Decisions, decisions, decisions…

The most common question that people have asked about this trip has been “How do you get started making all of these decisions?”  I can only share how we made our decisions.   But perhaps our tale will get you started on your own path.  Keep in mind that this trip occurred in September, 2009; prices and options will certainly vary.  Also, what mattered to us may not concern you a whit.  Reader discretion is advised!

If you haven’t already read it, you might want to check out my “Choosing a cruise” page too.  Lots of helpful information and links about things to consider when trying to make this huge decision!

Note that, because we went with Exploritas (formerly, Elderhostel and currently Road Scholar), we didn’t make any decisions about the cruise.  They have been using the Tip Top fleet for years, so we just went with that.  However, since our trip, I’ve learned a lot about all of the choices that people face when starting from scratch. One of the most basic decisions is how to travel around the islands—land-based tours (a.k.a., island hopping) or on a live-aboard boat?  It’s a really important decision, and people often feel at a loss about how to think about traveling around the islands.  It’s so important that I’ve written an entire page just about some of the issues or questions you might be wondering about; click here.  I certainly don’t pretend to know all of the answers; but I know a lot of the really basic questions about cruises.

But choosing a cruise isn’t the only decision you have to make.  Here are the topics you’ll find on this set of pages, along with their page numbers:

  • the travel company (p. 2)
  • the season—including some discussion of El Niño (p. 3)
  • trip insurance (p. 4)
  • extra days in Quito (p. 4)
  • help on the Internet (p. 4)

Click below to jump to a particular page.

6 Responses to Decisions, decisions, decisions…

  1. Suzanne Barlettani says:

    Tina – you really should have made this blog into a book. Your information and witty way of delivering it is way better than any others I have read. I read every word and LOVED every one.
    We are going to the Galapagos on May 12 of this year. We will be staying in Quito for two nights and then onto the Galapagos Islands on the Corals. We are going on three back to back cruise itineraries and will be gone 18 days. So Excited!!!! This is a bucket list trip so I want to get in as much as I can – I turn 65 in July. You mentioned that shortie wet suits were desirable on your September trip – but how about your May trip?
    Thank you so much for all your helpful information,
    Suzanne Barlettani – Concord, CA


    • Tina says:

      Hi, Suzanne–

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog and found it helpful! Thanks so much for letting me know.

      For me, I was glad I had my shortie wet suit for the May trip. First, I’m a not-very-confident swimmer, so the extra buoyancy was great. Jumping from the panga–typically my most anxiety-filled snorkeling moment–became great fun because I’d just bob up to the surface like a little cork. Also, the waters around the western islands (Isabela and Fernandina) are noticeably cooler than are the waters around the more central islands. Also, as you head further south (e.g., Floreana), you may notice cooler water temps. They also provide you some protection from sunburn–it’s hard to use sunblock well with so much time spent in the water. (Of course, a t shirt or a rash guard will provide that too.) And mine kept me warmer on the panga rides back to the boat when still wet than the towels provided by the boat did. On our May trip, probably about 1/3 of the snorkelers used wet suits; so clearly they’re not mandatory. But I was very glad to have it.

      It’s great that you can do the full 14-night trip. Even though it’s not cheap, it’s cheaper than going back to hit the islands you missed the first time (like we did) when you realize how much you love the archipelago! You’ll have a wonderful time.



  2. Just getting back to William’s comment – which I find misleading. As an agent myself, I know for a fact that ship operators set a “rack rate” for their cruises, and announce this to all agents. They also tell you the % commission an agent will get on the rack rate.

    Bear in mind that the ship operator is almost always also in the sales business. I.E. he/she is competing with other agents to sell spots on their own ship! They realize that it’s better to have an army of agents selling your ship to all kinds of different markets, using different angles, than just trying to sell your ship all by yourself.

    Under these circumstances, it just doesn’t make any sense for a ship operator to announce a rack rate for Ecuadorian agents that is lower than a rack rate for non-Ecuadorian agents. In this day of internet and easy price comparisons, who would want to agree to sell a product at a higher price?

    Any search for the price of particular cruise will reveal identical prices, no matter who is selling it. In fact, in my experience, it’s true that a few Ecuadorian based agents are offering cruises at a price LOWER than what the actual ship operator is offering themselves. You can imagine that the ship operator doesn’t like being undercut on their own prices! It makes them look like they are gouging clients. When they find out, the make it clear to the agent that this is not acceptable.

    All this to say that William’s claim is unfounded.



  3. William says:

    Another quick note – if you book with an international agency (such as a US or Canadian agency) you will be paying a higher price than with a local Ecuadorian agency 9 out of 10 times. The owners of the boats offer special prices to local agencies, and the commission they add is normally less than international agencies. Also, many international agencies will contact a local agency to book a cruise for their passengers. The local agency will sell the cruise WITH the added commision to the international agency, which the international agency will sell to the passenger with their own commission. Hence, you could be paying double commission for a cruise by booking through international agencies. However, I always recommend going with the company you feel most comfortable with, and I know many people trust more in US and international companies. Just thought I would add my 2 bits.

    P.S. Your blog is fantastic.


  4. Just a note re: where the money stays when you book with an Ecuadorian company. The only difference is where the commission stays. The rest of the money goes to the ship operator.

    Tina writes:

    Thanks for this clarification. I’ve adapted the text to make this distinction clear.


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