Ben Fogle recently visited The Galapagos on Celebrity Flora with his family. Charlotte Flach finds out more
You recently sailed onboard Celebrity Flora around the Galapagos Islands. What did you think of the trip?
What’s different about the Galapagos is its location – it is very fragile and a completely unique environment. The Ecuadorian government controls the region very tightly in regards to the type and number of ships and shore excursions that are allowed there.
What surprised me is that a number of ports across the globe are struggling with overtourism, but I didn’t see that at all in the Galapagos. The parks authority is controlling it brilliantly and, just like air traffic control, they are regulating and giving timings to any ships entering.
We encountered one other small group of 10 people on one of the islands while we were there. The ship itself felt very intimate, with only 100 guests onboard, which means you get to know everyone.
What are the wildlife highlights on the itinerary?
Each place is different, so I can’t choose one particular thing. Snorkelling with sea lions was a highlight for my children, for example, but so was meeting giant tortoises. We also had numerous other wildlife experiences, as there is so much unique flora and fauna in this region.
What did your children think of the cruise?
Going to the Galapagos is more about the destination, so getting on and off the ship and on the tenders was probably a highlight for the children.
The onboard laboratory was another plus for the kids. Every day from around 1.30pm to 3.30pm there is a naturalist there and the kids can look at samples of coral, sand and volcanic rock under a microscope.
What were the excursions like?
Everything was child-friendly and excursions are divided into “strenuous” and “less strenuous”. We always chose the strenuous activities as the children are fit and wanted to see as much of the island as they could.
You also have your own naturalist – that’s a rule in the Galapagos. Flora has a much better ratio than other ships, which usually have one naturalist for 70 people. On Flora, there is one naturalist per 12 people, and often we had one between just four of us. They are all local and know the islands like the back of their hands, with a deep understanding of the wildlife and nature. The children learnt so much from them.
What did you think of the sustainability features on Celebrity Flora?
Flora itself is very different as it is built to many stats and regulations. Astonishingly, we didn’t put down anchor once. The ship’s positioning system uses little thrusters to keep it stationary, which doesn’t damage the seafloor. It is 15% more fuel efficient than other ships in the region and there is no [single-use] plastic onboard. The ship constantly collects scientific data, so it is in effect a moving science experiment, with the data being shared with the University of Miami.
How do you think cruising can contribute to a sustainable travel industry?
Flora is a blueprint for the future of cruise ships. The ship converts saltwater into freshwater, limiting the need to resupply regularly, and is much more independent than other cruise ships. Moving ahead, we are all becoming more aware of limiting our footprint. The architects and designers who built the ship learnt a great deal about hitting these sustainability goals. The cruise industry has a responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint.
Where’s next on your bucket list and why?
I am very excited by extreme corners of the globe and have been lucky enough to go to Alaska. I would like to explore the Arctic region and also journey to more southern territories around Chile and Argentina. In general, I am interested in remote places. I’d love to go to Madagascar too. I’m not sure if Celebrity sails there, but if it does I’d love to join it!