Celebrity Cruises' owner Royal Caribbean acquired Sun Bay 1, a small luxury vessel, built in 2001, and launched it in June 2004. In an innovative move, Celebrity's Xpedition sub-brand, created a new strata of up-market, premium-priced cruises and shore excursions offering travelers unusual cruise experiences in exotic destinations.
The start-up of the venture marked the arrival of the first mainstream cruise company to operate around the Galapagos Islands year-round. This option opened up Galapagos cruises, formerly the province of backpacking (or high-end) "adventure travelers." In essence, Xpedition combines the exotica of this type of adventure on a small vessel with some of the amenities and features -- high level of service and cuisine, for instance -- that Celebrity is known for.
And indeed, the joy of the Galapagos operation is that it combines Celebrity stylishness with local, "small ship" ambience. Crewmembers -- almost entirely Ecuadorian from the captain down -- are sunny, charming and tirelessly obliging. Destination-oriented features are incorporated into the onboard experience, such as a performance of Ecuadorian folklorique preceded by a highly personalized slide show featuring pictures of passengers meeting wildlife during the course of the trip (guests are presented as a complimentary CD to take home).
Better still, all drinks (except for certain premium brands) and tips are included in the price, so the atmosphere is more relaxed and sociable than that on the big Celebrity ships, where passengers are more reluctant to mingle because of potential embarrassment over who buys drinks for whom!
Apart from a couple of Canadian ex-pats, we were the only Britons on the inaugural cruise and, apart from the Latino family group the vast majority of our fellow passengers were cheerful, eco-oriented, middle-class Americans.
On a ship with such an outdoors-based itinerary, casual is obviously the order of the day, but guests seemed to enjoy changing out of their daytime swimmers and shorts and dressing fairly smartly for dinner.
Carries 2,138 passengers and features a two-level main dining room, several bars and lounges, age-specific kids' club, casino and wood panelling in the Millennium restaurant that was originally used on the classic liner RMS Olympic.
Classed as a mid-sized cruise ship, Celebrity Infinity offers more than 2,000 passengers a two-storey dining room, 6 restaurants, age-specific kids' clubs and a spa and fitness centre.
Sophisticated vibe with gourmet dining options, a suites-only restaurant and lounge and a spa partnership with Canyon Ranch; fewer than 3,000 passengers.
Holding just over 2,000 passengers, this is a family-friendly cruise ship featuring a two-level theatre, 12 dining venues, 11 bars and lounges and the Innovations tech store.
48 passengers; sails year-round in the Galapagos and features several onboard naturalists, active excursions and upscale amenities like a spa and hot tubs.
Sophisticated vibe with gourmet dining, the country club-style Lawn Club and two suites-only restaurants; partnership with Canyon Ranch is a highlight for spa-goers.
Chic atmosphere featuring grassy Lawn Club with a Corning Museum of Glass pavilion with glass blowing shows, gourmet dining options and spa cabins and cuisine.
Holds just over 2,800 passengers and includes Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Eclipse Theatre, basketball court, the Lawn Club with real grass and the World Class Bar.
Cultured vibe; features the country club-style Lawn Club with extra-fee Hamptons-inspired The Porch, suites-only restaurant and multimillion-dollar art collection .
Sophisticated vibe; attractions include the country club-style Lawn Club, the Martini Bar, suites only restaurants and multimillion dollar art collection.
Celebrity Edge is Celebrity's edgiest ships featuring the revolutionary Magic Carpet, a tennis-court sized moveable deck, and rooms that convert from inside to outside with the touch of a button.
Celebrity Apex is the second of four new cruise ships that will debut under Celebrity's Edge Class moniker. Beyond will launch in 2020.