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Larger vessel questions

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
295 posts
254 reviews
150 helpful votes
Larger vessel questions

I’ve looked and don’t see much chat on this.

Planning an 8 day cruise in 2025 and am considering the differences in a 16 pax boat such as a Tip Top one or Lindblad Nat Geo Endeavour II or possibly the ex-Celebrity 48 passenger thing.

Our preferences are

* smoother sailing

* more room to avoid awkward people (think meal times)

* potentially better guides with the National Geographic link

Lindblad claim minimum 2 activities per day, they offer a glass bottom boat along with kayaks and boards. What does concern me is they claim the actual landings are planned/scheduled ‘on the run’ and are not coordinated or scheduled when I spoke with them today; which seems to go against the small amount of research I’ve done and Rolf Wittmer/Tip Top. Lindblad are dearer but I don’t think that will be the deciding factor. We will probably combine a Machu Picchu trip with this so I’m evaluating the whole package (and in Lindblad case it’s a $17,000 package).

Our cruise history is smaller ocean ships so we may just be staying within our comfort zone.

I would be very interested in first-hand experiences on a larger ship not just Nat Geo/Lindblad

14 replies to this topic
Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
Level Contributor
15,453 posts
126 reviews
137 helpful votes
1. Re: Larger vessel questions

If you have not done so already, I highly recommend reading the reviews in the Top Questions on the right (not visible on phones). There is one review of the Legend, a larger boat. You'll see Samba and the Tip Tops several times--they get pretty much rave reviews. TA no longer supports the TQs so I haven't been able to add the most recent reviews; do a quick search using key words such as "review" or "trip report."

Landings planned "on the run" would be very much against park regulations. It seems the international cruise brands are pretty close-mouthed when it comes to their actual itineraries, making it impossible to compare. That for me raises a red flag.

I suggest you work with a Galapagos specialist who really knows the boats and itineraries. I have worked with CNH Tours myself and can recommend.

La Grange, Texas
Level Contributor
6,606 posts
194 reviews
103 helpful votes
2. Re: Larger vessel questions

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g294310-i6637-k14384196-Trip_Report_Tip_Top_II_April_2023-Galapagos_Islands.html#117496188

Here's my trip report, albeit for a small ship. We were plenty busy, and our guide was amazing. I understand your concern about being stuck with awkward passengers, but I think most folks on trips like this share at least some similar interests.

I wonder if the "on the run" landings explanation wasn't really just refusal to commit to a specific schedule in the case that something prevents the planned landings, like bad weather? Who knows, because you're right, everything I've read is that where and when ships land is very proscribed ahead of time. Maybe you just got a clueless agent.

r c
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
27,356 posts
2 reviews
3 helpful votes
3. Re: Larger vessel questions

Welcome

some disclosures....

> did an 8 day cruise on a 16 passenger/8 cabin ship.

> went to most? of the western islands from Baltra.

> our days went something like this.

- mornings. Landings or snorkeling.

- lunch

- afternoon. snorkeling or landings.

- dinner.

- move ship to next portage.

from what i experience on the ship i was on and the itinerary i took, there wasnt alot of FREE time to go off on your own. Either paddleboard or whatever. I can see using a "glass bottom boat". on our last morning, we went into a mangrove area where we just sat in a shallow and narrow channel and watch the various critters move under and around the dingy.

also most of the people were tired out from the days activities. And the passengers varied in age too.

and not sure what this is suppose to mean....."...more room to avoid awkward people (think meal times)..." If you mean trying to serve/eat/get to/from table, everyone had issues, even the crew when we were moving and or the ship was rocking more. And to me, when you are on a moving thing, you want to have something close to either lean/grab/hold.

just an for your info about the guide. From what our guide stated, they dont buy their guide license? out of gum-ball/vending machine. They are TESTED. Our guide was certified for ONLY the Galapagos at that time, but he was studying to be certified for the whole of Ecuador. I felt that he knew his stuff too. Im not into that type of studying/research..ect, but he had the answers when asked.

YMMV

good luck

Edited: 25 June 2024, 04:09
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
295 posts
254 reviews
150 helpful votes
4. Re: Larger vessel questions

Thanks. I have read a lot of the boat reviews already but with about 60+ vessels I didn't know what one was larger. I will read Legend review.

Lojeslj - I am with you on your comments on the schedule. I did push this agent and told her you cannot just turn up somewhere so don't give me that but she insisted random was the go. Hence asking very specific questions on a larger ship schedule.

I did read your report and it was yours that made me put Tip Top II as a #1 choice. Thank you for taking the time to write it, I know how long a good review takes.

I define awkward people as those who are very entitled, think they are above everyone else and have travelled all over and know everything. They are a rarity on this type of cruise but we have met at least one on every single cruise we have done. It just puts a bummer o the whole deal. I'm getting old and grumpy and my tolerance for them is low so I want to avoid it altogether. Ha, Maybe I am the awkward one :)

Edited: 25 June 2024, 06:21
La Grange, Texas
Level Contributor
6,606 posts
194 reviews
103 helpful votes
5. Re: Larger vessel questions

Not sure if it's an option for an Aussie, but maybe consider a Road Scholar trip? I'm an introvert and mostly don't enjoy meeting new people, but I've been pleasantly surprised over and over again by the RS travelers. They are the least entitled, and most open to new experiences, group I've ever met. (Well, there was one guy on our Greece trip, but out of 10 trips, that's a pretty good average.)

Glad you liked the TR. I scoured the internet for specifics before our cruise and thought I'd pay it forward.

Edited: 25 June 2024, 07:24
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
295 posts
254 reviews
150 helpful votes
6. Re: Larger vessel questions

Interesting, just received an email from Lindblad with this in bold;

Please find below the details day-by-day itinerary. All operators in the Galapagos Islands are dictated by the Galapagos Park Rangers of where the ships can go. You may see other operators promising set schedules, however, Lindblad is honest in our detailed day by day itineraries as no operator should be promising a set schedule. We are known for under promising and over-delivering.

Comments?

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
Level Contributor
5,147 posts
21 reviews
23 helpful votes
7. Re: Larger vessel questions

Dear UB,

I always recommend a smaller ship for Galapagos. It's all about getting into "the zone", about developing a real sense of intimacy with the wildlife around you, above and below the sea, and with the landscapes. Imagine being on a golf course with a group of players behind you - and being pushed forward - always feeling that you can't linger. Small ships have 1 group on board, large ships have up to 6 groups on board.

If you're looking at the kind of budget that goes with the Flora (among the priciest in the islands), then just about every other ship becomes a possibility for you. There are very nice small ships out there, with excellent crew and staff.

A halfway alternative is the Evolution (32 passengers) - we chartered that one twice over the past 4 years for a not-for-profit trip we organized for alumni of my husband's school. Very nice.

As others have noted, there is absolutely no way that ships decide where to go "on the run". You should drop that travel advisor now as they have no idea about the destination.

A Machu Picchu extension is a common thing and can be organized easily. Any travel company could do that for you.

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkion

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Galapagos Islands
Level Contributor
5,147 posts
21 reviews
23 helpful votes
8. Re: Larger vessel questions

As for Lindblad's statement:

"no operator should be promising a set schedule"

That is poppycock.

I've been helping people plan their Galapagos trips for 25 years and ship itineraries are set in stone. I can tell you exactly where just about every ship in the Galapagos will be this morning (save for those few ships that don't publish detailed itineraries).

There are exceptions, yes:

1) The park may close visitor sites for a variety of reasons, for different durations (bird flu, volcanic activity, scientific work being done), requiring a change. This is quite rare, but happens and will affect only 1 or 2 sites over the period of a week.

2) The ship may request a modification to the itinerary on a specific departure - this costs $$ and is never guaranteed.

The whole idea is to ensure that no single site is overwhelmed by too many visitors at the same time.

You might want to share this insight thatLindblad. (I once had dinner with Sven Lindblad on his ship in Galapagos - very interesting fellow...).

Warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Edited: 25 June 2024, 15:00
Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
295 posts
254 reviews
150 helpful votes
9. Re: Larger vessel questions

Thanks Heather.

I have already picked the Lindblad consultant as not great. They are probably off the list now.

So here’s a curve ball: I have Autism. I can’t cope with small groups and the need to make polite talk at dinner.

I get my own intimacy by retreating to myself and not interacting with others. I go off and take photo’s of what I want. I’ve been known to tune out from guides and wander off (my wife will get me one of those retractable dog leads one day) and nearly managed to get lost from the tour group in St Petersburg one time.

So the smaller ship is actually not ideal for me. And all this research stresses the heck out of me, trying to decide what 16 passenger boat is better when supposedly they are all the same in features. And our backstory is we spent a lot of cash on a NorthWest passage cruise with a 5 star company and it was crap. So $$$ doesn’t mean good I have found.

Road Scholar have a very good trip I could do, but they have a bus and not train to Machu Picchu. The hotels are far too fine for our needs, do I ask them to custom-build me a trip? So back to square 1.

Now y’all know far more about me than you need :)

La Grange, Texas
Level Contributor
6,606 posts
194 reviews
103 helpful votes
10. Re: Larger vessel questions

I can understand the need to be alone. We have a few neurodivergent folks in our family. Most of these small ships have separate lounges, inside and out, where you can escape. On the islands, you do need to stay near the group, on the marked trail, no matter how large a ship you came from. Each guide can have no more than 16 passengers with them, so larger ships just means more groups.

As for Machu Picchu, the only ways into Aguas Calientes (the town in a small valley at the base of the MaPi site) are train or hiking in via one of the trails. There are no roads into the town. Once in Aguas Calientes, the only way up the mountain to the MaPi site is bus or a VERY steep hike. I think you are misunderstanding the transport options.

We did take a bus from Cusco into the Sacred Valley and around, which allowed us to visit various towns, before getting on the train to Aguas Calientes.

I have never found RS to be luxury. They are generally firmly mid-level, though with some exceptions occasionally. Peru in general is a fairly cheap destination to travel to, so it may seem like the hotels are fancier.

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