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Elegant Galapagos Islands Cruise

11 days from £5918pp

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Elegant Galapagos Islands Cruise:
Trip Dossier

Celebrate a special occasion with a week’s luxury cruise around Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, sailing on board the elegant Grace.

Travel to Quito, the highland capital of Ecuador, and after a couple of days exploring the city and its picturesque environs fly on to embark on an 8 day cruise around the Galápagos Islands, to see the greatest wildlife show on Earth. It was on a similar trip 200 years ago that Darwin returned from the archipelago to write the seminal book ‘The Origin of the Species’. Step into his shoes and explore the diversity of land and marine life which inhabit these enchanting islands.

You’ll sail on an elegant luxury yacht which could not be more romantic – Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco spent their honeymoon on board this very same sleek and glossy vessel. There’s abundant deck space and the yacht exudes sumptuous comfort and charm. In addition to landings on the islands you will have the opportunity to snorkel or swim with sea-lions. Travel by night and awaken next day with a new island to discover.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Quito and transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Guided tour of Otavalo and its market with lunch in an aristocratic colonial hacienda.

Day 3

Fly to the Galápagos Islands, board the elegant MY Grace.

Days 4-9

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.

Day 10

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Quito and transfer to hotel.
 

Your hotel in Quito (the Andean capital of Ecuador) is the Casa Gangotena, a richly luxurious boutique hotel on the main square of the Old City, Plaza San Francisco. The building is a restored Renaissance-inspired mansion which preserves the aristocratic ambience and décor of its former incarnation: it couldn’t be more romantic and sensuous.

The active volcano Guagua Pichincha, to the east, glowers over the dynamic city which, at 2,850m, is one of highest capital cities in the world. Quito is divided into two contrasting districts. The modern zone is characterised by towering glass buildings and houses banks, international companies, hotels, shops and restaurants, while the central colonial area has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches.

Old Quito

Day 2

Guided tour of Otavalo and its market with lunch in an aristocratic colonial hacienda.
 
It is a 90min drive along a twisting road through rolling mountain scenery to the small town of Otavalo. Visit the colourful indian market where locals sell ponchos, scarves, blankets, wall hangings, woven belts, hats, handbags and much more. Here, locals barter in silence, in marked contrast to the raucous noise of other markets. Afterwards, continue to the nearby indigenous village of Peguche, where local artisans weave in their own homes.

Have lunch in one of the charming haciendas which pepper the area, Hacienda Pinsaqui, set within a large subtropical garden. Built in 1790, it has been a textile mill, working hacienda, and most recently an equestrian centre. Guests have included the nationalist liberator, Simón Bolivar.

Otavalo market

Day 3

Fly to the Galápagos Islands, board the elegant MY Grace.
 
Fly to the Galápagos Islands (2 hrs) where you will embark on your luxurious yacht, MY Grace. Your naturalist guide will be waiting to take you to the quayside.

The MY Grace has a fascinating history and has sailed under many names, but is currently known by that of her late owner, Princess Grace of Monaco. Under the banner of Deo Juvante, Prince Rainer and the Princess spent their honeymoon together on board.

Galapagos flamingos

Days 4-9

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.
 
The Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean 6 million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique animal and plant species.

The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which formed the basis for his revolutionary book ‘The Origin of the Species’, published in 1859. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you approach them and observe them up close.

Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, frigate birds, waved albatross and blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as you make your way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.

The itinerary for your days in the Galápagos will depend on your date of departure and is subject to change. There are normally two landings a day to seek out the different wildlife that inhabits the islands. Islands visited will vary.

sealions Galapagos

Day 10

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.
 

Essential information

Clothes and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well on the Galápagos Islands.
Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block, hat and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for ocean swimming (Galápagos). Snorkelling equipment is included but may prefer to bring your own. Aqua-socks or rubber sandals are useful for embarking and disembarking on wet landings. Bring a light waterproof jacket in case of rain. For June to November departures, wetsuits are recommended, as the waters can be chilly for snorkelling (available onboard if required, and included in the cost).

Cruises are informal but you might like to bring something special to wear at dinner.

Don’t forget your binoculars, camera, charger and cards.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America and Galápagos.

Transport

2 flights (longest 2hrs); 8 day cruise.

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates a luxurious converted mansion. The ship is among the most luxurious vessels cruising the Galápagos. 

Meals

Breakfast daily, lunch day 2, full board days 3-9.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Tour to Otavalo with lunch.
• 8 day cruise around the Galápagos Islands with guided land excursions.

Summary of nights

10 days, 9 nights: Quito 2; Galápagos 7.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• Galápagos National Park entrance fee.
• Ingala fee.
• International flights to Latin America
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in both Ecuador and the Galápagos is the US dollar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of good quality meals on those days in the holiday itinerary when not on the cruise, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

Most Galápagos ships accept credit cards but check with us before you go.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can spend as the dollar is the local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. 

The sea can be choppy around the Galápagos islands.

Climate

The rainy season in the Andes runs between November and April when there are showers most afternoons. The dry season is June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (maybe as low as freezing point.). May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells. Given the proximity to the equator, altitude is the determining factor with regard to temperature. In the mountains at any time of year you should expect a variation between 10°C and 25°C.
In the Galápagos, from January to April it’s hot and the sun is relentless, with some sudden showers. From May to July and October to December it is cloudier; in August and September it’s often cloudy and cool, and a stiff breeze can make the waters choppier. High and low seasons reflect demand rather than the best time to go. Many boats are in dry dock in September.

Altitude

A couple of days are spent at high altitude (over 2.500m). A small minority of visitors may be affected temporarily  by altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms.

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements such as malaria prophylactics.

For admission to the Galápagos a yellow fever certificate is required for anyone over 1 year old coming from an area with risk of yellow fever transmission. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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