Celebrity Xperience In The Galapagos- Part VII (Reflections & Updates on the Ships – Including the new Celebrity Flora – and What to Consider.)

My reflections on my fantastic experience on the Celebrity Xperience in May 2017 has been somewhat intentionally delayed because I knew there was some BIG news coming out:  Celebrity Cruises has just introduced a new, quite luxurious, all-suite, purpose-built ship for the Galapagos: Celebrity Flora.  The Celebrity Flora will be replacing the smaller, and one I really enjoyed Celebrity Xperience and the even smaller Xploration in May 2019.  But more on that later in this article!

Galapagos Tortoise

There are many different types of people that want to visit the Galapagos Islands.  There are nature lovers, “bucket list checkers”, deal finders, cruisers, luxury travelers and “new to cruising” adventurers.  There are, however, two things that each of them will come away with from their Galapagos Adventure:  A deeper appreciation of nature and bragging rights.

Baby Sea Lion in the Galapagos Islands

With my background in biology I was extremely excited to finally get to a destination that has been on my “I Need to Experience List”.  (I don’t have a “bucket list” because that both has a morbid feel to it and an end.  I believe one’s list should grow as we grow and expand our horizons…but that is another topic for another article!)

Marine Iguana in the Galapagos Islands

I was Celebrity Cruise’s guest for my trip on the Celebrity Xperience, a 48 passenger older vessel that it had just acquired.  It was, at the time, a bit surprising to me that Celebrity would have a vessel that is fairly inconsistent with its other product in the Galapagos and its overall product.  I assumed Celebrity had seen a demand for which it did not have the supply and with the quirky laws and regulations in the Galapagos it acquisition of the Celebrity Xperience and 16 passenger Xploration was the most efficient way to increase its presence.  But as noted above, this was not the case, but rather these ships were an interim solution.

Celebrity Xperience anchored in the Galapagos Islands

Celebrity Xperience stateroom.  Mine had a great window
next to the desk, so I could observe the Galapagos as we cruised.
Mola (Sunfish) seen from my stateroom window
on the Celebrity Xperience in the Galapagos 

That said, I truly enjoyed and would recommend the Celebrity Xperience as long as she is with the fleet.  Her intimacy, larger staterooms and open deck space make for the lack of “modern luxury” that Celebrity Cruises is known for.  You become more of a family enjoying and supporting each other more than being cruisers that have individual experiences.  And, to me, that enriches everyone as individuals observe things only from their perspectives and sharing those perspectives opens one’s eyes to seeing and perceiving more.

Sea Turtle in a Galapagos Island Mangrove

Rather than repeating my day-to-day observations here I refer you to my prior articles:

Celebrity Xperience In The Galapagos- Part I

Getting There, Pre-Cruise, Baltra & Black Turtle Cove, Santa Cruz Island


Sea Lions & Boobies & Penguins, Oh My!

The Attack of the Flightless Cormorant…and Other Cool Stuff!

Magnificent Frigatebird in the Galapagos Islands
Because the guides used by Celebrity, by Equadoran government mandate, are the same guides (who rotate from ship to ship) as those used by Silversea Expeditions, Lindblad National Geographic, G Adventures, and others and the locations in the Galapagos Islands (and times each ship visits) is similarly shared and governed, the more central issues become “What sort of on ship and group experience do you want?” The demographics will be significantly different; especially if your travel agent/advisor/professional give you proper advice (as Goldring Travel strives to do every day with every client).  
Celebrity Cruises new ship, the Celebrity Flora (sailing from May 2019, but available for booking now) is a purpose-built Galapagos expedition ship that will, in terms of luxury and features, will arguably be the most luxurious ship in the region; exceeding even the Silversea Silver Galapagos in terms of accommodations and facilities.
Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora
Celebrity Flora aft deck
has both a large boarding platform and floating “dock”
The Celebrity Flora is 100 passenger, all-suite, ship with the consistent Celebrity suites (Penthouse, Royal and Sky) though there are three versions of the Sky Suite (Ultimate, Infinite Veranda and Veranda).  The premium suites have large bathtubs overlooking the water.
Celebrity Flora Penthouse Suite
Celebrity Flora Royal Suite
Celebrity Flora Ultimate Sky Suite
Celebrity Flora Sky Suite with Infinite Veranda

There is no question that having this sort of purpose built luxury vessel in the Galapagos opens up experiencing this rather rugged area to those who desire or require a level of comfort and privacy that is not readily available.  It also signals to me that Celebrity Cruises is focused on entering the luxury expedition market as so many other companies are now looking to do as people age younger (today’s 65 year old is generally far more active than those of twenty years ago) and have more world travel experience as the world grows smaller.

Celebrity presently, and will continue to, provide a fully inclusive experience (gratuities, open bar, shore excursions, internet, etc.). And Celebrity will assure that there are no more than 12 guests per naturalist when venturing out.  While small groups are truly essential, I am not a fan of having 8 or 9 groups visiting the same areas at the same time.  On the Celebrity Xperience I noticed that due to the nature of the paths (which one must stay on when visiting most islands) there can be a bottleneck if, as we had, one guide was more prone to talking at length rather than allowing the guests to just experience and observe.  Again, none of the cruise lines have control over who the naturalists are on any particular cruise.

Now to reflect back on my Celebrity Cruises Galapagos experience, I have to say that it was one of the most memorable ones I have had in my years of travel.  That said, the strongest part of the Celebrity experience for me was the cruise aspects complimenting, not interfering with, the shore experience.  For those on my particular trip, it was not about the cuisine (which was fine, but not extraordinary) or the service (which was extremely friendly, but not polished).  It was about being in the Galapagos and the wildlife.

I was able to swim with penguins feeding (though too fast for me to get a photo)

Galapagos Penguin

Swim and play with Galapagos seals (which are actually sea lions)

Swimming with “Seals” (actually sea lions) in the Galapagos
was a highlight

Be attacked by a flightless cormorant that thought my camera was a fish

A Galapagos Flightless Cormorant wanted to eat my camera

Look at boobies

Blue Footed Booby
Red Footed Booby
Nazcar Boobies

And so much more. But while the wildlife is clearly accepting of their human visitors, there is a balance between being able to snap a photograph and being able to observe nature.  For example, if there were 20 people in the water I don’t think I would have been able to spend 5 minutes just watching a marine iguana feeding on algae.

Galapagos Marine Iguana feeding underwater on algae

There are instances were solitude (or near solitude) are necessary…and, in fact, enriching:

A flamingo in a Galapagos pond
A Yellow Warbler sitting on lava in the Galapagos Islands

And then there is the land and the sea:

Interested in a luxury, experiential or simply laid back cruise in the Galapagos Islands?  Give Goldring Travel a call, email or Facebook message!

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