I know, I know. Not just a Galapagos cruise…but a luxury Galapagos cruise. What a flashy little princess I am! Alas, before I’m raked over the proverbial internet coals – I’ve never proclaimed to be (nor desired to be) a budget travel blog.
In fact, I didn’t even plan to have a travel blog!
MVC was started back in 2011 as a real-time chronicle of me attempting to leave behind my miserable existence back in the UK, to upgrade my lifestyle, chase financial freedom and go above and beyond my own self-imposed limitations.
I like to think that I am walking the walk that I talk, and travel is merely an expression of my positive life transition. The Ecuador trip was close to my birthday, compounded with my love for animals and the possibility of seeing them protected on an unprecedented level was a no-brainer.
However, the decision to shell out the $4,500 from my apartment savings was a difficult one to make indeed.
I’ll try and make this as short as possible, explaining what to expect on a luxury Galapagos Islands cruise then at the end I’ll explain whether I think it’s worth going luxury, as opposed to budget or medium-range, with help from my notes from Haugan Cruises.
Day One – Arrive at Bartholomew
I arrived in Baltra Airport (flew from Quito), where the local guide met and transferred myself and a few others from the cruise onto our beautiful ship, named Ocean Spray.
Usual group-tour etiquette was carried out where we got to meet each other, fake-laugh at our guide’s recycled cheesy jokes and receive a briefing on what to expect on our five days, four nights Galapagos excursion.
Later that afternoon we headed out to Bartholomew to get our first taste of the Galapagos.
Bartholomew is a small island that derives from Santiago Island. It is home of the famous Pinnacle Rock and is named after James Sullivan, a friend of Charles Darwin who was also aboard the HMS Beagle. Of all the islands, this is the most photographed and is also featured in the 2003 movie Master and Commander.
Pinnacle Rock: Pinnacle Rock is a volcanic cone formed by magma expelled by an underwater volcano. The sea cooled the hot lava and as it exploded from contact, the pieces formed together this huge rock of many, many layers of basalt. Galapagos penguins gather here, but I never saw any penguins during my whole trip. But Antarctica in November sorted me out later with my penguin fix!
Highlights: Pinnacle Rock, Galapagos penguins (apparently), panoramic views, brilliant photography opportunities. Perfect intro to the Galapagos Islands!
Day Two – Darwin Bay & El Barranco
AM: Genovesa Island – Darwin Bay
Genovesa Island: this horse shoe-shaped island was formed by the eruption of a shield volcano with large slopes formed by gradual lava flows. It is known as ‘Bird Island’ due to the wide variety of birds that can be seen. The only reptile on the entire island is the marine iguana and it is one of the very few places red-footed boobies gather in one large mass.
Darwin Bay: snorkel time! Snorkelling can often be very anticlimactic, but I knew that there was no chance of that over there. Also, the sea is bloody cold – so make sure you reserve the best gear! This is one of the places in the Galapagos where red-footed boobies can be guaranteed to be seen. Over 200,000 red-footed boobies are estimated to be living in the trees and bushes of Genovesa.
Birds can become boring very fast (sorry, birdies) – at least at face value. But if you really listen to the extremely complex life cycle of Galapagos birds, which have survived for so long in an intense predator/prey environment, you should find a newfound respect for them.
For example, if you’re a land bird you can’t even trust your own sibling in the nest. If it’s bigger and times are tough and s/he feels you’re going to be a burden on their hunger, they will kill you while you sleep. Ruthless!
Highlights: Nazca boobies, red-footed Boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, mangroves, coral pebbles beach. Under water we saw some rays, colourful reef fish and I saw a pod of hammerhead sharks – which went a lot better than the last time I saw one!
PM: El Barranco
El Barranco: better known as Prince Phillip’s Steps, a steep and rocky path leads up to a cliff with an epic view. There is also a palo santa forest that is home to nesting red-footed boobies and other birds.
Day Three – Buccaneer Cove/Espumilla Beach & Egas Port
AM: Santiago Island – Espumilla Beach / Buccaneer Cove
Check out this incredibly cute baby sea lion on my instagram vid:
As promised – the clumsy baby sea lion video! Cute as f**k, but savage when they get older (especially the males). . 🇪🇨🦀 #galapagos #galapagosislands #sealion #galapagoswildlife . . . . . #roundtheworld #travelalone #solotraveller #solotrip #bagpacker #flashpacker #travelstuff #rtwtravel #backpackersworld #worldtravellers #worldtravelers #letstravel #travellovers #globetravel #placestovisit #globetrotters #globetrotting #travelislife #travellingtheworld #travelguide #digitalnomads #digitalnomadlife #timefreedom #lifestyledesign #vegansofinsta #veganfortheanimals
Santiago Island: the second island visited by Charles Darwin was originally named after England’s King James the Second. Land iguanas used to populate the island but are now extinct. From Darwin’s own notes he wrote that land iguanas were thriving quite well since there was no place to even pitch a tent. Santiago Island today is now one of the most visited islands.
Buccaneer Cove: this cove is better known for excellent snorkelling opportunities and was once known as a refuge for British buccaneers or pirates. The underwater formations are amazing and many different species of fish gather here.
PM: Egas Port
Egas Port: Egas Port is also known as James Bay. It is home to quick-footed Galapagos lava lizards, Galapagos fur seals along the grottos and tide pools, and is a great snorkelling site.
El Barranco (Prince Phillip’s Steps)
Highlights: insanely cute adult and baby sea lions! Never gets boring.
Espumilla Beach/Buccaneer Cove
Highlights: this was the best day on the Galapagos Island trip by a country mile! I deep-sea snorkelled and played underwater with a gorgeous baby sea lion!! It would stare at me with curiosity, come real close, look at me upside down and swim around me. This was for about 10 minutes-one of my favourite travel moments of all time and it made the whole trip worth it. On the same day, I saw three massive sea turtles too.
I was ready to leave after this! But …
…giant tortoise-spotting was to be the perfect Galapagos swan-song over at Charles Darwin Research Station!
Day Four – North Seymour & Highlands/Charles Darwin St.
Day Five (Saturday) – Mosquera Islet & Departure/Transfer to Airport
We said goodbye to the boobies with one last mini-excursion, and then got our transfer to Baltra Airport. Job done!
What is Accommodation/Facilities Like on a Luxury Galapagos Cruise?
I really can’t complain with the ship’s facilities. The beds were very comfortable, I had a personal balcony and there was a nice space on the top of the ship to catch the sunrise. I was catered for as a vegan with delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and the Ecuadorian staff were all excellent at their jobs.
Take a look for yourself:
So that’s that.
Now it’s time to answer the
million $4,500 dollar question.
Was it Worth it?
To answer this question, I need to dissect it into two questions:
1.) Are the Galapagos Islands worth visiting?
2.) Is it worth spending the extra money and going luxury?
The answer to the first question isn’t hard at all. HELL YES, make sure you get to see the Galapagos Islands. Not torn at all on this one. Other than Antarctica, I haven’t seen a place where animals are left alone to flourish and live in their own habitat as much as this.
I’m beyond happy that I got to do this and treat myself with an early birthday present.
The answer to number two about going luxury – I’m not too convinced. I’m not saying that rich people are boring, but…rich people are boring.
Which is quite the ironic statement to be made by someone who has always wanted to be rich and is working on making that happen! In my experience, people who are born into money are nowhere near as interesting, or as fun as non-rich people, or people who have made their own money.
This is not hate – merely an observation. I loathe class-wars and I’m sure if I was born into money too I’d have gratefully accepted the doors open to me!
As much as I do love politeness, I also like to be around people with a little bit of edge and character. A lot of the people on the ship were a little too prim and proper for my liking and it was clear that if it was the Big Brother TV show, I would have been voted out first.
Which is fine, I don’t need to be liked by everyone and I don’t change who I am to accommodate others – but black sheep complex grows exhausting very fast and I felt very disconnected with my fellow humanoids. Also, I was the only single on a cruise full of couples, so I felt like a bit of a weirdo. 😛
I guess I need to research my demographics better before making such purchases. I have spoken to many people who have done budget and medium-range Galapagos Island cruises, who saw the same amazing things as me at half (and more) the price, and I don’t think the extra expenditure by going luxury was necessary.
But we live and learn, eh? Galapagos doesn’t fail to disappoint and I’m delighted to have finally made it over there.