Celebrity Xperience Entertainment & Activities
All shore excursions are included in your cruise fare and there are one or two offered every day, ranging from kayaking (for which you have to sign up, as there are four two-person kayaks) to snorkeling, Zodiac tours or hikes. The hikes are billed as tough or easy and it's important to listen in the previous day's briefing so you can choose the right one. As much as anything, it's the heat that makes the walking tougher, as there's virtually no shade on these stark, volcanic islands. There are no facilities at all ashore -- no toilets, no human habitation (except at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz) and usually, no other boats. You really are out in the wild.
None of the excursions are suitable for people with limited mobility as all involve getting in and out of the Zodiac, often in choppy seas, and Xperience, being an older ship, doesn't have an aft boarding platform. Embarkation is down the side gangway. Landings are either "dry" (you step off onto the beach) or "wet" (you jump off into sometimes knee-deep water).
Snorkeling is billed as "from the beach," which is suitable for everybody, or "deep water," rolling off the Zodiac into deeper water, which is often surprisingly cold. These tours are for good swimmers only, although all snorkeling is supervised by a guide, with a Zodiac on hand for when you've had enough. You need the wet suits, both as sun protection and cold protection. Lifejackets for less experienced snorkelers are provided, as is mask cleaner.
Hikes range from straightforward beach walks to a tough, hot, steep scramble on San Cristobal Island, with stunning views from the top. Walking poles are provided but they're not much use in the sand and on the tougher hikes; you need two hands free for clambering over rocks.
Zodiac tours are occasionally offered, puttering round mangrove lagoons to spot rays and nesting birds, or into sea caves.
There's one day in "civilization," as it were, on San Cristobal, where you visit the swampy highlands roamed by giant tortoises, as well as the Charles Darwin Research Station and tortoise breeding program. There's free time afterward in the pretty town of Puerto Ayora, packed with bars (with Wi-Fi), shops, hostels and galleries.
The wildlife is without question the star attraction in the Galapagos. You will definitely see land and marine iguanas, lava lizards, giant tortoises, sea lions, pelicans, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and sea turtles. You're also likely to spot white-tipped reef sharks when you're snorkeling, rays, sometimes penguins, all manner of brilliantly colored fish and sometimes, whales and dolphins. There are creatures everywhere and they're completely oblivious to human beings, although the rules about how close you can get are extremely strict. Mercifully, selfie sticks and drones are completely banned, right across the archipelago.
Talks onboard included subjects like volcanoes and the history of the Galapagos, as well as a Q&A session with the four guides about life in the islands. David Attenborough documentaries were shown on three nights. Stargazing is listed on the daily program but it is not really dark enough with the ship's navigation lights and our session was extremely limited.
Each night, guides will also give a briefing about the next day's activities, going into great detail about what you will see and do, dry and wet landings, the level of difficulty of the snorkeling and what to expect on the hikes. Also, importantly, what wildlife you can expect to see.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Entertainment onboard is limited to talks by the naturalists and, in the evening, documentaries. There is a trivia quiz on the penultimate night, all about the Galapagos and on our last night, one of the guides played guitar and sang. There are a couple of parties during the week, essentially the Captain's welcome and the Captain's farewell, where the officers are presented and the Captain makes a short speech. Some days there was a themed cocktail at the Al Fresco Bar, with waiters handing out caipirinhas, or a spectacularly good rum punch, but you can have anything you want to drink.
Celebrity Xperience Bars and Lounges
There are two bars onboard and two lounges, as well as a seating area in Reception.
Main Lounge (Deck 3): Forward of reception, connected by a bar with high stools, the main lounge, with wood floors, olive-colored chairs and contemporary art on the walls, is where all lectures and briefings take place. It's quite crowded when the ship is full but not much used outside the talks. There are two screens at the front so everybody can see the documentaries that are screened here.
Al Fresco Bar (Deck 3): Aft on the same deck is a lovely shaded area of deck which is really the focal point of the ship's social life, and always buzzing before lunch and before dinner. A row of cream leather stools sits in front of a wooden bar with a black stone top, and there are tables scattered around for six and eight with black rattan-effect chairs. One table, on the starboard side of the bar, is the designated smoking area, although nobody smokes here during mealtimes. A big cream canvas cover ensures that virtually every seat has shade. Most lunches and two dinners are held out here.
Reception (Deck 3): The reception area is a combination of meeting place, coffee station, Wi-Fi hot spot (although the signal is weak), boutique and somewhere comfortable to sit, with sofas and easy chairs in cream, olive and gold scattered around. Coffee, tea and cookies are always available here. The receptionists are exceptionally friendly and helpful, as are all the crew.
Library (Deck 4): The Library is such a pretty little space, it's a shame hardly anybody uses it. There are books and games lining the shelves (mostly books about the Galapagos) and a wonderful old steamer trunk that serves as a coffee table. Big picture windows allow natural light in and there are easy chairs and sofas for relaxing. A few people played cards in here at night but other than that, it was usually empty.
Celebrity Xperience Outside Recreation
There's a pleasant sun deck up on Deck 5, behind the bridge, with black and cream rattan-effect sofas and cream padded loungers. Like the Al Fresco area on Deck 3, the space is almost entirely shaded; you really need this in the Galapagos, which is right on the equator, with intense midday heat. A lot of people retreat up here after lunch for a siesta before the afternoon's activities. There's a hot tub in a corner. You can walk around the front of the bridge (and also visit the bridge on request) to watch whatever wildlife may be swimming around the ship. There's also a wraparound deck on Deck 3, with some quiet, shaded areas for wildlife watching.
The rest of the outside space is taken up with machinery, Zodiacs and the four sit-on-top kayaks that the ship carries.
Celebrity Xperience Services
Reception and guest services are on Deck 3, as well as display cabinets for the boutique, which sells expedition clothing and Celebrity- and Galapagos-branded T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts. The medical center is on the same deck, where the ship's doctor treats minor ailments at no charge. Seasickness remedies are handed out free of charge, too. The ship does roll, even at anchor, as it has no stabilizers, but hardly anybody complained of motion sickness.