This is an expedition adventure not your normal cruise you are used to. We were on the inner loop. Want to also state we have done over 60 cruises in our lifetime so far including large cruise ships, riverboats and destinations such as Antarctica, Iceland, Greenland, and Alaska.
Celebrity went above and beyond from the start beginning at the airport where they met us after picking up our bags to the very last night that they brought us back to the airport to go home. We did not do the Machu Picchu extension.
We flew in to Quito nonstop from Ft. Lauderdale on Jet Blue and arrived late on Friday night. A Celebrity official was there with a sign that lead us after picking up our luggage outside to the shuttle bus. The ride was about 45 minutes to the JW Marriott. A beautiful 5 star hotel. This was every bit one of the nicest looking places in all of Quito. They checked us in at a private Celebrity table. They will hand you a slip with a code for free WI FI. The next morning we had a wonderful buffet breakfast with so many choices of food and juices. After breakfast we were taken on a nice air conditioned bus to the city of Quito for a walking tour. Around noon we were taken to a restaurant for a buffet lunch. It was very nice. Just be careful about eating any salads or fruit that is not pealed. Also be careful about having the ice in your drinks. Not worth it prior to your cruise to get stomach and bowel issues. I did not see anyone getting sick on our tour or the next day. Then we toured alittle more and got back to the hotel around 4 PM. It gave you a couple hours to freshen up before having to meet again in the lobby around 6:15 to be taken on bus to a gourmet restaurant about 10 minutes away. You get a choice of three entrees with appetizer and desert. It was pretty good. Then back to the hotel for the night. You will have to bring your checked piece of luggage downstairs to a room before 10 pm since they we be taking your luggage to the airport for you. You just keep your carry on with you. You will have to change what we are all used to and pack all your liquids in your carry on instead of your checked piece of luggage for the flight to Balta, Galapagos.
They will give you clear directions.
Sunday morning we again had the breakfast buffet before meeting in the lobby for our boarding passes and waiting for our bus ride to the airport. They tell you 44 Lbs for your checked luggage and 17 Lbs for your carry on. They weighed the checked bag at the airport but don't worry about the weight of the carry bag because they never checked that bag.
The plane is a charted AeroGal or Avianca A320. They serve a nice lunch on board even though the flight was only alittle over 2 hours. The Airport at Baltra was really nice. It was also pretty windy at the airport so they keep all the windows open with a beautiful cross breeze. Then they take us by bus for maybe a 6 minute ride down to the dock where the Pango (Zodiacs) are waiting to take us to the ship that is waiting offshore.
SUNDAY afternoon into the evening you get to tour your ship and have the life boat drill like usual. You cruise by both Daphne Major and Minor. We saw frigate birds and Naszca boobies. You are also fitted for your wetsuit and fins and masks. Then got ready for our first talk in the lounge from Monica our cruise director/Naturalist. We went over the next days activities for about 15 minutes where they explain to you that you will have Option one or Option 2 everyday. You then decide which sounds better to you. Then to dinner at 7:30. Dinner was a sit down off a menu every evening. You do have the opportunity to eat under the stars with a special menu. You need reservations for this that you can do once on board. We did it once and it was nice. After dinner we went back to our cabin. We were on deck 3 in 301 the first cabin closest to the restaurant. We loved our room. We had our beds together and it made a nice Queen sized bed. The bathroom was small but we thought the shower was bigger than some large cruise ships. There was a glass door with a string across the top to hang clothes throughout the cruise.
TIP: Bring magnetic hooks you can buy on Amazon they stick great on the one wall that is magnetized. We also brought those hooks that stick on the wall that you can peel off at the end without ruining the wall. We probably had 8-10 hooks on our walls to hang all the wet clothes that you will have.
MONDAY- SANTIAGO ISLAND(Morning) was the Black Sand Beach hiking first thing over the lava and saw Sea lions playing in the water; lava lizards; Sally Lightfoot crabs; and Iguanas. This was a "wet landing". That always meant that you have to get off the pango in very shallow water. Usually 6 inches to foot deep. I went barefoot myself and my wife wore keens. Then once you get off you bring a towel from your room with in your backpack and you dry off your feet to put on your hiking shoes. Since this was a combination snorkeling excursion you bring the bag that is filled with your wet suit, masks and snorkels and fins, with you and you leave it on the beach until the end of the hike and change into the wet suits and go snorkeling from the beach. This first snorkel was unbelievable. The water temps were between 70-75 the whole time. I had my gopro and right away I played underwater with a sea lion. I got great video it was surreal. .
MONDAY-RABIDA ISLAND(Afternoon) was a Red Sand beach and again a "wet landing" then hiked for about an hour then back to the beach where we changed again in the wet suits and snorkeled. This was not as clear and did not see much except for some fish and a small ray. This we heard later was not the best option to choose. The other option we heard was a better choice as they got to stay in the pango for a ride around the island and they saw more wild life and birds. So take the pango option ride for this one instead of the hike. This would also be a better choice for the physically unfit.
TUESDAY-ISABELA ISLAND(Morning) Pango ride to the mangroves. I think everyone does this excursion. You can pick a time for this one to sleep in alittle later. This was really nice we saw Penguins , Blue footed boobies, Sea lions, Sea Turtles, Black rays, flightless cormorant and Herons. You do not get out. We also saw a giant 90ft Blue Whale not in the mangroves but out in the middle of the sea.
TUESDAY-ISABELA ISLAND-(Afternoon) at 3:00Pm we did our first deep water snorkel. This means you put on your wet suit on the boat and they take you by pango out in about 20 to 30 feet of water and you jump off. We swam with and saw turtles, penguins and an octopus, This is about an hour. Usually we came back to the ship at 4 pm jumped in the shower because we were chilled from snorkeling. Then changed quickly to get ready for the hike.
Then around 4:30 or 4:45 we chose an option that was a Dry landing meaning you can wear your hiking shoes and you do not get wet when you land. It was a Tricky landing they called it with 150 steps to the top. We also saw where Darwin landed In 1836 where he carved the year in the rock formation. That night there was a "crossing the Equator party". You get a certificate with your name on it.
WEDNESDAY-SANTIAGO ISLAND(Morning) We skipped the Dry landing lava walk this morning which was offered and instead we had our free 30 minute massages that are offered if you are Elite or higher. The girl was very average but what do you want for free. We layed out in the Sun and relaxed near the Jacuzzi. There is no pool. This day they offered a Barbeque lunch outside that was pretty good.
WEDNESAY-BARTOLOME ISLAND-(Afternoon) 3:00 PM Deep water snorkel and saw Penguins on the rocks, star fish and a shark. At 4:30 we chose a Pango Ride only and saw more penguins and sea lions. That night after dark we saw Galapagos Sharks circling the ship and then noticed that a Sea Lion jumped on board our ship in the back to stay safe from the sharks.
THURSDAY-SANTA CRUZ ISLAND(Morning) This was a wet landing for an hour walk around the island and saw a Flamingo, iguanas, oyster catchers, sallie lightfoot crabs, pelicans, and frigate birds. We had brought our bag for snorkeling with our wet suits but decided not to snorkel because several people said they did not see much. We heard later that someone swam with a sea lion but we did not see that. So we went back to the boat early and they had a great Mexican buffet for lunch.
THURSDAY-NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND (Afternoon) 3:00 PM Deep water snorkel that was VERY RUFF. When they warn you on this dive that it is ruff they really mean it. If you have never snorkeled before this cruise and don't feel comfortable don't do this Snorkel. It is windy and wavy. My wife swallowed some water and we had to call the Pango over to pick her up. We saw a White tip shark, Sea Cucumber and different variety of fishes.
At the 4:30 or 4:45 option we had a dry landing but this landing was tricky and ruff because of the wind. This is one of the best places to hike. Don't miss this hike. (YOU ACTUALLY SEE MORE on (Seymour). It is very rocky so bring hiking sticks. The walk is over tons of rocks so be very careful. This had a ton of Blue footed boobies with there babies underneath them. It was so cute. We saw tons of frigate birds with the Red blown up pouch trying to attract a female. It takes about 45 minutes to blow up but the bigger the better. We also saw several sea lions sleeping near the end which I got a couple feet away from with my gopro.
FRIDAY-SAN CRISTOBAL(Morning) This is the first place to get your souvenirs. We took option #2 the pango ride to the mainland to tour the Interpretation Center by a bus ride then back to town to shop. You will have plenty of time for shopping. We also went by the fish market where fishermen cleaned there fish catch and a sea lion stands next to him waiting for scraps. There was also an inguina there.
FRIDAY-SAN CRISTOBAL(Afternoon) Took a Pango ride around cliffs filled with Nazca boobies, Red footed boobies, and blue footed boobies. Saw the Tropical bird they called it and Sea Lions swimming all around. You do not get off. BUT after this tour don't miss asking to get dropped off on the Golden beach where a huge colony of sea lions live. This was so much fun. This is a wet landing. You can walk around and you will see 20 to 30 sea lions and babies living here on the beach. I got alittle to close to one of them and he charged me and I ran. But I got it all on my Gopro. This is a great way to end your last day of a wet landing excursions.
SATURDAY-SANTA CRUZ ISLAND (Darwin Research Station) This is an all day excursion if you choose option #1, You leave at 8:00AM pango ride to shore where you pick up a bus that takes parks on the side of the road where you have to put on special boots that go up to your knees so that you can plant your 2 trees if you choose to do so. You leave your shoes in a bag and come back and change out of the boots and back into your shoes. Then you go to the Darwin Research Station to see a few huge tortoises but mostly baby tortoises. Then they take you to a Ranch for a buffet lunch with music and dancing. This is all included. Then they take you around the ranch where the Giant tortoises live free in the wild where you can take some nice pictures. You are supposed to stay at least 8 ft away or the turtle will pull his head in and you will only see his shell. Some of these were over 100 years old. Then back to town with more shopping time.
SUNDAY morning you get breakfast from 7 am to 9:00 am. You have to be out of your cabin by 8:00 Am. So you can just hang out after breakfast in the lounge or outside in the back of the ship. Then they will take you back to shore to get on a bus and back to the airport to fly back to Quito.
Just some shout outs.........The Naturalists, William and Christina were our favorites. If you are lucky enough to have them on your trip you will be lucky. Lily worked in the bar area and then in the restaurant and did a fantastic job taking care of us. Luis the maîtred always had a smile on his face. Monica the cruise director and Naturalist did a great job explaining all the tours to us each evening. Andrea took care of our room and did a fine job. Others did above and beyond but I cant name them all. This is a cruise of a life time so just do your research and be prepared. We never had to use any bug spray during our June time frame and temps were around 68 to 70 at night and not more than 80 during the day. June was a great month to do this trip as we transitioned from the wet season to the dry and cooler season. If anyone would like to ask us any questions feel free to email me at email@example.com
Bigger than we thought for this small of a ship. Nice size shower. Bring magnet hooks for the walls. Several movies each day to watch on your TV. Nice size window to see outside. Air conditioning worked great. You will hear the anchor come out most mornings.