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3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
The other reviews tell almost all you need to know. I just wanted to add a couple of comments. 1. There are not locks on cabins doors when you are not in the room, it’s company policy and was very strange to me. 2. The showers are ... Read More
The other reviews tell almost all you need to know. I just wanted to add a couple of comments. 1. There are not locks on cabins doors when you are not in the room, it’s company policy and was very strange to me. 2. The showers are huge compared to other ships that are much larger. 3. There were only 20 guests on our cruise and we had a lot of space, I would guess when you get 40+ people the ship will seem small. 4. The naturalists were well spoken and answered all questions at any time. 5. Food was fine, not sure how you could do better in the Galapagos. 6. December is not the correct time to come for snorkeling, water is pretty rough and cloudy. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2018
My husband and I and our three teen-aged boys recently returned from a spring break trip on the Santa Cruz II, Western Itinerary. We thoroughly enjoyed the Santa Cruz II. Everything was clean and modern. The food was very good and the ... Read More
My husband and I and our three teen-aged boys recently returned from a spring break trip on the Santa Cruz II, Western Itinerary. We thoroughly enjoyed the Santa Cruz II. Everything was clean and modern. The food was very good and the waiters went out of their way each day to bring my son gluten-free breads and waffles without us ever having to ask. The outdoor deck was lovely. The bar and lounge areas were comfortable and inviting. The boat's staff at the Quito airport, on arrival in Baltra, and on the ship were all very organized and friendly and we always knew where we were going and what we were doing. The snorkeling equipment was excellent and seemed top quality. The ship's photographer takes pictures that are provided at no cost, which I thought was a very nice touch. I would sail on this ship again without the slightest hesitation. Our naturalist guide for the trip was a very nice young man, but he could have talked a little less (sometimes you just want to silently enjoy the nature around you!) and been a little better informed. At times when he was asked questions I think he just improvised when he didn't know something. He often answered the same question different ways at different times. He explained evolution as "if a bird had an injured wing his offspring would then also have injured wings." My real complaint, however, was the itinerary. Days 2 & 4 were excellent. Day 1 was ok, Day 3 was terrible. On such a short cruise at such a high cost, every day should be amazing! Day Two: Snorkeled with sea lions, penguins, and turtles, and really saw lots of interesting animals up close. Really enjoyed both stops. Day Four was our favorite. We snorkeled from the shore of a beautiful beach and kayaked among playful sea lions in the morning, then enjoyed a glass-bottom boat tour in the afternoon. The highlight was the evening, when 12 sharks and a few sea lions swam right alongside the boat for HOURS, chasing flying fish. The fish would leap out of the water to escape, and one flew up into my son's chest on the deck. He will never forget that. Day One (afternoon after embarkation), Dragon Hill was ok. Lots of walking for very little animal sightings, and it was hot and dry and dusty. Seems like there could be a better place to start. Day 3, however, just felt like filler. First we trekked to the Charles Darwin Research Center, which was not interesting at all. A huge production to go into a special building where they have the taxidermy body of Lonely George, the last of a particular species of tortoises who died several years ago. Then outside to see some giant tortoises, including babies in breeding areas. Overall, not impressive and it required a bus ride, then a long walk. Would recommend omitting this stop entirely. Then we were bussed to a sugar cane farm for a 5 minute demonstration, followed by an hour of standing around. Everyone seemed hot and annoyed. Next we were loaded back on the bus and taken to a lava tube. We got out, hiked into the tube, turned around and hiked back to the bus. Again, seemed rather pointless? Then the bus took us to a restaurant, where we had an outdoor buffet. The food was fine, but then it was back on the bus again for a drive to a reserve where we saw giant tortoises. This last part at the reserve was about 45 minutes - and it was enjoyable - but it came at the end of a very long day. We would have much preferred if this day could have been broken in two like the other days, with a return to the ship mid-day, and a more interesting stop/excursion in the morning. A tortoise center in the morning and tortoises in the wild in the afternoon seemed unnecessarily repetitive. The sugar can farm and lave tube stop just seemed like filler. NOT why one travels to the Galapagos! We felt cheated out of one of our precious few days in the Galapagos on this day. So all in all, we had a wonderful trip to the Galapagos and would recommend the Santa Cruz II, but pick an itinerary without the long day on Santa Cruz Island. Also, if you are deciding between a full week and a 5 day/4 night as we were, we all agreed the 4 day was just the right amount of time. I think it might have started to feel repetitive with a few more days. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
My husband I and were onboard Santa Cruz II at the end of February for a 7-day, adventure-filled island hopping in the Galapagos Islands. I booked this trip through Metropolitan Touring online. This ship can accommodate 90 passengers, ... Read More
My husband I and were onboard Santa Cruz II at the end of February for a 7-day, adventure-filled island hopping in the Galapagos Islands. I booked this trip through Metropolitan Touring online. This ship can accommodate 90 passengers, which is on the larger size. This turned out to be a blessing when we hit turbulence in the water while crossing the seas from island to island on several occasions. The islands we visited are: Santa Cruz, South Plaza Island, North Seymour, San Cristobal, Espanola, and Santa Fe. The passengers on this trip were all sophisticated travelers. One of the pleasures of traveling is meeting other people from around the world. On this trip, we met some wonderful people whose acquaintances we will cherish forever. GETTING THERE: We flew on JetBlue from New York to Quito, with connection in Fort Lauderdale. We stayed overnight in Quito before flying to the Galapagos Islands. The flight had a stopover in Guayaquil, where they picked up more passengers. Once we landed on the Baltra Island, a bus took us to a small dock (5 min.) Each of us was handed a life jacket before boarding a small dinghy (also called PANGA) to Santa Cruz II anchored nearby. It was a bright sunny day and we were SUPER excited to start our adventure! STATEROOM: Our room was located on the Expedition Deck in the middle of the ship. The room has closet with shelves on one side (and safe), and hangers on the other. There is one small chair by the desk. Bathroom is adequate size with shower only -- shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel are provided. There are two colors of towels – blue and white. The blue towels are for use in the bathroom. The white towel is for use outside -- i.e. for beach or for snorkeling. You cannot lock your room from outside, only from inside. We didn’t have any issue with this, except for the first night, when someone came into our room while we were out and took one of the chocolates left by our room steward. (Every night, our wonderful room steward turns down our bed and leaves a chocolate on each of our pillows.) It’s not the missing chocolate that bothered us, of course, but the fact that someone actually came into our room to take it. It was a small matter and did not detract us from our trip. The outlets in the room are limited. We brought a travel charger with USB ports from home to charge our iPhones and camera batteries. There is no TV in the room. You don’t need it. My biggest objection with this room was finding how thin the wall is. You can hear conversations through the wall as though there was no barrier. Lucky for us, only one side of our room was connected. The bed was comfortable and we both slept well. Our invisible room steward kept out room tidy and clean. FOODS & DRINKS: Breakfast and lunch are buffet style; only dinner is a la carte, which you need to select at lunchtime. You can always change your mind, but by selecting ahead of time, the kitchen staff can make the necessary preparations. The food onboard was delicious, flavorful, and well presented. Seating at the dining room is not assigned. You can sit anywhere and with anyone you pleased. Since we always sat on the same table, we had the same waiter throughout our trip. Mauricio came to know us. He knew my husband preferred coffee in the morning, while I only liked the juice. He made our dining experience special. Bar had ample drink selections, including non-alcoholic beverages, along with occasional hors d’oeuvres, but they always had popcorns. AMENITIES AROUND THE SHIP: The ship felt dated, but it was roomy with several public places to hang around. There are two large Jacuzzis, which we never used, but they looked very inviting. My favorite amenity on this ship is the presence of two large dryers. I brought a small bottle of detergent from home and washed our swimwear in the bathroom sink. I put them in the dryer while we went to dinner. By the time we finished eating, our clothes were dried. This makes it much easier to pack in our luggage on the last day. (Note to self – next time, pack some dryer sheets!) The daily schedule is posted on the hallway. You take photo of this schedule with your iPhone and use it as your reminder. Everything was well organized and pretty much as listed. The list also includes alternative activities (i.e. going on glass-bottom boat instead of snorkeling, or riding on panga instead of hiking, etc.) EXCURSIONS: Mari Ramierz gives briefing every day about the following day’s activities. She is everywhere and does everything. She is like a mother hen to all of us! The wakeup call every morning is at 6:30 AM. Mari will come on the speaker to greet everyone. (As she likes to remind us, we are on an ADVENTURE not a VACATION!) We usually wake up earlier (as did some other passengers) to watch the beautiful Galapagos mornings from the Sky Deck. The activities are broken down into morning and afternoon tour -- except for the day we visited Santa Cruz Island where we spent the entire day on the island. Some hikes are more strenuous than others. Be sure to bring good grip, amphibious shoes with you. You will be on a panga a lot to transport you to and from your excursions. There are two types of landing – DRY and WET. DRY landing is when the passengers get off the panga on a dock or rocky terrain. WET landing is when the panga is dock close to the beach and passengers wade (ankle deep) to the shore. Each group is small - about 12 passengers or so, accompanied by an English-speaking naturalist guide. There are several guides onboard Santa Cruz II, everyone is very knowledgeable about the Galapagos Islands. Our favorite guide is Henry Abad, whose passion for nature is clearly shown in his voice as he narrates each species we encounter. Using snorkeling equipment is complimentary. You can also rent their wet suite for $18 for the entire trip. As the water temperature was warm when we were there, we did not wear our wet suites that we brought from home. Passengers are greeted with a glass of refreshing juice whenever we come back from our excursions. The ship’s photographer, Martin Barreiro, will gladly take your family’s photos with your camera. He also takes photos of everyone onboard and shows them as slideshow on the last day of the trip. And if you leave your email address with him, he will send this slideshow to you free of charge. He also gives a lecture on how to take great Galapagos Islands photos. Don’t miss it! While we had a wonderful time on this cruise, it wasn’t perfect. On our last snorkel outing, I was getting tired after 30 minutes of swimming. I signaled to my husband that I had enough. The safety protocol was that you raise your hands above the water whenever you want to get back into the panga and the naturalist onboard will come and pick you up from where you are. But when my husband and I looked up, our panga was a tiny dot on the horizon – far, FAAAAAR, away! We waved our hands frantically to get the guide’s attention, but the dot did not moved. As I struggled to stay afloat, I looked around and found no one around us -- just silence and eerie sounds of water lapping near our faces. I knew I didn’t have enough strength to swim that far, and wondered how we strayed so far away from our group. Panic began to set in and my heart raced. The prospect of drowning in the Galapagos Islands was not very appealing, so I began to splash the water with both hands and my husband began shouting at the top of his voice while waving his arms like a maniac. It was only then that the guide saw us, and she quickly came to our rescue. That incident left me a little shaken. In hindsight, we should’ve chose glass-bottom boat instead of snorkeling on our last day. It was a bad decision on our part. I would still give Santa Cruz II a 5-star review because we had a FANTASTIC time overall! In conclusion, visiting Galapagos should be on everyone’s bucket list! To get the best value, check out the last minute deals for vacancies. The tour company will publicize this info (if any) few weeks before the sail date. Metropolitan Touring (who owns this ship) is a well-established entity in this region. Everywhere we went, we had the whole place to the wildlife and ourselves. Not a bad arrangement to visit one of the most magical places on Earth! Some notes: 1) Your tour price does not include the mandatory $100 park entrance fee/pp, or the $20 migration fee/pp. You can ask your travel agent to include both in your tour price. It’s one less thing to worry about. 2) Ecuador uses USD as their currency. You don’t need FX exchange. You also don’t need electrical converter, since the country uses the same voltage as US. 3) You don’t need to bring water bottles. You will receive two souvenir bottles in your stateroom. You can fill them with water from the dispenser in the hallway. 4) Galapagos Islands are volcanic in nature and the paths are rocky and slippery. Be sure to wear shoes that have good grip. Walking stick is provided for anyone who needs it. 5) We brought insect repellent, but rarely used it. We didn’t find mosquitoes or other insects to be a problem in any of the islands we visited. 6) The sea lion pups are very cute, but you should not go near them. The reason for this precaution is that your scent may transfer to the pup. When the mother sea lion comes back to feed it, she may not recognize her pup’s scent and will not feed it. It’s best to take the photos from some distance away so as not to disrupt their lives. 7) Bring a small bottle of fabric spray. All the life vests have strong smell of perspiration on them. You cannot claim one as your own and clean it since they are collected and randomly distributed on every outing. 8) Tipping – it’s always awkward trying to figure out how much to tip. Here’s a general guideline on Santa Cruz II (as suggested by Metropolitan Touring): Crew: $15/pp per day Naturalist: $10/pp per day Barman: $5/pp per trip You can add this to your bill at the end of your trip and pay with your credit card. This will be shared equally among the crewmembers. We tipped extra (in person) to those crewmembers who made our trip more memorable. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We chose this ship because is was not too small, nor too large and it was a great choice. We were not able to tour San Cristobal Island before we left, but we were excited to start the cruise and didn't mind. The ships guides and ... Read More
We chose this ship because is was not too small, nor too large and it was a great choice. We were not able to tour San Cristobal Island before we left, but we were excited to start the cruise and didn't mind. The ships guides and crew take your bags from you at the airport and you find them next in your cabin. They had buses waiting to ferry us to the ship. Pangas: Okay, I was nervous. But the crew knows this and is safety-focused. By the last day, I was a panga expert. The rides are not comfortable between the exhaust and the sea-spray. But this an adventure in the Pacific, not a canoe trip down the creek. We did have one very rough night where the ship was rocking side to side and pitching stem to stern. I didn't sleep much that night. We went the next day to tour the bridge and the kind captain explained we had turned into the current. Further, this ship was designed to go around the tip of South America, so the current was not really an issue. And we wouldn't have another night like that. Food: The food on board is great. Quite a variety and a vegetarian option at each meal. Breakfast and lunch are buffets (eat the ceviche!). Dinner is ordered at lunch and brought to you by great dining room staff. Dinner food is pre-cooked and then stored in the steam tables they use for breakfast and lunch. We did have some overcooked fish, but it still tasted great. Schedule: This is not a ship where you party all night, mostly because you are exhausted. They wake you up at 600 or 630, breakfast is at 700/730 and you disembark by 830. The Galapagos only allows a certain number of people to be on each island a day and they can only stay for a limited time. Back onto the ship it is lunch time. You get a bit of rest, and then go off on your afternoon adventure. After your morning adventure, they greet you with juice and a snack. Some evenings they had a cocktail hour on the deck (BOGO cocktails, snacks, etc), a meeting to plan the next day, and then dinner was around 730. Activities: Each night before dinner, the staff brief you on what you will be doing and seeing the next day. Very helpful, attendance recommended. And they make it fun. They broke the passengers into groups of 10 or so. We got along well with everyone in our group. The tour guides were knowledgeable at the flora, fauna and history of the islands. Most were native Galapaguenos, all spoke English well. If you do not snorkel, or just want a break from the wet suit, I recommend the glass bottom boat. it was a great way to see fish. My favorite island was South Plaza, but really everyone one has something unique and fantastic. The shore excursions all involved walking but most were easy hikes with many stops for flora, fauna and fotos. One Espanola Island, the trail is very rocky, a walking stick is recommended. But the crew and by then, our fellow travelers, were very helpful. Two or our group and I had to visit the ship's doctor. Nothing major, but get it checked while you have access to medical care. She is a good doctor, respected our privacy and didn't judge our foolish wounds. I appreciated having her on board very much. We were late in the vacation season, so only a few kids on the ship. But the ship had special activities for the kids and they were having a great time running around in a pack. Tipping: On the last night, they have a photo show of your time on the ship (which they email to you later. Some of the best photos we have. Thanks Eddy!). They also give you a sheet with tipping guidelines for the crew, the dining staff, the tour guides. etc. They put 4 boxes at the purser's desk and you can drop your cash tips in there. Or you can put it on a charge card and fill out a form telling the purser how to divide it up. We also gave the guides sunscreen we didn't need any longer. Yes! I would do it again! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We found the ship to be an ideal size 24 rooms each with a large window, 48 passengers and a total of 32 ish crew (including crew members and naturalists). The food was very good, the staff accommodating, the naturalists ranged from ... Read More
We found the ship to be an ideal size 24 rooms each with a large window, 48 passengers and a total of 32 ish crew (including crew members and naturalists). The food was very good, the staff accommodating, the naturalists ranged from passionate to capable. Safety - of the passengers and the wildlife - seemed of the utmost concern to every member of the team. Excursions were many and varied and we recommend you take as many as you are able. Initially, we'd had some reservations about the level of activity that would be required of us. The spirit of adventure captured and transformed us into hiking, snorkeling, kayaking Grandma and Grandpa to no ill effect. There was one daily event that was awkwardly timed: Regrettably, the educational talk given in the bar area at the top of the gently rocking ship came after a physically active morning and a full meal at lunch. Even those eager for the information often lapsed. We did not take our grand-kids - unsure at what age a child might maximize his/her experience. In our limited observation (and acknowledging there are exceptions) the 10-18 range seemed optimal. Any younger and they might not have the focus or ability to enjoy some of the activities, any older and they seemed to be focused on more urbane interests. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
I highly recommend this cruise. The staff and naturalists are outstanding. The food is top notch all 3 meals per day and some of the dinners were truly works of art--coconut fish and crab stuffed fish, for example. The desserts were not at ... Read More
I highly recommend this cruise. The staff and naturalists are outstanding. The food is top notch all 3 meals per day and some of the dinners were truly works of art--coconut fish and crab stuffed fish, for example. The desserts were not at the same level and way too heavy on the mouses, but the meals were so satisfying, it didn't matter. The Galapagos are a treasure and seeing the wildlife was unforgettable. The excursions are well organized and there are often several options (panga ride vs kayak vs snorkel). You really can't get the most out of the trip if you can't walk on uneven ground (including climbing large stone steps, hopping over lava crevices, and dealing with loose gravel) and/or snorkel. This is not a criticism of the cruise, just a warning for those with mobility issues that this might not be the optimal choice. For those of us lucky enough to still have 2 good knees, it was a blast. We saw birds and animals present nowhere else right up close and had plenty of time to take it all in. I hope to come back someday! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
We had the most amazing trip on Yacht La Pinta in February 2017. To say it was spectacular was an understatement, Galapagos was everything we expected and Yacht La Pinta was absolutely the perfect way to experience it. When we arrived on ... Read More
We had the most amazing trip on Yacht La Pinta in February 2017. To say it was spectacular was an understatement, Galapagos was everything we expected and Yacht La Pinta was absolutely the perfect way to experience it. When we arrived on board the expedition leader told us this was not a cruise but an "expedition" and he was right! To our great pleasure the activities were endless - we kept busy from our 7am wakeup call right through to our 7pm de-briefing every night. We were in the water snorkelling nearly every day, sometimes twice a day! We snorkelled with a wide range of animals, from turtles and sealions to penguins, flightless cormorants, sea iguanas and even hammerhead sharks. The yacht is small, only 24 cabins which is a nice number to get to know your fellow travellers. The food was superb, set menu with options some nights and delicious buffet on other nights. The guides were excellent, friendly passionate and knowledgeable. We booked two consecutive cruises together, 4 day Northern followed directly by the 6 day Western itinerary. A special thanks to Grace for looking after us so well in the transition between cruises. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Yacht La Pinta and crew for a memorable experience of Galapagos Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Just back from a wonderful week in the Galapagos Islands aboard La Pinta. It was a wonderful trip. The ship is perfect sized - large enough to accommodate more passengers (most ships this size do) but they keep it feeling small and ... Read More
Just back from a wonderful week in the Galapagos Islands aboard La Pinta. It was a wonderful trip. The ship is perfect sized - large enough to accommodate more passengers (most ships this size do) but they keep it feeling small and intimate. The cabins were much bigger than I (as a first time cruiser) expected and were very comfortable. The common spaces were generous and there were three separate spaces on board where all the passengers could meet at once (bar/lounge, the outside dining area and the inside dining area). Linens were clean, comfortable and plentiful. The ship itself was terrific. If the ship was terrific, the staff was even better. The staff to passenger ration was very high and we were pampered at every turn. Every time you were away for a meal or an excursion, you would come back to a tidy cabin. The wait staff was wonderful and Lois did an outstanding job watching over us with our many food allergies. Finally, the itinerary was perfect. We saw great sights and the naturalists were fantastic (especially Carlos). All five that we had exposure to on the trip were exceptionally knowledgeable and caring and flawlessly bi-lingual. The trip was everything we wanted and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend La Pinta. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
As anyone who has travelled on this vessel can tell you, this is not a traditional cruise. It is a port intensive, early wake-up call, adventure to some very unique islands. First, embarkation does not involve issuance of your cruise ... Read More
As anyone who has travelled on this vessel can tell you, this is not a traditional cruise. It is a port intensive, early wake-up call, adventure to some very unique islands. First, embarkation does not involve issuance of your cruise card -there are none. Instead you are transferred to the dock by very helpful ship-based staff members. Once at the dock, you don your life jacket and head to the ship via "panga." Pangas are zodiacs boats- rubber vessels with flexible flooring and an outboard motor. These pangas, you will soon learn, are an essential part of the cruise. Virtually all the islands lack docks or even approachable landing areas other then some rock formations that allow for a rubber boat to beach. Without the pangas, there is no cruise. In fact, all the ships supplies, and your luggage as well, will be transported via panga. The adventure begins within hours. Each time we boarded a panga in groups (by language) and headed ashore with our naturalist who walked us through the trails and let us know what we were seeing. Each shore visit lasts from about 2.5 hours to about 3.5 hours and there NO bathrooms on most of the islands. Meals are served in the main dining room, buffet at breakfast and lunch, and waiters at dinner. The captain and his staff always have a table in the dining room as well. There are several choices at each meal. At about 300 feet with about 100 cabins, the Santa Cruz II is one the largest vessels in the Galapagos, but you can be back in your cabin from any part of the ship in a matter of seconds. There are no elevators and the stairs are quite steep. Hold on please! Now the magic. Since the animals in the Galapagos are protected by law from people, and since they have no naturual predators and are isolated, they have absolutlely no fear of people. As a result, the seal will lie in your path and not move. The iguanas will not bite you or even pretend to be aggressive. The birds will not fly away on your approach. On the downside, it is hot. The sun is relentless and the flies can be as well. The ship is comfortable but not luxurious. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We booked this cruise through Avalon Waterways. The package included 3 nights in Quito and tours there. The Swissotel in Quito was first class and was a 45 min ride from the airport, provided by the tour co. The welcome dinner was deluxe, ... Read More
We booked this cruise through Avalon Waterways. The package included 3 nights in Quito and tours there. The Swissotel in Quito was first class and was a 45 min ride from the airport, provided by the tour co. The welcome dinner was deluxe, as was a special lunch included in the tour of Otavalo. Other tours included snacks at local places and that was fun. The tour guides from Metropolitan Touring were competent, well versed and friendly. Their vehicles were top notch as well. It was so nice to have them take care of all the transfers, etc......meaning no worries for us. The Galápagos Islands were unbelievable with the wildlife and so interesting and beautiful. The Naturalists were excellent and worked so hard to make sure we saw many varieties of animals and birds. They were extremely knowledgable, friendly and competent. Each day was another adventure as we set out on Zodiac type rafts from the Isabella II to explore islands. The meals onboard were good with a buffet at breakfast and lunch and sit down dinner with 2 choices of entrees and wine at dinner also. Waiters were attentive, as well as the rest of the crew. We were fortunate that we only had 20 passengers on board. To really enjoy this type of cruise, you need to be in pretty good shape, as there were rugged walks some days on lots of uneven ground and getting on and off the zodiacs could be a challenge for some. A couple of meals were served out on the deck which was a treat. The snorkeling gear, including wet suit were of high quality. The only negative about the ship was that the cabins are becoming worn and shabby. They do need some refurbishing. There is no entertainment, because this is an expedition, but they had a library and free wifi. Other than that, it was a fantastic trip and positive experience. The day we left the ship and flew back to Quito, we were again provided a room at the Swissotel until our flight left at midnight, so we were able to rest and relax before our flight back to the U.S. We were transported by private car and guide back to the airport which was included. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
There were many unfortunate incidences on this trip, but also some very good moments also. The first day got off to a frustrating start. After a long day traveling to get to the ship we were already pretty tired and late afternoon we ... Read More
There were many unfortunate incidences on this trip, but also some very good moments also. The first day got off to a frustrating start. After a long day traveling to get to the ship we were already pretty tired and late afternoon we drove about 40 minutes to a giant tortoise reproduction center. We saw the giant tortoises on the flat ground and then we began to climb up and up to see a few baby tortoises in cages at the top of the hill. Our naturalist walked very fast as he was used to it and when coming down he completely left 3 people behind, one that had an injury to her knee. When we arrived at the dock to board the zodiacs to return to the ship, the naturalists came running up to us and chastised us for not staying with him. I don't know why he was so upset; he hadn't seemed concerned with us up to that point,. Food on board was acceptable, but not as exceptional as I had anticipated. Most of the crew was friendly; however, the bar server treated some of the passengers like children. When a friend went up to the bar to ask for a drink, she was told to "sit down" and you will be served. Seemed a bit rude. Two other major concerns: (1)when those that were snorkeling were told to "buddy up", no one actually did and all the divers went in the water alone. There was no accounting for who actually had returned from the water. 2) A similar thing happened on the last day as we were were boarding a bus to go to the airport. The bus was over crowded with people standing in the aisle. The naturalist that accompanied us never even counted to see if we all actually made it onto the bus. All the other people trying to get on were pushing and shoving and easily one of us could have been left behind. When we got to the airport, he had not told us where to pick up our luggage. So when I got into the airport, I didn't have my luggage and had to go back and get it. It just seemed a bit disorganized. I am used to the person who is in charge always keeping an eye on everyone and making sure all are accounted for. The naturalist that was assigned to us always walked very fast and could be easily 1 block ahead of his group and he never even looked back to see if we were following. I guess my major complaint had to do with this one staff member. Otherwise, the trip would have been a wonderful experience. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
This was our second Zegrahm Adventure (the first was an outstanding joint venture to Antarctica, partnering with Stanford Alumni Travel in January, 2015). As we had never toured with any other group besides Stanford over the past 20 ... Read More
This was our second Zegrahm Adventure (the first was an outstanding joint venture to Antarctica, partnering with Stanford Alumni Travel in January, 2015). As we had never toured with any other group besides Stanford over the past 20 years, we were very impressed with the knowledgeable, caring and attentive Zegrahm staff (at all levels) that we experienced in Antarctica, so chose Zegrahm for our Galapagos adventure based on recommendations from fellow passengers, choices of destinations, value and type of adventures offered. Based on previous travel experience, we always arrive at our departure city at least one day prior to meeting the group. Zegrahm staff in the front office were very accommodating and booked both air and hotel reservations based on our needs, as well as provided transportation from the airport to the hotel for our early arrival. The process could not have been easier, customer friendly and helpful! Duane even contacted us immediately when the airline changed its flight schedules for one leg of our trip, and communicated with us frequently to ensure every detail was covered. Guayaquil, Ecuador is a very cosmopolitan city, and having completed some pre-trip exploring online and through reading, we had a days' list of activities. (For us) The city was very walkable and easy to get around, but cabs were plentiful and inexpensive ($5 to most destinations), if one wished. Metropolitan Touring was the local connection and also offered city tours, which were taken by some of our fellow colleagues. In Guayaquil, the Hilton Colon was our base--we were on a concierge floor, which offered a generous breakfast, all day snacks and an evenings' happy hour overlooking the city and river. The hotel had many amenities that we did not have time to enjoy--including several restaurants and lounges, a beautiful pool and patio, incredible spa and other personal services. Each day of the tour--beginning upon our arrival, we were briefed by a naturalist or the Tour Leader, Jack Grove, and given a written summery of the next day's schedule and "opportunities"! With only 30 passengers/members of the group, the embarkations and disembarkations were smooth--folks also had the option to stay on board and skip any activity--the only requirement was a simple "check in--check out" board as we boarded pandas/zodiacs for activities. This was our first experience with small ship sailing--30 passengers, 4 Naturalists, crew/kitchen staff and a physician! The cabins were comfortable--with AC and heat (not needed)--and it seemed that the cabin staff kept refreshing our room (with clean dry towels, esp.) every time we stepped out of the cabin! Most of the snorkelers enjoyed the hot tub after the afternoon dives, and the upper deck had a small fitness room, comfortable tables, chairs and lounges. Dining was buffet style for every meal--with a salad and fruit station for lunch and dinner, fruit and cereal/yogurt stations at breakfast--but other selections included eggs, breakfast meats, sometimes french toast/pancakes at breakfast; always a fish, pork/chicken and beef choice at lunch and dinner, lots of vegetables, and various versions of rice and potatoes. And of course, a dessert table, which offered fruit and other temptations! Food was simple, plentiful and delicious. My favorites were the Ecuadorian choices, the lunches with 3 types of ceviche, and the dinners on the top (patio/lounge) deck where we could watch the sunsets. The dining staff also provided juice and snacks each afternoon, after the activity--a welcome treat after snorkeling or kayaking! There was a full bar lounge in the lower deck, as well as a small shop (t-shirts and small souvenirs). There was never a dull moment--each destination/island was unique and beautiful. The Naturalists were knowledgeable, personable, and with us 24/7 (it seemed) to answer every question, and provide insights into the culture, history and ecological challenges of the islands. They were enthusiastic, passionate, experienced and attentive. Each day provided 3-4 activities: a 1-3 mile hike on a new island to note animals, geology or historical sites, deep water snorkeling (and a couple of days of beach snorkeling), glass bottom boat tours, sea kayaking in sheltered bays (but still challenging!), and zodiac/panga cruising along the coasts of the islands into coves and caves too small for the Isabella. We had two "lectures" by our published naturalists--one on the fish of the Galapagos, and the other on Darwin--They were interesting, informative and educational--beyond the reading/video list that was offered by Zegrahm prior to the expedition. While we did not travel with children, one family travelled with three boys, ages 10, 12, and 14. The staff were especially attentive and ensured the safety of the children--who were great swimmers and did everything with the adults. As an observation, I would not recommend this trip for younger children, as the activities were rigorous. The catalogue description was accurate--one should be in good physical condition to embark on the activities, though we found the hikes usually less difficult than described. Zegrahm does also have a "gear shop" and credit towards purchase of equipment for each passenger. We have been pleased with the quality of the merchandise and found the packing lists helpful (though I tend to OVERPACK for every trip, I am amazed at those who can bring all their essentials in a backpack!) The ship did provide wet suits and snorkel equipment, if needed. While we would not go to the Galapagos again, we do plan to travel with Zegrahm again, and are searching their new catalogues and website for unique destinations. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
La Pinta is a good ship with a friendly captain and crew eager to please. The food is good but not as good as Delfin on the Amazon which preceeded our trip. Day 1 flight good from Guaquil old bus panga to ship, lunch, drill, very long ... Read More
La Pinta is a good ship with a friendly captain and crew eager to please. The food is good but not as good as Delfin on the Amazon which preceeded our trip. Day 1 flight good from Guaquil old bus panga to ship, lunch, drill, very long presentation, back on panga and old bus and hurried climb up to see baby tortoises back to ship feeling tired and wondering why we had done all that walking to see so little! Day 2 Pitt point told it was a diffult hike to see wildlife so opted for panga ride and saw a lot. Day 3 2 km over boulders definitely beyond both of us and no alternative so 4 stayed on ship and we visited the bridge. Library good and so was the doctor. My wife developed back trouble earlier on the trip and we are both active and reasonably fit but others confirmed we would have not managed well. Even the beach walks were hard in the sand! Did not feel that the naturalists were that concerned about our difficulties! Never felt safe on the panga although there was plenty of help getting on and off. The websites are misleading talking of easy walks. This is clearly untrue. On the final evening we saw photos of the cruise and we had missed a lot of wildlife. We did not visit the Charles Darwin centre on the final day which was disappointing as we have visited Down house and read a lot about him. It is clear that the Galapagos is only for the really fit and had we known this we would not have booked at all! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
We rate this tour exceptional! I was concerned about this trip when I read a critique written from april 2014 that was not very favorable. Our group of 6 had a very adventurous 2 weeks visiting Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. ... Read More
We rate this tour exceptional! I was concerned about this trip when I read a critique written from april 2014 that was not very favorable. Our group of 6 had a very adventurous 2 weeks visiting Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. There were many early mornings and late evenings, but all were required in order to see and do everything listed in the itinerary. All of the hotels we stayed at were exceptional. Most were at Casa Andina Private Collection. When you consider that many times we were in the middle of nowhere, they were the best available. The Sumaq Machu Picchu was 5 star in a spectatcular location. My wife skipped the morning tour of Machu Picchu and visited the hotel spa and later walked the city. Those of us who went to MP hiked to the Sun gate and the Inca Bridge. Difficult walks but well worth it. Our tour guides were excellent. All of the restaurants we visited were very good. The Galapagos were also spectacular. The Isabela is an expedition boat that met all of our requirements. It had a fun bar/lounge area and very good food (you finally get to eat raw vegetables on the boat). The boat tour has a demanding schedule that starts with a 7AM wakeup call and 3 shore expeditions each day. Evenings were spent in the lounge doing karaoke. The snorkeling was great but you needed to get away from the crowd, sea turtles and sea lions were the high point. The hiking was challenging with impressive views and lots of close ups of birds and marine iguanas. The tour guides were very good and helped those who had difficulty getting around. This tour is for people who have a sense of adventure. You are always on the go and many of the activities are challenging. We started with 7 hiking to the Sun Gate but only 3 made it. Also by the time we did our last deep water snorkel were were only one zodiac (many opted for the glass bottom boat.) Do this trip while you are in good health and physically in good shape. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: ... Read More
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: normal size, two single beds, a small couch, a desk and a chair, plenty of cabinet space, normal sized bathroom with a shower. There was no TV, which I thought would be a problem, but it wasnt at all. There was a radio channel with loudspeakers in the cabin that you could turn on and off. The cabin had a window that looked to the corridor and the ocean partially. For safety, you cant lock the doors from the inside, only from the inside. Ship: A nice lobby area with a bar and plenty of couches, medical room, one restaurant with enough seats for the entire ship. Food was good. Buffett breakfst and lunch, which once was served on the sun deck. Dinner was seated and two options for main course. Not fancy dinning, like on large cruises. There was a mini gym, a whirpool and a nice sundeck with a few loungers and plenty of tables. This is what the day looks like: early wake up around 7am, Breakfast from 7.30. First excursion or activity around 9.00 (snorkeling, kayaking, hiking). Back to the ship for lunch around 12.30. Second activity/excursion around 3pm. Dinner at 7ish. There are no shows or entertainment on board, but there was a karaoke night that I missed. Every night there was a briefing about the next day. Snorkel gear and wetsuits were available. Wetsuits were for a nominal fee, but they didnt charge for them at the end. Great naturalist guides on board and during the excursions! They had a huge knowledge and made the tours really interesting. Im not big into animals or plants and yet I enjoyed it a lot. All in all, great experience. Its a much active holiday than going on a cruise in the Caribbean. Bring a laptop with movies if you want to watch something in the evening.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
Review of Avalon’s “Discover the Galapagos and Peru”  Tour WGG Pros: Machu Picchu is spectacular; the Metropolitan Tour Directors in Peru and Ecuador were outstanding. Cons: High Altitude, Early Mornings, Poor Galapagos Cruise ... Read More
Review of Avalon’s “Discover the Galapagos and Peru”  Tour WGG Pros: Machu Picchu is spectacular; the Metropolitan Tour Directors in Peru and Ecuador were outstanding. Cons: High Altitude, Early Mornings, Poor Galapagos Cruise arrival and departure arrangements General Matters: Avalon uses Metropolitan Touring to manage this tour. Avalon also procures rooms on a third-party ship (for us the Isabela II), also associated with Metropolitan Touring. There is not much “Avalon” in this tour. Day 1: Lima – Most flights from the U.S. arrive in Lima very late at night and you may not arrive at your hotel until the early morning of the next day (Day 2 of your tour). We traveled a day early and would recommend it. The Avalon booked hotel was the Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores. It was a nice facility and located within convenient walking distance to various sites, such as the Inca Market – a good place to get a feel for Peruvian handicrafts. (While there, buy a water bottle sling holder. It is on a strap you wear over your shoulder and under the opposite arm. This will prove handy.) If you do not come a day early, you will not have much free time in Lima (or much time to rest before the activities begin). Our Tour Director for Peru was Victor. He was outstanding, providing many more services than required and staying with us until we flew to Ecuador. Day 2: Lima – In the early afternoon, a local guide takes you on a city tour of Lima. The traffic in Lima is horrendous. Most of this 4 hour tour was spent in gridlock. The highlight was the Larco Herrera Museum which housed many wonderful Peruvian artifacts. We also did a brief stop at Parque de Amour (Lover’s Park) – a beautiful spot overlooking the sea. In our opinion, the visit to the Cathedral and Monastery were not worth the time spent in traffic to get there. We finally returned to the hotel an hour later than scheduled and, consequently, we were an hour late for our dinner. The group was dragging by the time we ultimately got to our rooms that night. Day 3: Fly to Cusco – This was our first of several early wake-ups – about 4 AM, with a 5:30 departure from the hotel. Breakfast service at the hotel did not start until 6AM, so they provided a pseudo-continental breakfast with cookies and a ham and cheese sandwich. Cusco is at 11,000 feet – a noticeable change in altitude and difficult for some of the travelers. In Cusco, Victor was joined by a local guide, Jamie. Jamie was also outstanding. He stayed with us until we left Machu Picchu. The tour deviated from the program upon our arrival in Cusco. Instead of seeing the sites near Cusco, we immediately left for the Sacred Valley. This was probably wise as the valley is at about 9,000 feet and allows an easier adjustment to the altitude than remaining in Cusco. We visited the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo, had some free time to shop at the local craft market, and visited a local home (very basic and complete with guinea pigs roving the floor). The night was spent at the Casa Andina Private Collection Sacred Valley. It may be the nicest hotel in the area, and certainly the grounds were beautiful, but the rooms were very simple with few amenities. Dinner was a buffet at a restaurant away from the hotel. If the evening is cool, bring a coat as we found most restaurants to be about the same temperature inside as outside. The buffet was good, but the best looking parts were the raw fresh vegetables. As our Tour Director cautioned us about eating any fresh vegetables that had not been peeled or cooked, we avoided these items. Despite the warning, several in our group had intestinal problems at some point while in Peru; and one traveler ended up terminating his trip and returning home once we arrived in Ecuador. Day 4: Travel to Machu Picchu – Another early morning, rising about 6AM. This is the point where you have to separate your belongings into what you will need for one night and everything else as you will only have a “carry-on” for your time in Machu Picchu. Your luggage will rejoin you in Cusco. We drove to the train station at Ollantaytambo and caught the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (also called Agua Caliente). The train only provides for limited luggage, which is why we had to limit ourselves to one carry-on each. While we had been told nothing larger than a backpack, the Vista Dome car seemed to be able to accommodate the large airline carry-on wheelies without problems. We dropped our bags at our hotel, the Sumaq, and proceeded to catch one of the buses that travel the narrow switchback road to Machu Picchu. Agua Caliente is at 6,700 feet and Machu Picchu is at 8,000 feet. Touring Machu Picchu requires walking and climbing uneven stairs. Even at 8,000 feet, the altitude can be an issue for some. Victor and Jamie, however, took it slow which allowed almost all to complete the trek. While we heard there were rules to the contrary, we saw many walking sticks and bottled water was carried by most of the tourists. Machu Picchu was all it was supposed to be! There were some periods of rain during our visit, which at times hindered visibility, but also added mystery. The Sumaq hotel was very nice and the dinner at the hotel was quite good. Day 5: Back to Machu Picchu and on to Cusco – The morning was free and the tour included tickets to return to Machu Picchu. It was a beautiful morning, so I returned to Machu Picchu to see it under clear blue skies and bright sunlight. Spectacular! The opportunity to visit on two different days, once in the PM and once in the AM, increased the chance for clear weather. Victor led a climb to the Sun Gate – the entrance to Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail. Following lunch, we returned by train to Ollantaytambo. We got to Cusco late that night following a lengthy nonstop bus ride over the mountains (not for the faint of heart or weak of bladder). Our hotel was the Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco. This is a “quaint” facility, originally an 18th Century house, but it lacks good street access and elevators. The bus stopped about a block away and we schlepped our carry-on bags to the hotel. Our luggage was already in our rooms. While a decent facility, it also had minimal room amenities. Day 6: Cusco – This was the day we visited all the Inca ruins near Cusco; Pucapucara and Sacsayhuaman, as well as parts of “old” Cusco, as was originally scheduled for Day 3 when we first arrived in Cusco. This was one of our few reasonably relaxing days. Day 7: Fly to Quito – Another 4 AM wake up as we make our way to Quito, Ecuador. While breakfast at the hotel was supposed to start at 5 AM, they were not fully prepared at that hour. Consequently, breakfast was rushed and incomplete – an experience repeated at every location where we had such an early departure. Quito is at 9,000 feet, so those that had not adjusted to the high altitudes got no relief here. It is a long drive from the Quito airport to the city. We were met by our Tour Director Marco. Marco was also very good. He stayed with us until we flew to the Galapagos and re-joined us when we returned to Quito. Avalon used the Swissotel in Quito – the best hotel of the trip with very nice rooms, good room amenities, helpful staff and excellent restaurants. Also, it is just a block away from a big Supermarket if you needed to purchase any supplies. That night we had an excellent meal at one of the highest rated restaurants in Quito – but again, when you start your day at 4AM, you are little too tired to really enjoy it. Day 8: Quito – Some people opted out of this tour, preferring to sleep in and just relax. For those that went, it included the Equatorial Monument, offering a photo opportunity to straddle the line and have half your body in the Southern Hemisphere and the other half in the Northern. We also visited some historic sites in downtown Quito. Traffic in Quito is also very bad, but more orderly than in Lima. Day 9: Visit to Otavalo – This is a long day on the road for not much. You do visit the shop of a local weaver and observe the process. Many on the tour bought some handmade items at this stop. The street market in Otavalo is large, but while there are many stalls, most are offering the same handicrafts. The “home hosted” lunch was at an old Hacienda and was very good. We got back to the hotel in the late evening. Day 10: Fly to the Galapagos – Again, a 4AM wake up and the beginning of the worst day of the entire trip. This is another opportunity to separate from your luggage things you may not need in the Galapagos. The Swissotel graciously stored these items for you. [It might be a good idea to carry a lightweight stuff bag to accommodate your stay behind items.] As you leave Quito, it is cool and you will probably dress accordingly. It is one hour earlier in the Galapagos than Quito – meaning we were up at 3AM Galapagos time. You are met in Baltra by crew members from the Isabela II – there is no Metropolitan Touring or Avalon Guide. It was 95 degrees in Baltra, hotter than expected for early April. Under the direction of the Isabela crew, we moved our luggage to several different locations (“leave it here, no move it there”, etc.). Eventually, our luggage was loaded on a truck to be taken to the ship. Orders were barked out that we needed to make sure we had sunscreen, a hat and water – the first time water had not been provided by the guides before any excursion. This was a little like the first day in military boot camp; somewhat chaotic and certainly not warm and friendly. We boarded an un-air conditioned bus for short ride to a passenger ferry, crossed a channel and boarded another un-air conditioned bus for a long ride to the highlands. We had a satisfactory lunch at a location in the mountains, considerably cooler and greener than Baltra, but also it was obvious we were killing time as we were required to linger for about an hour after everyone had finished eating. Next stop was the Darwin Research Center – well, actually a spot about a ten minute walk to the entrance of the Darwin Research Center. It was back to 95 degrees and humid as we slogged our way into the Center. From the entrance, it was another ten minute walk to any of the sights. While the name “Charles Darwin Research Center” conjures up images of a modern scientific center, it was actually a collection of large stone pens where some giant Galapagos tortoises were kept. We saw less than a dozen adult tortoises in these large pens during our 90 plus minutes of trekking up and down the hills of the Center and all of the tortoises appeared to be suffering as much in the 95 degree heart as we were. Not much movement and certainly no interaction with visitors. There were some cages where a number of baby tortoises were being kept. They were more active, but again no interaction. In short, this was a disappointing stop. All of us were hot, sweaty and tired by this point. Next, we were given the option of spending an hour in town before being transported to the ship or going directly to the ship. Transport to the ship was by RHIB, a little tricky for those with any mobility issues. It was after 5PM before we got to the ship and those that stayed in town arrived shortly after 6PM. The luggage, however, did not get to the rooms until later – I have no idea where the luggage had been all day. We had a mandatory safety drill and were instructed to be ready for our opening briefing at 7 PM, with dinner immediately following. There was little or no time to clean up and get settled. The briefing advised us that we were not on a “cruise”, but rather on an expedition; an apt warning. By the time dinner rolled around, about 7:45 – we had been up for almost 17 hours. Not a happy group, but most slept well that night. The Isabela II carries about 40 passengers. When we traveled, April 2014, the ship was clearly tired and showing it. There was rust and corrosion and the rooms were only marginally clean. In one case, a member of our group filmed the particularly sorry condition of his room and showed it to the Captain. That room was cleaned immediately. The Isabela II was scheduled for dry dock in May, although I do not know what all is to be done. It is a small ship, which is good for the island visits, but also makes it sensitive to sea conditions. Those prone to seasickness need to keep that in mind. Nevertheless, the ship met our needs and I would be willing to take it again, although I think there are nicer ships (i.e. Pinta). Wine with dinner was included for Avalon sponsored passengers. However, as only about one-half the passengers were Avalon, the crew had to sort us out each evening. There was only one guy that served wine and often we were almost done with the main course by the time he offered a glass of wine. For those that have been on Avalon River Cruises, the difference was apparent. Fortunately, the wine wasn’t all that good anyway so we didn’t miss much. There are three routes in the Galapagos: the Northern, the Central and the Southern Islands. Our trip was for the Southern Islands. On the Isabela II, each day generally had three events – a morning and late afternoon land excursion and an early afternoon water event (snorkeling or a glass bottom boat tour). Day 11: Floreana Island – Most of our ground excursions were “wet” landings. This means that RHIBs back-up to the shore and you swing off the sides into water – sometimes just a few inches of water, sometimes a foot or so depending on the waves. Again, those with mobility problems may have difficulty, but the Isabela crew tried to help everyone accomplish this task – both coming and going. There really isn’t much to see on this island. About the only wildlife were a few crabs on the rocks. It is the location of the “post office” – a barrel where post cards are left in hope that another traveler will come along that lives near the addressee and hand deliver it. We managed to do that and it was a fun experience. This was also the first opportunity to snorkel [the Isabela provides all the equipment although some folks brought their own.] It was done from the shore and there was not much to see, but it served as a good training session for those with little snorkeling experience. However, outstanding deep water snorkeling was ahead just after lunch. It was fantastic. I have never seen such a large quantity of fish of all variations and colors; plus we were joined by playful sea lions. For me, snorkeling was the highlight of the Galapagos. Day 12: Espanola Island – While the guide book described the hike here as “easy”, it is not. The naturalists on the ship warned everyone. The 1 ½ mile hike is almost entirely over irregular lava stones and you had to watch each step you took. We were warned that if someone could not complete the walk, all would have to return. A walking stick and hiking shoes were very useful for this excursion. If you could do the walk, there were many birds to be seen – including Albatrosses engaging in their mating rituals. There were also many sea lions and iguanas. With a lack of many natural enemies, the wildlife has little fear of people and you can get quite close; although caution is urged, especially with the sea lions. This was a great excursion for the “birders” in the group with many great photo opportunities. There was a deep water snorkeling event in the early afternoon and the late afternoon was spent on a long white sand beach, home of many sea lions. Day 13: San Cristobal Island – There were two morning options: One was a somewhat strenuous hike to the top of a volcanic bluff. Again, while described by the guide book as “easy”, the guides were quite clear that it was not. While promises of many bird sightings were made on this hike, few were actually seen. Others took to the RHIBs for a water tour around the island. There were lots of birds at a distance and some very scenic geological formations. Another outstanding deep water snorkeling event was in the early afternoon and another walk on the beach in the late afternoon with more sea lions and iguanas. Day 14: Return to Quito – This was the second worst day of the trip. Our “5 day” cruise is really only three days, as the first day and this day hardly count. Today was a 6AM wake up; bags out of the room by 7:00 and breakfast at 7:30. As soon as you left your room for breakfast, they begin tearing the beds down and cleaning the room for the next guests. They clearly did not want you to return to your room – but most needed to at least visit their bathrooms and collect their carry-on bags, although we were clearly not welcome. We were now in time-killing mode until our flight to Quito. They showed us a very good film about the Galapagos, a series done by David Attenborough – something that would have been more useful at the beginning. [The series is available on YouTube.] Following the film we were taken by RHIB to the shore. We boarded another un-air conditioned bus and went to an un-air conditioned “Interpretation Center” (not much interesting here) and from there we were dropped in town for a few hours. While this was an opportunity to shop for a Galapagos souvenir, or get lunch, water, or a snack; there was far more time than needed and many spent it just sitting on benches in town. We eventually got to the airport and boarded our flight for Quito. We were met by Marco and began the long drive back to the Swissotel. That night, we enjoyed a very good “farewell” dinner in the hotel. Day 15: Return Home – Most flights back to the U.S. leave very late at night. While the Swissotel was able to give late check-out to most of the group, it was still no later than 2PM. As we did not leave for the airport until 8PM (for an 11:30 PM flight), most of the group had 6 hours to kill – no easy task. We had booked an extra-night which allowed us to stay in our room until it was time to go. It was worth it. That is our day-by-day summary of the trip. We are glad we did it, but it was not a relaxing excursion. While Machu Picchu and the other Inca ruins were all we had anticipated, we keep thinking, aside from the snorkeling, that there is more to the Galapagos than we saw. Maybe the Northern Islands trip would be better. However, it will be awhile before we consider a return engagement.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
My mother organized this trip for 4 family members. We'd only done private charters previously, but this was fantastic. A truly wonderful experience. A 90 passenger boat, service is personalized, you get to know some of the staff and ... Read More
My mother organized this trip for 4 family members. We'd only done private charters previously, but this was fantastic. A truly wonderful experience. A 90 passenger boat, service is personalized, you get to know some of the staff and the other passengers. The food was fabulous, and I am hard to particularly please in this category. I hear the ship was renovated recently, so it is likely even nicer than when we went. I shared a twin room with my brother, and only had one night where I had to take dramamine for rough seas. They keep a bowl of it on one of the decks (thank goodness). The Santa Cruz II ship was very comfortable and had a nice layout. They don't have broadway-type shows like I've heard the huge cruise ships have, but they did have music and we danced the nights away with our fellow passengers - a style I much prefer as it involves participating in the fun rather than observing a "show". The Santa Cruz II staff that lead our groups around the different islands were second to none: Informative, friendly, and professional. This is one of the ships that is considered mid-range in terms of price, but I can't imagine it being any better. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
I researched 7 different agencies that cruised the Galapagos. I narrowed it down to four, and went with La Pinta. We chose the La Pinta because it gave us 7 nights of cruising and we could have a couple of days before embarkation to ... Read More
I researched 7 different agencies that cruised the Galapagos. I narrowed it down to four, and went with La Pinta. We chose the La Pinta because it gave us 7 nights of cruising and we could have a couple of days before embarkation to explore Quito and we managed to add on a post-cruise adventure. The La Pintaaa is everything we expected. The ship is small, intimate and a nice size (46 passengers - they rarely use the last cabin to make it 48 passengers). We ended up with a triple cabin which was nice - it has a sofa to stretch out on besides the 2 easy chairs. The walk-in shower is a big plus - no stepping over a tub edge. Plenty of bath gel, shampoo and conditioner in the on wall dispensers. There is a nice big picture window - we saw whales right outside the window! The crew is fantastic; the "hotel manager" (Xavier) is ready to solve any problem should one occur; the ship's doctor is ready with the needed antibiotic (I did get a bit of TD early in the trip); the bartender is ready with your favorite beverage. The naturalists are the ones who make this FANTASTIC. It is so evident that they love what they are doing; that they love the Galapagos experience; that they have a passion for their work and expertise. They state facts as if it's the first time they've mentioned them. Everything comes out fresh and with such enthusiasm and expertise. WOW - to love a job as much as they do is very special. The breakfast and lunches were buffet - and very good. No complaints here at all. Dinner is a sit-down affair - you choose your entree for the evening at lunch. There is a basic selection - nothing to rave about. Also, they no longer charge for wet-suits or the internet (nice touch). Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
We did the 8 day trip on La Pinta – western itinerary. We researched a ton of boats and opted for a large one. A couple of pluses of a big boat…space! My husband is 6’5” and it sure was nice having a large bed and lots of room on ... Read More
We did the 8 day trip on La Pinta – western itinerary. We researched a ton of boats and opted for a large one. A couple of pluses of a big boat…space! My husband is 6’5” and it sure was nice having a large bed and lots of room on board. Also, internet – we didn’t have it the first couple of days on the western side of Isabella, but after that the signal was good. There were 37 passengers onboard and there was not one single outing in which everyone participated. The snorkeling trips would have less than 20 of us in two pangas. Even if the boat was full, La Pinta is big enough that I can’t imagine it feeling crowded. Library – great selection of Galapagos books, board games, puzzles, computers, and movies to watch on the flat screen – even new releases! There were 3 very well behaved kids onboard and their parents seemed very happy with the kids club, which kept the kids entertained and fed, while their parents had dinner. No issues, with waiting for pangas or overcrowding which seems to be a concern with bigger boats. If you take the last panga, you generally get the smallest group. Guides –Our trip included 3 guides, they really are top notch, and their knowledge is amazing. They were also quite funny and personable. Doctor – I hadn’t put much thought into to this beforehand, but it sure was nice when I arrived on board with a stomach bug from Quito to have a doctor who was able cure me with some meds. Other passenger alignments treated during the week included seasickness and twisted ankles, I imagine they were all happy to have a Dr also. Gym – even with 2-3 activities a day, it was nice to get in a quick run or ride the stationary bike. Also mats for stretching. Housekeeping - Truffles magically appear in your room every night; they clean your room at least 3 times a day. Ipod docker – loved being able to blare our tunes and look out our HUGE window. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soap, hair dryer and safe provided Food was generally good and plentiful, always a vegetarian option. A note on the kayaking, we had the option kayak OR snorkel, so that was a bit of a bummer, as we wanted to do both. The trip exceeded our expectations, definitely one of our best adventures ever!   Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2012
I sailed on Yacht La Pinta in April 2012. I had always wanted to go to the Galapagos but the high single supplement made it impossible. By chance, an Australian travel agent had chartered the boat as part of a longer, more in depth trip ... Read More
I sailed on Yacht La Pinta in April 2012. I had always wanted to go to the Galapagos but the high single supplement made it impossible. By chance, an Australian travel agent had chartered the boat as part of a longer, more in depth trip around South America. When this trip hadn’t filled up, they advertised the Galapagos cruise at a discounted rate. I jumped at the opportunity and found myself in the Galapagos, on the trip of a lifetime. Yacht La Pinta is small, holding around 48 passengers and is one of 3 vessels owned by Metropolitan Touring in Ecuador. We had approximately 40 people from Australia and New Zealand. After a couple of little problems were sorted out at the beginning of the cruise, all drinks, WIFI and wetsuits were included. The food was buffet for breakfast and lunch. Dinner was a 3/4 course meal. Tables were generally four or six people so it was a communal affair and very social after a fantastic day of touring. I really enjoyed the buffet lunches out on the back deck. It wasn’t gourmet food, but it was very nice nevertheless. There was also a tea room where you could make tea/coffee/hot chocolate 24/7. I really liked the boat, my cabin was spacious with a floor to ceiling window and a good size bathroom for a small boat. There were no keys but the cabins could be locked from inside. The guides (or naturalists) were very knowledgeable and proud of these amazing islands. There were briefings about what to expect each day and during the 7 days of the cruise, the BBC series “Galapagos End of the World” TV show was screened in the lounge area. When there was a choice of activities (walking, snorkelling, kayaking), passengers were asked to add their name to a signup sheet in the lobby. After each excursion, waiting for us on the back landing, was an icy cold freshly squeezed juice and some finger food. It was always appreciated as it was brutally hot out on land. When you are in the Galapagos, it’s full on. Breakfast early then into the panga (zodiac) for your morning activity – either a walk to see the animals or a snorkel to see the animals. Let’s face it, a trip to the Galapagos is ONLY about the animals and it’s fantastic. Stepping over thousands of marine iguanas, seeing blue-footed boobies doing their dance, huge land iguanas sun-baking, giant turtles slowly shuffling along and of course, swimming with the seals. It is surreal being up close and personal with these animals. This was truly an outstanding trip - the trip of a lifetime. Read Less
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