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· Travel,Luxury,Cruises

It's been an inspirational week for me. My son graduated from Duke University at the weekend after 4 years of what has honestly been ups and downs and a lot of serious hard work on his part. He has made us proud in many different ways. Of course this coincided with Mothers Day, and Helen, as you can see in the photo below, never stops the mothering, and has inspired James, Maisie and myself to care for what matters most, every single day.
On the travel front, I was inspired by a very informative meeting with our Celebrity Cruises Business Development Manager, Rick Eberst. I had featured their latest ship right at the end of last week's blog, but having seen an extended video of this vessel and learned even more about the single destination it will serve, I am beyond inspired and excited...
The Galapagos Islands have been on my very long bucket list for a while, but have now made it to the top. It's almost impossible to do a "land tour" of Galapagos due to numerous sensible restrictions and lack of accommodation on the various islands. The only way to see the islands, and any travel advisor should tell you this, is to cruise. But cruises down there are not the norm by any means. No ship is allowed to have more than 100 passengers and many are smaller than that. You will never dock on an island, you will only ever land on a zodiac and with National Parks naturalist guides.
For many years Galapagos has been served by "expedition class" boats, but now that is changing and whilst the ships are not allowed to get bigger, they are becoming considerably more luxurious. Seabourn and Silversea have great options, but I believe the Celebrity Flora is going to be the outstanding option for a luxury Galapagos experience for several years to come.
Please read this weeks Galapagos Top 5 and let us know if you might possibly be interested in joining us on the Celebrity Flora towards the end of 2020. Helen and I have never hosted a group before, but this destination and this new ship are so thrilling to us, that we want to share such an incredible experience with our travel friends. We'd really like to gauge your interest. Please click the button below to be on the list for the details.

Top 5 Galapagos

1. Celebrity Flora
I've never written on the same subject item for 2 weeks running before but having seen further details of the new ship this week (it launches in June), I just can't help it. This will be the way to enjoy the Galapagos Islands in style. All suites, All-inclusive, and that means all the tours, dining and drink, the flights from Quito, Ecuador to Baltra and back and more.
Sky Suites (above) will be the base level stateroom, and the ship (below) which was taken delivery of just this week will sail exclusively around the Galapagos Islands on a couple of different itinerary options.

2. Birds
You do not have to be a bird-lover to marvel at the breadth of the species here. From the Frigatebird (below), to penguins (yes, on the equator), finches, boobies, flamingos, pelicans, hawks, giant albatross and herons, and the list goes on. You'll be sure to see the Galapagos cormorant also, which can swim like a champion but has lost the ability to fly.

3. Other wildlife
The Giant Tortoise is probably the iconic species of the islands. These amazing creatures can grow to be over 500 lbs and as long as 4 feet, with a lifespan of over 100 years. Iguanas are native to 6 of the islands and include the Marine (can dive to 30 feet), Yellow, Red (below), and Pink land iguanas and they will reach lengths of 3 to 5 feet. Then don't forget the sea-lions.
What is most fascinating about all these species is that they are not afraid of humans. There is zero threat from humans on the islands as they are monitored and protected so well. This means the wildlife does not care about your presence, enabling travelers to be up close and personal with some species that are absolutely unique to the Galapagos.

4. The Islands
Of the 13 major islands that form Galapagos, only 4 have full time human residents so the cruise tours have a major advantage in being able to visit those that are uninhabited. There is not enough space for me to describe the large differences between each of these islands, but you can go from lava fields, black sand beaches and dual volcano craters, to stunning rock formations such as Pinnacle Rock on uninhabited Bartalome (below), and then lush vegetation on the slightly larger island of Floreana.

5. Quito, Ecuador (below)
Your pre or post cruise adventure is most likely to be in the Ecuadorian capital city, Quito.
Start at the top, with a climb up the main spire of the gorgeous Basílica del Voto Nacional. From there, you can look down on everything this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer, and much of it is refreshed from years of renovations that have revitalized centuries-old palaces, theaters, and the like. Here's my food angle. Quito is one of the chocolate capitals of the world. In the Old Town, perhaps stay in the Virtuoso boutique property
Casa Gangotena which has recently launched on-site chocolate-tasting experiences and includes a 6-course tasting menu dinner as one of your complimentary amenities.

If you have Galapagos on your travel horizon, let us know here so we can start helping you plan a bucket list trip.

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