We booked this trip 18 months in advance after visiting a travel show. I was a little concerned because I didn't think the Galapagos cruise on Celebrity could be as good as everyone said, but I was wrong... It was better. We have never sailed Celebrity before, but now I will try their other ships. The care this company takes of its clients is just incredible. We were met at baggage claim in Quito by a porter who took our bags through a scanner for us, led us to the Celebrity representative and loaded our bags in the bus. From here on out that Celebrity representatives took care of our every need until we boarded the plane to Baltra and again when we returned from the cruise.
We arrived at the JW Marriott at about 9:30 pm and were greeted with juice. This hotel is beautiful, there are roses everwhere and when we came to breakfast on Saturday morning I was amazed by the view of the Andes. The tour of Quito was very well done and included a lovely buffet lunch at the Theater Restaurant. Then it was off to the equator monument ( you've got to do this just to say you have been there!!). After a couple of hours back at the hotel we were taken to Carmine restaurant which I loved as we sat outside on a very nice patio. By this time we were all beginning to make friends and this was to be a feature of the cruise; we would come to know nearly everyone and everyone was so friendly. The last thing before bed was to take our bags downstairs to be locked away for an early morning inspection and transport to the ship. You can carry liquids in hand luggage so it is not a problem to part with you suitcase.
Sunday morning we filled out some forms before boarding the bus to the airport. Without our luggage it was so easy. We boarded our plane for a flight that American airline companies should emulate. The flight attendants were attentive, the plane was clean and the meal was served with real silverware and napkins. It was about 2 hours to the islands and our first glimpse of the ship. Arriving in Baltra was equally easy, just had to have our forms stamped and we were outside to meet our Celebrity naturalists. A short bus ride took us to the dock and our zodiac ride to the ship which was anchored in the bay.
The ship is gorgeous, I was so glad that we had chosen it. We came to love the Beagle Grill at the back (stern) as it was the meeting place before and after excursions, when we were greeted with drinks and snacks. We tended to eat lunch here and also sit here in the late afternoon after returning from the second excursion, talking with new friends and watching the sun begin to set. We would pop to our cabin at about 6:45 to shower and change for the evening briefing in the Discovery Lounge, by Jorge our cruise director. He was so happy, friendly and informative. Every evening you sign up for the excursions you want to do the next day. Win are in our late 50s and always did the long walks with absolutely no problems. We also did not use walking sticks as we didn't find walking on rocks difficult. The walks may be longer than some people normally do, but they are generally not steep and they are very slow as people are listening to the naturalists and taking photos.
I cannot speak highly enough about the naturalists... They are friendly, know their stuff, work very hard and enjoy themselves singing on some evenings. Of course we had our favorites, but that is a matter of style not of competence. They are also so helpful getting people in and out of zodiacs. There were a couple of days with largish sea swells, but no-one had a problem and we had some very old people on our trip. The naturalists just know what they are doing.
Our favorite excursion was on Monday afternoon on Espanola. It is a beautiful walk to a cliff overlooking a wonderful coastline and blow hole; but the diversity of the wildlife was incredible and I was moved by the behaviors and beauty of the waved albatrosses that we saw. My second favorite was on Sunday afternoon to North Seymour as this is the first landing and everyone is awe struck by the Boobies, Frigates and Sea Lions. Third for me was Fernandina on Thursday afternoon where we watched young sea lion pups playing and loads of marine iguanas. While I loved those three excursions, I enjoyed every one.... This is a cruise where you can't wait to get off the ship and discover new delights on land.
Every evening we would eat with different friends in the Darwin Restaurant. The food was fine, I mostly ate the local fish on the menu. The best thing about dinner was learning about our fellow passengers, they were so well travelled. There was generally something to do in the evening, but we just didn't tend to stay up late as it was always an early start each morning. We did love watching the stars from the bow on deck 6; we enjoyed watching sharks in the water when they turned on the lights one night, and we loved the crossing the equator party. Most of the time we were in bed by 10:30 or 11:00. We booked a suite with balcony and I am glad we did. The balcony was lovely and there was just that extra room to move around. Each afternoon we were greeted with Hors D'oeuvres in our cabin and there was always a bowl of fruit. The boat does rock on the first two nights and on Friday night, because we are underway rather than at anchor. We loved the rocking and never felt sick, but I know a couple of passengers did feel the effects.
Everyone was so sad when the cruise ended and many of us were glad that we had 1 night back in Quito. We left the ship at 9:30 am on Sunday and just waiting in the airport until they called us to go through passport check to the departure lounge. Then we were on board and flying away from our ship which we could see in the bay. Back in Quito our luggage was taken care of again and we were whisked away to the hotel. We didn't go shopping, just relaxed and went to dinner at 7:00 in the hotel. This was when we said goodbye to so many of our new friends. The ship sends out an email list, so many of us will stay in touch. On Monday, a shuttle and representative took us to the airport with plenty of time. Quito airport is simple to negotiate with Celebrity's help and we were soon at our gate and on our plane back to the USA.
I will never forget this vacation and I will recommend it to all friends. I don't believe anyone does the Galapagos better than Celebrity.