Number of passengers
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).