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12 Galapagos Fitness Cruise Reviews

My wife and I did the Western loop of the Galapagos on the Xpedition. The cruise was wonderful, meeting or exceeding all of our expectations. A detailed review follows. My wife and I generally look for values when we cruise. We try ... Read More
My wife and I did the Western loop of the Galapagos on the Xpedition. The cruise was wonderful, meeting or exceeding all of our expectations. A detailed review follows. My wife and I generally look for values when we cruise. We try to book mainline cruise trips for $100 or less per person per day. Needless to say, there is no such option in the Galapagos. The best “deal” we could find in relative comfort was on Celebrity’s 100 passenger Xpedition. In an effort to save some money, we booked the least expensive cabin we could find at the least expensive time of the year. And we avoided the expensive mainland add-ons (to Quito and elsewhere) that Celebrity sells, booking only the seven day cruise and making all of our flight arrangements to and from the Galapagos ourselves. OK, after all of that, our cruise price per person (including taxes and fees) was still about $560 per person per day, making this the most expensive cruise we have ever done. Was it worth it? Absolutely! One thing that mitigates the cost is that this cruise is truly all inclusive. For example, no tipping is expected, and all types of alcohol are included. The only additional things my wife and I paid for on board was a $30 bag of laundry and a $23 bottle of sunblock. Yeah, not a typo, bring a lot of sunblock so you don’t have to buy any on board. We arrived two nights early and stayed in the small town of Puerto Ayora. There is a $20 visa fee tourists have to pay, and a $100 national park fee at the airport. Now Celebrity pays this as part of your cruise package, but when we arrived the officials at the airport did not yet have the “list” of Celebrity passengers, so we had to pay the fee. On the day our cruise began, however, Celebrity immediately refunded our payment, so that was no problem. OK, some details about the cruise. Embarkation was a breeze. We made our way back to the airport on the morning of the cruise and met with a Celebrity rep there. After a pleasant one-hour wait in the terminal, they put us on a short bus ride to the Baltra marina, and an Xpedition zodiac met us at the marina and took us out to the Xpedition. We were then shown immediately to our cabin. Our oceanview cabin was not particularly remarkable. In terms of size and layout it was very similar to oceanview cabins we have had on larger cruise ships. The shower was a bit bigger, and nicer, than some we have had on other ships. There was plenty of hot water, good water pressure, and the in room hair dryer worked well. The water that comes out of the taps in your cabin is, of course, potable, but it also tastes of chlorine, so the ship also has drinking water dispensers on each deck that have no chlorine taste. The food served in the main dining room was also similar in quality to what we have had on other cruise ships, but was more limited in variety and, not surprisingly, heavy on fish and seafood dishes. The food was not the best we have had, but it easily met our expectations, given the difficulty of resupply that the Xpedition faces. We were told that about 50% of the food is sourced locally, but many products that we westerners are used to (like beef) have to be flown in by Celebrity or otherwise sourced over long distances. And some of the food has to be specially treated before being allowed in the Galapagos. Ok, and now the superlatives. The ratio of crew to passengers on the Xpedition is very high, with 62 crew members vs 100 passengers. And that meant a level of service we have not experienced on any cruise. For example, our room was serviced multiple times a day, seemingly every time we left it (OK, maybe not quite that often). When we were in the bar or restaurant the waiters were constantly circulating and asking if they could get you something. And when we would return from a shore excursion the staff was always right there waiting with cold beverages and snacks. One thing that surprised me, but I guess shouldn’t have, is that the crew was almost entirely Ecuadoran. In fact, 61 out of 62, including the Captain, were Ecuadoran. What a competent, energetic, and pleasant group of people. Hey, but accommodations, food, and ship board service are not really why you come to the Galapagos. It is for the wildlife! And Celebrity shines in getting you to the action. Each day of the cruise you have at least two activities, morning and afternoon. There were three basic types of activities: a walk ashore, a snorkel, or a lengthy zodiac ride (without landing or snorkeling). With regard to the walks, there was always the option of a longer or shorter walk. The snorkel trips were sometimes shore snorkels (right off the beach) or deepwater snorkels. My advice: always do the deepwater snorkels when offered because the water clarity and sea life variety is better than the shore snorkels. And Celebrity plans the deepwater snorkels very well. There was virtually no current on any of our snorkels, and what current there was was always pushing the way we wanted to go. On one snorkel we went three quarters of the way around a small island, for a total distance of 1.5 miles, and it was so easy that we virtually never used our arms, only our flippers, with the wetsuits providing plenty of buoyancy. As for signing up for what you wanted to do on a given day, you got a briefing the night before and right after that briefing chose what you wanted to do. There was no rush or pressure to be “first in line” to sign up for anything, as the Xpedition can accommodate everyone on every desired option. Group size ashore was usually 14 to 16 persons with one naturalist, which was about as many folks as one zodiac could comfortably carry. The naturalists were great -- well informed with a pretty good command of English. As for the wildlife, we saw pretty much all the biggies: Tortoises, boobies (Blue Foot and Nazca), land iguanas, marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, penguins, flamingos, crabs, rays, and sharks. We even saw three albatrosses very close up, although we were well past the season when the albatrosses have normally departed the islands. And we saw many other species of birds, including, of course, multiple species of Darwin finches. Many of these animals have incredible coloration. And since there are no large land-based predators in the Galapagos almost all of these animals are completely unafraid of humans and you could get very close to them. A true photographer’s dream. Some offbeat highlights: (1) One day we were momentarily stuck on some rough rocks in a zodiac because of an extremely low tide, and the crews of two other zodiacs worked quickly to free us. A bit much excitement that. (2) One morning a lava gull landed next to me on the ship, and I remarked what a beautiful bird it was to a naturalist sitting nearby. She then told me the lava gull was the rarest gull in the world, and there it was five feet away eyeing my croissant!! I asked if I could feed it (just joking). (3) There were an incredible number of baby sea lions. OMG, so cute. And so curious. The naturalists warned us that for the protection of the babies we should not touch them. But sometimes it was difficult, as they would come right up to you in their curiosity. (4) Probably the highlight of the trip for me was watching sea lions while snorkeling. They would swim like torpedos all around you, and then groups of them would play with each other, and then one might come up and eyeball you before swimming away. Wow. Debarkation was also a breeze. Settle up you bill, if you have one. Put your suitcases outside your room by 5:30 AM, and they are then delivered directly to the airport. Exit your room by 8:30 AM, wait in the lounge, and they call your cabin number for boarding a zodiac back to the short bus ride from dock to airport. Let me close with two more tips. When going ashore for a walk, the footing varied wildly from place to place. Sometimes the landing would be wet (meaning you had to wade a few feet up onto a beach) or dry (directly on to a dock, or jetty, or on some rocks). Then your hike could be on sand, or compact dirt, or broken rocks, or slippery rocks (algae and/or guano), or broken lava, or even some small boulder scrambling. My wife and I brought Tevas (for the wet landings) and lightweight hiking shoes, but on some hikes it would have been nice to have had actual hiking boots for more ankle support. Several times some of the older folks fell -- even on the short, so-called “easier” walks. Another clothing tip is to bring a very broad brimmed hat of some sort, and perhaps some neck covering like a scarf or other neck protector. The sun is brutal on the equator, and unexposed skin burns fast even in cloudy weather. One thing you don’t really need is your own snorkeling equipment. Celebrity provides all that, including wetsuits. As a final note, they told us that the composition of the Celebrity Galapagos fleet will change soon. Currently there are three Celebrity ships, the Xpedition (100 passengers), the Xperience (48 passengers), and the Xploration (16 passengers). The Celebrity Flora, a new, hyper-modern 100 passenger ship, joins the Galapagos fleet later in May. And sometime after that the Xpedition will be refurbished, with its capacity reduced to 64 passengers. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We went on a Nat Geo Alaska cruise and the 6 of us just knew we had to do Galapagos with them again. It is just an over the top experience if you are looking for a very active and tons of info trip, with terrific staff, naturalist and ... Read More
We went on a Nat Geo Alaska cruise and the 6 of us just knew we had to do Galapagos with them again. It is just an over the top experience if you are looking for a very active and tons of info trip, with terrific staff, naturalist and crew..all exceptional. I needed a vacation after I got back! I gave our cabin excellent because it was so darn cute and I swear a few feet bigger than Alaska. Be forewarned though these are NOT your usual cruise cabins, very close quarters, but very efficient.. Breakfast and Lunch were very good.Dinner was fine. Just not overwhelming. They are small portions which we all liked and very elegantly done.. the bbq night was fun. Well the animals are the entertainment. other than that one night of local performers. The hikes, kayaking, snorkeling were all amazing.I now know everything possible about the blue footed boogie.. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Quasar Grace Galapagos 1 week tour (originating in San Cristobal, ending in Baltra) exceeded my expectations in every way. The boat was elegant, well-appointed and very comfortable. I didn’t see a single boat in the Galapagos that ... Read More
Quasar Grace Galapagos 1 week tour (originating in San Cristobal, ending in Baltra) exceeded my expectations in every way. The boat was elegant, well-appointed and very comfortable. I didn’t see a single boat in the Galapagos that was as beautiful as Grace. Her age (built in 1928, later gifted to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by Ari Onassis) was not an issue at all - she is fast, nimble and beautifully maintained. The itinerary and activities were perfectly planned, with several excursions a day on land and sea. Land visits were timed to capture the animals in their most dramatic moments (e.g., the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies), while also avoiding other tourists. We snorkeled almost every day, and it was the best I've experienced, swimming with sea lions, turtles, reef sharks, and many schools of beautiful fish. I am physically fit and a long-distance swimmer, but the activities were structured in a way that even older and less able guests could fully enjoy them. Late January was a perfect time to visit because the water was warm enough to swim without a wetsuit. The food was wonderful, served al fresco. I can’t imagine preparing 3 meals/day for 16 guests plus crew in a yacht kitchen, but the kitchen staff continued to surprise us with new delicacies. The fruits and vegetables were incredibly fresh and flavorful. I looked forward to the fresh breads in the basket every morning, prepared by Walter. There were 2 ceviches (shrimp and crab) that were so good that we asked the chef for the recipe. The fresh tuna was a crowd pleaser, and the preparations and sauces always had a unique and harmonious mixture of ingredients. The crew was exceptional. I was impressed with their expertise across multiple roles, commitment to pleasing their guests, professionalism and work ethic. Melissa (hospitality) was delightful, very responsive and energetic. Freddy and Miguel, our zodiac pilots, were very capable, confident and fun. Saul, our bartender, learned our names and preferred cocktails and wines very quickly, and always appeared just as my glass was getting low. Nelly crept into our rooms several times a day to tidy up, and quickly replaced any linens as they began to get grimy. Our guide, Rafael Pesante, was extremely knowledgeable, which of course, is critical. But on top of that, he was a skilled teacher and story teller. He was full of energy and good cheer. He treated every single guest as if they were his top priority. He took beautiful photographs of every excursion and supplied downloads to departing guests. He treated the other crew members as equals and fostered a sense of family. I can’t imagine that there is a better guide in the Galapagos. Most impressive of all was the way they all work together to give their guests a memorable experience. One morning around 6am, one of the crew members spotted orcas near the boat. Immediately after that, Rafael came on the intercom encouraging everyone to come to the zodiacs in their pajamas ASAP to chase the orcas. Within minutes, all 16 guests were loaded into the boats and on the chase. We had a thrilling ride and captured dramatic footage of the orcas. A less-organized crew would never have been able to pull that off, and a bigger boat never would have even bothered. I could not have been happier with the Grace experience. My only hesitation in giving this glowing review is that it might create more competition to get a reservation when I inevitably return to the Grace one day! Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Pluses: - Well organized and executed excursions which fortunately led to lifetime memories such as snorkeling in the midst of a penguin feeding frenzy, watching a dozen wild dolphins leap in unison several times ahead of the ship, ... Read More
Pluses: - Well organized and executed excursions which fortunately led to lifetime memories such as snorkeling in the midst of a penguin feeding frenzy, watching a dozen wild dolphins leap in unison several times ahead of the ship, swimming with sea lions and manta rays, standing inches from three foot long iguanas, and other priceless interactions with unafraid animals. - quality of meals was quite good, especially dinners which were five course meals with innovative and subtle takes on South American fusion and more conventional dishes. Lunch at the Grill, a beautiful outside terrace, featured grilled lobster and fresh fish and excellent salad bar, Ecuadorian soups and stews, and top quality desserts - naturalist guides and service generally, from the butlers to waiters to massage therapist and piano bar musician, were uniformly friendly and highly competent. Likeable and knowledgeable. Israel was an excellent expedition leader and a couple of the naturalists, Ernesto and Juan Carlos, each had decades of guide experience. Minuses: - our veranda suite was too cold, and it wasn’t until repeated tries and five days into the seven day cruise that the engineer was able to fix the air conditioning - the lunch ended at 130 but the dinner didn’t start until 730 pm. Very sparse food other than a bare bones room service menu was available until dinner, which meant many were tired and hungry at the end of long days. And the late dinner meant going to bed too soon (excursions began as early as 7 am) - given that water temperature was in the mid to high 60s F, the cruise should have provided full wetsuits, not shorty wetsuits, to all customers. We brought our own full wetsuits (3 mm and 5 mm thickness) and were so glad we did as the four snorkeling trips would have been miserable without that. Overall, my wife and I rated the cruise a solid A, with A plus for the animal sightings, A for the personnel, A for the food, and B plus for the accommodations and dinner time problems noted. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We had the most amazing trip on Yacht La Pinta in February 2017. To say it was spectacular was an understatement, Galapagos was everything we expected and Yacht La Pinta was absolutely the perfect way to experience it. When we arrived on ... Read More
We had the most amazing trip on Yacht La Pinta in February 2017. To say it was spectacular was an understatement, Galapagos was everything we expected and Yacht La Pinta was absolutely the perfect way to experience it. When we arrived on board the expedition leader told us this was not a cruise but an "expedition" and he was right! To our great pleasure the activities were endless - we kept busy from our 7am wakeup call right through to our 7pm de-briefing every night. We were in the water snorkelling nearly every day, sometimes twice a day! We snorkelled with a wide range of animals, from turtles and sealions to penguins, flightless cormorants, sea iguanas and even hammerhead sharks. The yacht is small, only 24 cabins which is a nice number to get to know your fellow travellers. The food was superb, set menu with options some nights and delicious buffet on other nights. The guides were excellent, friendly passionate and knowledgeable. We booked two consecutive cruises together, 4 day Northern followed directly by the 6 day Western itinerary. A special thanks to Grace for looking after us so well in the transition between cruises. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Yacht La Pinta and crew for a memorable experience of Galapagos Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We were not interested in the Quito add-on portion which is normally sold along with the cruise, so against the advice of a Celebrity Onboard Sales Rep, as well as several cruise critic posters, we booked the seven night only option, and ... Read More
We were not interested in the Quito add-on portion which is normally sold along with the cruise, so against the advice of a Celebrity Onboard Sales Rep, as well as several cruise critic posters, we booked the seven night only option, and we are glad we did. We enjoyed a trip of a lifetime, and like Frank, did our way. We left LAX on the Thursday before the cruise was to begin. We flew into Guayaquil (GYE) and spent the night (or half of it) at the Sheraton a half mile from the airport. We then flew to GPS Friday morning. We booked two nights at the Galapagos Suites, a lovely B&B which I highly recommend. We arranged airport pickup and were met at the airport by the taxi driver regularly used by GS. He helped us with our luggage as we boarded the bus (free) which would take us from GPS (Baltra Airport) to the canal. There we boarded the ferry which took us from Seymour Island to Santa Cruz Island (cost $1). We then were driven in a pickup (our cab) to GS ($38). We spent two nights in Puerto Ayora exploring the town, visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center, and also Tortuga Bay (home to a lovely beach and lots of marine iguanas- if you are lucky, you may see sea turtles swimming in the bay as well). As luck would have it, another couple who was sailing on the Xpedition was also staying at GS. We shared a cab (the same pickup and driver)- this time being dropped off at the canal since by this time we knew what to expect and didn't need help with our luggage ($18 total for four people). We then took the ferry back across and boarded the bus which brought us back to the airport. We got there way before anyone from Celebrity arrived, and the airport personnel directed us to the VIP Lounge where the Celebrity guests gather before leaving the airport. Finally, the rest of the passengers arrived on two different planes, including the charter. One guest fell in front of the entrance to the Lounge and had to be helped in. Two passengers arrived in wheelchairs. I didn't notice any of the passengers using wheelchairs while onboard, however, please remember before booking this cruise, this is an adventure cruise- "it is a trip- not a vacation" as a fellow passenger described it. You will be walking on lava rocks sharp enough to tear your shoes (I should know), walking on other uneven surfaces, and climbing across terrain which quite frankly I wouldn't think to walk across if a naturalist wasn't guiding me. This is definitely NOT a typical Celebrity cruise, so please, do your research on it before booking if you have mobility issues or health concerns. We left the lounge in small groups and were taken by bus to the other side of Seymour Island where we boarded Zodiacs which would take us to the Xpedition. We enjoyed a buffet lunch, a mandatory boat drill, the distribution of our snorkeling gear, and a circumnavigation of Daphne Major. Dinner was in the Darwin Restaurant and music in the Discovery Lounge (talented guitar player). Each day there was a morning excursion and an afternoon excursion. Monday on Espanola Island (one of the islands Darwin did not visit) included a beach walk and an optional beach swim or snorkel. In the afternoon, you chose either a long walk on rocks or a short walk on rocks and sand. Tuesday was spent on Floreana Island and included an easy walk and optional beach snorkeling in the morning and a visit to the Post Office Bay in the afternoon to see the old barrel. There was an optional advanced snorkeling activity to Champion Island. We did the beach snorkel and watched a sea turtle eat, so cute! Wednesday was Isabela Island with a choice between a long walk on volcanic rock or a shorter walk in the morning and either a long walk or short walk with optional beach snorkeling in the afternoon. The long walk was a fitness walk with few stops for pictures. I could do that at home, so DH and I chose the short walk which was flat and easy and allowed for photos. Thursday was spent on Fernandina and Isabela Islands with a long or short walk on lava rocks and an optional deep water snorkel recommended for experienced snorkelers only. We swam with two sea lions- so fun! In the afternoon there was an optional deep water snorkel recommended for experienced snorkelers only. We skipped that one. In the later afternoon, we took a Zodiac ride along the cliffs and coastline. Friday we returned to Santa Cruz Island visiting South Plaza Island with easy walk choices and a rockier trail to Dragon Hill, where we didn't see many animals (three flamingos and a few types of finches, but we did enjoy the peace and quiet. Very tranquil location. Saturday was spent visiting the Charles Darwin Station and planting trees in the highlands where we saw the Giant Tortoises in the wild. We also had a lovely buffet lunch at a ranch and local dancers performed for us. We asked various dinner companions who had gone on the Quito portion what we had missed. One passenger said that we did miss out, but when pressed for one thing that we missed in particular, he said "a city with three million people". Another passenger said we missed going downhill too fast on buses on narrow streets, and two passenger said we missed seeing the Equator exhibit and several churches. So, sorry Quito, but for us, it sounds like we saw more, and enjoyed more experiences in Puerto Ayora. The ship was nicer than I expected. Everyone was so nice. The dinners were tough for vegetarians, but I always found something to eat. The cabin was small, but we liked it. If you are interested in the three cheapest cabins, book well in advance as we did and save $1000 or so per couple. On Sunday morning, we were taken by Zodiac back to Seymour Island and taken by bus to the airport. We took a flight back to GYE, and stayed another night at the Sheraton, which is a very nice hotel (highly recommended). On Monday, we went from GYE back home to LAX on Copa (also recommended). Will I return? No, I don't think so. We saw so many animals, plants, birds, etc. - we really saw all we needed to. I loved this adventure. This is the only cruise I have taken which left me in tears on the last night. It affected me that much. It was a bucket list trip- a journey back in time. Truly a magical trip. If you are adventurous, don't let anyone talk you out of booking the seven night only option. With a little research and planning, you will be able to create a tailor-made experience that works best for you. We explained to another passenger how we had made our plans, and what we had experienced in town pre-cruise, and she said that she had considered the seven night only option, but had been talked out of it by posters on cruise critic. That's too bad. If you like the type of trip in which you deplane and are met at the airport by your tour company and don't have to lift a finger to do anything else the rest of your vacation, then the Quito option is a good choice, but for those of you who prefer doing things your own way, book the seven night option and party on. Just make sure you are ready physically for the experience, it would be a shame to travel all the way to the islands only to be forced to spend most of your time onboard. Unlike other ships, the Xpedition serves as your hotel, not as your source of entertainment. That can only be found by putting on a pair of comfortable and sturdy shoes (perhaps hiking boots) or beach shoes and exploring these incredibility diverse, beautiful islands. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We went on a two month trip within South America, from Atacama, Chile to Machu Picchu, Peru to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands being the Galapagos islands the last part of our trip and indeed the Galapsgos was the highlight of our ... Read More
We went on a two month trip within South America, from Atacama, Chile to Machu Picchu, Peru to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands being the Galapagos islands the last part of our trip and indeed the Galapsgos was the highlight of our adventure. We visited the islands at the end of October for a 7 night cruise in the yacht MY Grace. We cannot be more grateful to choose this yacht. It was highly recommended to us by our agent, and indeed it was the perfect choice for us. The classic look and history of this beautiful yacht was what we were looking for, with less than 20 people on board, it was like having our own private boat in these wonderful islands. The Grace offer so much ample spaces inside and outside. We saw many other yachts in the islands and this yacht looked outstanding. Our cabin accommodation and services were just perfect for us, we stayed in the top deck. The food was delicious and well prepared considering that I have some food restrictions, the chef was well appointed and experienced to accommodate our personal needs. The cleaning of our cabin and areas of yacht was acceptable. All the staff were very friendly and always with a smile on their faces and ready to help everyone in our group in / out the raft, the bartender well prepared drinks. Our guide Rafael was oustanding, he has so much acknowledge and caring for these amazing Galapagos islands. We share a week with very entuciastic and caring people. Our trip on the Grace was beyond our expectations. We definately planning to return back to the Galapagos in a few years to experience the other part of her itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
We were encouraged to join my sister and brother-in-law of their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Galapagos. They were considering a much smaller ship, but after I saw Celebrity offered on of the biggest ships in the region I suggested ... Read More
We were encouraged to join my sister and brother-in-law of their 25th wedding anniversary trip to the Galapagos. They were considering a much smaller ship, but after I saw Celebrity offered on of the biggest ships in the region I suggested Celebrity and we joined them. We had been on their larger ship before in the Greek Islands. 1. We were immediately whisked from the airport in Quito into a van within 2 minutes and on our way to the wonderful Marriott ( very similar to the one I had stayed at in Palm springs). The hotel had a marvellous included large scale breakfast, and also a farewell dinner in their terrific Hacienda steak house. 2. Next day Quito city tour with guide and armed guard ( must be necessary) was very good, and included lunch at a local restaurant was top quality. 3. Pre-checked luggage at our hotel before heading off to the airport for their charter flight to the Galapagos , and short wait in a private lounge at the airport made life wonderful. The food was very good on the ship, lots of variety. Alcohol included, and we soon discovered if you asked the better bottle were kept below the bar in a cabinet. Bombay Saphire gin martinis! The nature walks and snorkels were wonderful. We are in our early 50's and did the harder (longer version) of all the walks. I did the snorkels from shore and saw tons of amazing fish, sea turtle etc. Did not do the deep water snorkels since I was not that comfortable. Saw tons of sea lions, crabs, birds, iguanas etc. Didn't disappoint in the amount of creatures we saw. They entertainment was basic but we met a lot of nice people and had dinner/drinks with them every evening. One night the naturalists put on a small music show, another night music in the lounge or karaoke . The overall experience was wonderful and the staff were very accommodating and friendly. A fabulous experience . Celebrity hit the spot. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
The Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos cruise was a great adventure that exceeded our expectations in so many ways. When they advertise that it’s all inclusive they really mean it. From the time we arrived in Quito 2 days prior to our flight ... Read More
The Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos cruise was a great adventure that exceeded our expectations in so many ways. When they advertise that it’s all inclusive they really mean it. From the time we arrived in Quito 2 days prior to our flight to the Galapagos to the time we departed for home following a post cruise overnight stay, we were provided with meals, lodging, drinks, transportation, tours, entertainment, and a bevy of unexpected personal touches such as cool towels following our twice daily island excursions and a DVD with photos and a personalized presentation from our week at sea. Gratuities and port charges were also included as was Celebrity’s chartered flights to and from Baltra where we met the ship. Our previous cruises had only been on small (less than 100 passenger) ships and while truly memorable in their own way, the Xpedition was nothing short of amazing from the clean and comfortable staterooms, to the friendly and helpful staff, to the exemplary dining. While most meals were served buffet style, dinner was a fine dining affair with plenty of choices and impeccable service. Besides, who needs the shows, casinos, and predictable cruise fare when each day is spent in the company of experienced naturalists dedicated to leaving guests with a profound appreciation for this unique and pristine archipelago? We live in a “connected” world today and if there is one thing they could have done better; it would have been to provide guests with a decent Internet connection. Internet was available only in the bar/lecture area but bandwidth was so limited that if there were more than just a few people online the connection slowed to a crawl if you could stay connected at all. I get that Celebrity prefers you not taint this incredible experience by bringing work from home but the ability to stay in touch with friends and family stateside as well as on the ship was sorely missed. If Internet was available throughout the ship including staterooms, Celebrity could even create their own onboard app to share information about excursions, menus, and special events as well as sending reminders and important announcements. In addition, guests would be able to download books and watch online content on the TV’s in their guest room. I would gladly have paid extra for this service. Given that most of the daily activities involved hiking, swimming, and wet landings from a zodiac, guests with disabilities who have difficulty climbing steps and walking short distances without an appliance should probably think twice about this cruise. Given there are no elevators on the ship, if steps are a problem you should at least book a stateroom on level 4 where most activities begin and end. The only public area on the lower deck (3) is the dining salon. While there are several opportunities to snorkel, experienced divers looking for more than an occasional 30-40-minute swim might be a bit disappointed. Nevertheless, the experience of swimming with playful sea lions, penguins, and marine iguana's is one this diver will never forget. The equipment and wet suits provided by the ship at no charge are better than average although for obvious reasons I suggest you bring your own snorkel which I did. For the fitness types who prefer their activity on land there are rigorous and challenging hikes as well as more moderate walks. The ship does a good job of letting you know the level of difficulty for each day’s excursion so you can plan accordingly. For those who can’t or don’t want to hike, there is usually an all-zodiac tour. Quick tip: Bring along a set of trekking poles that will fit in your suit case or duffle bag but do not try to carry on the airplane. You will lose them! While at first glance the cost of this trip may seem a bit steep compared to traditional cruises, when you figure in everything that’s included and couple that with an adventure you will never forget, it truly is a bargain. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We cruise several times a year and we also travel with friends on a private yacht. The Evolution had the luxury of cruise ship with elegant bed linens, amazing service and crew, but the intimacy and flexibility of a private yacht...at a ... Read More
We cruise several times a year and we also travel with friends on a private yacht. The Evolution had the luxury of cruise ship with elegant bed linens, amazing service and crew, but the intimacy and flexibility of a private yacht...at a very affordable price! First I would caution anyone planning this once-in-a-lifetime trip to not be land-based. Day trips require many hours back and forth in small boats and only the ability to get to the most frequented islands. Also, it is a waste of your travel dollar to only spend 2-4 days on the boat or to cut the trip short for Machu Picchu or other add-ons. Plan 2 weeks if you want to go to the Peru, Amazon, or explore Ecuador. The latter is very reasonable and quite amazing in itself. Our group of 32 family, friends, and associates was not an easy one to organize or to please. Most are discerning travelers and many are budget-minded. We had diverse abilities, needs, and expectations—and everyone ended up with nothing but praise and also awe at this one-of-a-kind interaction with nature, science, and culture with very intense encounters with nature while feeling pampered and respected. (You can, of course, just book a single cabin or bring a family along.) One member of our group had a limited ability to walk due to recent knee surgeries and other problems. He fully expected to lounge on the boat while others enjoyed the creatures up close. Your crew determined that he would see and do almost as much as the others and created a exceptional plan where the ship’s captain and doctor went on every excursion with him to assist his walking and insure his safety. You arranged special panga rides to the prime spots so he could avoid walking too far or make difficult landings. This was so far above and beyond an expectation that not only did this gentleman have a fantastic time, we all reveled in his enjoyment—and noticed that his physical abilities improved with what turned out to be therapeutic! Our group included serious mountain climbers, expert divers, professional photographers, a marine biologist, experienced yachtsmen, many doctors, lawyers, PhDs in various fields, a writer, filmmaker, judge, editor, and policymakers—a very tough crowd! We also had two people with medically challenging diets. There was not a single complaint about the cabins, delicious meals, or even the demanding schedule. Not only was every need met—the crew intuited some before the request was made. (One guest prefers to drink iced tea and she brought her own mix. When the bartenders saw what she was doing, he brewed some fresh and served it to her as a surprise. Many of us started ordering it as well.) Of course we could rave about the amazing sightings of many varieties of whales, rare birds, undersea encounters in crystalline water, but another group might have a different—but surely as interesting—experience. However, the value of these was not just a list of species but the depth of the information and context that our naturalists conveyed. Also, it was because of their expertise in knowing where to go, the exact time of day, how to avoid other groups in the same location, which was food for the mind and soul as well as the immediacy of the uniqueness of the moment. First and foremost, though, I must praise the safety on this vessel. Getting off an on pangas in various sea conditions can be tricky and their system of three people assisting helped those in their 30s to late 70s to be confident. Plus they always had staff to lend a hand at sea, while snorkeling, or on land in difficult terrain to help many—including me—to have a “personal best” in terms of meeting physical challenges. Their system for handling various levels of snorkelers in open water was the best I’ve ever seen. I cannot praise the crew highly enough for their smarts, professionalism, and personal kindness. Plus, there were certain touches of comfort and luxury made the voyage extra special for me including icy towels after a hot excursion, those delicious and healthful tropical fruit smoothies, the always-fresh and interesting Ecuadorian cuisine, the warm Jacuzzi and cool beverages after a snorkel, the generous beach and spa towels, the wet suit assistance, the luxury linens, tasty snacks, yummy soups, and so much more! I cannot praise Quasar highly enough for its preparation, attention to detail, educational aspects, humor and fun, professionalism, and personal kindness from everyone we encountered. Highly recommended as not only the premier ship in the Galapagos, but one of the most reasonable! Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Since I prepared myself my reading all the reviews that the people before me left I only find it fitting that I write a review to help the people after me. To start this off I am a 30 year old male that went with my wife, father in law and ... Read More
Since I prepared myself my reading all the reviews that the people before me left I only find it fitting that I write a review to help the people after me. To start this off I am a 30 year old male that went with my wife, father in law and mother in law. Flew from Arizona to Miami. Then Miami to Quito. Landed in Quito around 230pm local time, which is the same as east coast United States time. I highly recommended getting into Quito as early as possible. Which I'll explain later. At the airport customs took a little longer than expected. Luckily we sat in the front of the plane and were some of the first people at the customs line. People that sat in the back of the plane, took them almost an hour to get through custom. After you get through customs you are greeted by a celebrity representative and they take you to a private bus. From the airport to the hotel it was about an hour drive through the scenic hills of Ecuador. The celebrity representative gives you some local knowledge during this drive. But all and all the drive is very uneventful. Once arriving at the Marriott you get your room keys and are pretty much released for the day. The most important part about arriving early into Quito is once you get to the Marriott be sure to check with the celebrity representative to upgrade your seats on the flight to the Galápagos in two days. It was a first come first serve basis and you cannot do this prior to arriving in Quito. It costs about $400.00 per couple round trip to upgrade. And all upgrades were sold by 600pm as there are only 12 seatsl. Trust me it was well worth it. The rest of the day we hung out around the hotel. Went to the bar for appetizers and they were good which you would expect at a JW Marriott. For dinner we went to the steakhouse which is located next to the elevators. Very good food. Had the salad and the lamb and definitely would have it again. The only downside to the Marriott stay was that almost all the channels were in Spanish. Found 6 channels in English but it was hard to find since the guide and all the commercials on those English channels were in Spanish. But the rooms were nice and the service was great. There was a 9th floor VIP lounge that we were allowed into and it was nice. Had American beer and good snacks. On the first real day of the trip, Saturday, celebrity started it off right with a large buffet style breakfast that was amazing. Local fruit, made to order eggs, and smoothies. Was perfect since you don't stop till around 1230 for lunch. After breakfast we loaded the buses to take off to see the town of Quito. Every time your on a bus it's only about 2/3 full so you never fill cramped and cold bottle water is always available. The tour began at a local church and was a beautiful site to see. The rest of the trip takes you through 3 more churches and a quick stop at the presidential palace. Then a short bus ride to the lunch stop. Lunch was nice, nothing special, a small sampling of local Ecuadorian food. I highly recommend trying to grab one of the outside seats as people watching on the adjoining town square was quite amusing. After lunch a trip to the equator is available. We do not go but elected to head back to the Marriott with a few other people. Relaxed the rest of the day till around 600 when the buses were ready to pick up the entire group and take us to dinner. Another short drive and we arrived at a small local upscale restaurant. Everyone fit comfortably and it was a good atmosphere. For dinner you had your choice of two appetizers, 3 main courses, and for dessert they brought everyone a sampling of three dishes. I had the veal as my main meal and it was amazing. No complaints at all for the entire dinner. Just a side not for the dinner beer and wine was not included and was extra. Wine bottles were around $40.00 and beer $5.00 a bottle. So bring some cash with you if you would like to drink. After dinner you are brought back to the hotel where you need to bring your main bags down so they can check them through for you. You don't see these bags again until you get to your cabin on the boat so that was nice. We also had a small bag that we left at the Marriott until we got back from the boat. Just a side note on baggage for the trip. I highly recommend only one check bag and one either backpack or shoulder bag for your carry on per person. Then a shared bag per couple to leave at the Marriott. Makes the trip a lot easier. After you drop your bags off its back to your room to sleep. In the morning another amazing breakfast is provided for you. Then at 730 you can pick up your flight tickets and it's off to the airport at 815. Another hour bus ride and your at the airport. Security and check in was very quick and only took about 5 minutes and we were at the gate waiting. 10 minutes later they started loading the airplane and then we were off the the Galápagos Islands. The flight to the Galápagos was nice. They offered breakfast to everyone on the plane and a variety of drinks. Landed in Baltra and a decent walk from the airplane to the terminal. From the airport you take a bus down to the dock and from there a quick ride on a small boat the the xpendition. Upon arriving your sit down for a small orientation the. You are taken to your state room where champagne is awaiting. After that you do your normal boat drills followed by an official greeting from the crew and a toast with the captain. After the toast the head naturalist goes over the events for Monday and everyone then signs up. (See me note later in the cons section). After you sign up for your days trips you are released for dinner. At this time my group and some people we met went outside and had a drink so wait for the dining room to calm down. As I said before I am 30, besides my in laws and two other couples the rest of the boat was 65 plus. So a 730 dinner was late for them so we just waited till 830 and went down. There is no assigned seating during dinner and the dining room is made just for the 96 people on board. When we finally ate dinner was amazing. The have two menus. The xpendition favorites menu which stays the same the entire trip and then a daily menu with 15 new choices everyday, so there was something for everyone. Dinner on the program days till 900 but we drank and ate till a little after 10. The staff knew why we came late and was happy to serve us. Then off to bed we went because breakfast was served at 700. There was morning stretching at 630, but due to our wine intake the night before we opted out of it. After breakfast it is off to the small boats for your first trip The first trip was a walk and swim/snorkel at espanola island. The walk was very nice, witnessed a diverse amount of wildlife and the naturalist, Marvin, was very pleasant to talk to. Once your done with the walk you can swim/snorkel in the bay. The water temp was perfect but the waves a little rough for some people. Loading the boat proved to be difficult for many of the older guests. I mean almost all. ATTENTION: spend as much time snorkeling and swimming in the water as you can. This is by far the best beach and most relaxing area to swim on the trip. Please read the information on celebrity's website. This is an expedition cruise not a cattle call all you can eat kind of cruise. You need to be in decent shape to do this activities. Many of the guests couldn't load onto the small boat from the beach. It was very easy for my family and the two other couples in their 40's. The second excursion of the day was amazing. We witnessed so many animals up close on our 3 mile hike. From the start when you off load the small boat it is a very strenuous walk across uneven lava rocks. The entire way you are having to jump from rock to rock so please only go on this if you have great balance and are in good shape. The weather was upper 80's with 90% humidity so many people were struggling. But besides that we were feet away come seals,hawks, iguanas, etc.. Total the walk was about 3 hours. After the walk the normal nightly routine starts. A briefing at 715 and dinner to follow. On Monday night it is the first night that you can schedule to eat outside. The food is not as good as inside and it is served family style, but being outside under the stars was well worth it. So I recommend you do it one day. On day 3 of the cruise you have another early start followed by a long or short walk on the beach of floreana island. Both walks are easy. Take the long walk no matter what and go see the sea turtle nesting are. It's extremely easy for everyone and well worth it. I'm the afternoon you have the option to go see the post office box and zodiac ride or just a zodiac ride. Honestly the post office box was pointless but the boat ride was amazing. Got to see boobies, baby seals, birds, etc up close within 5 feet. Strongly recommend this boat ride to everyone. Day 4 of the cruise started off not so good. The morning excursion was canceled due to the beach landing area being unsafe. I applaud the staff for doing what they did and making the best out of the morning with activities. The afternoon was a "fitness" walk with snorkeling. The walk was probably the most intense of them all for the long walk. Clinton over boulders and extreme heat it was a little tough for almost everyone. And the pace was extremely quick compared to other walks. But it all paid off in the end when we ran into 3 giant tortoises and a few land iguanas. At the end of the walk, either the short or long, you get to snorkel in the bay. Visibility wasn't that great but we witnessed was amazing. Dozens of sea turtles feet from you, sea lions swimming around you, and penguins darting around. Truly one of the more memorable snorkels in my life. Then another short ride back to the ship for our evening festivities. Day 5 was probably one of my favorite days. In the morning you can go on a long or short walk which in essence they are practically the same. Rather short easy walks but you do see an abundance of wildlife. After the walk is over a deep sea snorkel was available. The conditions and visibility were not that great but I was amazed by what we saw. Sea turtles inches from you, flightless birds swimming next to you , and all the fish you could imagine. After lunch the boat moved and we had another deep sea snorkel. And this one wasn't far the best. Sea lions playing with us, penguins zipping around you, the flightless comoronent bird fishing under you, dozens of sea turtles feeding, and sting rays everywhere. This snorkel was truly one for the books. Then after that everyone had the same option of an hour long boat ride along this 2000 foot cliff. More wildlife than you could imagine. Everything from blue footed boobies to baby sea lions. Like I said by far the best day in the Galápagos. That night they had a "crossing the equator" party. A very nice party thrown by the ships crew, and if you haven't done it before you get a certificate for crossing the equator. Not many know that this is a pretty big deal especially in the navy. So take great pride in it. Day 6 brought a few more islands. The first expedition was either a long or short walk. You witnessed the exact same wildlife on both. A rather extremely hot and uneventful walk but it showed a different side of the Galápagos. The trip was highlighted by a land iguana climbing a cactus to eat it and a small tide pool with about 15 baby seals playing. Very easy landing and walk. Just bring water as it was hot. The afternoon brought lunch and repositioning of the ship for the afternoon adventures.On the afternoon adventure you had the option for a short and long walk. Take the long walk if you can. You walk through a highly vegetated and humid area to the top of a hill overlooking the island. You mostly only see land iguanas but the view was worth it. Not the most memorable walk of the trip but was well worth it. Day 7 started off horrible. You go to the Darwin Research Center. Which is horrible, there is nothing open expect a few pens with 6 or 7 giant tortoises. First off you have to walk over a mile through nothing to get there and it is extremely depressing and a waste of time. After it's over, only lasted about 30 minutes, you have to walk through town back to the pick up point which is close to 1.5 miles and through a little part of town. We ended up just getting a beer and sitting at a fish market waiting for the bus. Next you go up to the highlands to plant some trees. Yes, its for a good cause but honestly was pretty senseless. You show up run and plant a tree and are out in ten minutes. After that you are driven to a ranch to have lunch and see tortoises in the wild. This is where the day changes into something great. First off the local lunch was amazing probably some of the better food of the trip. Then after lunch the do a local dance show and you go off with a naturalist around the area to witness tortoises in the wild. Our group was out there the longest and we got to see maybe 25-30 tortoises and it was amazing. Plenty of photography opportunities with them. This was one of my favorite land expeditions on the trip. After you are done a short bus ride back to town and everyone had about 3 hours to explore town. Not sure why more people didn’t take the chance to hang out in town. Our group was the only ones that stayed in town, and we made the best of it staying to the last boat at 630. We obviously did some local shopping which wasn’t anything to write home about. But we found a nice bar overlooking the bay and had drinks for a couples hours. Well worth it and better than sitting on the ship for 3 hours. All and all it turned out to be a good day but skip the Darwin center if you can. On the last day on the ship you wake up and eat breakfast. After that everyone was in the lounge or on the patio. We ended up just have a couple more drinks and waiting for the call to go to shore. Once you arrive on shore you take a bus ride to the airport and wait around for about an hour. After that its off to Quito and back to the Marriott. That night there is a tour of the local markets and dinner at the steakhouse at the Marriott. The menu that was "included" or free was kind of depressing and we ended up ordering of the normal menu and paying. Our flight left shortly after dinner so we loaded up on a prearranged ride and were off to the airport and back home. Tips • You don’t need that much money. All meals except the first night are included. And the second night if wine/beer is desired that is all you have to pay for. From there on out I didn’t spend a dime until the last day in town. • The only other time we used money was to tip the workers that truly made the cruise great for us. No one really tipped besides our group but some workers did deserve it. No need to bring more than a $1000 US. • The currency is US Dollars • Go on every excursion/snorkel/walk you can. That’s what you are paying for so don’t miss out. Every island has a different feel and is worth every minute you can spend on it. • This is an expedition boat, not an all you can eat buffet cruise so you have to be not fit but able to walk without a cane or hurting. There were probably 40 people that stayed on the boat at all times, which is fine by me, but they are missing out on the good stuff and paying so much money to sit and do nothing Cons • Signing up for daily trips. Kind of a cattle call but I always got what I wanted to do • Loading boats for daily excursions. There are just those type of people that run to the front of line to be the first. Quite annoying. But a little tip if you do the long walks always wait for the last boat, usually only 6-9 people so it is a smaller group and more interactive • Do not have crown royal or grey goose. If you drink it bring your own • The food. Not that great at all. More of an Applebee's kind of quality. But see note on service below. • The outside dining. It is available 5 out of the seven nights but is the same meal. Thinking they should mix it up a little so you want to eat out there more. • Cooking of meat. I am a medium rare plus kind of guy. But anytime out of country I always get medium. And there medium was rare. Be sure to ask for medium well no matter what. Pros • The excursions. Truly an amazing experience everyday all day • The naturalist. There were 7 and I say 5 of them were very knowledgeable and entertaining. Became good friends with them. • Everything is included. Nice to just order drinks all day with no hassle. • Service: Everyday it was amazing. Like I said the food was not that good but the service was awesome. They would do anything for you. We asked for a private table on the 6th floor deck for our group and they did it no questions asked. Your rooms are cleaned 4 times a day and everyone is polite. • The ship size. Only 96 people. Small enough that there wasn’t too much cattle call but big enough to find a couple or two to hang out with. • The rooms: we had a suite with a balcony. Wasn’t that large but your never in it and everything was comfortable. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
I loved this cruise. It was different than the many others I have taken--more nature; less commercial. No Diamonds International or commercials trying to sell something onboard. The naturalists make the trip a cut above. There was no place ... Read More
I loved this cruise. It was different than the many others I have taken--more nature; less commercial. No Diamonds International or commercials trying to sell something onboard. The naturalists make the trip a cut above. There was no place to buy anything until the last two ports. I liked that. Doing the package deal with flight/hotel is an addition we do not usually include but we did on this trip since getting to Baltra was more complicated than your average port. Good decision since the time in Quito was well-planned and the accommodations excellent at the Marriott. We had a late (almost 2am) arrival into the Marriott and this meant that some of the folks with us did not join us on the tour the next day due to fatigue. We pressed on but it was a long day. They should have offered the option to do only half a day as many of the tired people said they were ready to go by lunchtime but had no easy way to join the tour. The tour day in Quito was an enjoyable overview of the city. We felt rushed at the equator which was puzzling since we waited almost a half hour (some more) after finishing eating to leave the restaurant from lunch. It would have been better to hit the road sooner to get more time at the equator. Going to Galapagos on Sunday was just a matter of following the leader and having something to do during waiting times. We were ushered aboard the Xpedition after our first zodiac ride and welcomed in our small groups and had a toast with the Captain. It would be great to be offered a choice of non-alcoholic drinks for the toast right from the start (even though a substitute was brought after we refused the offered ones). Several from our small group noticed we did not drink and said they didn’t either but took the drink anyway. We did discover a favorite non- alcoholic drink of lemon ice mixed with sprite zero that was quite good. All the meals were delicious and there was always an acceptable choice. The steaks were very good in addition to the tasty seafood. A table-mate asked for ice cream on the next to last day and they brought her a neapolitan sundae. Then we all ordered one. That hit the spot on a hot day. I’m glad I didn’t know how good it was until we had almost finished our cruise or I would have eaten one every day. The ceviche was also something I had several times. All the excursions, loading, unloading, etc. takes a lot of cooperation from everyone so that all have a good experience. Some would dawdle at putting on life jackets so they could have the prized “last” seats. Others would make groups wait while they took extra photos. But most folks were very helpful to each other. If you have physical difficulties, listen to the naturalists, they do this every week and will know by watching you get around if you can do that particular excursion or not. Take a “hands free” bag for daily excursions because it makes getting on and off the zodiacs faster and easier. It can be small because you don’t need much with you. They will let you do barefoot landings on most of the wet landings so you don’t get your shoes wet. If you have a pair of shoes you like to hike in, wear them instead of more uncomfortable shoes that can get wet or switch them after you land. I purchased a mask and snorkel and practiced in a swimming pool before the cruise. I am glad I did. The salt water and uneven surfaces, rocks, and strong surf would have been too much if I was not already comfortable in using the snorkel. Many folks got discouraged with trying to snorkel because it was a new experience in what could be challenging environments at times. But don’t miss the pleasure of snorkeling—it is relaxing and you can see some beautiful animals. Be prepared to not be able to get good Wi-Fi connections. Fortunately, I had no need to get important data so this didn’t bother me but be prepared if you have need to check in with work or someone every day. I would have loved to have some more stargazing time. The sky at night with the birds flying with the ship and the stars was beautiful. The disembarkation was just a long day and having read previous reviews I had a book on my kindle to read. I have a hard time sitting for any length on hard surfaces so the airport seating for part of the wait was uncomfortable but I just walked around instead. The afternoon in Quito was the crafts market. It was the best place to shop of the entire trip. I bought a great leather purse and a pretty poncho for a good price. If we had stayed longer I would have had all my Christmas shopping done. The evening meal at the steak restaurant in the Marriott was one of the best of the trip. This is one of the best if not the best cruise I have ever taken. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015

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