In Darwin's Footsteps 
The Galapagos Islands
Celebrity Xpeditions shows travelers the Galapagos in comfortable style  

 

 
In nature, all things are possible, even birds with bright blue feet aptly called blue-footed boobies. You can see these odd birds and similarly unusual wildlife by booking a Celebrity Xpeditions cruise to Ecuador's remote and spectacular Galapagos Islands. On day trips, travelers board Zodiac rafts to travel rocky coastlines or go ashore to hike over volcanic rocks to spot lava lizards, cormorants, giant tortoises, pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins, seals, sea lions, penguins, whales and hundreds of other native Galapagos species. They can watch and photograph wildlife just steps away.

Yet even eco-focused travelers appreciate a pampering environment that feels like home, with fine cuisine, wine and modern amenities. That's what Celebrity Cruises had in mind with its new Celebrity Xpeditions Galapagos product, "where the unspoiled [wildlife] meets the spoiled [pampered guests]."

By purchasing an Ecuadorian tour operator that held the necessary government permits for Galapagos sailings, and by ensuring that its new 100-passenger ship, the Xpedition (formerly the Sun Bay) was Ecuadorian flagged and crewed, Celebrity is taking taking mainstream U.S. clients to the Galapagos year-round.

 

 
  Celebrity Xpeditions' product combines natural and upscale offerings.

On a cruise-only basis, a seven-night Celebrity Xpeditions Galapagos cruise ranges from $2,000 to $13,000 per person double, depending on cabin selection and whether early booking savings are included. For the cruise-only option, clients find their own way to Baltra in the Galapagos to meet the ship.

GALAPAGOS ADVENTURE

Most clients, however, will likely book the 10- or 11-night Galapagos cruise-tour that starts and ends in Quito, the Ecuadorian capital. Priced from $2,800 to $15,200 per person double, the cruise/tour offers agents the peace of mind that Celebrity is looking after their clients from the moment they land in Ecuador. Included in the 10- or 11-day cruise-tour are a two-night, pre-cruise stay in Quito; transfers to and from the airport; a Quito city tour; the flight from Quito to Baltra via Guayaquil; a one- or two-night stay in Quito on the return; the Galapagos entry fee; and some meals in Quito.

The cruise itself includes all meals, naturalist services, folkloric entertainment, enrichment programs, shore excursions, gratuities, Zodiac rides and airport transfers. Also included are bottled water, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages onboard the ship with the exception of premium brands.

All guests begin by taking flights to Quito. Cruise-tour guests enjoy a two-night pre-cruise stay at Quito's J.W. Marriott hotel. This property is an enclave of superb service, fresh floral displays, excellent dining options, on-site boutiques and spacious accommodations.

On Celebrity Xpedition's Quito city tour, clients tour by bus and on foot. They'll peruse impressive colonial squares, tour such churches as San Francisco with its interior decorated with eight tons of gold, and view the city from a mountaintop vantage point. Guests will also be transported to the equator for a stop at a monument, museum and re-created Spanish village.
 

  Adventurous Options
Celebrity Xpeditions is a mixed bag of guest adventure options. In the Galapagos, it's a small-ship cruise that operates year-round, with a ship owned and operated by Celebrity. Another Celebrity Xpeditions option is a cruise onboard a chartered Russian icebreaker in the Arctic and Antarctic in partnership with Quark Expeditions.

In many cases, guests on regular Celebrity cruises will find new options that are designated as Celebrity Xpeditions day trips; for example, on northern Europe cruises, this involves a day trip focused on the KGB and Kremlin in Moscow. Starting in November for select Caribbean cruises, guests might book Celebrity Xpeditions Racing Academy, a race-car driving experience offered as a one- or two-night pre- or post-cruise option.

En route to the Galapagos, some 600 miles out in the ocean, guests will fly on Tame, the Ecuadorian airline, stopping at Guayaquil. Total travel time is about four hours. Once at Baltra, South Seymour Island, passengers will board vans or a bus to the pier, where they will likely get their first look at sea lions, and then board a Zodiac rubber motorized craft for the short tender ride to Xpedition, where they'll be welcomed with champagne and a friendly crew.  

JUST LIKE NEW
 
Celebrity's nearly new Xpedition is a 2,842-GRT German-built vessel that serves a maximum of 100 guests with a crew of 64. The captain is an experienced RCCL captain, assisted by a mix of Ecuadorian and international officers. Most of the staff are experienced in cruise service, but have been retrained to Celebrity's standards.

Despite its small size, Xpedition has a spacious feel. The Discovery Lounge features a large bar, comfortable seating and a small library with books and games. Here passengers can attend folkloric presentations, lectures and naturalist discussions about each day's program. The ship also features a small exercise room with sauna, several bars, outdoor deck lounging space, and a small boutique.

The open seating Darwin Dining Room is elegant but not stuffy. It features breakfast and luncheon buffets with cooked-to-order dishes including omelets and pastas, and full-service dining in the evening. Waiters eagerly bring drinks and special sandwiches or entrees that are offered beyond the regular menu choices. Guests can also dine al fresco on many occasions at the outdoor Beagle Grill.

Staterooms and suites all feature televisions, telephones, fluffy cotton bathrobes, Egyptian cotton towels, in-closet safe, and a hair dryer. Standard cabins with a large rectangular window feature two twin beds or one queen bed with a small sofa, desk area with mini-refrigerator and mirror. There is 130 square feet of space, beds are adequate, and guests will enjoy ample closet space with multiple shelves and a well-appointed bathroom. The one penthouse suite is 460 square feet and features two single beds and one double bed, as well as two verandas. Other suites feature 230 square feet of space.

 

Celebrity Xpeditions brings the blue-footed booby up close to guests.

Passengers enter and leave the ship via a platform incorporated into the vessel's structure. Xpedition cannot really accommodate wheelchair passengers or those who can't climb two or three flights of stairs. The ship has neither an elevator for guest use nor any onboard Internet access. A doctor is onboard for every voyage. The ship already has modern waste management systems, but is upgrading these facilities further this year to protect the Galapagos' sensitive ecosystem. 

To explore ashore, guests will board Zodiac craft to tender ashore and proceed on foot. They may also explore the island scenery up close from the Zodiac. The itinerary includes stops at multiple islands for viewing of wildlife and flora, and even rocky crags and cave-like structures. Guests will take beach walks with sea lions just steps away. Snorkeling and swimming are included on several excursions. Scuba enthusiasts can book a dive trip for an additional charge. 

INTENSITY LEVEL
 
It's important that clients attend the naturalist talks so as to select the right level of activity for their excursions. On high-intensity trips, clients might hike two miles or more over fairly uneven volcanic terrain, often in very hot conditions. The landscape is not for clients with ankle or knee problems, although less physically able guests have other options, such as beach walks and Zodiac rides. Naturalists or ship's staff accompany all excursions, providing lectures and discussions in English.

While many isles visited are uninhabited, Santa Cruz is the biggest enclave of civilization, and Puerto Ayora is a place to shop or seek out an Internet cafe. Guests can take a medium-intensity excursion hike to seek out large Galapagos turtles in farmland, but sightings are not guaranteed. Most guests will enjoy the "sure thing"-a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where visitors learn about research and environmental protection efforts, and get close-up views of Galapagos tortoises.  

Clients should be sure to bring serious sunscreen and lip protection of 30 or 50, as well as bug spray for gnats. Also recommended are good sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat that ties under the chin to withstand windy conditions, a small backpack, a light poncho or rain jacket, twice the film and batteries clients think they'll need, and comfortable clothes and shoes, including two pairs of athletic shoes. Guests should have one pair of those sneakers for "wet" landings off the Zodiac.    
 
Women should bring slacks rather than shorts to wear in Quito, especially if they want to tour the churches; in addition, Quito's climate can be cool, so a sweater is appropriate. The Galapagos Islands are hotter than Quito, with temperatures in the 80s or 90s and high humidity, so clients should dress accordingly. Evening dinner dress is "smart casual."

After a cruise on Celebrity Xpeditions, your clients will return with memories of a land almost lost in time with creatures seen nowhere else on earth. Rather than roughing it, though, your clients will return from their adventures ashore to an enclave of luxurious pampering, as smiling Celebrity Xpeditions staff hand them cool wet towels and a glass of lemonade. They can then head for their air-conditioned stateroom or the bar to relax and tell tales of their exploits with giant tortoises, penguins and, yes, even blue-footed boobies.   

 

WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT
GALAPAGOS?

A unique marine location with hot and cold currents meeting at the Equator, plus the cooling trade winds and young volcanic landscape have produced animals that have evolved in a special way. Lack of predators (and man until recently) means they have no fear, and you can approach them closely.


Land Iguana

Here you can swim in clear, turquoise waters with sea lions, penguins and angel fish, walk through Booby colonies, observe the antics of dancing Albatrosses, play with turtles underwater and see giant tortoises and scaly iguanas like creatures from another age. To Darwin they were "eminently curious'', today they have been dubbed "a living laboratory of evolution" and declared a World Heritage Site.

"It seemed I'd arrived at the end of the World, a strange and beautiful place. During my first week sailing around the Galapagos, swimming with sea-lions and stepping over boobies, I was hooked on the place. I realised the excitement that Darwin must have felt, observing wild animals that are totally oblivious to man. Since then the Galapagos are less remote, facilities have improved, but the excitement and strangeness are still there."

Straddling the Equator, some 600 miles west of Ecuador, South America, lie the strange and wonderful Galapagos Islands. Nicknamed "Enchanted" by the buccaneers, the archipelago became famous after the visit of Charles Darwin in 1835. (His ideas on evolution were prompted partly by what he saw there). Home to a variety of unique creatures, dominated by reptiles such as the giant tortoise and iguanas, and a haven to birds like frigates and boobies. The bizarre scenery was created by oceanic volcanoes now colonised by fantastic plant life struggling to grow in the arid soil, whilst the upper slopes of some islands are covered in a dense jungle-like forest, clinging to the sides of huge craters. Today they are a 'World Heritage Site' and created a
 national park in 1959, belonging to Ecuador. Though on the Equator they are blessed with cool currents and calm seas. The waters are a paradise for snorkelling and making friends with sea lions, turtles and penguins, don't worry if you have never done it we will be happy to show you. SCUBA diving is becoming increasingly popular, and special diving tours are planned for the future.

The archipelago comprises 12 large islands, six smaller ones and numerous rocky islets. The area they cover is nearly 3000 square miles! Consequently in a week it is impossible to visit all of them, but you can see most of the important animals in such time. It is the combination of warm and cool currents, and the lack of many predators - including man - that has made them so special. All the reptiles, half the birds, a third of the plants, and a quarter of the fish are only found here! The landscapes are no conventional tropical paradise but have an intrinsic beauty of their own. The marine life makes the waters a haven for snorkelers.

 7-night

Your 7-night cruise to the Galapagos Islands departs from Isla Baltra. From here, you journey to many of the Galapagos islands including Isla North Seymour, where you will find large colonies of frigate birds, blue footed boobies, and sea lions, Isla Santa Cruz, home of the Charles Darwin Research Station, and Isla Fernandina, where you can walk amongst recent lava flows. And throughout your cruise our expert naturalist will make sure you don't miss a thing. You'll also experience a level of service and a sense of intimacy that can only be achieved aboard our newest ship, Celebrity Xpedition.SM

 
10-night
Your 10-night Celebrity Xpeditions journey to the Galapagos Islands begins with a two-day stay in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. Your first day includes breakfast, a Quito city tour, and dinner that evening. After two days in Quito you'll embark on the voyage of a lifetime: a cruise through the wondrous Galapagos Islands. You'll step back into history and visit lands that inspired an Englishman named Darwin to compose a theory that would shake the very foundation of scientific thought. After your cruise, you'll return to Quito for an additional night, where you can enjoy a cocktail on the café-lined streets of Quito's "new town."

 
11-night
Your 11-night Celebrity Xpeditions journey to the Galapagos Islands begins with a two-day stay in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. Your first day includes breakfast, a Quito city tour, and dinner that evening. After two days of soaking-in the splendor and sights of Quito, your expedition through the pristine perfection of the Galapagos Islands will begin. On your cruise, you'll have the opportunity to observe plant and wildlife that exist nowhere else in the world. After touring the islands, you'll spend another two days in Quito, where you can relax with an espresso in the café-lined streets of "new town," or take-in the stunning views of the Andes Mountains.

 

South America 

isla baltra »
The cruise portion of your journey begins on the beautiful island of Baltra where you'll tender onto the Celebrity Xpedition from our Zodiac rafts.

isla north seymour »
Located off the northern tip of Baltra, this small island is approximately 1.2 miles in length. Along its rocky coast there are great colonies of Blue-Footed Boobies and magnificent Frigate birds to discover.

isla española »
The southernmost island, Española, is one of the richest wildlife locations in the Galapagos. Located on the western tip of Española is Punta Suarez. A 1.5 mile hike provides incredible views along the cliffs, through Blue Footed Booby colonies and a beach with sea lions and marine iguanas. It is also home to a magnificent blowhole that can shoot water 50 to 60 feet in the air, providing amazing opportunities for spectacular pictures.

isla santa cruz (darwin st. and cerro dragon) »
Home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service, Isla Santa Cruz boasts diverse climate conditions, ranging from arid along the coast to humid, plush inlands and highlands. Also located here is Cerro Dragon, or Dragon Hill, named after the large iguanas that congregate there.

isla bartalome »
The variety of volcanic formations found here give this small, barren island a moon-like appearance. Celebrated for its spectacular view of Pinnacle Rock, it is also a great place to hike and examine the geology of the island.

isla isabel (caleta tagus) »
Stretching 80 miles in length, this island is the largest in the Galapagos and a favorite site of the early pirates and whalers. Famous for the high cliffs which enclose the protected bay, a visit here will give you the opportunity to view a salt water lagoon and the lava fields of Darwin Volcano.

isla rabida »
Known for its rugged, maroon-colored terrain, this island offers a picturesque view of brightly-colored flamingos congregated in its shallow saltwater lagoons.

isla santiago (puerto egas) »
Explore steep cliffs of tuff lava formations where hundreds of seabirds perch, or discover the best tide pools in the Galapagos. Here you'll have the chance to marvel at Grottos made from black lava, the Sally Lightfoot Crabs, sponges, sea lions, barnacles, and fish including the Four-Eyed Blenny.

isla santa maria (floreana) »
Floreana is best known for its colorful history of buccaneers, whalers and colonists. The island is also home to the Post Office-a mail system of yesteryear established to send letters to and from England. The tradition is kept alive today as visitors drop off and pick up letters (without stamps) to be carried to faraway destinations.

cerro brujo (san cristobal) »
Eroded volcanic peaks in the north and rich vegetation in the south characterize the island. This island is also home to the only freshwater lake in the Galapagos.

punta espinoza (isla fernandina) »
Located on the northeast part of Fernandina, this port is known for its lava fields, where you can view recent volcanic activity and an abundance of wildlife from rich seas bathing the stark coastline. Here we find sea lions, masked boobies, marine iguanas, red billed tropic birds and many others.

Dos and Don'ts
Galapagos Travel Tips:

Don't expect to trailblaze. Stay safe. Abide by the rules.

Don't feed or touch any wild animals; the Gálapagos is not a petting zoo.

Bring sun gear to cover you from head to toe, plenty of sunblock, and lightweight, loose-fitting clothes to protect you from the sun.

The Galápagos archipelago includes some of the rarest animals in South America. To make the most of wildlife viewing, bring along a good pair of binoculars.

Respect local customs and adhere to local knowledge.
Learn to hear, to observe, and to reflect.
 

Weather
Though situated directly on the equator, the Galápagos Islands have a surprisingly cool, subtropical climate caused by the Humboldt and Peruvian currents. Rain is uncommon, and the coastal areas are dry and arid, while the highlands receive enough rainfall to support a lush rainforest. It is coolest in September.

Best Time to Go
Year-round
 

Temperature Range
December - March:
80° - 90ºF
September:
60ºF
Other times of year:
70° - 80ºF

Calendar of Events


January
- Beginning of rainy season
- Ideal time for snorkeling
- Green turtles arrive to the beaches to lay their eggs

February
- Few penguins sighted on Bartholomew
- Masked boobies on Espanola are at the end of their nesting season

March
- Rainy season reaches the highest precipitation
- Sun and hot climate; air temperatures can reach up to 30ºC (86ºC)
- After Mar 21, arrival of waved albatross on Espanola

April
- Courtship of waved albatross on Espanola begins
- Land iguanas hatch on Isabela
- Green sea turtles begin to hatch

May
- Blue-footed boobies begin their courtship on North Seymour
- Most of the marine iguanas eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz
- Albatross on Espanola start laying their eggs

June
- Beginning of the garua season
- Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz migrate from the highlands to the lowlands
in search of nesting places

July
- Sea bird communities are active
- Whales are more likely to be found off western side of Isabela
- Lava lizards start mating rituals

August
- Galapagos Hawks court on Espanola and Santiago
- Temperature of the ocean lowers to 18ºC (64ºC)
- Migrant shore birds start to arrive
- Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz

September
- Air temperature reaches its lowest 19ºC (66ºC)
- Penguins and Sea Lions are very active

October
- Galapagos fur seals begin their mating period
- Giant tortoises continue laying their eggs
- Boobies raise their young on Espanola

November
- Sea lion pups are born

December
- Hatching of giant tortoise’s eggs begins & lasts through April
- Rainy season begins and the vegetation starts turning green again

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Books
Galápagos Wildlife: A Visitor’s Guide, by David Horwell and Pete Oxford
Guide Book
A compact guide to the birds, reptiles, insects, plants, and marine life of the archipelago. Separate chapters cover visitor sites, history, conservation, and habitats.

Ecuador and Its Galápagos Islands: The Ecotraveller’s Wildlife Guide, by Les Beletsky
Guide Book
The perfect field book for the general tourist who has an interest in exploring tropical environs, this is a ‘must-have’ for any traveler to the Galápagos.

Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
Exploration
The enthusiastic tale of Darwin’s five-year voyage. First published in 1839. Still essential reading.

Galápagos: Islands Born of Fire, by Tui De Roy
Photography
A beautiful photographic journey through these fascinating islands.

A Guide to the Birds of the Galápagos Islands, by Isabel Castro and Antonia Phillips
Field Guide
A field guide to all the birds of Galápagos.

 

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