My partner and I recently sailed the Western Galapagos Islands on Quasar Expedition's M/V Evolution and we were simply blown away by the whole experience - from booking to cruising! Like most people, we were somewhat nervous about plunking down a significant sum of money without really knowing what to expect. Outstanding reviews about the company and the boat certainly helped but having an opportunity to actually speak to Diane and Paul, the company's US based managers, and clarify our many questions about everything from flights to daily itinerary was a huge factor in our choosing the company. Any company that works with potential clients, like Paul and Diane did, had to be great, right? Not necessarily, you may be thinking. But, Quasar Ex really is exceptional and the proof of that really was our onboard experience.
We had an amazing time on the Evolution. The guides that led our group - Roberto and Hernan - were outstanding and easily lived up to our rather high standards (both my partner and I are scientists). We thoroughly enjoyed our days, jam-packed as they were with snorkelling, swimming, and hiking. My partner refers to the cruise as one amazing science field trip. Cruise connotes lounging by the pool. This ain't that kind of a cruise! Sure, individuals were welcome to skip any of the activities and relax/nap out the comfy couches in the open, breezy lounge on the top deck or in the hot tub - and yes, we did all that too but we made it a point to be in on all the activities. Who would have wanted to miss an opportunity to swim with the incredibly curious sea lion pups, penguins, octopi, turtles and giant rays, or watch blue-footed boobies catch their prey underwater, or be blown away by the unearthly landscape of Sullivan Bay lava field?
The crew of M/V Evolution - from the captain to the cruise director to the onboard doctor to the panga drivers were all focused on one goal...to make this the trip of a lifetime for us. And this extended beyond the activities to include the onboard food and general cleanliness of the passenger quarters and the boat as a whole. I have to admit that I was particularly concerned about these two. I worried pointlessly. Our rooms were cleaned several times a day and the food onboard was excellent. Yes, expect a fair amount of seafood but if you have special requests (like my partner did), the crew/company will go out of its way to meet them. They actually anticipate the passengers' needs and had juices and snacks ready at precisely the right times. And what was even more impressive is that Steve, our cruise director, actually had memorized each persons needs (dietary or otherwise) and would alert/direct the passengers even before anyone needed to asked. I learnt that once when they had a person onboard with nut allergies, the whole boat was scrubbed down and there was not a nut to be found the entire week.
We were very fortunate to have a remarkable group of people sailing with us. And we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to make their acquaintances. As good as the trip was, having outstanding company to share the experiences with just makes it all the more special.
After reading the above, I can imagine many of you saying, "yeah, sure...but nothing can be perfect. There must have been something that wasn't quite spot on." And indeed there was. Bring a sweater or some cover-up to breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the air conditioners blasting cold air, we were chilled. In our own rooms, we had the option of turning the heat up but in the dining room, it took a bit of cajoling to do the same. Actually, many of us would have preferred to eat most of our meals (instead of just a couple) in the outdoor dining area - it was lovely out there in early March (2017) when we sailed.
And, be prepared to be disconnected from your internet umbilical cord. The boat has no internet service. This, we thought was a great idea. But on the two days that the boat sailed close to the inhabited islands and it was possible to pick up cell signal, we would all have appreciated a couple of hours of wifi to be able to send quick messages to loved ones to let them know just how much we were enjoying ourselves, and confirm that they too were okay.
Sure, the above complaints may seem petty and trivial but that just goes to show how wonderful a time we had onboard that we have dig deep down to find faults.
Our cabin was bigger than an average hotel room in places like Paris and quite comfortable. The noise level when engines were engaged or the anchor raised or lowered was minimal. We were never woken up. For us, cleanliness was the most important concern and here, the crew outdid themselves. They kept our room (all the rooms, in fact) - and especially the toilet area - absolutely, meticulously clean (very much appreciated). We did find (initially) the bathroom somewhat cramped but understand that this is an unavoidable feature of the boat and eventually got used to it.