So I have had a lot of questions from both the comments on this blog and from Cruise Critic, I thought I would do those first and it would give me a chance to add some additional info I haven’t covered yet. So let’s get to those questions. (BTW: I may have answered these on Cruise Critic or on this blog before but not in both places. This will give me a chance to do both.)
- We’re on the July 25th sailing, and I’m starting to think about what to pack. How quickly does the laundry turn around and do we need to bring slacks or just shorts?
I got away with one pair of decent shorts, three pair of hiking shorts and the jeans I had worn on the planes (I don’t like flying in shorts). Took a bunch of izod shirts I didn’t have to iron, my hiking boots and my Tevas, underwear and socks. That was it. You get two free bags of laundry and we left both of them out in the morning before we went on our morning excursion and our stateroom attendant picked them up when she serviced the room. In both cases, they were back by that evening while we were at dinner. We did not ask for rush service but we got them back that fast. I am guessing part of the speed was because there were only 57 passengers on board.
- How cold is the water? Have the snorkelers mentioned this? We’re Floridians and I’ve packed second skin so I won’t be cold. Is this necessary?
Since I didn’t snorkel or swim that much I asked three friends (one of them was Celebrity’s scientist in residence Ellen who does the Galapagos 3-4 times a year) who did snorkel and swim everyday it was available and their answer was that the water was really nice. The times I got in the water, I did not find it too cold. But Ellen mentioned that it will get colder until the fall. Ellen said the second skin is a good idea. Many of those snorkeling wore a rash guards under their wetsuits. All three of them said that no matter what you bring to wear under the wetsuit you need to wash them out EVERY NIGHT. Two of our friends said they came back after dinner on the first night they snorkeled and the smell was overpowering. Ellen says she always just wears whatever was under the wetsuit into the shower, soaps it up and then rinses it out. Be prepared to take it off in the morning wet. I had a rash guard that Kathleen had gotten me and since it was also sun protective I wore it a bunch. Pretty much on every walk. She got it at Land’s End and I loved it.
- Can you buy postcards or souvenirs on board? Should you?
Yes and no. We are kind of old school. We like to send postcards. I even pre-print address labels to take with us. So we went down to the very small ship store on deck 3 and bought 15 postcards. Kathleen saw a tee-shirt there that she liked and got that too. And we bought a magnet as we kind of collect those. Total: $80. Didn’t realize that until we settled our account by the end of the trip. Later we found out that had we waited we would have paid half of that in the airport in Baltra on the way home. Save your money. Also, the airport in Baltra has a lot of souvenirs. Not knowing this, we bought something before we went through security. And then we found there were tons of places to buy things.
- Did you get any take home gifts from X?
Yes we did. I need to preface telling you what we got by saying that we don’t know how many were given to us because we were the first cruise back after the pandemic or are given to everyone on every cruise. We got a really cool hand carved wooden tortoise, two Galapagos-themed coffee cups, two really nice metal water bottles, two backpacks (not that usable) a fanny pack, a baseball cap and Ecuadorian chocolate. All are awesome and we will use them. The wooden tortoise is sitting in our living room right now reminding us of all the good memories. Oops! I almost forgot the best thing we got. A small USB thumb drive on the very last day just before we got off the ship. It wasn’t the drive but what was on it. Every picture taken by the naturalists/guides during our week as well as pictures of the entire crew we had shared the week with. It is awesome. Especially if you were afraid you didn’t get enough pics.
- Do you have a packing list?
I detailed above what I had with me. I did the entire cruise with a 24 inch carry on bag. Unlike other cruises you can wear whatever you want to the dining room and no one will say anything. Also, if you look on Cruise Critic there is a super great thread we followed to get ready. It is tremendous and there is a complete packing list on it. You can find that thread by clicking here. You may have to join Cruise Critic to see it though but that would be a very good thing if you cruise.
- What was the average age of the people on board? What were your fellow cruisers like?
There were all kind of people. The youngest were two outstanding 8th graders who entertained us all and there were people in their 80s. If you are a regular cruiser, remember that this is not the cruise where you will meet fellow cruisers with like backgrounds. For about half the people onboard, this may have been first time cruisers. They were there for the Galapagos and not the ship. We were there for both.
- Coffee and booze—what’s the story?
Coffee was available from about 6:30 am until around 10:00 pm in the Discovery Lounge. You could get your usual variety of coffee drinks you could get at your local Starbucks. We loved their cappuccinos. The Ecuadorian coffee in the dining room was wonderful.
As far as alcoholic beverages, the same bar in Discovery Lounge will make you whatever you ask for but the liquor selection is very limited. For instance, there was one tequila, one gin, one vodka, one whiskey, etc. Much of this is because it is very expensive to ship it in and there is very little space to store it. This also reminds me to tell you that when it comes to wine for dinner, you get a choice of red or white. That’s it. For the same reason—importing and storage. We had red every night (yes, even with fish) and it was always from South America. Many times it was either Malbec or a red blend of Malbec and something else. Our favorite was a Malbec/Cab blend from Chile. They had maybe four brands of beer. Plus in your stateroom there is your typical mini-fridge with two bottles of an excellent Ecuadorian pilsner as well as four soft drinks. They get replenished as you drink them and they, like everything else on the ship are included. No charge!
- What kind of weight limits did they have on the Baltra flight? Was it full? Did they have any diabetic passengers…they couldn’t go that long without food or the ability to carry food with them?
We were told they would limit us to 14 pounds for carryons (ONLY ONE ALLOWED) and 44lbs for checked luggage (again, only one). We were well under the checked luggage requirement but my camera bag weights at least 30lbs but no one checked it. The flight was not full and would not have been even if the ship had been full. It is a charter and most couples had a row to themselves. There was food served (a pretty lousy ham and cheese sandwich) but I don’t know if there were any diabetics on board. Kathleen says, “when they offer you food, take it because you don’t know when you will be offered food again.” Unlike a regular cruise when there is ALWAYS some food available, this is not the case on Flora since there is no regular buffet, only the dining room and the grille upstairs.
- Would this cruise work for someone who is in a wheelchair?
Sadly, no. There would be no way to get on or off the ship if you can’t go up or down the stairs on the Zodiacs. There is an elevator and it always cracked me up when people used it because there are only five passenger decks and we were on deck five which meant we only had to go up or down two levels no matter where we wanted to go
- Was this a good post-pandemic cruise to take?
We don’t think you could find a better one. All except one day, we were completely in a bubble. There is no COVID on any of the islands other than maybe Santa Cruz. That was the only island we saw people who were not sailing with us. Celebrity did a great job with COVID precautions and testing. It is the perfect post-pandemic cruise.
- “You take amazing photos! What kind of camera do you use? What lenses did you take?”
Thank you! Photography is my favorite hobby. If you click here you can see the best of my previous travel pics. And yes, I do sell them on that site but feel free to just look. I shoot a Nikon D810 DSLR. It’s a big heavy, full frame camera. I took two lenses with me; a Nikor 24-300mm zoom that I shot every photo with. I also had a 50mm lens with me but it was just as a backup. Every single photo was taken with the zoom lens. I will also mention that prior to this cruise I didn’t take a lot of wildlife photos. But to prep I watched a ton of videos on YouTube and read a lot. You should do the same if you want the kind of moving action I got.
- We were recently informed by the Galapagos Desk that all travelers in our party would need coverage for both medical and evacuation. Were you asked to provide proof of either?
We were also told you HAD TO HAVE medical and evacuation insurance and it was REQUIRED by the National Park of Ecuador. We have friends who had taken the cruise before and they had to show proof of insurance but we did not. I think that may have been because of all the COVID stuff just got in the way. If you go without either of those insurance policies, you are NUTS! Even though there are two doctors onboard Flora, there are no major medical facilities on the islands. Medical Evacuation insurance is a MUST.
- We are interested in booking a private tour on the last day when we return from Balta, as our flight home leaves at midnight. But also concerned about last minute Celebrity changes and what the schedule will be for testing on the last day to return to US.
If it works as ours did, once you fly back from Balta you will be given an appointment in the later afternoon when you must go for a COVID test. You get the results in about an hour. You can’t get a boarding pass from any airline leaving Quito without the test results. I would not make any plans for that day. We didn’t reach the hotel until 4:30pm and our test was at 6:20pm. We went to dinner (X paid) and then got the test results. By that time it was too late to get a boarding pass so we got them at the airport at 4:30 am the next morning.
- After all the hassles you had with your air cancellations we are worried we will have problems as well. Any advice?
Yes! Check your airline reservations all the time. Verify them daily in the week or two leading up to your cruise. This is true no matter where you are flying. I want to make it clear that we do NOT hold Celebrity responsible for the cancellation of our original flight to Quito. American Airlines (WHO I WILL NEVER FLY WITH AGAIN for so many reasons—I would rather walk) who cancelled our flight to Quito with less than a week to go and did not inform us even though I had given them our e-mail and phone number. But that does not excuse Celebrity Air from not notifying us either. I just happened to be checking seats and found out that way. Check, check, check. Especially if you are flying with one of the big carries like United, American or Delta. They fly so many flights that they can cancel them with impunity. Keep in mind if they do cancel you and don’t offer you a flight within six hours of your original flight they must refund your airfare. It may take a while but you will get it. Not a voucher, a refund.
I think that about covers it. If you have any others, please let me know in the comments. Tomorrow more about the ship.