14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
This was our second Zegrahm Adventure (the first was an outstanding joint venture to Antarctica, partnering with Stanford Alumni Travel in January, 2015). As we had never toured with any other group besides Stanford over the past 20 ... Read More
This was our second Zegrahm Adventure (the first was an outstanding joint venture to Antarctica, partnering with Stanford Alumni Travel in January, 2015). As we had never toured with any other group besides Stanford over the past 20 years, we were very impressed with the knowledgeable, caring and attentive Zegrahm staff (at all levels) that we experienced in Antarctica, so chose Zegrahm for our Galapagos adventure based on recommendations from fellow passengers, choices of destinations, value and type of adventures offered. Based on previous travel experience, we always arrive at our departure city at least one day prior to meeting the group. Zegrahm staff in the front office were very accommodating and booked both air and hotel reservations based on our needs, as well as provided transportation from the airport to the hotel for our early arrival. The process could not have been easier, customer friendly and helpful! Duane even contacted us immediately when the airline changed its flight schedules for one leg of our trip, and communicated with us frequently to ensure every detail was covered. Guayaquil, Ecuador is a very cosmopolitan city, and having completed some pre-trip exploring online and through reading, we had a days' list of activities. (For us) The city was very walkable and easy to get around, but cabs were plentiful and inexpensive ($5 to most destinations), if one wished. Metropolitan Touring was the local connection and also offered city tours, which were taken by some of our fellow colleagues. In Guayaquil, the Hilton Colon was our base--we were on a concierge floor, which offered a generous breakfast, all day snacks and an evenings' happy hour overlooking the city and river. The hotel had many amenities that we did not have time to enjoy--including several restaurants and lounges, a beautiful pool and patio, incredible spa and other personal services. Each day of the tour--beginning upon our arrival, we were briefed by a naturalist or the Tour Leader, Jack Grove, and given a written summery of the next day's schedule and "opportunities"! With only 30 passengers/members of the group, the embarkations and disembarkations were smooth--folks also had the option to stay on board and skip any activity--the only requirement was a simple "check in--check out" board as we boarded pandas/zodiacs for activities. This was our first experience with small ship sailing--30 passengers, 4 Naturalists, crew/kitchen staff and a physician! The cabins were comfortable--with AC and heat (not needed)--and it seemed that the cabin staff kept refreshing our room (with clean dry towels, esp.) every time we stepped out of the cabin! Most of the snorkelers enjoyed the hot tub after the afternoon dives, and the upper deck had a small fitness room, comfortable tables, chairs and lounges. Dining was buffet style for every meal--with a salad and fruit station for lunch and dinner, fruit and cereal/yogurt stations at breakfast--but other selections included eggs, breakfast meats, sometimes french toast/pancakes at breakfast; always a fish, pork/chicken and beef choice at lunch and dinner, lots of vegetables, and various versions of rice and potatoes. And of course, a dessert table, which offered fruit and other temptations! Food was simple, plentiful and delicious. My favorites were the Ecuadorian choices, the lunches with 3 types of ceviche, and the dinners on the top (patio/lounge) deck where we could watch the sunsets. The dining staff also provided juice and snacks each afternoon, after the activity--a welcome treat after snorkeling or kayaking! There was a full bar lounge in the lower deck, as well as a small shop (t-shirts and small souvenirs). There was never a dull moment--each destination/island was unique and beautiful. The Naturalists were knowledgeable, personable, and with us 24/7 (it seemed) to answer every question, and provide insights into the culture, history and ecological challenges of the islands. They were enthusiastic, passionate, experienced and attentive. Each day provided 3-4 activities: a 1-3 mile hike on a new island to note animals, geology or historical sites, deep water snorkeling (and a couple of days of beach snorkeling), glass bottom boat tours, sea kayaking in sheltered bays (but still challenging!), and zodiac/panga cruising along the coasts of the islands into coves and caves too small for the Isabella. We had two "lectures" by our published naturalists--one on the fish of the Galapagos, and the other on Darwin--They were interesting, informative and educational--beyond the reading/video list that was offered by Zegrahm prior to the expedition. While we did not travel with children, one family travelled with three boys, ages 10, 12, and 14. The staff were especially attentive and ensured the safety of the children--who were great swimmers and did everything with the adults. As an observation, I would not recommend this trip for younger children, as the activities were rigorous. The catalogue description was accurate--one should be in good physical condition to embark on the activities, though we found the hikes usually less difficult than described. Zegrahm does also have a "gear shop" and credit towards purchase of equipment for each passenger. We have been pleased with the quality of the merchandise and found the packing lists helpful (though I tend to OVERPACK for every trip, I am amazed at those who can bring all their essentials in a backpack!) The ship did provide wet suits and snorkel equipment, if needed. While we would not go to the Galapagos again, we do plan to travel with Zegrahm again, and are searching their new catalogues and website for unique destinations. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
We rate this tour exceptional! I was concerned about this trip when I read a critique written from april 2014 that was not very favorable. Our group of 6 had a very adventurous 2 weeks visiting Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. ... Read More
We rate this tour exceptional! I was concerned about this trip when I read a critique written from april 2014 that was not very favorable. Our group of 6 had a very adventurous 2 weeks visiting Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. There were many early mornings and late evenings, but all were required in order to see and do everything listed in the itinerary. All of the hotels we stayed at were exceptional. Most were at Casa Andina Private Collection. When you consider that many times we were in the middle of nowhere, they were the best available. The Sumaq Machu Picchu was 5 star in a spectatcular location. My wife skipped the morning tour of Machu Picchu and visited the hotel spa and later walked the city. Those of us who went to MP hiked to the Sun gate and the Inca Bridge. Difficult walks but well worth it. Our tour guides were excellent. All of the restaurants we visited were very good. The Galapagos were also spectacular. The Isabela is an expedition boat that met all of our requirements. It had a fun bar/lounge area and very good food (you finally get to eat raw vegetables on the boat). The boat tour has a demanding schedule that starts with a 7AM wakeup call and 3 shore expeditions each day. Evenings were spent in the lounge doing karaoke. The snorkeling was great but you needed to get away from the crowd, sea turtles and sea lions were the high point. The hiking was challenging with impressive views and lots of close ups of birds and marine iguanas. The tour guides were very good and helped those who had difficulty getting around. This tour is for people who have a sense of adventure. You are always on the go and many of the activities are challenging. We started with 7 hiking to the Sun Gate but only 3 made it. Also by the time we did our last deep water snorkel were were only one zodiac (many opted for the glass bottom boat.) Do this trip while you are in good health and physically in good shape. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: ... Read More
I was aboard the Isabella II boat in the first days of January 2015 at the Galapagos Islands. The cruise was an amazing experience. I'm used to large cruises and this only had 36 passengers on board. I enjoyed it a lot. Cabins: normal size, two single beds, a small couch, a desk and a chair, plenty of cabinet space, normal sized bathroom with a shower. There was no TV, which I thought would be a problem, but it wasnt at all. There was a radio channel with loudspeakers in the cabin that you could turn on and off. The cabin had a window that looked to the corridor and the ocean partially. For safety, you cant lock the doors from the inside, only from the inside. Ship: A nice lobby area with a bar and plenty of couches, medical room, one restaurant with enough seats for the entire ship. Food was good. Buffett breakfst and lunch, which once was served on the sun deck. Dinner was seated and two options for main course. Not fancy dinning, like on large cruises. There was a mini gym, a whirpool and a nice sundeck with a few loungers and plenty of tables. This is what the day looks like: early wake up around 7am, Breakfast from 7.30. First excursion or activity around 9.00 (snorkeling, kayaking, hiking). Back to the ship for lunch around 12.30. Second activity/excursion around 3pm. Dinner at 7ish. There are no shows or entertainment on board, but there was a karaoke night that I missed. Every night there was a briefing about the next day. Snorkel gear and wetsuits were available. Wetsuits were for a nominal fee, but they didnt charge for them at the end. Great naturalist guides on board and during the excursions! They had a huge knowledge and made the tours really interesting. Im not big into animals or plants and yet I enjoyed it a lot. All in all, great experience. Its a much active holiday than going on a cruise in the Caribbean. Bring a laptop with movies if you want to watch something in the evening.   Read Less
Isabela II Ratings
Category Editor Member

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise