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Pearl Irby

Age: Various

Occupation:Travel Professional, Biologist

Number of Cruises: 21+

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Celebrity Xpedition

Sailing Date: December 4, 2005

Itinerary: Galapagos Islands

Day 10 Depart the Xpedition return to Quito
Day 10 started with our wake up call from Guest Services at 4:30 AM. We had set our luggage in the hall the night before, so we proceeded to shower and head for the Beagle Grill for Early Risers Coffee and pastries, our last. We were sad and not ready to leave the Islands. We have never taken a cruise we enjoyed so much and one in which we had such personal contacts with staff and passengers.

The zodiac departed the ship at 7:00 AM for the transfer to the bus and from the bus to the airport (bus on right in picture). There were a few shops in the airport for any last minute purchases before leaving the Islands.


The bus let us out at the shops at the Baltra Airport

When we arrived at the airport we were given our airline tickets to Quito by Rod. We went through a very brief security check-in and were ushered to a lovely VIP waiting area. The waiting room had a bar, shown in the picture, for passengers use, coke was free and a beer was $2.00.


Waiting area Baltra Airport

The plain departed Baltra at 11:00 AM. It made one stop in Guayaquil. Passengers on a through ticket to Quito did not have to deplane. There was a 30 minute layover in Guayaquil prior to departing for Quito. Lunch was served on the plane. The food was better than the usual airline food.


Guayaquil Airport from the plane

We arrived in Quito in the early afternoon. We were met out side the secure area by a Celebrity representative and transferred to a waiting bus and driven back to the J W Marriott. Celebrity transferred the luggage straight from the ship to the hotel. It was nice not to have to deal with the bags until they arrived in our room at the Marriott.


Landing in Quito

The Marriott had kept our credit cards open so check in was brief. We took a look at our room and waited for the luggage to arrive, before meeting the Celebrity representative in the lobby for the afternoon excursion to the local native market. Prior to the bus trip to the Native market we had the Bell Captain retrieve our stored luggage and had it delivered to our room.


Entrance to the Indian Market Place

The Indian market was a short bus ride from the hotel. The native craft items such as scarves, painted bowls, trays, boxes, alpaca scarves, alpaca stuffed animals, pillows, rugs, musical instruments, water colors are beautiful and reasonably priced. Dee and I bought several scarves, and stuffed animals, jewelry and one decorated musical instrument and one elaborately decorated bowl. Our group had an hour and one half to shop prior to returning to the hotel.


Shopping in the Indian Market, Quito

The bus returned to the hotel arriving there around 6:00 PM. Dinner that evening was scheduled for 7:00 PM at a local restaurant. We had to hurry to get ready in time. The guide said dress for the evening was causal. I think we were underdressed for the restaurant selected. Several people choose not to go to dinner as it had been a long day. In retrospect I wish we had passed on dinner. We boarded the bus for the drive to Independence Plaza where we had walked around on day 2. The restaurant was beautiful and upscale. We were served a 4 course gourmet meal. There was a gentleman singing a medley of songs through out the meal. The problem was we were too tired for a long elegant meal. Dinner was not over until 9:30 PM and by then we were exhausted. We had to be up at 4:30 AM for our departure flight home. Going out to a late dinner made for two extremely long days.

Day 11 Return Flight Home
Today began at 4:30 AM with a call from guest service. Our bags were in the hall by 5:00 AM. We dressed and went to the lobby for a cup of coffee, as the buffet was not yet open.

Celebrity had checked all the flight schedules for us and the corrections were noted. We boarded the busses for the 20 minute ride to Quito airport.

Upon arriving at the airport, the Celebrity staff unloaded our luggage and transferred it to a cart, which was wheeled into the secure area of the terminal. Bob unloaded our luggage from the cart. Dee let the porter unload her luggage and left with out tipping him. That was a real breach of protocol and the porter came to her in the check in line and requested his tip. At that point everyone who had not tipped him did so. Tipping is apparently mandatory. Getting past that hurtle we proceeded through the check in line and on to line number 2, for passport review, then to the airline check in, then to the departure tax line, then to another line, seems as if it just kept going. Remember to tuck $25.00 away for your departure tax. Everything went smoothly, it just took time and the airport was hectic. We finally got to a nice waiting area and had about 45 minuets before the Continental flight left for Huston. All went well in through customs in Huston. Dee had one hour to get through customs and make her flight to Dallas and she did. Unfortunately we had a 5 hour wait for the flight to Sacramento. We made it home by 10:00 PM. We were tired, but overwhelmed with the wonder of what we had seen.

The Cruise:
Conclusions: We all agreed this was by far the best cruise we have ever been on. The itinerary could not be better, the animals could not be more unique, the staff could not be more personable, the guides could not have be more knowledge and the ship could not be more beautiful or elegant. I hope I didn’t boor anyone with the biology but the biology is what you go for. The luxurious ship adds so much to the experience, as the contrast of hiking, snorkeling and generally being hot sweaty, covered with salt water and then returning to such a elegant ship and great staff and tasty food is a perfect contrast.

We had some concerns about choppy water and the movement in the zodiacs, as Dee has motion sensitivity. She always takes medication such as meclizine, which she did on this cruise and had no ill effects from the movement on either the Xpedition or the zodiacs. Information on the weather said the seas could be choppy in December but they were calm and we had no rain.

We would all highly recommend this cruise to anyone who is interested in nature, biology, geology, loves animals or just loves to be pampered in a luxurious environment.

Pros:
The highlight of this cruise, without question, is the fantastic itinerary and the unique animals.
Each Island held a surprise
The all inclusive package is an excellent value for the money
Knowledgable Naturalist Guides
Small group feeling as the zodiacs hold 12 people and were not full on each excursion
Wonderful ship and public rooms
Excellent food and service in all areas of the ship.
Friendly and pleasant staff
The cleanliness of the ship

Cons:
The only improvement I could suggest is to use a biologist as the lecturer

Camera Equipment:

We took several cameras:
1-35mm Minolta with a 70-300 lens 10 rolls of 35 exposure film
2 Canon Digital cameras with a 1024 MB card and a 65 MB card
10 disposable underwater cameras
1 Canon Elph for wide angle shots 6 rolls of film
1 Sony Handycam with 15 30 minute DVD disks
Celebrity recommended the following:
Wide Angle and Zoom (>55mm)
Underwater camera
Filters for early morning and afternoon sunshine
Fast film to offset movement by the zodiac

Suggested Reading:

Galapagos a Natural History by Michael H. Jackson
Birds, Mammals & Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands by Andy Swash & Rob Still
Galapagos Wildlife a Visitors Guide by Davis Horwell & Pete Oxford
These can all be ordered at www.longitudebooks.com

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