Celebrity Xpedition: Celebrity Xpedition Cruise Review by ghstudio
Overall Member Rating
Let me state right up front that this is a "NOT TO BE MISSED" cruise.
Celebrity really has their act together on this offering. Don't even try to book the cruise yourself and try to do the land portion on your own. This isn't one of those "start to board at noon, sail at 5pm" cruises. If you don't arrive on the correct TAME flight, you are not going to get on the cruise....and you can't just buy a TAME ticket from the US..they don't take credit cards...it's very tricky. Just pay Celebrity to handle things (the 10 or 11 day options). They meet you at the airport, transfer you to the hotel, give you a full day tour of Quito and pick up the baggage outside your hotel room on Sunday morning at 5 AM (not a typo)...which is Ok because you have to leave at 6am. The next time you see your luggage is in your cabin aboard the xPedition, unless you happen to More spot it on the zodiac on it's way to the ship. Everything comes to and leaves the ship on one of the four zodiacs..you, your food, your luggage, and all ship supplies. The xPedition never docks at a real terminal.
TAME (ta-may) airlines is just one of the pleasant surprises of the trip. Expecting nothing, we found a new Airbus with attentive ground and cabin people and good food. Nothing to worry about here.
The ship "terminal" isn't non descript,it's non existent. The bus from the Baltra airport terminal drives down a road next to the water and stops. You cross the road and go down concrete steps to your waiting zodiac. The ship's crew gives you a life vest (you must wear a life vest every time you are on a zodiac), you get on the zodiac using wood steps with a handrail and they take you to the ship which is anchored almost out of site...one of the longest zodiac rides you will take all week. The zodiac life vests are not those bulky orange vests you've worn on other cruises, they are much smaller and actually wearable.
A word on the zodiacs. You don't have to sit on the edge like a Navy Seal...there is one seat just in front of the controls where you can "hide" or you can sit on the steps if you are nervous. By the second trip, you'll be ok on the side like everyone else, but if you are afraid of falling in (my wife was terrified...she can't swim), you will still be OK. BTW, my wife didn't miss a single shore trip and sat on the side of the zodiac by the second trip to shore...if she can do it, anyone can...and no one even came close to falling off.
Cabins: The only difference between XD and XP cabins is one deck..they are identical in every way and there is no reason, other than snob appeal, to book in XP (sorry Celebrity..). However, whether you are on deck 3 or deck 4, you do want to be as far back as possible...our cabin was perfect. This is a small ship and they anchor during the night. Those in the very front cabins were sure that the anchor chains ran directly thru their beds.
Drinks: Drinks are included unless you want the top brand and then they are normal $5-6 prices. They don't serve junk liquor though...I drank Kettle One Vodka included free not needing to spend the money to buy Belvedere. Johnny walker red scotch included and so on. Now here's an unusual warning...the bartender is obviously penalized if you come back for a second drink :-) I asked for a vodka on the rocks, he added a few ice cubes to a 12 oz glass and filled the glass to the top with vodka. This was their normal drink. My wife's Kaluha was equally large. I actually switched to drinking vodka in a martini glass because it was smaller (True). Clearly, they want their guests to enjoy their cruise. Wine is included at dinner...they pick the choices but they are good wines and the price is right....no limit.
Expeditions: Don't be afraid of going on the "high intensity" trips. There are a couple that walk up alot of steps so those you might avoid, but the others are really no more difficult than the lesser intensity trips. The Galapagos are so rich in animals that you're going to have a great experience no matter which trip you take. The wet landings are not more than drop off the side of the zodiac into about 8" of water (beach)...you don't have to swim to shore or even worry about your camera getting wet. The rocky paths and rocky landings are also very easy..and the guides help you off the boat and make sure you are ok before they help the next person. Don't let the descriptions scare you....they are overly cautious. We had a legally blind gentleman on our trip who did every "high intensity" excursion..he could see well enough to make out enough....he used a cane and his wife to help guide him.
Food: Adequate to good....certainly not normal Celebrity quality but they are working with Ecuadorian provisions...by agreement with the government. They aren't allowed to fly in good beef from the US and so on. Not much variation in breakfasts although there is a make to order omelette station where they will also make fried eggs and such to order. The grill lunch on the rear deck is probably the one thing to try to miss...
Will you get seasick? OK, the boat does rock when anchored...all boats rock when they are at anchor...this isn't a 2000 person ship. I'd say 1/4 of the guests got sick the first night..and then everyone adjusted when they realized that's as bad as it's going to get. I will give you a helpful hint: The people that said, even before getting on the boat, "I am going to get seasick" or "I might get seasick" got seasick. Now I know that some folks really do have ear imbalances, but most seasickness on boats is caused by people who are afraid they are going to get seasick and constantly checking themselves to see if they are getting seasick. If you think you might be prone to seasickness get a wrist band, take bonine or non drowsy dramamine and tell yourself, now you aren't going to get seasick...and if you can avoid thinking about it, you won't get seasick....and just forget about it. Think I'm crazy...try it.
Guides are terrific and they love what they do. I made the mistake of asking one of the guides why the Sally lightfoot crabs were bright orange rather than a camouflaged brown/black color...and I got a full five minute answer. Unlike another reviewer, I had no trouble understanding any of them and their goal was to help and inform..not just lead you around some paths.
Not to dash you illusions, but you visit the Galapagos on marked paths; you can not just wander off. This is to protect the animals and their breeding grounds. This is in no way offensive...they aren't paved paths...but you must stay inside the white marker posts. There is no litter..if the guides see something dropped by a previous visitor, they pick it up and take it back to the ship. You are seeing today what visitors saw 50 years ago...the galapagos have not been ruined by tourists. Cruise schedules are coordinated tightly by the Galapagos National Park. They don't allow more than one ship to dock at a site at a time...so your cruise is a private one even though the Galapagos gets some 70,000 visitors a year.
Altitude Sickness: At this point, Celebrity only handles arrangements thru Quito..not thru Guayaquil. Hopefully, they'll figure out that they have to change this to attract the types of folks they are trying to attract to this cruise. Quito is some 9000 feet above sea level and some people do get altitude sickness which is very real...and there is no way to know if you will be effected or not. Guayaquil is less interesting, but you aren't going to risk altitude symptoms (headache,etc..look on the web). Fortunately, the cure for altitude sickness is to go to a lower altitude which is exactly what you do when you fly to Baltra. Then at the end of the cruise, you fly back to 9000 feet again...what can I say? Celebrity, I hope you read my critique and this review...it's the one change needed.
Okay...one other comment. This is a trip for people that love animals and wildlife. If you get bored sitting with two hour old seals lying two feet away from you, if you don't want to sit and watch a baby albatross learning to fly, if you don't want to stand two feet from blue footed booby sitting on it's egg and watch the mate switch places (they both share sitting on the egg), if you don't want to snorkel with a penguin within arms length and a sea lion tickling your belly while looking down on giant sea turtles....then this isn't the trip for you. If those things excite you...this is a must do experience...and the Celebrity xPedition makes it truly enjoyable. Less