I have worked with Gabriela Aguilar twice on our Galapagos trips. Both we had great experience. The... read more
I have worked with Gabriela Aguilar twice on our Galapagos trips. Both we had great experience. The... read more
I spent 8 days aboard the Calipso motor yacht and what a fantastic experience! Chef Darwin's food... read more
Esteban was our travel agent and he was of great help. Took care of all the details along with the cruise line.
Great time visiting the Islands with a pretty packed schedule. Very happy with the time of the visit as we got to see most if not all the animals we could see.Every day offered a new excitement.
Many thanks for your comment, we are thrilled that you have had a great time in the Galapagos, and that Esteban was really helpful with your tour.
Now that my family has lost a few thousand dollars with this company, and I myself have lost countless hours trying to figure out a solution, I have to write this review. I rarely do travel reviews, and mostly only write restaurant reviews, but this has been one of the worst experiences in my life.
TL;DR -- If I could give negative stars, I would. BUYER BEWARE of the extreme policies. Don’t wire transfer. Get insurance. AND don’t get sick…
...read on if you have time: Here is the story of our awful experience:
My father’s life research is partially based on Darwin’s theory of evolution. We even had a family dog, a beagle named Darwin (get it? =)… Needless to say, this family trip was a lifetime dream. Considering the amazing reviews on here, we thought we had picked the best option with our limited time, and my parents wanted something land-based.
Unfortunately, our plans for the trip changed suddenly when my mother ended up in the hospital 25 days before our scheduled trip. We inquired about rescheduling (not cancelling), as she was already recovering but under doctor’s orders not to travel for a few months. United Airlines immediately honored the situation with a credit for the same flight path within a year…in contrast, this company held firm that they have a 60 day 100% cancellation fee, regardless of the circumstance.
Unfortunately we had paid for the trip by wire transfer and did not use a credit card, so could not get help to dispute this. While I would completely understand a hefty fee for a private tour scheduled just for us, it was high season, (Christmas time) and these flights/hotels/boats would go on with or without us on a general schedule; they would have easily been able to fill the spots…. Since I work in the travel industry, I checked with destination managers if this was normal for the region; most were shocked how strict the policy was, especially since we were looking to reschedule, not cancel. So I did my homework and reached out individually to each of the boats/hotels/airlines to find varying cancellation and “force majeure” policies that COULD have let us reschedule or partially refund, but this agency would not help in any way. They basically kept repeating “sorry, check the policy” and that there was nothing the could do. I was barely able to make headway without booking numbers, only dates and names. What was frustrating was that many times they could have done something, but by then it was too late.
While in communication with them, I continued to find contradicting information. The agency said they could not help, but later said they tried, only after I had done individual reach out attempts. One boat was actually able to sell our spots (only because I reached out); this company then gave us a deadline to re-book with them to use that credit, which only existed due to my efforts. At the time, we didn’t know when we were going, and so I left it at that..
To add insult to injury: at one point, the agency said they had found other travelers who could use our flights and could change the names on the tickets and pay a fee for this but basically keep the rest for a future date. However, by then I had already received an exoneration claim request approved from Avianca directly. When I told them I already had the claim for the tickets, this company confirmed we could use the flight tickets on our own. I then had to extend the re-book deadline again due to another scare w/ my mom…but when we decided on dates and I went to rebook before that deadline, I found out that THEY HAD EXCHANGED THE TICKETS and given them to other travelers!!
How is that ethical, since basically the agency would be making double the money; either they were re-usable, and they lied to us that nothing could be done, OR they were only able to re-use them due to my hard work with the exoneration with medical notes, 2x extended….. When confronted, they then made up a story about it being related to them trying to help us, but again it contradicts everything in the written conversation. We were not even notified, and it happened well before the re-book offer deadline.
This drama has been going on since Dec 2018. It has been a source of constant stress and wasted time. I have long threads of email evidence for all of it and am considering reaching out to the local travel advisory board. Trying to find out what happened to the flight took me 2 weeks of almost daily calls, each lasting at least one hour and I will never get that time back; Avianca also has that record if I do need it…..As mentioned, I work in the industry, in a large OTA, and will suggest blacklisting this agency from consideration as a partner when we expand into that region of the world..
My family is extremely fortunate that this was not a loss of a lifetime savings, and that we not placed into serious debt in addition to the healthcare costs. But others might not be so lucky. So I feel obligated to write this.
By the way, the company had the audacity to quote prices for the future trip, and kept saying they were helping us by extending a deadline to use credit for spots a boat re-sold out seats (again, only because I had reached out)....and continued to say they were helping us when we lost the flights due to their antics (which, without saying sorry, they finally refunded, such a mess)....as if we would give them more of our money at this point.
My mother has now fortunately recovered and we planned a different trip. We just got back, and it was amazing. We booked a whole package -- see my review here! https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g297533-d556730-r728435630-Galapagos_Habitat_by_Eco_Luxury_Group-Puerto_Ayora_Santa_Cruz_Galapagos_Islands.html
Many thanks for your comment. I would like to remark that we assisted you in every possible way despite our cancelation policies and restrictions that each operator has established with our company. For this reason, we were able to refund part of your payment in June 2019 as per your agreement. Please do understand that policies towards travel agencies work differently than they do towards direct passengers, thus it was not possible for us to obtain a total refund from suppliers when the cancelation was received days before your trip departure date(60 days or less/ mentioning that it was right on the highest season). This is usually a common factor in tourism including lodging, excursions, ant set activities totally different from airline policies which are more flexible
Lorena was our travel agent and she was fantastic. Everything went off without a hitch - from pick up to drop off. We had one hiccup with a restaurant that she seamlessly resolved for us. I was pleasantly surprised at how effortlessly she made this trip for us. If I’m lucky to make it back to the Galapagos again, I will use this company again in a heartbeat.
This company from start to finish was great. My friend and myself basically had to book flights and the rest was done for us - and we could have even had that done for us too (US to Ecuador). They dealt with dietary restrictions without any major issues- we did have issues with one restaurant, which were taken care of quickly and with a great outcome. We booked everything through them (diving, land tours, accommodation, transport and food). It was all super easy and great! And having to talked with other travelers a much easier and a premium experience that not everyone going with other groups or doing by themselves got on their trip. If we had time, we probably would have explored multiple restaurants and bars in Puerto Ayora as everything is easily walkable- but what we got was amazing and we didnt have to stress or worry about anything - so at the time it was exactly what we were looking for - an amazing Galápagos experience without much effort on our part. Highly recommend this agency!
Gabriela at galapagosislands.com put together a great itinerary for us that included a yacht cruise of the Galapagos Islands aboard the Natural Paradise, Quito, Cotopaxi Volcano, and the Napo river aboard the Manatee.
You can read about all the destinations elsewhere - I'm going to focus on Gabriela and her service.
We have never relied on an agent or company to arrange our travel. However, when looking into Galapagos we were overwhelmed by the variety of ways to visit. Further, we wanted to do more than just Galapagos while we were in Ecuador.
We inquired at quite a few agencies, both foreign and domestic. One of those agencies was Galapagosislands.com. By far they were the most responsive, and being "on the ground" in Ecuador, they were the most knowledgeable.
Gabriela quickly put together a number of options for us, taking into account our travel preferences and prejudices, and worked hard to get us a very good price for the quality of visit we were looking for.
We booked months in advance, and by the time it came to travel, the unrest had happened in Quito. Having traveled extensively over the years, we booked our Quito flight three days before our yacht embarked, "just in case". Well, our flight was cancelled due to the unrest. Gabriela communicated with us continuously to keep us update on the situation "on the ground", telling us to get to Guayaquil from the USA instead. On the next day, we tried to get on the Guayaquil flight, but it was fully booked. The Quito flight was cancelled again. The airline put us on the Guayaquil flight for the next (and final) day - putting us in Guayaquil about 8 hours before our flight to Baltra to meet the ship. Close call. Gabriela got us a room at the Hilton near the airport so we wouldn't be stranded waiting for our next flight. She kept in touch continuously. Once we were on the yacht, we just "let it all go", confident once we returned to the mainland, Gabriela would be on top of things in the event any other changes needed to be made due to the political situation. Luckily, the unrest subsided and the whole trip went like clockwork.
When problems happen, that's the real test of an agent. Anyone can book stuff if all goes smoothly!
Should we ever return to Galapagos or Ecuador (and we might!), I wouldn't consider booking with anyone else. Likewise, I've told all our friends they don't even need to shop around. Just go to galapagosislands.com and ask for Gabriela!
On behalf of GalapagosIslands.com and especially of Gabriela, I would like to extend my gratitude and joyfulness for your review and recommendation posted on Trip Advisor. As travel assistants, it is our duty to provide the best service to our passengers and to let them feel that they will have a 24/7 backup while the duration of our services, and if necessary even beyond them.
Please be sure that when you return to Ecuador, it will be our pleasure to provide you with the same great service as we did during your first visit to the country.
Our trip to the Galápagos Islands was full of adventures. Snorkeling and hikes everyday. The guide was excellent, knowledgeable about every aspect of the Islands, animals and history. The small boat (max 16 passengers) was very well keep and the crew members where great. Only item to improve on would be a better food selection but, we did choose a price minded package. We would highly recommend this trip.
Many thanks for your review, It's wonderful that you enjoyed the snorkeling and hiking in Galapagos, it is truly something wonderful to experience at least for once in a lifetime. Also, I'm glad that your questions and quest for knowledge about Galapagos was satisfied by the boat guide.