A Galápagos Islands Adventure with a Machu Picchu Postscript

We have just returned from a fabulous vacation that included a week visiting the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador and a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. We travelled with Celebrity Cruises. This is the first of a series of posts. Of course, I took lots of pictures, which I’ll post as I process them.

Day 1 Friday: London – Quito  crappiness from Iberia

A dreadfully early start was required: a 2am pickup for a flight from LHR at just past 6am for the first leg to Madrid. This was operated by BA and was perfectly fine. It was a different story on the next leg, Madrid-Quito, which was operated by Iberia. Both companies are now part of IAG, but  based on our experience this holiday, service levels are poles apart.

The trouble began at the boarding gate in Madrid Airport. Iberia have a group approach to boarding: starting with the usual people with young children or needing special assistance, frequent fliers and people sitting in the posh seats. After that lesser mortals board according to a group number printed on their boarding card. None of this was explained ahead of time, so the gate area was a crush of people who surged forward each time one of the gate staff began to announce something. English reserve is no use in such situations, so with our group 1 status we pushed our way to the gate—when the number was announced, of course.

Once on board we discovered that there was no in-seat entertainment system (for a flight of around 11 hours). There were communal screens. Of the two we could see, one was too far away and the other was off to the left, and would have almost certainly resulted in a stiff neck. Since the main feature was The Smurfs movie, the screens didn’t matter much in the end.

Airline food is usually not the best cuisine: Iberia exceeded expectations…  but not in a good way. The food was awful. The service we received was OK, but not very friendly. Subsequently, we spoke to other passengers—about 30-odd from the UK were also on the cruise—who reported rudeness and surly behaviour from the crew.

One final story about the flight: we were surprised to see a cute Boxer puppy waiting at the gate in Madrid—not in a kennel, but on a leash. We were even more surprised to see the same puppy waiting at baggage reclaim in Quito. Apparently, the puppy was seen walking around the plane. This also explained the little puddle that we’d seen walking from the plane to baggage reclaim.

Discomfort ended when we were deposited at the JW Marriott in Quito for the first of two nights. We ate at the sushi bar in the hotel, or rather half-ate their Sushi Kamikaze, which even with one between two was too big to finish. I ignored the advice about going easy on alcohol at altitude and drank beer followed by saké.

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