This was a bucket list item for me and my friend. I wanted to see what Darwin saw in 1835, and he wanted to see the Galapagos tortoises, since he has two "normal size" tortoises as pets. Our wives had no interest in going, so we shared a room together. We wanted to spend time in Quito, Ecuador, so opted for the time in Quito before and after the islands.
We flew into Quito from our departure airport, and almost immediately I felt the altitude. I told my friend to slow down, as we walked off the plane, as I felt hot, and out of breath. This only lasted for a day, however he would react far worse than me on the return to Quito.
Upon exiting Customs, were met by Anna, who corralled us all together. We then had about a 45 minute bus ride to the JW Marriott in Quito. As you will see, I cannot say anything negative at all about the hotel, as the hotel itself is impressive, the staff was responsive to our needs, and the food we ate there was quite good. The next day, we went on a city tour with Joanna, our very knowledgeable and pleasant tour guide. Lunch was at a very nice restaurant. All during the tour we were also accompanied by a security person. I was told by a policeman to mind my expensive camera, as motorcyclists were known to snatch and grab items from tourists. Our group was bused to a very nice restaurant for dinner that night, quite good. As the bus was waiting for the last few people, some kids came to the bus door and tried to sell us candy and other items.
The next day, we all got up early for a breakfast buffet followed by the 45 minute bus ride back to the Quito airport for the about 2 plus hour flight to the Galapagos, about 868 air miles. We landed in at the Baltra Island Airport, and were assailed immediately by the heat and humidity. We took rigid inflatable Zodiacs to the ship, 16 people to a Zodiac, the only was on and off the ship. We would find out that there were wet landings (beach shoes), and dry ones (walking shoes). Our cabin was 316, on deck 3, third cabin from the bow. If I had it to do over, We would have gotten a cabin on decks 4 or 5. Our cabin was always warm, despite the efforts of the crew to make it cooler, plus we had to be close to the anchor locker, as every time we did anchor, it sounded like the chain was coming thru the wall. It was a small cabin, but did have plenty of storage for our clothes and gear.
Each day, we went to a different island, under the knowledgeable care of a naturalist. Bettina was the Cruise Director, and her staff of naturalists (Martha, William, Diego, Manuel, David and Victoria) were quite good. They were all pleasant and answered every question thrown at them. We would have a hike in the morning and afternoon, with several days followed by snorkeling. My fitbit showed me walking anywhere from 5 to 8 miles per day. This was either on sandy beaches, rocky or volcanic trails. At the end of a day, when we returned in the Zodiacs, mostly everyone was quite tired. There were also cold drinks for everyone when we arrived back each day. Being tired did not stop us from talking amongst ourselves as to what we saw. It was quite distressing to see, even there, the amount of plastic washed up on the beaches. We also observed a sea lion with netting stuck around its body.
The second day, I opted to not use a walking stick on a rocky trail, and ended up sustaining some deep cuts to mostly my left shin. Martha, our assigned naturalist, with the advice and assistance of several doctors on our hike, managed to apply a lot of gauze and bandages. I was checked out by the ships doctor upon arrival on the ship. Unfortunately, that curtailed my snorkeling. I used a walking stick after that! I have to say that all the activities were correctly characterized, as to difficult and distance by Bettina before dinner preceding each day. Pictures and maps during her talk explained the following day.
We did see what we came to the Galapagos to see. There were plenty of Marine and Land Iguanas, Nazca, Blue and Red Boobies, plenty of Sea Lions and a handful of Penguins. Of course, we saw many of the two, distinctly different Galapagos Tortoises. The main difference is in the shells, to allow one sort to reach the high bushes. Those folks that snorkeled saw lots of sea turtles, and many kinds and sizes of fish.
You did have to be careful, as on my cruise, I scraped my shin, a woman fell and hit her head, another landed on a cactus with her hand, and there were a number of wasp stings. I would be difficult to med-evac someone in a timely fashion if they were really sick/hurt. But, as I said above, the cruise staff took care of the guests quite well.
Meals on the ship were not gourmet like on the big cruise ships, but they were good. I especially liked the lunches. They had four lunches in which they highlighted certain cultures. The four the head Chef Roger highlighted were: Chinese, Amazonian, Ecuadorian and Asian. I ate mostly fish for my dinner entree, and especially liked the red scorpion fish, native to the Galapagos waters. Towards the end of the cruise, there was a BBQ, very nice. And, as with the big ships, an exhibition of the musical talents of the crew. All of the guests were invited to a ships party on deck 6 to meet and talk with the senior staff. The Master, Captaincies Pacheco, and his hotel counterpart, Hotel Director John Flynn, were the hosts. I got to see the ships Doctor who asked me how my leg was doing. We also had a crossing-the-equator party. We also went to a private farm for a lunch after a reforestation effort by most of us. Native dances in costumes followed a good lunch.
On the whole, except for my fall, it was a great trip. We had a good time on the ship, and saw what we came so far to see. I especially liked when we were leaving the ship, that the Captain and Hotel Director shook each person's hand as we left. They waved goodby as we left for our last Zodiac trip. As someone who has been on several Celebrity ships, this continued the classy aspects of the trips my wife and I have had on Celebrity. My friend also enjoyed himself on the ship.
We then flew back to Quito and checked into the JW Marriott again. My friend then started having a very bad reaction to the altitude, and with a half hour of his request, there was an oxygen machine in our room. The next morning, were were supposed to go on a tour, but he was still hurting. The hotel arranged for us to go to a local pharmacy to get some medication, as well as providing for for us to eat on the excursion bus. We went to a number of location, all at lower altitudes, which helped my friend. During the excursion the concierge called our guide and arranged for us to go back in our same room upon return, to give him another 4 hors of oxygen until our ride back to the airport that night. That to me was a very nice thing to do, and shows that the Marriott staff there takes care of their guests.
All in all, this was a great trip, with Celebrity and the Marriott doing an outstanding job.
The cabin was hot and noise when the anchor was deployed was substantial. This ship is being renovated shortly, going from 100 passengers to 60, so am sure these two conditions will be rectified.