spend an hour, but don't count on making a lot of purchases. From there, we were taken to a more upscale gallery which had some very lovely crafts, sweaters, weavings, jewelry, etc. Higher prices than the market, but not excessive and certainly tempting.
Our last evening together, we were invited to a ballroom at the Marriott for a final dinner and a performance of Ecuadorian folk dance. What they did not tell us is that there would also be hors devours served while we had the opportunity to purchase more Ecuadoran crafts. Most people did not have money with them so purchases required a quick run back to your room if you wanted to buy anything. The performance was enjoyable but seemed a bit touristy - quite unlike the previous 10 days. Most went to bed right after that as the first airport transfer left at 4:30 am. To the Marriott's credit, they opened the dining room for breakfast at 3:00 am for anyone wanting to eat prior to heading to the airport. We headed out at 6 am for the 9:00am flight to the airport. My only complaint is that during the night, American Airlines posted a flight delay of more than 3 hours. Celebrity either did not check that, or they chose to deliver us to the airport early. Needless to say, we sat in the Quito airport from 6:15 am until 12:30 pm when our flight finally boarded. Here is a hint, if you head to the far rear corner of the boarding gate, you can access the free wi-fi and entertain yourself for a little while. I managed to tear through the 150 plus emails crowding my inbox. One less thing I will need to do when I finally get home this evening. If only I could sort through my photos as easily and force myself to delete any of them. Those sea lions are so cute.......
So, it may sound trite, but a visit to the Galapagos Islands really is a trip of a lifetime. I have been to many remote areas of the world and am still awed by the sights we saw this week. The passengers on this ship are well traveled and well heeled. Everyone has a story about their safari in Africa, their trip to Antarctica, travel to China or Cambodia or Russia. We did not meet anybody who were in this trip as their first cruise or their first trip out of the country. For the most part, the crowd was a little older - 60s and up, although there were couples in the 50s, with their high school or college kids and one family even had their daughter who I would say was approx 11. We also had one young honeymoon couple. Regardless of age, everybody enjoyed the camaraderie of their fellow travelers. Jumping on and off the pangas several times a day and sitting cheek to cheek with a stranger brings out new friendships.
Notes: Photography: Don't shop for new clothing for the trip - Buy more memory cards! Whatever you think is enough - double - or maybe triple that. Although you think you can limit the number of pictures you take, there are demons inside you that force you to take just one, OK 10 more pictures of the sea lions you meet that day, because they are cuter than the ones you photographed yesterday. And no one can resist just a few more pictures of blue footed boobies doing the mating dance. And who could resist photographing ugly albatross baby chicks, etc, etc. Thanks to my husband's forethought, we brought along a laptop - not to keep in touch with the outside world - who cares - we are in the Galapagos Islands - but rather, we use the laptop to download our cameras every evening so that we can start the day with empty cards.
Dress: If you have done any cruising before, you probably think that you will at least have to get dressed for dinner - Forget about it. As I looked around the dining room last night I was surprised at how casual it really was. Leave the silk at home - it will much happier at home with the other fancy clothes. On this trip, khakis and polo are the uniform. If you don't have khakis, don't worry, jeans are equally prevalent and equally acceptable. It was foreign for me to see people in shorts on a Saturday night on a cruise. NOBODY CARES! It is nice to come back to the ship after an excursion and shower and put on clean clothes - if time permits - but this is a laid back environment where any conversation concerning dress is more about Keens vs Tevas or the latest offering of Columbia Sportswear.
One more note about dress. The weather is unpredictable and layers are key. Early morning and evening can be cool. Yes, you are on the Equator, but that does not mean hot. Most days I have started with a polo and a light jacket which by 10 am ends up in my backpack, only to be pulled out by about 5 pm again.
Tour groups: Fifteen minutes before the posted excursion times, a general announcement is made indicating wet or dry landing as well as an invitation to come down to deck to gather. You are handed your required life vest for the zodiak ride and then the strategy begins. Everybody starts positioning themselves in certain areas in an effort to make sure that they are not in a group which may not include the "right people" After the first day or so, you know who slows the group down, who always asks stupid questions, who is compelled to point out every pile of animal feces - in the event you want to photograph it and who you just can't seem to have a connection with. Each Zodiak holds 16 people plus the Naturalist. You will stay with this group for the entire 2-3 hour excursion, so you want to choose wisely - to the extent you can. No matter how had you try, every group always ends up with at least "one of those people". The good news is you get to reselect your companions on each excursion.
Naturalists: One of the key reasons to select Celebrity is the level of their Naturalists. These are more than tour guides. They are a wealth on information on anything Galapagos related. Their English is excellent and they are all charming and interesting. During your cruise, you will most likely end up with all of them at one point, and it truly does not make any difference which one you get - there has not been one that we have been unhappy with.
Towel Animals: If you are really looking for a review of towel animals, then you are looking at the wrong destination. After communing up close all day looking at sea lions, turtles, flamingos, penguins, etc what you really want to come back to is a cool towel, an icy drink and some fun conversation. There is not a towel animal to be found! Every day though there is a fresh platter of fruit in my cabin and every evening is a platter of appetizers. After all, you have to have something to nibble on before dinner, right?
Footwear: If you want to be "part of the club", then Keen's are the way to go, and I would say more than 50% of the people have Keens. Tevas follow as a close second. After that, there is a variety of footwear from other manufacturers. The wet landings are not as dramatic as they sound. Several people who do not have water shoes opt to take off their shoes on the zodiak and for the landing and then put them on when they hit dry land. I would say that should be a last resort, because then you have to carry towels to dry off our feet before you start off on the hike of the day. There is a drawback to the Keens also, although they are verrrry comfortable. You do pick up sand and junk in your Keens, and the exact thing that makes them so appropriate for his type of trip - foot comfort and protection, also makes it more difficult to shake the junk out of your shoes so you are not having foot exfoliation while you hike. I would still recommend them, but they are not perfect. Additionally, although we leave our Keens out on the balcony to dry, they do not ever seem to dry. Not a big deal. At night, it becomes a classy operation and I switch to Eccos or flip flops. I do have a pair of moderate heeled sandals with me, however the ship does rock and walking in anything other than flats could be a challenge - especially after an evening of free flowing alcohol. Remember - heels and shorts are not a good look on this trip.
Exercise: There are a few pieces of exercise equipment on Deck six, however they do not beckon you to test them out. Clearly they have been impacted by exposure to salt air and are less than inviting. On any given day, the excursions will provide you with some level of exercise and my recommendation is to take the week of and then hit the gym hard when you get home. To date, I have never seen anyone using the equipment.
Night life: LOL - You should definitely not skip the naturalist presentation every evening at 7:30. It is brief, maybe 15 minutes, but tells you everything you will need to know for the next day - wet/dry landing, snorkeling options, best clothing choices, etc. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy the specialty cocktail of the evening. After dinner, you can take a stroll up to deck 6 to view the stars, or make an appointment with the massage therapist for some reflexology before you turn in for the evening. There is usually an evening event such as disco night, passenger talent shoe or Karaoke. From what I hear, they are poorly attended as most people head to their cabins after dinner.
Necessary equipment: You must bring a backpack. As you head out on the excursions you will always grab one or two water bottles. You will have camera equipment; you may have a towel as well as need a place to drop your jacket. Backpacks allow you to keep your hands free. Everybody has one and you should too.
Hats are part of the "uniform". The sun is strong and it is good practice to wear one. It should however be one of the dorky expedition hats which tie under the chin. Baseball hats will blow away - not a good choice. If you don't have one, don't worry. You are expected to buy a Galapagos one during your 45 minute wait at the Baltra airport. You can buy one emblazoned with boobies, penguins, sea lions and a multitude of other critters.
Underwater photography: If you are planning to snorkel, you probably want to plan for some type of photography equipment to capture sea lions frolicking underwater, or the huge sea turtles you will almost certainly encounter. There is also a huge variety of beautifully colored fish. Your equipment does not have to fancy - lots of people have disposable underwater cameras. Many options also exist to purchase relatively inexpensive waterproof cameras or dive masks with digital cameras built into them. You will want some way of capturing what you see.
Suntan lotion: This sort of goes hand in hand with the requirement for hats. The sun is strong, and the weather temperate, so you do not realize you are burning until it is too late. Less
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