The first thing I have to say is that for anyone considering going on this cruise, I HIGHLY recommend it. Definitely the trip of a lifetime, and the most fun and stress free vacation i have ever had.
I'm going to break my review down into sub headings, so that if you are wondering about a specific topic you can scroll ahead without having to sift through my entire review.
Arrival in Quito - Flawless experience. Was met by a celebrity representative at the airport in quito upon arrival, and was immediately escorted onto a bus along with other celebrity guests and brought to the five star j.w. marriot hotel.
J.W. Marriot Hotel - The hotel is nice, has a lovely outdoor pool and hot tub, and the rooms are spacious with a shower and a bath, and roses on the beds. Celebrity has a special hospitality desk set up in the lobby, so check in was quick and painless.
Tour of Quito - The tour of Quito done by Celebrity is very well planned and allows everyone to see the main parts of the city effectively without being too tiring. My only advice for Quito is to definitely go and see the equator; they give you an opportunity to go back to the hotel after lunch if you are tired, but you can nap on the bus on the way up to the equator park and it is something you definitely don't want to miss out on! The tour in Quito is also a good opportunity to by paintings and bags and scarves from the native people, as here you will have the most time. Dinner was at Carmines Restaurant, and everything was lovely. The owner was extremely friendly, making sure everyone liked their food, and he even brought a woman at my table an extra dessert after he overhead her talking about wanting to try another one on the menu.
My only other comment about Quito is due to the timing of my celebrity cruise, i got to be in quito for New Years, which was an amazing experience. The locals have so many fun traditions and it was really neat to be able to experience ecuadorian culture in such a big way.
Charter Flight from Quito to the Galapagos - lovely flight on new-looking charter AeroGal plane. The plane was comfortable, and breakfast was served with real cloth placemats and napkins and metal silverware.
Baltra Airport - It took only about ten minutes to get through the galapagos customs and bag check (they open your carry ons to make sure you don't have anything that could harm wildlife or carry diseases). Past the security check everyone was met by two of the Xpedition Naturalists who told us we had 20 minutes until we would be taken by bus to board the ship. There are quite a few little shops outside the airport selling t-shirts, hats and other souvenirs, so i was glad for the 20 minutes to look around and buy a few things. The prices were very reasonable. After that everyone boarded a few buses which took us to the dock.
Boarding the Xpedition - At the dock you can see the Xpedition anchored offshore in the bay, and everyone is given lifejackets to board the zodiacs. The zodiacs take groups of about sixteen people, and the celebrity crew are wonderful about helping you to get your carry on onto the zodiac. Boarding the zodiac is a simple step from the dock onto the front of the boat where there is a few steps with a handrail to help you into the boat. In addition, the Naturalist on the zodiac teaches you the "galapagos handshake" (like shaking hands but grabbing each other's forearms instead) which they do every time to steady everyone when getting on or off the zodiacs.
Stateroom- I was in an oceanview stateroom. I found that the bed was comfortable, and the room didn't feel cramped like i thought it might. The bathroom has a fairly roomy shower with a glass door and even a small cabinet for placing toothbrushes hairbrushes etc. There are also two large closets in the stateroom ( one for each person) and these provide lots of room to put away all of your clothes.
Stateroom Attendants - My stateroom attendant was Salome, who was wonderful. I swear every single time i left my stateroom and returned, she had been in there and re-made my bed, re-stocked the mini fridge (full of sprite, water, and coca-cola) and left ecuadorian chocolate on my pillow. She even folded my pyjamas every morning and tucked them under my pillow, and then while i was at dinner, would come back in and lay my pyjamas out on the bed and turn down the corner of the covers!
Food - It is definitely impossible to go hungry on this cruise. BREAKFAST was always a buffet served in the Darwin Restaurant that included bacon, eggs, french toast, pancakes, an omelette station, many fruit options, some yogurt, granola, cereal, and a couple other things. LUNCH was usually a themed buffet in Darwin's Restaurant (mexican, ecuadorian, etc.) with the alternate option of a hot dog, hamburger, chicken, or fish at the Beagle Grill. THe only exception was one day where darwins was closed because there was instead a delicious bbq out by the beagle grill. They had grilled steak, lobster, hamburgers, sausages, hot dogs, corn, a salad bar, and many more things i was too full to try. DINNER is always held in Darwin's Restaurant and is served to your table. There is a standard menu of appetizers and entrees that you can always order (like ceasar salad, steak, chicken, fish, and a few others) and then there is also a daily menu of 5 different entree options and some different appetizers and desserts. All of the food is good, it's not gourmet or extravagant, but i didn't experience anything that i disliked.
Waiters - the waiters and bus boys were all very friendly and provided excellent service. The always came around promptly to refill water and wine glasses and ask if you needed anything. Some of them did not speak very much english, but smiled a lot and always got someone else to help you if they didn't understand your request. Juan was my waiter for the majority of the nights and was amazing, greeting me by name and asking about my day.
Maitre D - the maitre D while i was on board was Mauricio. I have only the most excellent things to say about him. He asked me my name once on the very first day and remembered it the entire cruise. He also was very charming greeted everyone with a smile whenever they came into the dining room. He was constantly making sure everyone's meals were going well, and i even saw him carry an older lady's plate and take her arm to escort her up the stairs when she wished to eat her lunch up on the patio. Everyone on the cruise loved Mauricio, his english is very, very good,and he was good natured enough to jump in and help people out during karaoke and talent show nights.
Cruise Director - the cruise director while i was on board was Bitinia. She did a spectacular job every night at the briefings outlining the excursions for the next day and answering questions. Also, there was a crossword puzzle challenge on the second last day, and my group finished first. That night at the briefing she called my crossword puzzle group up and gave us all celebrity Xpedition t-shirts. It was a lovely gesture and a great souvenir to have!
Naturalists - The six naturalists on board during my cruise were Veronica, David, Manuel, Carlos, Freddy, and Fabricio. All were knowledgable and friendly, and must be saints to put up with dumb questions, and people asking the same questions over and over again because they were not listening the naturalists the first three times.
Veronica - very cheerful, and enthusiastic, and remembered my name
David - told neat little stories
Manuel - hardly ever wore shoes, even on sharp rocks! apparently he grew up not wearing them He was also extremely kowledgable.
Carlos - high fived me every time he saw me, and did hilarious impressions of all the galapagos animals
Freddy - sung in the talent show (he was very good) and showed me pictures of his two little girls: so adorable!
Fabricio - great sense of humour, and is a very thorough guide. He is always being told to hurry up over the xpedition radios that the guides carry because we are only supposed to be on the islands for 2.5 hours at a time, but he was so busy pointing out interesting things that his group was always pushing the time limit. Learned a lot from him.
Panga/ Zodiac Drivers - they were all very skilled at manoeuvring the boats to make it easy for everyone to get on/off and to make sure everyone could see the wildlife that was around the zodiacs. There were four of them, but the only one i talked to was Freddie, who did not speak much english, but he was very nice. He smiled a lot and made sure to point out wildlife to me when i was sitting near him.
Discovery Lounge and Bar- lovely gathering space for all of the guests. The nigtly briefings were held in here, and then after dinner the evening entertainment was also held in this place.I personally spent a lot of time in here when on the ship instead of spending it in my cabin, because it was fun to sit with new people and play cards, or chat, or read a book. It was also good because you could always go get some juice or coffee or water from the bar whenever you wanted.
Bridge Visit - there is an option to visit the bridge of the ship while onboard and i highly recommend it. You just have to sign up in the guest services area after you are onboard. The navigator shows you all of the equipment in the bridge, and talks about how the boat works, and has very interesting stories that he tells. I forget his name but the navigator taught me a lot on the bridge tour and it is definitely worth checking out!
Snorkelling - the snorkelling was tons of fun. The boat provides wetsuits, masks, snorkels, and fins, so you don't need to bring any of your own gear. All of the equipment is in good shape and they had adequate wetsuit sizes for everyone. The Advanced Deepwater snorkel was by far the best, and if you have no difficulty swimming, i highly recommend choosing to do it. Even if you do not have any snorkelling experience, you will be able to do the advanced snorkel as long as you feel comfortable not being able to touch the bottom.
Well that is everything that i could think of to mention specifically in this review. All of the wildlife was incredible and all of the excursions were definitely worth going on. The difficulty of the walks is not extreme, but for older cruisers who would have trouble on uneven, rocky terrain, i recommend taking the easier excursion options as opposed to the difficult ones. You will see practically all of the same wildlife and will not be at risk of falling or feeling unsteady on your feet.
That is all, hopefully you already have, or are planning to go on this wonderful cruise!