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Celebrity Cruises Acquisition Shows Intense Demand for Galapagos Sailings

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Two ships that can hold a total of 64 passengers will make up a tiny sliver of Celebrity’s capacity in the carefully controlled Galapagos Islands, but the cruise line is eager to offer a wider variety of vacation options there.

— Hannah Sampson

Celebrity Cruises is expanding its presence in the highly regulated Galapagos Islands the only way it can: by buying another company that already operates there.

The cruise line, part of Royal Caribbean Cruises, announced Monday that it will acquire tour operator Ocean Adventures and its two ships for an undisclosed amount.

Ocean Adventures, which was established in 1999, has a 48-passenger vessel and a 16-passenger catamaran.

“This gives us the opportunity to expand capacity by 65 percent, which is virtually impossible in the Galapagos because tourism is quite limited,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president & CEO of Celebrity Cruises.

She said the deal was complicated because of government approvals needed and other regulations; it has been in the works for nearly a year. Bernardo Carrillo, managing director of Celebrity Vacations, said capacity controls mean that new cruise berths can’t be added.

“To get into the Galapagos, you really need to do what we did, which is purchase another company that has berths,” he said.

The transaction is expected to close “in a very short period,” Lutoff-Perlo said.

The two ships will become part of Celebrity Cruises this spring once the deal is completed but will offer an “Ocean Adventures experience” until they are renovated in January. After the update,  they will be branded under Celebrity. All bookings and reservations made with Ocean Adventures will be honored.

Lutoff-Perlo said the company has not yet announced what the ships will include once they are refurbished or any other details about the renovation.

“We just wanted people to know that this deal was done and that Celebrity, as of the beginning of January in 2017, will get the opportunity to do work on those ships to bring them in line with the modern luxury positioning of Celebrity,” she said.

The company already operates a 100-passenger ship that it acquired more than a decade ago, Celebrity Xpedition, in the Galapagos Islands. The smaller vessels will allow the company to offer a variety of experiences for guests who want a more intimate experience or private charters. Those ships can also access more ports than Xpedition can visit.

“After 16 years of building Ocean Adventures into one of the leading operators in the Galapagos Islands, we are proud to have caught the attention of a world-class cruise company like Celebrity and proud to be part of their ambitious plans to expand in the region,” Ben Dod, president of Ocean Adventures, said in a statement.

Lutoff-Perlo said the addition of more ships, even small ones, in the area is big news for the cruise line. Voyages in the Galapagos Islands are priced significantly higher per day than many other itineraries because of limited capacity and high demand.

“In actual numbers, you could say it’s not big, but when you look at the percentage increase in capacity, it is significant,” she said. “Galapagos is a bucket list vacation destination. We have a lot of demand that we cannot fill because we don’t have enough capacity.”

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