Exploring Quito, Ecuador on a Celebrity Cruises Excursion

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Introduction: Sailing Celebrity Cruises’ Flora in the Galapagos

What to Pack for a Galapagos Cruise

Getting to Quito, Ecuador in Delta First Class

JW Marriott Hotel Quito Review

Exploring Quito, Ecuador on a Celebrity Cruises Excursion

Quito to the Galapagos and Back by Avianca Charter

Ship Review – Celebrity Flora

Cabin Review – Penthouse Suite 5125 on Celebrity Flora 2024

Celebrity Flora – Dining Review

Celebrity Flora – Activities Review

Flight/Lounge Review – Copa Airlines Business Class Review

The Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Golf Resort, Panama City Review

After a restful night at the JW Marriott Quito we woke up, enjoyed the included buffet breakfast and joined our group in the lobby for our full-day tour of Quito.  By booking the 10 day “cruise,” the two-night pre and one-night post hotel stays are included.  Also included is the full day tour.  Here’s a photo of the welcome letter that explained the two days before boarding Celebrity Flora.

a paper and two black bottles on a table
Celebrity Flora Welcome Letter and Refillable Insulated Water Bottles

Much like the excursions we would enjoy on the ship, this tour was done in small groups of 10-12 people.  Each tour was led by a tour guide and assisted by a security guard.  We previously explored the question – Is Ecuador Safe? and to be honest we were a bit concerned by the fact that Celebrity Cruises included a security guard on each tour.

After a full day of touring Quito, I can say that we never felt unsafe. Apart from some slightly aggressive street vendors looking to sell things you might not want, the security guard’s presence wasn’t really for security.  Though we were given time to purchase textiles from local women if we wanted.  Instead they served more like herding dogs to keep members of our group (flock?) from wandering off.  Those of us that have done a lot of group tours can appreciate how useful this can be to keep a tour running well.

a group of people walking in a city
Celebrity Cruises Tour Security Guards

Our tour was broken out into two parts – a walking tour of the historic center of Quito that concluded with a buffet lunch in a historic monastery.  The second part of the tour was to an outdoor, interactive equator museum.  An option was provided for passengers to opt out of the second part of the tour if they wished to get some rest as a number had come in very late the night before.

a grey bus with red and blue writing
Coach Bus for Two of the 10-12 Person Tour Groups
a bus with blue seats
Celebrity Cruises’ Attention to Detail on Motorcoach

Leaving the hotel in a modern and comfortable coach bus we proceeded up some very steep and narrow streets making our way to a park located high above the city offering amazing views of the city below.

a woman walking on a sidewalk holding a sign
Celebrity Cruises Small Group Tour Guide
a city with a hill in the background
Viewpoint Over Quito

Following this stop we made our way down into the historic center of the city.  From there we commenced a walking tour of about 90 minutes.  The pace was slow and involved visits to the two largest plazas in the city, a tour of a monastery, a tour of another church, and a walk to our lunch location where we met up with the other passengers on our cruise.

a large white building with a group of people walking up the stairs
Plaza de San Francisco Quito Ecuador

Our tour guide explained that they don’t normally allow groups to climb to the top of the belltower in the church, but because our group was unusually “young and fit” we were allowed to venture to the top for some amazing views.

a city with many buildings and a fountain
Plaza de San Francisco from Belltower Quito Ecuador

Plaza de San Francisco was the first and largest square we toured.

a building with palm trees
Convent of San Francisco Quito Ecuador Courtyard

The church has been undergoing a major restoration beginning in the main church with the next phase to preserve the cloisters.  We next walked a short distance to a Jesuit church where unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos of the amazing gilt interior.  Let’s just say we might have found a little piece of El Dorado hiding in the middle of Quito.

Standing in the center of the second square on our tour was the August 10th monument marking the first official calls for independence from Spain.  Surrounding the square was the colonial governor’s house, the original basilica, the Bishop’s house, and a newer (not very attractive 1970’s era) building that houses the city government.

a statue of a lion on a pedestal in front of a monument
August 10, 1809 Monument Commemorating First Call for Independence from Spain

From here we walked through a historic building that had been converted into a market and then on to another monastery.  We had a short tour of the historical features and then were treated to a buffet lunch featuring Ecuadorian specialties.  The only charge was for beer, wine, and spirits.

Food was well marked for allergens including gluten, making it very easy for us to find a wide variety of options.

a group of people in a restaurant
Included Lunch Buffett Served in a Monastery

The food looked so tempting that I ended up requiring the assistance of a friendly waiter who helped carry one of my plates for me.

a plate of food on a table
Delicious Ecuadorian Buffet

Following lunch, and a brief rainstorm, we re-boarded our coach to venture approximately 20 miles to the Equator museum.  A few members from our bus elected to go back to the hotel for a nap before dinner given they had only arrived around 2:00am that morning.

In Quito, there are essentially two “museums” to visit at the Equator.  One is the historic monument that is arguably off a bit from the actual location while the other is a privately owned outdoor museum.  Celebrity Cruises took us to the private museum where we were treated to a bit of history of the indigenous people of the area, a chocolate making demonstration, and the highlight which was a series of games/science experiments on the Equator.

a stone wall with a sign and a stone wheel
Entrance to Equator Museum
a tall wooden pole with faces carved on it
Equator Line Outdoor Museum Totems from Around the World
a sign on a sidewalk
Equator Museum “Science” area where visitors can do all kinds of tricks, scientific and otherwise

Following our time at the museum it was time to head back to the JW Marriott Quito where we had approximately 90 minutes to rest, refresh, and prepare for our included dinner at La Gloria, a nearby restaurant.

a sign on a wall
La Gloria Restaurant Quito

We were treated to a select three-course meal with excellent gluten free options for both the first and second courses.

a plate of food on a table
Burrata Appetizer (GF)

I enjoyed a local specialty that our tour guide had highly recommended and was not disappointed.

a plate of food on a table
Chicken and Rice in a Banana Leaf (GF)

Melanie ordered the rather large lamb “shin” which to us looked an awful lot like a full lamb shank.  It was delicious if a bit intimidating at first.

a plate of food on a table
Lamb Shank Entree (GF)

For dessert everyone was served a trio of specialties.  Unfortunately for us, only the ice cream was gluten free.  As with lunch, no alcoholic beverages were included.

a plate of food on a table
Dessert Trio (ice cream was GF)

After dinner we were taken back to the JW Marriott Quito where we all scurried off to bed, but not before bringing down our luggage to be inspected for food products before being transported to the airport for us the next morning.  We were allowed to keep our carry-on luggage including liquids of any size as Ecaudor has no restriction on liquids for flights within the country.  But more on the charter flight experience in our next post.  And with that we come to the end of our exploring Quito Ecuador on a Celebrity Cruises excursion review.

I promised a bonus wildlife photo in each post; however, our JW Marriott post was just a bit too long to include one.  So please enjoy this “two-fer” photo of a young sea lion sleeping under a bush beside an iguana (no zoom used to take this photo).  – Michael

a lizard lying on the ground under a tree
Sea Lion with Iguana
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3 COMMENTS

    • Hi Dee – I’ve been looking to see if we can squeeze in a cruise on Explora 1 this year, but with two cruises already booked for this year I’m not sure it’s going to work.

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