This is a review of a family Christmas trip to a bucket list location, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. My family consists of me and my wife, Maryanne and my adult daughter Lindsay. It is no co-incidence that she was with us as she holds a PhD in Marine Biology and she would not have let us forget it if we went without her.
Quick Summation: Although expensive, it was a great experience, The Flora is great and Celebrity did a superb job from start to finish. The whole experience was 5/5-stars. Now the details.
Ship: Both the Celebrity Flora and the Celebrity Edge were built roughly at the same time and used the same engineering/design concepts. Many, including myself, have commented that Celebrity missed the mark in a few areas on the Edge. I am pleased to report that the Flora is spot-on in design, comfort and amenities. A perfect ship for exploring the Galapagos.
All rooms are categorized as suites so even the cheapest room is large and sunny with a great bathroom. Entry level suites are like a sky suite with full balcony. Next level up is the same basic room but with the infinite balcony. It is slightly larger as the balcony space is added back into the room. My daughter had a balcony and we had an Infinite balcony. So clients can have their choice and not scrimp on anything. Plenty of storage, beautiful views and a nice roomy walk-in shower. Some cruise critic reviews comment about water on the floor from the shower but we did not see that. Yes, there is a window from the bathroom into the main cabin but the design is such that you can’t really view anything so no issue there. Just very nicely designed and sized cabins. A travel tip would be to bring a night light.
I did not see the larger suites but can only assume the are equally beautiful, functional and even more expensive.
One negative is that Celebrity only allows two to a cabin. In my case, that meant two cabins to handle the three of us. In talking to staff, it appears that there were no exceptions on our cruise even though there were several family groups of 3 or more on the cruise.
Capacity is 100 people with crew of 90. Our cruise had 95 passengers. Very close to a 1:1 crew-passenger ratio. Cruise demographics on our cruise was a nice mix of younger/older/North American and Asian and several families from South Africa. I would guess about 5/6 guests between 15-21. Average age was probably 50-60.
Public areas consist of the top outer deck that featured an outside grill for lunch/dinner. Deck four featured the main dining room and lounge area. This reminded me of the usual river cruise set-up where you meet before dinner in the lounge for cocktails, discuss the next day’s actives and adjourn for dinner after.
Entertainment was sparce but not missed. Usually live music outside for lunch. Inside at the lounge pre-dinner and last night in the main dinning room. All quite pleasant. Celebrity tried to hold some activities after dinner (Silent disco was the most successful) but to be honest everyone was so tired from the day’s activities it was usually off to bed after dinner.
Food was not your usual American menu which made the trip even more special. Celebrity and Ecuador make a point that most things are locally sourced. So menu options where high in seafood content. Lobster tails were available anytime as well as fresh fish, shrimp and local beef/chicken. Cerveche was something new to me and it was quite good. Most if not all of the wait staff are Ecuatorian and go out of there way to provide good service. The Matdre’d was exceptional and tried to fulfill your every want. Special food requests were meet with a smile and usually fulfilled quickly.
All in all the food/dining room/lounge and entertainment felt like a fine country club.
There is NO cellular service in the Galapagos but you do have fairly good wifi on the ship. So you can stay connected to the outside world if you desire. The Flora never docks and never anchors. The Captain explained that the next actual docking will be in two years in Panama for Dry Dock and the ship uses a GPS dynamic position system instead of an anchor. They plug location in the computer and GPS/Thrusters and Azipods take over keeping the ship on location. Just amazing and no anchoring is great for the Coral.
The Galapagos Experience: I and my family truly did not know what to expect and where nervous that maybe I was too old to enjoy it. I am pleased to say that all went well and that I feel in hindsight that I experienced most everything that was offered and would rate the whole experience great. It will live in memory for a long time.
I would recommend to guests to do the 10-day Celebrity Package. Sometimes they offer this with air credits thru Choice-air which when they do that is a great time to book as Celebrity has you covered from start to finish.
We arrive in Quito on American from Miami at 10:30PM. After getting luggage we were quickly greeted by a Celebrity host who guided us to a bus that took us to the JW Marriott (About 45 minutes from the airport). Quito airport is new and modern and the JW Marriott is top shelf. We had a nice two room suite to collapse in when we arrive. The next day we went on a tour of Quito and the equator including lunch and dinner. A nice full day to see a city of 3-million people who live at 9,000 feet. Pretty amazing. Language is English/Spanish and currency is the US$.
Next morning you take a charter flight to Galapagos arriving about noon. You get on a bus, go down a small beat-up road to a dock area. It is there you meet your Ecudorian Naturalist and learn about your new best friend the Celebrity Zodiac Tender. These zodiacs are like none that you have ever seen. They hold about 12/14 people and have pneumatic ramp/stairs in the bow to make getting on/off easy. For all those wondering if the can handle the tenders the answer is yes.
Next we head off to the amazing boat that I described above. The routine is you pick your tours the night before for the next day. There is usually a morning set, an afternoon set and a snorkel option. Yes, can do all three if you are up for it. My daughter often did that. I did a morning walk or snorkel and an afternoon tender ride and felt it a full day. OH to be young again.
So guests can choose just how much they want to do. The easiest is the afternoon tender ride. You just get in the tender and drive around with friends and a guide and see nature. If you did nothing else but that for the trip, you would see about 90% of what Galapagos is about. What is Galapagos about? It is seeing nature in an unspoiled environment as it was 100’s of years ago. From sharks to whales, dolphins to manta rays, penguins to giant tortises. Sea lions as well as unusual birds such a Boobys, both red-footed and blue-footed. Crabs, pelicans and Coumarants are abundant as well as various unspoiled geological landscapes. Each taken by itself you can see in a zoo or in the back yard or the US Park System, but all together in one place surrounded by beautiful water and a luxury floating hotel guided by knowledgeable guides, That is the Galapagos experience.
After a week, you repeat the process back to Quito arriving back at the Marriott around 4PM. Celebrity hosts a nice farewell dinner in the hotel Steakhouse complete with some great live entertainment. A first class way to end a first class trip. Some went on to Machu Pichou (Another Bucket List item yet to come) while we returned home for the Holidays the next day.
So don't hesitate as this is amazing from start to finish!
Infinite Balcony Sky Suite. Loverly, roomy and met our needs. Window between bathroom and cabin is not an issue. Did not miss traditional balcony as not much free time to enjoy one. Liked the fact that the bed faced out toward the window. Great Views.
All in All very luxurious.