Recently got back from a trip of a lifetime and it was Awesome in every respect. We booked really late and were lucky to find Columbus Travel and Veronica Darquea who was able to give us many choices and answer all our questions concerning the boats, itineraries, differences etc. We had a narrow window of days available and only 3 weeks before traveling but she was able to give us a wide variety of choices in itineraries, ships and price ranges. She was always helpful and quick to reply with answers and alternatives.
We ended up wanting the bigger ship so sea sickness would not be an issue, and we wanted bigger rooms as my husband is 6'6" and my 2 boys 6"5" and 6'3". We also really wanted to get to the western islands especially Fernandina and this trip visited 5 of the top 6 islands of the Galapagos in the 8 day cruise.
We ended up with an 8 day cruise on the MV Explorer II and couldn't have been happier. Not to mention that Veronica was able to get us really great, all inclusive prices -- much lower than the published rates. We saw all the islands we wanted, the guides were fantastic, we were out 3 times a day with different activities and the staff and tourists on board were all delightful. Food was great, the rooms very spacious. Daniel, the lead naturalist, knew so much about the plants, animals, islands -- he never skipped a beat in giving a thorough answer to any question asked, and all the guides were awesome. The first week in July was also a great time to visit. Perfect weather, didn't see rain, didn't see mosquitos, and did see many animals and fish! The sea was cold (69-70) but the wetsuit made it bearable and the sealife made the chill well worth it.
The islands we visited were: Baltra, Santiago, Bartholomew, Isabela, Fernandina, Floreana, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz. We had the opportunity to snorkel most days as well. We saw every animal we had hoped to see and couldn't believe how close we were to these very special animals. We took about 3000 photos plus 4 underwater videos of swimming with sea lions, sea turtles, and many fish.
Veronica also set us up at SwissHotel in Quito the day before, arranged for our transportation to and from the airports, and got us in touch with a company to book our airfare. I have never had such a smooth booking and execution. Although I am an engineer who usually finds ways to improve on things -- I must say that I had nothing to fault or criticize in either the planning, booking, and the trip itself.
We will come back to visit the rest of Ecuador as we were totally charmed by Quito and our visit to the old city. I had no idea of the rich culture and art in the area. If you have one day in Quito before heading out, make sure to do at least a half day tour. Wilson Tituana Sanchez was a fantastic guide and we had a great time with him discovering some of the gems of Quito and learning of Quito and Ecuador's history.
This was truly a fantastic vacation and I strongly endorse both Veronica from Columbus Travel, and the Explorer II for anyone looking at a Galapagos vacation. I will definitely book with them again, and anyone looking to go to the Galapagos should consider both the Explorer II and Veronica.