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SeaDream yacht club new itineraries

American Jazz Arrives & Other Small-Ship Updates

By Anne Kalosh.

A happy note amid the pandemic: American Jazz, the third in American Cruise Lines’ modern-style riverboats, has arrived.

The 190-passenger vessel is the latest to emerge from Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland. It will debut on the Mississippi whenever service can resume.

American Jazz follows sisters American Harmony (2019) and American Song (2018).

American Jazz Riverboat

American Jazz is the latest in American Cruise Lines’ modern riverboat series. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

New wellness/yoga studio

Rising six decks, American Jazz has vast expanses of glass for great views throughout and a multistory glass atrium in the center of the ship. Other hallmarks of the modern riverboat series include a patented opening bow with retractable gangway.

Travelers can spread out in several lounges and a grand dining room. There’s also a fitness center, a new wellness/yoga studio, a casual outdoor cafe and expansive top sun deck. All interior spaces and accommodations have independent heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, with no shared duct work.

Rooms for solo travelers

The roomy standard staterooms range from 300 square feet to 350 square feet, all with sliding glass doors and private furnished balconies. American Jazz also offers suites up to 650 square feet and single-occupancy staterooms of 250 square feet.

The vessel will showcase oil paintings and sculptures by New Orleans-based artist Greg Creason.

“The outlook for 2021 is tremendous and we look forward to American Jazz’s first full season on the Mississippi, as well as the introduction of American Melody, the next new ship to follow in our modern riverboat series,” American Cruise Lines President & CEO Charles B. Robertson said.

Windstar cancels through 2020

Windstar Cruises became the latest line to sit out the rest of 2020. It had planned to re-enter service in Tahiti in October.

“We had hoped that the number of cases of COVID and episodes of transmission would be in decline by now, and that the world recovery from the pandemic would be faster, but based on what we are seeing, we believe the most prudent way forward to keep our guests and crew safe is to postpone all Windstar sailings until next year,” a company spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Windstar intends to continue reviewing and updating its “Beyond Ordinary Care” health protocols designed in partnership with the epidemiology department at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center.

Wind Spirit in Tahiti

Windstar had planned to resume sailing in Tahiti in October but ended up canceling all itineraries through 2020. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Seabourn’s expedition new build coming later

Seabourn has continued to push back the return dates of individual ships and announced expedition new build Seabourn Venture will be delivered later than planned.

Seabourn Venture delayed

Seabourn Venture is now scheduled to enter service with a Norwegian winter program in late 2021. * Rendering: Seabourn

Due to coronavirus-related shipyard closures earlier this year, Seabourn Venture is now scheduled for completion Dec. 1, 2021, instead of June. Venture had been set to debut in the Arctic, followed by a season in Antarctica.

Quest to assume Antarctica/Venture to Norway in winter

Instead, Seabourn Quest will now take on the 2021/22 Antarctica program, while Seabourn Venture will sail Norway in winter, giving travelers an opportunity to see the northern lights.

Details about the 264-passenger ship’s revised inaugural season are being finalized and will be announced in October.

The interiors and outdoor guest areas of Seabourn’s first purpose-built expedition ship are by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany, who’s using tactile materials for a hint of rugged adventure in comfortable spaces like the Expedition Lounge.

Seabourn Venture's Expedition lounge

A rendering of Seabourn Venture’s rustic chic Expedition Lounge. * Rendering: Seabourn

Silver Origin’s Galápagos debut set back

Silver Origin’s inaugural Galápagos voyage is now planned for Nov. 7. Silversea Cruises had hoped to start service Aug. 22 but this was delayed by Ecuador’s coronavirus situation.

Built for the Galápagos, the 100-passenger Silver Origin was delivered in June following an extraordinary effort by the Netherlands’ De Hoop Shipyard, which voluntarily worked through the COVID-19 shutdown. Low water and high water conditions were also overcome.

Silver Origin is currently at the mainland Ecuadorian port of Manta, where crew training and familiarization processes are under way.

Silver Origin will take over year-round sailings from Silver Galapagos.

Silver Origin is delayed

Silver Origin’s start of service in the Galápagos has been postponed until November. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

A-Rosa’s E-motion coming later

European river line A-Rosa reports things have been going well since its restart in mid-June, but the inauguration of its new E-motion vessel will be delayed by a year, according to Seatrade Cruise News. 

The so-far unnamed E-motion-type vessel will be coming in spring 2022. Originally this hybrid-powered boat, designed to approach destinations on silent, emissions-free battery power, was to debut in May 2021.

The revised schedule has the first cruises along the northern part of the Rhine in April 2022.

A-Rosa's E-Motion is delayded

A-Rosa’s new style E-motion vessel has been delayed by a year. * Rendering: A-Rosa

Related: Cruising Restarts in Travel Bubbles.  by Anne Kalosh

No money down to book Crystal Esprit

Reservations opened for 2023 and early 2024 for the boutique yacht Crystal Esprit. This all-suite, 62-passenger gem will sail six-, seven- and eight-night voyages in the Seychelles, Greece, France, Italy, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Croatia.

Crystal Esprit

Bookings are open for Crystal Esprit’s wide-ranging itineraries in 2023 and 2024. * Photo: Crystal Yacht Cruises

What’s more, travelers can reserve their trip with no money down, as the Crystal Confidence 2.0 program offers a 90-day deposit window, extended final payment and relaxed cancellation schedules for all voyages through 2023. From January 2023 through March 2024, Crystal Yacht Cruises — named the 2019 Best Small-Ship Cruise Line by Condé Nast Traveler readers — will sail 58 active voyages.

During January to March 2023 and 2024, Crystal Esprit will be at home in the Seychelles. From

April to October 2023, destinations include the Greek Isles with a Corinth Canal transit, Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, the Italian Riviera and the French Riviera. In April, November and December 2023, the yacht will explore Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Cyprus.

Fares start at $2,699 per person.

RELATED: Crystal is Not Going Out of Business.  by Anne Kalosh.

SeaDreaming of Barbados

SeaDream Yacht Club is asking its loyal customers what they think about a possible new weeklong Barbados itinerary that would replace the planned Caribbean program this winter.

When looking at the upcoming Caribbean season, SeaDream — which successfully restarted cruises with a novel Norway-Denmark itinerary on June 20 with just four weeks’ notice — thought of again trying something different from its published schedule.

The new itinerary includes St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Grenada. If it goes ahead, sailings would start Nov. 8.

Emilio Freeman, vice president, itineraries and destinations, said he chose places where SeaDream will be welcome, that are currently open for tourism and that are more secluded, in line with the brand’s yachting bent.

SeaDream yacht club new itineraries

SeaDream is considering a new itinerary from Barbados that would start in November. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

The proposed itinerary would see travelers embarking at Bridgetown, Barbados (Sunday), calling at Kingston, St. Vincent (Monday), Port Elizabeth, Bequia (Tuesday and overnight), Canouan Island (Wednesday), Mayreau (Thursday), Grenada’s St. George’s (Friday), Tobago Cays and Union Island (Saturday) and disembark in Barbados (Sunday).

Freeman said these destinations all offer friendly people; “smooth, silky sand beaches”; and are places where the rich go to escape. (Bloomberg described Canouan as “where the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires.”)

If this itinerary is approved, travelers most likely will be tested for coronavirus three times before embarking. Barbados requires a negative test taken within 72 hours before arriving at the airport and likely would retest travelers from high-risk countries like the United States on arrival, plus SeaDream would test everyone before they embark.

The line said it would use a “gold standard” PCR test with quick results, capable of processing 50 people an hour. The SeaDream yachts carry just 112 passengers each.

RELATED: Small Ship Cruising Restarts Fitfully. By Anne Kalosh

Lindblad raises $85 million

Cruise operators have been scrambling to shore up liquidity as the pandemic wages on. Lindblad Expeditions Holdings has just secured its future by entering into an agreement with a group of investors for the private placement of $85 million in convertible preferred stock.

This is part of Lindblad’s actions to ensure it is sufficiently capitalized to withstand the COVID-19 downturn and “emerge in a position of strength,” according to Sven-Olof Lindblad, president and CEO.

RELATED: Small Ships, Remote Operations, an Edge for Lindblad’s Return to Service.  by Anne Kalosh

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UnCruise update

UnCruise Update & Other News.

By Anne Kalosh.

The one traveler who tested positive for COVID-19, ending UnCruise Adventures’ short-lived Alaska program, subsequently tested negative. This led many cruise fans to decry a “false positive,” but UnCruise CEO Capt. Dan Blanchard isn’t going along with that.

Blanchard said the Alaska state COVID PCR test that produced the positive must be respected.

There’s a much higher likelihood of a false negative than a false positive, he explained. The chance of a false positive is very low.

“So I have to call it a positive. I believe this was a positive, not a false positive.”

UnCruise Updates about aboard sailing

Wilderness Adventurer carried just 36 passengers on its aborted voyage. * Photo: UnCruise Adventures

Some validation of safe sailing protocols

Assuming the traveler did have coronavirus — he remained asymptomatic — UnCruise provided some validation of safe sailing protocols since nobody else got sick.

“Our plan worked,” Blanchard said. “It worked flawlessly.”

State epidemiologists and contact tracers thought everyone on a small boat could potentially be exposed if someone became ill. But the way UnCruise designed its program, with people frequently off the boat in small groups for wilderness activities, that wasn’t the case, according to Blanchard.

Travelers were separated so, for example, contact tracing identified a person who shared a skiff ride with the infected man, and that person was among the four who had to remain in quarantine, while others who tested negative and didn’t have close contact were cleared to go home.

UnCruise passengers wearing masks

UnCruise travelers wore masks on a skiff ride. * Photo: UnCruise Adventurers

For UnCruise and other hopeful U.S.-flag cruise operators, though, that positive was a blow.

“Once the word got out, that killed us,” Blanchard said. The line immediately halted operations, canceling the five planned weeks in Alaska and five in the Pacific Northwest to follow. He said other small-ship U.S. companies were impacted, too.

Along with the losses of six other companies that planned to operate, he tallied probably “tens or twenties of millions of dollars” in cancellations due to the one positive UnCruise case.

Call for rapid, reliable testing

What would have prevented this, in Blanchard’s view, is reliable, rapid testing with a four-hour return or less. Rapid testing at the Juneau airport would have made the difference in not boarding the guest, and the trip would have run.

“If I had the president and the Congress in front of me right now, I’d say … Rapid testing, please, if you want to get this economy going. It should be at the airports, and it should be readily available and reliable.”

UnCruise Update

Quick, reliable COVID-19 tests are sorely needed, UnCruise CEO Capt. Dan Blanchard said. * Photo: UnCruise Adventurers

Hawaii looking ‘iffy’

UnCruise is scheduled to start Hawaii sailings in December, but Blanchard said both Alaska and Hawaii have been very cautious about COVID-19, “and whether we’ll be able to start in Hawaii and we’ll have rapid testing, it’s hard to say.”

Alaska 2021

Blanchard thinks the kind of wilderness cruises his company operates — the weeklong Glacier Bay itineraries crafted for this season were chock-full of activities like skiff rides, snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and more, with the only port being the Juneau turnaround — are a safer way to operate.

UnCruise Update

Kayaking during UnCruise Adventures brief return to service earlier this month. * Photo: UnCruise Adventures

“Big ships and maybe small ships that make a lot of port calls, that’s going to be a huge challenge,” he said.

Crystal and Viking cancel through 2020

In other small-ship news, two diversified operators — Crystal Cruises and Viking Cruises — both threw in the towel for 2020. None of their vessels, ocean or river, will be sailing this year because things are just too up in the air.

Both companies are giving incentives for travelers on the canceled voyages to book future dates.

In a letter to Viking travelers, Chairman Torstein Hagen said “recent events have shown us that the recovery from this pandemic will be sporadic, and the ability to travel freely across borders remains some time away. Fortunately, the U.S. State Department has lifted some travel advisories for Americans, but many countries are still limiting tourists. As keen as we may be to get back to exploring, for now, international travel must wait.”

Crystal Clean+ 2.0

Crystal, meanwhile, outlined new health protocols for when the 106-passenger Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel resume service in 2021. Among the Crystal Clean+ 2.0 actions are online check-in/health questionnaire, assigned arrival time to reduce congestion at embarkation, a second health questionnaire prior to boarding and a temperature check.

Social spaces on board will have reduced capacity, and social distancing will be enforced.

Since all four of Crystal’s river fleet only carry half the number of travelers typical on a 135-meter vessel, there’s been no talk about reducing overall occupancy.

Also, all accommodations consist of balcony suites.

Small ship updates

Crystal river vessels already provide loads of passenger space. Here, Crystal Bach on the Danube. * Photo: Crystal River Cruises

Masks will be provided to passengers and crew and will be required in venues and instances where proper distancing isn’t possible. On shore, Crystal will comply with destinations’ rules about masks.

Enhanced cleaning protocols will include medical-grade disinfectants, electrostatic fogging as an added practice prior to embarkation, 100 percent fresh-air supply and HEPA filters to remove 99.95 percent of airborne pathogens.

Open-seating dining will continue, with distancing. Self-service options will be eliminated and in-room dining choices will be available 24/7.

Tour group sizes will be reduced. Crystal includes tours in most places so it has greater control over the shore experience.

Hebridean Island Cruises adds new yacht

HP Shipping, which fields Hebridean Princess, acquired the 27-cabin luxury yacht Lord of the Glens. As with Hebridean Princess, the operator is Hebridean Island Cruises, which is chartering the vessel.

Commencing in April 2021, Lord of the Glens will offer five- and seven-night jaunts along Scotland’s scenic Caledonian Canal between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh, including Loch Ness and Oban.

With its deep blue hull and white superstructure, Lord of the Glens’ livery was inspired by the royal yacht Britannia. The elegant, four-deck vessel’s cabins were recently refurbished.

Lord of the Glens update

Scottish yacht Lord of the Glens has a new owner. * Photo: Magna Carta Steamship Co.

New Windstar routes

Windstar Cruises’ lengthening and update of its three all-suite yachts will come to fruition in 2021. Besides new dining, an enlarged pool deck and added suites, each ship’s capacity will increase from 212 passengers to 312.

Because many of Windstar’s new itineraries for 2020 were canceled due to the pandemic, 2021 has many new ports and routes, including several selections in Alaska (like a shorter, seven-day cruise), comprehensive Black Sea itineraries, sailings to the Holy Land and additional ports and offerings in Canada/New England following a one-year hiatus from visiting the region.

More cruises departing from U.S. ports include two yachts sailing Caribbean cruises round-trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Also of note, Star Breeze, the first yacht to emerge from its extensive Star-Plus transformation in fall 2020, will be sailing the new itineraries in California and the Sea of Cortez, along with filling in for the 148-passenger Wind Spirit, which typically sails year-round in Tahiti.

Star Breeze stretch

The Star Breeze with its new lengthened profile at the shipyard a few months ago. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

While Wind Spirit undergoes routine maintenance at a scheduled dry dock, Star Breeze will take over the seven-day “Dreams of Tahiti” itinerary, giving travelers a one-time chance to experience this newly updated all-suite ship in the South Pacific.

On Wind Spirit’s way to Indonesia for its dry dock and back, there are rare opportunities to visit places like Port Vila, Vanuatu, and cross the Coral Sea.

Silver Origin’s enhanced Galápagos itineraries

Silver Origin, built for the Galápagos and just delivered to Silversea Cruises this year, will offer 68 voyages in 2021 that incorporate five maiden calls, including the island of Santa Fe.

Fernandina and Isabela islands will now feature on both of the ship’s itineraries, and each will include improved programs ashore.

These will give travelers more opportunities to admire the iconic wildlife of the archipelago, including the Galapágos penguin, green sea turtles, endemic iguanas and many remarkable birds.

Silver Origin has one guide for every 10 guests and one Zodiac for every dozen or so travelers.

Silver Origin update

Silversea’s new Silver Origin. * Photo: Silverseas

Savings for Emerald Harmony’s 2021/22 Mekong

Emerald Waterways opened bookings for the 2021/22 Mekong River season for its 84-passenger Emerald Harmony with savings for U.S. travelers.

Emerald Harmony Mekong update

The 84-passenger Emerald Harmony plies the Mekong River. * Photo: Emerald Waterways

The vessel offers four itineraries: The eight-day “Majestic Mekong Cruise” sails between Prek’kdam, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, while the 13-day “Majestic Mekong Discoverer Cruise” travels between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap with time on land to explore Angkor Wat.

The 17-day “Treasures & Temples of Vietnam & Cambodia” cruise-tour adds stops in Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north, and the 21-day “Grand Tour of Vietnam & Cambodia” cruise-tour includes Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue and Siem Reap.

U.S. travelers who book any program 13 days or longer will receive their choice of $2,000 savings per couple or free, round-trip air to Asia, while those choosing the eight-day river cruise will receive $1,500 savings per couple or round-trip air for $295. This offer is good for bookings made by Dec. 31, 2020.

Additionally, travelers paying in full within 14 days of booking will save $400 per person. This early payment discount expires Sept. 30, 2020. All bookings are covered by Emerald Waterways’ flexible Deposit Protection Plan.

Emerald Harmony, which entered service in 2019, has a shallow enough draft to sail all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, unlike many vessels that use a more distant port and bus travelers in and out.

Emerald Harmony restaurant

Emerald Harmony’s Reflections Restaurant. * Photo: Emerald Waterways

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The SeaDream ships in a travel bubble

Cruising Restarts in “Travel Bubbles” or “Travel Corridors”

By Anne Kalosh.

Cruising will restart in “travel bubbles” and, not surprisingly, on small ships.

It’s beginning this week as a few European river vessels are getting underway, on limited national runs, with plans to go further afield as things gradually open and if things go well. A few oceangoing ships are preparing to sail in Europe, as well.

All of these will be open to travelers from certain European countries only.

“Travel bubbles,” or “travel corridors,” are places where the virus is under control and countries mutually allow their residents to cross borders, without having to quarantine on arrival.

Nations that are further behind on the curve — the United States, for example — are probably not going to be in any travel bubbles soon. Not only is the virus still widespread stateside, the U.S. lacks a unified response and has low rates of testing and contact tracing.

That’s not the case in parts of Europe.

Europe is Opening

Starting June 15, residents of the Nordic countries — most of Sweden excepted — will be able to travel across their borders without having to quarantine on arrival.

This includes Norway, Denmark, Finland, the island of Åland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Swedish island of Gotland. The rest of Sweden is excluded for now since the infection rate there is still considered too high.

SeaDream’s Norwegian Coastal Cruises

SeaDream Yacht Club is taking advantage of the opening by deploying its pair of 112-passenger yachts on cruises along the Norwegian coast with a call at Denmark. Sailings start this month. SeaDream announced plans for nine voyages on one yacht in late May and demand was so strong that the company added a second yacht and increased departures to 21.

SeaDream twins in Norwegian travel bubble

SeaDream’s twin 112-passenger yachts are going to sail the Norwegian coast, with a stop in Denmark. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

The travelers are primarily Norwegians, but also Danes.

The destinations were hand-picked by SeaDream’s Norwegian founder and owner, Atle Brynestad.

SeaDream I is scheduled to sail past the Arctic Circle to the Lofoten Islands in 12-day voyages between Oslo and Tromsø. SeaDream II will sail seven-day cruises between Oslo and Bergen. Both itineraries include Ålesund, Flåm and Olden in Norway as well as Skagen, Denmark.

SeaDream crew

SeaDream crew are looking forward to welcoming guests back soon. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

Hurtigruten

The Norwegian company Hurtigruten, which operates coastal cruises and expedition voyages, is gradually resuming coastal sailings between Bergen and Kirkenes from June 16. Starting in Norwegian waters is a natural first step, according to Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam.

"Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" include Svalbard

Travelers from a Hurtigruten ship land in Svalbard’s Magdalenafjord. * Photo: Edda Falk for AECO

Svalbard expeditions will come.

Just days ago, the Norwegian government gave the green light for expedition cruises to Svalbard under rigorous safety conditions.

This resulted, in part, from work to provide nearly 100 pages of infection control guidelines for the expedition cruise industry carried out by several governmental institutions and local stakeholders in collaboration with the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO).

“We are thrilled that the Norwegian government and local stakeholders are demonstrating determination, willingness and cooperation to open for expedition cruises in Svalbard again, which is a vital contributor to local tourism economies,” AECO Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen said.

Svalbard included in a "Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors"

AECO Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen called Svalbard’s opening a start that gives hope to other expedition-cruise destinations. * Photo: AECO

The reopening will take place within existing national rules for entry so, from June 15, residents of Nordic countries (apart from most of Sweden) are allowed to travel there.

Very strict criteria will have to be met by expedition cruise operators during the first phase of reopening.

These include carrying only half of a vessel’s passenger capacity, increased numbers of medical staff and guest health certificates, among other requirements. Each operator will need to develop and apply individual plans based on the infection control industry guidelines, which then will be considered by the governor of Svalbard.

“It will take time before all cruise operations as we knew them can be resumed, but this cautious, phased and responsible beginning with expedition cruise tourism in Norway and Svalbard is a very important step for the expedition cruise industry and everyone affected by the halt in operations,” Jørgensen said. “This is a beginning that gives hope for the industry, and for other destinations.”

Svalbard's Bukta glacier

Plancius at Svalbard’s 14 Juli Bukta glacier. * Photo: AECO

European Rivers

Typically three-quarters of European river cruisers come from overseas, mainly the United States.

This year, it’s quite likely that only Europeans, from certain countries, will be able to sail the European waterways.

A-Rosa, a line that carries mainly Germans, is getting ready to go, thanks to Germany lifting its travel warning for 29 European countries and members of the Schengen area from June 15. The borders between these countries will reopen and quarantines will be abolished.

However, various country and region-specific regulations are still fluid.

"Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" enable A Rosa to begin operating again

A-Rosa may become the first European river cruise line to resume operations. * Photo: A-Rosa

On June 17, A-Rosa Alva is set to start plying Portugal’s Douro River, while other A-Rosa vessels will resume on the Rhine and Danube, followed by the resumption of cruises in France in early July.

The Douro River

Church with Portugal’s distinctive blue tiles azulejos along the Douro River. * Photo: Anne Kalosh

French Rivers & Coast

Strasbourg-based CroisiEurope plans to be back on the rivers of France — the Seine, Loire, Gironde, Garonne, Dordogne, Rhône, Saone and Rhine — starting mid-July.

"Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" to allow French river cruises to begin again

CroisiEurope plans to start sailing on the French rivers, including the Loire. * Photo: CroisiEurope

And, subsequently, CroisiEurope’s 128-passenger oceangoing ship, La Belle des Océans, is scheduled to embark on a new Corsica itinerary, from Nice. The ship is the former Silver Discoverer, acquired last year.

New "Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" enable CroisiEurope to start up again

CroisiEurope’s La Belle des Océans will operate a France-Corsica route. * Photo: CroisiEurope

Pending government approvals, the French line Ponant hopes to deploy six of its expedition vessels on five different domestic itineraries. The weeklong voyages would sail from Saint-Malo to the Ponant Islands that gave the company its name. And they would also sail from Le Havre along the Normandy coast, from Bordeaux on nature and gastronomy sailings, from Marseille along the Côte d’Azur and from Nice to Corsica.

New "Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" allow Ponant to start up cruises along French coast

Ponant’s Le Dumont D’Urville will sail a Normandy itinerary from Le Havre. * Photo: Fred Michel:Ponant

U.S. Rivers & Coasts

For Americans, there probably will be domestic travel options on small ships, like those belonging to American Cruise Lines, American Queen Steamboat Co. (AQSC), UnCruise Adventures, Blount Small Ship Adventures, Alaskan Dream Cruises and several of Lindblad Expeditions‘ vessels that are U.S.-registered.

RELATED: A QuirkyCruise Q&A with UnCruise CEO Dan Blanchard.

As earlier detailed here, ships carrying under 250 people (passengers and crew) are not subject to the U.S. no-sail order. Nor, as U.S.-flag operators, do they require approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; instead, their health and sanitation programs fall under the Food and Drug Administration.

RELATED: US-Flag Small Ship Lines Likely First to Resume Cruise Operations.  by Anne Kalosh.

According to John Waggoner, founder and CEO of AQSC, his American Empress in the Pacific Northwest and American Duchess on the Mississippi have U.S. Coast Guard approval to sail and plans are being reviewed by the FDA. The challenge is all the different phases of opening of the various states, counties and ports.

Still, Waggoner said he’s optimistic the first departures could happen in July.

American Cruise Lines hopes to begin sailing even earlier, with a first American Song sailing planned for June 20 on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

American Song

American Song is targeted to resume sailing on the Columbia and Snake rivers June 20. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

Galápagos

There are a few other parts of the world that may be able to restart small-ship cruises in 2020. Emilio Freeman, a seasoned itinerary planner who has experience across a range of lines and is now with SeaDream, thinks nature destinations are going to be especially popular after COVID-19.

“The Galápagos are going to do very well,” he predicted. “The uncertainty is how you get there (airlift), but people will have a great experience out in nature with the wildlife. It’s going to be in demand. These types of destinations are where people will want to go.”

Silversea Cruises is hopeful its newly delivered Silver Origin, built for the Galápagos, could begin sailing there Aug. 22.

Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" should allow the Galapagos to open soon

Silversea’s newly delivered Silver Origin is scheduled to begin Galápagos service Aug. 22. * Photo: Silversea

A national park, the Galápagos are among the most controlled and remote cruise destinations, with islands spread across a vast expanse of the Pacific. Only a few places have human populations.

Several South American countries have become the new hot spot of the pandemic, and Ecuador is still closed. However, Fernando Delgado, vice president of Canodros/Silversea Cruises Ecuador, is confident air travel will be reinstated soon. The company has arranged adequate charter flights between the Ecuadorian mainland and the Galápagos, where travelers will embark Silver Origin. The issue is getting people to Ecuador.

It seems that people really want to go. According to Silversea, of all its itineraries, the Galápagos have had the fewest cancellations, followed by Antarctica.

RELATED: Galapagos Island Small-Ship Cruise Overview.

"Travel Bubbles" and "Travel Corridors" will allow Galapagos cruises to resume

Nature destinations like the Galápagos are expected to be in demand. Here blue-footed boobies. The challenge is airlift. * Photo: Silversea

Antarctica

The Antarctica season, which begins in October, is months off, and many expedition cruise lines hope it will be possible to operate.

As with the Galápagos, the uncertainty is airlift.

Ushuaia, at the tip of Argentina, is the main gateway to the White Continent, and most travelers would first fly to Buenos Aires. So far, Argentina has fared better than some neighbors in controlling the virus though its national quarantine has been extended through June 28. There’s no telling when regular commercial air service will resume.

This leaves a lot of uncertainty. Some lines may decide they don’t want to risk it, while others may be seeking alternative homeports.

The SeaDream ships in a travel bubble

The aft of the SeaDream I. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

RELATED: Antarctica Cruising with Abercrombie & Kent and Ponant.  by John Roberts.

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Avalon Impression

Avalon Waterways

Avalon entered the fast-growing river cruise market in 2004 and is owned by the Swiss-based Globus family of travel industry brands. The line aims for the upper end of the river cruise market, operating a large number of riverboats on a vast range of European itineraries (nearly three dozen) as well as programs in the Galapagos and along the Peruvian Amazon, the Mekong, Ganges and the Nile.

The line’s affiliation with the Cosmos and Monograms travel brands means Avalon Waterways offers countless add-on itineraries for before and after your cruise, and can coordinate the various legs seamlessly.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Visionary on the Danube. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

COVID-19 UPDATE

Avalon Waterways will resume cruising in November 2020.

Be sure to check the line’s website for up-to-date news.

FLEET
Europe (Avalon Suite Ships)

Avalon Panorama (b. 2011 & 166 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Vista (b. 2012 & 166 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Visionary (b. 2012 & 128 p) – Danube, Rhine & Moselle Rivers

Avalon Artistry II (b. 2013 & 128 p) – Danube, Rhine & Moselle Rivers

Avalon Expression (b. 2013 & 12 8p) – Danube, Rhine & Rhône Rivers

Avalon Impression (b. 2014 & 166 p) – Danube River

Avalon Illumination (b. 2014 & 128 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Poetry II (b. 2014 & 128 p) – Rhine, Rhône & Saône Rivers

Avalon Tapestry II (b. 2015 & 128 p) – Seine River

Avalon Tranquility II (b. 2015 & 128 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Imagery II (b. 2016 & 128 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Passion (b. 2016 & 166 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Envision (b. 2019 & 166 p) – Danube River

Avalon View (b. 2020 & 166 p) – Danube & Rhine Rivers

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Artistry II on the Rhine. * Photo: Avalon

Asia

Avalon Siem Reap (b. 2015 & 36 p) – Mekong River

Avalon Saigon (b. 2017 & 36 p) – Mekong River

Ganges Voyager (b. 2015 & 56 p) – Ganges River

South America

Treasure of Galapagos (b. 2009 & 16 p) – Galapagos Islands

Delfin III (b. 2015 & 44 p) – Amazon River

Egypt

MS Farah (b. 2011 & 124 p) – Nile River

Passenger Profile

Most, age 50 and above, hail from the U.S., Canada, Britain and Australia, with some younger passengers on the shorter itineraries.

Price

$$  Expensive

Included Features
  • Onboard meals
  • Coffee, tea, soft drinks & water
  • Wine, beer & spirits with dinner, sparkling wine with breakfast
  • Wi-Fi (including in cabins for Europe cruises)
  • Most shore excursions
Itineraries

Avalon Waterways’ cruise itineraries are packed with options to extend your cruise with land tours.

In Europe, the huge variety offers cruise tours lasting from 5 to 22 nights, generally adding a land portion at one or both ends of the river cruise. Land travel may be by high-speed train such as TGV, Thalys, and Eurostar or motorcoach.

Springtime tulip bulb season cruises navigate the intricate waterways of Belgium and Holland; French rivers include the Seine, Rhône and Saône; the Rhine with or without the Moselle; combine the Rhine and Rhône between Amsterdam and Cote D’Azur; the Upper and/or Lower Danube, the latter including, on some cruises, sailing all the way to the Danube Delta just in from the Black Sea.

Longer European itineraries may cover, for instance, the Upper Rhine and then via the Main, Main-Danube Canal and the Danube all the way to Vienna; with the granddaddy of all from the North Sea to the Black Sea (22 nights).

In South America, cruises to Galapagos and along the Peruvian Amazon include a 7-night Galapagos cruise-tour with the inclusion of sights in and around Quito, Ecuador; 14-night cruise tour that combines the Galapagos cruise with a land tour to Cusco and Machu Picchu (Peru) and Quito (Ecuador); and a 17- to 19-night cruise tour with the addition of the Amazon River lodge including day cruises on the river.

For Asia, cruises along the Mekong include 7-night voyages between Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and (near) Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Longer itineraries of 12 or 17 nights include Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Halong Bay in Vietnam, respectively. On India’s Ganges River, there are 6-night cruises round-trip from Kolkata and 12-night journeys from Delhi to Kolkata.

In Egypt, Nile River itineraries include 9 nights round-trip from Cairo, and 13 nights from Cairo to the Dead Sea, exploring Jordan.

Sample Itineraries

The best way to explore Central Europe, the Magnificent Europe cruise on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers is a 14-night itinerary from Amsterdam to Budapest. The cruise begins with a canal tour from Holland’s capital, then it’s on to Germany to visit Cologne and sail through the dramatic Rhine Gorge. In Germany, you’ll also call at Rüdesheim, Würzburg, Volkach, Bamberg, Nuremberg and Regensburg before sailing through the Main Danube Canal to Melk, Austria. Finally, the journey passes through the Wachau Valley to Vienna and on to its final stop in Budapest, Hungary.

Another popular itinerary is the Mekong Discovery, a 7-night cruise that starts at Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, exploring the city and smaller local village via sampan. Cruising up the Mekong, stops at rural villages reveal temples, local cottage industries and cultures. The cruise finishes near Phnom Penh, Cambodia with tours of the city.

Avalon Waterways

The Avalon Expression on the Danube. * Photo: Avalon

Why Go?

River cruising conveniently takes you in one conveyance to a vast array of cultural, historic and scenic sites with so many of Europe’s major capitals (Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade) and most picturesque towns growing up along the banks. In Asia, South America and Egypt, river cruises access cultures, natural scenery and wildlife, and historical wonders in ways that overland touring can’t.

When to Go?

In Europe, most cruises operate from April through October, while some begin in March and end in November. Christmas markets cruises have increasing appeal.

South American cruises generally take place from January to July and September to November. In India, cruises generally take place in the cooler months of January and February, and September to November, while Mekong cruises are generally year-round. In Egypt, cruises are also offered year-round.

Sustainability Initiatives

The company has removed all single use plastics from their cruises and supports The Ocean Cleanup organization.

Activities & Entertainment

The line offers a lot of included excursions and activities. Excursions ashore may be on foot when the dock is convenient to the destination or otherwise via bus and offer a range of interest levels with local guides, from classic sightseeing to hands-on discovery experiences to active ventures.

The AvalonGo Mobile App aids in self-guided exploration. The onboard cruise director provides commentary at significant locations throughout the cruise. An Adventure host guides fitness activities and active excursions. The “Active Discovery” cruises on the Danube offer hiking, biking and canoeing and opportunities to explore an ice cave or salt mine. Other activities can include archery or cooking lessons.

Onboard entertainment will showcase local musicians and singers after dinner and special interest talks while underway.

Avalon Waterways

Entertainment in the Panorama Lounge of the Avalon Artistry II. * Photo: Avalon

SHIPS 
Avalon Suite Ships (Europe)

Avalon’s European fleet of 14 riverboats, known as Suite Ships, are almost identical, so this write up refers to all of them. Built for a capacity of either 128 or 166 passengers, all of them have four decks, with elevator access.

Avalon Illumination

The Avalon Illumination, a Suite Ship. * Photo: Avalon

 

Passengers have a choice of three dining venues, from the al fresco Sky Grill to casual meals at the Panorama Bistro or an elegant 4-course dinner under floor-to-ceiling windows at the Panorama dining room or 24-hour coffee and snacks. Menus feature regional cuisines and have an abundance of healthy choices.

All riverboats share a forward Observation Lounge, forward Panorama Lounge and bar and aft-facing Club Lounge with a book and games library. The Sky Deck is laid out stem to stern with open and covered deck space for lounge chairs, whirlpool and game area. There’s also a fitness center.

Avalon Suite Ships come with large cabins and substantially different configuration — for example the 200 sq. ft. Panorama Suites and 300 sq. ft. Royal Suites in which the beds face a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling glass expanse that slides open to the outside railing, rather than arranging the beds, as most do, parallel to the windows. The sensation gives your entire cabin a feeling of a cozy, protected balcony with a clear view to the outside.

In cabin: en suite, TV with entertainment options, complementary Wi-Fi, minibar.

A 200 square-foot Panorama Suite. * Avalon Waterways

Avalon Siem Reap

Avalon Saigon

Along the Mekong, Avalon Waterways operates two 36-passenger sister ships, Avalon Siem Reap and Avalon Saigon.

Avalon Saigon

The Avalon Saigon. * Photo: Avalon

Despite their diminutive size (each has only two decks), they are still Avalon Suite Ships, as each has signature cabins open to the outside with 14-ft. sliding glass doors and windows; they measure 245 sq. ft. A forward-facing covered lounge provides a 180-degree view and connects to an interior air-conditioned panorama lounge with bar.

The aft dining room seats all at once for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menus offer both Asian and western dishes.

An Avalon meal on a southeast Asia river cruise. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

The ships also have a fitness room, sundeck with plenty of shade, a spa treatment room and library with games.

In cabin: en suite, individual climate control, in-house telephone, safe, hair dryer, and complimentary bottled water

Avalon Cruise, Mekong

The mighty Mekong rises in China and passes through three Southeast Asian countries. * Photo: Ted Scull

Mekong River Cruise Adventure

If you’re lucky, this is Angkor Wat at sunrise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Ganges Voyager

A 56-passenger riverboat decorated in colonial-era style, Ganges Voyager has three decks (there is no elevator).

The Panorama Dining Room offers Indian and western menus and includes beer, wine and soft drinks with meals.

There’s also an air-conditioned lounge with glass walls and another shady al fresco lounge, a fitness room, spa treatment room and library with games.

Most cabins measure between 260-280 sq. ft., some with pretty four-poster beds, all with French balcony. 

In cabin: en suite, individual climate control, TV with on-demand movies, in-house telephone, minibar, safe, hair dryer.

Ganges Voyager

Ganges Voyager. * Photo: Avalon

Ganges Voyager

Heritage Suite on Ganges Voyager. * Photo: Avalon Cruises

Treasure of Galapagos

Accommodating 16 passengers, Treasure of the Galapagos has cabins and common areas on three decks (no elevator).

Common areas include a dining room, indoor lounge and bar, shaded outdoor lounge, sun deck with Jacuzzi and observation area.

Cabins measure 215 sq. ft., and all have balconies, while the master suite is 430 sq. ft. with two balconies.

In cabin: en suite, individual climate control, safe, hair dryer.

Treasure of Galapagos

Treasure of Galapagos. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

Delphin III

Cruising the Amazon, Delphin III’s three decks are built to accommodate 44 passengers with a dining room, indoor and outdoor lounge (with nightly entertainment), an outdoor plunge pool, exercise room, spa, and excursion skiffs on board.

Most cabins are 237 sq. ft. and all have large picture windows.

In cabin: en suite, individual climate control, complimentary filtered water, safe, hair dryer.

Avalon Waterways

The Delfin III, seen here when still called Amazon Discovery. * Photo: Steve Cukrov for Globlus/Avalon.

Avalon Waterways

The silt-laden waters of the Upper Amazon. * Photo: Ted Scull

MS Farah

On five decks, MS Farah has a lot of facilities including a large restaurant (with vegetarian options on the menu), barbecue on the sun deck, pool and pool bar, lounge bar, library dedicated to Brazilian lyricist and novelist Paulo Coelho and fitness center with sauna and steam rooms. They even hold cooking classes on board.

Avalon Farah

The 120-passenger Farah. * Photo: Avalon

There are 60 cabins, most of which are 239 sq. ft. All have floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows for excellent views. There are also a pair of royal suites

In cabin: en suite, individual climate control, TV with cable programming, Internet, tea & coffee-making facilities, minibar, safe, hair dryer.

Avalon Waterways

A camel watches over its territory, the site of the pyramids at Giza. * Photo: Ted Scull

Along the Same Lines

Emerald Waterways and AmaWaterways offer comparable itineraries on Europe’s rivers and canals.

Contact

Avalon Waterways, US-based; Avalonwaterways.com; +1 (877) 797-8791

TWS

 

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Quasar Expeditions Seals

Quasar Expeditions.

Quasar Expeditions resides at the top of the charts with its stellar reputation for operating well-run, well-guided, one-week Galapagos itineraries away from the crowds, using two traditional-looking yachts that take just 16 and 32 passengers.

The cruises have operated exclusively within the Galapagos archipelago for over three decades, while the land itineraries use lodges along the Amazon in Ecuador, treks in the high Peruvian Andes, and overland journeys in super scenic Patagonia.

These land-based options may be added to the one-week cruises. As an alternative, the firm also offers shorter hotel stays in the Galapagos with exploration on foot and in small boats.

Quasar Expeditions Seals

The gorgeous beaches and seals of Espanola Island. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

The yacht Grace was first built before WWII and patronized by nobility in Europe and by Grace Kelly on her honeymoon with the Prince of Monaco. (16 passengers).

Quasar Expeditions' 18-passenger Grace

Quasar Expeditions’ 16-passenger Grace was the honeymoon of choice for Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco.

The yacht Evolution was completed in 2005 with an attractive traditional design (32 passengers).

Quasar Expeditions' 32-passenger Evolution

The 32-passenger Evolution. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Both vessels are available for full charters.

Passenger Decks

Both vessels have four decks and no elevators.

Passenger Profile

International but emphasizing English speakers; all ages. Most of the crew speaks Spanish and English and are Ecuadoran locals. A doctor is carried and may accompany passengers on excursions.

Iguana and child in the Galapagos

Galapagos cruises are great experiences for families. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Price

$$$

Itineraries

Both yachts both operate a pair of distinctive one-week itineraries embarking in San Cristobal or Baltra. Sailings take place year-round. You may want to study the differences, but you can’t go wrong with whichever itinerary you choose.

Bartolome Island in the Galapagos

The panoramic views overlooking the island of Bartolome. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Included Features

Excursions in Zodiacs, walks and hikes ashore, kayaking, and snorkeling. Extras include gratuities to guides and crew (guidelines given on website and aboard), alcoholic beverages, and scuba diving.

Why Go?

The Galapagos is nature at its best, with abundant birdlife, land animals and sea creatures seen up close. Many species are found nowhere else, having adapted to this particular island chain pretty much in isolation.

Blue-Footed Booby birds in the galapagos

The famed Blue-Footed Booby birds of the Galapagos. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

When to Go?  

Cruises operate year-round. The climate is subtropical, and the water temperatures are affected by the islands’ proximity to both the cold Humboldt and the warmer El Nino currents.

January to June is warm season with rain, and it’s the ideal period for ocean activities; July to December is cooler and dry.

Sea turtle in the Galapagos

Snorkeling and diving in the Galapagos will be life changing. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Cabins

Both vessels have comfortable all-outside cabins, most with windows, and a few with portholes and a variety of layouts — single beds, queen-size and king-size.

Completed in 2005, Evolution takes 32 passengers in double, queen and twin-bedded cabins that range in size from 140 to 263 sq. ft.

Quasar Expeditions

The Double A1 Suite aboard the 32-passenger Evolution. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Grace takes just 16 and the Grace Kelly suite is particularly spacious and in a quiet isolated location forward.

The Grace Suite aboard the 18-passenger Grace of Quasar Expeditions

The Grace suite aboard the 16-passenger Grace. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Public Rooms

The 32-passenger expedition vessel Evolution is noted for its roomy public spaces, indoor/outdoor dining, open decks with outdoor bar and a hot tub forward on a lower deck. The lounges are enclosed and covered, yet can be open to the sides, with deck space out of doors and a small tub at the bow. The observation deck is canopied covered and has a bar for relaxing at the end of the day’s activities ashore or in the water.

The outdoor lounge aboard Quasar Expeditions' Evolution

The al fresco lounge aboard the Evolution. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

The Grace ha an interior lounge and al-fresco dining aft and under cover. At the stern, a small lounge offers views aft. A second covered lounge and bar are aft of the cabins. A sunbathing deck is atop the ship, and a Jacuzzi is forward. Both vessels have wraparound decks for strolling and watching the wildlife.

Quasar Expeditions' Grace's outdoor dining

The Grace’s outdoor dining. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Dining

Meals offer both Ecuadoran and Continental choices at one open seating for everyone.

Activities & Entertainment

Talks aboard and off the ship, guided hikes and walks to lava flows, along cliffsides and on the beach, snorkeling, and zodiacs trips. Two kayaks are available for passenger use, and the bridge has an open policy most of the time. Scuba diving is available at an extra expense.

Seals on the beach

The entertainment, of course, IS the natural beauty of the Galapagos. * Photo: Quasar Expeditions

Special Notes

The line prides itself on banning all single-use plastics such as straw, cups, and water bottles. Yay !!

Along the Same Lines

The higher-end operators with small capacity vessels.

Contact

Go to www.quasarex.com. US: 7855 NW 12 St. Ste 111, Doral, FL 33126 (1-888-502-9503, local 1-415-689-8509); UK: 0-800-883-967; Australia: 1-800-312-976.

— TWS

 

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Celebrity Flora cruises the Galápagos

Celebrity Flora.

By Anne Kalosh.

The newly minted, all-suite Celebrity Flora has just started sailing in the Galápagos Islands, where it’s the poshest, and perhaps the most sustainable, way to travel.

Tourism is highly regulated in this remote archipelago and marine reserve that UNESCO describes as “both a living museum and a showcase of evolution.” Celebrity Flora carries just 100 passengers, the most allowed by Ecuador’s government.

One of the most energy-efficient ships of its kind, it’s designed to be 15 percent more fuel-efficient (and, therefore, less polluting) thanks to an advanced propulsion system, hull configuration and specially designed diesel engines.

Celebrity Cruises’ Flora also has dynamic positioning, which means it can stay in place without dropping anchors that could impact the sensitive sea floor. Zero-speed stabilizers keep the ship steady when it’s stationary.

Reverse osmosis equipment can process seawater into fresh water to supply all of Flora’s needs. In-room water filtration stations and the ability to reuse air conditioning condensation to provide water for the laundry facilities are other features. Plus, any materials that can be recycled, reused or donated will be part of a strict waste management system.

Celebrity Flora cruises the Galápagos

Celebrity Flora was purpose-built for the Galápagos and carries just 100 passengers. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Unique Destination

In its designation of the Galápagos as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO writes that the marine reserve’s location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it “one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands.

“These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands,” UNESCO continues, “led to the development of unusual plant and animal life — such as marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, huge cacti, endemic trees and the many different subspecies of mockingbirds and finches — all of which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.”

Celebrity Flora in the Galapagos affords views of marine iguanas

A pile of iguanas! * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

“Our guests have never seen a destination quite like the beautiful Galápagos Islands, and the islands have never seen a ship quite like Celebrity Flora, perfectly blending intimate luxury with sustainability,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “The ship is designed to showcase this amazing destination, giving our guests incredible memories and underscoring the critical importance of protecting our planet’s fragile ecosystems.”

An Ecuadorian, Yolanda Kakabadse, environmental advocate and former World Wildlife Fund International president, served as the godmother for Flora during its recent naming festivities.

Booby birds on Genovesa Island

The birdlife of Genovesa Island. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

EarthEcho International Partnership

In tandem, Celebrity announced a partnership with EarthEcho International, a nonprofit organization founded by Philippe Cousteau Jr. to inspire young people to act now for a sustainable future.

This partnership will introduce a comprehensive and customized youth strategy aimed at empowering a new generation of environmental advocates, both in the local communities of the Galápagos and aboard Celebrity Flora and Celebrity Xpedition, the line’s other Galápagos ship. The youth-focused program will include environmental sustainability projects and activities.

The Itinerary & Ship

Celebrity Flora is sailing from Baltra in the Galápagos year-round on 10- and 11-night “Outer Loop” and “Inner Loop” itineraries that visit different islands. Both start with two nights in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, before the flight to Baltra to embark.

Because touring the Galápagos is a rigorous experience, with daily wet landings, swimming, snorkeling and hiking, the ship was designed with rejuvenating venues. There are multiple places, inside and out, to sit back and soak up the views. Public rooms and accommodations have floor-to-ceiling windows. The Discovery Lounge is like the ship’s living room, where people can congregate, have drink, hear a talk or watch a movie.

The Celebrity Flora's hub is the Discovery Lounge.

Celebrity Flora’s Discovery Lounge. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

The Vista, an outdoor lounge on an upper deck, offers cozy chairs, a plunge pool and cabanas that are available to rent for sleeping under the stars. Closer to the water, the alfresco Sunset Lounge overlooks the stern marina, where travelers step into the custom-designed Novuranian Yacht Tenders to go exploring.

Celebrity's Flora's outdoor Sunset Lounge

Celebrity Flora’s popular outdoor Sunset Lounge overlooks the marina. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

The standard accommodations are 337-square-foot Sky Suites with infinity veranda. The two top-of-the-line Penthouse Suites have up to 1,288 square feet of space including large verandas.

Celebrity Flora's Sky Suites

Celebrity Flora’s standard accommodations are 337-square-foot Sky Suites with infinity verandas. * Photos: Celebrity Cruises

The ship carries one naturalist for every 12 passengers. They lead excursions and lectures, and hang out in The Lab, a place to delve into the science of the destination.

The Lab lounge on the new Celebrity Flora

Celebrity Flora’s Lab is a place for passengers to dive into the science of the Galapagos. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Oceanscope for Research

Celebrity Flora is equipped with cutting-edge oceanographic research equipment known as Oceanscope that builds on Celebrity’s more than 20-year relationship with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. This system benefits from the ship’s consistent itinerary to create a cost-effective way for scientists to gather and measure ocean-circulation dynamics.

Oceanscope will track and map the region while recording sea-surface temperatures and gathering data critical to forecast El Niño and La Niña. All findings will be available to passengers and will become globally accessible, open source data.

 

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Galapagos Islands Overview

By Heidi Sarna.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most coveted and stunning small ship cruising regions in the world thanks to the unique wildlife (from sea lions and seals to turtles, iguanas, penguins and birds of all feathers) and the scientific legacy of Charles Darwin. The naturalist first spent time on the remote Pacific Ocean islands in the 1830s (see below) when his theory on natural selection took seed.

The endemic Galapagos marine iguana

The endemic Galapagos marine iguana. * Photo: Michael S Nolan

A volcanic archipelago of 20 main islands, and 100 or so more islets, the Galapagos Islands are one of the original 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites established in 1978. They represent an incredibly diverse range of habitats — from hauntingly desolate volcanic landscapes to lush green highlands, mangroves, and sandy beaches, both gorgeous arcs of white sand and fascinating black lava swathes.

Off shore, there are coral reefs and lagoons, and diving and snorkeling is excellent in many places. Since 1966, most of the land and surrounding waters — 97 percent to be exact — were set aside by the Ecuadorian government as a national park.

Major ocean currents come together at the Galapagos archipelago, some 600 miles west of Ecuador, creating a rich stew of nutrient rich cool waters from the south (Humboldt Current), warm currents from the north, and a deep cold current from the west, all of which in turn support a vast array of interesting flora and fauna from diverse environments.

“The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the highest levels of endemism (species found nowhere else on earth) anywhere on the planet. About 80% of the land birds you will see, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, and more than 30% of the plants are endemic. More than 20% of the marine species in Galapagos are found nowhere else on earth. Favorites include the giant Galapagos tortoise, marine iguana, flightless cormorant, and the Galapagos penguin — the only penguin species to be found in the Northern Hemisphere.”

— Galapagos Conservancy

Wild Galapagos giant tortoise munching grass on Santa Cruz Island, on a Lindblad Expeditions trip. * Photo: Michael S. Nolan

Wild Galapagos giant tortoise munching grass on Santa Cruz Island, on a Lindblad Expeditions trip. * Photo: Michael S. Nolan

To try and keep the islands as untainted by tourism as possible, Ecuador regulates the number and size of ships (100 passengers or less) permitted to cruise in the waters of the Galapagos Islands, and also limits the number of times a particular ship can visit an island (once every 14 days). Cruising between islands usually takes place at night, so daytime is spent on shore or in the water on excursions. Naturalists guides, all licensed with the Galapagos National Park, lead excursions, give talks on board and mingle with passengers.

Ships in the Galapagos are equipped with Zodiacs (small inflatable boats) to take small groups of passengers to shore, along scenic coastlines and on snorkeling expeditions. Snorkeling equipment is routinely provided and diving gear can often be arranged. Some ships, like the Lindblad boats, have underwater cameras shooting videos that are then shown in the ships’ lounges. Some ships also have kayaks for use on guided jaunts.

Time on board is spent listening to lectures from the naturalists and standing on the decks chatting with other passengers, officers and crew as you keep an eye out for wildlife. Before dinner passengers usually gather in the lounge for a drink to discuss the day and what’s in store for tomorrow.

It’s just under a two-hour flight between Guayaquil on the Ecuadorian mainland coast and the airport on the island of Baltra, next to Santa Cruz, or the airport on San Cristobal Island. Cruises can be as short as three or four nights, are as long as two weeks, though most are 7 to 10 nights, not including the one- to two-night hotel stay in Guayaquil or Quito on either end that is necessary to make most flight connections.

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Ports of Call

Here are highlights from a handful of islands; most have multiple sights on shore and off.

Bartolome. It’s considered the most visited and most photographed island in the Galapagos, namely for Pinnacle Rock — a cool rock formation you can ogle from a nearby bluff. The picturesque beach below it is popular for snorkeling and swimming; keep your eyes open for Galapagos penguins, herons, Galapagos hawks, green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and white- and black-tipped sharks

Espanola. This is the island for seeing Albatross — we’re talking 25,000 to 30,000 Waved Albatross doing their goofy mating dances between April and December. Many other bird species nest here as well, including blue-footed and Nazca boobies. Flocks of tamed Darwin’s finches and Española mockingbirds sometimes land on tourists’ heads and shoulders. Bright red and green marine iguanas are also part of the show. On the beach at Gardner Bay, adorable sea lion pups congregate on the beach while mom goes fishing.

Fernandina. The archipelago’s youngest and most volcanically active island, here you can see marine iguanas and flightless cormorants, as well as penguins, sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. The lava cactus growing on young lava is another cool site. Divers off shore will be thrilled to spot sea horses, sea turtles, and many types of sharks and rays.

Floreana. There’s so much to photograph on this island, from pink Galapagos flamingoes to pintail ducks, stilts, large-billed flycatchers, several species of finch. Devil’s Crown is the remnants of a volcanic crater that pokes up through the water of shore; strong swimmers and confident snorkelers can jump off zodiacs right into the crown for a close up look at sea lions, king angel fish, balloon fish, hawkfish, yellowtail grunts, tiger snake eels, white-tipped sharks, eagle rays, wrasses, hammerhead sharks, and sea turtles. Birds also like Devil’s Crown, from boobies to pelicans, and frigatebirds.

Blue footed boobies have, as you would expect, blue feet. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

Blue footed boobies have, as you would expect, blue feet. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

Isabela. The largest of all the islands at about 75 miles long, Isabela has several active volcanoes, including 5,600-foot-high Wolf Volcano, the highest point in the archipelago. The island has more wild tortoises than all the other islands combined, according to the Galapagos Conservancy, and the west coast of Isabela is considered the best place to see whales, from humpbacks to sperms, sei, minkes and orcas. The island is also home to birds of all kinds, from flamingoes to paint-billed crakes, white-cheeked pintails, common gallinules, flightless cormorants, penguins, pelicans and lava herons, plus land birds the likes of finches, hawks, yellow warblers, large-billed flycatchers and occasionally the woodpecker finch. There are also a handful of excellent dive sites offshore.

Rabida. This small, arid island is home to scads of marine iguanas and sea lions, as well as brown pelicans, and blue-footed and nazca boobies. Large pink flamingos, pintail ducks and common stilts feed in the shallow water of a saltwater lagoon, while finches, Galapagos doves, yellow warblers, and mockingbirds dart around.

San Cristobal. The island where Darwin first went ashore in 1835, San Cristobal is the second most populated island in the Galapagos with about 6,000 permanent residents and it also has an airport with daily flights to the mainland. Otherwise, the island is a wonderland of natural sites including Punta Pitt, a dramatic bluff with great views of a sea lion colony and the communal nesting place of red-footed, blue-footed and Nazca boobie birds. The coral sand beach at the base of the gorgeous Cerro Brujo tuff cone is popular for swimming and snorkeling and Kicker Rocker is a spectacular volcanic offshore rock formation where blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, and sea lions roam.

Santa Cruz. The most populated of the Galapagos, Santa Cruz is the islands’ tourism hub thanks to the airport that most tourists go in and out of on neighboring Baltra Island, a 10-minute ferry ride away. Top sites on Santa Cruz include the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center to have a look at the many different species, from hatchlings to juveniles to old timers. (Thousands of giant tortoises lived on the islands until the 19th century when sailors and pirates began to kill them for food and oil.) Other island highlights include: Cerro Crocker, the highest point on the island with great views; Las Bachas beach, a major nesting site for sea turtles; South Plaza islet for sea lions, land iguanas and lots of seabirds; and offshore dive sites teeming with sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, eels, manta rays, eagle rays, fur seals and lots of fish.

Santiago. Once the scene of thriving salt mines in the early to mid 20th century, today there are several great visitors’ sights, including James Bay where you can see nesting sea turtles, flamingoes, Galapagos hawks, white-cheeked pintail ducks and fur seals. In Sullivan Bay, you can walk across a recent (late 19th century) lava flow and check out the interesting volcanic cones and formations. There is also an excellent snorkeling site in the channel between the shoreline and a small islet called Chinese Hat, where you can take a gander at sea lions, penguins, rays and sharks.

For more details, the Galapagos Conservancy is a great source.

When to Go

You can cruise the Galapagos Islands year-round. The peak season is summer — mid-June though early September — and mid-December though Mid-January, when prices are highest and islands are the busiest.

December through May is warmer (mid 70s to mid 80s Fahrenheit), sunnier and rainier (expect a daily afternoon shower). Since temperatures are warmer both in and out of the water, and there’s little wind, snorkeling is appealing, except that there are fewer fish swimming around. It’s breeding season for land birds, sea turtles and sea lions (in March and April, you can see adorable newborn seal pups crawling on the beaches), so you can watch mating rituals and ooh and aah over babies.

June through November is cooler (low 70s Fahrenheit) and windy (seas can be rougher), but it rarely rains during these months. The Humboldt Current is to thank, it reaches the Galápagos from the south and brings colder water and colder weather with it. BUT it also brings water rich in nutrients and plankton, so there are more fish in the sea at this time of year (divers and snorkelers love it), and because there are more fish, there are lots of seabirds fishing, from Albatrosses to Penguins, Blue-footed Boobies and owls.

Lindblad Expedition's National Geographic Endeavour in the Galapagos. * Photo: Sven Olof Lindblad

Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Endeavour in the Galapagos. * Photo: Sven Olof Lindblad

Company Reviews

We’ve written cruise line profiles of a number of major small-ship companies cruising in the Galapagos — AdventureSmith Explorations, Celebrity Cruises, EcoventuraG-AdventuresGreenTracksLindblad Expeditions, Silversea ExpeditionsTauck, Un-Cruise Adventures,Zegrahm Expeditions and Quasar Expeditions — with a reviews of Kleintours of Ecuador and Latin Trails coming soon.

And here we offer a brief round-up of even more companies, which may be tour operators and/or travel agencies, that sell Galapagos cruises and can help with other aspects of trip planning. They may charter entire ships or have just a cabin or two allotted to them, it all depends; nevertheless, it doesn’t affect the experience for you.

All of the following companies are members of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) and are required to be insured and bonded. 

RELATED: Randy Mink’s Article about his Galapagos cruise aboard Latin Trails’ 16-passenger Sea Star Journey,

Eclipse Travel

This Australia and New Zealand owned and operated tour operator specializes in travel to South America, Central America and the Poles. In the Galapagos Islands, they offer four different trip levels for every wallet — budget, standard, superior and deluxe. The budget packages, for example, include a $2,500 USD 7-night cruise aboard the 16-passenger AIDA MARIA with simple bunk-bed cabins to $6,700 USD for a 7-night cruise on the brand new 16-passenger motor catamaran PETREL with posh twin- or double-bed cabins and suites, all with balconies.

Contact:  Level 6, 115 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia USA; (+61) 2 8199 9465 and www.eclipsetravel.com.au.

Journeys International

Founded in 1978 by Will and Joan Weber, former Peace Corps volunteers, teachers and conservationists, this family-owned business was one of the original “eco tourism” companies before it was ever the ubiquitous term it is today. Journeys International continues to thrive on personal, small-scale encounters with interesting places around the world, including the Galapagos Islands.

Most cruises are 7 nights long and many are on the 20-passenger LETTY, ERIC or FLAMINGO I, a nearly identical trio of sister ships also used by other companies, including Natural Habitat Adventures. During the summer months of June, July and August, plus December, the trio offers special family-friendly cruises for families with children ages 5 or 6 and older.

Contact:  107 Aprill Drive #3, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103 USA; 734-665-4407 and www.journeys-intl.com.

Mountain Travel Sobek

This travel company is the merger of two adventure outfits — Mountain Travel that formed in 1969 and a year later organized its first Galapagos cruise (for the Sierra Club, and the first North American company to go there) and Sobek Expeditions, which was founded in 1973. The combined company has continued to offer adventurous travel ever since, including groundbreaking hiking, rafting, skiing, kayaking and sailing trips over the years in China, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Libya, Ethiopia and other places.

Its Galapagos cruises are aboard the 16-passenger REINA SILVIA; 48-passenger LA PINTA with a hot tub, four triple cabins and six connecting cabins ideal for families; or the 16-passenger GALAXY, all with all en-suite cabins.

Contact:  1266 66th St, Suite 4, Emeryville, California 94608-1117 USA; 510-594-6000 and www.mtsobek.com.

Natural Habitat Adventures

In business for more than 30 years, this company offers Galapagos trips focused on families, photography, and hiking & kayaking, and offers classic general interest trips as well. Choose from the 20-passenger expedition yacht LETTY with teak wood cabins (including a pair of triple cabins ideal for families) and interiors; the 16-passenger motor catamaran ATHALA II with four balcony cabins and also a hot tub; and the brand new 20-passenger luxury yacht ORIGIN, with two triple cabins, a small gym, hot tub and open bar.

All cabins on the three vessels are en suite and each boat carries two naturalist guides on board for intimate excursions with no more than 8 to 10 passengers per guide. Natural Habitat Adventures is an official travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which gives them an edge in itinerary planning.

Contact:  PO Box 3065, Boulder, Colorado 80307 USA; 303-449-3711, www.nathab.com.

Wilderness Travel

Wilderness Travel, a founding member of IGTOA, operates active adventures that are hiking, wildlife and/or culture focused in more than 75 countries worldwide and has been offering small-ship cruises in the Galapagos since the company was founded in 1978. Founder and president Bill Abbott says that almost 70% of their clients have traveled with them before or are direct referrals from those who have.

Their 8- to 17-night Galapagos trips, which include two night hotel nights in Guayaquil, are aboard the romantic 16-passenger square-rigged sailing yacht MARY ANNE, the 12-passenger yacht PASSION with a hot tub and two suites with a marble-clad bathrooms, and the 12-passenger yacht REINA SILVIA. Wilderness offers extensions to the Ecuadorian highlands, Peru/Machu Picchu and the Amazon.

Contact:  1102 Ninth Street, Berkeley, California 94710 USA; 510-558-2488, www.wildernesstravel.com.

Charles Darwin in More Detail 

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

An excerpt from Galapagos: Both Sides of the Coin, by Pete Oxford and Graham Watkins (Imagine Publishing, 2009).

Of all the scientists to visit the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin has had the single greatest influence. Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England. In 1831, having studied medicine at Edinburgh and having spent time studying for Holy Orders at Cambridge, with nudging from Professor Henslow, Darwin convinced Captain Robert FitzRoy to let him join him aboard the H. M. S. Beagle as the ship’s naturalist. FitzRoy was taking the Beagle on a charting voyage around South America. On Sept 15, 1835 on the return route across the Pacific, the Beagle arrived in the Galapagos Islands. Darwin disembarked on San Cristóbal (Sept 17-22), Floreana (Sept 24-27), Isabela (Sept 29-Oct 2) and Santiago (Oct 8-17). FitzRoy and his officers developed updated charts of the archipelago, while Darwin collected geological and biological specimens on the islands.

At the time of his visit, Darwin had not yet developed the ideas he presented later; it was only in retrospect that he realized the full significance of the differences among Galapagos species. Noteworthy about his visit were his observations of three different species of Galapagos mockingbirds on different islands and what the acting governor, Englishman Nicholas Lawson, told him about the differences among the giant tortoises from different islands.

While in the archipelago, Darwin focused as much on geology as on biology, collecting many geological specimens. Later, when he grasped the significance of the differences among the mockingbirds and tortoises, he resorted to the collections of his crewmates to look for inter-island variations among birds, plants, and other species, having failed to label all the specimens in his own collections, by island.

On the Origin of Species (published in 1859) changed the way we look at and understand the world. The book focused on the transmutations of species and explained, in detail, the mechanism that underlies evolutionary change. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin countered the predominant view of the time by presenting observations on the high number of endemic species found in the islands, the close interrelatedness of these species, and the absence of some groups of species. All of these observations ran contrary to the reasoning behind “Special Creation,” then the dominant explanation of the distribution of species.

Critically, Darwin suggested a highly logical alternative mechanism to explain the distribution and types of species, which he termed “natural selection.” His argument was that if individuals vary with respect to a particular trait and if these variants have a different likelihood of surviving to the next generation, then, in the future, there will be more of those with the variant more likely to survive.

In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin offered a compelling answer to the outstanding question of biology, which was “how life on earth had evolved.” The book was, as Darwin commented, “one long argument” that stemmed from his five-week visit to the Galapagos Islands and attempted to include all life on earth. On the Origin of Species linked Darwin and Galapagos inextricably and changed the islands forever.

Breathtaking Machu Picchu -- both the beauty and the altitude. * Photo: Mountain Travel Sobek

Breathtaking Machu Picchu — both the beauty and the altitude. * Photo: Mountain Travel Sobek

Machu Picchu

If you’re going to the Galapagos Islands, you may want to consider a trip to Machu Picchu, many lines offer add-ons to the amazing Inca site in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Most trips are 4 to 8 days, allowing for a day or two to acclimatize in historic Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire at about 11,800 feet above sea level, before hiking, training or helicoptering to the stunning remains of the 15th-century Machu Picchu, which are set dramatically on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba River some 50 miles from Cusco at almost 8,000 feet.

The best way to experience Machu Picchu is to hike at least one way — consider a two- or three-day trek, with porters to carry your stuff, set up the tents and cook your food — though may people opt to take the train to the site from Cusco. When you first lay eyes on the well-preserved ruins of temples, alters, fountains and staircases, you’ll be blown away. Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Peru’s capital Lima, with its gorgeous 16th-century old town is the oldest Spanish colony in South America; Lima is less than an hour’s flight from Cusco and less than two hours by air from Guayaquil.

 

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Fly-Free from Australia Cruise Offers

Fly-Free from Australia Cruise Offers

Check out these special small-ship cruise offers that include free economy round-trip airfare from the folks at Cruise Traveller, an Australia-based small-ship expert. For more details or to book, click on the links to go to the agency’s website.

Click here for more info about Cruise Traveller.

Cruises below are available to Australian passengers only.

 

Cruise Traveller

 

Happy small-ship cruising!

Galapagos Greats: LINDBLAD & THE GALAPAGOS Islands

Cruise Package: 7-night Galapagos cruise adventure plus 2 hotel nights, round-trip from Guayaquil; selected departures August to November 2019.

Ship: 96-passenger Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Endeavour II; built in 2006 and refurbished in 2016.

Fly-Free from Australia Cruise Offers

National Geographic Endeavour II.

Offer Includes:

  • Free return economy class airfare between Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne and Guayaquil.
  • 2-night (1 pre and 1 post) hotel stay in Guayaquil with breakfast and transfer to charter flight.
  • Free round-trip charter flights between Guayaquil and the Galapagos.
  • 7-night cruise aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II round-trip from the Galapagos including all shipboard meals, open bar (some top shelf beverages not included) plus Zodiac shore excursions and port taxes.

➢➢Fares for Twin Cat 1 Ocean View Upper Deck cabins from $9,120 AUD per person; Twin Cat 3 Ocean View Lounge Deck cabins from $11,990 AUD per person; and Single 2S Ocean View Upper Deck cabins from $13,620 AUD per person.

Expires: 31 July 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.  

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

Fly-Free from Australia Cruise Offers

A map of the Galápagos Islands. * Map: Cruise Traveller

 

Shamrock Express: ADVENTURE CANADA & IRELAND

Cruise Package: 11-night Ireland expedition cruise plus 1 hotel night; round-trip from Dublin, departs 9 June 2019.

Ship: 198-passenger Ocean Endeavour; built in 1982 and last refitted in 2016.

"Adventure Canada" Specials

Ocean Endeavor. * Photo: Adventure Canada

Offer Includes:

  • Free round-trip economy class airfare between Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and Dublin.
  • 1-night hotel stay in Dublin with breakfast with transfers.
  • 11-night expedition cruise aboard the Ocean Endeavour round-trip from Dublin, Ireland including all shipboard meals, plus Zodiac shore excursions and port taxes.

➢➢Fares for Twin Cat 4 Ocean View cabins from $12,545 AUD per person (was $16,790); Twin Cat 6 Ocean View cabins from $15,160 AUD per person (was $19,790); and Single Cat 4 Ocean View cabins from $14,760 AUD per person (was $24,330).

Expires: 15 April 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.  

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

Ireland cruise. * Map: Cruise Traveller

 

The King Penguin Parade: PONANT & THE SUB-ANTARCTICS

Cruise Package: 14-night Sub-Antarctic expedition cruise plus 2 hotel nights, from Dunedin to Lyttelton, departs 1 Feb 2020.

Ship: 184-passenger Le Laperouse; built in 2018.

quirky-cruise-cruise-traveller-deals-june-18-2018-stern-of-le-laperouse

The stern of Le Laperouse. * Rendering: Ponant

Offer Includes:

  • Free round-trip economy class airfare from Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne to Dunedin and out of Christchurch on return.
  • 1-night hotel stay in Dunedin, New Zealand with transfers.
  • 14-night expedition cruise aboard the Le Laperouse from Dunedin to Lyttelton including all shipboard meals, open bar, plus Zodiac shore excursions and port taxes.
  • 1-night hotel stay in Christchurch, New Zealand with transfers.

➢➢Fares for Twin Cat DEL Deluxe Balcony from $17,675 AUD per person (was $21,055); Twin Cat PR4 Prestige Balcony from $19,545 AUD per person (was $23,360).

Expires: 31 March 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.  

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

Fly-Free from Australia Cruise Offers

New Zealand and the SubAntarctic region. * Map: Cruise Traveller

Note: Deals are generated by, and the responsibility of, Cruise Traveller, and are based on availability and are subject to change. Cruises are capacity-controlled and offers may be withdrawn at any time. All rates are per person and some fares may include shore excursions and some or all beverages.

quirkycruise bird

 

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Celebrity Cruises Galapagos

If you’ve cruised on the biggies, you’ll feel right at home on these sporty miniature versions.

Many feel at ease knowing that the well-established Celebrity Cruises, a line that otherwise keeps busy with its fleet of giant 2,000 to 3,000-passenger mega ships, is behind the operation. Celebrity launched the 100-passenger, 296-foot CELEBRITY XPEDITION back in 2004, a groundbreaking move at the time for a mainstream cruise line, to sail year-round in the Galapagos Islands. The-mini cruise ship, or mega-yacht as the company refers to it, carries 5 zodiac landing craft on board for rides to remote beaches, bays and snorkeling sites, for up-close encounters with sea lions, turtles, schools of fish, and marine birds, namely the well-known frigates and blue-footed boobies.

The 48-passenger M/V ECLIPSE and the 16-passenger catamaran M/C ATHALA II  both of which started year-round cruises in March 2017 were replaced in mid-2019 by the brand new 100-passenger ship, the CELEBRITY FLORA, for the Galapagos.

RELATED: Celebrity’s Custom-Built Galapagos Ship, Celebrity Flora … by Anne Kalosh.

Seeing fur seals up close is business as usual. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Seeing fur seals up close is business as usual. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

CELEBRITY XPEDITION (built 2001, 100 passengers); CELEBRITY FLORA (b. 2019, 100 p.). The crew is mostly Ecuadoran.

RELATED: Galapagos Islands Cruise Overview

Celebrity Expeditions

CELEBRITY FLORA entered service in mid-2019. * Photo: Celebrity Expeditions

Passenger Profile

Wildlife-loving, eco-minded couples and families from North America mostly (click HERE for a kid’s review), with a sprinkling of passengers from the UK and Europe, who have always dreamed of going to the Galapagos Islands. Some have cruised on parent company Celebrity’s mega ships.

Passenger Decks

XPEDITION, 4 decks and an elevator connects 4 of them; CELEBRITY FLORA, 6 decks and elevator between all but highest deck.

Price

$$ – $$$  Expensive to Super Pricey

Included Features

On packages of 10 nights or more, guided shore excursions, tips, wine, spirits and all drinks throughout cruise, plus round-trip airfare between Quito and Baltra, 2 hotels nights before and 1 after in Quito (on mainland) with transfer and meals. Snorkeling gear and wetsuits are always included.

Guided excursions via zodiac boats take passengers close up to scenery and wildlife. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Guided excursions via zodiac boats take passengers close up to scenery and wildlife. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Itineraries

  • 7-, 10-, 11-, 13- and 15-night cruise packages round-trip from the island of Baltra, where the islands’ main airport is. You also add on over-land tours to Peru’s Machu Picchu.
  • Highlights include Kicker Rock, stunning stacks of towering volcanic rock formations that are home to many species of nesting birds including blue-footed boobies; the beaches of Cerro Brujo for close encounters with sea lions; and deep sea snorkeling off the coast of Isla Isabela to gaze on sea turtles, penguins, and marine iguanas feeding on underwater algae.
  • The addition of the two new ships greatly expanded Celebrity’s itinerary options in the Galapagos, with routes now stopping at the white sand beaches of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, the submerged caldera at Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island, and the mango estuary of Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island. Some visit the volcanic Chinese Hat Islet and Wall of Tears, a wall built by prisoners at a penal colony on Isabela Island in the 1940s and 50s.
Getting this close to wildlife is a thrill. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Getting this close to wildlife is a thrill. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

When to Go?

The ships cruise in the Galapagos Islands year-round; because of school holidays, the summer months and December/January are considered the peak season price-wise.

December though June is the rainy season with the warmest water and air temps or the year; there is sun and daily rain showers (late April and May are pretty ideal, as there’s less rain, flowers are blooming and sea lion pups are being born).

You’ll rarely get rain July through December, though it tends to be cloudy and seas can be rougher, however these months tend to be better for bird watching.

Cabins

On all three, all cabins are outside with balconies, windows and/or portholes. XPEDITION has 13 suites and all cabins have a sitting area, desk, TV, hairdryers, safe and bathrobes. FLORA is an all-suite ship, and the standard suite, the Sky Suite, will measure 33 square feet and have an Infinite Veranda. The doors to the Infinite Veranda can slide to the side to make the veranda a seamless part of the room. When the doors are closed, creating a separate veranda area, the top of a floor-to-ceiling outside window can be lowered to the open air. FLORA also has a few bigger, posher suites.

The top-of-the-line pair of corner Penthouse Suites, 1,288 square feet/120 square meters each, feature big verandas (321 square feet/30 square meters) and bathrooms (196 square feet/18 square meters) with floor-to-ceiling windows. The ship has stay in place without using an anchor that might damage the ocean floor and stabilizers that operate effectively at 0-speed. Seawater is processed to fresh for all needs.

One of 12 suites on board XPEDITION. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Public Rooms

Ships have two dining areas and a windowed lounge for daily lectures by the onboard naturalists. Each has a bar, with XPEDITION also boasting a small dance floor and a piano too. XPEDITION’s outdoor Blue Finch bar on the Promenade is the place for drinks with great views of islands. As the largest of the trio, XPEDITION offers the most amenities, with a small gym, co-ed sauna, massage room and a small boutique. All three have a sun deck with padded chaise lounges for sunbathing and relaxing, and each has a hot tub.

The CELEBRITY FLORA will have Darwin’s Cove, a place where passengers can chat with the naturalists who lead tours and give informative talks. There will be one naturalist guide for every dozen passengers. Briefings will be delivered in FLORA’s Discovery Lounge, where there’s a full bar, stage for entertainment and comfy seating. The lounge’s walls are nearly all glass, making another great place to take in the views. FLORA has plenty of open-air spaces on the top deck for lounging and observing wildlife and a stargazing platform. Four rental cabanas are available for privacy by day or sleeping under the stars.

Dining

Each boat has two relatively informal dining venues, one indoor and one al fresco, with open-seating tables of six and eight. Continental cuisine incorporates locally caught fish and fresh vegetables and fruits from the region, plus basics like roast chicken, ribs and pastas. No jackets or formal dressing are required. On XPEDITION, the al fresco Beagle Grill at the stern of Deck 6 is a casual place serving burgers, hot dogs, pizza, salads and the like, and sometimes there’s a grilled seafood fest at lunchtime. Usually once per cruise there’s a lovely barbecue on deck under the stars.

On FLORA, besides the Seaside Restaurant, open for all meals, the ship will have a casual alternative, the Ocean Grill, with panoramic views and the opportunity to dine under the stars.

Grilled seafood and corn on the cob for lunch is a delicious affair. on board XPEDITION, * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Activities & Entertainment

The islands themselves and the wildlife you’ll encounter are the big stars with typically two excursions per day. When on board, then, most passengers are eager to relax and watch the scenery from the decks, look through the reference books in the small libraries or listen to the daily talks by the naturalists. You can also fit in a gym workout on XPEDITION. A marina in CELEBRITY FLORA’s stern will make it easy to step into Zodiacs for the frequent nature tours — hiking, swimming and snorkeling — that characterize a Galápagos cruise. A staircase leads from the marina to the Sunset Lounge, an outdoor space with a plunge pool.

Evenings, it’s drinks with friends at the bar and on most cruises, local entertainers come on board for a few hours to do a traditional Ecuadorian music, singing and dance performance. Another highlight is a slideshow of passengers’ encounters with wildlife during the course of the cruise.

Along the Same Lines

Lindblad Expeditions.

Contact

Celebrity Cruises, 1050 Caribbean Way, Miami, FL 33132; 888-751-7804.

— HMS

 

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AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

Our partners at AdventureSmith Explorations are sharing these five small-ship cruise deals for voyages in Alaska, Galapagos, Antarctica, Baja California and Southeast Asia in 2018 & 2019. For more details or to book, click on the links to go to their website. For Galapagos travel tips from AdventureSmith Explorations’ founder Todd Smith, click here.

 

AdventureSmith Explorations

 

HAPPY SMALL-SHIP CRUISING! 🤩

 

Antarctic Latitudes Cruises — Save Up To 20% On Select 2019 Antarctic Expeditions

Cruise: 11-night round-trip Antarctic exploration from Ushuaia, Argentina.

Special Offer: 20% off per person on select Antarctica cruises in February and March 2019; fares before discount starting at $9,995 per person.

Vessel: 114-passenger Hebridean Sky, built in 1991, refurbished in 2016; OR 112-passenger Island Sky, built in 1992, refurbished in 2017.

For more details or to book this offer, visit AdventureSmith Explorations.

AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

Hebridean Sky

 

Wild Alaska — Complimentary Airfare on May 2019 Wild Alaska Escape Cruises

Cruise: 5-night active journey in Alaska’s Inside Passage between Sitka and Juneau.

Special Offer: Complimentary per person airfare between Sitka and Seattle on the May 25 & 30, 2019, departures of Wild Alaska Escape aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird; fares before discount starting at $4,290 per person.

Vessel: 62-passenger Sea Bird; built in 1982, refurbished in 2014.

For more details or to book this offer, visit AdventureSmith Explorations.

AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

Sea Bird

 

Baja California Whale-Centric Cruises — $350 Air Credit on Jan 2019 Baja California “Among the Great Whales” Cruises

Cruise: 9-night wildlife-focused journey of Baja California round-trip from La Paz, Mexico.

Special Offer: $350 air credit per person when you book by December 31, 2018; fares before discount starting at $7,530 per person.

Vessel: 62-passenger Sea Bird, built in 1982, refurbished in 2014; OR 100-passenger Venture, built in 2018.

For more details or to book this offer, visit AdventureSmith Explorations.

AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

Venture

 

Luxury Mekong River Cruises — Save Up To 30% On Select 2019 & 2020 Aqua Mekong River Cruises

Cruise: 3- 4- or 7-night Mekong River cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia between various points, including Tonle Sap Lake (Cambodia) and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).

Special Offer: Save up to 30% when you book select 2019 & 2020 Aqua Mekong River cruises departing between May 3 & August 13, 2019 and May 1 & August 6, 2020; fares before discount starting at $4,050 per person.

Vessel: 40-passenger Aqua Mekong.

For more details or to book this offer, visit AdventureSmith Explorations.

AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

Aqua Mekong

 

Upscale Galapagos Cruises — Save Up To 40% On Select 2018 5- And 7-Day La Pinta Galapagos Cruises

Cruise: 4- or 6-night navigation of the Northern, Eastern, or Western Galapagos Islands.

Special Offer: Save up to 40% when you book your select 2018 5- or 7-day La Pinta Galapagos cruises; fares before discount starting at $4,344 per person. Must travel before Dec 31, 2018.

Vessel: 48-passenger La Pinta; refurbished in 2007.

For more details or to book this offer, visit AdventureSmith Explorations.

AdventureSmith Explorations Small Ship Cruise Offers

La Pinta

 

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G Adventures

For more than 30 years, G Adventures has been offering affordable adventure travel around the world including small-ship cruises (about 10-15% of their total annual business) on private yachts, catamarans and oceangoing expedition-style ships, with more recent offerings on riverboats. They also sell travel by rail, road and air. Their MO is providing small groups with authentic cultural experiences, through local guides, cuisine, and transport and uncontrived excursions. The target skews younger — 20s to 50s — than most other travel companies; though any age will be comfortable if they’ve got a young-at-heart attitude and a decent level of fitness.

A trained, local CEO, or Chief Experience Officer, guides all trips and acts as the point person to make sure things run smoothly. (On the G EXPEDITION ship, there are additional expert guides in various disciplines). The emphasis is on active exploring, using bicycles for example, and on supporting local businesses and communities (i.e. through visits to schools and charity-supported restaurants in Cambodia).

To keep rates reasonable on the various sailing trips, meals are not included, instead the skipper collects a modest amount of money from passengers who want to share a simple breakfast and lunch on board (skipper goes grocery shopping for the basics); for dinner, it’s expected that passengers will want to eat dinner in port on the islands (who wouldn’t want to!). A BYOB policy (bring your own booze) is in effect on board most of the Europe-based sailing and river cruises. The line matches same sex passengers to avoid single fares.

With 700 itineraries in more than 90 countries (including the new series of in-depth riverboat tours called National Geographic Journeys), G Adventures excels in offering trips geared to various ages, styles and interests — from families with young children to budget-minded “yolo’s” (the 18- to 39-year-old set).  Adventures is dynamic, cutting-edge, socially minded and hip (cue the great photos and video on their website), and definitely thinks outside of the typical travel company box. Quirky cruise anyone?

The line owns the G EXPEDITION ship for trips to the Arctic and Antarctica, and does full-ship charters for its many other small-ship offerings (hence ships may vary from year to year, and listings below reflect a portion of their current fleet). Consult their 150-page encyclopedia!

G Adventures

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

XAVIER III (built 1996, refurbished 2004; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

MONSERRAT (built 2005, refurbished 2016; 20 passengers) – Galapagos

QUEEN OF THE GALAPAGOS (built 2007; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

YOLITA (built 2007, refurbished 2016; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

ESTRELLA DEL MAR (built 1990, refurbished 2014; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

REINA SILVIA VOYAGER  (built 2020; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

EDEN  (built 2000, refurbished 2012; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

G EXPEDITION (built 1972, refurbished 2008; 134 passengers) – Arctic/Antarctica, designed to Ice Class 1B specifications

DANIELE (built 2015; 22 passengers) – Burgundy, France

TOUM TIOU II (built 2008; 28 passengers) – Mekong

VARUNA (built 2006; 24 passengers) — Ganges

AMATISTA (built 1994; 30 passengers) – Amazon

SAILING VESSELS in Europe, the Caribbean and Asia may change from year to year, but those chartered generally carry about 8 to 16 passengers.

A catamaran cruise in the waters of Thailand. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A catamaran cruise in the waters of Thailand. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Passenger Profile

Adventurous couples, singles, and families of all ages (though especially the under 40 set) mostly from North America, and a handful from the UK, Europe and other places. The ocean expedition cruises tend to attract largely couples, average age mid-50s, while the sailing tours draw mostly 30s singles.

Passenger Decks

2-3; no elevators.

Price

$ to $$, Moderate to Expensive

Included Features

Generally meals are included across the board except on the small sailing yachts. For Galapagos and South America coastal cruises, snorkeling gear is part of the package, while bicycles are carried on French rivers and on the Mekong. On some itineraries guided shore excursions are also included.

Passengers on an excursion in the Galapagos. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Passengers on an excursion in the Galapagos. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Itineraries
  • Galapagos: There are mostly 7, 10 and up to 17-day cruises either round-trip from Baltra or San Cristobal islands, packaged with a 1- or 2-night hotel stay in mainland Quito, Ecuador with the longest more elaborate stays in Ecuador. Itineraries focus mostly on the Central (including Santa Cruz Santiago), Western (Isabela and Fernandina) and Southern (Floreana and Espanola) island groups, to get up close and personal with the amazing wildlife and diverse landscape. (Note: airfare between Quito and the islands is not included in the rates as it often is with other lines).
G Adventures

Estrella Del Mar in the Galapagos. * Photo- © G Adventures, Inc.

  • Europe Rivers: 6-night cruises round-trip from Dijon through France’s Burgundy region visit small villages and wineries, with excursions on foot and by bicycle.
  • India Rivers: 15-night cruises from Patna to Kolkata (Calcutta) on the Ganges River visit ancient temples, ornate palaces and sixth-century rock carvings. South, east and north coast catamaran sailing in Sri Lanka.
  • Southeast Asia Rivers: 7-night cruises (plus 2 hotel nights) on classic-style riverboats between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap go to wet and floating markets, temples (including a sunrise visit to the legendary Angkor Wat on the longer itins), stilt villages, and Vietnam war sites (such as the Cu Chi tunnels and Reunification Palace, associated with the Fall of Saigon in 1975).
  • Turkey & Croatia: 9-night super casual catamaran cruises travel between Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia, and between Bodrum and Fethiye, Turkey.
  • Greek Isles: 7-night super casual yacht cruises sail between Santorini and Mykonos with stops at untouristy offbeat islands in the Cyclades; maybe including Folegandros, Sifnos, Ios, Antiparos, Paros and/or Naxos.
  • Cuba: 6-night super casual catamaran cruises sail round-trip out of Havana and visit points on the Canarreos Archipelago with a focus on snorkeling, swimming and beach-bumming.
  • British Virgin Islands: 6-night catamaran cruises are round-trip from Tortola and hit all the best offbeat swimming, snorkeling and beach sites.
  • Maldives: 6-night cruises aboard a traditional dhoni (a dhow-like fishing boat) spend a week snorkeling and diving in the gorgeous waters of the Maldives islands, and its lagoons and atolls.
  • Thailand: Choose from 6 nighters round-trip from Phuket and 3-night cruises between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. Indonesia Interisland catamaran cruising from Bali to nearby islands and Lombok.
Amarista on the Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Amarista on the Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

  • Amazon River: 7-night cruises on the Amazon depart from Iquitos, Peru; with optional pre- or post land trips to Machu Picchu.
  • Antarctica: 10- to 22-night cruises round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina visit points throughout the South Shetland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula. Longest cruises add the Falklands and South Georgia..
  • Arctic/Norwegian Fjords: 10- to 14-night cruises between Reykjavik, Iceland, and Longyearbyen, Norway, visit ports along the coasts of Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard.
  • South America: 4- to 5-week-long cruises along the west coast of South America (Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia) are offered as the G EXPEDITION repositions between Antarctica and the Arctic region, with excursions to fjords, glaciers, national parks and rain forests, plus a 3-day overland trip to Machu Picchu.
No shortage of South Georgia Penguins in the Antarctica. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

No shortage of South Georgia Penguins in the Antarctica. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

When to Go?

Galapagos is year-round, Antarctica late October through mid-March; Arctic late May through mid-September, SE Asia July-April, Maldives year-round, Thailand October-April, and Europe April-October.

Cabins

G EXPEDITION (Polar) is G Adventures’ owned ship for polar travel; it has five different cabin categories that range in size and layout. All have private bathrooms with showers, and a porthole or window. The two lowest categories are quads and triples with upper and lower bunk beds. All other categories have two lower beds, except for four larger suites that have a queen bed.

QUEEN OF GALAPAGOS (Galapagos) the most high-end of the company’s five Galapagos ships, has 9 luxury cabins all with windows, private bathroom and air conditioning, TV and DVD players — 7 have queen or twin beds, and 1 is a suite with a sitting area.

A light-filled twin cabin on the Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A light-filled twin cabin on the Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

YOLITA’s (Galapagos) 8 cabins have queen or twin beds, large windows, and TVs with DVD players. All have private bathrooms and air conditioning.

XAVIER III’s (Galapagos) 8 cabins are all double-occupancy with twin beds; 4 on the upper deck cabins with windows, and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All come with private bathrooms and air conditioning.

A twin cabin on Xavier III. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A twin cabin on Xavier III. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

MONSERRAT’s (Galapagos) 10 cabins comprise 6 double-occupancy upper deck cabins with windows and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All are equipped with private bathrooms and air conditioning.

EDEN (Galapagos) takes 16 passengers and a two wraparound decks to easily access all directions. 4 cabins are twin lowers, a double bed cabin, and  3 twin-share bunk cabins, all with private facilities and A/C.

ESTRELLA DEL MAR (Galapagos) has 8 double-occupancy cabins with bunk beds, 4 on the upper deck with windows and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All have private bathrooms and air conditioning.

DANIELE (France) is a canal barge with 12 lower deck cabins all with windows and private bathrooms, TV, radio, and air-conditioning.

TOUM TIOU II (Mekong) has 6 upper deck cabins and 8 lower deck cabins, all with windows and en-suite bathrooms.

AMATISTA (Amazon) has 15 cabins — 7 upper deck and 8 lower deck, all with windows and private bathrooms.

VARUNA (Ganges) has 12 air-conditioned cabins, all with en suite bathrooms.

CATAMARANS/SAILING YACHTS (Cuba, BVIs, Greece, Croatia, Thailand, Maldives), the vessels may vary from year to year, but generally have 4 to 8 double cabins often (but not always) with private bathrooms.

Dining room on Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Dining room on Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Public Rooms & Dining

All Galapagos vessels and the polar ship G EXPEDITION have an indoor observation lounge for talks by the naturalists, plus a bar, small library, outdoor observation deck with chairs for relaxing, and indoor dining area for casual and relaxed meals. The menus where possible incorporate local ingredients, such as fish.

TOUM TIOU II (Mekong River) has a main lounge with a large-screen TV for watching a limited selection of DVDs, a library, bar, and open-air dining area and indoor/outdoor lounges. DANIELE (France) has a lounge with bar, dining area, sun deck with loungers and parasols, and a hot tub.

The small catamarans and yachts in the Caribbean, Europe, Thailand and the Maldives, and the riverboat on the Amazon, all have a combination lounge and dining area indoors, plus outdoor seating for sunbathing and hanging out.

Some vessels have reliable Wi-Fi, including G EXPEDITION, but on many, connectivity is spotty.

Amatista on Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Amatista on Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Activities & Entertainment

In general, the entertainment is the destination and interaction with fellow passengers, sharing conversation and drinks on deck. Activities happen in port or in the water while snorkeling, diving, kayaking or zipping around in zodiacs or small skiffs. The Galapagos boats carry 2 zodiacs for expeditions and snorkeling equipment for passengers’ use (wet suits are free of charge on QUEEN OF GALAPAGOS and YOLITA only). DANIELE (France) has a hot tub, and it and the Mekong riverboat carry a handful of bicycles.

Along the Same Lines

QuarkOne Ocean, Poseidon Adventures in the polar regions.

Contact

G Adventures, 19 Charlotte Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H5; 416-260-0999. US office: 179 South Street, 1st floor, Boston, MA 0211, 877 390 9050. Additionally in USA & Canada 1-888-8000-4100; UK 0344 272 2060; Australia 1300 853 325; New Zealand 0800 333 415. Consult the website for additional international telephone numbers.

— HMS

 

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GreenTracks

GreenTracks, in business since 1992, operates wildlife, archeological and cultural cruise and land tours to South America with its geographical emphasis on the Amazon River and its tributaries; Peru and Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, national parks and reserves, and stays in Amazon rain forest lodges; Brazil and the Pantanal for wildlife; and the Galapagos Islands.

Cruises use a wide range of chartered Amazon riverboats, and in the Galapagos, a pair of 16-passenger yachts. GreenTracks specializes in matching cruises with land travel, exploration, and lodge stays. Apart from set departure dates for cruises, cruise-tours, and land-only tours, the firm will customize travel arrangements for groups, and in the case of cruises, will handle from eight to 38 travelers within the fleet it charters.

GreenTracks is the big fish in the Amazon, offering the widest choice of Upper Amazon riverboats from the affordable to the luxurious.

Bora Village, Upper Amazon. * Photo: Ted Scull

Bora Village, Upper Amazon. * Photo: Ted Scull

THE AMAZON

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

Click HERE for GreenTrack’s table listing the eight vessels chartered for their Amazon Cruises with passenger capacities, amenities, length of cruises, price comparisons, and single supplements. All vessels share outside cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. A few have cabins for a third person such as a child or three friends sharing, while single cabins are scarce. Balcony cabins are few but on the Amazon, you will want to sit out on deck with 360-degree views.  

Note: A couple of the vessels have historic backgrounds, including as far back as the rubber boom at the start of the 20th century.

Passenger Decks

All vessels have three decks, except the CATTLEYA, with just two and cabin space for only eight passengers.

31-passenger ESTRELLA cruises the Upper Amazon. * Photo: GreenTracks

Passenger Profile

With a wide range of accommodations and price levels, the company attracts travelers and cruise passengers of all ages down to as young as about seven years. The majority of passengers will be Americans.

Price

$ to $$$. The chart shows a range of per diem rates.

Itineraries

The Amazon, when referring to these river cruises, is the overall designation that comprises the various Peruvian tributaries flowing into the main stream that becomes the Amazon that ultimately empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Cruises, based in Iquitos, Peru, are mostly 4, 5, and 8 days, and the emphasis on wildlife and cultural pursuits and itineraries varies with different boats.

Destinations are scenic waterways, some penetrating deep into the rain forest and lagoons, national parks and reserves, and riverside villages. Apart from the cruise, nearly everyone tacks on at least a few land days staying at a rain forest lodge or visiting destinations such as Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Peru or Brazil’s national parks.

Amazon riverboat DELFIN II - Green Tracks

Amazon riverboat DELFIN II – Green Tracks

Included Features

Transfers, meals, excursions, guides, and bottled water. Some river boats include soft drinks, beer and wine with meals. As to tipping, some recommend about $80 per person for a week and include the guide, and boat staff, and a few others, a whopping $20-30 a day for the crew and $7-10 per diem for the guides. Those figures must represent their wages.

Why Go?

With the aid of trained GreenTracks guides, you will have plenty of eagle eyes picking out the vast array of birds, mammals, aquatic species seen along the rivers and deep in the rain forests. Village stops are also on the itineraries, many quite isolated and only connected by water.

The riverboats are a comfortable way to take you to numerous locations to then explore more locally in small craft and on foot, followed by relaxing down time at the end of the day. To see more of the country, combine the river cruise with a rain forest lodge stay, a trip up to Machu Picchu or another land destination.

Fish market along the Upper Amazon, Iquitos, Peru

Fish market along the Upper Amazon, Iquitos, Peru. * Photo: Ted Scull

When to Go?

The cruises operate year-round, and the weather is slightly wetter with higher water levels December to May and less rain and lower water levels June to November. The temperature variation is minimal, and the water levels affect how deep the exploratory boats can travel up shallow tributaries.

Cabins

Sleeping accommodations vary in size and included amenities, so check the chart and the individual profiles. All cabins are outside with windows and all have private showers and toilets.

Public Rooms

Every riverboat has open deck space for viewing, including portions under cover, a lounge with bar, and a single dining room.

Dining

Passengers eat at the same time for all meals, and feeding times are matched with the day’s excursions. Given the variety of vessels chartered and what you pay, the meals will vary from good substantial offerings that you look forward to on up to gourmet levels you’ll go ga-ga over aboard the more expensive riverboats.

Activities & Entertainment

The activities take place ashore on hikes and in small boats, two to three outings a day. Aboard, a crew member may play a musical instrument, and the tour leader is there to answer questions and lay out the daily programs but generally GreenTracks does not offer formal lectures — unless the group asks for them. The time aboard the boat is for relaxation, enjoying the river when underway, reading up, socializing, sleeping and eating.

Gone Fishing, Upper Amazon, Peru. Photo: Ted Scull

Gone Fishing, Upper Amazon, Peru. Photo: Ted Scull

THE GALAPAGOS

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

Sea Star Journey (built 2008; 16 passengers);  Seaman Journey (built 2003, refurbished 2011; 16 passengers).

Itineraries

Galapagos cruises can be as short as 4 days/3 nights and as long as to 15 days/14 nights. Additional days increase the number of islands visited.

Included Features

Excursions, guides, use of equipment. Tipping levels are high (as they tend to be with other lines too in the Galapagos): $8-$10 per person a day for the naturalist and $25-$30 pp a day for the crew.

Why Go?

Wildlife in the air, on land and at sea is amazing for its variety and its casual response to human visitors. You can literally walk (carefully) amongst lounging marine iguanas. Different islands have their own particular species and/or share similar wildlife with other islands. A partial list includes pelicans, frigate birds, blue- and red-footed boobies, penguins, albatross, cormorants, fur seals, sea lions, marine iguanas, and the giant tortoise.

Marine Iguanas, Galapagos, Ecuador. * Photo: Suellyn Scull

Marine Iguanas, Galapagos, Ecuador. * Photo: Suellyn Scull

When to Go

Cruises operate year-round. The climate is subtropical and the water temperatures are affected by the islands’ location with regard to both the cold Humboldt and the warmer El Nino currents. January to June is warm season with rain and good for ocean activities; July to December is cooler and dry.

Peak periods for visitors are the holidays from before Christmas through New Year’s and summer school’s out months. GreenTracks’ website has a detailed month by month rundown of what to expect from the weather and the wildlife.

Cabins

Both vessels carry just 16 passengers in outside cabins, mostly doubles, one triple on SEAMAN JOURNEY (a twin-hulled catamaran) and also one suite on SEA STAR JOURNEY (a mono-hull yacht).

Galapagos catamaran SEAMAN JOURNEY takes just 16 passengers. * Photo: GreenTracks

Sea Star Journey

Matrimonial Suite aboard Sea Star Journey. * Photo: Green Tracks

Public Rooms

Vessels have a lounge and bar, dining inside and out on deck, covered deck area for relaxing and viewing.

Dining

Meals are of a high standard and carefully presented for the 16 passengers, and everyone dines at the same time.

Activities & Entertainment

By day it’s snorkeling, scuba diving, sea kayaking, hiking, and sandy beaches for swimming; come evening, enjoy mingling with shipmates and recaps of the day’s events and what’s ahead. SEA STAR JOURNEY has a Sun Deck Jacuzzi.

Along the Same Lines

For Amazon River cruises, GreenTracks used such a large and varied fleet that most other well-run firms will share similarities. In the Galapagos, look at the operators of low-capacity yachts.

Contact

GreenTracks, 416 County Road 501, PMB 131, Bayfield, CO 81122; 970-884-6107.

 

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