Galapagos Islands on Celebrity Xpedition
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ON CELEBRITY XPEDITION SHIP
I recently enjoyed the adventure of a lifetime, sailing on Celebrity’s Xpedition through the Galapagos Islands. To experience such a rare and unique destination while enjoying the luxury and comfort on board a beautiful ship was a great privilege.
The following is a short day by day account of the islands visited while on the 7 Night Inner Loop Xpedition Cruise:
Day 1 Quito Baltra and Daphne Major
I flew from Quito to Baltra, via Celebrity’s private chartered plane. On arrival in Baltra, guests are transferred by Zodiac to the ship which is about 10 minutes offshore. Lunch was waiting, followed by the mandatory boat drill, then distribution of snorkelling gear complete with wet suits. The evening was spent with a circumnavigation of Daphne Major Island followed by a lovely dinner at the Darwin Restaurant and Live Music at the Discovery Lounge.
Day 2 Santiago and Rabida Islands
On Santiago Island we visited one of the most popular sites, Puerto Egas, and enjoyed a walk along the shore which lead to extraordinary grottos, home to the Galapagos Fur Seals. After our walk, we enjoyed some snorkelling just off shore where swimming with Sea Turtles was the highlight.
The afternoon was spent on Rabida Island, which is stunning as the old volcanic cone as well as the rocks and sand are in bright red hues. We enjoyed a Zodiac ride along the shore, looking for sea birds as well as mantra rays and sharks. Another opportunity to snorkel, this time with Sea Lions. A sighting of the Nazca Booby was a favourite.
Day 3 Isabela Island
Elizabeth Bay, one of the most westerly points in the Galapagos Island, and a wonderful location for spotting Sea Birds such as the Pelican, the Blue Footed Booby, The Galapagos Penguin, Heron’s, Hawks, and also Marine Iguana. We explored the region by zodiac, meandering through the mangroves with some up close sightings of magnificent wildlife.
In the afternoon we visited Tagus Cove, and took a strenuous hike up the side of a volcanic cone to see wonderful views of Darwin’s Lake. As we took the Zodiac back to the ship we spotted a mother Cormorant nesting with her chicks along the cliff.
Day 4 Santiago and Bartolome Islands
Our morning excursion took us to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island. We enjoyed a hike over a large lava field, from a volcanic eruption that took place about 100 years ago. The twists and turns and buckling of the lava was extraordinary set amidst a backdrop of reddish brown volcanic cones.
In the afternoon we visited Bartolome Island, with one of the most spectacular settings in the Galapagos Islands. We took a steep hike, up 380 stairs to the top for the most famous view of the Galapagos Islands.
Day 5 Santa Cruz and North Seymour Islands
Our morning was spent at Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz Island, where we enjoyed a coastal walk to see Pink Flamingos, Marine Iguanas and the nesting sites for the Pacific Green Sea Turtles.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a walk through a frigatebird colony on North Seymour Island. Also enjoyed more sightings of the Blue Footed Booby and stunning Land Iguanas.
Day 6 San Cristobal island
In the morning we visited one of the Galapagos most populated towns, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. We started with a scenic hike, a visit to an Interpretation Centre and time to stroll the cobbled streets for some shopping.
In the afternoon we had the opportunity to explore a fascinating geologic landscape, beach and satellite volcanic cone. A long walk along the coast watching sea lions playing in the surf, as well as sightings of shore birds and some relaxing time for a swim.
At sunset, the ship did a circumnavigation of stunning Kicker Rock, the remains of a volcanic tuft cone just offshore.
Day 7 Santa Cruz Island
The morning activities includes a visit to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the islands. In 1959 the Ecuadorian government declared all the islands a national park. In the same year, the Charles Darwin Foundation was founded to promote research and ensure conservation of the islands. An optional activity to support conservation in the Galapagos was to plant Scalesia Trees to help restore the native forest which is home to many endemic species of birds in the Highlands, which I was happy to partake.
In the afternoon, we visited the Tortoise Preserve to see the Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat. The Tortoises are probably the most famous residents of the islands and they live well past 100 years of age and can weigh up to 500 pounds. This was truly a highlight of visiting the Galapagos Islands.
Day 8 Departure
All good things must come to an end. The memories of this magnificent destination will linger and the images of the wildlife are forever engraved in my mind. To have experienced the Galapagos Islands was a thrill and do so on Celebrity’s Xpedition was amazing.
Additional Information that may be of interest:
The Celebrity Xpedition Cruises to the Galapagos sell out at least a year in advance. Bookings are accepted up to 2 years before sailing. Cabin Rates start at $4000 USD per person for a 7 night cruise and 3 nights land. Their trips begin with 2 nights in Quito pre cruise, and 1 night Quito post cruise. The trip cost is All Inclusive with all transportation, all meals, all beverages including alcoholic, all excursions, all gratuities, flights on private chartered aircraft from Quito to Baltra round trip. Their ship alternates weekly with an Inner Galapagos Loop and an Outer Galapagos Loop.
Celebrity is impressive in how they handle the guest’s baggage. In Quito, on the night before sailing, all bags are brought down to the Lobby by 8pm, where they are inspected by the Galapagos National Park Immigration department. Bags are tagged, locked overnight, and then transferred to the airport and to the ship where bags are delivered to your stateroom once on board. This is a nice perk in travelling with Celebrity as other travellers will have their bags inspected at the airport prior to departure to the Islands. Inspection is needed to be sure no foreign materials such as, nuts, seeds, plants are taken to the islands.
Food on Board the Ship:
Breakfasts – always Buffet, with made to order omelets, waffles, lots of fresh fruit and pastries and the usual variety of bacon, sausage, eggs etc.
Lunches – a choice to dine in the Darwin restaurant with a Buffet Lunch, often themed such as Mexican or Asian, or on deck at the Grill with Hamburgers and Hot Dogs.
Dinners – always a la carte with a choice of starters, entrées and desserts.
The food was top notch, with premium cuts of meat and seafood. Fine dining at its best!
Activities on Board
After lunch each day, the ship would offer lectures on topics such as Bird Identification and Geology, BBC Films on the Galapagos, and presentations by the Naturalist Guides on Life in the Galapagos. Every evening was an opportunity to enjoy some live music, karaoke, dancing and trivia.
There is one guide for every 16 guests. These are highly educated individuals that were either born on the islands or have permanent residence on the islands. They have a university degree and must complete s rigorous training program with the National Park. They are employed by the Galapagos National park and hired out to the various ships that wish to use their services. All excursions on the island are guided and one must stay with your guide at all times.
When to Go:
The Galapagos Islands are a year round destination but have 2 distinct seasons, one being the dry season and one being the wet season. In speaking with staff May was recommended as one of the best months to visit. It’s just after the wet season so the islands are lush and green, it’s warm but not too hot and the sun shines non-stop. My visit was in October, the dry season which was also very nice.