The Galapagos Islands are a special place. Located about 600 miles east of continental Ecuador, they contain many species and varieties of species of flora and fauna. The National Geographic/Linblad Expeditions (NG/Linblad) expedition gives you the chance to visit several of the places that Charles Darwin visited on the (second) voyage of the HMS Beagle. The pluses: unique wildlife (blue-footed booby, magnificent frigatebird, giant tortoises) knowledgeable naturalist guides, Zodiac boats to land you on the shore, snorkeling in different marine environments, programs for kids, friendly staff, tasty food, excellent service in the handling of the delay departing Galapagos Islands, pre- and post-departure hotel in Guayaquil. The minuses: no advance warning about fumigation on one flight, incorrect checked and carry-on baggage allowance information, and inadequate wetsuits for dry season (my trip was in July).
This trip has been at the top of my wife's bucket list for many years. Seeing the island by ship was an excellent way to visit the islands and experience the diversity of wildlife and marine life. She selected National Geographic (NG) based on the itinerary, relatively small passenger size (96), and recommendations from her sister (on other NG trips). For me, it was an OK selection; it fell short of my high expectations due to the minuses identified in this write-up.
My family arrived one day early so that we could recover from jet lag and be rested for the start of the cruise. One night at the hotel (pre- and post-cruise) was already included in the price of the cruise. The pre-departure (and post-departure) hotel was the Hilton Colon Guayaquil (recommended). It is only a few miles from the airport, has a nice atmosphere, inexpensive spa treatments, and can arrange safe, inexpensive cab rides for visiting the city--which we did prior to the cruise ($10 US per hour). Go see the Iguana Park, the Boardwalk (Malecon) and walk up from the Boardwalk through the Barrio Las Peas to the lighthouse (faro) for a view of the city. If time permits, stop at the General Cemetery to see the above ground crypts (they are like those in New Orleans, USA). There are some emotionally moving sculptures on several of the crypts. At the hotel, we had a minor snafu with the number of breakfast vouchers and free drink coupons for our arrival, as well as with one charge in the Atrium Bar and lounge (the credit card info for our first night stay was not automatically carried over to the second night stay). Those problems were quickly fixed.
My family had cabin 300 on the lowest desk of the ship. The cabin had 2 rooms and a bathroom. I think all bathrooms are small, and the shower is particularly small. There were two beds in one room and a pullout sofa in the other (for my family of three). The portholes in each room were a couple of feet above the sea surface. The rooms were smaller than some cruise ships we have been on, but we knew we were on an expedition and would have different, but suitable accommodations. We were missing a few things in the room when we arrived, but that was easily fixed. The beds were comfortable. They were two pillows per bed. There was adequate storage space in the closet (one per passenger in the rooms with beds). Suitcases easily fit under the bed. There is no safe for valuables. There is a small drawer in the desk that you can lock for a few valuables.