This is to be something of a "kick back" day after the frantic activity at the start of the cruise, so the morning excursion is a simple trip to Bachas Beach on the northern shore of Santa Cruz for a short walk and/or a swim. I take a look at the churning grey sky (the Galapagos weather is as changeable as England's, and you can experience drizzle and brilliant sunshine in the same half hour) and decide to wait for the afternoon tour to Bartolome Island, where snorkeling is possible from the soft, red-sand beach.
Visibility is better close to the shoreline, and I see huge sea urchins, a turquoise starfish and shoals of brilliant yellow and purple angel fish. Like the land animals, Galapagos fish are unfazed by human beings and don't dart away at my approach -- and there are plenty to see. Surrounded by both warm and cold sea currents, the islands have more than 480 different species of fish and marine organisms, including whales, dolphins, rays, parrotfish, grouper and tuna. Damn my bad eyesight!
The water, though cool, is refreshing; we've already worked up a sweat clambering to the top of a tall sand dune to view the turtle nesting site on the other side, where large, yellow-legged Galapagos hawks perch on the black volcanic rocks and keep an eye out for a takeaway meal.
Our dinner, on the other hand, is assured; that night we tuck into fried calamari, a decent tomato bisque and asparagus risotto, having learned to steer clear of the beef, which comes from Ecuador and is variable in quality (there are plans afoot to get meat from Miami for future cruises).
The ship's French chef -- at the top of his game if the meltingly delicious croissants he serves at breakfast are anything to go by -- is obviously having trouble sourcing ingredients from limited local suppliers. Faced with a dearth of dairy cream, he is forced to serve his light-as-air, chocolate-swathed profiteroles stuffed with ice cream (sacre bleu!). But we're not complaining; the fact is that traditional multi-course, long-winded bean feasts as dished up on the big Celebrity ships -- where the food is an essential ingredient of the cruise experience -- are actually a bit of a drag here.
For the point of this cruise is to take in all that fabulous wildlife, and passengers eager to make the most of it agree they'd be as happy with simpler fare, quickly served so they can escape the confines of the dining room and enjoy their complimentary nightcaps out on top deck, gazing at the dazzling Galapagos night sky.
We've already skipped dinner a couple of evenings to catch a film in our cabin while enjoying a promptly served room-service toasted cheese sandwich with fries, ice cream with cookies, coffee and a bottle of wine. And we're looking forward to the casual deck barbecue scheduled for Saturday, the last night of the cruise -- an opportunity to make the most of the balmy evenings and Celebrity Expedition's pretty outside decks, which are the only parts of the ship (apart from cabin balconies) where smoking is allowed.
In the meantime, we have Fernandina Island to look forward to tomorrow.