My wife and I recently cruised on Celebrity's Xpedition seven-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands. (August 28 through September 4, 2011.) We went with friends of ours (who extended their trip to Peru). We had a terrific time. If I were to rate the overall cruise experience on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best I would rate the cruise a 9. We flew nonstop from Atlanta to Quito (only 4.5 hours) and arrived a day earlier in Quito. One of the great features of the Celebrity cruise is that virtually everything is included. Celebrity books all of the passengers (a full ship is about 90 passengers) at the JW Marriott in Quito. Celebrity then conducts a full-day tour of Quito that includes a visit to the old city, lunch, a visit to the equator monument, and then a very nice dinner at a local restaurant. On Sunday, Celebrity books a charter flight through Aerogal on what seemed to be a brand new Airbus 320, from Quito to Baltra, a 2 hour flights. (Our friends, my wife, and I arrived in Quito a day early, and we spent the day traveling outside of Quito to Otavalo and other towns. Well worth the extra day.) In other words, with Celebrity, you feel like you're getting your money's worth.
The ship itself is perfect for the type of cruise. Virtually everything is included, except for certain alcoholic beverages. Unlike other cruises we've been on, the Xpedition does not charge for beer, soft drinks, bottled water, etc. In addition, all of the excursions are included. Generally, at each stop in the islands, there are 2 excursions -- one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Since the ship cannot dock at the islands, you must take a zodiac raft in order to get on the island. Most of the landings are "dry", although some are "wet." These rafts seat about 16 people, are driven by one of the ship's crew, and there is an outboard motor on each of the rafts. The drivers are actually quite skilled at maneuvering these rafts through water that is sometimes choppy. There are also opportunities for snorkeling at some of the stops. The wildlife is phenomenal -- you will see giant tortoises, penguins, blue-footed and Nasca boobies, cormorants, lizards, iguanas, cormorants, pelicans, etc. These animals have no fear of predators so you can get very close. I've never seen anything like this, and highly recommend. One of the most amazing sights was Kicker Rock, an enormous outcropping in the middle of the ocean, that we saw at sunrise against a black sky. It looked golden in the sunlight. Be sure to take advantage of the Zodiacs that go out in the morning so you can get close to Kicker Rock.
Also, I recommend reading "The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time", by Jonathan Weiner. Celebrity recommend the book; I bought it and it was excellent. It made my trip even more meaningful.
The only criticisms are these: (1) I wish the naturalist's briefings each evening had gone into more depth about the flora and fauna we were going to see. Many of the briefings covered the logistics, such as wet landing, dry landing, type of hike, etc. (2) Sometimes the pace of the hikes seemed too "rushed." I would have welcomed being able to spend more time on each island. Bottom line: this is a great ship, a great cruise, and a wonderful opportunity to see nature, unspoiled by man.