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Galápagos Islands
August 2022

By Steve Orens, President, Plaza Travel

The Galápagos Islands is one of those destinations that is probably on most people’s bucket list. (On a side note: since the pandemic has really affected travelers’ view of travel, many people have renamed “bucket list” to their “to-do” list). As I was looking at my to-do list as I began to consider traveling again, I focused in on the Galápagos. Why was this destination on my list? A question I generally ask myself before picking something on my to-do list. Many of us add to our list without thinking why, but it’s so valuable to understand why before planning a trip. Why do I mention this? One of the things that really added to my Galápagos experience was the fact that everyone was there for the same reasons – to explore, to understand, to experience, to enjoy and to be a part of this amazing place that is unlike any other you can visit. And, of course, to enjoy all the animals, sea life and beauty the destination has to offer.

Galapagos islands
Iguanas and red crabs near the ocean

I chose to visit the Galápagos on the Celebrity Flora. The Flora is a purpose-built ship, which means it was built to sail the Galápagos Islands. That’s not to say Flora is the only luxury option in the area, Silversea is also an option, as is Lindblad Expeditions. All of which are great options, but again, it’s what you’re looking to get out of your to-do list vacation.

Steve and Gail on Zodiac in front of Celebrity Flora
Celebrity Flora

As for my experience with Celebrity, I don’t think I’ve had a more seamless, enjoyable, perfect travel experience in all my travels. From the time they picked us up at the airport in Quito, to ten days later when they brought us back to the Quito airport for our flight home – it was exceptional. The only negative of my entire trip was the fact that it’s a trek from most North American destinations. From Los Angeles you would generally connect through Atlanta or Miami, and then south to Quito. Additionally, for those looking for a bit more comfort on their flights these days, there are no lie-flat seats on most of the flights. However, the journey and time to get there is well worth it.

Steve at 0 latitude in Ecuador
Steve and Gail with friends in front of Galapagos National Park sign

Upon arrival, we were transferred about 45 minutes to Quito. We spent two nights at the JW Marriot (which is a great choice offered by both Celebrity and Silversea). From the time you land to the time you depart, everything is included (with very few exceptions like massages, gifts, etc.) After our included breakfast, we set out on a city tour of Quito. The tour was great. Enjoying a local restaurant with our small group was a great way to end our time in Quito.

I debated doing the 10-day package with two days pre-cruise in Quito or just the one-week cruise, but the full 10-day package is well worth it, and a great way to start the trip. We were in a 25+ passenger bus with only 12 people. Celebrity divided us up into groups, and while intentional or not, most groups were arranged with peers you could connect with.

Quito city tour photos

The next day we all boarded the private Celebrity charter for our two-hour flight to Baltra where we boarded the ship. Upon boarding, we could see the base relationships that began in Quito that only were enhanced during the cruise. And although we got on board with people we spent the day with in Quito, that didn’t keep us from connecting with other passengers during the voyage.

We enjoyed everything about the ship. The cabins were great, as was the staff, food, and service. The freedom to roam the ship with only 100 passengers allowed us to enjoy most parts of the ship without crowds or lines. We were on deck 5 in a balcony cabin. Deck 6 had all infinity cabins, which means the cabin went all the way out (larger inside space) and you were able to put down the top half of the outside glass wall to make your entire cabin a “balcony.” Additionally, these cabins have their shower on the glass wall so you can enjoy a shower while looking out over the sea. Both options are great and depend on personal preference. I prefer a proper balcony, so I can get up early and sit outside, even if Gail’s still sleeping.

Celebrity Flora
Celebrity Flora top deck

Each day on the ship was like camp. Morning excursion, a few hours of sailing to the next spot, an hour snorkel, then an afternoon excursion. It was amazing how each stop was completely different. Different landscapes, different animals, different experience… nothing was the same as a previous stop. It was amazing! And while I tend to not revisit somewhere a second time because there’s so much on my to-do list, the Galápagos is definitely a place I would visit again.

Sea lion jumping onto zodiac

There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll let my pictures tell the rest of the story. Happy to share more info or answer any questions. Enjoy!

Steve and Gail with a Gal´┐Żpagos giant tortoise

Sea lions and birds in Galapagos

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