American author H. Jackson Brown’s mother once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. Sail away from the safe harbor. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
These words especially ring true in today’s age, when the value of experiences has, for the most part, eclipsed material goods. And when it comes to travel, the desire to voyage to the most far-flung corners of the world has never been greater. While bucket lists are a highly personal matter, there’s one destination you’ll spot on many of them: The Galapagos Islands. Celebrity Cruises
So when I decided to try out one of Celebrity Cruise’s many offerings, I naturally zeroed in on The Galapagos with the Celebrity Xpedition – specifically, the 10-night excursion including a few nights in Quito and seven nights on the ship exploring the islands’ inner loop.
But simply getting to the destination can be physically (and not to mention, emotionally) arduous for even the most intrepid traveler. My journey consisted of a flight from New York to Miami, another flight from Miami to Quito, and a couple nights in Quito before a short jaunt to Seymour Airport on Baltra Island. From there a van took us to a zodiac, which zipped us to our ship.
Veteran cruisers, take note: given the highly fragile and delicate ecosystem that makes The Galapagos such a beloved destination, the mammoth, larger-than-life boats you’re accustomed to are not permitted here. The Celebrity Xpedition, which was built in 2001, holds up to 100 passengers, and features enough amenities to make the overall trip thoroughly comfortable, but not over-the-top luxurious. (Remember: the point of being here is to experience nature up close and personal.)
There’s seven categories of accommodations, ranging from the Outside Stateroom (the smallest) to the Penthouse Suite (the largest). Our Premium Stateroom was snug (as expected), and I’m pretty sure our beds – I invited a fellow writer as my guest – were narrower than a standard twin, but we made do. The desk was also small, but adequate for getting work done, and the bathroom’s shower, sink, and toilet functioned as any conventional versions would. The separate closets with plenty of shelves were a thoughtful touch, so we could stow away our week’s essentials, and keep them out of sight. My only gripe? The somber decor – some cheerful pops of color would do wonders – and frustratingly slow (and sometimes nonexistent) wifi.
The signature restaurant, Darwin’s, open morning to night, specialized in pretty straightforward cuisine. (Think eggs-to-order for breakfast, a salad bar for lunch, and multi-course menu for dinner.) There’s even a limited room service menu if you prefer to dine solo. But I preferred to grab lunch from the Beagle Grill on the main deck – which focused on more casual fare, like burgers and pizza – and sit with a drink at the Discovery Lounge, the ship’s bar and main common area. (It’s also where I lingered every night after dinner with a proper nightcap or two, thanks for the charming bartenders Luis and Felix.)
Daily excursions were broken into morning and afternoon sessions. And thoughtfully, they offered various ones to cater to guests’ different comfort and fitness levels (think leisurely walks, steep hikes, zodiac rides, and snorkeling). But whichever excursions you opted for, you were always guided by a certified naturalist – all of whom were exceptionally kind and knowledgeable. Whether you were on Santiago Island or Bartolome Island, you were guaranteed to witness something that would both humble you and fill you with wonder. For example: during my first hike on Santiago Island and in the span of two hours, I saw sea lions, fur seals, red rock crabs, finches, hawks, and my favorite: marine iguanas. Seeing animals in a zoo or closed-off area is one thing, but seeing them exactly where they belong doing exactly what they should be doing is nothing short of revelatory and illustrates an inarguable truth: nature is perfect.
Sure, there’s no shortage of cruise lines offering expeditions to The Galapagos, but the Celebrity Xpedition sets itself apart from the pack by combining some comforts of a larger ship (like several dining options, a fitness room, on-site massages, and a full service bar) and an all-inclusive policy. (All gratuities are included.) And the service? It’s faultless. From the room attendants to the bartenders to even the captain, everyone was exceedingly warm and approachable – and genuinely happy to be cruising with us. As captain Fausto Pacheco explains, “Service is what makes us different, and what keeps customers coming back.” And given the small size of the vessel, you’ll make friends easily and quickly. In short? You’ll get the best of all worlds by visiting The Galapagos with the Celebrity Xpedition.