For anyone who loves watching birds and animals in their natural habitat this was certainly the cruise to take thanks to Lindblad and National Geographic.
The night before boarding our ship we were met by helpful Lindblad staff at the Guayaquil Airport and taken to The Hotel Del Parque, a beautiful 19th century retreat close to the airport, not that you'd ever know because of its lush tropical surroundings. The hotel staff was very welcoming and friendly as well.
The next morning after a beautifully set up breakfast buffet on the hotel's patio we were taken back to the airport where we flew to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands to board our ship. Right from that point on we saw all kinds of sea lions, colorful crabs, pelicans, and iguanas and we would be seeing many more in the coming days. It had begun to rain as we took the Zodiac from the dock to the Islander anchored off shore but the minute we boarded the ship we were greeted and welcomed like family. I cannot say enough about the friendly staff/crew of the Islander, even those on the ships bridge. Our cabin was very comfortable and the additional glassed in terrace off our cabin consisting of a lounger, two chairs and a table made our accommodations seem much larger.
Dining on the ship was very good with a selection of food that should have pleased anyone. In the morning a nice breakfast buffet was served and a menu of three entrees posted to select from for that evenings dinner. All sounded very good which made my choice hard.
The waiters and bartenders learned our names by the very next day and quickly learned our certain preferences for various beverages and food items.
The naturalists, Greg and Jose as well as our expedition leader Vanessa, who guided us all over the islands were a pleasure to be around. They were knowledgeable but never boring and it was easy to see that they really enjoyed their job.
On Isla Santa Cruz we saw the giant tortoises, visited a place where we sampled and watched moonshine being made and had a very nice buffet lunch at a farm where afterwards we were able to walk among the numerous wild giant tortoises. I believe it was that night during which local entertainment was brought on board the Islander to dance and play the native instruments which I thoroughly enjoyed. Our last day of the cruise was spent on Genovesa Island where we were able to walk by numerous frigates and boobies with their little babies so close that you could have touched them. This was a perfect opportunity to get some good up close pictures.
The planned activities for the passengers were also very appealing. I can now say I have jumped off ship into the ocean and have snorkeled among sharks and sea lions. Another nice on board feature was the assortment of good quality gift items offered for sale as well as T-shirts located by the reception desk.
As we disembarked the ship on our last day it was really hard to say good bye to all the friendly staff and crew who at that point seemed more like friends and family. I would most certainly love to take another cruise on board the Islander.
After returning to the Hotel Del Parque we were offered a tour of hotel grounds which were very impressive. There is an excellent restaurant, Casa Julian on the grounds which offers local cuisine and outdoor dining with a view of the Rio Daule River. My traveling companions and I chose to spend an extra two days in Guayaquil. There is so much to see that I strongly recommend doing so. The hotel may be a drive from downtown Guayaquil but the taxi ride was very inexpensive compared to what we would pay in the US.
Our cabin was small but adequate. As in most of my other cruises the bathroom is never big enough but the detatchable shower hose helped a lot. The glassed in terrace off our room was because it made the room seem larger and served as more storage space.