A $13K Cruise Through the Galapagos
My Best Trip is an anonymous, vacation-in-the-life diary that provides a real-world look (including cost!) at exceptional trips.
*Befriending baby sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and Free Willy feels.
MEET OUR TRAVELER
Your job: Client Account Manager
Your age: 31
Where you’re based: Brooklyn, New York
The month you traveled: October
Trip Goal: Honeymoon
We wanted a honeymoon that was the perfect mixture of luxury and once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The Galapagos just felt really special and unique, plus we’re obsessed with animals!
Your Go-To Trip Planning Tools:
We got the name of this tour operator from a friend who had done this cruise for her honeymoon a few years back. The way the process works is that you go to Quasar’s website and send an inquiry. They will call you, and together you decide on the best trip based on your needs. We traveled in October, so they recommended the San Cristobal Island trip on their MV Evolution yacht. The other option would have been the M/Y Grace (Princess Grace Kelly's royal honeymoon yacht), but that boat only has 18 guests (as opposed to the 30 on the MV Evolution) and it was important to us that the group was bigger and had many different types of travelers. Also, we found out that the larger boat has a doctor on board, and after being stung in the mouth by a jellyfish (yup, read on) this turned out to be a pretty important add on!
Destination visited: Galapagos
Travel time: 9 hours
Length of trip: 8 Days
Cost of Trip: $13,000
Trip Type: Luxury honeymoon cruise with plenty of adventure
Vibe: Befriending baby sea lions, hanging with blue-footed boobies, and Free Willy feels
THE QUICK & DIRTY
I learned so much during this trip. Our boat had two naturalists on board, and one of them was actually running for mayor of San Cristobel (Gustavo for mayor! ). The naturalists are constantly feeding you info, and each night there’s an optional evening briefing where you have the chance to learn about the animals and islands you’ll be seeing the next day. I would literally bring a pen and pencil to these and take notes the entire time.
Swimming with Sharks
During the first snorkel of our trip, I got into the water at dusk and looked to my left and saw this really big white tip reef shark swim by. Was I terrified? Yes, but because of the naturalists I always felt really guided and safe around the wildlife. Throughout the trip we did several more snorkels with sharks, and by the end instead of being terrified I was literally chasing them to try to get better photos.
Befriending Baby Sea Lions
They had so much personality, and they were like little Baywatch models.
THE NOT SO GREAT
Mexico No Bueno
We didn’t want this to be the only part of the honeymoon because we knew this was going to be so action-packed, so we went to Mexico for a few days before. In Mexico we stayed at the Banyan Tree in Acapulco. Don’t get me wrong - It was beautiful, but we literally couldn’t leave the hotel because of safety concerns, and it was almost too isolating. Plus, that meant we had to fly from New York to Acapulco to Mexico City to Quito where we then took two flights to get to our boat, so it was just a lot of travel. I would recommend going to the Bahamas before or after this trip to relax instead.
Foodies, Think Twice
Honestly, there was nothing on the boat that I didn’t like. Sometimes the food selection got old, but Quasar really does an incredible job making sure you get something new-ish every day. With that said, if you’re a foodie, this probably isn’t the trip for you.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT?
The naturalists took us out to chase a pod of orcas. Everyone was screaming. The orcas were literally playing with the boats. It was crazy. It was basically every 90s child’s Free Willy dream come true. If only they could have just played that Michael Jackson song while it was happening!
THE BOTTOM LINE
I would do this trip again in a second if I had unlimited funds and vacation days.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
You MUST be physically fit.
Sometimes the water would get really choppy. I would say you want to be a very good swimmer and you want to be comfortable in open water. You have to be nimble because you’re getting and off the boat and climbing up and down narrow stairs. The hikes are like a 3/10, and some of them are easy beach walks.
We were one of the youngest couples on the boat.
Lots of retired couples. There was us and one other honeymooning couple. Average age = 60. It was all Americans. The younger people stuck together, and everyone found their clique by the end. You can sit anywhere at dinner. We follow one couple on Instagram, but we don’t stay in touch with anyone.
You need water gear. They provide the wet suits and the slippers, but you’re basically in workout gear or bathing suits the entire time. You can dress up for dinner, but you’re exhausted. It was about comfort and functionality. We always had a backpack filled with a first-aid kit, a water bottle, extra layers. It never got cold cold, but sometimes you wanted a wind breaker or a little reprieve from the sun. ALSO: One day I wore a bright pink top trying to look cute for photos, and I was literally attacked by bees. Don’t make the mistake I did and keep your colors dark!
No cell service for the first five days.
You don’t have cell service for the first five days, so your phone is a glorified camera. I was so happy not to have to post or think about Instagram. The one day I had cell service I wasn’t as present as when I didn’t, so I really loved disconnecting during that time.
When you get back to land, the entire world will feel like it’s rocking for two days.
You get fined for bringing back a seashell. Don’t try to take anything off the islands!
When choosing accommodations I thought it was really important to have a porthole. If you’re more on the claustrophobic side, it’s going to be especially important.
THE DEEP DIVE
We got to Quito a full 24 hours before we were supposed to fly from there to St. Cristobal (where the boat departs), and we stayed overnight at the JW Marriot. We were told that it’s not as tourist friendly as other cities, so we stayed inside the hotel. The next morning we took two connections to St. Cristobal, which Quasar books for you. The really nice thing is that they have someone escorting you every step of the way (you’ll see them smiling with signs at the airport), so you don’t need to think.
Once you get off the second small flight, a van takes everyone to the port. When you get to the cabin, your stuff is already there. Inside our cabin we had a nice-sized closet and a porthole. It felt modern and clean and like a mini-hotel on the water. Once we got settled in, it was like the first day of school and we wanted to go out and meet everyone!
The boat is beautiful. There’s indoor and outdoor areas. They have a hot tub on the front of the boat, so when you get back from snorkeling you have somewhere to warm up. There’s also a beautiful bar. Insider tip: Alcohol can either be a $200 charge for the week, or you can opt to pay on consumption. We did on consumption. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good cocktail, but it was long days of exploring and I think we were asleep by every night by 9 p.m./10 p.m. at the latest.
You get some time to get acclimated and then you go look for your first signs of wildlife. We took a panga (dingy boat) to a nearby island, and I saw a blue-footed booby, which is one of the iconic animals of the Galapagos. I was obsessed with trying to get a photo. If only I had known how many I would see throughout the rest of our trip!
When we got back, they had snacks out and you have time to sit and read and lounge. Every night there’s a 45-minute talk on something new about the Galapagos that caters to what you’re doing the next day. The evening briefing is optional, and you can bring cocktails and sit and listen and learn. I found it to be a blast.
Dinner is always served buffet style. My husband and I both lost weight because of how active we were. You’re so busy. You don’t feel heavy and gross. You feel light and good after full days of exploring.
Every morning we were woken up with music, and our captain would walk us through what we were doing for the day in his heavy Spanish accent. We would then head to breakfast before taking panga rides to explore the different islands.
This island looked like something out of Dr. Suess. The cacti were the size of normal trees, and the dirt was this crazy red. We saw iguanas. This was a very easy hike, about one hour. We got to this insane cliff overlooking the water and found blue-footed boobies sunbathing. In the Galapagos. There are no land mammals. The sea lions live between land and water, but the main animals are birds, fish, reptiles, whales, and sharks. During this hike we couldn’t swim in this area because wherever there are sea lions having babies, there are sharks (which can get up to 13 feet). In the afternoon, we visited another island filled with sea lions.
During this morning hike we saw our first Galapagos penguin. We also saw crabs and sea lions. I never got bored seeing the animals. Every moment felt amazing.
The afternoon hike was the coolest of all of the hikes because we walked along a black sand beach where we go to see hawks and tidepools. The terrain was so different than anywhere I’ve ever been or experienced.
This was the best beach we saw. It had white sands, and the shells were so beautiful I wanted to take them home. As mentioned, you can’t take anything off the islands with you. My husband was trying to skip rocks. and he actually got in trouble because they are so protective of the nature. The coolest bird we saw was the red-footed booby whose beaks look like cotton candy. This was the day I wore a hot pink top and got attacked by bees.
This was the longest and most difficult of the hikes. This island seriously looked like like The Lion King, but Scar’s scary area. It felt really isolated, and there weren’t a ton of animals to see. After visiting, we did an hour of snorkeling. Apparently, I didn’t hear the Naturalists yell jellyfish, and the next thing I know I feel an electrocution on the right side of my body and mouth. When we got out of the water, I could see the tentacles still in my hand. I was told to pour vinegar on the sting (the best way to heal a jellyfish bite., I took a Benadryl and had a glass of wine and didn’t wake up for dinner. Hashtag: Angelina Jolie lips.
This was the first day with cell service so they lost me to the gram. Half kidding. But today we kayaked and walked along this white sand beach with baby sea lions. Everything always just feels so remote and so different and you don’t see other people, so just walking around and feeling like you’re the only thing on this island other than birds, bugs, and reptiles is such a crazy and memorable feeling.
Today we saw flamingos on our beach walk! It was our final night on the boat, so we got super dressed up and took a ton of honeymoon photos as the sun set. They put out an entire rose petal situation and a special dessert in our room. It was really special.
We spent the day off the boat at the Galapagos Tortoise Reserve. If you haven’t spent time around a tortoise, they are like moving mountains! They are massive and slow and unforgettable! After the reserve we did a little shopping and errands (i.e.. we took out money for tips). It was the first time we got to actually wander around. The area was touristy and cheesy, and we grabbed some pizza (duh). We got back on the boat for dinner and enjoyed our last night onboard.
So we’re headed back to port, when the captain spotted a pod of orcas. Immediately he announces that everyone needs to get in the dinghys, and before you know it we’re literally in a high-speed chase with a pod of beautiful orcas! People were screaming. I was going nuts. They are just such big, beautiful animals. It was such an unforgettable moment, and the perfect way to end our incredible trip!