Sue's "Official" review of the M/V Xpedition
Everything that was said in previous reviews still holds true as far as the great service, the friendliness of the entire crew, and the total organization of activities on and off the ship. The cruise price includes all your non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages (premium drinks cost extra), shore excursions, and gratuities. Of course, if you feel a crew member or members gave you super exceptional service, you can hand them an additional gratuity at the end of the cruise. THIS CRUISE WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY!
STATEROOMS: Since we made our own air arrangements, my husband and I were the first two passengers on board the Xpedition. I took advantage of the deserted ship by getting a ship tour. I was able to see the Penthouse and Xpedition Suites (all on Deck 5), Premium Staterooms (all on Deck 4), and Deluxe Staterooms (all on Deck 3). All suites and staterooms have plenty of storage space, a room safe, and a small refrigerator stocked with complimentary bottled water. If you're a Captain's Club member, you'll eventually get a complimentary bottle of champagne and some sort of fancy chocolates (we had rum balls) in your stateroom.
PUBLIC AREAS: The Discovery Lounge was the usual meeting place for all lectures, demonstrations, briefings, and cocktail receptions. It's large enough to hold all passengers. The Lounge also contains the library and the internet cafe. The Blue Finch Bar was on Deck 5. Part of Deck 5 had a canvas roof which shaded a few tables and chairs that were provided to enjoy your meals, beverages, or to just kick back. Part of Deck 6 also had a canvas roof. This is where the spa, gym equipment, outdoor shower, and hot tub are located. There are also lounge chairs to relax in. The forward part of the ship on Deck 6 had additional lounge chairs, but they're out in the sun. The Gift Shop was located on Deck 3. As you can imagine, it was tiny. However, they did have a small but good variety of Xpedition and Galapagos gear and sundry items to choose from. The Guest Relations desk was located on Deck 4 and the personnel there were very efficient and friendly.
ENTERTAINMENT: This cruise is more educational than anything else....no glitz! Your “entertainment” will include lectures pertaining to the Galapagos Islands, and demonstrations, such as, how to use your snorkel equipment and Ecuadorian cooking, etc. On the last night of the cruise, there was a Folkloric troupe that came aboard and performed native dances for us. That's as exciting as it gets folks!
DINING: The food was excellent, whether it was served at the Beagle Grill (Deck 4) or at Darwin's Restaurant (Deck 3). The Beagle Grill served early-riser continental breakfast. Lunch was usually “lido deck” fare: hamburgers, hot dogs, etc., with a Mexican and an Ecuadorian buffet on a couple of days. Breakfast and lunch at Darwin's was buffet style, and dinner was always table service. The room service menu was very limited. However, once dinner was served, you could order food from the dinner menu to be delivered to your stateroom. When you return from your daily activities, you are greeted with a cool, wet towel to wipe your face and hands. This is followed by snacks and drinks (their fresh fruit slushes are great!). The dress code was casual throughout the cruise. Dockers and a polo shirt was what my husband and I wore to every meal.
EXCURSIONS: Signing up for the daily activities was easy. You just find your name on the list and check off the next day's activity that you want. I understand, in the past, they limited the number of guests for each activity. Now, any or all can go on any one activity. The activities were well organized and punctual, and the naturalist/guides were very knowledgeable. Usually there were three levels of activity: high intensity, medium intensity, and low intensity. High intensity activities are for those who can hike at least a couple of miles through sometimes rocky terrain. Medium intensity activities are for those who still want to hike but either not as far or on less rough terrain. Low intensity activities are for those who want to sit in the zodiac and watch the scenery go by or take leisurely walks on the beach. Getting off the zodiac boats was either a “dry” landing or “wet” landing. “Dry” landings were where you either stepped onto a concrete dock, a rocky shoreline, or on lava rock. “Wet” landings were where you had to step onto a beach in knee-high or less water. You might want to wear reef shoes for the wet landings, especially if the activity does not require thick-soled shoes; otherwise, you can take your shoes and socks off in the zodiac before stepping ashore, then put them back on once you're on the beach (watch out for the sea lion poop!). You'll want either hiking boots or good leather sport shoes (Reebok, Nike, etc.) for those times when the terrain is rough and rocky. I wore shoes that had net-like material on the vamp. Unfortunately, the net part got really dirty and was impossible to clean. All-leather shoes would have been easier to clean. All in all, there's an activity that will fit just about any client, except for disabled persons; there are no elevators or handicap staterooms in the ship. TIP: Taking the 7:00am Kicker Rock zodiac excursion was great. You get to see some animals up close and personal and also get to go through the cut between the two rocks. Passengers have another option of just staying on board the Xpedition while the ship slowly circles the rock.
SHOPPING: Only two ports will have shopping opportunities: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, and Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Each port will have the usual t-shirt and souvenir shops. You'll have two opportunities to shop in Puerto Ayora: after your morning activity and after your afternoon activity.
SNORKELING: Wet suits, masks, snorkels, fins, flotation vests, and gear bags are distributed to those passengers who are thinking of snorkeling. It's amazing how those wet suits keep you warm even in the coldest water. The morning snorkeling at Floreana Island was great because the sea lions swam all around you! Midday, my husband took one of the advanced snorkeling excursions and he said that you have to be an excellent swimmer and in good shape because all your efforts go into trying to keep up with the naturalist/guide.
My hat's off to Celebrity for giving me and my husband the perfect Galapagos experience.