Choosing a cruise

This set of pages offers some things to consider as you make probably the most important decision of your trip—how to travel around the islands.  It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but it presents some issues I came across in our trip or in talking with other people about their experiences.  Should you do a live-aboard cruise or a land-based tour with day trips to various islands?  What kind of things should you think about when considering all of the options for live-aboard cruises?  Assuming you can’t get to all of the islands, what islands are best known for unusual species?  What about other “must see” aspects of the islands?  Keep in mind these are just my opinions and our experiences, mixed with some of what I’ve learned from other people.  Perhaps these points will help you to think about what’s really important to you on your trip. 

I cover these topics on the pages here.  You can use the page numbers at the bottom of this page to skip around to the various topics.

  • Land-based travel or a naturalist cruise?  (p. 2)
  • Some general cruise considerations (p. 3)
  • The cruise itself (p. 4)
  • A spreadsheet to help you choose an itinerary (p. 5)
  • Choosing a boat (p. 6)
  • Unique species by island (p. 7)
  • Other island specialties (p. 7)

260 Responses to Choosing a cruise

  1. Hi Tina,

    Lots of great info from your blog. I have been going crazy trying to put together our Galapagos part of our trip. Too many options/choices. We are an older couple-in our early 70s but reasonably fit-husband more so than me. What I’m contemplating is to do a 8 day/7 night cruise on Tip Top II, option 2 that takes in Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, South Plaza, Santiago, Floreana, Espanola, and San Cristobal. It appears that it would not be too strenuous for me. I have some back issues but can walk 2-3 miles and I see that the longest walk is 2 miles which should be ok. I’m a very much beginner snorkeler and only comfortable knowing my husband is there with me. I have done snorkeling off a boat in deep water as well as from the beach. My first choice was the Ecoadventura 7 night cruise but my date of May 21, 2017 is sold out and the price on their Origin boat is something I can’t wrap my head around. It would be $15,000 for the 2 of us! What do you think of the TTII’s itinerary? Not as good as yours from 2009 but…… That being said we will have land based time before and after the cruise. We intend to fly fro Lima to Quito on May 15, 2017 when our 2 week Peru trip is over. Since TTII doesn’t sail until Friday we would have 3 or 4 nights in Santa Cruz. Depends when we get there from Quito. If I can get a flight out the same day on 5/15?? During that time I will relax by the pool at a hotel (haven’t booked yet) while my husband does 3 days of scuba. Then when we return from our cruise to Baltra on May 26 I was thinking to do 4 or 5 nights on Isabella with day trips, then 3 or 4 nights on San Cristobel-maybe just to relax. Fly back to Quito from San Cristobel. Do you think this looks like a good plan?

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Christine–

      The TTII itinerary is an okay itinerary, but it spends a lot of time in areas that can also be visited on day trips (e.g., Santa Fé, S. Plaza, Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal) and only gets to one of the most distant islands (Española). Since you’re spending the same amount of money as you would for a stronger itinerary–and you could save money if you did the day trips on your own rather than on a cruise–I’m not sure it gets you the biggest bang for your buck. This itinerary is weaker because the TTII’s alternate 8-day itinerary is really strong, going to 3 of the 4 most distant islands. That leaves only the central and inhabited islands for its 2nd itinerary since no boat can visit the same uninhabited sites more often than every 14 days.

      I understand your concerns about restrictions, and this itinerary doesn’t have many stairs or long walks. But none of the walks on a cruise are very long. On our 2 trips, the walk on Española was the longest of all of them and all proceed at a very slow pace, to observe wildlife, take photos, and listen to the naturalist guide.) With your concerns in mind, you’re probably wise to avoid the western islands (the western shore of Isabela, especially) because the walks can be quite hot and over uneven ground. One walk is even a rather long climb uphill to a viewpoint. It’s a lovely spot, but it was really hot when we did it (and we left early in the morning to start it). But you might also see if you could find an “eastern” itinerary that includes both Española and Genovesa. Genovesa has some larger steps to climb, but it’s just a short staircase of rock and the panga staff and fellow travelers help each up when needed. Once you get to the top, you have a lovely, flat stroll through breeding sea bird colonies that will knock your socks off. You might want to read up on that to see if it sounds like something you could handle.

      I can’t really comment knowledgeably about spending time in the towns. To me, 4 or 5 nights on Isabela sounds like a lot, because it’s a pretty sleepy town (I hear–which can be good, if that’s what you want) and the number of sites you can visit from town are rather limited. (The best parts of Isabela–the western shore landings–can only be reached on a cruise.) I’ve never been to San Cristóbal either, although it’s the seat of government–so probably livelier than Puerto Villamil on Isabela but npt as busy as Puerto Ayora.

      Many people enjoy land-based time, but we generally tried to avoid towns as much as we could when we were choosing cruise itineraries. So my expertise on this subject is pretty skimpy.

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  2. faith says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughts Laurie. I’m overwhelmed with all the possibilities. I hate for us to make the long and expensive trip and then feel that we should have done it a different way. I could continue to compare itineraries.
    Faith

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  3. faith says:

    Thank you so much for your honest opinion. I guess that is why that literary is available at this late date! I’ll keep looking.
    Faith

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    • Laurie says:

      We did the SE itinerary on the Samba last December because it fit with the dates we could travel. Despite the points in favor of the NW itinerary, don’t sell the SE short if it is your best option during the busy December season. It has sandy beaches that the NW does not – where sea lions loll about with their pups and enormous turtles come ashore. The vegetation is more varied than on the “younger” volcanic islands on the NW route. At least one of the closer islands you visit (Rabida) can only be reached on a cruise. Yes, you visit islands that can be reached on day trips, but you get a very different perspective on them because you reach them much earlier than day tours can land, when the animals are most active and there are fewer people around. And I believe I heard that the Samba now has permission to snorkel at Devil’s Crown – ask Heather about this.

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      • Tina says:

        Hi, Laurie–

        Thanks for weighing In with your experience. You’re certainly right about getting to the landings that also host day tripsf at much better times of the day, which is important. The main drawback I see to having so many landings on these islands that can also have day trips (and we’vnow visited them all) is that the wildlife tend to live further from the paths there than in the more distant island landings. Having written that, even on the most visited landings, the wildlife are still much closer than you’re likely to see anywhere else on the planet.

        And I totally agree that those playful, wacky sea lions are much more plentiful around the older and more central islands than on the western islands.

        Thanks again!

        Tina

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  4. faith says:

    I am considering a trip with CNH tours in December. The only tour they have available is the SE. I will be traveling with my husband and 23 year old daughter. I am overwhelmed with cruise and destination choices. I am wondering what your thoughts about this itinerary is: Day 1 – Sunday: Arrival in Quito

    Day 2 – Monday: Quito City Day Tour, Monument to the Equator. B, L.

    Day 3 – Tuesday: Travel to Galapagos. Santa Cruz Island: Highlands. B, L, D.

    Day 4 – Wednesday: Floreana: Punta Cormorant / Champion / Post Office Bay / The Baroness Lookout. B, L, D.

    Day 5 – Thursday: Española: Punta Suarez / Gardner Bay. B, L, D.

    Day 6 – Friday: San Cristobal: Kicker Rock / Punta Pitt . B, L, D.

    Day 7 – Saturday: Santa Fe: Barrington Bay / South Plaza. B, L, D.

    Day 8 – Sunday: Santiago: Sullivan Bay / Bartolome. B, L, D.

    Day 9 – Monday: Rabida / Santiago: James Bay. B, L, D.

    Day 10 – Tuesday: North Seymour / Cruise ends. Santa Cruz: Highlands / Free afternoon – evening in Puerto Ayora. B, L.

    Day 11 – Wednesday: Free day in Puerto Ayora. B, D.

    Click here to see our 10 Favourite Things to Do on Your Free Days in Puerto Ayora

    Day 12 – Thursday: Transfer back to Quito. Free afternoon and evening. B, L.

    Day 13 – Friday: Breakfast. Tour ends. B.

    Thank you! I am open to any other suggestions!

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Faith–

      This itinerary presents a bit of a dilemma. The Samba, by all reports, is a terrific boat and a good value, with consistently high praise for her guides. Her northwestern itinerary is my favorite of all boats, since it goes to 3 of the 4 most distant and interesting islands. It also is the only boat that goes to the northernmost island of Marchena,where snorkeling has been reported to be wonderful. But loading all that good stuff on the NW itinerary means that her alternat itinerary–the one you’re considering–is, in my opinion, much weaker. You only get to one of the 4 distant islands and you spend a lot of time around the central, inhabited islands and on island that can also be visited by day trips. In addition, you don’t snorkel at Devil’s Crown off Floreana, instead going to a less spectacular spot for snorkeling.

      If it were my trip, I wouldn’t opt for this itinerary. I’d ask Heather for other options that get you to at least 2 of the 4 distant islands; since those are the most popular itineraries, she ought to be able to suggest several options.

      Having written that, the above itinerary will offer you lots of marvels and, if you never went on another itinerary, you’d probably be perfectly satisfied with the Samba and her wonderful guides. To me, though, it’s just not the best one for the money.

      Tina

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  5. liz says:

    Hi Tina,
    We recently got back from a tour on the Samba with Darwin Alvarez, and it was absolutely amazing. Thank you for helping us to pick out the perfect tour.
    Best,
    Liz

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  6. Diane Hawes says:

    I am in leaving in 1.5 weeks for Ecuador and planning a trip to the Galapagos with my 11 year old son. Currently what fits for us is the Beluga Yacht with a “Hood” itinerary. I haven’t asked yet for the agent to pull up more choices. What do you think about this itinerary?
    FRI Baltra, Santa Cruz: Cerro Dragon
    SAT Santa Fe, Plazas
    SUN San Cristobal: Cerro Brujo, Leon Dormido, El Junco or Tijeretas, Interpretation Centre
    MON Española: Gardner Bay, Punta Suarez
    TUE Charles Darwin Station, Baltra

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Diane–

      With such a short cruise, the best you can typically expect is to get to 1 of the 4 most distant islands–here, that’s Española. The Waved Albatross will be nesting there and they are truly wondrous birds. And Española is the only place on the planet, with one small exception, where they come to ground to breed. So that’s a really magical experience. Otherwise, the itinerary is very much tied to the central, inhabited islands (San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz) and islands that can be reached by day trips as well as cruises (S. Plaza, Santa Fé), which are fine but not as spectacular as landings on uninhabited islands that can only be reached by naturalist cruises. The wildlife tend to live further from the paths in those areas where more human traffic routinely occurs, compared to on islands with fewer visitors.

      Such limitations are common on the shorter cruises, because you really have 2 fewer days at sea on any cruise, due to airport transport issues. So on a 4-day cruise, you only have 2 full days at sea. You can’t really get very far from the airports with so little sailing time.

      If you can, be sure to arrange a day trip to the highlands of Santa Cruz to see the Giant Tortoises living free on the agricultural lands there. That’s another really amazing experience and one many kids really like (including we older “kids”).

      Tina

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  7. Samantha Weisz says:

    Hi – I only have 6 days for the Galapagos. Are there shorter cruises? Also is it possible to go island hopping without a tour group? I typically travel independently… Thanks for your input!

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Samantha–

      There are shorter cruises–4- and 5-day ones. Keep in mind that a cruise is always 2 days shorter than it appears from its name. The first day and last day are always just a brief outing because of the need to get from and to the airport. So you really spend only 2 (4-day) or 3 (5-day) full days at sea on a shorter cruise.

      You can organize your own trip to stay in any of the 3 populations centers if you want. You can’t visit any of the areas in the National Park (which covers 97% of the archipelago) without a certified naturalist guide. And many of the sites can only be reached on a naturalist cruise. So completely on your own, you’re pretty limited to what you see. But you can do day trips to some other areas with a group and a guide. I’ve never done that and I don’t know much about it. But if you did an Internet search for “island hopping, Galapagos,” you’ll probably be able to find some suggestions.

      Tina

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  8. Josh Kincaid says:

    Hi Tina,

    I’m grateful for this resource. I booked flights for myself and my parents into South America BEFORE actually planning our Galapagos cruise (so our timing cannot be changed now). After contacting a travel agency for cruise options, I was told there are few to no departures available that fit our dates and criteria. I was shocked to hear this, especially since we’ll be traveling in October which is supposed to be the slow season.

    Are you able to offer some suggestions / itineraries for Tourist Superior or First Class boats that would coincide with our travel dates (arriving Friday, October 7th and departing Saturday, October 15th)? I have loved all of your recommendations on this blog so look forward to any recommendations you have. I’m thinking either a 5-day cruise with a few day trips tacked on, or a longer 7 or 8-day option.

    Also, since this is the low season, would you recommend booking now, or waiting until closer to our departure date to take advantage of some last-minute deals?

    Thank you,
    Josh

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Josh–

      I’m not a travel professional, so I don’t know much about specific boat availabilities. But as you note, Oct. is a low time. Some boats go in for repairs and updating during the low season, but even so I too am surprised nothing is available at this early date–although you are restricted in departure dates a tad. I suggest that you try several other agencies, to see if they all say the same thing. Be sure you’re dealing with an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel, such as Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, or CNH Tours (and there are a lot of others). Those folks will have the most up-to-date information for you.

      I personally would make a reservation now, but that’s my travel style. (We made reservations for our 2nd trip 18 months in advance.) But given your constraints, you might run a risk of coming up short if you wait until the last minute.

      I’m glad you’ve found the blog info helpful–thanks for letting me know. Good luck with your search!

      Tina

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  9. Milena Treiger says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading through your blog and the wealth of information is amazing. I now know that I want to do the NW itinerary for 8 days. We are 2 adults and a 15-year old. To accommodate the school schedule we have to go either during Christmas vacation or the first 2 weeks of August. What do you recommend? The Samba is $3500 per person for the 8 day itinerary. Any recommendations for a good ship that’s a bit less expensive? Thank you again for all your time answering these questions.

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Milena–

      I’m not too current on the fees that boats charge. The Samba, although a really popular boat, is a tourist-superior boat, which is the 2nd lowest (meaning, least expensive) class of boats in the archipelago. So you may be suffering a bit of “sticker shock, if this is the first time you’ve looked into prices.

      One of the challenges you’re likely facing is that your travel options fall in the highest seasons in the Galápagos–July/August and the Christmas holidays. Many boats apply a surcharge, especially from mid-Dec. – early Jan. Also, the NW itinerary isn’t offered by many boats, so your options are a bit limited.

      One website I find useful in getting a feel for prices is http://www.galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise.html . You can click on a link to look for boats in your price range. If you cross-reference those boats with the list I have on the “Choosing a Cruise” page, you might be able to find something cheaper that also has the NW itinerary. But be careful–some of the cheapest boats may compromise safety and cleanliness, so be sure to check a site like TripAdvisor to see what reviews folks have given a boat you’re considering.

      Alternatively, consider using an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel, such as Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, or CNH Tours. They have access to the latest rates and may be able to find something that fits better for you than you can find on your own, given the myriad of information out there on the Internet.

      Good luck with your search and thanks for the kind words about the blog!

      Tina

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  10. cavlaw says:

    Hi Thank you so much for this blog. It is so helpful. We are travelling to the Galapagos this summer 2016 end of July/beginning of August. We only have a Friday-Sunday due to events before and after. So although we would love to do a longer cruise we are choosing between a 4-day cruise or a 5-day cruise. Or there is the option of staying on Santa Cruz in a hotel and doing at least 3 day trips.
    Following are the cruises we are considering.

    Option 1 itinerary: Yolita II 5-day
    Sun: Baltra Airport – North Seymour
    Mon: Leon Dormido – Cerro Brujo & Isla Lobos (San Cristobal) AM: Cerro Brujo & Leon Dormido, San Cristobal Island Cerro Brujo (Wizard Hill) is a beautiful beach made of white coral and volcanic ash. It is located along the north coast of San Cristobal, the island where Charles Darwin first arrived in September 1835. Cerro Brujo is an eroded tuff cone and several parts are composed of the AA lava type. In this fascinating landscape you can observe sea lions, as well as different sea birds, finches and warblers. The sheltered bay is popular for young sea turtles and rays. The salt water pools behind the sand dunes were used as a salt mine in the past. After visiting Cerro Brujo you will continue by yacht to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock). This huge ‘cathedral’ of rock is an old lava cone, now split in two. On the rocks many blue footed boobies, Nazca boobies and frigate birds are to be found. The snorkeling is great here, with good opportunities for seeing sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, tropical fish and the Galapagos shark.
    PM: Isla Lobos
    This little island is not far off Port Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos Islands and the main town of San Cristobal. The trail will lead across a dry vegetation zone, substrate of volcanic rocks and sandy areas. There is a small population of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds, which nest in this site. At the beach you will see a large colony of sea lions. It is common to see shorebirds.
    Tue: Gardner Bay – Punta Suarez (Espanola)
    Wed: Santa Fe – South Plaza
    Thu: Charles Darwin Research St – Baltra Airport
    My issue with this one is it does not go to Genovesa. Although I think the boat is nicer and overall the cruise is a little longer so we have more time on places for example a whole day on San Cristobal and I think we circle that island. (I added more detail for that day of what we would see).
    Possible we could add a day at a hotel on santa cruz at the end to see that island?

    Option 2: San Jose 4-day cruise
    Day 1 Baltra Island Arrival in Baltra airport and transfer to the boat. Briefing onboard about the boat and the island. Pm Mosquera Island The island consists is a long narrow stretch of white sand, rocks, and tide pools. (I don’t know much at all about this island)
    Day 2 Genovesa Island: Darwin Bay A coral beach where a 750 mt. trail takes you through more seabird colonies.
    Pm Genovesa Island: Prince Phillip’s Steps An extraordinary, steep path leads through a seabird colony full of life, up to cliffs that are 25m high.
    Day 3 Am South Plaza Island South Plaza has one of the largest populations of land iguanas in the Galapagos.
    PM Santa Fe Island A volcanic uplift that hosts a forest of Opuntia and palo santo. Endemic land iguanas are often seen.
    Day 4 Am San Cristobal Island: Leon Dormido This island comprises two rocks which jut out of the ocean and is home to a large colony of sea birds. Transfer to the Airport. (so basically I think this is a couple of hours.) Would we get enough of a feel for San Cristobal?
    So option 2 has Genovesa, but overall the cruise is shorter. We would probably add a day or two on Santa Cruz beforehand.

    Seeing both itineraries, would we get to see all the wildlife on both options? Is there anything major we would miss on either one? Penguins, blue footed boobies, marine iguana, giant tortoises (in the wild), sea lions, etc.

    Keeping in mind our timeframe (and time of year) do you have a suggestion for which option would be better? Are you familiar with either of these boats? Any and all advice is much appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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    • Tina says:

      Hi–

      Well, there’s no way you can see ALL of the wildlife without at least an 11-day cruise, so that’s out. You won’t see penguins on either of these itineraries; you’d need to go to the western shore of Isabela or Fernandina to see them for sure. You have chance of spotting a small group if you did a day trip to Bartolomé, although it’s not guaranteed since that group moves between Sombrero Chino and Bartolomé. Neither gets you to see Giant Tortoises in the wild, although a day trip to the highlands of Santa Cruz would solve that.

      The 2 itineraries aren’t very different, especially when it comes to getting to the more fascinating and distant islands. Your choice is between Española and the magnificent Waved Albatross (and their goofy- yet majestic-looking nestlings) or Genovesa and the sea bird breeding colony there (with again, a lot of goofy-looking nestlings hanging out along, if not on, the path and in bushes). Both are marvelous that time of year.

      I don’t know either of these boats, so I can’t be much help there.

      I personally would opt for the longest cruise you can fit in. (I’m not sure how you’ll do either of these with a Friday – Sunday window, though. But I’ll assume that’s not what I think it is.) Every cruise is really 2 days shorter than it sounds–a 4-day is really only 2 full days at sea; a 5-day, only 3. (All cruises have just an afternoon for the first day and a morning for the last day because of airport transport issues.) spending extra time in Santa Cruz to pick up a day trip or 2 would help. A day trip to N. Seymour will give you a bit of a feel for what the sea bird colonies on Genovesa are like, if you opted for the other itinerary. But you’ll be traveling at the height of one of the busiest seasons and not all day trips to specific islands go every day. And the most popular ones (e.g., Bartolomé, N. Seymour) can get filled in advance, so you’d need to plan carefully, check availability, and (if possible) book ahead.

      Hope this helps some!

      Tina

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  11. Lisa says:

    I just stumbled across your blog recently and it is wonderful. I have read many (not all) of the questions people have asked so I know you said you aren’t familiar with the Nemo I, but I was wondering if you could comment on the two itineraries below. We are planning a trip in late June and we think we’ve narrowed it down to either the Nemo I or the Nemo III. Both have similar itineraries. We plan to spend a few days on Santa Cruz either before or after our cruise so ideally we were looking for an itinerary that does not spend time on Santa Cruz since we could do those ourselves. That is what initially led us to the Nemo I itinerary. However, you also mentioned that you didn’t think the Sierra Negra was worth it so perhaps that day isn’t a great day on the Nemo I. I think the Nemo III has slightly bigger cabins than the Nemo I but that isn’t a big deal really. The size of the ships is about the same. I haven’t looked at each of the individual stops on each island very closely to know which of the differing stops is better. Thanks so much for any feedback!

    Nemo I (CA = CAMINATA KY = KAYAK PR = PANGA RIDE SN = SNORKEL)
    Day 1 Monday Baltra – North Seymour(CA-PR-SN)
    Day 2 Tuesday Genovesa: Darwin Bay (CA-KY-PR-SN) – Prince Phillip’s Steps (CA-KY-PR-SN)
    Day 3 Wednesday Bartolome (CA-PR-SN) – Chinese Hat (CA-KY-PR-SN)
    Day 4 Thursday Isabela: Sierra Negra (CA) – Isabela: Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center (CA)
    Day 5 Friday Isabela: Moreno Point (CA-PR-SN) – Elizabeth Bay (PR)
    Day 6 Saturday Fernandina: Espinoza Point (CA-SN) – Isabela: Urbina Bay (CA-SN)
    Day 7 Sunday Santiago: Egas Port – Espumilla Beach (CA-KY-PR-SN) – Buccaneer Cove (KY-PR-SN)
    Day 8 Monday Daphne Island – Baltra

    Nemo III (same codes)
    Sunday Baltra – Santa Cruz: Bachas Beach
    Monday Genovesa: Prince Phillip’s Steps (SN-PR-KY) – Darwin Bay (SN-PR-KY)
    Tuesday Santiago: Sullivan Bay (SN-PR) – Dragon Hill (SN)
    Wednesday Santa Cruz: Highlands – Charles Darwin Station
    Thursday Isabela: Moreno Point (SN-PR) – Urbina Bay
    Friday Fernandina: Espinoza Point (SN) – Isabela: Tagus Cove
    Saturday Santiago: Egas Port – Buccaneers Cove (SN-PR-KY)
    Sunday Daphne Islands (CN) – Baltra

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Lisa–

      You’re right that these 2 itineraries are pretty similar. The Sierra Negra hike can be spectacular if you luck into it on a day at the end of a stretch of dry weather. But many folks report that it is often a muddy, dreary slog with socked-in views. For my money, it wouldn’t be worth the chance, but not everyone would agree.

      I think I’d go with the Nemo I itinerary even so, because it looks like the Nemo III stops in the middle to discharge and take on new passengers doing a shorter leg. (That’s the day spent on Wed. in the SC area.) I don’t know that for a fact, but you could ask whoever you’re booking with. That down day can be just fine, since you’d spend it in the highlands and the Research Station. But if the incoming flight were delayed for any reason, you might also find yourself with some serious waiting. Plus, since you’re spending some time in Puerto Ayora, you could easily do those activities on your own. Another reason I don’t like the chopped-up itineraries such as Nemo III’s (if indeed it is that) is I’ve always enjoyed traveling with the same cohort for the entire trip. You get to know folks and can become very close. As the days go by, you really feel like you’re sharing all of the marvels with good friends. Introducing new faces and bidding others farewell in the middle would be a very different dynamic, especially on a small boat.

      But these are all pretty minor considerations. Both itineraries are one of my favorites (the northwestern itinerary) and either will offer you wonders beyond measure. So don’t sweat the details too much. Pick one and just start getting seriously excited about the adventures ahead!

      Tina

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      • Lisa says:

        Thanks for the feedback Tina.

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      • Marie Graham says:

        Hi Tina, Came across your brilliant blog earlier today and after reading through most of it, I’m starting to go cross eyed as there’s so much info in there. So finally decided to just ask directly for your help.

        We’re trying to book a last minute trip to the Galapagos in May, as part of a trip to Peru but unfortunately can only fit a 5 day/4 night cruise into our timetable (I realise you’re not a huge fan of trips less than 8 days but we seem to be stuck with it). The two itineraries we’ve been offered are as follows:

        1) Nemo 1 – Itinerary B5

        Day 1 – pm Santa Cruz, Bachas Beach
        Day 2 – am. Isabella, Las Tintoreras, Whitetip Reef Shark Canal
        pm Isabela, Arnoldo tupiza tortoise breeding centre
        Day 3 – am Floreana, Cormorant Point and Devils Crown
        pm Floreana, Post office bay
        Day 4 – am Espanola, Suarez Point
        pm Gardner Bay
        Day 5 – am Charles Darwin Research centre

        2) Angelito – Itinerary A5

        Day 1 – pm North Seymour
        Day 2 – am Chinese Hat
        pm Bartolome
        Day 3 – am Genovesa Darwin Bay
        pm Genovesa Prince Philip steps
        Day 4 – am Puerto Egas
        pm Rabida
        Day 5 – am Charles Darwin Research station

        I know you’re a keen fan of the Angelito and Genovsa and don’t really know much about the Nemo 1 but I’d be really grateful for your thoughts / preference on the two itineraries

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      • Tina says:

        Hi, Marie–

        You’re right that I’m not that fond of the shorter cruises, but I can rise above that. :) At first blush, the Nemo’s looks like you get to 2 of the most distant islands–Isabela and Genovesa. But you don’t get to the good parts (in my opinion) of Isabela at all. Instead, you stay in and around Puerto Villamil. I’m not very keen on spending a full day (especially when you only really have 3 full days at sea on a 5-day cruise) in a population center (Day 2). Since the 1st and last days also have to be around a populated island, to get you from and to the airport, you really only spend 2 days on uninhabited islands on this itinerary. And while snorkeling at Devil’s Crown can be spectacular, much of the afternoon will be spent focusing on the human history of Floreana at Post Office Bay. The, wildlife there often is less than wonderful–and I’m not that interested in the human history of the archipelago. But you might feel differently. The Waved Albatross on Española will be spectacular, though.

        The Angelito’ spends more time with wildlife and less with towns. You might get a chance to see a small number of adorable Galápagos Penguins around Bartolomé. They move between Sombrero Chino and Bartolomé, so it’s not guaranteed. But many folks do get to see them. And the viewpoint at the top of the extinct volcano is truly lovely–allegedly, the most photographed spot in the archipelago and rightly so. The seabird breeding colony on Genovesa is a real marvel, and I truly enjoyed getting up-close-and-personal with the Galápagos Fur Seals (sea lions, really), lounging sleepily in the beautiful grottoes at Puerto Egas. They’re much harder to see elsewhere and they’ll be a nice contrast to the Galápagos Sea Lions later that day, which often loll on the sun-drenched red sand beach on Rábida. The seabird colony on N. Seymour will pale in comparison to the one on Genovesa; but since you visit there first, you probably wont notice that as much as if you visited N. Seymour AFTER Genovesa.

        So I’d vote for the Angelita’s itinerary, unless you’re really interested in spending time with the towns and some human history. Hope this helps!

        Tina

        Liked by 1 person

      • Marie Graham says:

        Thanks so much for your response Tina, your time and effort is much appreciated and your comments are really helpful. In my haste last night though to fathom out how to post something to you, I forgot to add that we were keen to see the large marine Iguanas and the giant tortoises. I realise that unfortunately we’re not going to see tortoises in the wild as we’re not going to get to the highlands but assume the Darwin centre visit includes live animals & not just pictures. So the only question left is, are we likely to see any of the large iguanas on either of the itineraries and if the answer is both, which gives most chance.

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi again, Marie–

        The largest subspecies of Marine Iguana live off the western shore of Isabela and Fernandina, which neither of the itineraries you’re considering would go to. I’m not sure that many if any short cruises would get there, since those islands are pretty far away from the main islands with airports. But you can find Marine Iguanas on just about any of the major islands, often in large numbers piled up on top of each other. They don’t spend a lot of time in the water; instead, they dart in to feed and then spend considerable time lying in the sun in order to get their body temperatures up after their swim in the cold water.

        The Research Station will definitely have living Giant Tortoises of a wide variety of age cohorts on display. It’ll be more like a zoo than seeing them living free, but you will definitely get to see them there.

        Tina

        Like

    • Marie Graham says:

      Hi again Tina, and sorry for the delayed response. This is just to thank you again for your help. Your comments back to me and other people have helped us reach a decision with regards to what we actually want (and can achieve) from a trip to the Galapagos and have come to the conclusion that just fitting in a short duration cruise as an add on to our Peru trip is maybe not our best option. So we’ve decided to just concentrate on Peru this time and look at one of the longer Galapagos cruises for next year which will give us more time to plan and hopefully allow more choice of itinerary as well.
      So once again, thanks for your advice and your blog in general and hope you won’t mind me contacting you in the future if needed.

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Maria–

        A good decision, I’d say. Each site deserves your best effort. Feel free to stop back any time with questions!

        Tina

        Like

  12. Paco Aubrejuan says:

    Hi Tina. Thank you SO much for all the time you spend to help your fellow travelers! We are planning a trip to the Galapagos in July 2017 with two families- 4 adults and 5 children ages 12+. Based on everything you’ve written and comments you’ve posted, we’ve narrowed our choices of ships/itineraries to the following two. Which of these would you pick?

    Corals I/II
    Day 1 : Baltra – Santa Cruz Island
    Day 2 : Floreana
    Day 3 : Española
    Day 4 : Daphne Island – Santa Cruz Island
    Day 5 : Fernandina – Isabela
    Day 6 : Isabela
    Day 7 : Santiago
    Day 8 : Santa Cruz Island – Baltra

    or

    Eric & Letty
    Day 1 : San Cristobal
    Day 2 : Genovesa
    Day 3 : Santa Cruz Island
    Day 4 : Fernandina – Isabela
    Day 5 : Isabela
    Day 6 : Santiago – Rabida
    Day 7 : Santa Cruz Island
    Day 8 : San Cristobal

    Thanks so much for your help!!
    Paco

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Paco–

      As you probably read, these are my two favorite 8-day itineraries–a northwestern and a southwestern one. The main difference between them is Genovesa or Espanola. Do you want to see the glorious Waved Albatross on Espanola or the marvelous sea bird breeding colony on Genovesa? Both are terrific, but only you can know which might be more interesting for your group.

      The ELF boats travel together, so they can organize the passengers according to interests. That means that they usually have one boat of families and staff that boat with naturalist guides who are great with educating and engaging the kids. That also gives the adults a bit of a break on constant vigilance.

      One downside to the ELF itinerary is that it stops 4 times on inhabited islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristobal). On our trips, I worked to minimize those landings because I much preferred the uninhabited islands. I also think it might be a bit of a disappointment to end the fantastic cruise with the last 2 days being in population centers.

      I don’t know much about the Corals, so I can’t comment on them per se.

      Really, though, either itinerary will offer you wonders galore. So don’t sweat the choice too much–or just flip a coin. You’ll have a great time either way!

      Tina

      Like

    • Rick says:

      Hi Tina: The information you provide to everyone is just fantastic. We are going to Galapagos in October 2016. (2 Adults) Can you kindly recommend a Luxury Cruise Ship with the same itinerary as Corals I & II ? We are interested in visiting Espanola, Isabela & Fernandina. Do you have any opinion on the Celebrity Cruise Ship? Thank you very much for guidance! Rick

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Rick–

        The southwestern itinerary you’re talking about has the fewest options. When I looked into this for the blog most recently (2014), these more up-scale boats had a similar itinerary: Evolution, Ocean Spray, Eclipse (just a couple of Isabela landings–nothing on Fernandina), Islander, Celebrity Xpedition (again, ,only a couple of Isabela landings and nothing on Fernandina). Be sure to double-check those itineraries in case something has changed in the past 2 years (although the itineraries are pretty much set in stone with the National Park).

        I personally don’t know anything about the Celebrity Xpedition except that it’s one of the largest ships working in the archipelago. (98 passengers doesn’t seem large by most of the world’s cruising standards. But by Galápagos standards, it’s huge.) I’m a big fan of the more intimate experience offered by the smaller (14- to 20-passenger) boats. But many people write good reviews of their experiences on the Xpedition.

        Tina

        Like

  13. \ / says:

    Hi Tina,
    Thanks again for your detailed response. You are so wonderful!
    While we haven’t been able to secure a tour with Juan, we could go on the Northwest Tour on the Samba with Darwin Alvarez.
    Best,
    Liz

    Like

  14. \ / says:

    So helpful! And what a great story about you and Linda from Holbrook! Thanks again and best to you! Liz

    Like

  15. \ / says:

    Thanks yet again for your thoughtful reply. It looks like the boat we would most likely take with Roads Scholar would be the Tip Top III. The other possibility (if we choose different dates) would be the Galaven. This all seems to be coordinated by Holbrook Travel. Do you know if there is any way to find out about the quality of the naturalists on the Tip Top III in particular? Also, are there any things you know about that we should consider when comparing the Roads Scholar option with the Samba? (We are waiting to hear back from Heather about whether Juan would be our guide on the Samba.) Thank you for being so generous with your help – we certainly have no other way of finding out this information, and we appreciate it immensely!
    Best,
    Liz

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Liz–

      In general, you really can’t know for sure about the quality of naturalist guides on most boats, because the guides free-lance and move around. But the best guides will obviously like to live in comfort. So you have a higher likelihood of a better guide on a higher-class boat.

      The Tip Top fleet is owned and operated by Wittmer Turismo. When we traveled on the TTII, Wittmer had several of the better crew members on our trip under long-term contracts–including our marvelous naturalist guide. That said to me that that organization really cared about getting the best of the best. As I recall, the TTIII has a northwest itinerary too (as the Samba does), which is a bonus.

      When we went with RS, we worked with Holbrook Travel and really enjoyed the agent in charge of our trip (Laura Hare). On the day before our departure, and after she had answered a gazillion questions for us, I emailed her one last time to say thanks–and she told us that Holbrook was sending her on the trip too! What a great surprise and we loved getting to meet her and travel with her. Holbrook also handled our RS trip to Costs Rica, so that partnership with RS is a long one.

      I don’t know much about the Galaven, but I can personally vouch for the TT fleet–especially if you’re considering their northwest itinerary. You’ll have a bit more room and luxury on the TTIII than on the Samba. But either one will offer you a grand experience.

      Tina

      Like

  16. \ / says:

    Hi Tina,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful response. I am following all of your great advice. One additional questions, if you don’t mind: do you happen to know anything about the Roads Scholar trips and the guides on those?
    Most appreciative of your time!
    Best,
    Liz

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Our first trip was with Road Scholar, on the Tip Top II. It was a wonderful trip–and well coordinated by RS. I’ve only read one not-great review of a Galapagos trip they coordinated and that sounded as if they had opted for a less-than-desirable boat. RS just works with another agency for the Galapagos portions of the trip. So if you know what boat they would be using and what the itinerary is, I might be able to be more specific.

      We enjoyed their organization of that trip so much that we went on another RS trip a coupe of years later to Costa Rica. It was also a marvelously organized trip. So in general, I’m a big fan of RS.

      Tina

      Like

  17. banotpress says:

    My husband and I [mid-60’s] are going on Metropolitan’s new Santa Cruz II in March, a combined western-southern 10-day itinerary. We wanted a biggish ship to have double bed [not bunks] and to avoid seasickness. I’m a big snorkeler so we wanted to visit the best snorkeling sites. Since it takes so long to fly there and back, and because we won’t like do this again, we chose the longest itinerary we could find that met our needs. Because we booked with Metropolitan directly, 6 months in advance, our fare included flights between Guayaquil and Galapagos, a significant savings. Oh yes, they take US credit cards.

    Like

  18. \ / says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful reply! This is an absolutely fabulous service to people!

    Like

  19. Liz says:

    Hi Tina,
    Like everyone else here, I am overwhelmed by the number of options available for Galapagos tours, and I am most appreciative of your help here.
    We are a group of 6 including my parents (who are in their 70s, in good shape), my 14 year old twins, and my husband. We’re hoping to go this July.
    Here are our priorities:
    1. top notch guides in terms of their knowledge and many opportunities for learning – my parents are retired biologists and my kids love science, so we all welcome lectures and so forth
    2. accommodations that are comfortable and safe, but we are not looking for anything fancy or gourmet
    3. lots of opportunities for snorkeling
    Do you have any suggestions for us?
    Thanks so much,
    Liz

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Liz–

      Okay–I’ve gotten 3 comments on this page, 1 e-mail, and 1 message via TripAdvisor with what I think are the same set of questions. So I’ll let this one response answer all of them. :)

      In general, I think you would be well served by working with an agency that specializes in Galápagos Travel. They’ll be accustomed to dealing with questions just like the good ones that you have–and they’ll know the latest info about what boats will likely best meet your needs. Three that get consistently good reviews are Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, and CNH Tours. (We worked with Heather of CNH Tours for our 2nd trip and we were very pleased with her services.) All have a presence on the Internet and offer a variety of ways to contact them (Skype, e-mail, live chat, etc.). I suggest you formulate an introductory e-mail to them all, see who responds quickly and in a manner you like, and take it from there. You can also check out their Web sites to get a sense of what they offer.

      I do have a few specific thoughts of things you might consider (although my knowledge is far more limited than that of the agencies mentioned above). July is the beginning of one of the 2 high seasons, since it coincides with school holidays in North America. So you don’t want to wait too long to nail this down, or the best boats will be filled. Given what you’re looking for, I think you would be extremely pleased with the Samba’s 8-day northwest itinerary, which goes to Isabela, Fernandina, and Genovesa. Not many boats get you to 3 of the 4 most distant islands on an 8-day itinerary, so that alone makes this itinerary special. But the Samba–a relatively small 14-passenger tourist-superior-class boat–gets absolutely rave reviews for nearly every aspect. She is especially renown for her superb principle guide, Juan Manuel Salcedo (a member of the family that owns the boat). If you can get on a trip that he’s guiding, I think you’ll have hit the jackpot. The Samba’s northwest itinerary also has several snorkeling opportunities around Marchena, a very northern island. As far as I know, no other boat stops there–and some of the reports from snorkeling there have been great. From all I’ve heard, you get a huge bang for your buck on this itinerary on the Samba. Even if Juan isn’t guiding, the alternate guides have gotten good reviews too. I think they take a lot of pride in their well-deserved reputation. We would have reserved this itinerary on the Samba for our return trip except that the cabins were rather small and my husband is quite tall. All of the cabins had the rather small beds hemmed in on both ends by walls, so he couldn’t even have hung his feet over the end to compensate for a short bed.

      Having written that, though, know that the Samba is a VERY popular boat and is often booked far in advance. So you may already be too late for booking her for summer. But if you work with one of the above agencies, they should be able to offer you other good options too.

      Good luck!

      Tina

      Like

    • Martha Hasler says:

      Hi Liz,
      My name is Martha from Massachusetts. I will be travelling with my family to Galapagos in July as well. I have a 14 and 12 year old and was wondering what trip you decided on. It would be great if my kids had other kids on the trip.
      Good Luck!

      Like

  20. Pingback: Galapagos DIY Land Tour | yeung&free

  21. bicecilie says:

    Hi Tina,

    Great blog you got here. I have done some research, but I’m still quite confused. I got an offer for Nemo I for $2360 where I share a cabin with another female traveller. It includes air fare, is that a good deal or not?

    The itinerary is following:

    Day: Visitor Site
    1 Monday AM – Flight to Baltra Airport & Transfer to Nemo I
    PM – North Seymour
    2 Tuesday AM – Darwin Bay (Genovesa)
    PM – Prince Philips Steps (Genovesa)
    3 Wednesday AM – Bartolome
    PM – Chinese Hat
    4 Thursday AM – Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela)
    PM – Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza
    5 Friday AM – Moreno Point (Isabela)
    PM – Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)
    6 Saturday AM – Punta Espinoza (Fernandina)
    PM – Urbina Bay (Isabela)
    7 Sunday AM – Puerto Egas (Santiago)
    PM – Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove (Santiago)
    8 Monday AM – Daphne
    – Transfer to Baltra Airport

    I’ll be cruising in beginning/mid February. Is this itinerary good? I’m fan of snorkelling!
    I would actually like to do a dive or two as well, but then I’d have to do one before the cruise. Any suggestions?

    I read one of your posts telling that NW itinerary doesn’t include sea lions? Which island do I have to visit so see/swim with them? I would also like to see the bird with blue feet:-)

    Thanks.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Bicecilie–

      I don’t know the Nemo I personally, so I can’t comment on that aspect. But it’s generally considered a tourist-superior boat, and the price you’ve been quoted is about $300/day, which is a good price for an 8-day cruise. The itinerary is one of my favorites–a northwestern one, including Genovesa, Isabela, and Fernandina. The snorkeling around the western shore of Isabela and Fernandina is generally terrific–of our 2 trips, I’d say it had the greatest diversity compared to any other islands. Most folks who know more about it than I do think the western islands are 1 of the 2 best snorkeling spots in the archipelago.

      It’s not that the northwestern itinerary has no Galápagos Sea Lions–just far fewer than around the eastern and more central islands, where you’ll find more of their favorite sun-drenched sandy beaches than you will around the western islands. But you should see them around N. Seymour and probably during the day you spend in Puerto Villamil (Day 4). We also saw and swam with a few at Punta Espinoza. So you are likely to have a few opportunities for hanging with these adorable pinnipeds.

      I’m not a diver, so I’m not very familiar with scuba choices. But Santa Cruz has several dive shops that are well recommended–Scuba Iguana comes to mind. I think San Cristóbal has some good shops too, but I don’t know specific names there. You might check TripAdvisor and search for “scuba” to see what comes up.

      Tina

      Like

      • bicecilie says:

        Thank you so much for your reply. Really appreciate it!
        Difficult to know if agencies are making a fool of you, but I’m glad to hear that the price is good.
        I can’t wait to be there and a perfect way to spend the last 1,5 weeks before going back home. When choosing the NW itinerary is there one of the other islands that you recommend for me to visit before or after the cruise? Or maybe a certain spot to go snorkelling. I might stay a few days before the cruise now that I’m there.

        Bine

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi again, Bine–

        The NW itinerary already goes to my 2 most-recommended day trip islands–Bartolomé and N. Seymour. The 3 remaining options are S. Plaza, Santa Fé, and Floreana. The Floreana trip features the inhabited portion in the highalns of that island and snorkeling at somewhere other than the renown Devil’s Crown. So unless you’re interested in human history, that’d probably be my last choice. (It doesn’t go to the same spots that a naturalist cruise does.) S. Plaza is a pretty island but rather flat and (on our visit) not as interesting wildlife-wise. So I guess I’d choose Santa Fé, if it’s available when you’ll be there.

        It doesn’t look as though you’ll have the opportunity to see the Giant Tortoises living free in the highlands of Santa Cruz. That’s a much better experience than just seeing them in the breeding centers (which is more like seeing them in a zoo). If that’s true, I’d definitely arrange a day trip to the highlands. It’s probably only a half-day’s trip, so you might consider a walk to Tortuga Bay. It’s quite a walk from Puerto Ayora, but it’s a nice beach. If you go there, be sure to bring lots of water and sunblock. There are no facilities out there.

        You also might consider staying instead on San Cristóbal, especially if you could arrange a snorkeling day trip to Kicker Rock. (Most reports are that it is good snorkeling, although the seas have to be just right. I haven’t been there.) that’s a popular trip, so it might be hard to arrange in advance and from afar. I’m not very familiar with San Cristóbal, but I know there are other places to visit there. However, you can’t go to other, uninhabited islands from there on day trips–those only leave from Santa Cruz. It’s about a 2-hour ride on the ferry (a small speedboat) from Santa Cruz. From what I’ve heard, snorkeling around Puerto Ayora isn’t all that great. But it’s not a topic I know very much about.

        Tina

        Tina

        Like

  22. robindrew2000 says:

    Hi Tina,

    Thanks for all the information, we have been digesting it and reworking our plans accordingly. I hope you don’t mind if I ask a few more questions:

    1) If we go in April is the North/West route the best or would you more highly recommend the eastern at this time?

    2) What are the best islands (points) to see the:
    – Giant Tortoise hatching
    – Green Turtle mating or hatching
    – Marine and land iguanas
    From the limited information we have found It appears the west is better, particularly Fernandina and Isabella, would you agree, where else might be similar or better?

    3) Water visibility – the Dec to Mar Feb months appear to be best for water visibility, would you know how it has changed by mid April? Is it significant, and what impact might it have on snorkeling etc..

    Many thanks!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Robin–

      I personally would always opt for either a northwestern itinerary (Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela) or a southeastern one (Española, Fernandina, Isabela)–the latter, though, only from April – mid-Dec., when the albatross will be on Española. The 4 most distant islands are also the most isolated and fascinating, in my opinion–so why not get to 3 rather than just 2?

      Seeing the tortoises and turtles hatching in the wild is pretty unlikely. The tortoises move down to the sandy beaches for nesting, in areas that aren’t open to visitors. The sea turtle eggs generally hatch at night, to give those new little critters a chance to scramble to the water without all being devoured by just about every avian predator there would be in daylight. Since the law requires that everyone be off the islands by sunset, you can’t hang around to see them hatching. I think I read one person’s report of seeing baby turtles in the daylight, but that’s all.

      On our trips, the marine iguanas off Fernandina and Isabela were absolutely the best. The largest subspecies lives on those western islands and snorkeling with one of those guys was rather like a Grade-B Japanese horror movie. I loved it! I can’t recall seeing large numbers of land iguanas at any of our landings, although Santa Fé has a unique species occurring only on that island, if that interests you. I think the Urbina Bay landing (Isabela), N. Seymour, and S. Plaza are the other islands where you’re most likely to see them in the wild.

      We found greater diversity of wildlife around the western islands, although not necessarily in vast numbers. I think the snorkeling around the western islands was much more interesting.

      Even into May and June, the waters will be clearer–although they’ll never be as clear as, say, the Caribbean, so be sure to crank down that part of your expectations. When the Humboldt Current starts to shift in mid-Aug. and Sept., that’s when the waters start to get turbid. One issue around the western islands, though, is that the winds can really kick up out there any time of year, which is another way that the viewing of marine wildlife can be hampered.

      Tina

      Like

      • Jim S says:

        HI Tina. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of this experience with all of us. Considering a mid to late May trip. I’m a mobile but large fellow (6’1 and 300lbs) and haven’t seen any comments regarding guidance that would help me decide on land vs. water based trips. Past experience on ships is that berths aren’t usually very big. Not so much concerned about lounging room as sleeping accommodations.

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Howdy, Jim–

        My husband is pretty big too–6’3″ and ~220 lbs. He looked very carefully at a number of deck plans to see which beds were arranged so that he could at least hang his feet off the end of the bed if necessary. That really helped us to narrow down some of our choices for a naturalist cruise. We then worked with our booking agent, who had access to information about bed lengths on a number of the boats we were considering, which REALLY helped. So you might consider that option. I like the info at http://www.galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise.html , which has the deck plans of a good many of the most popular boats in all classes. (I’ve never used this agency; I just like how they present the information.) You might also contact an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel, since they will have the best and most up-to-date info available on this topic. Three that get consistently good reviews are Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, and CNH Tours. (We worked with Heather of CNH Tours for our 2nd trip; she was the one who had the detailed info about the length and widths of the beds.)

        As you can probably tell from the blog, I am a HUGE fan of a naturalist cruise over a land-based trip. On a land-based trip, you spend a lot of daylight hours on a small speedboat (2+ hours one way) that can be very uncomfortable if the waters are rough. You can also only get to one uninhabited island a day on a land-based trip, since the travel there and back takes so long. On a naturalist cruise, you will get 2 or 3 landings/snorkeling opportunities each day; and the boat travels at night or during lunch, so you don’t waste any precious daylight getting to the next adventure. A good number of people enjoy a land-based trip; but many of those folks end up wishing they had taken a cruise. Very few people who take a cruise wish they had done a land-based trip instead.

        Tina

        Like

      • Jim says:

        Your awesome. Thanks!

        Like

      • Ken says:

        Jim, I weigh 234 lbs and have been concerned about the landings from the boats. Tina said that they do the Galapagos handshake, however the landings from the pictures I have seen are rocky. This has given me pause. I think at 300 lbs it should give you some pause too. There is also a great deal of walking. I think this rather than fitting into a bunk should be your main consideration. If you go I would love to hear how you handled the landings and who you went thru..

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Great point, Ken. Not all of the landings are rocky, but a few are. A good number of the landings, called “wet landings,” have you hop/slide out of the pangas into the water and wade to the beach. The water is usually only thigh- or knee-deep and the ocean floor there is pretty much sandy or small pebbles.

        On our 2 trips, the pangas always had one driver, one other crew member, and the naturalist guide–and sometimes another, if the landing had specific challenges. So there were always at least 2 strong crew members there helping everyone get out of and into the pangas safely. (We had folks of all shapes, sizes, and physical abilities.) And we passengers quickly got to know each other’s boarding challenges and were ready to lend a hand as well. So getting into and out of the pangas needn’t be too scary–the crew are very experienced in not letting folks fall “into the drink.”

        Tina

        Like

      • Jim says:

        Thanks again Ken and Tina for the info. As I mentioned in my post, I’m very mobile so not as much a concern. That being said, mobility won’t help me get in a standard boat issued wet suit …..Sorry about the visual! Jim

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hey, Jim–

        Yeah, on-board snorkeling equipment can be a challenge for many of us. Maybe I would have looked okay in one when I was 20, but not since then. But who cares how you look? (As Dr. Phil says, you wouldn’t care so much about what people thought of you if you knew how little they did. And functionally, an ill-fitting wet suit is probably worse than no wet suit. If you have your own snorkeling equipment–especially a wet suit that works and a mask/snorkel you know fits you–I recommend you bring them along. Fins aren’t such a big deal. But a bad wet suit or a mask that doesn’t seal tight can just ruin your snorkeling. A shortie wet suit is all that most people require.

        Tina

        Like

  23. Steve says:

    Tina, thank you so much for this blog.

    I am slowly working through all the posts, in preparation for an Ecuador trip starting the end of January. As part of the trip we’re hoping for a 5 or 6 day Galapagos venture, hopefully to Ferdinand and Isabella. I know the easiest approach is to go through a tour company but with this blog I’m hoping to book most on my own.

    Should I start by just looking at boats, and then try to match itineraries?
    Will we need to book our own flights from Quito to Baltra and back, assuming our itinerary starts there? Is it difficult to get on our own from Baltra to where the cruise starts on Santa Cruz?

    So many questions…

    Steve

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Steve–

      Yep–so many questions indeed. Finding a short (5- or 6-day) cruise to these westernmost islands could be a challenge. They are quite a ways away–it can take 12+ hours of motoring from Santa Cruz or Floreana. So many boats put those 2 islands on an uninterrupted 8-day itinerary rather than one of the shorter legs. If I were you, I’d start with itineraries, since that will immediately cut your options down pretty dramatically. I like to use this Web site to examine the itineraries of the more popular boats: http://www.galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise.html . I’ve never used the company itself, so I can’t vouch for it personally. But I like how the information is displayed.

      Many times, the boats want to arrange the airplane flights to and from the archipelago. That way, they make sure that everyone they’re picking up is on the same flight. It’s a good idea if you have them do that; since if there’s a delay on the plane, they won’t leave without you. If you arrange your own airfare before the cruise, you’ll need to get yourself back to Baltra (if that’s where the cruise starts) from Santa Cruz. (I think more cruises leave from Baltra than from the docks in Puerto Ayora/Santa Cruz.) That can take 1.5-2 hours–you take a taxi from Puerto Ayora, a water taxi across the canal, and a bus from the canal to the airport. It’s not particularly difficult except that you’re lugging your luggage on all of these legs of transportation. If the boat arranges your flight, they’ll handle everything for you.

      Tina

      Like

      • Ken Kohler says:

        Tina, I know that you recommend the Eastern Islands because they are less visited, however I was wondering if the time of year should be considered in doing a Eastern or Western itinerary. Thank you for a great blog. –Ken Kohler

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Ken–

        I wouldn’t say that I recommend the eastern islands over the western islands. If anything, the eastern islands on a typical eastern itinerary are likely to be a bit MORE visited, since those itineraries often include more central islands that can be reached by day trips from Santa Cruz (S. Plaza, Santa Fé. N. Seymour, Bartolomé). Either an eastern or a western itinerary is great, depending on what you want to see. If you long to snorkel with lots of Galápagos Sea Lions, for instance, the eastern itinerary is what you want. They love to loll on sunny, sandy beaches and the western islands just don’t have many of those. But if you want be assured of seeing, say, Galápagos Penguins or Flightless Cormorants, the western itinerary is for you.

        For me, my favorite 8-day itineraries are the few “northwestern” ones, which go to Genovesa, Isabela, and Fernandina. My next favorite (although there are far fewer of them) are the “southeastern” ones, which to go Española, Isabela, and Fernandina. You can find a partial list of the boats with either of those itineraries on p. 4 of this page; scroll down a bit to the paragraph starting “You can now see…” Nothing wrong with a typical eastern (Española & Genovesa) or western itinerary (Isabela & Fernandina); but these special ones get you to 3 of the 4 most distant islands in 8 days. Pretty nifty!

        Time of year really only matters, wildife-wise, for one species–the Waved Albatross of Española. They leave that island starting in mid-Dec. and typically don’t start returning until late March. So if they’re on your “must see” list, avoid those months. For all other species, any month of the year will provide wonders to behold. Oh–if you’re keen on hearing songbirds singing, go in the spring (Feb. – May). But very few folks go the archipelago for songbirds.

        Glad you’re finding the blog useful!

        Tina

        Like

    • tawnya says:

      Hi Steve and Tina
      I have a flight to baltra on jan17th from Canada, and was hoping to find a cheap cruise to hop on but in doing some research, this sounds like perhaps a bad idea as I would be looking in Puerto Ayora…are there travel offices there? Also, wondering if you are single occupant, does that mean you pay almost double the cost (75%)?
      cheers!

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Tawnya–

        Puerto Ayora has lots of agencies that can help you with a last-minute cruise; they line the main street of town. PA and Quito are the 2 best places to look for those. The only problem is that you’ll eliminate any cruises that start in San Cristóbal. So your choices will be limited that way; but the majority of cruises start in PA or from Baltra. Also, depending on how much time you can spend, you may be severely limited in your options if you only have a day or 2 to find something. Boats depart every day, but only a few will have last-minute options. Be sure that you’ve done your homework about what islands you’d most like to see and what boats you’d definitely want to avoid. (A lot of boats are perfectly fine, but check reviews to see what boats to steer clear of.) That way, you can know weigh your options more quickly.

        As a single traveler, you have your best chance to avoid (or severely bargain down) a single supplement. If the boat is sailing with an empty cabin or 2, the owner would rather have 1 person in a cabin than none. Just so you know, some boats charge as much as a 100% mark-up for a single traveler taking up a double cabin. That seems an absolute disgrace to me, since the single traveler isn’t using double all of the resources (e.g., he or she isn’t eating twice as much). But the reality is that if a single traveler takes a double cabin, the boat is indeed losing the income that would have been paid by the 2nd occupant of that cabin. So a supplement in general is not unreasonable. A small number of boats offer single cabins to single travelers without a single supplement. But those cabins are reserved months, if not years, in advance. Some other boats offer to waive a supplement if you are willing to be matched with a same-sex traveler, which also seems fair to me.

        Tina

        Like

  24. Robin Drew says:

    Hi Tina!

    This website is amazing, we’re so glad we came across it just before we were about to book! We are hoping to go to the Galapagos for our honeymoon and had planned to book a 8 day cruise in mid-late March. We had planned to book a room on the Reina Silvia and thought we had found the perfect combination of a great route, great naturalist, intimate boat, and they even upgraded us to the top suite which was very kind.

    Unfortunately just as we went to book, we discovered that they had sent over the wrong itinerary, and in fact it was not the Western Route (B) – Santa Cruz, Floreana, 3 days up the western coast of Isabela, Santiago, then back to Santa Cruz. But instead the Eastern Route (A) – Santa Cruz, Esponola, San Cristobal, Santa Fe & South Plaza, Genovesa, Santiago, then Rabida.

    One of the agents we were talking to gave a number of highlights for the western route indicating that it was the better for that time of year, and so we had our hearts set on that route. What are your thoughts on the two routes?

    Wildlife wise we obviously want to get a good mixture, but not in to birds particularly which we see mentioned a lot. We would love to see the green turtles, penguins and sea lions and some great snorkeling opportunities too.

    An alternative we have available is on the Petrel on their western itinerary (which you have mentioned above), but this boat is only on a 6 day cruise. Also the Petrel as you mention is pretty new, so we are unsure how to proceed. What are your thoughts of this as an alternative?

    Do you know of any other boats in the luxury class, similar to those we mention (perhaps up to $4000) that you would personally recommend, particularly at that time of year (late March)?

    Thank you so much for taking time to read through this, we would really appreciate any thoughts on our dilemma. Whether you think our Reina Silvia option actually sounds great, or that we should really be looking for an alternative. Apologies for the verbose reply!

    What a great blog, thank you so much:)

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Robin–

      A honeymoon in the Galápagos–sounds like a marvelous way to celebrate a new marriage! In mid- to late March, the typical eastern itinerary (which is what the Reina Silvia’s listed here is) wouldn’t be quite as spectacular because the stunning Waved Albatross of Española would likely not yet have returned from their 3-month-long soar off the coast of Perú. (I know you said you’re not much into birds, but these are marvelous, stately, gorgeous creatures. Even people who think they’re not into birds find them amazing and fascinating. And, with one exception, they come to land to breed only on Española–nowhere else in the world! Also, keep in mind that penguins are birds too. So you’re not really not into ALL birds. :))

      Most agencies classify the Reina Silvia as a first-class boat, rather than a luxury boat. And, at $4K/person for an 8-day cruise, you’re probably looking at the upper end of the first-class category. But those boats can be plenty luxurious, in my opinion. (Both of our trips were on first-class boats and we loved them both.) And really, after a certain level, the luxury is a bit wasted (again, in my opinion) because the real stars are the wildlife–and they don’t care what class boat you arrived on.

      If it were my cruise, I’d look for a “northwestern” itinerary, which will get you to 3 of the 4 most distant–and extraordinary–islands (Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina) rather than just to the typical 2 of the 4. On the blog, I list these boats as possibilities (although be sure to check out the itineraries, in case something has changed since I made the list): Guantanamera, Daphne, Floreana, Yolita II, Nemo II, Samba, the Tip Top fleet (Tip Tops II – IV), Eric/Letty/Flamingo I, Beagle, Grace, Cormorant, Athala, Isabela II, Eclipse. (Note that these start with tourist class boats and progress to the more expensive boats.)

      I haven’t read anything about the Petrel yet, so I can’t really comment on it or its itineraries.

      If you’re talking about March, 2016, it’s getting a bit late and some of the top boats may be already full. (People make reservations a year or 2 in advance, sometimes. Especially on the higher-end, more expensive boats with the most desirable itineraries.) So don’t take too long to make a choice! And thanks for letting me know that you’re finding the blog helpful. I always appreciate hearing that!

      Tina

      Like

      • Robin Drew says:

        Thanks for the quick reply!

        Quite a bit to think about there – and its certainly true that there are not many options available, especially towards the upper end. One option we do have is the Cormorant at the end of April. The route actually covers most of the highlight islands (B) – Fernandina, Isabela, Genovesa, as you mention but the only real concern there is the dates. We had read about Jan-Mar being particularly popular time of year, as the water is warmest.

        Which times of year do you feel are best? Would April/May be a good time to go, is there much difference to the earlier months? I have heard that El Niño will have made the waters even warmer, so they are likely to still be warm at this time. Also that the early months can be particularly hot walking around the islands and of course more people around …

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Howdy, Robin–

        The highest seasons in the archipelago are the Dec. holidays and July/August, which coincide with North America’s school vacations. You can see some visitor statistics by month here: https://www.sangay.com/2011_GPS_STATS.html . The warmest months are Jan. – April and, depending on your tolerance for heat, they can be pretty hot and humid. (Especially true on the western island landings, because you’re on barren lava without any shade much of the time.) We traveled in both May and Sept. and I found the May temps (when we did the western itinerary) to be hotter than I liked (but keep in mind, we’re from the very temperate and not-humid state of Colorado). I much preferred the temps. of Sept.–but with those cooler air temps generally come cooler waters and rougher seas. So no month is ideal nor is any month dreadful.

        The National Park very strictly regulates the boats’ itineraries so that, even in the busiest seasons, not too many folks descend on a single landing at one time. And if several boats were at the same anchorage overnight, we found that our naturalist guides would coordinate with the other boats’ guides to start at different spots or move in different directions or head out at different times, etc. That’s a nice advantage to being on a smaller boat–they can’t change the scheduled landings per se, but they can work with others in the area to make the experiences terrific for all.

        Currently, El Niño has raised the water temps significantly–by some reports, as much as 2 or 3 degrees C. (Even though it’s the cool-water season there now, reports show that folks are easily snorkeling without wet suits–not commonly the case this time of year.) Here in the U.S., that weather phenomenon is expected to peak Jan. – March, although I’m not sure what that might mean for the Galápagos and water temps there. Hard to tell this far in advance.

        Tina

        Liked by 1 person

  25. shel says:

    Hi Tina, your blog is amazing, I used it to help plan my galapagos trip for xmas 2015. After booking in the summer and paying the full amount already, I just found out today (7 weeks prior to departing) that Intrepid did not have the week for the boat I booked and has now placed me on an alternative trip on a different boat (same time – 10 days) but with an extremely inferior itinerary (going to none of the four islands that you’ve identified). Of course I am outraged. After countless hours of research, matching islands with wildlife musts, the time period and price – i can not believe that this just happened. And its my first time ever booking a tour with any company. I am in the middle of seeing what can be done, but would appreciate if you have any advice – what to do. (Have you ever heard of this happening? I find it hard to believe a company as reputable as Intrepid, would send me a letter this late to inform me that they made an error like this.)

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Shel–

      What a disaster! I’m afraid I don’t have any words of wisdom for you. I have heard of boats’ needing to cancel, but the general rule is that you are booked instead of a boat of equivalent (if not better) quality and with an itinerary as similar as possible. If you booked directly with the boat owner, you may not have many options. If you booked with an agency that deals with a number of boats, I’d just keep raising hell with them, since they should have access to a wide variety of boats to negotiate with. Of course, its being the highest of high seasons in the archipelago makes it all the more challenging to find a satisfactory alternative so close to the sailing date.

      I wish you luck with it. And whenever you resolve this–and HOWever you resolve it, I’d appreciate it if you could write a comment back here again. That way, others may be able to learn from your experience.

      Tina

      Like

      • shel says:

        Thanks for the quick reply. I worked with a travel agent and the Intrepid Travel. And yes I will follow up on your blog with the end result.
        For reference, the original trip was on the Nemo III Catamaran (San Cristobal, Espanola, Floreana, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Plaza Sur, Bartolome, and North Seymour). The alternative offer is on the Queen Beatriz (San Cristobal – highlands only, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, Santiago, Rabida, and North Seymour – basically its mostly around Santa Cruz and Santiago islands only.)

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hey, Shel–

        Just to put a less gloomy spin on this (if it is inevitably going to happen)… The original Nemo III itinerary was only going to 1 of the more distant islands (Española); even Floreana can be visited on a day trip. And in late Dec., the bulk of the stars of Española–the Waved Albatross–typically have headed off for 3 months of non-stop soaring off the coast of Perú. So they’re not likely to be there, at least in any large numbers (although I’ve read of a person or 2 who spotted 1 or 2 even into early Jan.

        The QB itinerary still has some good spots. You have a chance of seeing/swimming with a small group of Galápagos Penguins at Bartolomé. If you get to the grottoes on Santiago, you’ll have some really great up-close-and-personal views with the adorable and hard-to-see-well-anywhere-else Galápagos Fur Seals (which are really sea lions, not seals. And the sea bird breeding colonies on N. Seymour are 2nd only to the ones on Genovesa. You’ll get to see frigatebirds and boobies nesting pretty close to the paths. The red beaches of Rábida are lovely and often host large numbers of Galápagos Sea Lions.

        So although the QB itinerary is a bit less desirable (especially if the Nemo III were going to snorkel at Devil’s Crown off Floreana, although not all boats that go to Floreana snorkel there), it still has some interesting landings. So if you have to make lemonade out of lemons…

        Tina

        Like

      • shel says:

        Thanks for the uplift! p.s. Some background – when i originally booked the Nemo III – I had to accept that I was only going to 1 of 4 priority (what was available for the dates, the comfort level, etc.)- so already at that time I was compromising but accepted it because the trip was going to all the southern islands – which would leave a nice grouping of islands for a 2nd future trip.

        Like

      • shel says:

        Hi Tina,
        I proceeded to go on the itinerary and boat that was offered as a replacement. Now having returned, I had an amazing time and experience – seeing all the wildlife (except ones endemic to the specific outlying islands). I won’t know what I missed (really) despite doing all that research, unless I go again. So my advice to all is just go and worry less about getting exactly what you think you want in an itinerary – because nothing will be perfect. :)

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Shel–

        Thanks for closing the loop and I’m delighted that you had a great time. And I totally agree–especially if it’s your first trip to this marvelous archipelago, DON’T SWEAT THE DETAILS! Go with a good boat and a good 8-day itinerary and just RELAX! (If you’re considering a shorter naturalist cruise, it’s a different story. There are some important differences there.)

        Tina

        Like

  26. emily says:

    Hi there! Thanks SO much for all this information. I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions for a kind of last minute trip I’m planning. I’d like to go around Christmas, sometime between 12/19/15 and 1/3. Besides this site http://www.galapagoscruiselinks.com/, are there any other ways to look up cruises that will still have availability? I know I am going during high season, and I’m anticipating some problems booking a good cruise with a northwestern itinerary on a first class or luxury ship.

    Like

  27. Suzanne says:

    Hi! Wow this blog saved me! Was scrolling through tons of trip advisor pages and found this, so helpful! I was wondering if you could give me some tips because I’m traveling alone (28 yr old female). I was looking at the Golondrina but they charge a 80% fee for single cabin use. I don’t mind paring with an other female traveler but can you advice boats that offer this? I can’t find it anywhere. I’m looking for a smaller boat and don’t mind if its basic, so the mary anne is not really for me. Would be so grateful if you could give me some advice, I thought I figured it all out but then I saw the extra charge! Best, Suzanne

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Suzanne–

      I’m not sure which boats offer pairing with a same-sex traveler. Your best bet would probably be to contact an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel and ask them. Three that get consistently good recommendations are Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, and CNH Tours. (We worked with Heather of CNH Tours and were very happy with her help.) All have a variety of ways to contact them and are probably your best bet for finding out this information.

      Tina

      Like

  28. Meredith W says:

    Hi there,
    My husband and I are planning a trip for mid Jan- early Feb 2016. We would like to do an 8 day cruise on a small ship. Our budget is a max of about $4000 pp. As far as the itinerary goes the only thing I “must see” are the penguins as I’m sure everything else is awesome. I’m getting really overwhelmed with all the choices and thought you might be able to narrow some down for me. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Meredith–

      With $4000/person, you have some good choices (assuming that figure means just for the cruise itself). I like this Web site as an overview of boats, itineraries, and an idea of rates: http://www.galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise.html. This rate will allow you to consider the higher end tourist-superior boats (referred to as “mid-range” on this Web site) or the lower end of the first-class boats (although they head above $4K pretty quickly). I think the 2 best tourist-superior boats are the Angelito and the Samba. In fact, the Samba’s northwest itinerary is the best I’ve seen of any of the boats, no matter what the class: It goes to 3 of the 4 most distant islands (Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela) as well as Marchena, which no other boat goes to. Juan, the primary naturalist guide, gets consistently rave reviews. It’s a very popular boat, though, and may already be booked for the months you’re considering.

      The Angelito has been recently refurbished and they did a good job, by all reports. Maja, one of the owners, often serves as the naturalist guide on the boat and gets really good reviews too. You get a lot of bang for your buck on either of these 2 boats.

      Just a breath over your max is the Tip Top III, owned and operated by Wittmer Turismo. Its northwest itinerary (on this Web site, listed as I) is very similar to the Samba’s, going to the same 3 of the 4 most distant islands. Most 8-day cruises only go to 2 of these on one of the 8-day itineraries and 2 on the alternate 8-day itinerary. So I’m especially fond of those few itineraries that get to 3 of the 4–a real treat!

      But look around at the Web site and see what you think. I’ve never used this agency, so I can’t recommend them personally. But there are a number of agencies specializing in Galápagos travel that you could contact for more information. Or you can contact boats directly, if you prefer.

      Tina

      Like

      • Meredith W says:

        Thanks so much for the quick and thorough response Tina! I love the looks of the Ecoventura ships and wanted to see if you could weigh in on your thoughts of Itinerary B with them. Also any specific feedback you have on their cruises would be welcome.

        http://www.ecoventura.com/galapagos-yachts/itineraries/

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Meredith–

        Ecoventura is a very well-thought-of company and ELF get consistently good reviews. Itinerary B is one of those nice northwest itineraries, which I really like. Another advantage to ELF is that they travel with 20 passengers, if they sail full. Since the National Park requires a 1:16 naturalist guide-to-passenger ratio, that means that ratio will be 1:10 on a full ship. Nice! Also, although the 3 boats sail together, they frequently separate the boats into categories of travelers–families with children, adults, younger adults etc. So families traveling with children are with guides who are especially good at keeping the kids nicely engaged–and keeping them from getting underfoot of the adults who are not related to them. I highly recommend ELF!

        Tina

        Like

  29. Barbara Cargill says:

    I’m a mom contacting you for guidance – I know you are used to that! We have 3 sons, ages 22, 24, and 24 who are very active and amazing young men. Our youngest is graduating from college in December and we want to take the family on a trip like we did for his brothers when they graduated. However we are on a budget and want to determine how to plan a trip to the Galapagos.
    We would have about a week due to the boys’ work schedules, so maybe 4-5 nights on a boat. We have considered doing a land-based trip but I’ve read reviews that say that does not maximize your time. We are not “fancy” people and don’t need a luxury boat but do want it to be clean with decent, edible food and a nice crew. You seem to be a “go to” person and you receive glowing reviews online. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
    We are looking at early March, with a cruise starting on March 4th or 5th until March 9th or 10th. We would need to go tourist or tourist superior. What islands do you recommend (with the most wildlife) that we try to see at this time of year? Also do any particular boats come to mind that I should start with? The list of 80+ is a bit intimidating.
    Thank you,
    Barbara

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Barbara–

      I don’t know too much sbout the shorter cruises–some boats cut at least one of their 8-day itineraries into 4- and 5-day cruises and some don’t. The 2 tourist superior boats that I recommend hands down are the Angelito and the Samba. Both get consistently good reviews and are a good value for your money. The Angelito was recently refurbished and it sounds like they did a great job. But I don’t know if they have shorter cruises. And the Samba is a very popular boat, so it may already be booked when you want to travel.

      It’s hard to advice you on itineraries, since the shorter itineraries can vary a lot. Look for at least 1 of the 4 distant islands–Espanola, Genovesa, Fernandina, or the western shore landings on Isabela (not simply the town of Puerto Villamil). But in March, you could probably avoid Espanola, since the stars of that island–the marvelous Waved Albatross won’t yet be back from their 3-month stint off the coast of Peru.

      You might also check out the Galapagos forum page on TripAdvisor to read some boat reviews. I also like this Web page to get a sense of itineraries and rates by boat class: http://www.galapagosislands.com/mobile/cruises/galapagos-mid-range . This URL should take you to the page with tourist superior boats (which they call “mid-range” boats). Good luck with your search and let me know if you have other questions!

      Tina

      Like

  30. Kelly says:

    Thank you for posting all of this amazing info and staying on top of it. I’m hoping you can give me some advice too! Based on everything I’ve read on your site, I seem to be more excited about the western islands tours. Also, I’m taking my mother who is 73 and I want it to be really special and nice for her. So I’m thinking about these two cruises. What are your thoughts on signing up for a new boat that hasn’t hit the water yet?

    http://www.adventure-life.com/galapagos/cruises/8740/isabela-fernandina-central-islands

    http://www.adventure-life.com/galapagos/cruises/2625/islands-circumnavigation-west

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Kelly–

      I personally wouldn’t want to be on a brand-new boat that hasn’t had a few months of shake-down cruises. It could go well, but I’ve also read some disappointing stories of lots of money paid and a less than satisfactory experience on board. The landings will always be good, if the boat attracts good naturalist guides. But if you’re paying for a luxury cruise, you probably want the luxury part to be pretty darn good.

      While the Petrel is an unknown entity at this point, the Ocean Spray is a well-known and well-reviewed luxury boat. In addition, the Petrel’s itinerary is a pretty typical western one. Nothing wrong with that. But the “southwest” itinerary of the Ocean Spray that you’re considering is one of the few that goes to 3 of the 4 most distant islands–and very few that do that include Espanola with the 2 westernmost islands. You didn’t say when you were traveling. If it’s between April and mid Dec., the marvelous Waved Albatross will be there in the only breeding colony (with one small exception) on the planet. Very cool.

      So for those reasons alone, I’d vote for the Ocean Spray.

      Tina

      Like

    • Mag Parkhurst says:

      I’m spending a lot of time on your wonderful site, as well as those that actually sell the tours. My husband and I love to snorkel and hike so I’m very excited to plan a Galagos cruise. We want to go in the spring [sometime between mid-Jan and mid-April]. We’re concerned about seasickness so we’re only considering the larger boats. The Santa Cruz II seems to have a good itinerary for us but I’m concerned about traveling on a brand new ship. Our other choices, due to itinerary, are Isabella II and Eclipse. Any guidance you, and other folks, can give you be appreciated

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Mag–

        What itineraries are you considering on these boats? Each boat generally has 2 8-day itineraries that it alternates between, so it’d be good to know which ones you looking at.

        If it were my trip, I’d be very wary of going on this expensive a cruise on a boat that hasn’t had at least a few months of shake-down cruises and doesn’t have a fair number of traveler reviews published already. It could be just fine, but I’ve read reports from travelers who were quite disappointed that the new boat hadn’t worked out all of its kinks when they were on it. If I were spending that much money for a luxury-class cruise, I’d want that part of the trip to be pretty much guaranteed, since the landings are the same no matter what class ship the humans arrive on.

        Tina

        Like

  31. Wow, thank you for your wealth of information. I’m feeling very overwhelmed but appreciate all your insight. Sorry to be repetitive but with trying to figure out all the information, I’m hoping you don’t mind me asking a direct question about our plans. I’m trying to decide on two itinerary options for the M/Y Coral I and II. My daughter really want to see penguins and it seems like the NW cruises are best. But the dates don’t work out best for us and will cost us more to stay over a few extra dates between tours but if it’s worth it then I will try to make it work. What do you think of the following two itineraries?

    Cruise A – Santa Cruz Island (Charles Darwin Research Stn and Fausto Llerena Breeding Ctr), Floreana Island (Devil’s Crown and Post Office Bay), Espanola Island (Gardner Bay or Osborn Islet, Punta Suzrez, Daphne Major

    Cruise B – Santa Cruz Island (Eden Islet or Ballena Bay), Vicente Roca Point, Fernandian Island (Espinosa Point), Isabela Island (Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove), Santiago Island (Buccaneer Cove, Sullivan Bay, Egas Port), Santa Cruz (El Chato)

    And, I’ve been asking a few different companies for cruise options, all have given me the Coral as an option but all at different prices for the same cabin type. I’m wondering why that would be and if it matters who I book with. The companies are Galapagos Travel Center, Akorn Destination Mgmt, and EQ Touring.

    Thank for any help/advice you can provide.

    Emma

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Emma–

      It looks like you’re considering the 5-day itinerary of the Corals rather than a combination that would cover 8 days. Is that right? If so, and if your hearts are really set on penguins, you’ll need to do Cruise B. You have very little chance of seeing them on Cruise A, but the largest population in the archipelago lives around Fernandina and the western shore of Isabela. You didn’t say when you’d be traveling; if it’s between mid-Dec. and late March, the Waved Albatross won’t be found on Española (Cruise A), which makes that still-lovely island a bit less desirable, since the albatross are the real stars there. Snorkeling at Devil’s Crown (Cruise A) is usually great (one of the two best spots for snorkeling in the archipelago) but I personally have never been very interested in the human history at Post Office Bay (Cruise A). The wildlife around Floreana tends to be less spectacular than other islands.

      Compared to Cruise A, Cruise B is much stronger even though they’re both shorter than my favorite length (8 days). The landings along Isabela and Fernandina are marvelous and you’ll see/swim/snorkel with a good number of penguins. In general, I think the wildlife around the western islands is more diverse and really fascinating–especially the marine life. (Snorkeling along Fernandina/Isabela is the 2nd of the 2 best snorkeling spots in the archipelago.

      I’d vote for Cruise B, if you can swing it at all. Staying on Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal either before or after tends not to be very expensive–you can find relatively cheap lodging and food doesn’t cost much. From Santa Cruz, you could do a day trip or 2 (although those aren’t all that cheap–$150+/person or so. But I think it would be worth it, if you can possibly arrange it.

      Tina

      Like

      • Thanks for your quick reply. I never thought about combining the cruise with staying on the islands. Do you just ask the travel advisors about that? It didn’t come up as an option. What would be the benefit of staying on Santa Cruz for a couple of days? Would it be worth it to just hang out there without paying for any day trips? We have a couple of days in Quito before the cruise leaves on a Wed to hang out. We were going to explore Quito and hoping to find somewhere not too expensive to stay. Thanks for helping us decide to choose Cruise B. We would love to do an 8 day cruise but the prices are much higher and the return dates don’t work for us as my husband is a teacher and needs to be back at school after Easter Monday.

        Do you have any experience or knowledge about the Coral? We are deciding now between the triple Standard plus room or the Jr Suite. It would save us almost $1000US to stay in the standard plus. It will be three of us with my teenage daughter. And I heard that if you are prone to sea sickness the standard being a bit lower may actually be better. Thoughts?

        Like

      • Tina says:

        According to folks who’ve done it (which I haven’t), you can pretty much just show up and look around to see what’s available. Or an agency can help you figure it out. I’m not sure there’d be much fun just hanging around Santa Cruz for a couple of days without doing some sight-seeing off-island–especially after the wonders of a cruise. If your itinerary didn’t go to the highlands, that’d be a nice half-day trip to see the Giant Tortoises living free on the agricultural lands there. You can just hire a taxi to take you there. Tortuga Bay is also a bit of a walk, but the beach there is nice. (Be sure to take lots of water–it’s a hot walk and no services there or along the way.) Without a guide, you’re limited as to where you can visit–only spots that aren’t part of the National Park (and 97% of the archipelago lies within the National Park.)

        Quito is a lovely city with lots to do there, either as day trips (in town or an hour or 2 away) or as a 2- or 3-day trip. It’d likely be considerably more expensive than Santa Cruz, but you could certainly find many ways to pass the time.

        I don’t have any knowledge of the Corals, so I can’t help there. I personally wouldn’t worry too much about the cabin arrangements, as long as there’s room for 3 adults (or near-adults) to sleep. You’ll send very little waking time in the cabin–just to shower, change clothes, and sleep. My husband is very tall, so we had to look at bunk arrangements carefully so he could stretch out to sleep. But aside from that, the cabin set-up never mattered to us. In most boats, though, lower cabins will experience less motion in choppy seas (although not NO motion, if the chop is rough). The downside on some boats is that you’ll also be closer to the engine. You might want to check to see if anyone has complained about engine noise or diesel fumes on the boat.

        And I’m glad you’ve found the blog helpful. Thanks for letting me know!

        Tina

        Like

  32. Liz says:

    Thanks so much for your blog, which I’ve found very helpful in planning our trip. I’m wondering about the issue of being sure we are in Quito to catch our flight to the Galapagos. Do most people fly into Quito the day before the trip and spend one night there or do they leave more room for delays and come two days before? I’ve got sensitivities to altitude so I’m not going to be able to do much in Quito. We might fly into Guayaquil which doesn’t have altitude issues, but the air itinerary we are using might not go there. But same question in terms of being sure we are there to catch the flight to the Galapagos. Thanks.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Liz–

      I suggest that you leave at least 1 full day on the mainland for your luggage to catch up with you in case it takes a different flight. That’s probably what most people do. Flights (at least from the U.S.) arrive late at night and it can take 1-2 hours to get to Quito proper from the airport. So even just enjoying the historic district and its many lovely museums is a nice way to spen the next day.

      Either Quito or Guayquil will work with this plan. Quito has a number of non-strenuous sights you can visit right in town. (Check out some of the sights we visited on our 2 days on Quito on the blog.) You can take taxis or ask your hotel how to arrange a guided tour designed to your specific interests. Some folks like Guayaquil, but I found it a bit boring–kind of a typical river port town, in my experience. But again, if you prefer to flying in there, your hotel can probably help you arrange a tour with a guide that would be a good way to spend the day.

      Tina

      Like

    • Jim says:

      Hi Bloggers
      Thank you all for the great information. My wife and i have planned a trip to the Galapagos for this January BUT I have now found out that one of the worst El Nino events in years is going on there and wonder if we did the right thing and should cancel. I have seen dramatic scenes of dead birds, seals, etc. as the result of the stoppage of the Humboldt current during El Nino years. Does anyone out there have info on the situation that is occuring this year?

      Like

      • Tina says:

        TripAdvisor has had a long thread about El Niño : http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294310-i6637-k8458792-El_Nino_signals-Galapagos_Islands.html . Heather, a Destination Expert for the archipelago, lived there during the last big event (1997-98) and offers her thoughts. You might want to start at the end of the thread, to see the most recent comments first.

        Tina

        Like

      • Laurie says:

        Check out the TripAdvisor forum on this topic: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294310-i6637-k8458792-El_Nino_signals-Galapagos_Islands.html
        We are going Dec 20-Jan 2. When I asked Heather Blenkiron, who started the TA forum on the subject how El Nino is likely to affect us she wrote: “Waters will be very comfortable for extended snorkelling. It may be rainier than usual for this time of year so you will want to bring foul weather gear. In terms of species, terrestrial species can be expected to flourish with the warmer, wetter weather; cold water marine species may migrate to cooler climes north (it depends of the strength and length of the El Nino event).” Elsewhere she has written that it is a rare privilege to experience the conditions – including more lush vegetation from the rainfall.

        Also, regarding your earlier question on flights – many cruises include a day in Quito. But we decided to fly into Guayaquil instead. Landings in Quito can be quite bumpy (descending through those mountains), the airport is at some distance from the city, and some people experience altitude adjustment issues. If you are going to spend some time in the area all this could be worth it. But if this is just a brief touchdown on the way to the Galapagos, you can get there more quickly (and probably more smoothly) if you fly into Guayaquil. We are spending the extra 1 1/2 days before our cruise in Puerto Ayora instead.

        Like

  33. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. It’s really helpful when planning a trip with so many options. We consulted a travel agent initially and he recommend Quasar Expeditions on either the Grace or the Evolution. It looks amazing, and is not out of our price range, but we are both very young (early 30’s) and active and want to make sure we are surrounded by similar types of people. Do you have any recommendations on a good fit between luxury and high activity? If we do the Evolution trip, I think we would try to do the one leaving from Baltra based on your recommendations (https://www.quasarex.com/galapagos/evolution-itinerary). Thanks for any info you can provide!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Elizabeth–

      This “southwestern” itinerary is a very unusual one. And if you’ll be traveling between late March and early Dec., the addition of Española to see the magnificent Waved Albatross is a lovely bonus. If you’ll not be traveling in this period, it’s not quite so special, because the Waved Albatross spend the other months off the coast of Perú.

      The more expensive cruises tend (speaking in really gross generalities here) to attract older travelers, because they are more expensive. The cheaper “backpacker special” boats tend to attract a younger crowd, because they are (a tad) more affordable. Having written that, note that all itineraries are pretty similar in their activity levels (with minor variations) because the activities and time spent are regulated pretty strictly by the National Park. So, for example, if you go to Taugus Cove, regardless of what boat you’re on, you’ll climb to the top there and panga/kayak in the bay there. Punta Vicente Roca? You’ll do some great snorkeling (if the winds permit) no matter how you got there. Same for most other restricted landings. In our 2 trips (and we’re in the “older” crew that you might be thinking you want to avoid), most people were raring to go for every outing. That’s the kind of folks that most boats–perhaps all but the largest cruise ships, to some degree–attract. Everyone is there to see the wildlife, go snorkeling, hike wherever they can… So, on behalf of older–but also full of life and many great life experiences–travelers, I suggest you not worry too much about your fellow travelers and pick a boat and itinerary you really love. The rest will just fall into place. :)

      Tina

      Like

  34. Maria Andersson says:

    Hi!
    Me and my friend are trying to plan our trip to Galapagos and we are insecure what do to. We are going there in mid-oct. Do you think its best to:
    Fly to Quito and make arrangements there on spot, flight and cruise? Is it hard to find an option in one day? Or is it even possible its fully booked?
    or
    Book the flight to the islands from home and find a cruise on the island?

    Best regards Maria and Katja

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Maria —

      I’ve never done anything last-minute but many people do. You could certainly book something now from home. That way, you’ll know just what you’re getting and get as close to what you want as possible. But if you don’t have strong preference about the boat or the itinerary, you can probably save money waiting until you get to Quito.

      La Mariscal in Quito has a number of agencies you can visit to see what’s available. I personally wouldn’t wait until you were in the archipelago. Cruises can leave from either Santa Cruz or San Cristobal. So if you fly to one island, you’ve eliminated any cruise that leaves from the other unless you have the time to catch a ferry (a ride of 2 or more hours) with all your luggage. In Quito, you can choose any cruise and the agency will arrange your flight for you so you are on the same plane as the others on your cruise.

      Tina

      Like

  35. Joy Rose says:

    Fabulous site!!
    Do you have any advice for a fit, 66 yr. old woman traveling solo? Single supplements can quash many a cruise! I’d like to cover the four most distant islands and spend some time snorkeling. I’m going in February 2016 and have time but not unlimited funds (luxury travel is out.) . plan to spend several weeks in Ecuador mainland after the Galapagos and then go on to Peru. Might you also be able to tell me the best entry city into Ecuador for the Galapagos (I’m hoping to get a discount on a cruise when I arrive in Ecuador) from the U.S. and the best exit city to Peru?

    Thanks again for providing this great site!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Joy–

      A very small number of boats sell single cabins without a single supplement, but it can be a real challenge to find them. The only one I know for sure is the Mary Anne, which we sailed on in 2013. I think the Beagle has a single cabin, but I’m not sure if they charge a single supplement. (In my mind, no boat with a single cabin should ever charge a single supplement–just no reason to do that, since they’re not losing business in that cabin.). There could be others that I just don’t know about. You might want to check with an agency that specializes in Galapagos travel, such as Happy Gringo or Columbus Travel, to see if they could point you to others. If you were willing to share a cabin, some boats will offer to match you up with a same-sex traveler. If they don’t, you often will sail in the cabin alone with no supplement. (But be sure to read the fine print, because sometimes you might still get charged extra.)

      To get to the 4 most distant islands, you’ll need to do a 15-day naturalist cruise. I’ve seen a few boats that offer an 11-day trip that gets to those 4 islands (I think the Tip Top fleet might have such a configuration, but I’m not sure) but you have to hunt around. Again, a Galapagos-specialist agency could help you there too.

      For entrance cities in Ecuador, your choices are Quito or Guayaquil. I much prefer Quito over Guayaquil. So many interesting things to do in the city itself or within a side trip of a day or 2. And Quito is a beautiful city in a gorgeous setting. Just know that it’s at about 9K feet in altitude, so don’t underestimate that thin high-altitude air!

      I don’t know anything about Peru, though.

      Thanks for the appreciative words about the blog. I’m so glad you’re finding it helpful!

      Tina

      Like

    • Barbara says:

      You might consider the Ocean Spray Catamaran, a luxury cruise ship that has a cabin intended specifically for individuals traveling alone. By calling Columbus Travel, as suggested, you will be able to find a one-week cruise that takes you to the western islands and also get reservations on the Ocean Spray.

      Like

  36. Judy Glazer says:

    Dear Tina,

    Thanks so much for this blog! Have learned a great deal…very informative and has answered many questions I have had while researching the Galapagos Islands. Have been doing quite extensive research on the different boats and itineraries and have contacted many tour agencies/people and am still undecided about which type of boat to book. My husband has a strong tendency towards seasickness and while he will be wearing a patch or taking pills would like to try to minimize his being uncomfortable so he can fully enjoy the journey Have two questions which I have asked many tour agencies/people and have not had any direct answers. First question is: Which is more stable boat the M/Y Grace or Ocean Spray (if you are familiar with either of these)? I know that Catamarans are more stable than single hulled boats, though it also depends on the waves, that is, Second question: Are the waves more abeam in the Galapagos or more aft and fore? I have also tried to search online and get mixed answers. I know it is the ocean and no one could probably say for certain, but was wondering if there was a tendency for the waves to be abeam or aft and fore? We are planning to travel in February/March which I am aware is when the water is calmest. The answers to these questions would help in deciding whether to book with the Grace (Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina) or Ocean Spray (Espanola, Isabela, Fernandina). Any help you could give is much appreciated. Again, thank you for this amazing blog!

    Best,
    Judy

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Judy

      I don’t know either of these boats personally, but I know they both enjoy excellent reputations. The rough waters in the archipelago primarily affect just the open0water crossings to the 4 most distant islands (Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina, Espanola). The waters around the more central islands are much less affected. In our experience, the waves on those open-water crossings primarily hit abeam–meaning a cat might feel a bit more stable than a single-hulled boat. (Keep in mind, though, that we’ve only been on 2 trips–so our experience is pretty limited.) And, as you mentioned, Feb. and March are in the calmest period for water–so that’s a good choice.

      Hope this helps!

      Tina

      Like

      • Jacqui says:

        Hi Tina
        excellent blog by the way, I was wondering if you have any idea on whether it is just as easy to book at trip when you arrive in Quito rather than in advance. The choice is bewildering.

        thank you

        Jacqui

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Jacqui-

        I don’t have first-hand experience with last-minute bookings, but I’ve read others’ reports that you can do it and save money. If you’re going during high season (the December holidays, the months that coincide with school holidays in the U.S.), your choices will be fewer since those cruises fill up well in advance. If you have a flexible schedule, you’ll have a better chance of getting a decent trip, since not all cruises leave on the same day. If you take this option, be sure to research the boats and the itineraries well, so you know a good boat/itinerary when you’re offered one (or, perhaps more important, know to avoid a less-than-great boat and a less-than-superb itinerary). I think I’ve heard that La Mariscal has a lot of agencies that you can visit and shop around.

        And thanks for the positive words about the blog. I enjoy hearing that folks find it helpful!

        Tina

        Like

    • Bruce Dunstan says:

      Hi Judy,
      What conclusions did you reach on choice of boat and cruise to achieve best chance of avoiding sea sickness? I am considering a smaller boat (15 to 20), around 7-8 days, June or July.
      Bruce

      Like

      • Judy Glazer says:

        Hi Bruce
        Still searching. Though after reading the travel guide on IGTOA’s website, am leaning towards a cruise ship.,”Heavy and wide, motor catamarans have sizable cabins and social areas, and they are stable (not as stable as cruise ships, however). ” Also will definitely choose a luxury class ship as , “If you are extremely sensitive to seasickness, the stability of this type of boat will be a benefit. ” Have also decided to not choose an itinerary that includes more central islands and less ocean crossings to reduce the chance of sea sickness for my husband. Have most recently looked at the Evolution (32 passengers) though may be more stable than the Grace (16 passengers) as it is slightly larger and also has an infirmary on board should he need medical assistance. Have not made a decision yet.

        Judy

        Like

  37. Ayda Aktas says:

    Hi, Thank you for this article. It’s very informative but made me ask more questions =)
    We will have our holiday in September so I look at the boats that departs on 30-31 of August for 8 days on boat. What I come across is Queen of Galapagos that goes to North and Central Islands (https://www.gadventures.com/trips/galapagos-north-and-central-islands-aboard-queen/EV10GB/2015/) After reading your article I was feeling if thats the right route for a first time Galapagos tour?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Ayda–

      I just answered a similar question on TripAdvisor–and it might have been from you! But in case it wasn’t, I’ve copied my answer here.

      I’ve not been on the boat. But the itinerary (which really spends only 8 days in the archipelago) isn’t one of my favorites. It only goes to 1 of the 4 most distant islands (Genovesa) and it spends a considerable amount of time around the central islands, several of which are either populated (San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz) or can be reached by a day trip (Bartolomé). In such areas that have increased visitation, wildlife tend to live further from the path, compared to those on the more distant islands, where you often have to walk around the critters right on the paths.

      From this Web site, it looks like the alternate 8-day itinerary for the Queen also only goes to 1 distant island as well–Española. That’s interesting, because when 1 8-day itinerary only goes to 1 distant island, the alternate 8-day itinerary typically goes to the other 3. But it doesn’t appear that the Queen goes to Isabela and Fernandina at all.

      For this reason, I’d favor the Majestic’s itinerary (a typical western itinerary) [asked about in the TripAdvisor question], since you spend a good amount of time around the western shore of Isabela and Fernandina–lots of fascinating wildlife out there and spectacular scenery.

      Having written that, any of these will give you a nice experience in the archipelago. But I think the Majestic’s itinerary is stronger.

      Tina
      trip reports (and much more) at https://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

      Like

  38. Ann H says:

    Tina—
    Wow, I’m sure you realize how many people you’ve helped with these pages of yours! Now I’m one more asking for assistance. I started with library books & general googling, have read various websites, also read lots of TA posts which led me to your “wordpress” site (calling it a “blog” does not do it justice!). I see you are still replying here, so I thought I would send my query directly to you, but may also similarly post on TA. Hope this is not too long!

    My husband & I are mid 60’s-70+ & realistically only up to “moderately” fit, but I do think we can handle walking & easy snorkelling.
    We would like to plan to see Galapagos by boat early Dec/2016, min. 7 nights, perhaps could manage 8 or 9 nights?
    Our wildlife interest list (probably order of importance):
    giant tortoises IN THE WILD
    blue-footed boobies
    penguins
    marine iguanas
    frigate birds
    flightless cormorants
    land iguanas
    sea turtles & other sea creatures (snorkelling with sea lions would be a treat)
    other boobies, other birds…would be nice to see waved albatross, which should be still possible in early-mid Dec?
    …and would consider seeing the lava fields, lava tunnels, & volcanoes (not erupting, thank you!) a high priority too
    We would like to see Isabela & Fernandina, plus Espanola (probably more so than Genovesa—our/my feeling about distance across open water and/or regarding what we would see there…but not sure-? I know you are a birder & so love Genovesa).
    We would also like to have 2 nights in Quito prior, & maybe 1 nt post cruise if necessary (but a good flight option back to Vancouver, YVR, seems to depart just after midnight—via Houston, IAH—so maybe just a day room is all that is required the last day).
    We are trying to keep our costs within a certain range, but some degree of comfort, plus cleanliness, safety, and a good guide are top priorities. With that island list & budget in mind, our choices seem to be narrowed to the following First Class boats:
    Galaxy – A+B (9 nts)
    Corals – A+B (7 nts)
    Tip Top IV – 10 nts (& does include Genovesa with those other 3 islands)
    Celebrity Xpedition – 7 nts Outer Loop itinerary (costs more than we would like to spend, but would offer us other excursion options if we decide we need a “low-impact” choice or “slow” group)

    Would appreciate your comments comparing the small variations these choices offer us, & is it likely that the itineraries will NOT change from 2015 to 2016?:

    Galaxy–
    ITINERARY A – 5D/4N
    Tue. AM Arrival in San Cristobal and transfer to boat
    PM San Cristobal: Lobos Island / Kicker Rock
    Wed. AM Española: Gardner Bay / Gardner Islet / Osborn Islet
    PM Española: Suarez Point
    Thu. AM Floreana: Post Office Bay
    PM Floreana: Cormorant Point / Devil’s Crown
    Fri. AM Santa Fe Island
    PM South Plazas Island
    Sat. AM Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station and transfer to the airport
    ITINERARY B – 6D/5N
    Sat. AM Arrival in Baltra and transfer to boat
    PM Santa Cruz: El Chato / Twin Craters
    Sun. AM Isabela: Tintoreras Islet
    PM Isabela: Tortoise Breeding Station/ Wetlands / Wall of Tears
    Mon. AM Isabela: Elizabeth Bay
    PM Isabela: Urbina Bay
    Tue. AM Isabela: Tagus Cove
    PM Fernandina: Espinoza Point
    Wed. AM Santiago: Egas Port
    PM Santiago: Espumilla Beach / Buccaneer Cove
    Thu. AM Santa Cruz: Daphne Mayor or Dragon Hill and transfer to the airport

    Corals–
    ITINERARY A – 4D/3N
    Sun. AM Arrival in Baltra and transfer to boat
    PM Santa Cruz: Fausto Llerena Breeding Center
    Mon. AM Floreana: Champion / Devil’s Crown /Post Office Bay
    PM Floreana: Cormorant Point
    Tue. AM Española: Gardner Bay / Gardner Islet / Osborne Islet
    PM Española: Suarez Point
    Wed. AM Daphne Island and transfer to the airport
    ITINERARY B – 5D/4N
    Wed. AM Arrival in Baltra and transfer to boat
    PM Santa Cruz: Eden Islet / Whale Bay
    Thu. AM Vicente Roca Point
    PM Fernandina: Espinosa Point
    Fri. AM Isabela: Urbina Bay
    PM Isabela: Tagus Cove
    Sat. AM Santiago: Egas Port
    PM Santiago: Sullivan Bay
    Sun. AM Santa Cruz: Highlands – El Chato and transfer to the airport

    Tip Top IV–
    11 DAY CRUISE
    Fri. AM Arrival in Baltra and transfer to boat
    PM North Seymour
    Sat. AM Genovesa: Darwin Bay
    PM Genovesa: Prince Phillip’s Steps
    Sun. AM Santiago: James Bay
    PM Santiago: Buccaneer Cove / Salt Mines
    Mon. AM Isabela: Vicente Roca Point
    PM Fernandina: Espinoza Point
    Tue. AM Isabela: Tagus Cove
    PM Isabela: Elizabeth Bay
    Wed. AM Isabela: Tintoreras / Sierra Negra Volcano / Highlands
    PM Isabela: Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center / Wall of tears / Wetlands
    Thu. AM Floreana: Cormorant Point / Champion
    PM Floreana: Post Office Bay / Baroness Viewing Point
    Fri. AM Santa Cruz: Twin Craters
    PM Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station
    Sat. AM Española: Suarez Point
    PM Española: Gardner Bay / Osborne Islet
    Sun. AM San Cristobal: Pitt Point
    PM San Cristobal: Kicker Rock / Witch Hill
    Mon. AM
    Mosquera Islet
    Baltra: Transfer to the airport

    Celebrity–
    Sun Dec 11 Cruise begins in Baltra, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
    Sun Dec 11 (Daphne Island)
    Mon Dec 12 Espanola, (Gardner Bay)
    Mon Dec 12 Espanola, (Punta Suarez)
    Tue Dec 13 Isla Floreana, (Cormorant Point)
    Tue Dec 13 Isla Floreana, (Post Office Bay)
    Wed Dec 14 Isabela, (Punta Moreno)
    Wed Dec 14 Isabela, (Urvina Bay)
    Thu Dec 15 Isabela, (Punta Vincente Roca)
    Thu Dec 15 Fernandina, (Punta Espinoza)
    Fri Dec 16 Santa Cruz, (South Plaza)
    Fri Dec 16 Santa Cruz, (Dragon Hill)
    Sat Dec 17 Santa Cruz,(Puerto Ayora)
    Sun Dec 18 Baltra

    Much appreciated,
    Ann

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Ann–

      Whew! It’s a bit hard to compare and contrast so many itineraries in much detail. But I can make a few more general comments. In early or mid-Dec., you still have a chance of seeing some lingering Waved Albatross on Española, but you might not see their famous courtship behavior. But they’re still marvelous birds, no matter what they’re doing. To determine whether you’ll see Giant Tortoises in the wild, look for key words like Santa Cruz highlands, Twin Craters, or El Chato. Those will all likely mean that you’ll be in the SC highlands to see the tortoises living free on the agricultural lands. In my opinion, that area is the surest and best experience with these gentle behemoths. You might also see 1 or 2 on the Urbina Bay landing, since it lies at the foot of Volcán Alcedo, where the largest population lives, or on the walk to the Wall of Tears in Puerto Villamil. For penguins, you’ll see many more around Isabela/Fernandina than anywhere else–and Fernandina and the western shore of Isabela are the ONLY places (in the world) you can see Flightless Cormorants. The subspecies of Marine Iguana that lives out there is also the largest in the archipelago–and noticeably bigger! Very cool.

      Regarding the boats–I don’t know any of the boats from personal experiences, although we sailed on the now-defunct Tip Top II (the eldest of the TT fleet at the time). The Celebrity Xpedition about the largest boat working the waters in the archipelago, with a 96-passenger capacity. Sounds tiny by most cruise standards, but it’s huge by Galápagos standards. I personally favor the smaller boats (16-20 passengers). So although one of the Corals is larger, I’d still personally favor the other 3 for the wonderfully intimate experience you get–not only with the sea and the wildlife but also with your fellow passengers and the crew. But that’s a purely personal choice.

      As far as itineraries go, I’d vote for the TTIV itinerary because you get to all 4 of the most distant (and most fascinating) islands without having to do a full 15-day cruise. You’ll have a great experience with any of the itineraries, but the TTIV is really special for this fact. Nothin’ better, in my opinion.

      Hope this helps!

      Tina

      Like

      • Ann H says:

        Sorry a bit overdue in my acknowledgement back to you, Tina, on this site. We did connect otherwise, but this info for your other readers. In the end, the only option of those 3 available to us for early Dec 2016 was Coral (we put in a request for Coral II, it having a slightly better—in our opinion—“standard” cabin than Coral I, but if we end up on Coral I, we’re OK with that too). I will be posting more info on Trip Advisor. Thanks again for your continued input here & there! All the best. Ann

        Like

  39. Charlene says:

    Hi Tina — We are starting to plan a trip for April or May of 2016 and I have been reading your very helpful blog. I thought I saw the name of a travel agency that you worked with for your 2013 cruise on the Mary Anne, but now I can’t find it. Or did you just go through Andando Tours? My husband is ex-Navy and salivating at the thought of cruising on the Mary Anne!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Charlene–

      We worked with Heather at CNH Tours and really enjoyed her and her great service. She had contacts with Andando Tours, so we just let her handle each and every detail–which she did with great skill and patience (with our myriad questions).

      The Mary Anne is a gorgeous, comfortable sailing yacht. The winds have to be just perfect for the captain to put up the sails and travel on the wind. (The captain remarked that we were lucky to have 3 separate sailing episodes.) But he’s always looking for the chance to sail; she travels with any extra large crew so that, if the opportunity presents itself, they can all eagerly set about setting the sails. If we were to return for a 3rd trip, I can’t imagine going on any boat other than the Mary Anne!

      Good luck!

      Tina

      Like

  40. Patti says:

    Hi Tina, and thanks for providing such a great resource! I’ve been reading, spellbound, for hours!
    Does it make sense to do, say, an 8-day Eastern cruise followed by a stay on e.g. Isabela? Or should we try to do back-to-back cruises. We’re retired, intend to go October 2015, and have no time constraints. And we’re fit – I’d go bonkers with no exercise! Coming from the UK, it’s an expensive trip, so we want to see as much as poss in one trip; we’re not likely to go back! We’ll defer to next year (again, preferably October unless you think ano time is preferable?) if we can’t get the right trip this year, so don’t hold back on what’s optimal!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Patti–

      I personally don’t think a few days on Isabela will get you as much exposure to what makes Isabela so special. The extraordinary landings on Isabela are all on the western side of the island and can only be reached by cruise. A 15-day cruise will ensure that you don’t miss any of the important landings. But you might also consider a 10- or 11-day cruise. If you choose wisely, you could get to all 4 of the most distant islands then without some of the slightly less marvelous islands. I don’t know specific itineraries to recommend but you could do some research at one of the more general web sites to see if you could piece together such an option that suits you.

      And thanks for the positive feedback–I always appreciate hearing that folks are finding it helpful!

      Tina

      Like

      • Patti says:

        Thanks again! If I find something, I’ll post it. I don’t like cruises much (I tend to feel imprisoned), so I was hoping there was an alternative option…..
        Patti

        Like

      • Laurie says:

        The only itinerary I found that does both Western and Southern/Eastern islands in less than 15 days is the 11 day itinerary through Galapagos Travel, on the Tip Top IV. http://www.galapagostravel.com They have excellent reviews both for the boat and the naturalists. We would have loved to do this cruise, but have to fit it in during the December dates when our daughter is on break from college and son has break from work; their dates just didn’t work for us. So we are doing an 8 day cruise on the Samba (we worked with Heather Blenkiron at http://www.cnhtours.com), followed by 4 land days on Isabela. The latter is not optimal, for the reasons Tina mentioned, but at least we will get a taste of one of the Western Islands. We also were concerned that 15 days on a boat might be too long, and as Tina pointed out, the wow factor might diminish towards the end. Also a 15 day cruise would turn into almost 3 weeks away, which would be problematic for some members of our family.

        Like

  41. Susana says:

    Thank you so much, Tina, you are THE BEST!!!

    Like

  42. Susana says:

    Hello Tina,
    I am amazed by your awesome blog and by your generosity in sharing your Galapagos Treasure of Information with all of us. I am about to book a cruise and due to date constraints, my friend and I chose the Odysee 6-days Galapagos Itinerary B, leaving Baltra on October 15: BALTRA, SANTA CRUZ ISLAND (Darwin Station), ISABELA ISLAND (Las Tintoreras, Sierra Negra , Moreno Point, Elizabeth Bay), FERNANDINA ISLAND (Espinosa Point), ISABELA ISLAND again (Tagus Cove) , SANTIAGO ISLAND (Espumilla Beach, Buccaneer Cove, Puerto Egas) and SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND (Isla Lobos).
    I would be most grateful if you would let me know your opinion about:
    a) the Odysee: do you think the Odysee will be comfortable?–I am not “that young”
    b) the itinerary. Do you think we should make work schedule adjustments there to pick another departure date/itinerary? Thank you so much in advance for your kind reply!
    c)Is there a hotel to stay in S. Cristobal Island at the end of the cruise?
    Thank you SO SO MUCH!
    Susana

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Susana–

      The itinerary you’ve included looks like a pretty typical “western”itinerary–very much like our 2nd trip in 2013. It goes to the great landings on the western shore of Isabela (and a stop at Fernandina). The only thing that might be missing is a trip to the Santa Cruz highlands to see the Giant Tortoises living free on the agricultural lands there. It’s possible that that’s part of the Charles Darwin Research Station afternoon, but they don’t state it explicitly. It would be a shame to miss them. You might spot one or more during the day in Puerto Villamil (the town on Isabela), although they are most commonly seen on the walk to the Wall of Tears–which I don’t see mentioned. You can sometimes spot one or two on a landing at Urbina Bay on Isabela, since that landing lies at the foot of Volcan Alcedo where the largest population lives. But the itinerary seems to skip that one. Although it’s certainly not a disaster if you don’t get to see them, they have been a highlight of our trip both times. It might be worth a question to the boat owner (or whoever you’re working with) to see if there will be some likely opportunity to see them. Aside from that, it looks like a great itinerary.

      I don’t know anything about the Odyssey personally. You might use the search function on the Galapagos forum of TripAdvisor:http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g294310-i6637-Galapagos_Islands.html . (the green box below the “find hotels” button) On the search results page, sort the findings by date to see most recent reviews first.

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog. I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful!

      Tina

      Like

  43. astaere says:

    Thank you so much for this information! I’m planning a trip in Jun-Jul 2015 and would like to do a 15-day tour. However, given the last minute planning was wondering if you have any advice on specific boats? I know you’ve mentioned Samba and Angelito have had good feedback generally. Have you heard anything on Aida Maria yacht from Aida Maria Travels? They were offering the following itinerary and was wondering if you think this is a comparable itinerary to what we’d get with Samba? It is being offered at a significant discount to the Samba 15-day trip (~$2,000 less) so was wondering if it’s a worse itinerary (although seems to cover most places you mentioned) or if you may have heard anything regarding that boat? Thank you so much for your help!

    SUNDAY: San Cristobal
    AM: San Cristobal Airport
    PM: Isla Lobos
    MONDAY: AM: Santa Fe
    PM: Plazas
    TUESDAY: Santa Cruz
    AM: Charles Darwin Station
    PM: Highlands Santa Cruz
    WEDNESDAY: Isabela
    AM: Puerto Villamil: Humedales, muro de las lágrimas
    PM: Centro de crianza Arnaldo Tupiza
    THURSDAY: Isabela
    AM: Punta Moreno
    PM: Bahía Elizabeth
    FRIDAY: AM: Isabela: Caleta Tagus
    PM: Fernandina: Punta Espinoza, Punta Vicente Roca
    SATURDAY: Santiago
    AM: Puerto Egas
    PM: Rabida
    SUNDAY: AM: Seymour Norte
    AM: Baltra
    PM: Bachas
    MONDAY: Genovesa
    AM: Darwin Bay
    PM: The Barranco
    TUESDAY: AM: Bartolome
    PM: Sullivan Bay
    WEDNESDAY: AM: Daphne / Black Turtle Cove
    PM: Cerro Dragón
    THURSDAY: Santa Cruz
    AM: Charles Darwin Station
    PM: Highlands of Santa Cruz
    FRIDAY: Floreana
    AM: Post Office bay / Mirador de la Baronesa
    PM: Punta Cormoran / Devil´s Crown
    SATURDAY: Española
    AM: Punta Suarez
    PM: Bahia Gardner / Islote Gardner / Islote Osborn.
    SUNDAY: San Cristobal
    AM: Leon Dormido / Centro de Interpretacion
    AM: San Cristobal Airport

    Like

    • Tina says:

      I don’t know about the Aida Maria, but you might check the Galápagos forum on TripAdivsor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g294310-i6637-Galapagos_Islands.html . There, you can use the search box (below the “Find Hotels” button) to see if there are any recent reviews of the boat. (In the search results screen, search on “date” to see the most recent ones first.)

      The itinerary seems to be a pretty typical 15-day itinerary. It looks like you’d have 2 visits to the Research Station and the highlands of Santa Cruz. The 2nd one of those might be because the 2nd 8-day itinerary is split into 2 shorter cruises; the boat may stop in Santa Cruz to off-load and pick up passengers doing the shorter legs of that itinerary. If that’s the case, it can either run very smoothly or (e.g., if the incoming plane is delayed) have some annoying wait times. You might want to talk with the boat owner to see how they handle that (if, indeed, this is the case). But really, most 15-day itineraries are just great–you get to the main and most popular visitor sites on almost any of them.

      Tina

      Like

      • astaere says:

        Tina,

        Thanks. In your opinion, are there any merits to staying on the islands for a few days after a 15-day naturalist cruise (for day trips or just seeing the general environment) or do you think there won’t be anything new there? We are debating between staying a few more days on the island vs doing something else in Ecuador or the surrounding region but wasn’t sure if there is anything you think we would miss if we didn’t stay, given we do have the time.

        Thanks!

        Like

      • Tina says:

        I can’t speak from personal experience. But I believe that after a 15-day cruise, you’ll have seen the best the archipelago has to offer in the best possible way (a cruise). Ecuador is a marvelous, diverse country–I’d vote for spending some days there. Quito alone is a beautiful city with many wonderful things to do in the city as well as day trips or even an overnight or 2-day trip.

        Tima

        Like

  44. Anita Hayworth says:

    This has been so helpful for us discussing our upcoming trip. We are traveling to Ecuador in August 2015. Our wish list for islands is to see the albatross (Espanola) and snorkeling at Devil’s crown. Also of interest is the breeding seabirds. given that, it seems we look to the more eastern tours. We’ve found what looks like a good itinerary on the Eden as follows:
    SUN Baltra, Bachas
    MON Genovesa: Darwin Bay, Prince Philllip steps
    TUE Bartolome, Santiago: Sullivan Bay
    WED Daphne, Black turtle cove, Cerro Dragon
    THU Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin station, Highlands
    FRI Floreana: Post office bay, Punta Cormorant, Devils crown
    SAT Española: Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay, Islets Gardner & Osborn
    SUN Leon Dormido, Interpretation centre, San Crsitobal Airport

    I would love to hear your opinion about the Eden (if you have heard anything) and this itinerary. And, again, thank you for all of the effort you have put into this. it is much appreciated.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Anita–

      I don’t know anything specific about the Eden. But the itinerary you’ve posted is a typical “eastern” itinerary, which gets you to 2 of the 4 most distant (and most fascinating, in my opinion) islands–Genovesa (wonderful sea bird breeding colonies) and Española (the magnificent Waved Albatross!). It goes to Kicker Rock (aka León Dormido), which has good snorkeling. But since it’s the outing for the final day, I doubt you would snorkel there before heading to the airport. But you have a chance to see a small group of Galápagos Penguins that move between Bartolomé and Sombrero Chino–the only spot for that chance on an eastern itinerary. Giant Tortoises should be easily seen in the Santa Cruz highlands–a great experience.

      The one drawback might be that you stop mid-way through to pick up and let off passengers doing a shorter trip. That can be handled really well or you might face some delays. You might check with the boat to see how they handle that (if indeed that’s what happens).

      All in all, it looks like a good itinerary!

      Tina

      Like

  45. rosietr says:

    Hi, Tina,
    Your blog is great! You’ve helped me a lot with with just sorting out how to start. I’m looking into a tour for 3 adults – my husband, my adult son, and myself. Our dates are June 20- July 4/5. During that time span, I think we want to have an 8 day trip in the Galapagos. From what I’m seeing on the internet, I’m interested in a “tourist superior class”, or a mid-level boat/ship/yacht with a small to mid sized group of people, that goes to some of the distant islands, and includes as much wildlife of all kinds (especially birds and turtles), the opportunity to kayak and snorkel, possibly hike a bit, and a great guide! I’ve inquired about a few tours, with both Cometo and Happy Gringo, and am wondering if you would comment on what you think might be best for us, of the 3 itineraries (2 different companies) listed below. All of these have similar pricing. I’m prone to seasickness. I do plan to take something along for that, but that might be a consideration for the particular boat we go on. Also, it looked like there were fewer positive reviews, or “thumbs up” for the Monserrat as opposed to more positive reviews for the Xavier. What advise can you provide?
    Thank you so much,
    Sherri

    Cometo Travel, Angelito 1
    6/28 to 7/5
    8 DAYS ITINERARY A, SUNDAY-SUNDAY
    1 Sunday
    Baltra – North Seymour

    2 Monday
    Chinese Hat – Bartolome

    3 Tuesday
    Genovesa: Darwin Bay – Prince Phillips Steps

    4 Wednesday
    Puerto Egas (Santiago) – Rabida

    5 Thursday
    Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station – Highland of Santa Cruz

    6 Friday
    Española: Punta Suarez – Playa Gardner

    7 Saturday
    Santa Fe – South Plaza

    8 Sunday
    Black Turtle Cove – Baltra

    OR

    Happy Gringo on “Xavier” Motor boat
    6/21 – 6/28 Itinerary B
    SUN San Cristobal Airport, El Junco
    MON San Cristobal: Punta Pitt, Kicker Rock
    TUE Santiago: Espumilla Beach, Buccaneer Cove
    WED Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station, Highlands
    THU Chinese hat, Black Turtle cove
    FRI Santa Cruz: Dragon Hill, Daphne
    SAT Plazas, Santa Fe
    SUN Interpretation centre, San Cristobal airport

    OR

    Happy Gringo on Monserrat “motor yacht”
    6/28- 7/5 Itinerary A
    SUN Baltra, Mosquera
    MON Isabela: Sierra Negra Volcano, Las Tintoreras
    TUE Chinese Hat, Rabida
    WED Santiago: Puerto Egas, Espumilla Beach
    THU North Seymour, Santa Cruz: Highlands
    FRI South Plazas, Santa Fe
    SAT San Cristobal: Punta Pitt, Isla Lobos
    SUN San Cristobal: Interpretation Centre, Cerro, Airport

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Sherri–

      Given those 3 itineraries, I’d definitely vote for the Angelito’s. It’s a typical “eastern” itinerary and the only one of the 3 that gets you to 2 of the 4 most distant islands–Genovesa (amazing sea bird breeding colonies) and Española (awesome Waved Albatross breeding colony–one of only 2 places on earth that these magnificent birds come to land to breed). Giant Tortoises (is that what you meant when you referred to turtles?) should be easily seen in the highlands of Santa Cruz. (The sea turtles are much harder to predict.) You have a chance to see a small group of Galápagos Penguins that move between Sombrero Chino and Bartolomé, which is your only chance on a typical eastern itinerary.

      The Angelito was recently overhauled and I’ve read that they did an excellent job of it. The Angelito is one of only 2 tourist-superior boats that I routinely recommend. Sometimes, the owner (Maja) even is the naturalist guide–and she gets terrific reviews. But even when she doesn’t, the other naturalist guides get good reviews too.

      The other 2 boats never get very far from the central–and inhabited–islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. (The Monserrat’s visit to the westernmost Isabela only goes to areas around the town–not the stunning landings on the western shore.) I don’t know anything about these 2 boats. But by itineraries alone, I vote for the Angelito–hands down!

      Tina

      Like

      • rosietr says:

        Thank you, Tina. May I get your opinion on another option? It is the Tip Top III via Happy Gringo with the following itinerary. It looks like it goes to one more of the larger islands, so I wanted to know how you think this might compare with the above Angelito tour. I’m also trying to fit in one extra day for my son to scuba dive- he’s a beginner. Can you suggest a good resource and some logistics for that? ie, Should I just ask the tour we choose to book us a day extra at the beginning or end of the cruise, and then figure out a day trip for scuba diving from the island of Baltra, where we have to be for the airport?
        Thanks again for all your advice and assistance!
        Sherri

        TIP TOP III GALAPAGOS CRUISE ITINERARIES 2015
        8 DAYS – NORTH & WEST (ITINERARY 1)
        FRI Baltra, Bachas
        SAT Santiago: Sullivan Bay, Bartolome
        SUN Genovesa: Darwin Bay, Prince Phillip Steps
        MON Santiago: Puerto Egas, Bucaneer Cove
        TUE Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca, Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
        WED Isabela: Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove, Elizabeth Bay
        THU Isabela: Tintoreras, Wall of tears, Tortoise breeding centre, Sierra Negra Volcano
        FRI Charles Darwin Station, Baltra

        Like

      • Tina says:

        The Tip Top fleet is one of only a small number of boats that does this “northwestern” itinerary. It’s a good one, since you get to 3 of the 4 most distant islands. I think it’s better than the Angelito’s, for this reason.

        I don’t know much about diving, but I know that most folks who dive in the Galápagos aren’t beginners. You might contact Scuba Iguana (a group that gets good reviews) to see what they might suggest for a beginner day trip. You’d probably do best to arrange it yourself, if you can. Note, though, that you’d be staying on Santa Cruz rather than Baltra. Baltra is really nothing except the airport. An hour or 2 of travel from the airport (bus to the canal, a ferry across the canal to Santa Cruz, a bus into Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz) will get you to a variety of places to spend the night. You’ll then have to reverse that process to get back to Baltra when you want to catch the plane back home or hook up with the tour. I personally think it would be less risky (not needing to worry about not finding the tour staff at the airport) if you did the extra day at the end of the trip. It’s safest to let the boat arrange your flight from the mainland to Baltra so that everyone on that particular cruise arrives at the airport on the same flight. That way, you just walk off the plane, go through the lines to check your luggage and pay the entrance fee, and then find the boat staff who will be waiting for you. If you do an extra day first, you’ll need to make absolutely sure that you meet the right group at the airport in plenty of time. If something happens and you’re late, they can very easily leave without you.

        Tina

        Like

  46. Kathleen says:

    I agree with Tina about NatGeo. We had a very good experience with them on a small ship Alaska cruise last year. But they are quite expensive, and their unwillingness to divulge the schedule of their 2 itineraries is so frustrating!

    BTW, with some work, you can figure out the alternating pattern of their 2 itineraries – just go on the Lindblad website and look up the trip reports and you will soon see the pattern. I actually did that myself when I was trying to figure out who to book with! But in the end, we booked on the Eclipse for next summer, because it gave us everything we were looking for from NatGeo, plus a bit more cabin space, AND ended up being less expensive.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Kathleen–

      It’s great that you could figure out the itineraries–and it’s a good hint for anyone who is dead set on sailing with NatGeo. But why on earth should anyone have to work that hard AND pay extra money? I’m glad you found a boat that had just what you were looking for. I don’t know the Eclipse personally, but it gets great reviews.

      Tina

      Like

  47. Brannan says:

    Tina,
    Fantastic job on providing a trove of useful information! I had no idea there were so many options.
    The first place we looked was national geographic, which runs two boats through the Galapagos. They are priced above most of the other cruises, and are vague on details about itinerary on their web site. Should that be a concern? Have you heard anything about the NatGeo cruises?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Brannan–

      You’re right–options are the blessings and the curse of figuring out a trip to the Gálapagos! NatGeo has a good reputation, although it is indeed rather pricey. I personally think you’re paying a considerable surplus for the name and the advertising–both of which are, in my opinion, unnecessary because there are so many really good boats that don’t have such overhead.

      The lack of specifics about the itineraries is a major irritant to me. Choosing the best itinerary for you and your interests is one of the few things that a well-informed traveler can actually control in arranging this trip. I see no reason why NatGeo isn’t specific about the 2 8-day itineraries they run. All boats have their itineraries pretty much set in stone with the National Park; so, except for extreme and unforeseen situations (e.g., a volcano erupting on Fernandina), the owners know exactly where the boat will be every day. Why not let those travelers choose for themselves? It seems a bit arrogant on their part, if you ask me. For this reason alone, I would avoid booking with NatGeo until they are more forthcoming with letting you choose the itinerary you’d prefer.

      Having written that, I’m sure either itinerary is fine. But I feel that they do their passengers a disservice by not giving them all of the information available–which pretty much all of the other 60+ boats in the archipelago do.

      Tina

      Like

  48. Alex says:

    Superb blog Tina. We too are looking at going to the Galapagos in September this year. We have followed your blog advice on trying to fit 3 of the big 4 into our 8 day cruise, so have opted for a NW itinerary. We have narrowed our search down to the Tip Top III and the Nemo II. Do you know much about these boats? There are only minor differences in the itineraries really? Was Bartolomé worth the visit; I hear it’s a stunning landscape from the viewpoint there?

    Itineraries are:
    Tip Top 3
    FRI Baltra, Bachas
    SAT Santiago: Sullivan Bay, Bartolome
    SUN Genovesa: Darwin Bay, Prince Phillip Steps
    MON Santiago: Puerto Egas, Bucaneer Cove
    TUE Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca, Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
    WED Isabela: Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove, Elizabeth Bay
    THU Isabela: Tintoreras, Wetlands, Wall of tears, Tortoise breeding centre, Sierra Negra Volcano
    FRI Charles Darwin Station, Baltra

    Nemo 2
    SUN Baltra, North Seymour
    MON Santa Cruz: Highlands, Charles Darwin Station
    TUE Isabela: Punta Moreno, Urbina Bay
    WED Isabela: Tagus Cove, Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
    THU Santiago: Puerto Egas, Bucaneer Cove
    FRI Rabida, Santiago: Sullivan Bay
    SAT Genovesa: Prince Phillip Steps, Darwin Bay
    SUN Daphne, Baltra

    I appreciate any guidance you can give, and again you’ve done a wonderful job on this blog, it’s so informative!

    Kind regards,
    Alex

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Alex–

      You’re right–the 2 itineraries aren’t much different. The view from the top of the extinct volcano on Bartolomé is lovely, to be sure. But for folks seeking wildlife, the main draw of Bartolomé is the opportunity to see/snorkel with the Galápagos Penguins. If you’re not going to the western islands, Bartolomé is your best bet. But you’ll have seen plenty around Isabela and Fernandina.

      I’m not much of a fan of hanging around the towns in the Galápagos. So for that reason, I would be a bit antsy with the day spent in Puerto Villamil on the TTIII. The walk to Sierra Negra can have some nice views if the weather is good. But more often than not (by the reports I’ve read), it’s a muddy slog on a rainy day with no views at all. So that has never enticed me–although that might sound good to you.

      For those reasons, I’d favor the Nemo 2’s itinerary a bit.

      I don’t know the TTIII specifically, but I know Wittmer Turismo, which operates the Tip Top fleet (and, you probably know, we sailed on the TTII in 2009). I have a lot of respect for Wittmer Turismo, a local company founded by Rolf Wittmer who was the first baby documented to be born in the archipelago. They hired good crews, provided modest benefits (unusual in the archipelago), and offered the best of them long-term contracts. The crew we sailed with was excellent and our naturalist guide (who himself had a long-term contract with them–unusual, because guides tend to freelance and move from boat to boat) was superb. I really don’t know anything about the Nemo 2.

      I’m delighted that the blog is useful for you—it’s a true labor of love. Hope this helps!

      Tina

      Like

    • Emily Mathews says:

      Hi Tina,
      Thank you for such a great site and reviews! Can I get your opinion on the Beagle NW trip? (Itinerary below). One crazy thing is quotes from different companies can vary $1000/person.
      Santa Cruz: Bachas Beach
      Genovesa: Prince Philip’s Steps
      Genovesa: Darwin Bay
      Santiago: Egas Port
      Cruising/Sail
      Isabela: Vicente Roca Point
      Fernandina: Espinoza Point
      Isabela: Tagus Cove
      Isabela: Urbina Bay
      Isabela: Elizabeth Bay
      Isabela: Moreno Point
      Isabela: Sierra Negra Volcano
      Galapaguera
      Isabela: Puerto Villamil
      Santa Cruz: Twin Craters

      Would love to hear from you (or others!) who have an opinion on this trip and boat.
      Thanks!
      Emily

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Emily–

        I think this NW itinerary (which only a small handful of boats have) is among the best available for an 8-day cruise, because you get to 3 of the 4 most distant islands (Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina). Most boats put 2 of these on 1 8-day itinerary and the other 2 on the other 8-day itinerary. I don’t know the Beagle first-hand but we almost went on it for our 2nd trip in 2013. (The boat had recently changed owners as we were about to make our reservations and our agent was wary of recommending it at that time, since you can’t know what might happen when a boat changes hands. But I haven’t heard bad things since then, so I think it’s a fine boat.)

        Tina

        Like

  49. Jenny says:

    Tina, wow your information is magical.
    I am in the middle of trying to plan my trip to the galapagos for October and this is a wealth of information.
    Would you happen to have any advice on which itinerary to choose for october? I realise that different wildlife will be at different islands but I guess different times of the year are good for different animals -mating etc.
    Im assuming there is positive and negatives no matter which one you choose!!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Jenny–

      So glad you’re finding the blog useful–and thanks for letting me know!

      Honestly, you will find wildlife doing fascinating things any month of the year in the archipelago. Many species breed year-round, depending on the availability of food, or the same species may have a different breeding cycle on a different island. So any itinerary from a reputable boat will offer you wonders galore in October. If you have specific species you’re especially interested in seeing, that might help to make choice since the viewing can sometimes be easier on one island than another.

      I know that doesn’t help you narrow down your many options, but–it is what it is!

      Tina

      Like

      • Jenny says:

        Thanks Tina for your speedy reply!
        yeah i figured that would be the case!
        Ill keep reading through your website and will let you know if I have any other questions!
        Thanks
        Jenny

        Like

  50. Karen W says:

    Tina, I agree with you from all my research, Angelita and their itinerary are the way to go. Thank you for confirming!
    What about the comment on sea sickness? Traveling in August?? Doesn’t make a difference if Angelita is not a catamaran ?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Is anyone in your traveling party prone to motion sickness? Some people swear that a catamaran is more stable in choppy water, but I’m not convinced of that. It really depends on the direction of the waves. If the waves hit fore or aft, a single-hulled boat will slice through those waves more efficiently. If the waves hit abeam, a cat might handle that better. But for most folks who are affected by motion sickness, it’s more the up-and-down motion that produces problems rather than the side-to-side pitch. And either style of boat can run into that. You might read this interesting discussion by 2 naval architects–http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294310-i6637-k7666463-Catamaran_vs_Monohull_ship-Galapagos_Islands.html . And really, there are so many good motion sickness remedies available on the market–I don’t think it should be a major issue for anyone. My husband used the scopolamine patch, as did about 2/3s of both of the groups we traveled with. If you’re interested in that, check with your physician (they’re rx-only in the US). Since you just can’t know how you’ll react, might as well be prepared.

      The months of the highest probability of rough seas are Sept. – Nov. The Humboldt Current begins to shift in mid- to late August and is going full-tilt boogie by Sept. So you have a higher probability of choppy waters starting in mid-August. But it’s just a probabilities thing. The rough waters are more likely to occur on the open-water crossings to the more distant islands; around the more central islands, the current doesn’t really impact the seas much. Our first trip was in Sept.–the allegedly worst month for rough waters. We had one open-water crossing that was quite, um, lively. But the captain knew in advance and let us all know. Since those crossing are typically made at night, we all just headed down to our cabins after dinner, secured things that might roll around, and went to bed. No problem–everyone showed up for breakfast ready for the next day’s adventure. Our other open-water crossing was as smooth as silk.

      So unless someone in your party is plagued by really serious motion sickness issues, I think you can handle whatever might come along. Just bring your favorite anti-motion-sickness remedy, just in case.

      Tina

      Like

      • Karen Waldman says:

        Tina you are a wealth of information!!! I rate you 5 stars!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

        Sent from my iPad

        >

        Like

  51. Betsi says:

    Okay – thanks for your input and your knowledge!

    Like

  52. Karen W says:

    I have another question, or 2…
    1. I understand a catamaran might be more sturdy during rough waters. I am about to book on the Angelita, which I gelieve is not a catamaran. I have not heard too many comments on getting sea sick and whether the type of boat makes a difference.
    2. Also our travel agent is trying to convince us to book with Eden cruise, 16 passengers going to Baltra, Santa Cruz, bartholemew, Santiago and sombrero islands, Dalph island, dragon hill and charles Darwin station.
    It is somewhat less costly than the Angelita.
    Different itinerary!
    What are your thoughts on that?
    THANKS!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hmmm–why does your agent want you to book the Eden? She’s a tourist-superior-class boat, as is the Angelito, and she is owned/operated by a local family, as is the Angelito. So those are both pluses for either. I haven’t read all that many reviews of the Eden, unlike the Angelito (which people seem to come back and be bursting with praise). But no reviews isn’t the same thing as bad experiences–so that doesn’t tell us much.

      In my opinion, the Eden itinerary you posted is much less interesting than the western itinerary of the Angelito you’re considering. You don’t get very far from the central islands on the Eden. They’re nice, but not as spectacular as the more distant islands. In contrast, the western islands on the Angelito’s itinerary is a really solid western itinerary with really extraordinary scenery and wildlife.

      If it were me, I’d definitely go with the Angelito unless the agent has some very compelling reason for suggesting the alternative.

      Tina

      Like

  53. Betsi says:

    Thank you, Tina! Do you know much about the ship Santa Cruz or its staff?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hey, Betsi–

      All I know about the Santa Cruz is that, at 90 passengers, it is one of the largest boats working the waters in the archipelago. I haven’t read anything about the boat itself or its crew. But luxury-class boats such as this are usually just fine.

      Tina

      Like

  54. Karen waldman says:

    Thanks again for your quick response! I have learned so much from your posts and and am going to book our trip with Angelita! Happy travels to all! Karen

    Like

  55. Sonya Donnelly says:

    Sorry Tina just found a more detailed 2015 itinery – not sure if it’s identical to the one I just posted
    2015 “WEST” ITINERARY 7-NIGHTS (FRIDAY to FRIDAY)

    FRI:
    Baltra airport | North Seymour
    SAT:
    Isabela (Punta Vicente Roca) | Fernandina (Punta Espinoza)
    SUN:
    Isabela (Urbina Bay / Tagus Cove)
    MON:
    Rabida | Santa Cruz (Dragon Hill [Cerro Dragon])
    TUE:
    Santa Cruz (Charles Darwin Station / Twin Craters [Los Gemelos])
    WED:
    Floreana (Post Office Bay / Punta Cormorant / Champion Islet)
    THU:
    Santa Fe | (South) Plazas
    FRI:
    San Cristobal airport

    2015 “EAST” ITINERARY 3-NIGHTS (FRIDAY to MONDAY)

    FRI:
    San Cristobal airport | San Cristobal (Cerro Colorado)
    SAT:
    San Cristobal (Punta Pitt / Cerro Brujo)
    SUN:
    Espanola (Punta Suarez / Gardner Bay)
    MON:
    Santa Cruz (Charles Darwin Station) | Baltra airport

    2015 “NORTH” ITINERARY 4-NIGHTS (MONDAY to FRIDAY)

    MON:
    Baltra airport | Santa Cruz (Highlands – El Chato)
    TUE:
    Santa Cruz (Eden Islet) | Chinese Hat [Sombrero Chino]
    WED:
    Bartolome | Santiago (Sullivan Bay)
    THU:
    Genovesa (Darwin Bay / Prince Phillip’s Steps)
    FRI:
    Baltra airport

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Sonya–

      What you’ve copied here is La Pinta’s full 15-day itinerary. I’m not sure what you’d like me to comment on. Perhaps I covered it with your previous message (which was about the 8-day western itinerary, listed here first)? Let me know if I’m missing something.

      Tina

      Like

      • Sonya says:

        I got a bit carried away with the cutting and pasting there!! I had only meant to include the first 8 days. You have indeed covered my question in your previous answer. Thank you very much. You are incredibly generous with your time and knowledge. I am so very grateful to have happened upon your blog.

        Like

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much for this blog!
      My 30+ year dream of getting to the Galapagos is getting closer to reality, but I’m struggling with the decision of whether to do the full “Grand Galapagos” tour by putting two 8 day cruises together. I doubt I’d be able to return for a second time, but also worried that two weeks on a boat might seem overwhelming to my family.
      We need to fit our travel into the Christmas-New Year holiday period, when daughter is on break from college and son’s high tech firm shuts down for a week. I’d love to do the Galapagos Travel 11 day cruise on the Tip Top, which hits most of the islands, but even if it is available, it starts before my daughter’s exam week ends. It looks like we could do the Samba’s SE itinerary followed by the NW. The reactions I’ve gotten from people who’ve visited the Galapagos have ranged from “why would you not NOT want to spend two weeks on a boat” to “a week is plenty”. I’d feel bereft about missing Isabella and Fernandina completely but in addition to concerns about travel fatigue, husband and son are concerned about being away from work that long. I’d love your thoughts on the 8 vs 15 day cruise, and would be happy to send the itinerary (although from your comments to others, you seem very familiar with them – that Excel spread sheet was truly extraordinary.)
      Thanks again!

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Laurie–

        Only you can know if 15 days is too much. My husband and I did an 8-day trip each time and, to be honest, by the end of 8 days, we were ready to head home. We’re not great travelers, we board our dogs and we worry about leaving them for too long, we’re real homebodies. For me, my “wow” meter was a bit on overload by the end of the 8 days. Our feelings had nothing to do with the wildlife or the boats–all were spectacular and a good boat can’t be beat for easy traveling. We were just ready to be home again. But that is most certainly not a recommendation that everyone only do an 8-day tour. An 11-day tour might be the perfect compromise. Most boats these days chop up one of their 2 8-day itineraries into 2 shorter legs (usually the itinerary that DOESN’T go to Isabela and Fernandina, since they are so far away). You might be able to find a combination that fits your schedule better than the TTIV’s by checking a site like http://www.galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise.html, which displays all of the mix-and-match itineraries of some of the more popular boats. Alternatively, you might want to contact an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel to help you juggle dates, length of time spent, quality of boat, etc. Three that get consistently good reviews are Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, and CNH Tours. (We used CNH Tours for our return trip.) There are many others, too. All have a presence on the Internet, so you could check out their Web sites. All can also be contacted in a variety of ways (phone, Skype, Web chat, e-mail…). So formulate a few introductory questions, send them off, and see who responds quickly and in a manner most to your liking. Really–this is exactly what they do, day in and day out. Their help can be invaluable.

        You probably know this, but the December/Jan. holidays are really the highest of high seasons in the archipelago. Not only do trips book, often, years in advance but you often have to pay a “holiday supplement.” The Samba especially is an extremely popular boat (and deservedly so) and may already be booked during this period for 2015. (Of course, I don’t know this–just going by what I’ve read from other folks’ trying to book the Samba.)

        So glad you’ve found the blog helpful–thanks for letting me know! But given all you’re juggling, you really might want to partner with an expert agency to help you home in on some really good choices. Something to consider…

        Tina

        Like

  56. Sonya Donnelly says:

    Hi Tina, I’m afraid I’m back again looking to pick your brains. I have investigated the ELF boats as you recommended. Unfortunately they don’t have availability this Easter (as you suspected). I have found another slightly larger boat La Pinta which seems to have excellent reviews and may have availability. Whilst it is larger I do like the fact that it has a Dr on board given that the children will be with us. I’m a little worried about the itinery though as IT doesn’t seem to mention many of the hot spots I’ve read about. I wonder would you mind casting an eye on it and giving me your opinion. It is the 8 night western.

    La pinta 8 day, 7 night
    Day 1
    AM. Baltra
    PM. North Seymour Island
    DAY 2
    AM.
    Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)
    PM
    Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)
    DAY 3
    AM Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)
    PM. Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)
    DAY 4
    AM. Rábida Island
    PM. Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) (Santa Cruz Island)
    DAY 5
    AM. Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
    PM. Highlands of Santa Cruz Island
    DAY 6
    AM Post Office Bay (Floreana Island)
    PM. Champion Islet & Punta Cormorant (Floreana Island)
    DAY 7
    AM. Santa Fe Island
    PM South Plaza Island
    DAY 8
    AM Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal Island)

    I’m very grateful for your thoughts.
    Sonya

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Sonya–

      Too bad about the ELF availabilities–they do book well in advance. La Pinta is a lovely boat, according to what I’ve read. This itinerary is a classic 8-day “western” itinerary, which focuses on Isabela and Fernandina (the youngest and furthest west islands). It also goes to Floreana, but it doesn’t have you snorkeling at the best spot (Devil’s Crown). However, I’ve read a few good reports about the alternative (Champion). You’ll also get to see the Giant Tortoises living free in the highlands of Santa Cruz–a really great experience.

      Since it’s an 8-day itinerary (rather than a full 15-day itinerary), you’ll have to miss some of the “stars.” There’s just no way around it. But this seems like a fine western itinerary that will offer you all sorts of marvelous encounters with wildlife on land, in the air, and at sea.

      Tina

      Like

  57. Mojo says:

    Hi Tina,

    What an amazing collection of information! It is a delight to read whether or not one is planning a trip to the Galapagos. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this. We are planning a trip in near future (Feb/Mar 2015) and your website is the only way we could short list the options quickly!

    Now a couple of questions:

    Is there a website that reviews the tour guides? This would play a big factor in our final decision. But we haven’t been able to find reliable reviews of the guides anywhere.

    Is there any website that shows cabin sizes for the boats? Or cuisine on these boats?

    We have short listed 3-4 boats (Tip Top III or IV, Nemo II, Samba). But we are having a hard time picking one without the answers for these questions.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Mojo–

      Thanks for letting me know your positive experiences with the blog–I love keeping it up!

      I know of no Web site that reviews the naturalist guides. The National Park has a partial list of certified guides by level here: http://www.galapagospark.org/onecol.php?page=turismo_guias_naturalistas_directorio . But the links to Class II and Class III seem not be working right now. But really, even that wouldn’t help you. With very few exceptions, the naturalist guides freelance and move around on the boats, so you typically don’t know who will be in that critical role for your trip. So even if there were a review site, you wouldn’t know what boat that person might be on when you’re there. In my experience, a few boats offer long-term contracts to guides who they want to keep around. On the Tip Top II, our naturalist guide and a few of the crew had one of those long-term contracts; it’s possible that Wittmer Turismo (which owns and operates the Tip Top fleet) still does that with all of its boats, but I don’t know. Also, on the Mary Anne, our naturalist guide–granddaughter of the founders–worked consistently on that boat, as did a number of the crew members (in part because she’s a true sailboat, so she needs experienced sailors to work the sails). Another exception to this freelance situation is the Samba. Her principal guide, Juan Manuel Salcedo, gets rave reviews. However, even the guides get time off, so you just can’t know. Your best bet is to opt for a boat in as high a class as you can afford; since the guides get to pick where they’ll be, the really good ones tend to gravitate to the better boats. An exception to that is the marvelous tourist-superior-class Samba–one of the few tourist-superior-class boats I highly recommend. As an aside, the Samba is a very popular boat; it’s often sold out months in advance so might not be available for your short travel window.

      I’ve never seen a Web site with either the cabin sizes of boats or the cuisine. For our 2nd trip, we worked with CNH Tours (a Galápagos travel specialist); Heather was able to send us some information on the cabin sizes of a few of the boats we were considering. But as far as I know, that’s not compiled for the public anywhere.

      Hope this helps with your decision!

      Tina

      Like

  58. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina. Thanks again for such great advice. You are awesome. I will go over both of these and try to make a decision sooner then later. Between me and you which did u prefer. The east or the west. I know they are both great and wonderful but did u have a preference of likability.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      To be honest, Claudine, I wouldn’t be able to choose just between the itineraries, I don’t think. Both are great. Getting to 3 of the 4 islands (Nemo) is really wonderful, especially if you’re not likely to return (and few do!). But I have heard such great reports of the Angelito’s naturalist guides that I think I might be swayed toward that boat–not because of a better itinerary but because of how important getting a terrific naturalist guide is. I think your odds of getting an awesome guide on the Angelito, with Maja as the owner/operator, may be a bit higher than with the Nemo, which hires free-lance guides. But really, that’s just a small lean toward the Angelito.

      You might try a coin flip–see which one comes up the winner and see how you feel about that. That might tell you more about your gut feeling!

      Tina

      Like

      • Karen waldman says:

        Hi Tina,
        Qwhat a wealth of information you have provided! Thank you!!
        I am planning a trip to Galapagos islands the first week of August. We can unfortunately only take a 6 day cruise. I emailed Mary Anne, majestic, Columbus, ocean spray, Klein tours, Columbus, beluga and Angelito.
        I immediately heard back from Maja and Bruno through Cometa travels. Maja has been so responsive and accommodating and we think we are going to go with Angelito tours itinerary B includes travels to Baltra-Las Bachas, Mosquera-cerro dragon, Tagus cove (isabela) and punta Espinoza (Fernandina), isabela: Urbina bay-Elizabeth bay, and punta Moreno (whale watching from puesta Villamil to puerta ayora. The cost is slightly more than other travels ($2,350).
        Unfortunately Maja will not be available for this trip, Bruna will be our naturalist guide.
        What are your thoughts on this ?
        Thank you for all your generous information and sharing and help!!!
        Karen

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Karen–

        I’m so glad you’ve found the blog helpful!

        The Angelito is one of only two tourist-superior-class boats that I routinely recommend. From what I’ve read, you get a lot for your money on her trips. Maja has been in business a long time and enjoys a solid reputation–not just as a terrific naturalist guide but as an owner. I don’t know much about Bruna as a naturalist guide, although I’ve read reviews from travelers who worked with her to arrange travel through Cometa; all spoke very highly of her. I think Bruna is a co-owner of the Angelito. They recently refurbished the Angelito and by all reports did a really good job.

        The itinerary’s a good one, hitting many of the highlights of those young, western islands. The boat is a solid one and the price is good for the quality you’ll get. I think you won’t be disappointed.

        Tina

        Like

  59. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina
    And u thought u heard the last of me. I have you in favorites under Galapago decisions for a reason. :) Oh my, decisions, decisions. I have been talking to the Galapago experts and the girl mentioned an itinerary on the Memo II which sounds mighty nice also and mentioned I would see more wildlife on this one. It is :

    Baltra, North Seymour
    Santa Cruz Highlands, Charles Darwin Station
    Isabela: Punta Moreno, Urbina Bay
    Isabela: Tagus Cove, Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
    Santiago: Puerto Egas, Bucaneer Cove
    Rabida, Santiago: Sullivan Bay
    Genovesa: Prince Phillip Steps, Darwin Bay
    Daphne, Baltra

    So it seems to be between this one or the Angelita Itinerary ” A ” which of course have the waved Albatross with the cutest looking babies.
    And of course thank u so much for your time and feedback. I really value your opinion.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hey again, Claudine–

      I think you’re talking about the Nemo II; I don’t know much about the boat itself. I think you’ll see lots of fascinating wildlife on either of these itineraries. You’re facing the classic “eastern” vs “western” itinerary challenge. On our 2 trips, we saw more individual wildlife (a LOT of which were those adorable Galápagos Sea Lions) on our eastern trip but greater diversity on our western trip. The Nemo’s western itierary will have you spending several days surrounded by lava, lava, lava! While the Angelito’s eastern itinerary spends more time around the older, more weathered, and less-volcanic-looking islands. The Nemo also goes to 3 of the 4 most distant islands, which is a plus. But the Angelito has a great reputation for really good naturalist guides–which is an absolutely critical part of the trip. A mediocre naturalist guide will make the time seem to drag; a terrific guide will make your trip sing. The Nemo probably contracts out for guides, so you have no way of knowing who you’ll get.

      But really, either one is a great itinerary. You just have to make the hard choice of which islands are most important to you, since you’ll have to miss something on any 8-day itinerary. I don’t think you can lose, though, so don’t sweat the decision too much!

      Tina

      Like

  60. Debra says:

    Hi Tina. Thanks so much. We would travel in February or March 2015. We’re not big snorkelers. We were so worried about taking too long to decide and then not having a spot that we opted for the Beluga. I am feeling slightly regretful about our rush to choose, and perhaps not selecting the Mary Anne and its itinerary. But hopefully all will turn out well. Thank you again for taking the time to respond with such good detail.

    Like

  61. Claudine says:

    Thank u so much Tina. Your quick response is excellent. U are really helping me make a decision. I am really torn between Isabela/Fernandina / or Espanola. I seen your baby Albatross pictures and they are just the cutest little things. Oh decisions, decisions.

    Like

  62. Debra says:

    Hi. Thanks for compiling all this information. We are going to book a Galapagos cruise for our honeymoon. We are looking at first class since it is our honeymoon:) Right now, we are leaning toward the Majestic (A or B) and Beluga (Tower). The Mary Anne (West) was also recommended. We are fairly active and like many others coming to Galapagos, most interested in the wildlife. Thoughts for us honeymooners? Thanks!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Debra–

      I have an absolute love of the Mary Anne, which we sailed on last year. If you haven’t already read it, you can see lots of photos and read about her on the blog. (There’s a link under the header photo of the Giant Tortoise.) We too were on the western itinerary, so you can get a real sense of it by clicking through each day’s write-up (although, again, you may have already done that). Since the Mary Anne was originally built for 24 passengers but now sails with only 16, it has a lot of common space and the sailboat is just gorgeous. Cabins 9 and 10 are quite large; if you went with her, you might try to get one of these for a bit more luxury.

      I don’t have personal experience with either the Beluga or the Majestic, but their itineraries look like pretty typical “eastern” (Beluga/Tower or Majestic/A) or western (Majestic/B). You didn’t mention when you would be traveling, which makes a bit of a difference if you’re deciding whether a visit to Española. If you’d be there between, say, mid-Dec. and late March, the magnificent Waved Albatross will likely be gone from their breeding grounds there. (I have heard of a trip or 2 that saw 1 or 2 in early Jan., but they were VERY lucky.) Española is a lovely island in its own right, even with these gorgeous behemoths. But it’s not quite as special without them.

      If you’re really keen on snorkeling, I might lean toward the Majestic/A trip over the Beluga/Tower. The Majestic visits what are probably the 2 best snorkeling spots in the eastern islands–Devil’s Crown, off Floreana, and Kicker Rock, off San Cristóbal. Aside from these, these 2 eastern itineraries aren’t very different in meaningful ways; they’re both solid ones that will offer lots of great experiences.

      The Majestic/B and Mary Anne (west) are pretty similar too. In my experience, the marine wildlife was more interesting along the western islands than along the eastern islands. The Mary Anne has you snorkeling at Punta Vicente Roca, which the naturalist guides on both of our trips said was their absolutely favorite spot for snorkeling anywhere in the archipelago. (The Majestic doesn’t stop there.) The Mary Anne also snorkels at Devil’s Crown; couple that great spot with snorkeling all along the western shore of Isabela and around Fernandina, you’ll be at the best spots in the archipelago. So in addition to loving the boat, I’d lean just a bit toward the Mary Anne’s itinerary over the Majestic/B. But it’s just a slight lean.

      Having written all that, these are all solid first-class boats with good reputations. The itineraries differ a bit but not dramatically. Any one of them will offer you a delightful experience with lots and lots of wonderful encounters with wildlife.

      Tina

      Like

  63. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina

    Thank u so much for the quick response. This is a 7 night/8 day cruising of the Galapagos. It is the west, central and east inlands. And yes I would love to see the penquins and giant tortoises and I do believe the highlands are not on this itinerary. Being from Canada am I better to book thru an agency here or go thru a direct one for a more reasonable price.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Claudine–

      Ah, I was looking at 2013 itineraries for Monserrat–my bad! Looking at your itinerary list again, I see that it does go to Bartolomé, so you have a chance at seeing the small group of penguins that move between that island and Sombrero Chino. Not guaranteed, but many folks report seeing them (as we did on our first trip). So cancel that concern of mine. But it’s being an 8-day itinerary makes it even less appealing to me that you only get to 1 of the 4 most distant islands. If you like the boat, does its other 8-day itinerary (all boats should have 2) go to the other 3 islands? Generally speaking, if only 1 distant island is on an itinerary, the other 3 are on the other itinerary. Not every boat makes the long trek to Isabela & Fernandina, so it’s possible that the Monserrat doesn’t go there at all. But you might want to check into that.

      I personally really like working with the agencies that specialize in Galápagos travel. They have a very broad picture of all of the options available and can bring up issues that most people might not ever have thought about. By working just with one boat owner, you have automatically limited your options, cruise-wise. I don’t know anything about the Monserrat or its owners, so I can’t speak to their discounts. But many folks report that working directly with an owner may not necessarily save you much, since they often charge similar prices to the agencies–instead of giving the agencies a discount for selling, the owners just keep that discount when you book directly. The largest savings you can get is going for last-minute deals, which you’re not talking about right now. (Such deals often are within a month of sailing or even a few days.) If you’re not completely sure of what you want, an agency is the way to go (in my opinion). For our return trip last year, I knew quite well what I wanted. But Heather at CNH Tours was extremely helpful in broadening our options and even helping us out when surprises arose that necessitated our changing our plans. And really, a “reasonable” price is a bit of a misnomer when considering a trip to the Galápagos. It’s simply an extremely expensive destination, if you want to be on a boat that meets the minimum standards of cleanliness, decent crew, and a sturdy boat.

      Tina

      Like

  64. Hi Tina
    I have also just started looking into our Galapagos adventure for Oct 2015. Doing research I found u. Thank goodness. I had no idea there were this many choices to the Galapagos I thought I phoned and booked a trip to the Galapagos. Wowsa as there is too much to wrap my head around. I found an iteniary that I keep going back too but it does not include Isabela, Fernandina and Genovesa that it seems u speak volumes about. I am interested in Giant tortoises as well as the big iguanas. Actually any animal. Love them all. What do u think of this one. It would be aboard the Monserrat. San Cristobal, Cerro Brujo / Kicker Rock, Espanola Island , Floreana Island , Santa Cruz, Sullivan Bay/ Bartolome, Bachas Beach, and Black TurtleCove/ Baltra . Thank u so much for your feedback. Also how is the weather in October or would September be better? Again thank u so much for any input u can give me.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Wowza indeed, Claudine! All of the choices can feel overwhelming, I know. It looks like you’re talking about the 5-day itinerary of the tourist-superior class Monserrat. With that short an itinerary, you typically can only get to 1 of the 4 most distant islands that I rave about. In this itinerary, it’s Española. If you want to get to more than 1, you’ll probably need to choose a longer itinerary. Keep in mind that any itinerary is really 2 days shorter than it sounds; the first day is just an afternoon outing and the last day, a morning outing, because of airport transportation issues. So this 5-day itinerary only has 3 full days at sea, which doesn’t leave you enough time to travel to more than one of the distant islands.

      Having written that, Española in Oct. will be nice. The stunning Waved Albatross will still be on land and their nestlings will be large and totally funky-looking. The adults will also probably be resuming their courtship activities a bit as they prepare for their 3 months of flying non-stop off the coast of Perú starting around mid-Dec. or so. So it’s a great time to be there. Snorkeling at Kicker Rock is reported to be good (I’ve not been there). It also goes to Floreana, but you don’t snorkel at the best spot there (Devil’s Crown), although I’ve read a decent report or 2 about snorkeling at Champion Islet. You spent the last morning at the tortoise breeding center (Research Station) on Santa Cruz, but it’s not clear that you’ll get to see the better viewing–of Giant Tortoises living free in the highlands of Santa Cruz. You might want to check on that, because that experience is really great.

      So I’d say this is an okay itinerary but maybe not the best even for such a short cruise. You’ll be paying a lot just to set foot in the archipelago (~$400 airfare and $100 park entrance fee). Might you be able to swing a bit more money and time and look for an 8-day/7-night cruise? I don’t think you’d regret it. You might consider working with an agency that specializes in Galápagos travel, such as Happy Gringo, Columbus Travel, or CNH Tours. Those folks have lots of experience in listening to what you want, your limits, and your expectations and then offering suggestions for you to consider. They can really help you sort out the many options facing you.

      An alternative might be, if you had the time, to take a short cruise like this and then spend a few days on Santa Cruz doing day trips to places that you didn’t get to (e.g., the highlands for tortoises, Bartolomé for penguins, N. Seymour for sea bird breeding colonies). Day trips can be a bit tricky, since they don’t run every day and the most popular ones (such as Bartolomé and N. Seymour) can sell out. But you’ll be traveling during a non-high-traveler time, so that might not be so much of a worry.

      The weather in Oct. will be quite similar to the weather in Sept., so that shouldn’t play much of a role in your decision. In fact, the water temps will likely be a tiny bit warmer in Oct. and the air temps still mild with low humidity. The probability of rough seas will still exist but will not be quite as high as in Sept. So Oct. is, in my opinion, a fine time to visit.

      Tina

      Like

  65. Betsi says:

    Thank you so much!! We can’t wait for our trip!

    Like

  66. Betsi says:

    Tina, can you give me your opinion on the 5-night western itinerary on the Santa Cruz? Also, what is your opinion of this ship? We like the idea of the larger ship and are hoping for no seasickness and a good variety of wildlife on this cruise! We are going to the Galapagos in mid to late April.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Betsi–

      The 5-night western itinerary of the Santa Cruz looks like a good one. You’ll hit some of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago, if that’s important to you. Fernandina and Isabela have terrific marine wildlife. And Punta Vicente Roca is the favorite snorkeling spot of the naturalist guides on both of our trips–and they were avid snorkelers and divers. It’s a bit of a shame that the itinerary goes to Floreana but doesn’t let you snorkel at Devil’s Crown (the other most-touted spot); instead, you snorkel at Champion. But I’ve read some nice reports of snorkeling there.

      You’ll get to see lots of penguins on the western islands, which are such a treat. Isabela/Fernandina are home to the largest subspecies of Marine Iguana–and they are big! About the only wildlife that you’ll likely see in lower numbers around the western islands are the Galápagos Sea Lions, which hang out in much larger numbers on the sandy beaches of the older, eastern islands. But you should still see some in the west, especially around Fernandina, I think.

      You can probably arrange to see the Giant Tortoises living free in the highlands of Santa Cruz on the day spent there–so much better than just seeing them in the more zoo-like setting of the Research Station. And you’ll get a nice taste of the sea bird breeding colonies on N. Seymour.

      I don’t know anything much about the Santa Cruz. A larger ship will likely help with motion sickness–although in April, you have a high probability of calm waters, so motion sickness is not likely to be a problem on any boat.

      Tina

      Like

  67. Mich says:

    Thanks for you wonderful information. Do you have any experience or any opinions on the Queen of Galapagos. It is a 16 person Catamaran, and I we are considering for a trip in Nov 2015.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Mich–

      I don’t know much about the Queen of Galápagos per se, except that she is one of the more expensive boats in the first-class category. But the boat herself is only one–and to me not necessarily the most important–decision point. You really need to consider the itineraries. Her itineraries are odd for such an high-class boat. Either of her 2 8-day/7-night itineraries goes to only 1 of the 4 most distant islands–in her case, Genovesa on one and Española on the other. Most boats put 2 of the distant islands (often Isabela and Fernandina) on one 8-day itinerary and the other 2 (often Genovesa and Española) on the other. But the QoG doesn’t appear to go to Isabela/Fernandina at any point during her full 15-day route. I’ve seen lower-end boats that don’t go to Isabela/Fernandina (the westernmost islands) because they lack the power. (Those islands are a 10- to 12-hour trip from most locations.) But it’s curious that the QoG–which should have plenty of power–never goes to those marvelous spots. I wonder why?

      So I personally wouldn’t choose these itineraries as the best of the best, especially for the price you might pay. As a minimum, I’d look for a boat that goes to at least 2 of the most distant islands on an 8-day itinerary; those islands have the most unusual wildlife, having evolved in isolation, and are least visited by human traffic. Some itineraries will even get you to 3 of the 4 islands on 1 8-day itinerary–those are the best, in my opinion.

      Tina

      Like

  68. Ken says:

    I want to go to the Galapagos. I am 68 and had been concerned about the landing craft until I read your blog. I had about given up on the idea. I noticed in some of your blog replies that there are sharks among the snorkelers. Could you address this? Thank you!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Ken–

      No need to give up on the Galápagos! Getting into and out of the pangas just requires a little bit of balance and a willingness to let others help. The crew are there to help everyone in and out. Those firm handholds–a.k.a., the Galápagos handshake–make sure that no one ends up in the drink.

      Regarding sharks–The most common shark we saw were the white-tipped reef sharks. (In fact, I don’t think we saw any other species of shark when we were snorkeling.) These sharks are nocturnal and spend their days resting on the floor of the oceans. They present no danger for snorkelers as long as you keep your distance (as is true for just about any wildlife).

      Most of the larger shark species (e.g., hammerhead, Galápagos shark) are found by scuba divers around the outer islands of Darwin & Wolf (reachable by tourists only on a liveaboard scuba tour). However, the Samba’s northwest itinerary snorkels at several spots around the northern island of Marchena. (As far as I know, the Samba is the only boat that goes to this island.) A few spottings of these larger shark species have been reported by snorkelers, but they are by far the exception rather than the rule. So, if you LIKE sharks, check out the Samba. Otherwise, you’ll mostly just see reef sharks as you float a good distance above them.

      You can read a bit more about the sharks of the archipelago here: http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/galapagos/sharks.html .

      Tina

      Like

      • Ken Kohler says:

        Thanks Tina. I feel better about the sharks. Now all I need is a good reasonable priced tour on a nice boat with airfare included from Miami, and a free transfer to and from the airport for a Eastern Galapagos cruise with a share in April or May of 2015. I have always wanted to go to Manchu Pichu also however the packages are out of sight. I love your blog. It is the best information I have seen. Thanks!–Ken

        Like

  69. Echo says:

    Hi Tina,
    Thank you so much for taking the time reply to me, I really appreciate it! I must say, if I hadn’t read your blog, I would think the Xavier itinerary was great and go for it, but thanks to your great input, I had a brief idea of where we want to go and which itinerary to look for, which is really important.

    Many thanks to you again. Take care!
    Echo

    Like

  70. Echo says:

    Dear Tina,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog, I’ve learned so much from your detailed, thoughtful, well informed post. I am sure you’ve helped a lot of people who are like me, who are the first-timer to Galapogas islands. Great job!

    My husband and I are going there on nov.8. We are now in process of choosing a boat to do a 8-day cruise, I am glad I read your post about which one to choose, I agree, the itinerary is very important. We are interested in “Xavier”, however i am not so sure about their itinerary, which does not include the islands you mentioned, I am copying it here, I would love to hear your advices.

    SUN San Cristobal Airport, El Junco
    MON San Cristobal: Punta Pitt, Kicker Rock
    TUE Santiago: Espumilla Beach, Buccaneer Cove
    WED Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Station, Highlands
    THU Chinese hat, Black Turtle cove
    FRI Santa Cruz: Dragon Hill, Daphne
    SAT Plazas, Santa Fe
    SUN Interpretation centre, San Cristobal airport

    Thank you so much for your help!
    Best,
    Echo

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Echo–

      In my opinion, this isn’t a great 7-night itinerary. You never really leave the central islands, most of which (with the exception of Sombrero Chino, can all be visited by day trips. With such increased human traffic, the wildlife live further from the paths and are less approachable than they are on the most distant islands. Also, the itinerary has you spending 6 of the 8 days on 2 of the 3 inhabited islands. Not what I’d look for…

      It’s an okay itinerary, but it really doesn’t hit even one of the most spectacular, more distant islands where the wildlife are truly stunning. If it’s all you can afford (time- or money-wise), it’s probably a decent trip. But if it were me, I’d do more searching to find an itinerary that visits fewer of the central islands and get you to at least 2 of the 4 furthest-out islands (Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina, Española), where the archipelago really shows her wonders.

      Tina

      Like

  71. Rimma Aronov says:

    Tina, I cannot underestimate your input and thank you enough for your help and insight.
    I wanted to ask for your help with tweaking my itinerary before I purchase plane tickets.
    I booked a 7 day cruise with Ecoventura in June of next year, June 21-28, itinerary B, as you suggested. After doing some research on what we will be missing on this itinerary, I came up with these additions:

    1. Arrive in Equador and spend the night near airport.
    2. Fly to Galapagos, San Cristabol, for a two night stay. Spend the rest of the day exploring the island on our own, swim, etc.
    3. Scuba diving/snorkeling trip to Kicker Rock (possibly with the WRECK BAY DIVE SHOP)
    4. Board the cruise
    5. Disembark the cruise ship on the evening before the cruise ends, while in Santa Cruz (Ecoventura people said we would not be missing anything of value if we left the ship after dinner on Saturday night. They would then just travel to San Cristabol to finish up there on Sunday morning).
    6. Day trip to Bartolome from Santa Cruz
    7. Day trip to North Seymor from Santa Cruz, possibly a diving trip
    8. Depart from Santa Cruz after a three night stay.

    When I talked to Ecoventura people, they seemed to think that visiting Bartolome and North Seymor after the cruise is not really worth it, as it will not add anything new to the trip. They say we will have seen everything already on other islands. They suggest adding day trips only for the purpose of diving, if that is what I want to do. I am not sure if that opinion would be shared by you and other Galapagos enthusiasts. Although I do not have a purpose of seeing every bird and iguana and turtle and fish species that lives on Galapagos, I wouldn’t want to miss those animals that are a “must see” because of bad luck or bad weather. But I also don’t want to go through the trouble and expense of additional pre- or post cruse trips if they would add absolutely nothing to the overall experience. What do you think?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Rimma–

      I’m with the Ecoventura folks. Most people do a day trip to Bartolomé to snorkel/swim with the penguins. (A small group move between that island and Sombrero Chino.) But you’ll have seen lots of them around Isabela and Fernandina, which is where the largest population lives. Bartolomé also has a lovely viewpoint at the top of the extinct volcano, but I don’t think it’s worth the money for just that experience. You can see the view on just about any postcard of the archipelago. (It’s allegedly the most photographed spot in the islands.):)

      Also, since you’ll have seen the marvelous seabird breeding colonies on Genovesa, I think the colonies on N. Seymour will be a bit of a letdown. At least on our first trip, which included both Genovesa and N. Seymour, that’s very much how I felt. You may also do some snorkeling around N. Seymour on a day trip but again–you’ll have had much better snorkeling opportunities around Isabela and Fernandina. I doubt you’d see any new species on either of these day trips.

      It sounds like you have a marvelous trip ahead of you. I bet you can hardly wait!

      Tina

      Like

  72. Brenda Beatty says:

    I am so glad to have found your blog, i don’t need to go anywhere else, other than the links you provide! You Rock!

    Like

  73. Karin says:

    what an amazing website, and thanks for sharing your experiences and trips!! We are planning to extend our Ecuador trip with 8 days Galapagos. looks like there will be just the 3 of us, and we really liked the idea of the Ecoventura boats (size, good guides, dates)… unfortunately they’re full. So two questions – what would you recommend as the next best thing, and is there a travel agent who could find out which actually still have availability and leave on the 28th of December? (over NYE, so I assume very busy). Thanks!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Karin–

      Yes, you’ve picked just about the busiest time in the archipelago, I’m sorry to say. The Dec. holidays tend to get booked 1 and 2 years in advanced, especially the most popular boats (which Ecoventura’s ELF fleet surely is).

      As for travel organizations, I’ve read good things about Happy Gringo and Columbus Travel. And of course, we worked with Heather at CNH Tours for our 2nd trip. She was great. You might contact all 3 (all have good Web sites) and see who responds the fastest and in a style that you like–and take it from there (quickly!).

      Good luck with your search.

      Tina

      Like

  74. Kathleen says:

    Hi Tina,

    Thank you so much for your invaluable blog. I have learned so much from you already!

    I know that you prefer the smaller boats for Galapagos travel, but we are thinking of going on one of the larger ships in order to accommodate the various needs of our travel group (me, my husband, our then-12 year old, my in-laws, our friends and their then 12-year old, and their solo traveler friend). In particular, we really want an opportunity for the kids to meet and interact with a variety of other kids, and to have a bit of ship to roam when we are on board. In addition, I think a little extra space can sometimes promote harmony on an extended family trip.:) We were on a 65 passenger wildlife cruise in Alaska with National Geographic/Lindblad recently, and felt fine with that number of passengers.

    Do you know of a good source of information, besides TripAdvisor, for finding detailed information and trip reviews of the larger ships? I am currently thinking that the National Geographic Endeavor is probably the best option for our diverse party, but I would love to explore other options.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Kathleen–

      The larger boats clearly have their place in the Galápagos and your situation sounds perfect for one–and the Endeavour is a lovely boat. If you haven’t already checked it, you might look at Cruise Critic: http://www.cruisecritic.com/ . You can find sales literature from the companies, member reviews, and forums that have threads about specific boats. The easiest thing probably is to type in “galapagos” (no quotation marks) into the search box on the home page to see what links come up. Cruise Critic seems to feature the larger boats (48+ passengers) rather than the smaller boats. So you may find some helpful suggestions there. Good luck in your search!

      Tina

      Like

  75. Rimma Aronov says:

    Hello, Tina!
    I am SO glad I came across your site – such a wealth of information!
    I would love to hear your advice on the trip I am planning. I and my four children, ages 8 to 21, will be traveling to Galapagos next year, most likely in the second half of June. I certainly want this to be the trip of a lifetime for them. They are all well travelled and well behaved children, interested in nature and science, as well as photography. Would you have particular recommendations on a cruise/vendor to go with? Are there some interesting options for a two-three day pre-cruise adventure? Is mid to late June a good choice as far as seeing most of wild life? Will the water be too cold for swimming? Should we lean toward an Southern/Central or Western?Northern itineraries (these are the two options on Ecoventura website which is one I am considering so far)? Thank you in advance for your time,
    Rimma

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Rimma–

      Ecoventura operates a terrific fleet of ships, affectionately known as ELF. They are well known for arranging their departures so that similar groups travel together (e.g., families, older adults, younger adults). I think it’s a great choice for families–the naturalist guides are respected for their good skills with kids. I personally think that the NW itinerary is among the best in the islands, since it gets you to 3 of the 4 most distant islands–Genovesa (wonderful sea bird breeding colonies), Isabela & Fernandina (the westernmost islands with terrific snorkeling). Most itineraries only get to 2 of the 4, so you get a bonus on the NW itinerary (I think they call it itinerary B).

      If you have a few days to spend pre-cruise, I personally would recommend flying into Quito and doing a couple of day trips around there. Quito is a lovely city with many fascinating options in town and a short ways out of town (e.g., Cotopaxi, Mindo in the cloud forest, the markets at Otavalo). You’ll have seen the best the archipelago has to offer on your cruise (in my opinion), and we have really enjoyed Quito on our 2 trips. Also, if you spend a few days on the mainland before you head to the islands, your luggage will have a chance to catch up with you should it miss your connections. If you have to head to the archipelago before your luggage, it will have a hard time catching up with you on the cruise.

      The wildlife do wonderful things every month of the year, so no worries there. The water, especially around the western islands, will be a bit cool but not too cold. You might bring wet suits (shorties will be fine) or see if the boat you’re on offers them for rent. We brought ours on our last trip and I was glad I had it. Not only does it offer a bit of warmth but it adds some buoyancy for those of us who are not terribly confident swimmers. And it keeps you warmer on the panga rides after snorkeling. Lots of benefits!

      I’m so glad you’ve found the blog helpful. Thanks for letting me know and have a grand time planning this marvelous adventure!

      Tina

      Like

      • Rimma Aronov says:

        Tina, thank you again for your input. I made a reservation with Ecoventura for their itinerary B at the end of June. Now, after reading your replies to others on this blog, I am all paranoid that we will miss out on snorkeling with the sea lions. It sounds like they pretty much stay in the Eastern part of the archipelago. Or do they stray off to the NW parts too?

        Another question: do you think it is worth staying an extra day post cruise on St. Critobal where we disembark? Is it an interesting island to explore? Can we move around without a guide? Or maybe there are some day trips from this island which would fill in on what we missed on the NW itinerary?

        Rimma

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Rimma–

        You won’t see many sea lions along the western islands, although we did see a few–I think at Tagus Cove and Punta Vicente Roca. We also saw some on Fernandina, but not while we were snorkeling. Just not many of the vast sandy beaches that they love to hang out on. However, the NW itinerary also stops at Rábida, which (at least when we were there) was just crawling with sea lions sunning along the red sand beach. Most itineraries snorkel there too. Also, they’re often found around the various Santa Cruz snorkeling spots, since that island has a lot of sandy beaches.

        I don’t know much about Puerto Baquerizo on San Cristóbal (we avoided the towns as much as we could), but you can do some day trips around that island there. You can’t do day trips to other islands from San Cristóbal, though–you can only get those from Santa Cruz. You might contact the agency you booked with to ask them what the options for San Cristóbal are. Or look around on TripAdvisor–folks have written about the fun things there. One great option, if you can arrange it, is a day trip to snorkel at Kicker Rock. That spot gets terrific reviews. But it gets filled up fast, so see if you can book it ahead of time.

        So, bottom line–you should have chances to snorkel with sea lions on Ecoventura’s NW itinerary–just not too many likely around the lava coasts of Isabela & Fernandina.

        Tina

        Like

  76. Morag Campion says:

    Hi Tina,
    Can I please add my thanks to you for so much useful information!

    We are planning a last minute trip to the Galapagos in October this year. We are fairly flexible with dates and my husband is keen on just making our way to Quito and trying to find a late deal – but I’m a bit nervous about that as I don’t really want to end up on a very grotty boat that no-one else wants!!
    So I’ve been researching and have come up with a few good bargain that are within our budget. My favourite so far is on the Galaxy because they are offering a 10 or 11 day option and with most of the others it is a choice between 7 or 14 nights. But we would need to choose between Itinerary A + B which is 10 days or B+C which is 11. My husband doesn’t really want to fork out for A + B + C which is 14 nights and I actually think that may be a bit long anyway. Obviously there then has to be a sacrifice and I can’t decide on what to leave out! We’d welcome your advice.
    We like snorkeling a lot (and are both certified divers but can’t really spare the time and money to go to Wolf and Darwin so have decided to stick with snorkeling) and are more interested in what’s on the land and in the sea rather than in what’s in the air – though I do want to see the frigate birds puff out their chests!!
    I’ve copied the itineraries here:
    A
    SAN CRISTOBAL PM LOBOS ISLAND / KICKED ROCK
    ESPANOLA AM GARDNER BAY /GARDNER ISLAND/OSBORN ISLET
    ESPANOLA PM SUAREZ POINT
    FLOREANA AM POST OFFICE BAY
    FLOREANA PM CORMORANT POINT/DEVIL’S CROWN
    SANTA FE AM SANTA FE
    PLAZAS SUR PM SOUTH PLAZA
    SANTA CRUZ AM CHARLES DARWIN STATION

    B
    SANTA CRUZ PM CHATO / TWINS
    ISABELA AM TINTORERAS
    ISABELA PM BREEDING CENTER/HUMEDALES /MURO DE LAS LAGRIMAS
    ISABELA AM ELIZABETH BAY
    ISABELA PM URBINA BAY
    ISABELA AM TAGUS COVE
    FERNANDINA PM ESPINOZA POINT
    SANTIAGO AM EGAS PORT
    SANTIAGO PM ESPUMILLA BEACH/CALETA BUCANERO
    SANTA CRUZ AM DRAGON HILL

    C
    SANTA CRUZ PM BLACK TURTLE COVE
    RABIDA AM
    RABIDA SOMBRERO CHINOPM CHINESES HAT
    SEYMOUR AM
    SEYMOUR MOSQUERA PM MOSQUERA
    SANTIAGO AM SULLIVAN BAY
    BARTOLOME PM BARTOLOME
    GENOVESA AM EL BARRANCO
    GENOVESA PM DARWIN BAY
    SAN CRISTOBAL AM INTERPRETATION CENTER

    Could you possibly tell us which you’d recommend as the best combination?

    The other deals I’ve found for 7 or 14 nights are on the Nemo III or the Reina Silvia but I think we’d then probably opt for 7 nights and miss a lot more.

    Many thanks

    Morag

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Morag–

      Given your interests, I’d choose A+B. The snorkeling around Isabela and Fernandina (the westernmost islands) was spectacular on our 2nd trip. And Devil’s Crown is, according to those in the know, the best spot in the archipelago for snorkeling that ISN’T around the western islands. Kicker Rock gets really good snorkeling reviews too.

      Most of the iconic birds of the Galápagos actually ARE viewed on land or water–the sea birds. A+B will take you to the best of these–the Waved Albatross of Española. With one small exception, this is the only spot on the planet that they come to land to breed. And they are truly magnificent.

      And you’ll see plenty of Flightless Cormorants and Galápagos Penguins (two other iconic birds that are actually viewed only on land or in the water, since neither can fly) around the western islands. You’ll likely even snorkel with some penguins out there, more than once.

      However, A+B won’t get you to the best spots for seeing breeding frigatebirds (Genovesa and N. Seymour). The males inflate their bright red gular pouches primarily on their breeding grounds, as a way to attract a mate. You’ll see frigatebirds throughout the islands, but the best views of the gular pouches are in the breeding colonies. Doesn’t mean you WON’T see them, but your chances are lower.

      Tina

      Like

  77. Marie says:

    Hello…great website. You are amazing for putting all this info together and keeping it updated.

    My question is: once I choose a cruise, how do I book the ship? I have itieneraries from travel companies and we are thinking of a trip on the queen of galapagos through gadventures.com for June 2015, but after reading your site, it looks like the price for the cruise itself for that ship is a lot less than the price from the travel company. If I were to book the same trip without gadventures, do I just contact the ship directly?

    I hope this isn’t a dumb question.

    Thank you,
    Marie

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Marie–

      Definitely NOT a dumb question! You can book the boat directly from the ship’s owner, if you’d like: http://www.queenofgalapagos.com/ . If you’re considering a pre- or post-cruise add-on (e.g., a few days in Quito or a stopover in Peru), you might want to work with a travel agency that specializes in Galápagos travel, such as Happy Gringo. Agencies such as that can help you organize all aspects of your trip in addition to the cruise.

      When comparing prices, say between Gadventures and Happy Gringo, make sure you’re comparing apples and apples. Sometimes travel organizations offer extras for the same price, so it can be hard to tell whether a higher price might actually get you more things that you’d like.

      I’m so glad you’ve found the Web site helpful! I enjoy working on it and I’m always really happy to hear when people like it.

      Tina

      Like

      • Karen says:

        Hi,
        We are looking at two boats for a Galapagos cruise in February. The Anahi for the western islands or the Seaman for the eastern islands. We have found the best price through Galapagos Last Minute. Can you give us some feedback on the two boats, which itinerary would be preferable and the reputation of the tour company?
        Thanks so much!

        Karen

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Karen–

        If you could copy the exact itineraries you’re considering, it will be easier for me to offer some comments on them. Since boats often cut their itineraries into a variety of days, I just want to make sure I’m looking at the precise itineraries you’re considering.

        Tina

        Like

    • Marie says:

      Thank you for your prompt and informative response. Lots to think about now, but feel like I’ll be able to make informed decisions thanks to you.

      Like

  78. juli says:

    Greetings Tina! We are 2 seniors trying to plan a Galapagos trip that will not slow our cruise-mates down. Are there companies that are more sensitive to the older client? I read your advice to stick to the eastern islands. I am just afraid that I will end up sitting on the deck rather than struggling to keep up with the other passengers. Will the guides allow people to just stay on the beach rather than hiking up volcanoes?

    Like

    • juli says:

      P.S. Road Scholar dates will not work for us.

      Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Juli–

      One thing to note–the pace of the landings is very slow, since you’re always stopping to listen to the naturalist guide explain things and take bazillions of photos. There also are stops to just rest and taken in the wonders around you. So, for instance, you’re often out for 2 or 3 hours but only covering a couple of miles. I think the longest landing we went on was on Española to the Waved Albatross breeding colony. That outing lasted about 3 hours and covered only about 3 km. At most landings, you probably can’t just hang out on a beach by yourselves, since you always have to be with a naturalist guide when you’re on National Park land–which covers most of the archipelago except around the towns.

      If you’re still worried, you might consider one of the larger cruise ships. (In the Galápagos, the largest cruise ships are ~100 passengers–not at all like what most of us think of as “cruise ships.”) On these larger boats, you have more naturalist guides (1 guide for every 16 passengers) and you’ll have a better chance to choose less vigorous outings if you’re worried about the landings (e.g., a panga ride vs. a walk). People also tend to sort themselves into ability groups to a greater degree. You could check out this Web page to get a sense of these larger boats: http://www.galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise-ship.html .

      Another thing to note–you don’t routinely hike up volcanoes (which sounds really strenuous to me!). On Bartolomé, you slowly walk up ~300 wide, wooden stairs (built by the National Park and an easy climb) to the viewpoint at the top of the extinct volcano. In Puerto Villamil (Isabela), you typically take transportation to within a relatively short walk to the first lookout point on Sierra Negra. (No other volcanoes are open for landings.) Nearly all other landings are on wide, well-marked, relatively level paths. My caveat about avoiding the western islands, if you’re a bit unsteady, comes from the time you spend on the uneven lava. But even those walks are pretty flat and not strenuous (except that they can be very hot, even early in the day). And I highly recommend taking a collapsible hiking stick, which can offer you a bit of extra steadiness and a way to catch a quick rest while walking. Some boats have them on board too, so you might check on that once you decide on a boat.

      Tina

      Like

  79. michael grabowski says:

    Hey Nick,
    I will be going to Riobamba in sept 2015 for a medical mission trip for a week. We want to do some sightseeing along with the galapagos after our mission. We may have a small group and would like your opinion on where and what to see . We should have an extra week or 10 days to tour. Of course a medium to budget cost would be ideal.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Michael–

      For the Galápagos, I strongly recommend a naturalist cruise, if you can swing it. You get to 2 landings a day and have 1 or 2 snorkeling outings each day, compared to 1 day trip if you’re traveling land-based. You waste no time traveling between islands because the boat moves while you’re eating lunch or sleeping. Each time the boat stop, the curtain rises on your next amazing adventure. Naturalist cruises also visit the islands early in the morning and late in the afternoon, when the wildlife are most active and the light is best for photography. Day trips, because of the 2+ hours of travel time (one way), hit the landings when the sun is much harsher and the temps., higher.

      Two boats that get good reviews in the tourist-superior class (the class just below first-class) are the Samba and the Angelito. Both have excellent naturalist guides–which are critical for a marvelous trip–and give you a lot of bang for your bucks. In myh opinion, the Samba’s NW itinerary is the best itinerary currently available. Not only do you get to the stunning western islands (Isabela & Fernandina) but you snorkel at Marchena, which has had some spectacular sightings reports. No other boat, as far as I know, takes you to Marchena (a very northern island).

      Keep in mind that I’m a huge fan of naturalist cruises rather than land-based trips. People have fine times on land-based trips. However, if you really want to see the best of what the archipelago is famous for, a naturalist cruise is by far the best option.

      Tina

      Like

      • michael grabowski says:

        Do u know if they can arrange or would that include flight and possible sightseeing around riobamba ?

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Michael–

        The Angelito is owned by Cometa Travel, which is a travel agency based in Quito. It’s pretty common for people to want to do add-ons to a Galápagos trip (although I’m not sure that Riobomba is a common request). You can find them on the Internet and send them a question about that.

        The Samba is owned and operated by a family and I don’t think they have a travel agency connected with them. However, if you’re interested in the Samba, you might contact Happy Gringo (again, easily found on the Internet), which is another Quito-based travel agency that can help you to book a wide variety of boats and can easily arrange a Riombomba outing (I imagine). Both of these agencies get consistently good reviews for service and responsiveness.

        In general, when you book a boat for a Galápagos naturalist cruise, they arrange the flight from the mainland of Ecuador to the archipelago and back again. The boat operators want everyone on the boat to arrive on the same plane–as do you! If there’s a delay with the flight, the boat won’t leave without you because everyone else is delayed as well. If you arrange your own flight (and end up on a different flight), a delay runs the risk of the boat’s leaving without you.

        Tina

        Like

  80. Michael Trombetta says:

    Hi Tina,

    I can’t thank you enough for your spectacular blog. By far, BY FAR, the best source of information for anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos. I looked at all the guide books in the library before I found your blog, and none has anywhere as much information as your blog.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Michael–

      Wow–thanks so much for letting me know how useful you’ve found all of this! I started it after our 1st trip in 2009, when I had one heck of a time finding info like this before we made our reservations. I think I got a bit addicted to keeping it updated. I’m so glad it’s still helping travelers!

      And thanks for the private message about the filter option on the Excel itineraries spreadsheet on p. 6. It’s a great suggestion and I’ll see if I can write a bit about it there.

      Tina

      Like

  81. Laurie Bartels says:

    Do you know anything about VACATIONS TO GO? I am ready to book a 6 day, but thought I would check with you first. It is
    The July 26, 2014 departure of Intrepid Travel’s “Glimpse of Galapagos – Northern Islands”

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Laurie–

      I don’t know anything about this organization. Sorry!

      Tina

      Like

    • Sally says:

      I have used Vacations To Go several times and have always had a positive experience. I am sure that I will use them again. They have the ability to take advantage of group bookings which is passed on to you whenever possible. In fact just returned from an Italy cruise through them. Everything they offered was delivered.

      Like

  82. Nick Moon says:

    Thanks for the most comprehensive travel advice blog I think I’ve ever seen – I’ve enjoyed every word of your trip reports! I’m planning a trip for April/May 2015. I need a boat with no (or very low) single supplements, which has the advantage of narrowing the bewildering choice down a bit. I’m very temped by the Mary Anne, as you make it sound so good! I’m not really a birder, but I am really attracted by the idea of the waved albatrosses, plus the flightless cormorants. However, my main aims, in some sort of order, are: giant tortoises (ideally in the wild); iguanas; snorkelling with penguins, rays, sharks etc.; sea lions and seals; turtles; and finally the other birds It seems to me that I have to do the western itinerary and give up on the albatrosses and cormorants, but I’d welcome your comments. I think I’ll read both you day by reports again before finally deciding

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Nick–

      I’m really glad you’ve found the blog helpful. I enjoy keeping it up and I’m always happy to hear that someone else is finding it useful. Thanks for letting me know!

      Given your priorities, I’d say a western itinerary is a great choice. We found the snorkeling out there to be extraordinary, especially for penguins, really large marine iguanas, sea turtles, rays, and reef sharks. You’ll find the cormorants only out west–so you may have to trade the albatross for the cormorants. Unless you can do the full 15 days, you’ll have to miss SOMETHING!

      Galápagos Sea Lions won’t be as plentiful out west as they are on an eastern itinerary, though. They love the warm sandy beaches, of which there are far fewer on the western islands. But we did see a few in the west. But if you go to Puerto Egas (Santiago), you’ll get great views of the other sea lions–the Galápagos Fur Seals (which aren’t true seals–just a misnomer). You won’t snorkel with them, since they’re nocturnal. But you’ll get really close to them resting in the grottoes. And you have a small chance of seeing truly wild Giant Tortoises at Urbina Bay, since the largest population of them lives above that bay at Volcán Alcedo. But you’ll definitely see them living free on the farm lands in the highlands of Santa Cruz–just as good as truly wild and much easier.

      Something to keep in mind–a small handful of boats have a 7-night itinerary that goes to Española, Isabela, and Fernandina if your heart is set on the Waved Albatross. The Excel Web spreadsheet here can point those out to you–or I actually may have listed some names in this section. But you may run into single supplement on those boats, so…

      Good luck with your choice. But in my opinion, you can’t do better than the Mary Anne. She’s a gorgeous, stately sailboat and the Angermeyers take great pride in all aspects of her operation.

      Tina

      Like

      • Nick Moon says:

        Hmmm – I’ve just re-read your eastern trip report again and it does sound very attractive!! and you seemed to have pretty good snorkelling. I’d better read the Mary Anne report again quickly!

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hey, Nick–

        You cracked me up here! Don’t make yourself crazy over which itinerary to choose. For a first trip to the archipelago, any respectable boat will offer you wonders galore not matter which of their 7-night itineraries you choose. We had a great time on both the eastern and western itineraries–you’re right about that. You’ll have to miss something on a 7-night cruise, but oh—what you’ll see!

        The one downside to some eastern itineraries is that some boats chop that 7-night trip into 2 shorter cruises, to allow folks to (foolishly, in my opinion) take just a 3- or 4-night cruise. That can introduce some delays and disjunctions, although some boats handle the transfer just fine. So if you go with an eastern itinerary, try to avoid a chopped-up one. (I don’t think the Mary Anne does this, but double-check that.)

        Tina

        Like

  83. PKV says:

    Hi Tina,
    You put together a great deal of information into a well structured and concise manner with links to many relevant sites. I’m sure it took a good deal of time, and wanted to thank you.

    I am trying to plan (a bit last minute) a family trip for 4 between June 4-14. This is our first time visiting the area. Per your informative blog, I have narrowed to the following choices: Floreana, Galaxy and Nemo 2, Tiptop2. Would you mind taking a look at these itineraries and giving me your thoughts on them?

    GALAXY: (D)
    SAT:Baltra airport | Santa Cruz (El Chato / Twin Craters [Los Gemelos])
    SUN:Isabela (Tintoreras / Humedales / Breeding Center / Flamingo Lagoon / Concha y Perla)
    MON: Isabela (Punta Moreno / Elizabeth Bay)
    TUE: Fernandina (Punta Espinoza) | Isabela (Tagus Cove)
    WED: Santiago (Puerta Egas / Espumilla Beach / Bucanneer Cove)
    THU:Santa Cruz (Dragon Hill [Cerro Dragon] / Black Turtle Cove [Caleta Tortuga Negra])
    FRI:Rabida | Chinese Hat [Sombrero Chino]
    SAT: North Seymour | Baltra airport

    FLOREANA: (north)
    THU: Baltra airport |Santa Cruz (Los Gemelos [Twin Craters])
    FRI: Genovesa (Darwin Bay / Prince Phillip’s Steps)
    SAT: Santiago (Sullivan Bay) |Bartolome
    SUN: Sombrero Chino [Chinese Hat] | Santa Cruz (Dragon Hill [Cerro Dragon])
    MON: Isabela (Tintoreras / Humedales / Wall of Tears / Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center)
    TUE: Fernandina (Punta Espinoza) / Isabela (Tagus Cove)
    WED: Santiago (Puerto Egas) | Rabida
    THU:Santa Cruz (Black Turtle Cove [Caleta Tortuga Negra])| Baltra airport

    NEMO II: (north)
    SUN: Baltra airport | North Seymour
    MON:Santa Cruz (Las Primicias / Fausto Llerena Breeding Center)
    TUE: Isabela (Punta Moreno / Urbina Bay)
    WED: Isabela (Tagus Cove) | Fernandina (Punta Espinoza)
    THU: Santiago (Puerto Egas / Salt Mines / Espumilla Beach / Bucaneer Cove)
    FRI: Rabida| Santiago (Sullivan Bay)
    SAT: Genovesa (Prince Phillip’s Steps / Darwin Bay)
    SUN: Daphne|Baltra airport

    TIPTOP 2: (option 2)
    FRI:Baltra airport | Santa Cruz (Charles Darwin Station)
    SAT: Santa Fe | (South) Plazas
    SUN: Chinese Hat [Sombrero Chino] | Rabida
    MON: Santa Cruz(Black Turtle Cove [Caleta Tortuga Negra] / Dragon Hill [Cerro Dragon])
    TUE: Floreana ( Post Office Bay / Devil’s Crown / Punta Cormorant)
    WED: Espanola (Punta Suarez / Gardner Bay / Osborn Islet / Gardner Islet)
    THU: San Cristobal (Punta Pitt / Pitt Islet / Kicker Rock [Leon Dormido] / Cerro Brujo)
    FRI: North Seymour |Baltra airport

    Like

    • Tina says:

      The short answer is, in my opinion, the Nemo II. It goes to 3 of the 4 most distant islands (Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina). And unlike the Floreana’s itinerary (which is very similar), you don’t spend 1 whole day around the town of Isabela; instead, you go to more of the western landings, which are terrific. And the snorkeling is great over there. You’ll get to see Giant Tortoises at Las Primicias, which is a really wonderful experience.

      The Galaxy has a pretty typical “western” itinerary, focusing on Isabela and Fernandina. And the Tip Top II only goes to 1 of the 4 most distant islands (Española), since her other itinerary goes to the other 3. But snorkeling at Devil’s Crown is 1 of the 2 best spots in the archipelago–and Kicker Rock gets good reviews for snorkeling too.

      Really, though, any of these itineraries is a solid one. And any will offer you lots of wonders to behold! Let me know if you have other questions.

      Tina

      Like

  84. trudy trombley says:

    This is great. We’re (hubby and I) planning on Jan-March 2015. I’m going in circles since we want to add Machu Pichu to the trip. Hubby is not a water person so he is leaning towards Celebrity. What do you think. I’m more adventurous than he is. It would be easiest to just go with Celebrity but not as exciting.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Trudy–

      Glad you’re finding the blog helpful–thanks for letting me know! If you’ve read much of it, you know that I’m a huge fan of the small boats. The Celebrity Xpedition is among the 4 or 5 largest boats working the waters of the Galápagos and the experience is considerably less intimate that it is in the smaller boats. But most folks who take Celebrity report having a fine time.

      But the smaller boats offer an unusual chance to be up close and personal not only with the wildlife (which you’ll have on any naturalist cruise in the archipelago) but also with your fellow passengers and (always important in my book) the crew. Even the smaller boats have common areas that are away from the water, so your husband would have ways to “escape” the seas. (I’m having a hard time imagining someone’s not being a water person, since my husband and I both grew up around huge bodies of water.)

      Perhaps there’s a compromise to be had–say, one of the larger “small” boats? The Eric/Letty/Flamingo boats carry 20 passengers each and get terrific reviews. The Odyssey and Coral II also carry 20 passengers; the Coral I, 36 passengers; Isabela II, 40; La Pinta and Islander, 48 pax. The last 3 are more in the luxury class (as compared to the first-class category of the others)l–perhaps (if money isn’t too restricted) a bit of extra luxury might be a way to bargain down the large size?

      Really, though, the Xpedition typically satisfies those who choose it just fine. It may attract a slightly different crowd–those more into cruising throughout the world–than do the smaller boats since Celebrity has a name that “cruisers” recognize. The smaller, locally owned/operated boats may tend to attract a more eclectic, adventuresome clientele (painting with very broad strokes here).

      But the bottom line is that the wildlife don’t care what boat you arrived in. And they, really, are the stars of any cruise, large or small.

      If you have any other questions I might be able to help with, don’t hesitate to write back!

      Tina

      Like

  85. julia says:

    Hi
    I cant find your link for last minute cruises please?

    thanks

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Julia–

      Here’s one: http://www.galapagoscruiselinks.com/index.php . Another one to check would be http://sangay.com/last_minute_offers/ . (I should add this latter one to the Web site–it has a nice presentation.) I’ve never used either of these to reserve a cruise, so I can’t vouch for the service behind either. But both have clear presentations on the Web, at least. There probably are others out there too, if you do a search on “last minute, galapagos” or something like that. But these’ll give you a place to start.

      I hope these help. Good luck!

      Tina

      Like

  86. Betsi says:

    Tina,
    Thanks so much for your quick response – now I know we should do the 7 night cruise!
    I will probably contact you again once I get a little further along in the planning.
    Betsi

    Like

  87. Betsi says:

    We are just starting to research and plan a trip to the Galapagos Islands for the spring of 2015. Do you think April or May would be the best month to visit? We prefer warm over cold weather but want to go when it’s the overall best month to see everything.
    Also do you think you could see enough for a 4 night cruise, or do you feel strongly we should stay for 7 nights?
    We may also tie in a trip to Maccu Pichu (sp)…
    Thanks!
    Betsi

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Betsi–

      I strongly believe that there is no “best” month to visit the archipelago. The wildlife are doing interesting things any month of the year. So no worries there. The days (and the waters for snorkeling) are warmest Jan. – April, so if you like really warm weather, April will likely be a bit warmer than May. But not a big difference. When we were there in May, the days were PLENTY hot!

      I personally think 4 nights/5 days is too short to get the best of this marvel. That really only gives you 3 full days at sea, since the first day is just an afternoon outing and the last day, just a morning outing. If you choose well, you might get to 1 of the 4 most distant (and most fascinating) islands. But the other landings will be on islands that are closer to the towns (most often, Santa Cruz). Those landings can be nice; but why go all that way, spends all of the money (per person, $400 for airfare, $110 to get into the park) and not see the best that the archipelago has to offer? Many people who take shorter cruises wish they had taken a longer cruise when they’re done; very few people who do a 7-night cruise wish they had done a shorter cruise. Most people go there only once, so I wholeheartedly think you should do the trip that you AND the islands deserve–at least 8 days/7 nights.

      Tina

      Like

      • Betsi says:

        Hi, Tina,
        We have booked a 5 night cruise on the ship Santa Cruz for the middle of April doing their western itinerary, which includes North Seymour, Isabela, Fernandina, Santa Cruz, and Floreana. I know you prefer the 7 nights, but we are doing this trip with another trip to Machu Picchu and had to fit it all into our schedule!
        Any tips or information for this cruise or these islands?
        Thanks,
        Betsi

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Betsi–

        That sounds like a good 5-night itinerary. Isabela and Fernandina are stunning and the wildlife are fascinating there. You won’t get to see the amazing sea bird colonies on Genovesa, but you’ll have a good taste of those on N. Seymour. If you snorkel at Devil’s Crown off Floreana, you’ll have experienced the best snorkeling the archipelago has to offer (experts say) because Devil’s Crown and Isabela/Fernandina are considered the highlights.

        I think you’ve made a great choice!

        Tina

        Like

  88. DB says:

    Great info in your blog, traveled throughout south america for 6 months and recorded tons of Video. Creating a video Blog for those interested in seeing what it is like first hand.
    Hope you don’t mind me sharing: http://threeztraveler.com/galapagos .

    Like

  89. jiashman says:

    Tina, thank you for providing so much wonderful information about traveling to the Galapagos. My wife and I are planning to spend the months of February and March in Cuenca, Ecuador, and would like to end our trip in mid-to-late March with a visit to the Galapagos. We found your suggestions about how to do it extremely helpful. I would like your thoughts on the following: We are in our mid-sixties and fairly active–bike riding, walking a mile or two on fairly flat or gently sloping terrain, etc.–but I have arthritic knees and find being on my feet for too long or walking up or down steep and uneven terrain challenging. What are your thoughts about whether the walks might be too challenging and whether one of the two itineraries (east or west) might be gentler.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Jay!

      So glad you found the info helpful. Considering your worries, here are my thoughts. (Of course, I am not a doctor–nor do I play one on TV…) The longest path that we’ve been on, as I recall, was about 3 km (just under 2 miles), on Española (Punta Suárez). We spent 3 hours on that path, stopping often to listen to the naturalist guide, take a gazillion photos, sit for a bit to admire the amazing scenery… On pretty much every landing, the pace is very slow, if that helps your arthritis. I was having lower back issues on our first trip, so I took a collapsible hiking staff. That gave me something to lean on if I couldn’t find a place to sit and the opportunity for a quick stretch. The staff also helps avoid worries about balance. I highly recommend bringing one (although some boats have hiking sticks on board too).

      I think I’d recommend an eastern itinerary for you folks. The western itinerary spends A LOT of time walking across uneven, HOT lava. One climb at Taugus Cove was almost a bit of a workout! The scenery is spectacular, but the walking is more challenging. And I found fewer places to sit down briefly for a quick break on those islands too. (Black, hot lava is not terribly inviting for that!)

      The eastern islands are older, have eroded more, and have more gentle paths in general than do the islands to the west. The exception there is Genovesa, if that is included on an eastern itinerary. There is a brief climb up Prince Philip’s Steps–large flat boulders forming a stairway of sorts. That might be a challenge for you, but the naturalist guide and panga operators are there to help you out however you need. And, in my experience, fellow passengers pitch in happily too.

      Getting into and out of the pangas can be a bit of a challenge for us older folks. But again, the naturalist guide and panga operators are right there to give you a firm, steadying hand in and out. Their grip, widely used by panga operators in the archipelago, is sometimes called “the Galápagos handshake!”

      Hope this helps some. Don’t hesitate if you have any other questions! I love talking with people about this marvelous archipelago!

      Tina

      Like

      • Jay Ashman says:

        Hi, Tina,
        Thanks for you very quick and helpful reply. We have done a fair amount of research at this point, and are considering going with Road Scholar. Their price–$3999 including round-trip airfare to and from Quito–appears to be less than comparable trips, most of which don’t include airfare in that price range. We checked out the ship–the Galaven–and it seems like a quality operation. They offer two itineraries; I cross-referenced the various locations with the Galaven website, and it looks like the trip that goes from March 9 to 19 (http://www.roadscholar.org/n/program/dailySchedule.aspx?DId=1-6IFHMX) is, for the most part, less physically challenging than the alternate itinerary (offered March 16-26). We also checked out the Mary Ann. It looks like a terrific ship, but the price difference is an obstacle. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.
        Jay

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Jay–

        I think that this Road Scholar Galápagos program is a great value for the money. (That price also includes medical assistance coverage, should health-related issues arise. That’s especially important in the archipelago, where you could be 24 hours from decent medical care on the mainland.) That’s why we went with them on our first trip. We would have gone with them again for our return trip except that we were traveling with a single friend and she wasn’t especially interested in sharing a cabin with a stranger. So we found the Mary Anne, which didn’t have a single supplement.

        I think you’ve definitely identified the “gentler” of the 2 itineraries. Prince Philip’s Steps on Genovesa are just a bit challenging, but (as I mentioned earlier) the guide and crew will help any who need it. And it’s just at the beginning of that landing. The rest of the landing is an easy, flat walk. The other landings should present no problems. And by traveling with Road Scholar, you should be with a crew that are used to active, but still less-than-young-and-spry passengers.

        I don’t know the Galaven, but it sounds like you’ve done your research!

        Tina

        Like

  90. chicnylon says:

    Thanks for all your insight. Truly helpful in my planning. I was curious if you’ve gone on your 2013 Galapagos trip yet and what you thought of Isabel and Fernandina (assuming you visited those islands on your second time around). Thanks!

    Like

    • Tina says:

      We returned just last Sunday from our 2nd trip and it was as good–if not even better–than our 1st trip. Isabela and Fernandina are stunning volcanic islands, in sharp contrast to the older, softer, more vegetated eastern islands. Which you prefer is a very personal choice. I think I liked the wildlife diversity and easier walks of the eastern islands, while our traveling companion much favored the steep, dramatic cliffs and other volcanic scenery of Isabela and Fernandina. If snorkeling is important to you, the marine life around Isabela and Fernandina were much more spectacular that what we encountered around the eastern islands–snorkeling with sea turtles, rays, sharks, penguins galore, marine iguanas, and lots of other species. However, if you’re longing to frolic with sea lions, you’ll likely have many more in the water with you around the eastern islands. But any 7-night or longer itinerary will provide you with many wondrous sights. (Shorter itineraries run the risk of never getting you beyond the central islands, where the wildlife is more impacted by the increased human traffic of both day trips and naturalist cruises.)

      I’m trying to formulate my thoughts about this classic “east vs west” dilemma many folks face in choosing a cruise. I’ll add a more detailed discussion of the contrasts and comparisons in the near future. Stay tuned!

      Tina

      Like

      • Stephanie says:

        That’s refreshing to hear. My husband is longing to go farther out to the west to see Fernandina & Isabel but I’m concerned about missing out on seeing all the bird/wildlife that you’ve mentioned on the east (although I could do without seeing the sea lions, we have plenty of those here in California). Would you recommend supplementing a west coast trip with day trips or land based tours to the islands somewhat closer to Santa Cruz (like Bartolomé & Santa Fe)? Ah, it’s such a tough decision regardless. Maybe I’ll just have to do what you did, go back for 2nd trip 4 years later!

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi again, Stephanie–

        You could indeed do some day trips before (or after) a cruise to the western islands. (I personally wouldn’t do them after–I’d be afraid that the day trips would pale by comparison to the wonders of the naturalist cruise. You spend 2+ hours (one way) on a small speed boat–a far cry from the ease of the naturalist cruise.)

        You can only visit a limited number of other islands from Santa Cruz. I usually recommend Bartolomé to see/swim with penguins, but you’d have had much better interactions with them on Isabela and Fernandina. Bartolomé has an iconic view from the top of the extinct volcano; but I’m not sure it’d be worth the time and money of a day trip after the western islands. N. Seymour would be a good day trip if you don’t get to Genovesa–the breeding colonies of the seabirds are unlike anything you’ll see in the western islands. Santa Fé has a unique land iguana species; but other than that, I didn’t find it especially interesting. S. Plaza offers land iguanas too, but that walk didn’t strike me as all that interesting, as I recall. The day trip to Floreana doesn’t go to the same spots as the naturalist cruises do–you go to the inhabited highlands (not as much wildlife there) and typically don’t snorkel at the marvelous Devil’s Crown. So I don’t think that’d be a particularly great a day trip.

        Unfortunately, the best islands (in my opinion, of course!) that are more easterly are Santiago, Genovesa, and Española–none of which can be reached by a day trip. So maybe a day trip to N. Seymour might be something to consider. You might have to plan on a couple of days in Santa Cruz to get that day trip, though. Not all day trips are offered every day and the more popular ones (which N. Seymour probably is) sell out pretty quickly.

        Or–you could do a 14-night trip and get to all of the best spots! For me, that would have been a very tiring trip, but it would have been considerably cheaper than going back a 2nd time. A few boats offer 10- and 11-day trips that might let you get to Genovesa (and maybe Española) without going the entire 15-day route. Something to consider….

        Tina

        Like

  91. Cris says:

    Thanks for the information. It is the best I have seen. We are thinking of doing the Road Scholar trip but have notice that the boat has changed to the Gavalen. How does this compare to the Tip Top Ii?

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Cris–

      The Galaven is typically classified in the first-class category, as are the Tip Top boats. It holds 20 passengers (as opposed the 16 on the TT boats). But that is still small enough for an intimate experience. And, if you sail with more than 16 passengers, you’ll have 2 naturalist guides–cutting the typical guide:passenger ratio from 1:16 to 1:10. That’s great!

      It had some problems at the end of 2012, but I think it was pulled for major work after a collision (no passengers on board) and is now sailing again. Reviews are generally good, especially around the naturalist guides and the food (both crucial aspects of this trip). I trust Road Scholar (and probably Holbrook Travel is the contact agency?) to do their research carefully, so I wouldn’t worry about the boat. Look carefully at the itineraries to see which one might fit your interests best. Aside from that, I’d say go for it and have a great time!

      Tina

      Like

  92. Melanie says:

    I just want to thank the authors of this blog for sharing such great detailed information and objective advice. It helped us a lot to choose a great ship (7 days on Archipel catamaran) and itinerary, and generally to plan our wonderful trip in January 2013. Well done!!!

    Like

  93. willowoman says:

    i surely agree with all-the-above grateful people in thanking you for your most helpful info. muchas gracias!

    Like

  94. Heather K. says:

    What an absolutely wonderful page to come across! We are planning a trip for April 2012 and were feeling overwhelmed by all of the choices. After reading your blog I am starting to feel much better about where to start when it comes to making decisions. Thank you!!

    Like

  95. Tim says:

    The level of detail you have gone to blows my mind. I wish I had found your site before booking my trip. However, everything so far has just validated my choices, so I am happy. Thanks for putting in this effort.

    Like

  96. Elena says:

    Thank you so much for the well researched information and the valuable links! We will be cruising with Ecoventura beginning of January 2012 on one of their last 8 day itineraries including Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela AND Española. I studied over 20 itineraries before choosing them and now I am even more looking forward to it knowing that that was one of the very last opportunities. Just need to organise a one-day trip to Floreana now:-)

    Like

  97. Gloria Fitch says:

    Thanks for much for your information. My head is so full of options, I’m having a hard time sorting them out. It’s wonderful to have someone spend the time to be so helopful.
    Gloria from Texas

    Like

  98. Adele says:

    Thanks, so much, for taking the time to write this information. It is extremely helpful!

    Like

  99. quatro49 says:

    Your review was so helpful and informative. I leave next week for a 7 day cruise of the Galapagos and I appreciate all of your wonderful information.

    Like

  100. shamba says:

    Grasias! I’ve now finished reading EVERYTHING you wrote and feel like I’ve already been on the trip! And the best is yet to come!

    Like

  101. SUSAN YANOVICH says:

    YOUR BLOG HAS BEEN THE MOST HELPFUL OF ANYTHING THAT I HAVE READ
    IN MY SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT GALAPAGOS TRIP.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TROUBLE OF WRITING IT.

    Like

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