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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 9; Floreana and Santa Cruise Islands
Floreana Island:  The sixth-largest island in the Archipelago was one of the four islands Charles Darwin visited. Floreana was inhabited at the time of Darwin’s visit by the Viceroy, who claimed he could look at a tortoise and derive its island of origin. Later this observation proved useful to Darwin when writing his “Origin of Species”. In 1832 Ecuador annexed the islands and established the first Human Colony here. This later turned into a penal settlement. The island was the first capital of the Galapagos.

Post Office Bay a short walk up the beach has been used as a mailing system since 1793.

We are down to our last day in the Islands. Where did the time go? We made up our minds to savor the day. At dawn we were at the Beagle Café for early riser’s breakfast and a beautiful sunrise.

Today the morning excursions begin at 8:00 AM with a zodiac ride to Floreana Island visiting the Post Office Barrel and Sea Lion Colony - Low Intensity (2 hours) with an optional last snorkeling opportunity.

At 9:15 Point Daylight Snorkeling departed, a Medium Intensity Activity 2 hours long.

We choose the Post Office Barrel and Sea Lion activity and departed the ship with Rod as our naturalist guide at 8:00.  The zodiac ride took us past interesting basalt lava flows which have formed underwater pillow lava. There are very large Prickly Pear cacti along the coast interspersed with Sea Lions. Each Island is unique and unforgettable.

Sea Lions under Prickly Pear Cacti

As we got closer to the coast we were fortunate to see Penguins swimming. The Blue Footed Boobys on this Island were in larger numbers than on any previous excursion. They were not nesting in December and we were surprised that we could not get as close to them as we did to the Masked Boobys. 

Pair of Blue Footed Boobys (Celebrity Photo)

Feeding Blue Footed Boobys (Celebrity guides photo)

Galapagos Penguins swimming (Celebrity Photo)

After a wet landing on Floreana we had a short walk to what appeared to be a pile of junk and graffiti. This is the famous Post Office Barrel which started functioning as a mail system for whalers in 1793. Sailors starting their voyage would leave mail and others returning would pick it up and deliver it back home. The mail box still functions today. We looked through the mail and took 2 cards leaving one each.  

 Post Office Barrel

After retrieving and depositing mail in the Barrel we took advantage of the last opportunity to snorkel. No one else in the group choose to stay.  As we entered the water a Sea Lion observed us from a rock. We were hoping he would choose to join us and he did.

Sea Lion watching us snorkel

The Sea Lion did join us

This was our last opportunity to observe and play with the animals and we took full advantage of it.  We were so impressed that a zodiac stayed with us the entire time. We had our own private life guard and shuttle service. The staff on this cruise was superior and not only did they try but they exceeded our expectations.

Back on board we turned in our snorkeling equipment and cleaned up for lunch.

The afternoon’s excursion was a repeat of Day 5 when we visited Santa Cruz Island.

On day 5 we chose to do the “Highlands”, a dry landing at Port Ayora to see the giant Land Tortoises. Today we are going to take the second option and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.

This is a dry landing at Port Ayora followed by a short bus ride to the entrance of the Station. Port Ayora is an active port and much of the food supplies used on the Xpedition came from there.

Port Ayora Dock

We proceeded to the Darwin Station by bus. We toured the Station and observed the Giant Tortoise rearing program. The station was very interesting and certainly a must see, but after seeing all the animals in their natural habitats this brought feelings of being in a zoo. To do research here has to be exciting. Maybe we were just a little down realizing this was our last excursion. Our Naturalist Guide was Vanessa, but somewhere along the trail Rod joined us.  

Entrance to Darwin Station

Dee and Rod our Naturalist Guide

At the Station you can get a lot closer to the Giant Tortoises than in the wild. That affords   an excellent opportunity for close up photographs. I used the photo of Bob and me on our Christmas card.

Bob and Pearl with a Giant Tortoise at Darwin Station

The tortoise rearing program is renowned world wide and is very successful in repopulating sub-species which have become endangered on some of the islands.

“Lonesome George” the last Giant Tortoise survivor of his sub-species resides in the reserve but he was not close to a viewing area when we were there.

Three year old baby Giant Tortoises

Souvenir Shop in the Darwin Station National Park

The souvenirs in the National Park shop had the National Park logo on them and were of high quality. This shop is the only place to purchase National Park souvenirs.

At the conclusion of our visit we could either walk back to Port Ayora or call a cab. We had the very nice ladies in the gift shop call us a cab and for $1.00 all three of us got a ride of about 1.5 miles back to town. This saved us a lot of time and energy. We shopped in town for about an hour until the first zodiac arrived and started the transport of passengers back to the Xpedition.

Once back on board we went through the check in process for the last time. It goes as follows, once you arrive and disembark the zodiac staff helps you take off the life vest.

You then proceed to check yourself in, so the Xpedition staff is reassured that everyone has made it back from the excursion.

Checking in after each excursion

After checking your name off the list you are handed a damp wash cloth to freshen up with. There is also a dispenser of disinfectant hand wash, one on each side of the stairs (you can see it on the wall in the upper photo). It is suggested everyone use this to prevent the spread of bacterial illness.

Dee receiving a damp cloth to freshen up with

Dee receiving Fruit Juice upon boarding

After coming up the stairs to the Beagle Grill fresh fruit juice is offered or you can pass by the Discovery Bar for a drink on the way to your cabin. There was always a snack offered in the Discovery Bar area such as finger sandwiches and cookies. Also you can order a cappuccino or latte from the bar along with a beer.

We returned to our cabin and reluctantly started packing for the next morning’s early departure. We then cleaned up for the last night’s festivities. We heard rumors that something special was planned for the evening in the Discovery Lounge. The rumors were correct. The evening began with a champagne toast.

Xpedition Staff, Discovery Lounge

The staff proposing a farewell champagne toast (These are the cabin stewardesses who we never saw who were so efficient during the cruise).

This was followed by a video presentation, pictures of the passengers and wild life and their interactions during the cruise. I have used some of those pictures in this review as noted below the photographs. We had noticed the Naturalist Guides taking pictures during the excursions but thought nothing of it. We assumed they were of the animals and for their own personal use. We were wrong. The CD was great and covered the entire cruise, all the islands and special events. Celebrity placed one copy in each cabin as a memento of the cruise. Celebrity thought of everything to make the journey a wonderful experience.

We proceeded to Darwin’s Restaurant where Rod joined us for dinner. It was a wonderful evening and we were so sad having to depart the ship and leave the crew. We have never had such a luxurious cruise and such a knowledgeable attentive crew. They seemed to sincerely care if we had a perfect time. All cruise lines should get staff from Ecuador.

Our wonderful Naturalist Guides Top row: Jorge Parrales, Cruise Director
Left to Right: Fabio, Rob, unknown, Vanessa, Manual, and Hymie. (Celebrity Photo)

As I understand it the guides are independent contractors and work on an as needed basis for Celebrity. The ship carries 94 passengers but the zodiacs carry a maximum of 14.  The number of guides will very on each cruise depending on the number of passengers sailing. The guides we spoke with lived on Santa Cruz Island; therefore they can come and go easily.  By this distribution of passengers to guides the ship maintains the feel of a small yacht but has the amenities of a larger vessel.

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