We just returned from the 10 day packaged Celebrity Expedition trip. We are happy we did the package.
We had booked our trip almost a year and a half ago and didn't get much attention from Celebrity and felt forgotton until the baggage tags arrived in the mail with instructions. We boarded the plane with fingers crossed there would be a Celebrity employee at the Quito airport upon our arrival since the booking process was long ago and vague. Our flight arrived at the airport in Quito way later than expected due to an AA delay out of Miami. Exhausted and much after midnight we saw a person with a Celebrity sign waiting for us. What a relief because we don't speak Spanish and didn't know what to expect. They held our hands (so to speak) from this point foward (worth the extra money!). We boarded a mini bus (were handed bottles of water, the start of a major ritual) with folks who had arrived a bit sooner and a few who were on our flight and started our incredible journey. It was drizzling lightly as we cruised through the mountains and about 55 minutes later we pulled up to the JW Marriott Hotel after 130am ( I think - so tired after two flights and drive).We were all greeted in the lobby with a cocktail and our room keys and instructions about the breakfast and tour we had to be ready for in hours. UGH!.
The Marriott was really great, nice staff and very clean. Roses everywhere as they are grown in Equator and are cheap. Buffett breakfast was included for Celebrity package guests at the hotel and was very good. Patrons paid US $25 if not part of the tour. Us dollars are the currency in Ecuador, but if you are part of the tour you only need souvenir cash. Note- most don't take credit but if they did they added taxes to the bill.Hotel gym was excellent and pool was heated but was outdoors. The outdoor temp was in the 60s so we were glad to have worn sweat pants and a long t-shirts. It warmed up mid day on the tour. Being from Florida we are use to heat and humidity and felt the weather was cool for us. My partner thought the tour was a waste, and I sort of agreed wishing we could of slept in rather than start the trip exhausted. The Churches were the only highlight, they were covered in real gold flake - beautiful and not something you will see likely elsewhere in a lifetime. The rest BORING. Lunch was with the Celebrity group in the city and was ok but we were nervous about eating in the town and made sure we stuck with cooked only items. We then had the option to go back to the hotel or do the equator tour. We did the tour, why not??! Was fun to take pictures on the line and go up in the monument. Dinner was with the Celebrity group out in town in a wonderful restaurant they closed just for us. Food was great, but the start of unavoidable late dining ugh.
Sunday morning we went down to the buffet (all food included) and the news spread quickly about the charter flight being delayed. Celebrity said we would have lunch in the hotel and didn't have to check out of room early. They set up a museum tour but we opted to grab a much needed nap and hit the gym. Folks said it was nice. Hotel included robes (as did the room on the ship including slippers - less to pack!)
The trip was beyond wonderful. The food was just ok overall. Staff excellent, ship old, but very clean.
Every day they offered two hikes (morning and afternoon). There were two options per hike (short and long) we always did long hikes but they were only maybe half hour longer than the short most of the time. We just got back from our trip and never saw a drop of rain (march 2016) in the islands although it was rainy season. We always carried in our day pack w/ our rain jackets in case. Day pack is a must have, buy one before the trip!! I have a REI Stuff Travel Daypack that runs $29. It zips into itself and when unfolded has over both shoulder straps with a convenient top zipper area and storage on each side for water bottles. ( I did day hikes in Grand Canyon with it - bottle holders fits Nalgenes bottles too! BUT DONT BOTHER TO BRING - the cruise provides unlimited bottled water!!!) The bag is great to stow a camera, extra space to shed clothing sandals and store bug spray sun lotion so on. You need free hands to get on and off the Zodiacs so this bag is perfect. Water bottles store handy on the side mesh pockets.
Shoes - Slippers are provided no need to pack! You need comfy shoes to have while on the boat for breakfast and dinner. I brought a lightweight pair of Sanuks - perfect. I brought Croc sandals (also perfect) for beach hikes and wet landings- they are lightweight and water proof and fit in daypack. Many folks had Keen type Sandals or similar, they two are great but take longer to dry. I brought a pair of hiking shoes not knowing what to expect. Smart choice. I happen to own Scarpa Mojitos and they turned out to be perfect. Not heavy weight so perfect for walking in city and on lava or rough trails. Some folks had hiking boots, but unless you have weak ankles that is overkill and hot. If you do tend to roll your ankles then you may consider them as the lava walks on some islands were loose and footing had to be made carefully. So the shoes I packed - croc sandals, sanuk slip ons and lightweight trail hike shoes and extreme light weight running sneakers (only worn while on treadmill in gyms -not needed otherwise).
What to pack - two bathing suits for snorkeling, they provide dive suits but you need the bathing suit underneath. No chaff shirt was needed. Invest in a cheap underwater camera, you won't regret it. Wet cloths in room dry slow thus reason for two suits. Some days we did two snorkels. By the way the deep water snorkels you jump out of zodiacs into at least 30 feet of water. They do not teach you how to snorkel so good to practice before trip if you never did it. They do provide anti fog gel. There is a ladder to climb to reenter the zodiac kind of like a pool ladder. WORTH IT TO SNORKEL, you may be tired but do it!! We swam with seal pups marine iguanas and turtles beside the fish!!! Water temps vary depending on the area in islands, warmest was 80, coldest mid 60s (freezing for this Florida kid!).
I brought comfy casual cloths to wear on ship and used during breakfast and lunch. Dinner folks wore polo shirts and nice blouses. Shorts of course!! Not super fancy and no ties or suit jackets, Some sun dresses. Boat is not super cold with AC but was comfortable, so never needed long sleeves or sweater. Brought my lightweight Columbia safari hat to avoid the skin burning sun and also long sleeve lightweight Columbia beige fishing /safari style shirt. That shirt washes easy no wrinkles and dries fast!! two Long pants that zip off also easy to wash and dry. Bra and undies stay away from cotton on this trip.
The water on the ship is safe in the showers and to brush teeth as the ship makes its own water, but drink bottled water and it is everywhere! Alcohol and soda flowed freely as well as fancy coffee drinks (coffee is STRONG so I drank (happily) cappuccinos. I averaged 10 or more bottles of water a day but it was hot and you sweat more than you realize. Beer was Equardorian but the light variety was only 3.3% alcohol so it was perfect with a lime for me!! Tons of wines and any mix drink and frozen drink you wanted.
I would highly suggest investing in clothing that can be washed and rinsed and drys quickly and doesn't need ironing. Not that type of cruise!!!!
NO COTTON!!! Just about everyone looked like a safari guide. Tan or olive was the smart typical color choice. I brought zip off pants which I was grateful for. Times they recommend long pants on hikes but then a bit into the walk you can unzip if not needed. DO NOT BRING ORANGE RED YELLOW OR PINK cloths to wear on hikes. BUGS and WASPS in particular are attracted to those bright colors. The guides would give warnings for hikes that had potential high areas of wasps. Bugs were never an issue, wasps were around in a few spots but seriously they zero in on the folks with the bright colors. Pick a low key color day pack as well! Needless to say the boat store made a killing on everyone buying safari shirts hats and pants. Plan ahead and go have a drink rather than wait to shop on the boat lol, but rest assured there are cloths available if you forget. Other suggestion is a neck buff. They also sell them on the ship for $22. All the boat drivers wear them as the sun is very strong!! I brought two and washed in sink and hung up in room to dry. They have biodegradable soap and the body soap worked well to wash lightweight clothes out. You sweat a lot!! We brought camp soap as well but the body soap is great and makes cloths smell fresh.
GYM- SMALL!!! only a spin bike, treadmill and elliptical without electronics. Treadmill was perfect for me. There was a hot tub out side the gym on deck 6 as well but never used it. Folks who did were happy.
Food - Well don't expect big cruise dinning. My partner rated food on scale of 1-10 a 2. I gave it a 6. I'm the chef at home so it was nice to have organic fruit and an omelet station every day. Breakfast was buffet, as was lunch. They always offered an outdoor BBQ but pizza and burgers and fries are not my thing. One day they had a massive BBQ with variety of shrimp and fish and meats, it was good. No lobster was ever offered this cruise. Dinner was an looooong event. Dinner everyone sat together at 730pm each night. We never escaped earlier than 930pm. Three course meals and tables were seating for 4,6,8,10 not assigned. You tend to sit with everyone at one point or another on this cruise. Service was excellent but food was not grand. Fish was good every night but my partner seemed to always get the piece that was raw or overcooked. Stay away from the meat. Deserts were also not great.
Nice touches :
Being handled cold wash cloth after climbing on board after hike or snorkel.
Having a drink and fruit station set up after each excursion at top of steps.
Being Given a hard covered Galapagos book.
Last night being given a photo CD of pictures taken by guides during the week.
Back in the Marriott the last Sunday afternoon after the cruise we had the option to go to the local souvenir market.They had a bus that took us to a market place with 100 tiny stores owned by locals. They sell leather goods, Panama hats, knit tops, blankets and trinkets. Most of the branded stuff said Equator. IMPORTANT -If you want Galapagos items and see something you like in the islands, then buy it although it is pricey. The only day we saw shops was on last day in Santa Cruz on the Darwin center hike in town. There are plenty of shops with Galapagos branded items you"ll walk past. Cash transactions are cheaper so bring US cash.
Finally after our last included breakfast at the Marriott Monday morning Celebrity had a private van with Celebrity escort take us to the airport. The escort brought us to the AA gate and said goodbye.
No one weighed any carry on baggage and they told everyone the rules are less stringent then they use to be. Wish we knew that, but the extra space was great in my carry on for souvenirs on the trip home. The charter flight both directions is Celebrity staff and passengers only and provides lunch and drinks. Customs in Galapagos was quick and the outgoing flight wait area in the Galapagos airport was seperate for Celebrity charter passengers. They offered cheese and fruit and coffee and tea and juice the day we were departing. Side note - we are in our early 50s, and there was only maybe 6 people younger than us (40s) and only one 18 year old kid. I don't know if this is the right trip for kids, they may bore quickly. This is not an ideal trip for disabled folks as you need to be able to hike on uneven terrain and climb in and out of the zodiacs. There are no elevators so you have to be able to climb steps on board as well. That said, the trip is not one that you need to be an olympian. The hikes are slow, but you want to enjoy everything you see rather than get a cardio workout in (use the treadmill is you want that cardio - I was only one of two aboard that did lol).
We saw smaller boats in inlets and a variety of tour boats anchored in Santa Cruz. I think we made the right choice as Celebrity had top level Naturalist, very clean standards, we felt safe most staff spoke english and they had good equipment.
No one complained of sea sickness although some passengers wore patches. Smaller vessels may not be as stable and some seemed smokey from fuel.
Thumbs up to the Equator/Galapagos Celebrity employees, they took very good care of us. No sales pitches, everything included, no stress, great trip!!
Loved being on deck 4, it was the deck where the lounge and bar and meeting place for excursions took place. Not much rocking. Dinning hall was on deck 3. Room 415 is towards the bow so we never heard noise from the lounge. Very quiet room!! But the whole boat hears the anchor. After the first time it is a nonissue. Beds are small and we had them split otherwise one side is up against the wall. Room is small, cabin was always made up and very very very clean!! Nice size window but never spent much time in cabin other than sleep and clean up. Yes a balcony would of been nice but would not have used - no time so non issue. AC in cabin was fine. Room comes with robes and slippers, nice fluffy comforter on beds. Plenty of storage under beds for suitcases and two closets. We brought extra small hanger clips to dry items after a hand clothing wash. Did use laundry for cotton items and sweat pants I wore on airplane.