Top 5 Galapagos Last-minute Red Flags (and how to avoid them)!
Traveling is everyone’s dream. So, when a last-minute deal pops up on our screen, we can easily understand the excitement that comes along with seeing it, especially the excitement that comes from seeing an excellent price! So tantalizing is the glimpse of an excellent deal, that we might even already feel the breeze on our face, the sweet taste of a cocktail as we watch the sun set in a faraway land and, of course, the satisfaction of discovering an idyllic place without breaking the bank. Galapagos last-minute deals are a true blessing for most travelers looking for an ideal trip to this once-in-a-lifetime destination. Nevertheless, the cheapest deal can easily transform into the biggest nightmare.
I, myself, happened to experience one of these hellish journeys (don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it later on). As a result, I felt compelled to share my two cents on Galapagos last-minute red flags that all visitors need to look out for and how to deal with them like a pro.
Galapagos Last-minute Red Flag #1: An Unbelievably Low Price
In Galapagos, the adage “you get what you pay for” is most definitely true. If a price looks like it’s almost too good to be true, then it’s probably because it really is too good to be true.
Are you being offered an “all-inclusive” 5-day cruise for the modest price of around $1,200 dollars (or sometimes even less)? This is an instant red flag. Even for a Galapagos last-minute deal, that’s a really, really cheap and almost suspicious price. Keep in mind that the price you pay for a cabin aboard is an immediate indicator of the service you’ll get, the quality of the food you’ll be eating aboard, the experiences you’ll get to live, the level of comfort you’ll receive, and so on.
Not to mention, less days automatically = lower price, but did you know that the minimum recommended number of days to properly experience Galapagos is 5 days? (Fact: you lose virtually 1.5 days flying into and out of the archipelago).
Solution: Investing just a little bit more time and money into your last-minute vacation can really make a difference. Especially if you choose an experienced and renowned tour operator that, regardless of the price variations, will offer you a top-of-the-line expedition vessel with everything you need to really make every penny worth it.
Galapagos Last-minute Red Flag #2: Thinking “it’s a smaller vessel, so it must be more exclusive and intimate“
There’s a common belief and misconception that smaller vessels in Galapagos always offer guests more exclusivity in terms of the islands they visit and the voyage itself. But Expedition Vessels in Galapagos manage to put such a belief to bed. Take Metropolitan Touring’s Santa Cruz II for example: this relatively large boat (235 feet/71.8 meters) can hold up to 90 guests, which might sound like a lot of people onboard, but it really isn’t.
The Santa Cruz II offers one of the highest Guest-Space Ratios in all Galapagos, with a ratio of 29.6:1. This means you won’t be confined to one square meter of space during your journey and that you’ll get plenty of freedom to move around, explore, relax, have entire areas to yourself, and enjoy your journey with your arms wide open.
During my terrible experience aboard a purportedly “exclusive” 16-passenger boat, I shared what had to be the tiniest cabin with 4 other people. Quite frankly: no matter how sweet a deal might seem at first, the bunk bed and the lack of personal space simply weren’t worth it in the end.
And while you might think that smaller vessels have access to exclusive and secluded beaches, think again! Smaller vessels actually end up sharing the visitor site with 4 or more other smaller vessels. Our larger Expedition Vessels, on the other hand, actually get to experience visitor sites exclusively simply because they alone manage to fill up the quota of visitors allowed at each visitor site.
Did you know? The Galapagos National Park Authority requires all vessels to have 1 Naturalist Guide per 16 guests aboard. Smaller vessels will usually max out this ratio. Aboard our Galapagos Expedition Vessels, which are multi-guided, that same guide-to-guest ratio drops down to around 11 guests per Naturalist Guide, offering a more intimate guided experience than smaller vessels.
Galapagos Last-minute Red Flag #3: Not being sure about how “all-inclusive” an offer really is
Galapagos last-minute deals can be a lot like a mirage in the desert: they seem to offer a lot but they don’t actually deliver when you get up close to them. The worst part about this is that you’re only able to realize the gravity of your mistake once you’re onboard. Keep in mind that food, a bed, and expeditions are actually some of the most basic features that a vessel in Galapagos can offer. But other boats, for just a little bit more, offer substantial perks, such as: 24/7 medical assistance with a certified doctor, onboard lectures, fully-equipped common areas and even a professional photographer!
If you’re already going to make this trip, do it the right way! Having a memorable experience is way more important than saving a couple of dollars.
Galapagos Last-minute Red Flag #4: Assuming there’s only one way to go about exploring Galapagos
Many people think that when you embark on a Galapagos cruise, you’ll get to know all the Islands, flora and fauna there is. This is not true, but unfortunately, not all tour operators are entirely honest about it. Some vessels may not reach Genovesa, Fernandina or Española, which are some of the most isolated islands in Galapagos and, according to numerous experts and guides, some of the most diverse, untouched and beautiful of all the islands.
Whether it’s a Galapagos last-minute deal or not, you should always make sure that you have the ability to actually choose and pick what you want to see. If you need some help deciding, you can always take a peak in our Big15!
Galapagos Last-minute Red Flag #5: Thinking that, because it looks like a boat, it must be an Expedition Vessel
Galapagos last-minute deals will always offer you “the best” in order to convince you to seal the deal. Nevertheless, you’ll find the same speech offered across a lot of different vessels. If that’s the case, how do you make the right choice? Well, first of all, try not to get caught up in the heat of the moment: ask your tour operator everything you need to know, especially the following, highly important questions:
- How many guides do they have aboard (a.k.a. how many different types of activities do they offer, simultaneously)?
- Do they provide you with all the gear you need to enjoy all of the Galapagos National Park-approved water activities, at no extra cost?
- How does the vessel handle its waste?
- What type of water treatment plant do they have aboard?
- Are the meals adaptable to your needs?
- How long have they been sailing throughout the Galapagos Islands?
- There are a lot of things you need to consider, and these are perhaps some of the most important things you should always ask them.
Finally, the key thing for you to remember when facing Galapagos last-minute deals is: not all that glitters is gold. Make extra sure you’re taking into consideration every little detail and that you’re highly aware of those that cut corners to offer you something “great.” Believe it or not, the smallest things that you think aren’t necessary might actually end up being some of the biggest “experience-breakers.” The Galapagos Islands are a breathtaking destination. And while this blog might not be the ultimate factor in helping you decide on whether or not you choose to explore them aboard a lackluster or complete expedition vessel, it will definitely have you think twice about how you choose to experience them and the memories you’ll make when you visit them. So choose wisely and travel smart!
Isabel Espinoza (1994) was born and raised in the beautiful cradle of mountains we call Quito. She has a degree in Journalism from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. People and their stories have always been her thing (as well as traveling, nature, astronomy, and photography). Her love for Ecuador and its wonders is immense and blogging allows her to share a glimpse of this affection with the rest of the world.