Quasar Grace Galapagos 1 week tour (originating in San Cristobal, ending in Baltra) exceeded my expectations in every way.
The boat was elegant, well-appointed and very comfortable. I didn’t see a single boat in the Galapagos that was as beautiful as Grace. Her age (built in 1928, later gifted to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by Ari Onassis) was not an issue at all - she is fast, nimble and beautifully maintained.
The itinerary and activities were perfectly planned, with several excursions a day on land and sea. Land visits were timed to capture the animals in their most dramatic moments (e.g., the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies), while also avoiding other tourists. We snorkeled almost every day, and it was the best I've experienced, swimming with sea lions, turtles, reef sharks, and many schools of beautiful fish. I am physically fit and a long-distance swimmer, but the activities were structured in a way that even older and less able guests could fully enjoy them. Late January was a perfect time to visit because the water was warm enough to swim without a wetsuit.
The food was wonderful, served al fresco. I can’t imagine preparing 3 meals/day for 16 guests plus crew in a yacht kitchen, but the kitchen staff continued to surprise us with new delicacies. The fruits and vegetables were incredibly fresh and flavorful. I looked forward to the fresh breads in the basket every morning, prepared by Walter. There were 2 ceviches (shrimp and crab) that were so good that we asked the chef for the recipe. The fresh tuna was a crowd pleaser, and the preparations and sauces always had a unique and harmonious mixture of ingredients.
The crew was exceptional. I was impressed with their expertise across multiple roles, commitment to pleasing their guests, professionalism and work ethic. Melissa (hospitality) was delightful, very responsive and energetic. Freddy and Miguel, our zodiac pilots, were very capable, confident and fun. Saul, our bartender, learned our names and preferred cocktails and wines very quickly, and always appeared just as my glass was getting low. Nelly crept into our rooms several times a day to tidy up, and quickly replaced any linens as they began to get grimy.
Our guide, Rafael Pesante, was extremely knowledgeable, which of course, is critical. But on top of that, he was a skilled teacher and story teller. He was full of energy and good cheer. He treated every single guest as if they were his top priority. He took beautiful photographs of every excursion and supplied downloads to departing guests. He treated the other crew members as equals and fostered a sense of family. I can’t imagine that there is a better guide in the Galapagos.
Most impressive of all was the way they all work together to give their guests a memorable experience. One morning around 6am, one of the crew members spotted orcas near the boat. Immediately after that, Rafael came on the intercom encouraging everyone to come to the zodiacs in their pajamas ASAP to chase the orcas. Within minutes, all 16 guests were loaded into the boats and on the chase. We had a thrilling ride and captured dramatic footage of the orcas. A less-organized crew would never have been able to pull that off, and a bigger boat never would have even bothered.
I could not have been happier with the Grace experience. My only hesitation in giving this glowing review is that it might create more competition to get a reservation when I inevitably return to the Grace one day!
Spacious queen cabin in the bow with very comfortable mattress and soft linens. Private bath large enough for 2 people to use at the same time. Abundant hot water for showers. Wood paneling and tasteful decor.