Decisions, decisions, decisions…

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

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

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

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

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

Click below to jump to a particular page.

39 Responses to Decisions, decisions, decisions…

  1. Stefano says:

    Hi Tina,
    Thank you for your great blog. In 2012 I spent 8 days on the Millenium II which was a fantastiv experience. Next year I will return to the Galapagos Islands. Your blog will help me to find a ship for my next tour!

    Like

  2. Bella Nguyen says:

    Hi Tina!

    Thank you for your most wonderful blog about Galapagos Islands, I have spent a good Saturday reading all the information, but (like most other commentors) are too indecisive and hoping to have your opinion!

    We are a couple of 2 from Australia, in our late 20s. Very unfortunately, we only have 5 days maximum to do Galapagos Islands in mid October, so we are hoping for a tour/itinerary for a shorter period. We dont mind a small/big ship but comfort is our priority. As it is a shorter timeframe, we would appreciate your opinion on which islands we should prioritise.

    Would it be possible to hear which cruise you might suggest? I know you must get this alot!

    Thank you so very very much in advance,

    Regards,

    Bella.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Bella–

      I fear, with only 5 days, you’ll be very limited in what you can do. Most of the 1st and last of the 5 days are taken up with getting to and from the archipelago. If this is all you can spare, I suggest that you not try to do a naturalist cruise (as much of a fan as I am of cruises). A 3-day cruise (which is all the time you’d have left) will only be one full day at sea because the first day is an afternoon outing and the last day, a morning outing because of airport transportation issues. You might consider spending your nights on Santa Cruz and doing one day trip to an uninhabited island on as many days as you can (your choices are Bartolomé, N. Seymour, Santa Fé, S. Plaza, and Floreana). Not all day trips run every day, so you’d just have to see what trips are available when you get there. You could also get up the highlands to see the Giant Tortoises living free on the agricultural lands there–much better that just seeing them in the breeding programs. Tortuga Bay is a nice beach that you could get to on your own in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) too.

      There might be a few boats that have 3-day cruises, but I don’t really know much about ones that short. The typical short cruises are 4 or 5 days, as I recall. Keep in mind that you’ll spend ~$600 per person just to get to the archipelago (airfare, INGALA, National Park fee). I’m not sure it’s worth it, but only you can know.

      Tina

      Like

  3. Lara Ozdoyuran says:

    Hi Tina,

    We’re a young couple from Switzerland, coming to Ecuador for a wedding in Quito. Have the 2nd or 3rd week of May available for our Galapagos experience. It seems a bit complicated to plan it, luckily we found your blog:) We would like to ask you something small.

    We’re planning to do either a 6days or 8days tour, not luxury, but still good, also not especially interested in a certain species, we will try to experience as much as possible within our time. Yet, our question is, which route does make more sense for a week of time in the month of May? We would prefer the route where we will see more at that certain time.

    Looking forward to your answer
    Thanks
    Lara

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Lara–

      May is a wonderful month to be in the Galápagos. The waters typically are quite calm, the weather is warm (well, really rather hot and humid), and the wildlife will be doing interesting things no matter where you go. (But that last point is true no matter what month you travel in.) My favorite itineraries are those (relatively few) that get you to 3 of the 4 most distant (and most interesting) islands. If you check out this page of the blog, you’ll see a partial list of boats that have these itineraries: https://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/practicalities/choosing-a-cruise/5/ . Scroll down to the paragraph starting “You can now see…”

      Tina

      Like

  4. S C says:

    Fantastic blog Tina, I’ve spent almost a whole day reading through all of the info on your blog! While I’d love to have a 16 day itinerary to cover Espanola, Genovesa, Fernandina, Isabela, Devil’s Crown at Floreana and Bartolome, time and budget are just not going to give me that option. I’m really interested to hear which of your tours you enjoyed most? For me my main interest is in wildlife photography (though I love the dramatic landscape of Bartolome also) and I’m currently torn between whether to do both Espanola & Genovesa; missing out on the western side, or whether to try to get an itinerary that includes the western side and Genovesa. Your thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Like

    • S C says:

      Oh and we are looking to go mid-year, probably in July.

      Like

    • Tina says:

      Ah–now that’s a question. I honestly think that a “northwest” itinerary that goes to Genovesa, Isabela, & Fernandina is a really good place to start. It does limit the number of boats you can consider. But getting to 3 of the most distant islands is really a prize. During the time that you’re traveling, an Española/Isabela/Fernandina itinerary is also terrific. However that itinerary is offered on very few boats, so your choices are really restricted. And among those that do, many only get to the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela or hit just 1 or 2 of the Isabela landings. Devil’s Crown may be hard to find on that northwest itinerary (since it’s a very southerly island). But the marine wildlife you’ll see around Isabela and Fernandina is spectacular–so I don’t think you’ll miss Devil’s Crown that much.

      July is high season, since it’s in the heart of the North American school holidays. So you don’t want to wait too long to make a decision–especially if you’re looking at the small subset of boats that do a northwest itinerary.

      Good luck!

      Tina

      Like

      • S C says:

        Thanks Tina. We decided to target a NW itinerary and we’ve narrowed down our choices to Tip Top II, Samba or Guantanamera. Any suggestions or thoughts on the boats themselves and/or the itineraries would be much appreciated. :)

        Their itineraries are as follows.

        Tip Top II
        Baltra, Bachas
        Santiago: Sullivan Bay, Bartolome
        Genovesa: Darwin Bay, Prince Phillip Steps
        Santiago: Puerto Egas, Bucaneer Cove
        Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca, Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
        Isabela: Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove, Elizabeth Bay
        Isabela: Tintoreras, Wetlands, Wall of tears, Tortoise breeding centre, Sierra Negra Volcano
        Charles Darwin Station, Baltra

        Samba
        Baltra, Santa Cruz: twin craters
        Genovesa: Darwin Bay, Prince Phillip Steps
        Marchena: Punta Mejia, Playa Negra
        Isabela: Punta Abermarle, Punta Vicente Roca
        Fernandina: Punta Espinoza, Isabela: Urbina Bay
        Isabela: Elizabeth Bay, Punta Moreno
        Floreana: Asilo de la paz, Cerro alieri, Loberia
        Santa Cruz Twin Craters, Baltra

        Guantanamera
        Baltra, Bachas
        Genovesa: Prince Phillip steps, Darwin Bay
        Bartolome, Santiago: Sullivan Bay
        Isabela: wetlands, wall of tears, tortoise breeding centre, Sierra Negra Volcano
        Isabela: Elizabeth Bay, Urbina Bay
        Isabela: Tagus CoveBay, Fernandina: Punta Espinosa
        Santiago: Espumilla Beach, Bucaneer Cove, Rabida
        Daphne / Mosquera, Baltra

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Howdy!

        These 3 itineraries only differ on small points. The TTII and Guantanamera both spend an entire day in the town on Isabela (Puerto Villamil), which is not something I personally would care that much about. The walk to the volcano (Sierra Negra) can be a real muddy slog with no views if it’s rainy (which, by the reports I’ve read, can happen often). But if the skies are clear and the ground dry, it can be nice. But I’ve always tried to minimize the time spent in the towns, since I’m there for the wildlife. Others, of course, feel differently.

        The Samba’s itinerary gets to pretty much every key landing on Fernandina and the western shore of Isabela (with no time in Puerto Villamil), so that would be my preferred choice. It doesn’t go to Santiago, which I thought was a lovely island (and I especially enjoyed the up-close-and-personal views of the nocturnal fur seals (sea lions, really) at the gorgeous grottoes. But that’s not a major deal. It also goes to Floreana, but you don’t snorkel at Devil’s Crown (reported, by those who know, to be 1 of the 2 best spots for snorkeling). However, you’ll have fascinating snorkeling along Fernandina and Isabela, so again–no deal breaker in my opinion.

        I know the TTII well (from 5 years ago) and the Samba well by reputation. The Samba is 1 of 2 tourist-superior-class boats that I wholeheartedly recommend. Her principal guide, Juan Manuel Salcedo, gets unbelievably rave reviews. (The Salcedo family owns the Samba.) But even if he’s not guiding on a trip, it seems that the Samba has very high standards for excellent naturalist guides–a very important factor in this trip. The Samba is small and doesn’t have many spacious common areas. But I think she’s a great bargain for the money. She’s also a very popular boat, so she sells out way in advance.

        We traveled on the TTII in 2009 and loved it. She’s the oldest “sibling” of the Tip Top fleet, run by Wittmer Turismo. (Rolf Wittmer, recently deceased, was the first baby documented to have been born in the Galápagos, so they’re long-time residents in the archipelago.) We really liked the organization–they gave moderate benefits to the crew (unusual in this situation) and even had some of the best staff on long-term contracts (again, very unusual, since naturalist guides tend to freelance). The crew we had and the naturalist guide were all just great.

        I don’t know anything about the Guantanamera except that she is a tourist-class boat (the lowest of the 4 classes). The TTII is a first-class boat (2nd highest category); the Samba, tourist-superior class (the level above tourist and below first-class). In the Galápagos, you often get what you pay for. So with the tourist class boats, you need to make sure your expectations are not set too high. The Samba will be a bit roomier with a greater likelihood of a terrific guide; the TTII, a bit more luxury (but hardly over the top), with again a good chance of getting a terrific guide.

        Hope this helps!

        Tina

        Like

  5. Sonya Donnelly says:

    Hi Tina,
    I would like to begin by congratulating you on the most wonderful blog. Such an incredibly useful, informative and well laid out web-site. I am in your debt already. I apologize for the following questions as I am sure that if I studies your blog and all the questions you have previously answered thoroughly enough I should be able to come up with the idea trip myself.

    However, I am finding myself to be very indecisive and am eager to have your opinion. We are a family of 4. Forty something parents and a 12 and 9 year old girl. We hope to travel from Ireland to the Galapagos in the next 12 months. Both the girls are pretty well travelled and very well behaved (so they would not pose an annoyance to other passengers – I hope). Ideally we would be hoping for a good quality boat though not necessarily luxurious. Heat and blue skies would be great (making it a change from Ireland) and our wildlife focus would be the mammals, bigger birds and snorkeling with the wildlife experiences. We are also very interested in volcanoes and I am an avid amateur photographer. I appreciate this is asking a lot – is there anything that springs to your mind that may suit us? I had initially looked at the Nat Geo trips but am not sure about the dates which appear to be mostly in June to August which I fear might be a little cold for me.

    Thank you so much for your time,

    Sonya

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Sonya–

      Thanks for the positive feedback! I’m so glad you’re finding it all helpful.

      Given what you’ve written, I would suggest checking out the 3 sister ships operated by Ecoventura–the Eric, Letty, and Flamingo (aka ELF). These 3 boats often travel together and the operators sort passengers by groups (e.g., young adults, older adults, families) into the different boats. I’ve read really great things about the naturalist guides who have traveled with the families–extremely good at engaging the kids and keeping them focused, thereby giving the parents some time to enjoy the sights as well. ELF carry 20 passengers each; since the National Park requires 1 naturalist guide for every 16 passengers, ELF travels with 2 naturalist guides per boat if they’re full–giving you a 1:10 guide-to-passenger ratio. That’s a really nice group size. And even though the 3 boats travel together, they schedule things so that you don’t feel like you’re traveling as a pack. Other boats have family sailings, but they tend to be most common during North American school holidays.

      As for itineraries, your interest in volcanoes leads me to suggest the northwest itinerary of ELF. (I’m assuming you’re thinking about an 8-day/7-night cruise.) It’s a really good one that actually gets to 3 of the 4 most distant islands–Isabela, Fernandina, and Genovesa. (The majority of itineraries only get to 2 of the 4 distant islands.) The lava-filled scenery around Isabela and Fernandina is spectacular; they are the youngest islands and have the more active volcanoes. (I think one of them erupted in 2008 or 2009 even!) Comparing our 2 trips, I’d say that the marine wildlife for snorkeling was more diverse around those 2 islands than around the more central and eastern islands. The sea bird colonies of Genovesa are absolutely stunning; you wander eye-to-eye with nestlings of frigatebirds and boobies. Really amazing.

      Of course there are other wonderful boats, but I consistently read superb reports about ELF and family trips. These boats are pretty popular; so if you’re interested–don’t dawdle.

      For the warmest weather and calmest seas, look to Jan. – April or May, if you can. Heat, humidity, and sun will abound, interspersed with occasional showers. It’s a very tropical time to be there.

      Hope this helps!

      Tina

      Like

    • Sonya Donnelly says:

      Tina thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. I look forward to looking up the ELF boats. I’m very very excited about the trip. I’ve been planning it for decades and waiting for the girls to be old enough to really appreciate it has been tough :-) Happy New Year and thanks for your unofficial ambassador efforts. I’m not sure how I’d manage the planning without your blog. Much much appreciated.

      Sonya

      Like

  6. Adrienne says:

    Hi Tina,
    We just returned from a 7-night eastern itinerary cruise on the Mary Anne, which was fabulous. Your website helped so much as I was planning and choosing our cruise, and we were absolutely blown away by the Galapagos. The details and tips you provided were spot on, so THANK YOU for all the work you have done to share your trip, and make sure the rest of us have the best trip possible!
    Adrienne

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Adrienne–

      Wonderful! I’m delighted to hear that the Mary Anne is still her wondrous self. I’m so glad you had a great time and also found the blog helpful. Thanks so much for letting me know!

      Tina

      Like

  7. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina

    just wanted to let u know I did book the West and Central aboard the Evolution. It carries 32 people. They also have a pair of Level 111 naturalist guides. I just wanted to thank u so much for all your help. Without u I would not of known these far away islands ( this one goes to 3 of them ) Isabela, Fernandina and Espanola, and how u get to see more wildlife because of it. Also about the guides and how important that plays a part of the cruise. Also the Highlands in Santa Cruz. So again thank u so much for your time and punctual replies to my questions. I really did learn a lot because of your expertise. :)

    Like

  8. michelleflax@rogers.com says:

    Hi Tina,
    Thanks for your great blog. We are thinking of going on the Anahi catamaran next November. Do you know this boat? I wonder if you could help us choose between these two itineraries:

    ITINERARY B1 – 8 DAYS
    Friday:
    A.m. Arrival at Baltra on Galapagos. Transfer to the town of Pto. Ayora and aboard the Yacht.
    P.m. Visit to the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island.
    Saturday:
    A.m. Isabela Island: Visit to the Tintoreras / Tears Wall / Tortoises Breading Center.
    P.m. Isabela: Hiking to Sierra Negra Volcano.
    Sunday:
    A.m. Isabela: Visit to Moreno Point.
    P.m. Isabela: Visit to Elizabeth Bay
    Monday:
    A.m. Isabela: Visit Urbina Bay .
    P.m. Isabela: Visit Caleta Tagus.
    Tuesday:
    A.m. Fernandina: Visit Punta Espinoza
    P.m. Isabela: Visit Punta Vicente Roca
    Wednesday:
    A.m. Santiago: Visit Pto. Egas
    P.m. Visit Rabida Island
    Thursday:
    A.m. Visit Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat)
    P.m. Visit Bartolome Island
    Friday:
    A.m. Visit Seymour Island, Baltra Island.

    ITINERARY B2 – 8 DAYS
    Friday:
    A.m. Arrival at Baltra airport on Galapagos. Transfer and aboard the Yacht.
    P.m. Visit Bachas Beach.
    Saturday:
    A.m. Genovesa: Visit Darwin Bay
    P.m. Genovesa: Visit El Barranco
    Sunday:
    A.m. Visit South Plazas Island
    P.m. Visit Santa Fe Island
    Monday:
    A.m. San Cristóbal: Visit Punta Pitt
    P.m. San Cristóbal: Visit Leon Dormido and Lobos Island
    Tuesday:
    A.m. San Cristóbal: Visit El Junco Lagoon and Galapagos Turtles Breading Center.
    P.m. San Cristobal: Visit Interpretation Center / Tijeretas Hill.
    Wednesday:
    A.m. Española: Visit Punta Suarez
    P.m. Española: Visit Bahía Gardner / I. Gardner / I. Osborn
    Thursday:
    A.m. Floreana: Visit Punta Cormoran / Corona del Diablo
    P.m. Floreana: Visit Post Office Bay
    Friday:
    A.m. Visit C. Darwin Station. Transfer to the airport on Baltra Island.
    Mich

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Michelle–

      So glad you’re finding the blog helpful!

      You’re faced with the classic “east vs. west itinerary” challenge. B1 will hit the 2 westernmost islands (Isabela & Fernandina); B2, the 2 most distant other islands (Genovesa and Española). It’s a tough choice, but you’ll have to miss something on any 8-day itinerary.

      I think I’d lean slightly toward B1. You’ll get to see the Giant Tortoises living free in the SC highlands–a truly wondrous experience. You’ll get to the major landings/snorkeling spots of the stark, stunning western islands. (The naturalist guides on our 2 trips both said that their absolutely favorite snorkeling spot in the archipelago was Punta Vicente Roca.) Comparing our 2 trips, I’d say the marine wildlife was more diverse along the western islands than around the eastern islands. The western islands have the largest species of Marine Iguana, which you might even get to snorkel with. Very cool! And although you won’t get to the terrific waterbird breeding colonies of Genovesa, you’ll get a taste of those on N. Seymour (which I assume is what they mean for the last morning’s landing–Seymour is an early name for Baltra, but I doubt you’d spend your last morning’s landing on that island, since the only thing there for tourists is the airport).

      B2’s highlights are the seabird breeding colonies of Genovesa and the breeding colonies of the magnificent Waved Albatross on Española. Snorkeling at León Dormido (aka Kicker Rock) is reported to be good; and Corona del Diablo (aka Devil’s Crown) is typically mentioned as 1 of the 2 best spots in the archipelago (along with Isabela/Fernandina). I don’t see a place that you’ll see the Giant Tortoises living free, although perhaps there’s a spot on San Cristóbal. (We’ve not been to San Cristóbal.) Seeing the tortoises in the breeding centers is nowhere near as wonderful–more like seeing them in a zoo.

      The main drawback to B2, in my opinion, is that it really is made up of 2 shorter cruises; when you’re spending time in San Cristóbal, those doing the shorter cruises will be leaving and coming on board. That can work fine if the plane arrives with no problems; but you could face delays if the in-coming flight is delayed. But I personally have always tried to go with continuous 8-day cruises (which B1 is).

      I don’t know anything about the Anahi except that it’s a first-class category catamaran. Most first-class boats are just great–a touch of luxury, a decent chance of getting a good naturalist guide (really important!), and a clean, safe boat.

      Tina

      Like

  9. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina…. I am sorry on my last email I gave u the wrong date for the Evolution. It would be May 29th to June 7th. Again thank u so much for all your feed back.

    Like

  10. Claudine says:

    Hi Tina : U must of thought u heard the last of me. :) U are just so knowledgable that I hope u do not mind if I keep asking u questions. I just found another itinerary that sounds wonderful so just wanted your opinion if u have a minute. It is with the Evolution and it would be Mar 20 2015. Not a time I had wanted to go but it did have a good deal and Islands I liked.
    Baltra / Santa Cruz-Whalers Bay
    Isabela- Punta Vicente Roca / Fernandina – Punta Espinoza
    Isabela – Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove
    Bartolome/Sullivan Bay
    Bachas Beach/Cerro Dragon
    Santa Cruz Research and the Highlands
    Espanola-Punta Suarez
    San Cristobal- Interpretation Centre
    Thanks again for all your help.

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi again, Claudine–

      This seems like a fine itinerary. The only drawback I see (at least it would be a drawback for me) is that you’d spend 2 days in a row on Santa Cruz in the middle of the 8 days. I’ve been to Bachas Beach, although never to Cerro Dragon. Bachas was okay, but not that great. In general, I try to minimized the # of days spent on the inhabited islands, so this one would really break up the cruise for me. But aside from that, it seems fine. You get both a sampling of the Isabela/Fernandina landings and Española (I’m glad you corrected the date there–March is not the best time for Española), which not many boats do.

      Tina

      Like

  11. Melissa says:

    Hi Tina,
    Thanks again for your great advice! It actually changed what we were planning to do. There are not many resources on this subject so I really appreciate your time!
    Melissa

    Like

  12. Melissa says:

    Hi, Tina. I love this blog! My family and I are planning a trip to the Galapagos. We are debating between October 2015 and March 2016. My husband is nervous about the cruises because of seasickness in our family. We have three adventurous boys ages 12, nine and seven. My question is do you prefer a cruise over a land-based tour? We found two suites available on a ship called Santa Cruz which holds 100 people. I am just having a hard time finding reviews about the different ships and experiences. We have contacted a travel agency call adventure life. Have you heard anything about them? Thanks so much for your help!

    Melissa

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Melissa–

      I don’t know much about the Santa Cruz (I’m a small-boat fan) or Adventure Life. If you’re worried about motion sickness, shoot for traveling between Jan. and April; those are the times with the highest likelihood of calmer seas. I would DEFINITELY avoid Oct. and Nov.; the Humboldt Current can really get the waters rocking and rolling during those months although there are no guarantees of completely smooth sailing, even during the calmer months–it is the ocean, after all! Larger boats are likely to feel the chop a bit less than the smaller boats. But there are a LOT of effective motion sickness remedies available; on both of our groups, the scopolamine patch (rx-only, at least in the US) was a real favorite, seemed to work for a wide variety of people, and can open up your options.

      I mention this because the smaller boats offer a really intimate experience with this marvelous archipelago. One company that routinely has family sailings is Ecoventura. They have 3 sister ships that sail together (the Eric, Letty, and Flamingo); Ecoventura tends to divide the boats into different types of travelers so that one boat often is just families. They have a great reputation for having naturalist guides who are especially good with kids on those family sailings, which can be wonderful for kids and parents alike. Other boats have family sailings during the school holidays of North America (July, August, the Dec. holidays), so you might check with your agent about those possibilities too. Just something to consider.

      I clearly prefer a naturalist cruise over a land-based tour. With kids, you only have to unpack once and you’re done for the rest of the trip. You generally get 2 landings and 1 or 2 snorkeling opportunities a day on a cruise; on a day trip to another island from Santa Cruz (the only place you can get to other islands), you can only do 1 island a day. Cruises get the best landing times–first thing in the morning, when the wildlife are just waking up and looking for their first meals of the day; and last thing in the afternoon, as the heat of the day has passed and the wildlife are looking for that last snack of the day. Day trips typically spend 2+ hours–one way!–on a small speed boat just to get to an island; so you land mid-morning with the light is becoming the harshest and the temps, the hottest. Those small speed boats can be dreadful if the water is anything but glass-smooth; lots of folks report getting sick in even slight chop. And on a cruise, you waste no precious daylight motoring to your next outing–the boat travels during lunch or at night while you sleep. You get up the next morning, have a scrumptious breakfast, and the curtain opens on your next adventure. It’s ideal, in my opinion! You pay more than a land-based tour but you get so much more for your money.

      I’m so glad you’ve found the blog helpful–and thanks for letting me know!

      Tina

      Like

  13. Sandy Russo says:

    Hi Tina — we are planning a Galapagos cruise in July 2015. If we went with a “Tourist Superior” boat, the cruise is 8 days (Baltra, Genovesa, Bartolome, Isabela, Santiago & Daphne). It is a 16-passenger boat (Guantanamera). The second choice is “First Class”, and it is for 5 days (Baltra, Bartolome, Santa Cruz, Isla Mosquera, & San Cristobal (Millennium Yacht)— for the same price as the “Tourist Superior” cruise. We were told that the difference between the two levels is that the Tourist Superior is an older boat, and the rooms are not as nice, and there would be no balcony. The luxury level of the room is not important to us, since we will be spending so much time off the boat. Can you provide some advice on what to expect if we went with the Tourist Superior versus First Class? To us, three extra days in the Galapagos is worth giving up a little luxury, but we still want the tour guide & the food to be great. Thanks! Sandy

    Like

  14. Bernadette says:

    Thank you again Tina and your comments make sense! Without worrying about altitude in Quito that gives us more flexibility with cruise dates.I also might investigate flying from Guayaquil to Peru.

    Great appreciation for your expertise and time, Bernadette

    Like

  15. Bernadette says:

    Hi Tina,
    What a joy to find your blog and the wealth of information. I am planning a trip to Galapagos late April 2015 and that has just become much less daunting!

    After reading, I am a little concerned about the suitability of this trip for my husband who is a virtual non-swimmer. Irony is that his love of all things wild-life is why I am planning in the first place without realising that snorkeling was so intrinsic. I would really appreciate your opinion as to whether we would be better spending our money elsewhere.

    Thanks
    B

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Bernadette–

      Glad the blog has been helpful!

      Snorkeling is a big part of naturalist cruises. But on both of our trips, we had a few non-swimmers. Some folks just put on their personal flotation devices (PFDs) that we all had to use on the pangas and bobbed around the waters with the group like safe, happy corks. They were able to experience just about as much of the marine wildlife as the rest of us did. So if your husband isn’t too phobic about water, that could be a wonderful solution.

      If that wouldn’t work, you might look for a boat that has kayaks. You can’t kayak everywhere that the snorkelers go (kayaking is strictly controlled by the National Park), but he might be able to paddle in a few areas. Another possibility might be to just stay in the pangas when the snorkelers are in the water. The panga operators stay close to the snorkelers at all times, so anyone can signal to them to get out of the water sooner. So at least your husband could be out on the water. Or sometimes, as a total alternative to snorkeling, the boat might offer a panga ride for the non-water folks.

      Not all snorkeling starts from the pangas; sometimes, you start from a beach. In that case, he could easily just loll on the beach although he wouldn’t be allowed to wander around most beaches without the naturalist guide there. (Most of the time, the guide will go snorkeling with the group.)

      Even though I’m a major fan of the smaller boats, you might find that you have more options for each outing on a larger boat. I don’t have a lot of experience with those boats, but it’s probably more likely that non-snorkeling options would exist with most outings when more groups are heading out.

      And of course, you don’t have to go on any outing that you don’t want to. So your husband could just relax on the boat during snorkel outings. On both of our trips, 1 or 2 folks always stayed behind. As long as you let the naturalist guide know that you won’t be going, there’s no problem with just hanging out.

      So I’d say you don’t need to rule out this trip, as long as your husband is comfortable enough to don a PFD and sit in a panga to get to the landings. He’ll have to wade to some beaches, but the water on those “wet landings” is usually no deeper than calf-deep.

      Tina

      Like

      • Bernadette says:

        Many thanks for the rapid reply Tina and even more helpful information.I will check out some of the larger but maybe not huge boats and yet think he will probably cope with those you have recommended.

        On another note, do you think it is better to go straight to Guayaquil before the cruise and avoid any possible altitude issues?
        B

        Like

      • Tina says:

        Hi, Bernadette–

        I’m not really a big fan of Guayaquil, although I know of others who enjoy it. To me, it seemed like just another hot, humid river port city. I would suggest flying into there only if you know you or someone in your group has serious lung issues. If that’s the case, Quito will probably present a challenge.

        But if you’re just sort of worried in general about the altitude, I’d consider spending 2 or 3 days in Quito. It’s such a lovely city with many options within just a short distance. It is high altitude; but in general, the altitude doesn’t bother most casual visitors. If you intended to get off the plane and go mountain biking or serious hiking right off the bat, okay–that could be a problem if you live in lower areas. But most folks take a tour of the historical district or do a day trip to the cloud forest or perhaps a couple-day trip to Otavalo to the markets. Those aren’t strenuous trips and you can easily pace yourself so that the altitude plays very little role in your visit.

        Having written that, only you can know what is likely to be best for you. And for flying back, we have always chosen to go stop for the night in Guayaquil. (All flights from the archipelago to mainland Ecuador stop first in Guayaquil and then go on to Quito.) The airport is very near the city and decent hotels (unlike the new airport in Quito). Since we’re just spending the night to catch a flight back to the U.S. the next day, Guayaquil makes great sense.

        Tina

        Like

  16. Suzanne Barlettani says:

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

    Like

    • Tina says:

      Hi, Suzanne–

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

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

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

      Tina

      Like

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

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

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

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

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

    Heather

    Like

  18. William says:

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

    P.S. Your blog is fantastic.

    Like

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

    Tina writes:

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

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s