A 16-passenger luxury motor yacht, Galapagos Sea Star Journey offers authentic expedition cruises around the Galapagos Archipelago. It is owned and operated by Latin Trails, which launched in 2003 (though the family owners have been helping travelers visit Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands for decades).
Galapagos Sea Star Journey is Latin Trails' newest ship. It was custom-designed and built in Guayaquil in 2011. As a high-end vessel, the yacht was made of high-grade marine steel. A master carpenter was tapped to install teak flooring throughout the outer decks and Amarillo decking for interior floors. Seike, a locally sourced tropical hardwood, was used to handcraft bedframes and furniture. There's no mistaking that you're on a ship; the design has a decidedly vintage marine tone that travelers appreciate.
The yacht offers a variety of accommodations, including seven 269-square-foot Galapagos Suites with two twin beds that can be converted to a king, and one Sea Star Suite, which is 377 square feet. Each cabin has panoramic windows, private marble bathroom, air conditioning, a mini-bar, flat-screen TV with DVD player, and a sofa bed that can accommodate a child or teenager. Connected suites are available for families.
Everyone onboard has one goal in mind: seeing the wild flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands. To that end, daily included excursions -- led by knowledgeable guides and naturalists -- get travelers close to the action via Zodiac tours of the coast, snorkeling or kayaking adventures in Galapagos National Park or hikes ashore. Sea Star Journey offers complimentary snorkel gear, and it stocks twin sea kayaks for each cabin so all passengers can take part in outings at the same time. Two Zodiacs are available for excursions and landings. (You can rent wet suits.)
When onboard the ship, travelers stick to the sun deck -- which features two hot tubs along with daybeds and loungers -- so they can keep an eye on the water for marine life while also relaxing in the sun or shade. Each Latin Trails cruise includes a few fun extras such as a ceviche cooking class, an on-deck barbecue -- featuring picanha (sirloin cap), beef sausage, boneless chicken with oregano and lemon, tequila-marinated prawns and more -- and alfresco dining experiences. The ship also has an open bridge policy, where cruisers can chat with the captain and learn what it takes to navigate the many islands of the archipelago.
Sea Star Journey also features an indoor lounge with a self-serve coffee and tea station; this is also the place for evening lectures. There is an indoor dining room, a small library with a kids' corner, and an alfresco dining area on the stern. Latin Trails' cruise fares include unlimited water, tea and coffee. Wine, cocktails and soft drinks are available for an extra charge. Breakfast and lunch are buffets (with an omelet station appearing in the morning) and dinners are served family-style with an entree choice of chicken, meat or seafood. In addition to Western dishes, expect some Ecuadorian specialties such as shrimp ceviche, coconut fish with rice, and seco de chivo (lamb stew). A vegetarian menu is also offered. If you have special dietary requirements, alert the cruise line at least 15 days before departure and they will accommodate you.
The bilingual crew of 11 speaks English and Spanish. Transfers from Galapagos airports are included in the fare but gratuities are not. Latin Trails suggests tipping the guide $10 per person per day and adding $25 to $30 per person per day for the rest of the crew. The ship was last refurbished in 2015 and its next dry dock is on the calendar for August 2017.
Sea Star Journey offers three main itineraries that are four or five nights in length and can be combined for a journey of up to 14 nights. Your visit may include the San Cristobal Interpretation Center and the Charles Darwin Research Center and the islands of Espanola, Isabela, Fernandina, Floreana, Santa Fe, South Plaza, North Seymour, Santa Cruz, Sombrero Chino, Genovesa, Bartolome, Santiago and Mosquera.