Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Destination: Galapagos via Celebrity Xpedition - Part I

Celebrity XpeditionAs is our custom, we prefer to arrive at any international embarkation port three nights in advance. On occasion our luggage has taken those extra days before the cruise to get to us. It's no fun taking a cruise without all your clothes and belongings. On this cruise we arrived at the Quito, Ecuador Airport, at about 10:00pm Thursday evening, and after clearing immigration and customs (easy and pleasant) the JW Marriott/Celebrity representative was holding a sign with our name and took us to the Van, even though we were there a day before the precruise package started. I think it is enough to say that the JW Marriott, Quito is an excellent hotel with good food and superb service. I would go back there whenever in Quito in a heartbeat.

While the altitude in Quito didn't particularly affect us, it did affect many. There are now medications available to negate the altitude effect. Everyone who took them said they worked great. On our day "on our own" we took the cable car ride, $8 for two, which gave us a spectacular view of Quito (the Marriott van took us there), but the things to do and eat at the top and bottom were expensive and dreck. We took a taxi back to the hotel where we had a great lunch. In the afternoon, we took a long walk up the Amazon River Avenue and visited a market, church and a wonderful park. We had dinner in the hotel.

That night (Friday) after dinner the precruise package started. All meals were now included. On Saturday, after breakfast at the hotel, we were taken on an escorted bus/walking city tour the next morning which included the old colonial city area of Quito, which was very interesting. From there we went to the El Crater Restaurant that sits on the top rim of the Pululahua volcano at nearly 14,000 feet. Then we were off to Equator park (Mitad del Mundo (Center of the Earth) - latitude 0) which had a fascinating museum. There were some decent shops there from which a number of people made purchases. For dinner, we were taken to a private room at the Theatrum, the restaurant at the Teatro Nacional Sucre in the old section of town, and treated to a performance by one of Quito's opera stars. Dinner was fine, and the performance ... okay.

The next morning (Sunday) our checked-in luggage (1 bag per person weighing no more than 40 pounds) was left outside the room and picked up for transport to the ship. We didn't see it again until we were on board. After breakfast we took our single carry-on (two not permitted) to the lobby for our bus trip to the airport. I must digress that we were told a lower weight limit prior to leaving for the trip, and would have taken our own wet suits if we knew about the higher weight limit. I feel Celebrity should have told us about the change in advance, and should have allowed a 3rd bag per couple (same weight limit) which some people actually did bring. We flew on Tame Air to Baltra. Celebrity took care of all the paper work for this airline and we got priority treatment getting through the airport. On the two hour flight from Quito to Baltra we all got an excellent light lunch and the plane was clean, fresh, and had great service. At Baltra we went through immigration and customs and went to the VIP lounge. Shortly afterward, the buses came and we took the 5 minute ride to the dock.

Zodiacs at Celebrity XpeditionAt the dock we were met by the zodiacs and taken to the Xpedition. The cruise had the full complement of 90 passengers. We met many wonderful cruise-mates and intend to stay in touch with them and possibly take another vacation with some of them in the future, probably in '09. Many of us want to go to Antarctica.

Go to Destination: Galapagos via Celebrity Xpedition - Part II

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