(9:30 a.m. EST) — Celebrity Cruises will expand its presence in the Galapagos Islands from one to three ships with the acquisition of local tour operator Ocean Adventures by parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The ships will join the Celebrity Cruises fleet in spring 2016, but the line promises all existing Ocean Adventures bookings will remain honored and unchanged, regardless of sail date.
Following a January 2017 dry dock, Athala II, a 16-passenger catamaran, and Eclipse, a 48-passenger cruise ship, will join 98-passenger Celebrity Xpedition in providing cruisers with immersion in the highly protected Galapagos region. Under Ocean Adventures, Athala II is popular with full, family charters; Bernardo Carrillo, Managing Director of Celebrity Vacations, believes the vessel will continue to tap into a multigenerational cruise market.
«It’s a natural expansion,» said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, in an interview with Cruise Critic. «The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is active in the Galapagos region, and with our recent announcement, we see it as a strategic partnership for the brand; a lovely, cohesive effort in a part of the world that’s so important and beautiful.»
Lutoff-Perlo stressed the cruise brand’s continuing environmental commitment in a region that’s heavily protected and difficult to gain access to. «It’s a popular destination and demand has increased — we have not been able to fulfill demand for the past 10 years and the increased size of the fleet will allow us to do that.»
Along with the new hardware, Celebrity will also offer an expanded list of destinations in the Galapagos, including Darwin Bay, Black Turtle Cove, Puerto Villamil and more. Based on the success of Xpedition’s land-and-cruise packages, new packages will also be available when booking both ships; this includes several nights’ hotel stay on the Galapagos Islands — a first for the line — as well as experiences providing interaction with locals These land-based pre- or post-cruise tours might include a trip to the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, or a less-discovered side of Peru. More details are set to be released later this spring.
Celebrity Xpedition, the line’s purpose-built ship in the region, is highly rated by Cruise Critic members, winning best overall cruise ship and best shore excursions in the small ship category.