Celebrity Cruises acquired petite Celebrity Xperience in 2016. She joined its biggest Galapagos cruise ship, Celebrity Xpedition, which takes 98 passengers, and an even smaller sister, Celebrity Xploration, carrying just 16 guests.
With a capacity of 48, Xperience is the perfect size for the Galapagos, with just the right number of guests to encourage a friendly, house party atmosphere. The ship sails two one-week itineraries, the ‘northern loop’ and the ‘southern loop’ of the Galapagos archipelago, which can be combined to create an unforgettable 14-night expedition cruise.
Although Celebrity Xperience is elderly in cruising terms (built in 1982), Celebrity has done a good job in adding contemporary décor, comfortable beds and a crew trained to the same high standards of service as you would find on Celebrity Cruises’ bigger ships.
Celebrity Xperience is a proper expedition ship, geared to getting you as close to the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos as possible. All forays ashore are by Zodiac inflatable, so you will need a degree of mobility to climb on and off the boats, sometimes disembarking on a ‘wet landing’ on the beach into knee-deep water. Everything is geared to the destination, including the lectures and quizzes on-board and the films shown in the comfortable lounge. There is a hot tub on the upper deck, and a lovely open-air bar, but apart from that, the ship does not come with extras like a spa, or any nightlife to speak of.
Where to eat
All the fresh air, hiking and snorkelling you do on Galapagos cruises works up an appetite. Meals (all buffet) take place in the dining room, and on occasion, the open air bar and seating area on the aft deck, which is especially pleasant at sunset. Breakfast is a hearty affair, with omelettes, crepes and waffles made to order and plenty of delicious fresh fruit. Lunch includes a salad buffet and a variety of hot dishes, one of them always vegetarian, while dinner is a similar arrangement. The chef buys fish from the local fishermen and it is truly spectacular; one day, we had an enormous red snapper for lunch that had been caught that very morning.
A couple of times a week there is a barbecue night, with chicken, steaks, sausages and giant prawns sizzling on the aft deck. This is a wonderful experience, as it is timed to coincide with the fiery sunset.
Coffee, tea and biscuits are always available in the reception area. Drinks are included in the price and the bartenders work hard to keep the cocktails flowing in the evenings. Wine is poured generously with meals and is of excellent quality. Of course, guests are not encouraged to drink alcohol in the middle of the day as there is a strenuous hike scheduled for the afternoon, or snorkelling.
Every guest is given a water flask to keep and filtered water is available all over the ship, reducing the use of plastic on-board.
Where to sleep
There are three categories of cabins on Main Deck and on Boat Deck, where the more expensive accommodation is located. Cabins come in various sizes; 400, 401, 402 and 403 are bigger, and priced accordingly. Boat Deck cabins have big picture windows, while those on Main Deck have portholes. All come with a shower, eco-friendly bath goodies and the same comfortable beds you will find on all Celebrity cruise ships. The reality is, though, that you barely spend any time in your cabin other than to sleep, as the days are full-on.
What to do
Galapagos cruises are action-packed voyages. There are usually two activities a day: either a hike (with long and short alternatives on offer), kayaking, a Zodiac tour or snorkelling with sea turtles, reef sharks, penguins and playful sea lions. The ship repositions after the morning’s activity, providing a chance for lunch and a siesta in the hottest part of the day.
Hikes, each one escorted by the ship’s excellent and knowledgeable guides, will take you past sea lion colonies, land and marine iguanas, boobies (of the blue-footed, red-footed and Nazca varieties), frigate birds, lava lizards and giant tortoises. The animals have no fear at all of humans, which is a truly humbling experience.
In the evenings, documentaries and films about wildlife are shown in the lounge but most people retire early.
What I loved
I loved the vibe on the aft deck after the day’s activities had finished. Everybody gathers before sunset to enjoy cocktails and swap stories of the day’s wildlife sightings and adventures. We also loved the upper deck, where there are comfortable shaded loungers and sofas, as well as a hot tub. The midday siesta is the only real down time you get on a Galapagos cruise, so snoozing on a lounger, reading or gazing out to sea, watching for dolphins and whales, is a pleasant way to spend this.
Pack carefully for the Galapagos. You will need lightweight clothing for the heat, in neutral colours, and proper hiking shoes or walking boots. Evenings are casual and dress-down. A good camera goes without saying, but think about a GoPro as well, in a waterproof casing. There is no need to bring snorkel gear as excellent ScubaPro shortie wetsuits are provided, as well as high quality masks, snorkels and fins.
Would you like to ‘Xperience’ the unforgettable wildlife of the Galapagos Islands for yourself, on-board a cruise ship completely dedicated to helping you indulge your inner explorer? Click the button below to view all Celebrity Xperience sailings, or call our Cruise Concierge team on 0808 1234 118 to find out more about this vessel and book your perfect voyage.