08.01.2013 -10 °C
I thought I would share some info on what to expect while on the boat for anyone who is thinking about doing a cruise around the Galapagos. First off book early, you can't start planning your trip too soon. There were plenty of travel agencies in both Puerto Ayora and Quito that were advertising last minute deals for cruise's around the islands. We never stopped to check them out or see about pricing, but its such an amazing trip why leave it up to chance.
We booked our trip through CNH Tours and found them very easy to deal with, responsive and pretty well organized. We had no problems with any of the reservations that they made for us. The boat we were on was called Tip Top III for an 8 day 7 night cruise. Personally I feel this is the right amount of time to be on the cruise and that we were on the right size of boat. There were 16 passengers on our boat, which was a good amount. Tours larger than 16 people require an extra naturalist guide. With 8 people in each panga (dingy), they were comfortable and not overcrowded, shuttling us to the islands from the boat was quick and efficient. Something that would be lost with a larger group of people. Quite a few times during my research I came across the statement, "spend as much as you can afford on the cruise, but don't spend over $4000.00 usd per person". I found this to be quite true. I feel we got excellent value for our money and did not spend over $4000.00 per person, close but not over. Prices go up every year, so this may change in the future.
The boat was large enough to afford everyone some breathing room, with the dining room, saloon, covered deck and sun deck you could easily find some personal space. If you really wanted to be alone you could return to your cabin whenever you felt like it. There was a small library onboard, some games, a tv and dvd's and a laptop with music hooked up to the boats speaker system. The crew always made sure the boat was clean and comfortable, by the time breakfast was finished they had made your bed and cleaned up your cabin. Fresh bath towels were available whenever you needed or wanted a new one. No face cloths are available so if you are used to using them, bring a couple along for the trip. Biodegradable body wash and shampoo were in dispenser's inside the shower stall. Toilet paper and hand soap were also supplied. Beach towels were also provided for the snorkel trips and beach days.
The cabins are small but comfortable and we had enough space to store our luggage in the closet, if you are used to sleeping in a king bed you may want to opt for the twin bedded room, other wise you get a cozy double bed. But your pretty tired each evening so falling to sleep was never really an issue. The first night was the tough one, especially if you have never slept on a boat before. We took some anti-nausea pills and patches, we did end up using the patches near the end of our trip as the boat got into more open ocean. They worked great, made you thirsty but other wise I highly recommend them. The boat had purified water for the passengers to drink, but the desalinized water out of the bathroom tap was fine for brushing your teeth.
What to pack. As soon as you board the boat they ask you to remove your shoe's, boots, flip flops whatever you are wearing and leave them outside the main cabin. These become your outdoor shoes, we brought our Keen sandals, hiking boots and a pair of flip flops for inside the boat. It you don't mind running around barefoot, you could skip the flip flops. We brought mostly shorts and t-shirts, a pair of khaki's and pair of jeans and a couple collared shirts. You are not required to dress up for meals, but quite often the people on our boat did have long pants and a nice top on for dinner. Bring enough pairs of underwear for the time you are on the boat and one extra. There is no laundry on the boat, and soaking wet clothes don't dry very fast. A wind breaker/rain coat is a good idea, a hat to keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes. We also brought a fleece and were glad we did the nights can get a little cool, and some people found the a/c to be a bit cool in the evenings. Don't worry about having to wear the same clothes a second or third time, everyone has too. Some fleece pants or yoga pants would be a good idea if you tend to get chilly. Sunscreen is a must have, bug repellant is a good idea as well. We also brought some Benadryl allergy medication, Imodium and Ciprofloxacin, incase someone got a bad tummy bug. We brought our own snorkels and masks, many because I don't like using rental ones. Shorty wetsuits were available for rent at a cost of $35 for the week, but you could bring your own if you wanted too. For the guys there was power in the bathrooms for an electric razor and a blow dryer was in all the bathrooms.
The food on the boat was excellent, we were very impressed with the quality, flavour and presentation of the food. It was always buffet style, and lunch always started with soup. Beer, wine and pop were available for purchase, they run a tab for you and on the last night the money is due. If you rented the wetsuits they are on the bar tab as well. Cash only...
Breakfast was usually at 7am, sometimes earlier depending on the days activites, lunch was usually between noon and 1pm. Dinner was always at 7pm. Two snacks were provided, a mid morning one and a mid afternoon one. We brought some granola bars with us, just incase. But there was always plenty to eat.
The itinerary starts out fast and busy and gets a little less busy at the end of the trip. You can always opt out of any activity if you choose, and stay onboard to relax. Each naturalist guide is going to be different, ours was excellent. Very helpful, informative and a great manager of our groups time. I don't think we could have asked for a better guide. The boat crew was just as excellent. They worked very hard to keep the boat clean, and to keep the passengers happy. Something everyone on the boat appreciated.
We read some comments by people who didn't want to live on a boat for the week and instead choose to do day trips everywhere. Each to their own, but we did a day trip to Bartolome Island. We got picked up at 6am in Puerto Ayora and bused to the other side of the island to catch the boat. While the day trip was wonderful, it was a long 12 hour day and I personally think it would get old fast. The cruise is a much more relaxed way to see the Galapagos.
I hope I have provided some good information for anyone planning a cruise in the Galapagos, if you would like to ask me a question please feel free to comment on this post and I'll try to provide an answer for you.