Tip Top II Review

My family and I spent a week on the Tip Top II recently - I posted a Trip Report yesterday, but thought I would give my thoughts on the boat separately. We were fortunate enough to charter the Tip Top II, and since we had the boat to our family only I got a chance to compare all the cabins to each other.

To start off, I want to say that the crew on the Tip Top II was wonderful. Maria Jose was the "cruise director" and made sure that everything was to our liking. Felipe was our guide and was friendly, knowledgeable and put up with our 5 kids. Fabian made sure we were always well hydrated, the chef kept up well fed (maybe a bit too well!). In total there were 9 people other than us on the boat making sure that we were safe and comfortable at all times.

The Tip Top II accommodates up to 16 passengers spread across 10 cabins. We had 14 people so it worked out that each kid had his own room. The main floor of the boat has cabins 1 - 6, the Salon and the Dining room. The second level has cabins 7 - 10, the bar area and the Captain's bridge. On the top level is a sun deck. There is also a lower level which I didn't get a chance to see. This is where the crew's quarters are, as well as the kitchen.

The Salon area is a fairly wide and narrow space. We didn't spend much time in this area of the boat - we really only went in for the nightly briefings on what to expect the next day. There are two flat screen TVs in this room and we used them to watch the Galapagos Affair (we split it up over a couple of nights). There are also a number of books that you can read (I think mostly about the Islands - I didn't look too closely).

The Dining room is divided into two sections. To the left as you walk into from the rear of the boat is a buffet serving area and on the right are 4 tables that seat 4. There are urns with hot water & coffee available all the time. As well as some crackers and fruit. During meal times you'd go through and pick up a plate, select some salad or sides, and then get served the hot options. The food was really remarkable given how small the kitchen must have been.

Breakfast consisted of eggs of some sort (usually scrambled or fried). In addition to the eggs there would also be bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, etc. And then there was always a selection of fresh fruit as well as toast and bagels. Every morning on the table there would be fresh juice. My favorite was the blackberry juice!

At lunch we were generally asked to sit down and we'd be served a soup to start our meal. Once we'd finished the soup we'd be invited up to get the main course (usually a couple of salads, chicken or fish with rice or some other starch). After the main course there was usually a dessert of some kind. Dinner generally started with an appetizer already on the table when the dinner bell rang, and then we'd be invited up to get the main course followed by dessert.

As a group we had a number of dietary restrictions (I don't eat fish, my sister eats fish but not meat, my step father is allergic to all seafood, my mom doesn't eat red meat). The chef took all of this into account for every meal. If the main course was fish, then there would be either a chicken or vegetarian substitution. Likewise if the main course was a meat or chicken dish, there would be fish for those who didn't eat meat. This was my 3rd cruise in the Galapagos. On the first one I think I lost weight the food was so bad. The food was decent on the 2nd trip, but the food was really outstanding on this trip. I found myself going back for seconds far too many times. That being said, I don't think the kids enjoyed the food nearly as much. However the crew tried to accommodate them by making pizza, hot dogs, etc for them for some meals which they appreciated. The kids were also always happy to eat extra dessert!

In addition to the main meals, there were also usually 2 snacks a day that were served up in the bar area. This area of the boat has a number of chairs/love seats for people to lounge around in. This is probably where we spent most of our time when we weren't sleeping. There are a couple of tables that we used to play cards and other games. We also gave Fabian a workout opening beers and making drinks. The kids discovered that he made excellent fresh lemonade and they would also occasionally order Shirley Temples.

The top deck of the boat is the Sun Deck. There is a canopy over the deck so there's not actually all the much sun. During our trip the weather was overcast most of the time and the temperatures were in the low to mid 70s during the day. The sun deck was always windy and ended up being too cold for me most of the time. However on a hot, still day I could see wanting to hang out up there. There were a number of lounge chairs - they looked like typical white plastic chairs, but I moved one into some sun one day and discovered they were solid wood & heavy! There are also 4 tables that are attached to the deck and 16 chairs. We ate one meal on the sun deck and it was lovely (although a bit cool). There is also some clothes line and clothes pins on the sun deck that you can use to dry your clothes - just make sure to check that you have everything before you get off the boat with your luggage.

Now for the cabins. Compared to the cabin I stayed in for my first two cruises, all of the cabins on the Tip Top II were huge (my previous 2 trips were in Cabin 10 on the Eric). Cabins 1 & 2 are on the main deck. These rooms both have double beds and instead of closets there are dressers with lots of drawers. The beds were very comfy. The only drawback to these rooms is that the bathroom vanity doesn't have quite as much space as in the other cabins. Cabins 3 & 4 are on the main deck and have connecting doors to either Cabin 1 or 2. Both of these cabins have two twin beds and plenty of hanging space in the closets, but no drawer space. The vanity in the bathrooms are good size. Beds in these cabins are soft & comfy. Cabins 5 & 6 are just like cabins 3 & 4 except they don't connect to any other cabins. Cabins 7 & 8 on the top deck have two twin beds, large closets but no drawers and nice sized bathrooms. They also have balconies with two chairs and a little table. Beds are soft & comfy. Cabins 9 & 10 each have a king size bed. These beds have very firm mattresses. I thought that the bed was comfortable but my sister thought her bed was too hard. There is plenty of space to hang clothes in closets, but there is no drawer space whatsoever. The bathroom is good sized and there is plenty of room on the vanity. One thing that was a bit annoying in all cabins but 1 & 2 was that the closet doors had a tendency to fly open and then slam shut if there was much wave action. My mom ended up tying hers shut.

My first two times in the Galapagos my cabin was on the lowest level of the boat and while there was some movement at night as we travelled between islands, I don't remember it thinking it was too bad, but feeling sorry for the people on the upper decks. When selecting a boat I made a conscious decision to pick a Catamaran because they are more stable, and in general I would say that was true. The stairs between decks were much easier to navigate, and in general it was a more spacious & comfortable boat. That being said, at night when we were traveling between islands there were times when it was VERY rough. The second night we had at least 5 out of 14 people get so sea sick that they threw up. I heard my mom moaning in the room next to me and I tried to get to her door to ask her if she was ok or if she needed help and I could barely make it across my room and I realized that she probably wouldn't be able to make it to the door to open it for me. As my sister put it the next morning "it was like the longest amusement park ride of my life". That being said, two of my kids slept through it completely and were very confused why people were green the next morning.

The Tip Top II was last refurbished in 2016, but overall it still looks great. Some of the equipment is starting to show it's age. For example, the first kayaking trip we did, the back rest for my seat was broken. It wasn't a huge deal, but it made it somewhat difficult to kayak. The boat provides snorkel gear (fins, mask & snorkel) for free to all the passengers. My sister's snorkel broke the first day, and my nephew's mask broke a few days later. I don't think my sister was charged to replace the snorkel, but I think she was charged for the mask. If they were broken from user error that's one thing, but if it's due to normal wear and tear I don't think that should fall on the passengers.

Overall, the trip was absolutely amazing. I would highly recommend the Tip Top II if you're looking for a nice boat.