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Galapagos with our son - best line/time?


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My wife and I are looking to take our son (11) to the Galapagos - maybe 2022.  We were originally looking at Flora because we have status on RCI, but as we did more research, we ran across Xpedition/Xplorer and the Lindblad/NG cruises and began to wonder if we should reconsider...  We have Antarctica on our wish list, and noticed that Lindblad/NG has several nice tours there, so maybe branching out would be a good thing - but have heard great things about Celebrity too. Just curious to what others have seen - which ships tend to have more families?  Also, we were thinking about doing this over Christmas break - is that a good time to visit this area?     

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Are you aware that ships with (I believe it's) more than 500 pax cannot disembark? Just do a drive by. I'd say the first thing to do is make that decision. For some it's not a problem; for us it would have been a deal breaker. We sailed with Hurtigruten a couple of years ago and it was great. When we weren't going ashore we were taken out in zodiac-equivalents and got up close and personal with whale, seals, etc. And I think that's a great time of year. We were there in January and onboard the ship during the day we actually wore shorts 🙂 But we're 'hardy stock.'

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The nices most luxurios option is definitely the Flora.  Holds a 100 passengers all suite and custom build for the destination. Easy debarkation via custom yacht tenders vs just a stand zodiac.   It just won an award for best new expedition ship.   Celebrity has pretty good pricing going right now, but it is still expensive.  For the three of you it will probably be at least $30K and not everyone has that kind of budget.   The Celebrity Expedition is a little less expensive.   The nice thing about doing it with Celebrity is that they make it a seamless package with two nights in Quito, Charter flight to Baltra and back.  Do you have a travel agent that you work with?  My travel agent did a Zoom meeting a few months back on Galapagos and I was curious so I attended.   I'd say for a trip like this definitely work with a travel agent.   The Celebrity option is great, but again it is not in everyone's price point.   Silver Sea is another luxury provider and they have an expedition ship for this as well.  My agent mentioned that there were tour providers who did Galapgos in small, not luxury vessels that were a bit more affordable - Nat Geo and Globus were two that she mentioned.    From what I remember in her presentation, she said that really this is a year round destination as the weather is pretty good all year.  She put up a chart with the bird season, and there was about a 9 month period from Spring to Fall (our calendar) where the different birds were active and doing things.   So if you want to see the mating dance of the Blue Footed Boobies, then go during that month, if you wan to see the Albatross hactchlings, then go that month, etc.  

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On 12/9/2020 at 12:15 PM, clo said:

Are you aware that ships with (I believe it's) more than 500 pax cannot disembark? Just do a drive by. I'd say the first thing to do is make that decision. For some it's not a problem; for us it would have been a deal breaker. We sailed with Hurtigruten a couple of years ago and it was great. When we weren't going ashore we were taken out in zodiac-equivalents and got up close and personal with whale, seals, etc. And I think that's a great time of year. We were there in January and onboard the ship during the day we actually wore shorts 🙂 But we're 'hardy stock.'

None of the ships I am looking at are that big - Flora is 100 passengers, and the others are all smaller.  

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12 hours ago, WesternBroncoCruiser said:

The nices most luxurios option is definitely the Flora.  Holds a 100 passengers all suite and custom build for the destination. Easy debarkation via custom yacht tenders vs just a stand zodiac.   It just won an award for best new expedition ship.   Celebrity has pretty good pricing going right now, but it is still expensive.  For the three of you it will probably be at least $30K and not everyone has that kind of budget.   The Celebrity Expedition is a little less expensive.   The nice thing about doing it with Celebrity is that they make it a seamless package with two nights in Quito, Charter flight to Baltra and back.  Do you have a travel agent that you work with?  My travel agent did a Zoom meeting a few months back on Galapagos and I was curious so I attended.   I'd say for a trip like this definitely work with a travel agent.   The Celebrity option is great, but again it is not in everyone's price point.   Silver Sea is another luxury provider and they have an expedition ship for this as well.  My agent mentioned that there were tour providers who did Galapgos in small, not luxury vessels that were a bit more affordable - Nat Geo and Globus were two that she mentioned.    From what I remember in her presentation, she said that really this is a year round destination as the weather is pretty good all year.  She put up a chart with the bird season, and there was about a 9 month period from Spring to Fall (our calendar) where the different birds were active and doing things.   So if you want to see the mating dance of the Blue Footed Boobies, then go during that month, if you wan to see the Albatross hactchlings, then go that month, etc.  

That is excellent to hear regarding the year round season.  And yes, we are aware of the cost.  We have not spoken to a TA yet.  We were less than thrilled with our last one so at this stage are just doing some research on our own.  

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I looked at the chart that she sent us and really the only time where you might not want to go is Dec, it says that the Boobies are mostly fishing and the Albatrosses are not there, but it is my understanding that even in Dec you will see the other wildlife - Flightless Cormorants., Iguanas, Penguins, Tortoises, and sea lions.   This is on my bucket list, so that is why I attended her Zoom presentation, I am maybe hoping to go before 2025.    It was pretty cool because she had the rep from Celebrity on the call and he had actually gone with Celebrity and shared some of his own experiences.   Celebrity has 3 ships, Flora for full luxury, Xpedition - still luxuryios, but not purpose built for Galapagos and they have a catamaran yacht that holds something like 20 people that they said is better as a charter.    

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9 minutes ago, WesternBroncoCruiser said:

I looked at the chart that she sent us and really the only time where you might not want to go is Dec, it says that the Boobies are mostly fishing and the Albatrosses are not there, but it is my understanding that even in Dec you will see the other wildlife - Flightless Cormorants., Iguanas, Penguins, Tortoises, and sea lions.   This is on my bucket list, so that is why I attended her Zoom presentation, I am maybe hoping to go before 2025.    It was pretty cool because she had the rep from Celebrity on the call and he had actually gone with Celebrity and shared some of his own experiences.   Celebrity has 3 ships, Flora for full luxury, Xpedition - still luxuryios, but not purpose built for Galapagos and they have a catamaran yacht that holds something like 20 people that they said is better as a charter.    

Yes.  I hear you.  My wife went a long time ago, and still ranks it as her most favorite trip ever.  The catamaran is probably too small for us, but have already looked at Xpedition - also, they have suites that hold 3 people.  My son really want to do Antarctica, but that is three times the price, so I think we may hold off on that one until he is a bit older.  


In the presentation you saw, did they talk about the longer land tours?  I noticed online that there is a 10-day or 11-day option that includes a bit of a tour in Quito, but have read where other people have tacked on a trip to Peru.  Just wondered where info on this might be found.  
 

I will keep in mind Dec.  At the moment, we generally cruise in Summer or over Christmas when our son is out of school.  We are doing Norway in July 2022, and may do a family river cruise with Tauck over Christmas 2022, so Galapagos is probably more of a 2023 trip - maybe we will do that over Summer.  

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Yes, so from what I remember,  Celebrity rep say that they sell it three ways as an all inclusive: The 10 and 11 Day packages and then a 16 day package that includes Machu Picchu after the cruise.   He said that it really keeps it easy because you fly into Quito and from the moment you land you are in the hands of Celebrity, from your Hotel stay, to the charter flights to Baltra and back, the cruise, then back to Quito or if doing Machu Picchu, off to Peru.   It seemed like it would be the easiest way to do the cruise, especially when in a country where I don't speak the language.  My agent also mentioned that she could add Machu Pichu through another tour supplier she works with for less than what it costs to do it through Celebrity, but it would not be as inclusive an experience.

 

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4 hours ago, WesternBroncoCruiser said:

Yes, so from what I remember,  Celebrity rep say that they sell it three ways as an all inclusive: The 10 and 11 Day packages and then a 16 day package that includes Machu Picchu after the cruise.   He said that it really keeps it easy because you fly into Quito and from the moment you land you are in the hands of Celebrity, from your Hotel stay, to the charter flights to Baltra and back, the cruise, then back to Quito or if doing Machu Picchu, off to Peru.   It seemed like it would be the easiest way to do the cruise, especially when in a country where I don't speak the language.  My agent also mentioned that she could add Machu Pichu through another tour supplier she works with for less than what it costs to do it through Celebrity, but it would not be as inclusive an experience.

 

Nice.  We may look for a new TA next year.  We are due to move in June so will look for one in our new state.  My wife wants to do more land-based international travel, so having a good TA will be helpful.  I know there were people adding Machu Pichu onto their South American cruise, but this was not an option for us as it was over Christmas break and the cruise took up most of our son’s vacation.  

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I did lots of research prior to our taking our Celebrity Xpedition cruise. What I found is that the # of nights on ship makes a huge difference in the experience. 7 nights is the minimum to be able to really experience the Galapagos Islands. Embarkation and Disembarkation takes up a good chunk of the first and last day of any cruise, no matter what cruise company you are on. Also, the islands are quite spread out. You should consider a ship that is capable of handling the transit between islands during the night. This way you can maximize your time wildlife viewing during the day time. 

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We went back in 2012 and were on the MS Eclipse which I understand is not the Celebrity Xperience.  We had originally planned to go on a smaller catamaran, but a few weeks before the trip, the company called and begged us to switch -- offering us a cabin upgrade of sorts -- so that they could charter the entire catamaran to some exclusive group.  I had carefully picked out the catamaran, but having had a boat in charter service, I agreed.  As it turned out, I made the right choice.  When we were aboard, one of the naturalists said that though catamarans were inherently more stable, the 32 passengers boats were relatively light and bounced a lot, whereas the heavier, steel, single-hull provided a more pleasant ride -- something the couple with us appreciated no end.

 

We went in June, and the ship was not fully loaded -- there were about 34 passengers out of a maximum 44 as I recall.  It was a fantastic trip.  Most meals were served on the large veranda on the stern.

 

More importantly, it is a great size.  Even if you are on a ship with 100 passengers, they are not all going ashore in one mammoth group -- that simply is not allowed -- so you will be broken into smaller groups.  If the trip's organization is at all like it was when we were aboard, each night you will be given some options for the next's day's activities, and you select what you want to do.  On some days, there are fewer options.  When we were aboard, they were using large Zodiacs, but you did not stand as they went back and forth, and the crew was expert at making sure everyone got on and off the inflatables with no trouble.  They were large Zodiacs that held about a dozen people.  IMHO this is not a place for a large ship, and even a 100 passenger ship is really out of place.

 

Realizing that the ship has new ownership, I am sure that many changes have been made, but overall we loved our trip on her.  There is ample space to find some quiet time when you want it, and it is small enough that you get to know everyone very quickly and can get around in no time. 

 

Again, we have not been there since 2012, but the trip out to the Galapagos was "interesting."  We flew into Quito, and caught our flight to the islands from there as well.  The airport at Quito is a bit chaotic, and to this day I am unsure how we found the right flight, but we did.  That flight went through Quayaquil, so whichever place you choose will likely have the same flights.  Back in '12, once we got on the flight to the islands, it was like a time warp.  The stewardesses were dressed like they used to dress on American airlines back in the '50's and '60's.  The plane was a 737 or such (I don't remember the exact plane whether it was an Airbus or Boeing), and they gave everyone a hot towel to wash their hands before the meal, and there were three choices of what you wanted to eat for that meal!  At the time, the airport in Balta was pretty old, and I liked to refer to it as the Balta airport and tire store, but they were building a new terminal then, and I am sure that it is open now.  The old one was an American Army Air Force base from WWII. 

 

DW didn't want to go to the Galapagos, and I had to make a reservation for a cruise around Italy later in the year to make it up to her, but she has been a walking advertisement for Galapagos ever since we were there.  It is fantastic, unforgettable, incredible and all of those adjectives and more.

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I went to the Galapagos in 2018 on the Celebrity Xpedition and loved it so much, we are rebooked for 2021. (I am also a TA).  Although the Flora is high end luxury - the Xpedition is comfortable (the zodiac boarding was easy - not sure why some feel that is a drawback). I was on the Xpedition when she carried 100 passengers, but really looking forward to the next trip with only 48!  I obsessively researched itineraries and best time to go. In the end, I concluded it really doesn't matter at all! The Galapagos are a year-round desrtination. You may see different things at different times - for instance- if witnessing the mating ritual of the blue-footed boobies is a priority, you should book certain months. We traveled at the end of November and it was perfect. Next year, we will go in mid-October. The only recommendation I have is try to include North Seymour Island as one of your stops - it was our favorite by far for animal sightings.  I can't recommend Celebrity highly enough! Everything is included from start to finish on the 10 and 11 day packages. (We did the 15 day to MP in 2018). If you do look at other companies - be sure to take into considerations the actual number of stops in the Galapagos National Park. It is tightly regulated.

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