Roger & Lari’s Galapagos Trip   Leave a comment

ROGER AND LARI’S 2010 WINTER VACATION

“Galapagos Islands, Equador”

Starring US, OF COURSE

Dec 1 to 14, 2010

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Nancy Eastlund, of Sun Tours Hawaii in Aiea, invited us to join her group on this Celebrity Xpedition cruise package. She went in 2008 and reserved several cabins for 2010. So we decided to go on this adventure to Equador to see the islands that fascinated Charles Darwin. We used our AA miles to get there, so we saved a bundle on airfare. The 10-day Celebrity package includes 2 nights at the JW Marriott in Quito, Equador before the 7-day cruise and one hotel night after the cruise. It took us 2 days to get there and another 2 days to get home, for total of 14 days.

The flights were a killer… we had to fly through Miami to get to Equador on 4 flights  w/3 layovers to get to Quito and 3 flights/2 layovers to come home. Quito, Equador is a UNESCO world heritage city. It is high on an Andes plateau, at 9,000 ft altitude. Quito has a population of 1.1 million and they were celebrating their annual Founder’s Day. All over town, we saw many colorful Chivas, open-air buses with bands playing music on the top and filled with families celebrating the holiday. The heart of the city is the Plaza Independencia with a huge cathedral built in the 1500s.

Celebrity flew us from Quito to the Galapagos on a chartered flight and as soon as we landed on Baltra, buses took us to the ship just minutes away from the small airport. We were greeted by sea lions sunning on the dock w/more barking under the dock. Because the ship holds only 90 passengers, it was intimate and informal. We checked into our comfortable cabin, which would be “home” for a week while cruising among the islands. We headed directly to the dining room for a wonderful buffet lunch and back to our cabin to unpack before going to muster stations with our life jackets. We had our very first tour that afternoon. We were enchanted by all the wildlife we saw on our first day: sea lions, iguanas, frigates mating with their bright red chests ballooning out, and more.

Blue footed booby

Our daily routine: we had one tour in the morning and another in the afternoon and for each tour you get to choose either a long walk or a short walk. We would board the zodiacs called pangas in groups of 16 with a naturalist who explained the flora and fauna on each tour. Every time we returned to the ship, there was beer and wine and snacks waiting for us followed by lunch or dinner after cocktails. We always had time for a 2-hr nap after lunch before the afternoon tour. All meals, drinks, transfers, snorkel gear, tips and tours were included in this all-inclusive deluxe package. We were spoiled!

Red-shirted Baldie and sea lion

The Galapagos islands were formed by shield volcanoes just like the Hawaiian islands. Active volcanoes are located in the northwestern islands. The Galapagos has 2 seasons: the dry season from June to December and the wet season from January to May. The islands are located on the equator, but because they get the cold Humboldt current from the south pole, the weather is cool and comfortable in the dry season. The waters are quite cold, so Celebrity supplies wet suits for snorkelers.

Chicken skin moments when we all shut up and were in total awe: On Floreana Island on Tuesday, we were disappointed that the salt marsh had no flamingos. But on Wednesday, on Bacha beach, Santa Cruz Island, we spotted 6 flamingos flying and when we reached the pond, we were happy to watch them feeding. On Thursday, we were on our way back to the ship on our zodiac when a large group of dolphins swam next to us. It was so amazing to be so close to the beautiful creatures. Then on Friday, we were at Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island, and were lucky to see 6 more flamingos feeding in the pond. On Saturday, buses took us up to the highlands of Santa Cruz above the town of Puerta Ayora, where we walked through open fields and saw, close-up, many tortoises. They are such peaceful, ancient creatures.

Most lunches on the ship were buffets down in the dining room or hamburgers and crepes up on the 4th deck. But on Thursday, we had a huge BBQ buffet lunch out on Deck 4. Unbelievable… all you can eat grilled lobster, huge shrimp, beef, pork, chicken, fish, salmon, salad bar, and dessert bar. They also served lobster 3 times for dinner. As I said, we were spoiled indeed.

The entertainment was very casual. They had one professional musician on board who played keyboard and piano at various times of day and evenings. The naturalists are very talented, and they performed salsa music for us to dance to. We also had a talent show night on Thursday and karaoke night on Friday. It turned out that I was the only passenger that participated in the talent show with my hula performance… the rest were the crew who played music, sang and danced.  Karaoke night was fun with many people singing.

This truly was an adventure of a lifetime. We don’t see ourselves going back there, but the Galapagos is not to be missed.

Roger’s Top Ten:

10.         We used our AA miles to fly to and from Equador and flew 1st class on our flights home from Quito. We usually fly economy/coach… no class… so this was a big hit!  Big, wide, soft recliners where the food tray sits flat and not inclined due to my six-pac (more like keg) abs.

9.         The cruise ship Celebrity Xpedition holds only 90 passengers. Everything was first class and everything was inclusive… food, beer, wine, bottled water, hard liquor, tips, etc. etc. Our bill was ZERO at the end of the cruise, but we did give extra tips to our favorite staff. The ship’s crew made me feel like a king!

8.         I went snorkeling 3 times and swam with or saw oodles of different kinds of fish (visions of pulehu, sashimi, baked or fried), manta rays, sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, marine iguanas, sand sharks, but no eels. Never thought I would snorkel anyplace better than Hanauma Bay. I felt like Jacque Cousteau.

7.         The inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands were extremely friendly. Marine iguanas, sea lions, turtles, land iguanas (which were bigger and more colorful than the marine variety) would be lying all over the place and you had to literally step over or walk around them. Same with the birds.. they were so tame, they almost posed for photos. Pelicans would land on our zodiacs and sea lions would just plop on and off.

6.         The only mean vicious creatures were some biting flies on one of the islands. They bit right through my shirt… making me very itchy with small welts like mosquito bites.

5.         Tortoises don’t really like us, because they hiss and retreat into their shells when we went close to them. Long time since I found an animal that I could race with and win.

4.         Thanks to Darwin, we got to visit and see all these animals. Blue-footed boobies, red chested frigates, whose chest expands like a big red balloon when trying to find a mate. Blue herons, pelicans, mocking birds, ground finches, tree finches, oyster catchers, yellow warblers, flamingos and so much more, which I don’t know the names of, and I cannot spell anyway.

3.         All in all, plenty walking but by far, one of my most memorable vacations. A guy we met said to go to South Africa for real wild animals and no need to walk since you can’t outrun those animals, and besides, they’ll eat you. So go on a safari and ride vehicles for protection. That’s all folks…

2.          P. S. (porgot something) –This trip is highly recommended. ***** (5 stars)

1.          P.P. S.S. Did you know Lari can dance the hula? She did the hula for a passenger talent show and had everybody in awe. She’s a bigger fake than me!

Lari’s Top Five:

5. Making new friends on the cruise

4. The delicious food and drinks on the Xpedition

3. The knowledge and friendliness of our naturalist guides

2. Seeing such a wide variety of wildlife

1. Being so close to the wildlife (but cannot touch them

Posted December 20, 2010 by lariyasui in South America

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