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Alfred St. Jean

Age: 67


Number of Cruises: 7

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Celebrity Xpedition

Sailing Date: November 19th, 2006

Itinerary: Galapagos

Our trip started off with a flight from Tampa to Miami, and then on to Quito, Ecuador.

On arriving in Quito, we stayed at the J. W. Marriott hotel & resort for 2 nights. This is one of the finest hotels that we have had the pleasure to spend time in. Spacious clean rooms, excellent and friendly staff.

Our first full day in Quito was filled with a tour of both old and new Quito. First a visit to a very large church that had some very beautiful stain glass windows. This church began construction in 1910. Next a visit to the old palace of the archbishop, the presidential palace, and old convent (for priests) and then a really old church the "Church of Jesus" that began construction in 1605. This church has 24 kt. gold leaf on the front doors and inside it is completely covered in 24 kt. gold leaf. So brilliant, you could use sunglasses inside! We had to scan in post cards of the church interior because they did not allow cameras inside.

We had lunch at a restaurant (great food) on the rim of a dormant volcano, (elevation approximately 10,000 feet), you can look down into the old volcano and see that people now live down in there, amazing! Then on to the equator where we could straddle both the northern and southern hemisphere! A very busy day with lots of walking.
On day 3 we left Quito on Tame Airline (pronounced like “calm” except with a “T“) for a direct flight to Baltra in the Galapagos. Embarking to the ship is via Zodiac from the pier.

In visiting the various islands over a period of 7 days, we were always accompanied by a naturalist in our Zodiac with approximately 12/14 passengers. This meant that we were always in a small group which made it a very pleasant experience. There were several opportunities to snorkel around areas like the "Devils Crown" and view the many various colorful reef fish, sharks, marine turtles, etc. This area is known for Hammerhead sharks but the only time we saw them was from the ship as they swam around.

Traveling on land we got to view," up close and personal", a large variety of Masked Boobies, Blue Footed Boobies, Great Frigate birds, Waved Albatross which were all performing their various mating rituals or some sitting on eggs about to hatch. Sea Lions, including one that just gave birth, Land Iguanas, Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, Giant Tortoise; an abundance of all types of beautiful wildlife that were so close you have to watch where you step to avoid stepping on them. Some birds that we passed within inches, were sleeping and remained completely undisturbed! While we were within inches of all this wildlife, you are not allowed to touch. These animals have no fear of man and the government of Ecuador wants everything on these islands to remain as untouched as possible.

All of the excursions are included and are clearly classified as either high intensity, moderate intensity, low intensity. But none are intended for anyone with any substantial physical incapacity. Most involved a lot of hiking over boulders or lava terrain. Every evening on board ship there is a briefing of the next days’ activity with slides to show everyone exactly what to expect for each of the several daily events. Activities generally start at 8 A. M. and end around 6:30 P. M. There is one dinner seating at 7 P. M. or 8 P. M. depending on the days events.

The Celebrity Xpedition is a relatively small ship with 92 passengers and a staff of 60. While it does have stabilizers, it is a shallow draft ship of only 12.5 feet so you do feel more movement than you would on a larger vessel. This ship is spotless; the staff is very friendly and accommodating (one of the best we have experienced), and after a day or two, fellow passengers are almost like family. A very pleasant experience. The food on board is very good, variety is somewhat limited to what is available in Ecuador because the Ecuadorian government does not allow any fresh food to be imported.

At the end of our voyage we left the Baltra airport on Tame Airline for Quito, with a stop in Guayaquil and back to the J. W. Marriott. That evening, we were treated to a very fine dinner at the opera house in old Quito.

The people at Celebrity treated us like royalty and were there for us every step of the way. We never had to worry or be concerned about any detail, meal, luggage or travel arrangement at any time during the trip. All of the tour guides in Quito were exceptional. This was an adventure that was truly the best of many places that we have been to in our travels. The only downside was having to go through the Miami Airport in Florida which is a confusing mess that requires hiking shoes to get from one gate to another which can be 25 minutes away by foot.

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