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Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Santa Clara...
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Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Hi good TA people:

We just decided to go to the Galapagos this summer - July or August - nothing booked yet and I realize it is rather late... So need some help before I slog through everything here and over at cruise critic.

About us:

We are a couple from CA. This is a milestone anniversary so will splurge to some degree but I am still getting over sticker shock. One of us has a PhD in evolution biology so obviously very interested in this place and it seems most people who we studied with have gone there already. We have snorkeled many places and would like to get in the water. One of us gets seasick easily but it can be managed by meds so ok with live aboard cruise.

We are flexible with travel dates in July and August and can take up to 4 weeks to travel. But I think $$$ will be our limiting factor! :p

The biologist saw this photo and wants to know if he can see something like this in July and the planner wants to know if I have to choose a specific itinerary/island to see this:

www.danintranet.org/media/adimg/1779.jpg

I looked at the Linblad/NG and Silversea tours and I think they are over our budget. Looking at Celebrity right now and getting overwhelmed with Inner Loop vs Outer Loop itinerary. Getting stressed that many classes are sold out already - but some ocean view rooms still available.

Open to other companies and smaller boats too. But would like some feedback on where else t o look besides Celebrity. Wouldn't mind a smaller local boat as long as the itinerary is good, not roughing it too much as it is a milestone anniversary but ok with decent food and some basic amenities like a hot tub on board.

Thanks so much in advance and looking forward to your responses. Help!!

Oceanside...
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1. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

The photo is of a Marine Iguana--the world's only sea-faring lizard--which can be found on and around many of the larger islands. They vary a lot from island to island; Española has the most colorful and Isabela has the largest (and the ones we saw there were indeed BIG!). You don't really need pick a specific itinerary, since any 7-night itinerary on good boat will get you to 2 or more islands that host them (e.g., Santiago, Santa Cruz, Genovesa, etc.).

All of the boats you mention fall in the luxury class, which is indeed pricey (although you do get a lot of luxury for your money). You really don't need that level to see the best the archipelago has to offer, since the wildlife don't care what boat you arrived on. If you're serious about a hot tub on board, though (and I'm hoping you weren't!), you're limiting your options. Galápagos cruises are unlike cruises anywhere else in the world--very active with 2 landings and 1 or 2 snorkeling opportunities most days. Hot tubs are not usually high on a Galápagos traveler's wish list. Hot showers--yes; hot tubs--not so much.

If the hot tub requirement can be set aside, you might consider first-class boats (we have traveled on the Tip Top II and the Mary Anne) for a still lovely boat and a great chance to have an excellent naturalist guide. (The naturalist guide is a critical part of the trip, so you want to maximize your chances of getting a great one.) Some first-class boats may have hot tubs, but some have reported here of a boat or 2 that had one but never had water in it. I often refer to this Web site for information about the various boats: galapagosislands.com/galapagos-cruise.html . (I can't speak to the organization that runs the Web site; I just find their information really useful and easy to read.) Click on "first-class boats" to see a selection of some of the better known boats.

Two smaller boats that I think are a really good value for the money are the Samba (the NW itinerary is excellent!) and the Angelito. Both are tourist-superior class (called "mid-range" on the above Web site), which is the class just below first-class, and both boats have naturalist guides who get terrific reviews. No hot tubs, though. However, these boats are pretty popular, so they might already be booked for July and August (which is a high season for travel). I personally wouldn't look for costs much below these boats; you run the risk of having a less well-trained naturalist guide and issues with crews (although people report here having had good experiences with the lower-class boats).

Alternatively, you could contact a Galápagos-focused travel organization for some expert help. Happy Gringo, CNH Tours, and Columbus Travel all get good reviews on this forum. They all have Web sites that you could check out and a variety of ways to contact them (e.g., e-mail, live chat, Skype, phone). You could send an e-mail to see who responds quickly with information in a manner that fits you.

Since you're looking to travel during one of the busiest times, the clock is ticking.

Tina

trip reports (and much more) at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Edited: 5:57 pm, March 03, 2014
Santa Clara...
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2. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Thank you so much for that! I am only kidding about the hot tub. : ) I am not a princess and we camp and rough it out many places. The MR did his field work in Costa Rica and we were there BEFORE the explosion of mega resorts in the Guanacaste area.

I know I was looking at luxury boats and was hoping I can make it work for this anniversary trip. I have been on an Alaska cruise and enjoyed it more than I thought I would - thus the hot tub wish list. The MR has clearly stated this is the one and only cruise he will go on so wanted to show him some luxury bit to hope to get him back to Alaska. But the clock is ticking I know. I will research some of those first class boats you listed. I did see that link with the different boats but was completely overwhelmed with the options available. Perhaps I do need a travel professional to help me since we are late in the game.

As for seeing the marine iguana and photo ops, he was specifically hoping to take underwater photos similar to that one. He is a bit of a shutterbug (like most who want do do this trip). We have a GoPro (and he bought a snorkel mask with a GP attachment for our recent trip to Belzie), digital SLR, and a waterproof point and shoot.

Thanks again. You have at least pointed me in the right direction. Many of our trips starts with the MR seeing a photo and saying... "I want o see that!" and off I go... : p

Ottawa, Canada
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3. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Dear Chinita,

that is a nice pic indeed, and likely taken by a scuba diver - the wall of fish in the background is stunning. That is a rare scene. You'll see literally tons of marine iguanas sunning themselves on land, and if moderately lucky, you'll be in the water while one is swimming back to, or from shore, but to catch them eating underwater is trickier. I agree with Tina (she should be a destination expert) in terms of ships. I was on the Angelito last time I was there (March last year) and the guide told us: "People on luxury ships end up wanting to spend less time exploring on land and in the water, and more time on the ship, because they paid so much for it, they feel they want to get their money's worth". We would spend a good 1.5-2 hours on a land visit, and watch the luxury ship passengers disembark after us, walk by us, and re-embark while we were still enjoying some shoreline snorkeling. So, focus on ships that focus on Galapagos. There are plenty. You can take that Alaska cruise for the luxury of it, and pay half the cost - I did a transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2 a few years ago - 6 nights, great luxury, for $1000!! You shouldn't be focusing on that in Galapagos.

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Edited: 9:05 pm, March 03, 2014
Santa Clara...
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4. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Thanks Heather. Believe you me, I can leave the luxury behind. : )

One of his grad school lab mate is Ecuadoran and she did her research on one of the outer remote island for weeks on ends and had supplies dropped off for her by passing by ships. So we do know it is a wild place. We lost touch with her but probably should talk to her since she spent so much time there. The photo that captivated him was that one or something similar he saw on National Geographic. I know that is a rare shot and probably done by a diver. We have been lucky with underwater turtles photos in Hawaii and Mexico though. Are there SNUBA outfitters? I have found that is a good compromise for us.

Thank you again for reassuring me the smaller boats will do just fine. I would rather spend my money elsewhere. To give some perspective, I told him in no unclear terms I do not want any precious jewelry for this anniversary and would rather spend the money to travel. (I saw him looking at stuff online.)

Will really need to get organized if this is really going to happen.

Edited: 10:03 pm, March 03, 2014
Rockville Centre...
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5. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Dear Princess Chinita <g>,

One thing to consider -- In July/August, the water is apt to be rather cloudy, so underwater photography (or simply fish/iguana spotting) may be a bit chancy. No guarantees either way of course, but the odds are more in your favor in, say, Nov-late March.

Santa Clara...
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6. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Hmmm.... something to consider for sure John. The prince/Peter Pan is an educator so we are limited to when we can travel. I gather the Christmas holidays would be pricey given school breaks and I don't know how much time we will have off. Thanks for the warning. Will still try to look for summer as he has decided not to teach over summer so we can do this. As so much of this journey is about snorkeling, it can't be all that bad right? We have been to underwhelming apits in Hawaii due to cloudy water.

So... honing down to looking at Legend or Coroal or Anahi. Will need to contact for prices and availability.

Edited: 10:22 am, March 04, 2014
Santa Clara...
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7. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

underwhelming *spots*

Rockville Centre...
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8. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

I've been on Legend (90 pax) and Coral II (16) -- both great vessels, but you might get in more snorkel time on the latter. I'm just guessing though, and maybe someone else knows more about this.

Two of my trips were in December (on Tip Top II and La Pinta), and they were the same price as at other months. But it's definitely worth double-checking this if December is a possibility.

9. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

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Santa Clara...
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10. Re: Summer 2014 planning... need help with narrowing down choice

Spending less than $10k inclusive of flights is my budget. (remember I told the Mr. not to get me jewelry for this anniversary so that's the rationale).

The photos of the iguana was the impetus for this trip but not the sole priority. I am looking for a comfortable trip (larger or stable boat for my queasy stomach and anniversary worthy) with an itinerary that will appease his photographic and professional interests - variety of species and naturalists that can answer the indepth questions he may have (he has advanced degree in evolution and behavior biology).

Tall order?!? I will spend some time the next week looking at ships and checking availability. Lots to read about including just the basic geography of the islands. Thanks again for the feedback and interests.

Edited: 1:02 pm, March 05, 2014