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14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We sailed on the Celebrity Xpedition in May 2018 to the Galapagos, on the inner loop itinerary. As many others have said, the service, food, and crew were excellent. We were met at the Quito airport by Celebrity and basically were in ... Read More
We sailed on the Celebrity Xpedition in May 2018 to the Galapagos, on the inner loop itinerary. As many others have said, the service, food, and crew were excellent. We were met at the Quito airport by Celebrity and basically were in there hands until we returned to the JW Marriott in Quito a week after boarding the ship. All aspects of the trip were well done, and every one of the Celebrity folks was helpful, and easy to work with. The naturalists were knowledgeable, interesting, and really enhanced each excursion. Also as others have said, the excursions are why you sign up for this cruise. Others on this board really helped me decide what to pack and what to leave home. I strongly suggest you get a list of items to pack and follow it - especially the wide brim hats, shoes, long sleeve shirts (for sun), and sunblock (at least SPF 50). My wife and I are 66 and 67 respectively and in reasonably good shape with minimal problems getting around. That said, we were pretty tired by the end of the week. As explained in other posts, the daily itinerary follows the same pattern - a morning excursion, back to the boat by lunch, and an afternoon excursion. Almost all of the excursions have an easier and more challenging flavor. We did the more challenging on all but a couple, which involved long, climbing walks... The snorkeling also comes in two flavors - "off the beach", which is exactly as it sounds, and deep water - which is where you are taken by zodiac to the snorkeling spot and jump in off the zodiac. Water is too deep to stand, and currents can be much stronger. Water temperature was about 74 - 77, and Celebrity provides wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins. One suggestion - bring some sort of book/app/device that will help you identify constellations. Star gazing is outstanding - no light pollution. I give the trip 5 stars because the excursions were well done and the experience on the ship was very good. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
We wanted the "Silversea Experience" in an Expedition cruise to the Galapagos. Silversea did not disappoint...everything from enough zodiacs to accommodate all guests, with no "downtime" waiting for transportation, to ... Read More
We wanted the "Silversea Experience" in an Expedition cruise to the Galapagos. Silversea did not disappoint...everything from enough zodiacs to accommodate all guests, with no "downtime" waiting for transportation, to the professionalism and friendliness of the entire crew was exactly what we were expecting. An added bonus was the wonderful cuisine created and prepared by the Ecuadoran Head Chef. Meals, especially dinners, were a delight with new and varied Ecuadoran dishes to sample each night. One area which could use some "tweaking" would be in the Outdoor Grill...the space is relatively small, with open, non-reservation seating at lunch time, and given its popularity, can be quite crowded and noisey. No such problem at dinner however as dining in the Grill is by reservation only in the evening. Dining in The Restaurant...the main venue for dining at breakfast, lunch and dinner always had ample room to dine graciously...with buffet at breakfast and wait service lunch and dinner. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We had gone on the Celebrity Xpedition for an inner loop trip a few years ago and we wanted to do the outer loop this time and then go on to Peru to visit Machu Pichu. On this trip, we went with 4 other couples. We flew into Quito, ... Read More
We had gone on the Celebrity Xpedition for an inner loop trip a few years ago and we wanted to do the outer loop this time and then go on to Peru to visit Machu Pichu. On this trip, we went with 4 other couples. We flew into Quito, Ecuador from Atlanta and were met by Celebrity guide. She was great and had our luggage collected and on the bus to Marriott hotel withing 45 minutes of arrival. The hotel was great, food really good and service wonderful. Celebrity had people available throughout our stay to make sure we had the correct paperwork, tickets, luggage, etc. The tour of Quito was very good and buses were comfortable. Transfer to the airport, flight from Quito to Baltra, and transfer to ship were fairly smooth. Two problems: First, we had to leave for the airport at 6:00 because of Quito airport runway repairs. This meant early arrival to Baltra and waiting for ship to be ready for us. Baltra did provide a waiting room with drinks and snacks, but extremely hot. Second problem was luggage. We had been told by Celebrity to pack a separate suitcase for extension to Machu Pichu and leave this suitcase at hotel in Quito. When we got to Quito, we were told we would have to take extra suitcase with us. This meant paying extra luggage fees of $45 per suitcase. The ship and cabin and staff were amazingly wonderful. Our cabin, 504, had a balcony, but we seldom used it except to dry clothes. The large outside area on deck 5 had very comfortable seating, great views and all our friends had room to join us there. Staff brought food and drinks to us frequently. Wonderful space. 2 or 3 changes of clothes were needed each day because of heat and humidity so we used the ship's laundry twice. Some did laundry in room, but this meant a cabin full of wet clothes. The food was great and plentiful. Meals were served in main dining room. Lunch was also served at grill on Deck 3 and Dinner was served, with reservations, on Deck 4. Most of our group was too tired at end of day and I have no idea about evening entertainment. There was something each evening after dinner, but I missed it all. Before dinner was a naturalist talk about the next day's activities, These were very well done and extremely useful. Advice was given as to difficulty, activity level, best clothes and shoes, insect repellent, and water. The excursions were as described and the best part of trip. These are the reasons we went on trip, and they did not disappoint us at all. I would do this again if there weren't so many other places to visit! Machu Pichu extension: Most of this trip was great, including fabulous hotel and food, excellent guides (Thank you Ronald and Aracelli), and amazing sites to visit. I climbed about 100 stone steps to top of Sun Temple, and Ronald had to help me get back down. Two problems with the extension: First, the flight from Baltra to Quito stayed on the runway for nearly an hour with no air conditioning and nothing cool to drink. Service was terrible throughout the flight. One of my traveling companions passed out from heat and dehydration and was unresponsive for several minutes. The flight attendants did nothing to help, not even getting ice or cold water. Luckily there were several doctors on board who took control and got what was needed. Other passengers provided whatever was asked. There was a 4 hour layover in Quito before our flight to Lima. We had access to the VIP lounge, so the wait was not terrible, but it did add hours to our long day of travel. Second problem was location of hotel in Lima. We had to drive over an hour to hotel in the horrible traffic of Lima. This meant we arrived at hotel after 10pm, too late for dinner. Up early the next morning for the drive in Monday rush hour traffic back to the airport for flight to Cuzco. Why not use the airport hotel and save all this time? The hotels were amazing and I would have been happy to vacation in any one of them. Just walking through the hotels was an adventure. The train ride to Machu Pichu was incredibly beautiful, dinner on the train coming back was even better. Machu Pichu was more beautiful than expected. Walking and climbing was difficult at times and a walking stick was quite helpful, as was my husband's arm. I did not like the cafeteria for lunch, it was crowded and smelled badly. I'm not sure if there were any alternatives, it may have been best place available. I did like the beer. We visited the Sun Temple on 3rd day in Peru, another difficult climb but also amazingly beautiful and worth the climb to top. I forgot climbing poles and relied on Ronald and husband to get me down. I did not care for the pottery stop, or the llama farm and shopping stops. Others of the group did like them, but I would have preferred more time at the Sun Temple. Our Cuzco tour was excellent, the hotel was a treat. This was my favorite vacation ever and I am so very lucky to have been able to do this. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
Celebrity runs a top notch operation in the Galapagos. From our arrival to departure we were well taken care of! The tour guides were informative on land and the naturalist offered their vast knowledge on the islands. The whole tour runs ... Read More
Celebrity runs a top notch operation in the Galapagos. From our arrival to departure we were well taken care of! The tour guides were informative on land and the naturalist offered their vast knowledge on the islands. The whole tour runs like a well oiled machine....with safety of the passengers always present. The ship is smaller than any I have ever cruised on, but perfect for this location. Lack of internet is a issue I think Celebrity needs to address in this day and time. I'm sure almost all passengers would be willing to pay for a high speed internet package. The food was typical cruise fare....good, but not highly seasoned! I found the seafood to be the best choice almost every night! The beef was not good and lacked flavor! The Dinner Under the Stars was disappointing! The menu is the same every night that Dinner Under the Stars is offered. Service was slow and sketchy! I would not book that option if I went again. The service in the dining room was also slow and spotty.....Dinner almost always taking almost two hours. The crew was great, always greeting us and taking care of our needs! The charter flight out to Baltra was good and I did upgrade to First Class. We checked off almost every creature on the Galapagos list! Snorkeling was excellent and I urge everyone to do the Deep Water Snorkeling...it was the best! The zodiac rides along the coast were an enjoyable change from the hiking. Information was given every day regarding the excursion and the clothes, shoes, rain gear, sunscreen, and bug spray needed! We had rain only one day and hardly ever felt a bug. Sunscreen was a must...Hot! Hot! Hot! On our final day in Quito we picked the Spa option and it turned out to be the Piece de Resistance to our whole trip! After the rigorous excursions....a spa day was the perfect ending! I would highly recommend! This was truly the trip of a lifetime and I checked it off my bucket list! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The Galapagos was on my bucket list. My college roommate and I had booked this cruise and waited 2.5 years for it to come to fruition. We had a great time, however both of us and our husbands got sick in Quito. As part of the ... Read More
The Galapagos was on my bucket list. My college roommate and I had booked this cruise and waited 2.5 years for it to come to fruition. We had a great time, however both of us and our husbands got sick in Quito. As part of the cruise-tour, we ate where Celebrity took us. Both our husbands got sick just before they embarked on the Xpedition. My roommate and I got sick at the end of the tour after eating salad at the Marriott. I believe the food on the ship was safe. The food on the ship was okay. It was not the same quality as what you would find on a regular Celebrity ship. Our room was comfortable and quiet. It was nice to roll out of bed, walk down the hallway to breakfast. I found the staff on the ship to be pleasant and enjoyed being with a small group of people. The Naturalists were good. Some were better than others. With the exception of getting sick, we had a lot of fun. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
This is not your usual 'holiday', so if you want lazy days, taking it easy or even quiet solitude, do not book this cruise. However if you want to feel like an explorer, dont mind being up and off early in the morning, love ... Read More
This is not your usual 'holiday', so if you want lazy days, taking it easy or even quiet solitude, do not book this cruise. However if you want to feel like an explorer, dont mind being up and off early in the morning, love wildlife and remote places, this is the experience for you. Everything is meticulously well organised, and works like clockwork with great success but you are not organised or bound up, so its up to you what you take part in. We were up for everything and wow! what an experience! This is a small ship so dont expect shows and grand entertainment, but if your focus is wildlife you'll be in bed by 10pm like most of us were, ready to go again in the morning. The standards in the transportation, safety, dining, guides, were everything you would expect on a cruise and more. Small details added so much more, drinks of any sort, and snacks awaited our every return to the ship, on deck as we shed our life jackets, wet suits and personal belongings. Naturalists would provide so much information to enhance visits ashore and there was always enough time to watch those albatross feel the wind beneath their wings and take off, or watch the pelican dive on the fish the penguin had taken the time to corral in the bay. Food on board was plentiful and of a good international choice. Especially impressed with the lunchtime barbecue I could write a book, a review is not going to do this experience justice! Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in ... Read More
Our first cruise on the Minerva. This was a trip made up of two cruises - Timeless South America and Natural Wonders of Latin America. We flew to Santiago in Chile from London Heathrow with Iberia. The flight was poor with a 2 hour wait in Madrid airport. The first section of the flight was considered short haul so any food or drink had to be paid for. This was not explained in advance so came as a surprise. We arrived in Madrid at night and all outlets for coffee, snacks etc were closed. There was food etc on the long haul section but this was a couple of hours into the flight so we hadn't eaten for over 12 hours. The aircraft was fairly basic and the cabin crew mostly non existant. However, on arrival at Santiago transfer to the ship at Valparaiso was smooth and interesting. We were soon in our cabin. The ship only holds a maximum of about 350 passengers with no dedicated facilities for children. Most of the passengers were of retirement age and above. There is one, small swimming pool, a spa room and a small but reasonably equipped gym. It has an excellent library. We spent half the cruise in a small cabin on the Aegean deck with an outside window. This was comfortable enough; clean; more than enough storage space (including under the beds for the cases) and a small but perfectly functional bathroom. The second half we transferred to a Balcony Suite on the Sun Deck. This was lovely; very comfortable with a large balcony. There was a big, comfortable bed; settee and armchair; coffee table with a fruit bowl which was regularly filled; desk with chair and fridge. This does come at quite an extra cost though (considerably more than bigger cruise ships). This deck was below the Promenade Deck and we did have a slight issue with the thumping overhead of the early morning joggers (as early as 6.00am). The ship is very nice with plenty of comfortable lounges. There is a very pleasant, covered outside seating area at the back of the ship where you can also eat. I cannot praise the crew enough who gave their guests their constant attention. Service was excellent and the quality of the food was consistently very high. Both restaurants are Freedom Dining and waiter service. We took most meals in the Swan Restaurant and the waiters soon got to know us along with our likes and dislikes. Most of them are Filipino and eager to please. Tips are included in the cost of the cruise. Particular thanks go to Sherwin, Mark, Danny, Randy and Willard. There are a series of lectures each day. Personally, we found the subjects too random and somewhat unrelated. We would have preferred them to be more aligned to the areas/countries that we were visiting and what we could expect to see and experience. Entertainment was gentle and more low-key than on a bigger cruise ship. The cocktail pianists were very good. There was a three piece band who were also very good but somewhat let down by a very average vocalist. There was also two Opera singers; these were particularly good in the second half of the cruise. The only show was presented by some of the crew which was very good fun. You have to admire their eagerness to please and to show off their national dances and costumes. Excursions were very varied and prepaid within the cruise price. There were plenty to choose from to suit all interests and physical capabilities. They were very good and gave us the opportunity to both see and experience the areas that we visited. As the cruises were marketed as 'Discovery cruises' there was little opportunity to spend any own time in the towns with no Shuttle buses from the ship. However, this was made clear at the time of booking. If you like a cruise ship with larger swimming pools, a theatre, cabaret bars etc then this is not the ship for you - it is a quieter, more gentle existence. However, although we enjoy the larger cruise ships, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Minerva. Thank you. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Visiting the Galapagos Islands has been on our bucket list forever, but it always seemed very daunting (both the cost and the expedition nature of the trip, especially on small boats). When we learned about Celebrity Xpedition, we felt ... Read More
Visiting the Galapagos Islands has been on our bucket list forever, but it always seemed very daunting (both the cost and the expedition nature of the trip, especially on small boats). When we learned about Celebrity Xpedition, we felt that the larger ship and luxury details would make it possible for us. I don’t like to tip my hand too much in reviews, but suffice it to say that this trip met and exceeded all of our expectations and was the best cruise ever! This review plus a series of day-by-day blog posts, and questions and answers can be found here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2214872 My photos can be seen and downloaded here: https://jazzbeauxgalapagostrip.shutterfly.com/pictures/5 We took the 10-day package because: (a) our Spanish skills are pretty much limited to restaurant menus; (b) since the cruise wasn’t going to be a relaxing spa affair we wanted a minimum of stress getting there and back; and (c) we were worried that the altitude in Quito is already stretching it [we live near sea level] so Machu Picchu would be problematic. That turned out to be the right decision for us. We made friends on the cruise who were going on to Machu Picchu and they had a great time, but we had enough trouble with the altitude in Quito and were happy to be returning home to our own bed at the end of the cruise. Xpedition is unique in many ways, and the Celebrity website never recognizes this. You cannot print out express passes for Xpedition. You will get a very nice booklet in the mail with luggage tags and everything else you need. This is triggered by your completing the online check-in. If you booked with a TA, the materials will be sent to them and they will forward them to you. Celebrity took great care of us from the moment we got through customs in Quito until they escorted us back to the airport for the flights home. Their shuttles were always waiting for us and eliminated the need to figure out the complex geography of the Quito metropolitan area [a mountain valley that is something like 3 miles wide but 35 miles long and seemingly never flat for more than a block] The J W Marriott hotel is beautiful, the rooms are large [especially compared to European hotels], and the restaurants are very good – and contrary to rumor Wi-Fi internet is included in the Celebrity rate along with the buffet breakfast. The city tour of Quito was interesting, and the maze of streets made us very glad we didn’t try to do this on our own, especially since that first day was the bad one for altitude problems [exhausting travel the day before with the usual dehydration from airplane “desert” humidity levels and late bedtime plus early wake-up produced major headaches and serious lethargy – there should be a warning label “do not operate heavy machinery or make important decisions while under the influence of low oxygen levels”!] Lunch at El Theatrum was good, and the folkloric dancing was entertaining. The Middle of the World park is hokey but still worth doing [look at how many people keep going back to Disney, to see how well hokey can work ;)] – some say it isn’t on the exact Equator, but we have pictures with one foot in each hemisphere and that’s our story and we’re sticking to it… Dinner at La Gloria restaurant was even better than the lunch, so our adventure was off to a great start. The next day showed the real benefit of the 10-day Celebrity cruise tour. After enjoying a sumptuous breakfast (included), we joined our fellow cruisers on Celebrity’s chartered coaches for a smooth trip to Celebrity’s charter flight non-stop to Baltra. We waited in the VIP lounge for a short while [probably until the ship sent the all clear that the cabins were ready], then were smoothly transferred to the nearby pier for the panga ride to Xpedition. Each panga group was welcomed in the lounge [with free booze – a harbinger of the week to come], given a brief presentation, and escorted to our cabins. We paid for “no hassles” – and there were no hassles! [Well, DW and I were seated at the back of the panga and because the day was unusually windy we got soaked from the waists up – but that was the only time we got wet on a panga and the cabin hair dryer took care of the dampness before lunch, so “no harm no foul.”] Note 1: on Xpedition they usually refer to these inflatable boats as “Zodiacs,” which is their brand name. I use the general term “panga,” which is more often found here on Cruise Critic and was occasionally used onboard as well. Note 2: there has been controversy on Cruise Critic about the luggage weight limits on the Celebrity charter flights. The website and the printed materials from Celebrity state limits for both checked and carry-on luggage. I think our checked bags just came in under the limit – but since they were taken the night before so Celebrity could handle the Ecuadorian agricultural inspection for us, there was no opportunity for anyone to complain if they were too heavy. I’m sure our carry-ons were over the limit – and I’m even more sure that nobody weighed them. This is a charter flight, so Celebrity is setting the rules, not the airline. I wouldn’t worry about luggage weights. [If you like to pack light, more power to you – it will make it easier for me to remember you as “the person in that outfit.” ;)] Lunch was the first of many good meals. We had heard that food on Xpedition isn’t up to Celebrity’s usual standards – Bunk! The food was different [which for those who complain about Celebrity’s 14 never-changing menus should be a good thing!], and everything was made from fresh local ingredients and usually reflected Ecuadorian cuisine [both things that people lament missing on most ocean cruises]. I love Ceviche, and it was great to have it in infinite variations every day at lunch. Likewise Spanish deserts like flan and tres leches. And the fish was plentiful, varied and always cooked perfectly. The only weak spot is meat, because strict environmental regulations require that all meat imported into the Galapagos must be partially pre-cooked – this made it a real challenge to comply with our orders for “medium rare,” but once we made our taste known [and adjusted our request to “rare” for emphasis] we generally got exactly what we wanted, and they were always happy to try again and get it right the second time [very quickly]. Alcohol is truly all-inclusive throughout the cruise. Most nights there is a special cocktail of the day in the hour before dinner, but you can get anything you like at any time. Wine is poured freely at lunch and dinner, and if you want anything else they will happily procure it for you. You also get a bottle of bubbly in your cabin – and unlike any other cruise we’ve been on when we asked to switch it for something else we were offered our choice of any wine on the ship [and through a mis-communication we ended up getting two bottles! – although there’s hardly any reason to have a bottle in your cabin, since the bar is only a few steps away] Tipping is also included, and no one acted like they expected anything more even for exemplary service. We weren’t sure how Celebrity had handled tipping at the Quito hotel or with the tour guides, but again the body language was completely different from service personnel in the US who know how to subtly convey their desire for an emolument. At the end of the cruise they ask you to come to the service desk with your credit card, but they sent us away because our bill was zero! Our cabin, 403, was very convenient to the lounge and just one flight up from the dining room. The cabin feels larger than 160 sf, but it's hard to keep it neat with all the expedition gear you need for wet landings, swimming, etc. One of the twin beds is fixed to the wall, so when you have them together as a double somebody [that would be DW] has to crawl over the covers to get in and then doesn’t have a night table or reading light – but otherwise the bed was fine. There’s also a small desk which houses the flat-screen TV, and underneath the small fridge and hairdryer. Behind the TV there are two plugs, one US (for the TV) and one EU. Our cabin came equipped with a 3-plug expander in the US outlet, so we still had 2 spares – plus I had brought an EU-to-US adapter and a 3-plug/2-USB expander [http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0016IXEWG/ref=psdc_761520_t1_B0015DYMVO], so we had more than enough slots to plug in the computer, camera battery charger wall-wart, and my shaver charger wall-wart. There are three small drawers in the night table, and two closets with both hangers and shelves (and the safe). The bathroom has a nice shower (with glass door that mostly didn’t leak) and lots of space on the counter and the shelf underneath. The shower has 3 dispensers (soap, shampoo and separate conditioner. Water pressure is very good. There is a clothesline built in to the shower – but with no balcony, stuff doesn't dry quickly [meaning, bring 3 bathing suits] Air conditioning worked great in our cabin and throughout the ship. I had heard rumors that the AC isn’t so good on decks 3 and 6, but we heard no complaints from residents of those neighborhoods. Our deck 4 cabin was nice and cool [even had to turn up the thermostat] I mentioned to the CD the complaints I have read on CC about deck 6, and she admitted that the separate AC system added for that new deck had some teething problems that were corrected after the first season. She also noted that the ship's AC system uses sea water and that makes it work perversely in the Galapagos climate where the water is warm when the air temp is cool and vice versa – the result is that the AC works too well in cool weather and not well enough in warm weather [I forget the engineering principle behind this, but it made sense at the time – of course that was the evening of the Wine Tasting, which may have had something to do with my comprehension ;)]. The dining room does get warmer as you go back, but we never had to sit further back than the first table past the arch and we did fine. I had heard that you have to go to the lounge to get Wi-Fi reception, but our cabin (403) was close enough that we had a good signal. The issue was getting beyond the local network to the internet – apparently there was an unusual problem on our cruise, because part way through they reformatted the network server with a new name and new passwords and after that it was much better. Service was good, but not great. Our cabin attendant kept everything clean and neat [she was OCD about everything – even our things – being kept in the “right” place!], but she had a blind spot for wash cloths and routinely failed to replace them. [Luckily we discovered that they use them as hand towels in the public washrooms, so we knew where to replenish our supply as needed!] The waiters in the dining room were very friendly and willing to make substitutions/corrections as requested, but service in general was slower than we would have liked [and with three friendly couples we had enough conversation going on that we weren’t bolting our food…] The naturalists were top-notch, and I can’t imagine any other cruise line having better ones. They were taking pictures throughout the cruise, and at the end we were each given a DVD with a slideshow and 500+ pictures – and also a coffee table book that Celebrity produced about the Galapagos Islands – nice touches! [And if our luggage wasn’t overweight on the flight in, the addition of that book ensured that it was coming home!] So, from a cruise and cruise-tour perspective this was a 4- or 5-star experience. But that’s not why you go to Galapagos [it’s just what makes it possible to survive…] You go for the itinerary – the unique geology, flora and fauna. And this trip did not disappoint in any way. We chose the Inner Loop in May because we wanted to see the Blue-Footed Boobies doing their mating dance – and we saw it in spades! Also the male Frigate birds with their gular pouches expanded like their had overdosed on Viagra! Everything else was gravy, but there was lots of gravy: sea lions in all the usual poses; many kinds of birds [I guess it’s obvious that we’re not “birders” – all I know about pelicans I learned from Ogden Nash: “A wonderful bird is the pelican, His bill can hold more than his belican”]; the stark beauty of volcanic landscapes, with more variation than I expected – and above all the animals’ complete lack of fear about our presence. The Galapagos delivered everything you have ever read it can. It helped that we had great weather. There was no rain to speak of until the last day. The air was hot and humid, especially on the afternoon excursions, but there was usually a good breeze to keep us cool. [There is no shade anywhere, so you really want to wear a big hat and spread on the SPF50.] And the water was still warm enough that we didn’t need the (provided) wetsuits. So my conclusion on timing is that early May is an excellent choice. The one weak spot in the itinerary [in our opinion] is the final day on Santa Cruz [and this is common to both itineraries]. It’s a good thing the Giant Tortoises were not high on our to-do list because they really didn’t hold to the level of “Oh My God” that the rest of the animals had established. [This was our one rainy day, which may have also affected our enjoyment.] We took the morning tour of the Charles Darwin facility – but the museum is closed and even the gift shop was closed on our visit, so this was just a dull walk to get to the Tortoise pens. There we saw randy Diego and two of his harem [he and the two young males he incited to jealousy brought their species back from 14 to 2,000], one pubescent male mistakenly humping another male [at the wrong end!] while a few others milled around, and dozens of cute babies being raised to restock the unique species on a couple of the islands. This was OK, but not much different from visiting any zoo [Diego was repatriated to the Galapagos from the San Diego zoo, hence his name]. We went back to the ship for lunch [this was option 2, which only 6 of us had chosen]. In the afternoon we were supposed to go back to the island for a bus ride to the highlands where we would see the Giant Tortoises in the wild, but since it was still raining only one couple decided to go – and they reported that after a 45-minute bus ride (each way) and much slogging through mud, they only saw a total of two (count ‘em – 2!) tortoises. [They also stepped off the bus into two feet of brackish water, which didn’t add anything to the enjoyment of the day ;)] Option 1 was a full day on the island, with the Darwin Center in the morning, a tree planting service-trip, lunch at a restaurant in the highlands, and then the search for wild Tortoises. I don’t know how this is handled normally, but on our cruise there was a special attempt to set a world record for simultaneous tree plantings so there was heavy pressure [Ecuadorian women know how to use guilt as a weapon as well as any nationality!] and almost everybody signed up. The reports back were not good: the food at the restaurant is not up to Xpedition standards, the folkloric entertainment was amateurish, the mud was as high as a tortoise’s eye, and several people fell or had near misses. Instead of being shunned as non-team players we were praised for our good judgment in staying on the ship. Other than that day, all the excursions were top notch and we almost always chose the more demanding one. There were usually two choices for both the morning and evening excursions – you sign up the night before so that they can allocate panga-loads among the two options [National Park rules limit each panga to 16 guests, so they have to make sure everybody sorts out correctly.] As far as I could tell everyone got their first choice every day [I think there are seven pangas, so they have a little wiggle room – we were occasionally on a less-than-full panga]. On two days there was also a third activity – a deep water snorkel. We passed on these as DW doesn’t swim well enough and even I was scared off by the dire warnings. After hearing the reports back I think I could easily have done them [the water is actually calmer away from the beach] but three excursions in one day would probably have been too exhausting. One added bonus was the stars! DW went up to deck 6 (which has the fewest lights) and after her eyes adjusted she was blown away by the myriad stars and the painted stripe of the Milky Way. This was unexpected, but another awe-inspiring aspect of nature in the Galapagos. We missed the extra bonus of the eruption of Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island, which started two weeks after we were there – the next Inside Loop cruise was perfectly timed, and they should be seeing views like this: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32882500 Too bad we missed it on the May 10 sailing – we could have saved a trip to Hawaii! The end of the trip was a smooth as everything else. One last panga ride [stayed dry this time], charter flight, and bus back to the J W Marriott. I should mention – and praise – the food service on the flight: first a white tablecloth for your tray table, then the meal tray which includes a blue cloth napkin and real metal tableware. Pay attention to your napkin: many have a Celebrity X embroidered in the corner, but a few have a Blue-Footed Booby [two of which are now in our collection] We had an excellent (and included) dinner that night in the hotel restaurant, then breakfast the next morning and a quick shuttle back to the airport for our flights home. The altitude didn’t bother us as much this second time in Quito [probably because we didn’t arrive exhausted, or maybe because we didn’t actually try to do anything] and we got home safely late that night. We had been warned that Quito is “dry” on Sundays and therefore on the return evening you could not purchase wine at dinner. This is not quite true. If you go to a regular restaurant, it may be true [we didn’t test this] But the hotel is allowed to serve alcohol along with food. Not only was the restaurant selling wine, the bar was doing a good trade also [I suppose they provided peanuts or something to qualify as “food”] But the advice ended up working to our advantage since we brought that free bottle of wine back from the ship and the hotel bar was happy to open it and provide wine glasses (for free), which we then brought into the restaurant without raising any eyebrows. This was our 11th cruise, plus we have taken many DIY land trips – and it is etched in our memory as the best cruise ever. Celebrity Xpedition is the only way to go in the Galapagos, and the islands are everything they are reputed to be. I highly recommend it – but don’t wait too long because even with all the Celebrity luxury this is still an expedition cruise. Do it now, and save the Caribbean for your dotage! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
We took the Metropolitan Tours 5-day 4-night excursion to the Eastern Galapagos islands aboard the M/V Santa Cruz. The trip was memorable for the number of wildlife species that could be observed close-up. It was also memorable in being ... Read More
We took the Metropolitan Tours 5-day 4-night excursion to the Eastern Galapagos islands aboard the M/V Santa Cruz. The trip was memorable for the number of wildlife species that could be observed close-up. It was also memorable in being fairly strenuous. To begin, my wife and I are not hikers or really “outdoorsy” types. I began preparation for the trip by spending about ½ hour per day on the treadmill, whereas my wife took several flights of stairs every day at work rather than using the elevator. We thought it was enough, but we could have done more. The days aboard the Santa Cruz began with a buffet breakfast at 0700, followed by the first excursion of the day at 0830. It should be mentioned that all of the excursions as well as embarkation and disembarkation were handled with inflatable zodiac “panga” boats that hold 12-16 people. These are powered by 50 hp outboard motors. You descend a stairway on the outside of the ship and transfer to the panga from a platform. There is a gulde on the platform and one in the panga that assist you in the transfer, pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Most of the landings on the islands are called “wet landings”, these involve backing the panga onto the beach where it is held in place by two of the guides. You step over the side of the panga into the surf, which can vary from 6 inches to 3 feet in depth. Normally not a problem unless you are short like my wife, and happen to hit the surf during a receding wave! We grabbed her before she was swept out to sea! Most of the excursions were set up to provide a mix of activities, including hikes along the beach or inland, beach swimming and snorkeling, deep water snorkeling, panga rides around the perimeter of the island, or rides on a glass bottom boat. Several were set up to involve alternatives, if you didn’t want to deep water snorkel you could have a panga or glass bottom boat ride instead. Here are some basic things to remember about the pangas: • Try not to be the first ones on board the pangas, if you are you will be sitting at the back next to the outboard motor. This makes it hard to hear the guide and you will be marinated in exhaust smoke. • If the excursion involves a panga ride around the perimeter of the island, ask the guide if you will be traveling clockwise or counterclockwise around the island. This determines what side of the panga you want to sit on. Even though the guides and panga driver will swing the boat around if interesting wildlife is seen, those seated on one side of the panga will be facing the island most often and won’t have to constantly turn around to take pictures. • If you are the last ones onto the panga, you will be seated at the front. At cruising speed (to and from the island), you may get hit with spray over the bow. Most of the time people can bunch up toward the stern to avoid this. • The choice of footwear creates a bit of a conundrum on these excursions. You need something you don’t mind getting wet during a wet landing, but also has enough traction to allow you to walk over uneven, rocky terrain during the hiking portion. There is not much time after you wet land to get the sand out of your footwear (and no facilities for rinsing the sand off except in the surf). This results in sand grating against your feet during the hikes, both me (with an old pair of tennis shoes) and my wife (with a new pair of Teva sandals) had this trouble and ended up with band aids over sores after a few days of this. The morning excursions last until 11:30, at which time you will return to the ship for a buffet lunch. Afternoon excursions begin at 14:30 and last until ~18:00, with a lecture on the next day’s activities at 19:00 and sit-down dinner at 20:00. The ship only holds a maximum of 90 passengers, so there is ample space in the dining room to accommodate all of them. The food onboard was excellent, better than we expected. Many fresh and local ingredients such as excellent local fruits and locally caught fish were on the menu. In fact, we both thought the food was as good if not better than that offered on larger cruise lines. Snacks were available after the morning and afternoon excursions as well. Each passenger is issued an individual (1/2 litre) water bottle at the beginning of the cruise, and is asked to keep it throughout and refill it from a water station near the dining room each day. The water from the sinks in the cabins is useable for brushing teeth, but it comes directly from the desalinization units and contains a high mineral content. One of the evening activities we enjoyed (weather permitting) was a star-gazing session from the upper deck. Since you are near the equator, you will have the opportunity to see both the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper (upside down!). The Milky Way stands out beautifully due to the lack of light pollution. A minor issue was the lack of laundry facilities onboard, we took to washing items each night in the sink, and hanging them to dry on a travel clothesline strung across our cabin. It made it look like a steerage cabin on a tramp steamer! They did have a dryer on board (which we didn’t use) and a shoe rack near an open engine room door (which dried them very well). A couple of words about the land excursions…most people who are “in shape” will find no problems with the hikes. In fact, in retrospect the effort involved in these excursions wasn’t bad considering the wildlife and vistas we saw. However, it should be mentioned that the Galapagos are managed as a National Park in Ecuador, and one of their philosophies is not to make significant adaptations for the comfort and ease of tourists. Be advised there is also no equivalent to the ADA regulations in this part of the world, so where one would expect in the USA to see a manufactured stairway with sturdy handrails along with a wheelchair ramp, in the Galapagos you are lucky to find a handrail for the steepest climb, and most stairs are rough-hewn from the rocky cliffs. The Prince Philip steps on Genovese Island are a good example of this, steep and tall and requiring good balance to negotiate. Luckily the guides do a good job of assisting those who may need help ascending or descending. Be aware also that level, groomed pathways are not generally provided for the flat sections of the hike, much of the terrain is littered with rocks or consists of uneven “Pahoihoi” lava flows. Much of my hiking time was spent looking down at my feet to make sure my next step wasn’t going to result in a broken ankle or a plunge down a cliff! At the beginning of the voyage, the passengers are split into excursion groups named for Galapagos animals, our group was the Gulls. Our guide for most of the excursions was a young woman who had been doing the job for 5 years. She was very personable and helpful, but she did not provide the amount of running detailed commentary that some other guides seemed to provide. She would answer questions adequately, but as we are both technical/scientific people we found ourselves wanting more. We were glad we had seen a multi-part PBS special on the Galapagos prior to the trip. The guide also took a liking to one of our group, another young and fit woman who was a tour guide in Hawaii. Those two seemed to set the pace for hikes, leaving us less fit people to bring up the rear, panting and sweating like pigs! In retrospect however, all the effort was worth it when we look back at our photos. We were able to photograph over 25 different species of animals, most with no apparent fear of humans. The landscapes provided an ever-changing geologic panorama of multiple volcanic eruptions, and the variety of flora was amazing. One of the lasting memories was encountering a variety of prickly pear cactus that had soft spines that could be stroked without fear of getting poked…since the cactus had no natural predators on the island, it never had to evolve the defense of stiff spiky spines! If you are young and fit, I would encourage you to take this voyage, and even if you are not so fit, the overall experience can be gratifying. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
In my opinion. All the Celebrity email promotions were useless, including my birthday credit because they were targeted to everything but the ship I was on. No-one at Celebrity phone center has any idea what the Xpedition is about.  ... Read More
In my opinion. All the Celebrity email promotions were useless, including my birthday credit because they were targeted to everything but the ship I was on. No-one at Celebrity phone center has any idea what the Xpedition is about.  Notwithstanding all the issues with Celebrity customer service. THE XPEDITION IS WONDERFUL AND NOT TO BE MISSED. A special number needs to be provided to access information about this cruise as the online process and phone contacts currently available do not help. The website needs updating to better provide detailed information pertaining to Xpedition only, with links that work to 'dining' 'included tours', etc. Having Dr Ellen Prager on board was a plus, her talks were very informative and her guidance along with that of the Naturalists was exceptional. Laurena who serviced our stateroom was wonderful, as were all the waitstaff in general. Of the naturalists I could not pick a specific one or two, The group worked well together and individually all brought a little different viewpoint to the onshore and snorkel experiences. The Islands visited on this cruise are a wonderful example of different wildlife and geology present in the Galapagos. The Xpedition is a great ship with only 99 guests maximum, food is all locally sourced and very well presented. The Zodiacs and their drivers take a maximum of 16 guests with a naturalist to each of the beaches (easy wet landings) lava (dry but sometimes difficult landings) and out of the zodiac into the water snorkel experiences. All of which excel at wildlife viewings and awesome photo opportunities. The staff make it a priority to ensure all guests of most physical activity levels can experience to the full the entire offering of the events scheduled. This ship and tour are not wheelchair handicap accessible. Wetsuits, masks, fins and snorkels and life vests provided are all well maintained and clean. Safety is a very large part of this Celebrity Xpedition cruise, yet does not overly limit the interaction with sea lions and turtles in the water and the very large tortoises and iguanas found on the islands. In conclusion, it is the corporate side of Celebrity that needs to 'get fixed' the Celebrity Xpedition itself is very different from any other cruise of most cruise lines, and is the most marvelous experience to add to one's list of adventures.   Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
My family and I have been on many cruises and had reasonable expectations for the Silver Galapagos given the many negative reviews. The air conditioning on the ship did not work well most nights. We were informed by the staff that this ... Read More
My family and I have been on many cruises and had reasonable expectations for the Silver Galapagos given the many negative reviews. The air conditioning on the ship did not work well most nights. We were informed by the staff that this is an expedition cruise and such should be expected. The food was terrible by any standards. The accomidations were as expected, but again, we had low expectations. The public rooms smelled of mildew and mold. Having been to the Galapagos three times now, I can say with confidence that this cruise is highly over priced given our experience. Other operators offered better service, food and accommodations for about 60% of the cost. On the positive side, the naturalists were very knowledgeable and friendly. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
There were so many things I was worried about when selecting a Galapagos Cruise so I'll try to address those. 1. Itinerary A or B? We talked with a couple who just came off A and were doing B with us and asked their opinion. They ... Read More
There were so many things I was worried about when selecting a Galapagos Cruise so I'll try to address those. 1. Itinerary A or B? We talked with a couple who just came off A and were doing B with us and asked their opinion. They said that they saw more and more variety of animals on A but B had far more breathtaking/variety of landscapes. Please keep in mind that they did not snorkel which means they missed LOTS of animals on itinerary B. Interestingly, my husband's favorite day was on Sullivan Bay where we walked extensively on a lava field-- great experience, but no animals. We liked the variety. My favorite was North Seymore, which was what you dream of when you think of the Galapagos-- it felt like being on an ancient planet, thousands of huge birds nesting in low scrub, with no fear of man so they are comfortable when you are a foot away. Most beautiful were the Frigate birds with their swollen red "hearts" just inches away from us, and their large, fluffy white babies which we watched them feed. Unreal. I truly don't think you can go wrong with either itinerary and we plan to go back in a few years to do A. Only issue I had with B was that the last two days were less remote than I would have liked-- each day we were in a city (Santiago and Santa Cruise) with pretty marinas but not much else to see and I was annoyed by the "shopping time" that felt like wasted time to me in each stop, especially since they take you on a nice shopping event your last day when you are back in Quito and it is all the same stuff. On Santiago, there is a stop at the Darwin research center which we just skipped based on previous reviews-- a beautiful day and we didn't want to spend it inside looking at "panels" that described exactly what we have been learning first hand all week-- people who went said it was really for kids and not worth the time. We explored the little town but there isn't much to see excepts thousands of sea lions. Santa Cruise was worse. In the morning they take you to the turtle breeding facility which is interesting though no like being on the remote islands. The bad part is you walk back on your own to the town and meet up for your ride back at the fish market-- but you have to wait over an hour because this is forced shopping time. It was sweltering hot and no one wanted to shop so all we could do was wait-- they gave us no alternative to shopping. The afternoon was worse in some ways. We were excited to see turtles in the wild but elected to do the tree planting where you helped reforest the island, then had lunch at a ranch before you went to see turtles in the wild-- I would not recommend this option, I would go back on the boat, eat lunch there then go out again to see the turtles in the wild. If you do the tree planting it is literally getting into rubber boots, being handed 2 plants, walking a few feet, putting them into a pre-dug hole, then covering the hole with soil. Ten minutes but a huge process of getting there, finding your boots, changing, taking them off again, etc. Seemed a bit silly-- I thought we literally would be planing for an hour or so. But the worst was then going to this ranch for lunch-- the experience felt so touristy, like a cheap low end cruise. The food was the typical buffet-- mostly carps with hunks of overcooked fish and dark meat chicken. Not nearly as good as the food on the ship. Then you had to sit though a half hour of local dancing which just wasn't consistent with the intent and nature of the trip-- to be in the wild, a remote place, to be an explorer. After that we had a literally 30 minute walk in the field of this ranch to see the turtles which you could see when you were eating lunch anyway. It wasn't actually a walk really a picture taking with a turtle then walking a few feet in a loop. The ranch was surrounded with wire fence and the owners had cut trees so tourists could see the turtles better. This just didn't feel at all like an authentic experience and was not up to the same expedition quality as the other days; kind of a bummer to end on this day. However, overall, the itinerary was amazing-- just that the first four days were far superior to the last two though to be fair so many were tired they probably appreciated it. Also, be aware that you really don't see anything on your first day at all despite the idea they plant that you will be seeing daphene island. In our case the plane leaving Quito was scheduled for 10:30 but didn't depart until 2:00. Based on the fact that the notice they posted had been whited out several times I would say this is common. So we basically got there in time for dinner and were super rushed the next morning having to do our snorkeling fitting then. As it turns out you never actually get to visit Daphene island anyway, all it would have been is the boat circling around it, there is no landing there or snorkeling. The only annoying thing about this was that we had to get up at 5am in Quito to get breakfast and be ready to depart for the airport at 7:30. No one informed us about the plane issue at all, they simply posted it and people coming into breakfast told us. I think we should have been immediately notified in our rooms and in the breakfast room so we could go back to bed if we wanted. 2. Will I see lots of animals? Best advice: snorkel. If you don't you will miss HALF of what there is to see. It is easy, learn now. Celebrity excels here with quality equipment and a process that makes you feel completely safe and comfortable-- they will immediately get you if you tire and watch like hawks. We saw sharks, rays, lots of fish, turtles-- but the experience of a lifetime was swimming just off the beach with a Penguin for 20 minutes and playing with the sea lions during the deep water snorkels (15 feet). The sea lions play this game where they swim right at you then dart away at the last minute over and over plus they will mimic all your moves-- the cruise director told us they love to do this. Mesmerizing, pure magic, just what you came to the Galapagos for. Celebrity won't teach you how to snorkel but will give you any advice, support, etc. so best to get a quick lesson ahead of time or have a friend traveling help you. They say expert snorkeling for the deep water but it just means you need to know how to swim and won't panic if you see a big animal. The current was light and they have you go with a buddy anyway and stay with the group. 3. Food? It was far better than a regular main dining room but not quite as good as a specialty restaurant. Fish and shrimp were generally overcooked, so stayed with pastas and meats-- but the lobster which was served four times was always excellent. Desserts were the weakness, not nearly as good as a typical Celebrity cruise generally custards, simple cakes-- no wonderful pastry. Breakfast and lunch were always very good with a station of custom cooking, dinner ranged from fair to excellent. Loved fresh juices and snacks waiting for you after each outing. 4. Service? AMAZING, best we've ever had on a cruise by far. Even though alcohol included, they were always right there asking for your order. From the restaurant to the cruise director who had to get your preference each day for tours, they were always flexible, cheerful and accommodating. The entire ship was super clean. 5. Rooms? Clean, comfortable, small. Beds in window rooms are narrow. We had two rooms for our family, daughters in window room we were in a junior suite. The junior suite was smaller than any regular balcony room we've ever had on a ship but perfectly fine for us since you spend so little time there. We did love the balcony because we looked at the stars each night, got amazing views of kicker rock as we circumnavigated it (get on the port side if you have a balcony and do itinerary B so you can watch from your balcony). Only issue for some might be that in our "suite" it was a double bed with the bed against the wall so the second person had to climb over to get to bathroom in the middle of the night. However we are both tall (5'11) and had no issue with size of bed-- in fact never slept so well in my life. Looked in other suites and I would not pay the huge fee to go up in size, you could barely tell the difference between a junior suite and expedition suite. 6. Seasickness. I was so worried and the boat does rock quite a bit but I used bonine and sea bands and had no issues at all and didn't hear about anyone else having issues. Most of the rocking was at night and as I said, I never slept so well. 7.Age Range-- I was prepared for all seniors (we are two teens and two in 50's) but we had a really nice range across the board, a few 20 something couples, six teens (it was school vacation week) and a nice representation of 40-60. There were a lot of 60-70 but mostly in good shape and no elderly at all. Celebrity did a nice job of having faster, slower walks and zodiac rides vs. walks so the slower people could travel together. Also after a day or so we learned how to group ourselves in terms of activity level-- you didn't want to be on the zodiac with the people who had to use the bathroom all the time or lagged behind or complained of the heat. 8. Size: we were a bit worried with just a 100 people we might be stuck with people we didn't like but it was an amazing group with many fast friendships formed; in fact the spirit of fun and camaraderie was one of the best things about the cruise. There was literally one obnoxious person that everyone tried to avoid. This sort of happiness factor was the reason we chose Celebrity over Silver sea, and it makes a difference. 9. Land Tour: We did the ten day, and it was largely wonderful as well. The Marriot is a particularly nice one and the food far better than I expected. The first tour in Quito was wonderful, lunch had a pretty view and was delicious (don't miss the local cheese/potato soup with great toppings). The only dissapointment was the afternoon tour to the equator-- trust me and skip it as other warned me to do. It is an ugly one hour ride when you are already tired, to and ugly unscenic location that is basically a monument on the equator-- except it is not actually the right line they have found out and will be building a new line. It is surrounded by cheap tourist shops and isn't really a museum-- just a few amateurish panels that you have to walk down the tower stairs to read. Celebrity should really offer an alternative-- Quito is so beautiful I wish we had stayed there and done the cable car ride or anything else. Dinner was excellent. On the return, we had a served dinner in a private room at the hotel with live music (a really talented sax vocalist) and were again surprised at the quality and delighted it wasn't a buffet. Nice way to spend your last night with all the friends you will make. 10. Best Souvenir: the locally made shawls they sell on the street for $2.50. My daughters also found some hand made jewelry but there isn't much and the best stuff is in Quito so don't waste your time shopping on the Galapagos. 11. Expense: Do it! It is so worth it, a truly one of a kind experience and a relief to have absolutely everything included and to feel that you were well treated, no one was ever trying to sell you. Best cruise, and one of best vacation experiences ever (Africa wins out) and we are well traveled. 12. Entertainment: None really but we loved chatting after dinner in the bar with new friends and we we're utterly exhausted each night and wanted nothing but bed and a good book. Energy needed: Don't wait until you are too old to do this. It is exhausting-- two hikes and snorkeling each day in the heat. Parting Words: Celebrity really has this down, I would pick them again. Everyone seemed happy, to be having a ball and to be delighted-- that's the atmosphere you want on a cruise. Best staff ever. I wondered if we lucked out with our fun, interesting, nice fellow passengers but I really think it is part of the experience Celebrity creates on this unique ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We have just returned from a week trip to Quito/Galapagos/Guayaquil with our family (my husband, myself, and 2 adult sons aged 21 and 27). This trip is definitely in the top favorites of my trips. We began our trip with 2 nights in Quito ... Read More
We have just returned from a week trip to Quito/Galapagos/Guayaquil with our family (my husband, myself, and 2 adult sons aged 21 and 27). This trip is definitely in the top favorites of my trips. We began our trip with 2 nights in Quito at Casa Gangotena & did a day of sightseeing in Quito of the old town, cable car & Equator. We then did the 5 days / 4 nights expedition cruise on board our MV Santa Cruz (Monday-Friday, Northern Island)with Metropolitan Tours. WOW! The staff at Metropolitan are pros on this trip and made our trip very special and amazingly fun & organized. The itinerary aboard the ship is very active (if you choose to do all of the activities) with a snorkel and hike each morning & afternoon. Then 7:15pm review of next day’s program and dinner at 8pm. We were ready for bed each night! We saw all of the wildlife listed on our itinerary - Blue footed, Red footed and Nazca boobies, Galapagos penguins, marine & land iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, great frigate birds, vermillion flycatcher,herons, starfish, sharks, rays, huge parrotfish, sea turtles, giant tortoises & much more. Just amazing wildlife that are not one bit afraid of people! We booked 2 twin upper deck cabins but were upgraded to the Master Suite and the Junior Suite which was totally unexpected but was such a lovely enhancement to our trip. The Master Suite is very spacious and has a lovely balcony with table and chairs + a king size bed - such a nice way to travel! The Junior Suite had 2 twin beds & was also very spacious. The food on the boat was very good & there are enough seats for everyone to eat at the same time with no reservations which is really great. The staff on the boat was top notch. Our guide, Marcella, was just the best! She was so knowledgeable about the wildlife, etc and loved sharing information about everything in Galapagos. She really cared about everyone in our group seeing all the wildlife. We all very much enjoyed being in Marcella’s group. On our last day, we flew from San Cristobal to Guayaquil and then departed Guayaquil for Miami. From our wonderful booking agent to our amazing guide, Marcella -- everything that Metropolitan Tours and the staff and guides on the boat organized and executed made for a wonderful & unforgettable experience for our family. We will always remember our expedition to the Galapagos Islands - just an amazing trip that everyone should take!!! Thank you Metropolitan!! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships ... Read More
First off, be clear about it: there is no cheap way to go to the Antarctic. We chose the Hurtigruten Fram because we had cruised with them before and had great confidence in their competence. There are more luxurious and expensive ships but none that are more seaworthy. A very good value. The cruise officially began in Buenos Aires. We spent a week there on our own so had not purchased an airport transfer from Hurtigruten for the charter flight to Ushuaia. This became the source of some stress when we belatedly learned that our flight was to depart at 4:40 AM, meaning finding a cab on our own at 2:00 AM. If we had known about the ridiculously early flight in advance, we would have spent the last night in Buenos Aires with the Fram group. We were met at the airport in Ushuaia by Fram personnel. No problem with check-in on the ship, and our luggage was already in our cabin when we arrived. As been mentioned before, the standard cabin on the Fram is astonishingly tiny. There are two berths with very little space between them. During the day one berth is turned up and the other becomes a couch, to allow for more floor space. There is adequate storage space, but it is mostly in open cubbyholes. Travelers used to large cruise ships will be shocked. The "superior outside stateroom" is much larger and nicer, with a queen-sized bed and large bathroom, but is of course more expensive. We have cruised on the Fram before, and to save money had paid for an "unspecified inside cabin." After all, we never spend any time in the cabin on an expedition cruise. As it turned out, we were upgraded to a "superior" cabin, our good fortune this time. The Fram is a lovely ship, especially built for polar conditions. For this cruise it was completely booked with 224 passengers. Public rooms are very attractive. There is a large observation lounge on Deck 7 forward, a wonderful place to watch the scenery in a hostile climate. Deck 4 is the nerve center of the vessel, with the dining room with windows on three sides; two lecture halls; a cafe with drinks and snacks; a shop offering cold-weather gear and a few souvenirs and essentials; and the administrative center. There are large windows on both sides. The ship also has an outdoor hot tub and a fitness room with a sauna. Outside on Decks 5 and 8 are large observation areas. Of course, in the Antarctic these were used primarily when something especially exciting was going on, such as whale watching or threading our way through gigantic icebergs. We were generally fortunate with weather. The notorious Drake Passage was glassy smooth on the two-day cruise south, and we were able to make two landings a day in Antarctica. (On the return trip over the Drake, it blew a full gale, force 8 on the Beaufort Scale.) The temperature on the Antarctic peninsula hovered around freezing twenty-four hours a day. There is no real darkness this time of year. For shore excursions we wore layers and shed them if there was no wind and the sun was out. Then it seemed surprisingly warm. When it was windy, or when we were in the 8-passenger "Polar Zirkel" boats, we needed all our cold-weather gear, including waterproof parkas (a gift from Hurtigruten) and pants. We also wore study rubber boots for all excursions. These were available for rent from the ship at a reasonable cost. It's hard to describe the eight days we actually spent in the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is not a place, it's an experience. Twice-daily excursions brought us into close contact with three species of nesting penguins, who have no fear of humans and will walk right up to you. We also had close encounters with seals on land and on icebergs. The scenery is beyond spectacular. We've all seen pictures and videos of glaciers and icebergs, but no pictures can capture the reality of being there. We visited a couple of inhabited islands and got a change to understand what it's like to live there. Some historic sites were included, such as a former whalers' processing station, and Elephant Island, where Shackleton's crew managed to survive for 4 1/2 months awaiting rescue. Lectures on the wildlife, geology, and history of the region by members of the outstanding Expedition Team put things in context. In addition to the included daily shore excursions, there were optional kayaking trips and "boat cruising" in the small boats. There was also one long guided hike, and the chance to spend a night ashore in a tent. These optional excursions cost extra but provided an even more intimate experience with this unique environment. There was no evening entertainment per se: a "Crew's Show," a Tango demonstration, some relevant movies, etc. We were too tired after the busy days to have any interest in evening activities, and I never heard anyone complain about the lack of entertainment. Breakfast and lunch were always buffets; there were two official dinner seatings, but because of the extensive shore excursions, all but three dinners were buffets. Service was excellent throughout. I have read complaints elsewhere about food aboard the Fram. It certainly does not measure up to the standards of a traditional cruise ship. However, we found that there were plenty of options, including lactose-free and gluten-free. The beef was not great, and vegetables tended to be overcooked, but the fish, cheeses, salads, breads, and desserts were outstanding. And does anyone expect meals on an expedition cruise to play the important role that they do on, say, a Mediterranean cruise? We were quite satisfied. Passengers were a diverse group. Probably more than half were American, but there were large contingents from Germany and France, and we also met South Africans, Australians, Japanese, and Indians, to name a few. This was a very well-traveled assortment of lively, adventurous people, as you would expect on a cruise to the Antarctic. We've been on many cruises, including some to rather exotic places (Greenland, Svalbard, Galapagos, Amazon), but Antarctica will always stand out in my mind. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity of experiencing it. It is totally unlike anywhere else on earth, absolutely indescribable. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: ... Read More
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: normal size, two single beds, a small couch, a desk and a chair, plenty of cabinet space, normal sized bathroom with a shower. There was no TV, which I thought would be a problem, but it wasnt at all. There was a radio channel with loudspeakers in the cabin that you could turn on and off. The cabin had a window that looked to the corridor and the ocean partially. For safety, you cant lock the doors from the inside, only from the inside. Ship: A nice lobby area with a bar and plenty of couches, medical room, one restaurant with enough seats for the entire ship. Food was good. Buffett breakfst and lunch, which once was served on the sun deck. Dinner was seated and two options for main course. Not fancy dinning, like on large cruises. There was a mini gym, a whirpool and a nice sundeck with a few loungers and plenty of tables. This is what the day looks like: early wake up around 7am, Breakfast from 7.30. First excursion or activity around 9.00 (snorkeling, kayaking, hiking). Back to the ship for lunch around 12.30. Second activity/excursion around 3pm. Dinner at 7ish. There are no shows or entertainment on board, but there was a karaoke night that I missed. Every night there was a briefing about the next day. Snorkel gear and wetsuits were available. Wetsuits were for a nominal fee, but they didnt charge for them at the end. Great naturalist guides on board and during the excursions! They had a huge knowledge and made the tours really interesting. Im not big into animals or plants and yet I enjoyed it a lot. All in all, great experience. Its a much active holiday than going on a cruise in the Caribbean. Bring a laptop with movies if you want to watch something in the evening.   Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and ... Read More
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and beautiful small ship. Enjoyed smooth Drake passage and great Antarctica weather. 12 zodiac landings led by outstanding team of naturalists. Impressed by safety and care taken by crew and naturalists. Cabin housekeeping excellent. Superb cruise director. Officers friendly and evident. Open bridge policy meant you can observe the ship being maneuvered, navigated and operated. Food good with choice of buffet on level 6 or dining room on level 2. Don't miss the superb steak tartare served at one lunch buffet. Pastry, desserts and baking fabulous. Crew smiling and helpful. Truly a fine voyage on a well run friendly ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
We took the M/V Evolution in January 2015 to the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was better than I expected. I knew that this was considered a luxury yacht, but was extremely please with the large & well laid out cabin, the crew, the ... Read More
We took the M/V Evolution in January 2015 to the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was better than I expected. I knew that this was considered a luxury yacht, but was extremely please with the large & well laid out cabin, the crew, the excursions, and the ship itself. The staff was outstanding. All of them were very professional, caring & friendly. Debora Carrera, our "hotel" manager was excellent at her job & very kind. She got ot know each of the passengers very quickly & learned what we liked. Our ship doctor, Isaac Jimenez, pitched in on all the excursions, including taking wonderful pictures, in addition to caring for our medical needs. My husband had picked up a gastrointestinal disturbance prior to our trip & it got much worse while we were onboard. After Isaac gave him medication, it went away in a day. Isaac also helped guide me while we were snorkeling. Our guides - Jhosellyn Aguas Flores & Alex Cox - were wonderful - they taught us a lot, were very enthusiastic & caring. Each of them seemed to go above & beyond what I expected. The food was good - well varied, fresh, plentiful. Considering the meals were buffet, they were quite good. The activities were wonderful, as reported elsewhere. I really enjoyed all the island excursions & snorkeling. The housekeeping staff kept everything very clean, which was challenging since we showered throughout the day. The only negatives I have were 1) I had motion sickness even though I was taking meclizine; 2) related to #1, our cabin C1, was in the front of the ship & I think the location made the motion worse. The noise of the anchor being taken up would wake us. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 ... Read More
We have recently returned from an Antarctic cruise on the Fram. This is sold as a 19 day cruise but although day one starts by having to be at the local airport in Buenos Aires at 3 a.m. you don't actually get onto the ship until 4 p.m. and on day 19 you are going to be leaving the ship at about 7.30 a.m. So, effectively it is a 17 day cruise. The Fram is an excellent ship for the job, being large enough to be comfortable but small enough to get into places that bigger liners would never get to or be allowed to go to, South Georgia for instance has a limit of 100 people ashore at any one time at most of the places we stopped at. Try that on a 2 - 3000 passenger liner. We were blessed with good weather and we landed at almost all of the places intended, however, Hurtigriten do like to make the most of a 'captive audience'. They offered us organised trips at Ushuaia and on the Falklands. All of them seemed quite expensive for what they were so we only pre-booked one which was at Port Stanley. It was fairly interesting, a visit to a penguin colony, but given that we visited numerous others for no extra cost on South Georgia and the Antarctic Islands subsequently this trip was a waste of money, and time as you don't get long in Stanley. Other extras were offered once on board: snowshoeing, kayaking, trips in the Polarcircle RIBs and several hikes. All of these were quite expensive for what they were for instance about £75 for a 2 hour cruise in the RIBs just to see the sights along the shore, almost £100 each for two and a half hours kayaking which, with 5 two-man kayaks earned the line about £1000 for the use of the boats plus two guides. Even the hikes which usually have over 50 people on them will cost you around £25 per person when you might think that they could throw in a guided walk of a few miles free of extra cost especially when you consider that the 'trainee' members of the Expedition Crew are not even being paid by the Line but are doing their jobs unsalaried just to gain experience. They rely, of course on the "well, I'll only be here once" thought that goes through our minds and makes us pay these silly extra costs. Then there's the bar prices. I didn't want a 'booze cruise' but it would have been nice to have a beer at the end of an active day or a bottle of wine with dinner but with Carlsberg lager (the only beer they had and one that I don't like) costing almost £7 per pint and Chilean 'plonk' that sells in Buenos Aires supermarkets for about £5 a bottle being priced at around £25 per bottle on the ship I had a very 'dry' holiday. Obviously it is not that people who can afford the cruise can't afford the drinks but I object to being 'milked' in this way especially when the Line presumably buys the stuff as 'Bonded Stores', that is to say, without having to pay duty on it. They also x-ray your cases when you come aboard, including hand-luggage. This is not as you might think to protect you from guns and bombs. It is to protect their bar profits by spotting and removing any alcohol you may have brought with you. To add insult to injury they also charge for water to drink in the restaurant but they offer a 'deal' whereby you can pay about £20 per head for the privilege of having a carafe of 'mineral' water on your table every evening. This deal is supposed to be per person whereas, of course, it should be per couple but having had a very early start (up at 01.45 a.m.) to catch the flight to Ushuaia I allowed myself to be bounced into agreeing to it for each of us so we paid almost £40 in total. It is a real shame that Hurtugruten feel the need to rip-off their clients in these petty ways as the cruise itself was everything we could have hoped for but the constant feeling that you are being 'milked' leaves a nasty taste that even their very expensive water cannot wash away. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
We had a wonderful cruise/trip to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We left from Miami at 1600, on Friday December 12 and returned on Tuesday, December 23. The flight to Quito was just under four (4) hours. We landed at the new ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise/trip to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We left from Miami at 1600, on Friday December 12 and returned on Tuesday, December 23. The flight to Quito was just under four (4) hours. We landed at the new airport about a one hour drive from Qutio. We spent Saturday touring Quito and visiting the actual Equator. We were able to take photographs straddling the northern and southern hemisphere. We flew to the Galapagos Island by charter flight on Sunday. It was a two hour flight from Quito. The Celebrity Xpedition is a 92-passenger vessel. The limit for the Galapagos is 100 passengers. We saw hundreds of marine iguanas, birds and sea lions. There were many firsts. For example, for the first time ever I saw flamingos in flight. Another high-light was visiting the tortoise Rehab center. The ship never moored. Zodiacs take you from the ship to shore. There was usually a long walk and a short walk each day. With the ability to snorkel on some days. All the snorkeling equipment is available. The Zodiacs carry 16 passengers in a group. Each group has a naturalist assigned. The service was outstanding. It was the first time we had tried an all-inclusive cruise and we loved it. Everything was included, meals, drinks, tips once we arrived in Quito. We used airline miles to fly from Miami. There may be a weight limitation, but laptops and camera equipment do not count towards the limit. Bring the best camera with the longest telephoto lens you can afford. I also bought an inexpensive water-proof camera for snorkeling. Bring long sleeve shirts and long pants since the sun is intense near the equator. I am a redhead so I even brought fingerless gloves to cover my hands in addition to head covering. We highly recommend this cruise. We also recommend going at this time of the year since it is still the dry season. There was no rain while we were in the Galapagos and only a short light rain in Quito. We stayed at the Marriott in Quito and visited the Cloud forest when we returned before flying back to Miami. You do have to be in good physical condition. Most of the shore walks were on unimproved paths and trails. If you have not already been to Machu Piccu, would highly recommend taking the combined trip since Machu Piccu, itself, can be seen in one-day.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Sooooooooo disappointing after booking this cruise 13 months in advance. We departed on December 25 -- yes Christmas Day. We had booked ALL through Celebrity including airfare, transfers, etc. We felt secure knowing that with Celebrity ... Read More
Sooooooooo disappointing after booking this cruise 13 months in advance. We departed on December 25 -- yes Christmas Day. We had booked ALL through Celebrity including airfare, transfers, etc. We felt secure knowing that with Celebrity taking care of all details, everything would go well. NOT. We arrived at 11.35 pm on December 25 (we flew out of Newark, NJ) only to discover that "Celebrity comes in on Friday nights to pick up." Which meant that there was no one there to meet us. We checked our multi-paged itinerary and noted yes they had the flight right; yes it said the time. Yes the check in at JWMARRIOTT is December 26 -- and in 15 more minutes it IS December 26 -- so what happened??? No one knew. A greeter from Azmara got us a cab -- we spoke no Spanish and they didn't speak English -- and suggested we get a receipt. It was $25 and we tipped $2 -- and asked for a receipt. Neither the driver nor the bellman at JWMarriott understood and so we got our bags and went to check in minus the receipt. It's 1:30 a.m. We are told "you are not supposed to check in until 3:00 p.m." and I said, 'Where do you want me to sleep tonight" and the deskclerk insisted i leave my credit card. Done. The next morning we began a horrible, irritating and unnecessarily bureaucratic discussion with ANYONE WHO WOULD LISTEN that we had nothing to do that day, no one picked us up and can ANYONE HELP US get situated.???? No. I called the Royal Caribbean executive offices -- it was a holiday so no one was there. I gave up Christmas Day on the advice of the booking agent that "Quito for two days is a must!!" before we cruised. I called the Emergency line and the only advice they gave me was "too bad you didn't have a receipt for the cab because without it, you won't get reimbursed. Which of course they explained they would Have done! At 7 p.m. on Friday night, the Celebrity supervisor finally talked to us and said they would cover the hotel room the night before; but because we DID NOT MIND THE ACTUAL TIME OF CHECK - IN (3 p.m. on December 26) we were BOTH AT FAULT. So no meals and without the cab receipt? No refund. I was actually so tired and disheartened that I had already given this cruiseline more than $28,000 for the two of us what the hell. They could take their $27 and you know what. We had a good day in Quito. The tour is lovely and the guides are great. We then traveled most of Sunday to get to Baltra to board the ship. NOTE: THIS IS A VERY SMALL SHIP AND IS NOT IN THE LUXURY CLASS OF SHIPS AT ALL. I have cruised almost every line -- and believe me, this was basically a nice small ship that served some good lobster. It was the Holidays but on New Year's Eve they had no party planning at all. All 98 passengers milled around after dinner on the 4th deck -- which was awful -- and had to ask for Champagne at midnight. This was a very mixed crowd. Lots of families -- great -- and all ages. It could have been an amazing trip if the cruise director had planned for it. Monica, the cruise director, listened to no one. Example: I asked her why there were no hats, noisemakers, confetti -- anything -- to celebrate at midnight and she said, "oh your expectations are too high You're thinking we are a Celebrity cruise -- and we are not!" EXACTLY. The excursions are varied for different levels of physicality -- but again, Monica did not describe them well at all. All she needed to do was show photos of the terrain so that we could understand the difference between difficult and easier. When you are not on an excursion, there is nothing to do. Staterooms are very very small -- all on 4th deck were like inside cabins but with a porthole. The suites are better -- 5th and 6th deck -- but with so few, you need to book two years in advance. I wish I had. You feel the ship swaying all the time and had to hang on to the railings to walk safely. Food was good to just OK except for the fresh lobster -- which is amazing. The Naturalists are terrific but you never interact with them except on your excursion. How about our Captain and his executive crew! We never saw him, he never talked to anyone (and I did talk to many passengers about this) at all. We "saw" him at the wrap up "celebration" the night before we disembarked. He and his team were absent and it was so strange that they didn't circulate at all. HERE'S SOMETHING TO NOTE AND BE PREPARED -- We had to be out of our cabins at 8 a.m. on Sunday, January 4 but sat in that ship until 10:30 and then went to the airport where we sat until 6 or 7 p.m. while we waited for the charted plane bringing the new GALAPAGOS passengers to Baltra. The plane was very late; we were all very tired and cranky and those of us who were going to Lima did not get to our hotel until 10:30 p.m. An entire day was wasted traveling. They need two chartered planes -- and at the cost per person for this cruise they need to fix that. Now for the good part -- definitely do the MACHU PICCHU extension option as it was the best part of our trip. The hotels were magnificent -- The Country Club Hotel in Lima; the Monasterio in Coscuo, and the Santuary in Machu Picchu were just to die for. Food? the Best in the world! We loved every minute. The HIRAM BINGHAM (Orient Express) train to Machu Picchu is an experience not to miss. First class and luxury all the way. The guides were terrific and worked with us to make sure everyone was ok and able to continue climbing. We were not troubled by altitude sickness but if you are worried, just keep drinking bottled water and the cocao tea. This is the part of the journey that made up for the disappointing cruise experience. Without Machu Picchu, I would have graded the entire experience a "5 out of 10".   Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this ... Read More
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this adventure: * Itinerary: every other expedition in this category and with these stops is 20+ days. This was 17, and was certainly not too short. It hit all the highlights you want to see, and there were plenty of expeditions at each stop. * Expedition staff: A&K gathered an impressive team led by Dr. Marco Favero, and cruise director Jannie Cloete. There were several PhDs, and many other skilled naturalists, photographers and historians. From my research, only Lindblad/Nat Geo can compare with this level of experienced staff. * Ship: Le Boreal is new, clean, and incredibly stylish. The cabins are streamlined but comfortable, and the public spaces are subtly beautiful. Look at the Lindblad/NatGeo ships and you'll see old-fashioned, somewhat hokey interiors. I cannot overstate how nice the ship design is. AND, every single cabin has a balcony, which I found incredibly nice. * The price: Though A&K is by no means known as affordable...the combination of the shorter itinerary and discounts for early bookings resulted in this cruise being several thousand dollars cheaper than the alternatives like Lindblad/NatGeo, SilverSeas, etc. And * The ship staff: service and professionalism was at the highest level. The captain and crew kept the bridge open to visitors daily, and navigated skillfully through heavy and icy seas...often changing course to see whales, add stops to our itineraries, etc. Bar and Restaurant staff...a mix of French and Filipino...was tremendously friendly and offered great personal service. You can read the company websites and brochures for day-by-day detailed itineraries so there is no point in repeating those here. Here are some tips/tricks/observations: * You are at sea for several days at a time with no stops, and there is limited entertainment, so bring books, movies, games, etc. Expedition staff will give lectures that can vary in quality, and there are about 20-25 movies on demand...not alot. The onboard library has a small selection of books, and WiFi is available by satellite, but quite expensive. In short, don't go if you are easily bored and you don't like reading or quiet times. * Food is overall good, but a bit on the French hotel bland side. The weakest areas are proteins...fish and meats usually overcooked. But, over 3 weeks with no stops to resupply there was always great fresh fruit, salads, and vegetables. Soups were good, desserts as well. And, breads and pastries were always consistently excellent. There is a buffet and a sit-down restaurant, and both were open for all meals. Cookies and tea were served in 2 bars off hours. A brief room service menu was available 24x7 when the restaurants were closed for meals. * Packing. Everyone but me seemed to ignore the many warnings to limit baggage to a minimum. There were huge suitcases, and about 1/3 of people had packed suits/ties and cocktail dresses for the welcome reception, xmas dinner, new year's eve, and farewell dinner. On this trip, you could rent boots for the onshore expeditions, and I recommend that option rather than bringing them. * Spa and Fitness Center. The spa was roomy and super comfortable...but I didn't hear anyone rave about the treatments. In France, there are levels of massage...with the highest requiring training and licensing and practiced usually in medical offices This is not what you get on Le Boreal. I heard people say it was usually light Swedish massage that was only passable. I got a facial which I thought was pretty good. The fitness center is nice but VERY small...2 treadmills, 2 bikes and a combination cable/weight machine. The end. It gets understandably crowded. * Getting to the ship from Buenos Aires. A&K arranged airport pickup which was perfect, and overnight stay at the Sofitel in BA. Ask for a high floor with a view...because I was on floor 3 overlooking an airshaft. Have patience during the trip to Ushuaia. A&K screwed up our tickets...we got boarding passes to the NatGeo charter flight...so all info was wrong. We also waiting in the airport for quite a while. I get that its hard to move 200 people around, but things seemed especially slow and ponderous. * When to go. We chose the xmas/new year "family" cruise with A&K...and it was a great choice. The demographic was younger than the usual A&K stuffy and pretentious oldsters...which livened up the mood. There were about 30 kids from 7 to 18...and they were all great.   Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
Was worried when I saw that only half (or so) of cruisers liked Silver Galapagos. Then after sailing I realized that's because this ship is not for everyone. Those who have sailed with Silversea need to recognize this is not a typical ... Read More
Was worried when I saw that only half (or so) of cruisers liked Silver Galapagos. Then after sailing I realized that's because this ship is not for everyone. Those who have sailed with Silversea need to recognize this is not a typical SilverSea cruise. Its an expedition in every sense of the word. The expedition guides were amazing. They were patient with their guests and answered all our questions. They moved the groups along and ensured everyone was taken care of. They gently reminded people to remain within the trails and not get too close to the wildlife. This is a very active cruise - but they tell you the night before exactly what to expect for the following day so you can choose your adventure appropriately. The hikes can be very difficult to very easy - you choose. We took advantage of the more strenuous hikes on several occasions and really enjoyed them. They offered kayaking twice and we enjoyed it. Snorkeling was offered almost everyday - both from the beach and from a zodiac for deep water. Do the zodiac! You can read lots online about the Galapagos - so I won't go into too much detail. I'll focus on the cruise portion. The ship was beautiful. They really did a nice job with the renovations. Everything looked new and really couldn't find anything that looked worn. Our cabin (508) was a balcony and it was really nice. Our first thought was it was small - but as the week went on we changed out minds. It was plenty big. Especially as you are so busy you don't spend much time in your cabin. The bathroom had marble counters. There was no separate tub and bath but the shower was large enough with a glass wall. Amenities are 'eco-friendly' - sorry no Bulgari or Ferragamo. Cabin serviced twice a day. Our Butler was the best we've ever had (Alvaro). He made sure we had everything we needed. One night when I was not feeling well, he brought me soup without being asked. Food on the ship was good - not great. They are limited as to what they can get on the ship due to Ecuadorian regulations. Sounds like a scapegoat - but its true. That being said - local seafood was really, really great. Lobster or large prawns everyday at lunch. Dining room was very nice. Service was great. Not a very ornate menu - but always a choice of 3-4 starters and 3-4 mains. Desserts were a letdown. We ate at the the grill for dinner twice. Same experience as other Silversea cruises. For lunch each day we enjoyed the grill outdoors. Small buffet with salad and soup, order main course from a menu (great lobster & shrimp), and a dessert buffet. They offered a fresh ceviche each day. It was amazing. The only thing we can fault here is the pizza. It was the same everyday. It was good but the hawaiian pizza looked amazing like the cheese pizza each day. A lot has been said in previous reviews about the staff and their english skills. We found no issues at all. They did everything they could for you. If they didn't understand something, they would stick with it until they figured it out. The Ecuadorians are friendly people. They engaged in conversation. They ensured you had plenty to eat and drink. You can't expect the same level of service as on other Silversea ships where SS can hire from around the globe. There is a smaller hiring pool for this ship as they all need to be Ecuadorian - but again - could not find any fault with the staff on the ship. After being on the ship for about 2 hours, they referred to us by name and used our names throughout the cruise. They knew where we liked to sit, what we liked to drink, and what we ate the previous day. They were very engaged. If you are going to the Galapagos - this is the ONLY way to do it. We saw other boats and forms of accommodation. Nothing even comes close. Heard from folks who went on the Celebrity ship and they enjoyed it - but by all descriptions - not even close to the SilverSea experience. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2014
We have just returned from Voyage 8440 and although the Expedition Staff on and off the Silver Galapagos were 10 out of 10, we amongst many of the guests were appalled with the quality of the food and service. The breakfast buffet was of a ... Read More
We have just returned from Voyage 8440 and although the Expedition Staff on and off the Silver Galapagos were 10 out of 10, we amongst many of the guests were appalled with the quality of the food and service. The breakfast buffet was of a very poor quality and variety. Twice I ordered eggs at breakfast and they simply were not delivered, every day the sausages, bacon and scrambled eggs on the buffet were cold, now I don't mean warm or tepid I mean stone cold. At dinner on 3 days running there was no sorbet and on two full days no vanilla ice cream. The head chef stopped by our table and I asked what the problem was with the sorbet and the ice cream and he told us that they had run out and did not have the machinery to produce them - this is frankly absurd, and pathetic for a 'head' chef. The food at dinner was most nights over cooked. On one night I order my steak rare, the first one was well done, so I asked for it as I ordered, so the waiter kindly replaced it with another one also well done, the third one was possibly medium and I frankly just accepted it and didn't bother eating it. The waiters served the rather ordinary wine haphazardly, topping up a half glass of red wine with a totally different wine for example, regularly. The layout and decor of the restaurant is very dull, repressive and refectory like. The piano lounge is just a mess, the lighting is turgid and the furniture and decor smacks of the 1970's. This ambiance, service and food was not what we were expecting from our previous trips on the Silver Explorer. Great expedition, but 3* hotel service. All in all Silversea let is down. On the positive side we came home without putting any weight on. This was not a Silversea as we had come to know it. All the trips to the Galapagos follow the same itinerary, with the same qualified guides, so why we paid a significant premium for substandard service with Silversea is in hindsight extremely disappointing. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2014
This was our first expedition cruise and our first cruise with Silverseas. We have previously cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Star Clippers. Our favourite (before this one) was the one with Star Clippers. Now ... Read More
This was our first expedition cruise and our first cruise with Silverseas. We have previously cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Star Clippers. Our favourite (before this one) was the one with Star Clippers. Now it's a close run thing!! We have also enjoyed catamaran cruises on 5 -cabin catamarans with Tradewinds, so we do have a tendency to prefer the smaller ship experience. This cruise exceeded my expectations in most aspects. Embarkation was easy and exactly as described. We were met at the airport and taken by coach to the dock where we were issued with life-jackets and taken by zodiacs to the ship. There were minimal delays to this process as there were 4 zodiacs in total and each held about 16 passengers. On boarding the ship, we were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine/champagne and accompanied to our cabins. The cabin (514) was a veranda suite. Silversea call all their cabins 'suites' but in truth, they are much the same size as most other cruise ships we have been on. The exception was the Star Clipper where the cabin was definitely smaller. The Silver Galapagos cabin was possibly a bit wider at the point where the sofa was, and we both agreed that the cabin was the nicest that we had had, but I think it's a bit cheeky calling it a 'suite'. The cabin was extremely well equipped with backpacks and water bottles for both of us to use on the cruise and to keep afterwards, and a pair of binoculars to use on the cruise. The fridge was filled with beers and soft drinks and there were snacks on the side. These were replenished as and when they were used. Our first choice would have been one of the terraced suites (505 and 506) but these were both taken. With hindsight we were pleased about that. The terrace at the front of these is accessible to everyone and we went down and sat on it a couple of times when our balcony was shaded and a bit cool. I think that it was mainly the people in 505 and 506 that used the terrace and it WAS very nicely furnished, but I wouldn't have liked the idea that people could sit right outside my cabin, and in fact, it did seem to always be a bit too windy on that spot. We also considered the deluxe veranda suites as these weren't selling at a huge premium when we booked. I think they did have very slightly bigger balconies but we had the advantage of being on a higher deck with easy access to the front terrace and the grill bar, so we actually decided that we were very happy with our decision to stick with the standard veranda suite. If I was booking again and had the choice of ANY cabin, I'd opt for any of the veranda suites on the same side as we were. I liked our side of the ship because we often seemed to be looking at the sunsets but I don't know if the ship always ends up in the same spots. Maybe we were just lucky!! I LOVED having a balcony and we actually used it more than I thought we would on this trip - especially in the gap between excursions (usually between about 12 and 3.30 when the ship was moving) and then again when we came back from the 2nd excursion and just before the evening briefing and dinner. The food on the ship was very good, and better than I expected after reading about the inferior quality of meats in the Galapagos. Breakfast was a standard buffet, typical of what you would find in a large hotel. We usually ate lunch on the grill deck where there was a soup and salad buffet and a choice of various dishes cooked to order. There was ALWAYS lobster on the menu there and people seemed to love it though I'm not a big lobster fan. We did eat lunch once in the restaurant on Deck 2 and found that to also be very good with a wider choice than upstairs and it was again buffet style. We always ate dinner in the restaurant and never had a bad meal. Portions were not large but there were plenty of courses if you wished to have them and lots of people did! Apparently the stone grill on deck was quite fun but we didn't try it as we found it a bit cold on deck in the evenings. But we spoke to people who did and they said that the food was great. Possibly the worst thing about the ship was the service in the dining room and in the cabins. The staff were very friendly but really still need to get up to speed with providing the standard of service that people seem to expect on Silverseas. This didn't particularly bother us but there were often mistakes made. On the one and only time when we ordered room service, we asked for afternoon tea on our balcony. They serve afternoon tea in the piano bar and this consists of little sandwiches, pastries and cakes. Our tray arrived with a pot of hot water, 2 cups and a tea-bag!! Not even milk or sugar!! When I was disappointed the steward went off and came back with 2 sandwiches so I went down to the piano bar and got it myself! But if the dining staff were not up to scratch, the naturalist guides more than made up for them! They were excellent! We had been a bit concerned about going on one of the bigger ships in the Galapagos but we needn't have worried. Each guide is not allowed to take more than 16 people but Silverseas employ about 8 guides and we didn't ever go in a group with more than about 12 people. All of them seemed to be well qualified and were very knowledgeable and we didn't ever hear any complaints about any of them. In fact, we learned that one of the guides had even worked on a David Attenborough tv production. Our favourite was Juan Carlos who had been guiding for almost 40 years! The ship's crew also seemed to be very efficient and very friendly and helpful. On each day, there would be 2 stops and at each stop there was usually a choice of activity. Activities included nature treks, snorkeling, kayaking, glass bottom boat rides or zodiac excursions. On 3 of the stops there were minibuses to take people to, for example, the tortoise breeding centre. On 2 of the stops there were opportunities to do some shopping in the towns on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. My husband's only complaint about the activities was they were not energetic enough! He is a bit of a fitness fanatic and he felt that he didn't get enough exercise on this holiday. It is true that they tended to exaggerate how strenuous the treks would be. In reality they were a bit of a dawdle as there is obviously a lot of stopping to look at things. There was only one fairly energetic hike but even that did not go far and was much shorter than they originally said. I guess they have to anticipate that some people will be a lot slower than on our particular cruise! We did enjoy the kayaking but that was only offered twice and was over-subscribed so difficult to get a place. To be fair to Silverseas, when they saw this they immediately organised another opportunity, but we would have liked even more of this. The nature treks were excellent and obviously the main focus of the cruise. However, I have to say that by the time we had got to the end of the week, we had seen enough boobies, marine iguanas and sea-lions!! Another example of the staff responding to our individual needs was when we stopped at San Cristobal, the advertised activity was a minibus visit to the tortoise breeding centre. I had already visited one of these as we spent a week in the islands before the cruise, so I asked if there would be much point in going on this excursion. The guide I spoke to advised that it probably wouldn't. However, she immediately suggested that we could join another couple on a trip to the Interpretation Centre. They were organising that for the other couple because they were on a back-to-back and would also have been repeating the visit. We were most impressed with this. Disembarkation was as efficient as embarkation. Bags had to be packed by 6 am and they were then taken to the airport and even checked in for us. We left the ship at around 9.30 for a 12.45 flight. We were issued with our boarding passes at the airport and then given use of a special VIP lounge where there were free refreshments. Really most impressive! To summarise, I think that Silverseas have done a great job with their cruise offering in the Galapagos. I would highly recommend them and would definitely consider more of their expeditions. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2014
My husband enjoyed our amazing vacation on the expedition ship, Silver Galapagos. This was not a relaxing luxury vacation and we knew this when we planned our adventure. Adventure is the key experience we were seeking and an adventure was ... Read More
My husband enjoyed our amazing vacation on the expedition ship, Silver Galapagos. This was not a relaxing luxury vacation and we knew this when we planned our adventure. Adventure is the key experience we were seeking and an adventure was what we got. The ship was beautiful and the staff was very accommodating. Requests were met with the response "it would be my pleasure." and the request was granted promptly. I experienced no issue with communication. The crew spoke English much better than I speak Spanish. Each evening the expedition staff would conduct a briefing of the next days itinerary that included a thorough explanation and pictures of the trails we could hike and the wild life we would see. Most days an easy and a strenuous hike would be offered as well as deep water or beach snorkeling and kayaking. Snorkeling equipment included wet suites. Every day we saw a wide variety of birds, fish, amphibians as well as insects. The variety was amazing. We saw, tortoise, land and sea iguanas, sea lions,a huge variety of birds including the Blue/Red Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Darwin's finches, mocking birds and the huge Waved Albatross. A memory I will never forget is snorkeling above a hammer head shark....Priceless!!! The expedition team kept us all safe and ensured that we did not violate rules that protect the fragile environment and wildlife. The cruise director Israel and Brad the naturalists insured that all guests were well informed and educated about all the Galapagos has to offer. They were very knowledgeable, personable and enthusiastic. All scheduled activities were punctual, organized and safe. The zodiac captains were well trained and skilled in maneuvering the boats with the currents and rocks as challenges in navigation. We visited two sights a day and by 7PM we could not keep our eyes opened but did not miss a delicious meals. I went to bed after dinner and my husband enjoyed listening and playing the piano with the piano player. The food was delicious, fresh and ample. Drinks are complimentary and there was a large selection. I enjoyed the passion fruit margarita. The ship was clean and our cabin was well maintained. The air-conditioner worked great. My husband likes it cold so I needed an extra blanket. The ship is now in dry dock for a face lift so I will not spend time on the cosmetics of the ship. I recommend this cruise to anyone wanting a true adventure. Read Less

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