Galapagos Islands Cruise Ship Profile and Photos
A Quasar Expeditions cruise of the Galapagos Islands on the 32-guest M/V Evolution is a dream vacation for many nature and adventure lovers. The wildlife in these islands is diverse and completely unafraid of humans, making the potential interactions amazingly special.
Galapagos Islands Cruises - Background
Since the Galapagos Islands are over 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador in South America, travelers fly from the city of Guayaquil or Quito to the archipelago. Most Quito flights stopover in Guayaquil, so a non-stop from the USA to Guayaquil like the one operated by LAN Airlines from New York is a good option for those who prefer fewer stopovers. The Galapagos have two major airports connecting to the mainland, so it's important to fly to the correct destination to board a ship. The islands have been a national park since 1959 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. The national park service limits the size of cruise ships to no more than 100 passengers and requires one naturalist guide for every 16 persons.
The archipelago consists of 13 major islands, 6 smaller ones, and over 100 rocks and islets. Only five of the islands are inhabited; the total resident population is about 28,000. The islands are spread across the equator, so cruise passengers usually get the opportunity to cross the equator on a ship and to visit an interesting mix of both inhabited and uninhabited islands. Although the inhabited islands have hotels and some islands can be visited via day boat, the best way to see the diversity of the Galapagos wildlife is from a small cruise ship like those operated by Quasar Expeditions.
In addition, some islands are restricted to ships with 40 or fewer passengers, so this is one place in the world where smaller is better. The national park service management also approves the companies' itineraries and reserves the right to make changes to them at the last minute. However, all itineraries showcase the diverse flora and fauna of the islands, so any changes won't affect the overall experience since the cruise ships are accustomed to the changes and always have another plan in place.
Quasar Expeditions - Background
Travel to the Galapagos is expensive, so it's important to travel on a well-known company and a ship that has experience with adventure travelers and the islands. Quasar Expeditions has sailed the Galapagos for over 25 years and currently has two classic expedition yachts sailing the islands--the M/V Evolution and the M/Y Grace. The owners of the company are dedicated to conserving the islands, but also to share much of what the Galapagos Islands have to offer its visitors. It's like many other special places--travel companies must walk a fine line between allowing travelers to do and see enough to grasp the significance of the experience, but still preserve the islands' flora and fauna for future generations.
The Evolution is an expedition ship, and the Galapagos itinerary is geared to those who are active. The ship has four decks and no elevator, and rigid inflatable boats called pangas are used to go ashore. Most landings are wet, so guests have to be able to climb into and out of these pangas. Each day is filled with hiking, snorkeling, or kayaking.
All the activities are optional, and guests can take time to sit on a pristine beach or lounge on the ship. However, people travel to these remote islands for sights and experiences unlike anywhere else in the world, so activities ashore or in/on the water are scheduled all day long. Those who love wildlife, botany, geology, and science will truly appreciate a Galapagos cruise vacation and return raving about their cruise of a lifetime. We had a 92-year-old man on our cruise who did every hike and activity except the snorkeling, and many in our group were in their 60's-70's, so youth is not a requirement.
The warm weather climate and casual lifestyle on the Evolution mean that guests don't need to take a lot of clothing. Guests might need a light jacket for early mornings or evenings, but most people wore shorts or casual slacks each day, lightweight shirts, a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen lotion. A swimsuit, cover-up, some type of water shoes, and walking shoes are also a necessity, but the ship provides wetsuits, beach towels, and snorkeling gear.
A visit to the Galapagos Islands is on many traveler's bucket list, so expectations are very high. Quasar Expeditions and the islands both greatly exceed these expectations. The ship's crew were dedicated to making sure that every passenger had this same once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be sure to read this detailed travel log from a Quasar Galapagos cruise.
Cabins on Galapagos Islands Small Adventure Cruise Ship
The M/V Evolution has 16 staterooms, each slightly different. All of the accommodations have individually controlled air conditioning, private bathrooms, comfortable beds, safes, hair dryers, deluxe toiletries in the bath, and enough storage space for a casual expedition cruise in a warm climate. The voltage is 110 (same as the USA).
Three suites are on the Albatross Deck (A1, A2, and A3). The suites are larger than the other cabins and have a small sitting area, but not a separate bedroom. This is the top deck of the ship, and these are the only accommodations with a door leading to the outdoors. The outdoor lounge and navigational bridge are also on this deck.
Since the Beagle Deck is filled with indoor and outdoor public areas, there are no staterooms on this deck. The next deck down, the Cormorant Deck, has nine cabins (C1 through C9). These cabins have windows with a view of the outdoors and are smaller than the suites.
The next deck down, the Darwin Deck, has four cabins (D1 through D4). These cabins are similar in size and layout to the Cormorant Deck cabins, but only have a small window along the top of the wall. Daylight comes in, but it's impossible to see outside unless you are very tall and are willing to stand on the bed or on a chair to peek outside. These cabins require guests to walk more stairs, but they don't rock as much as the staterooms on the higher decks. Cabin D2 is seen above. It was larger than expected, and the bath had more storage than seen on much larger ships. The ship is quiet, and since the days in the Galapagos are filled with activities, you will only be in the cabin to shower, dress, and sleep.
Dining on Galapagos Islands Small Adventure Cruise Ship
Like other expedition ships, the Quasar Expeditions' Evolution has one main dining room with both indoor and al fresco seating. On our cruise, most guests usually ate indoors for breakfast and dinner and had lunch outside. All meals were casual and were served buffet style. The cuisine was a nice mix of Ecuadorian and other South American dishes, along with classic North American fare. A selection of fruits and a cheese tray were served at both lunch and dinner.
The dining room had a coffee/tea/cold water station that was open all hours. Pre-packaged cookies and snacks were also placed nearby for all-day snacking.
Breakfast featured bacon or ham, eggs (or omelets) made to order, and pancakes or waffles. Fresh fruit was always available, as were yogurt and hot and cold breakfast cereals. The homemade breakfast breads were very popular, as were the croissants.
Lunch always featured a soup or other appetizer, salads, hot dishes, fruit, and dessert. My favorite lunch was the day we had delicious fresh ceviche outdoors on the aft deck, with four different types available--shrimp, calamari, octopus, and shrimp. This same lunch featured a selection of lettuces, a salad of the day, plantain and fish casserole, roasted pork, sweet red cabbage and apples, rice pilaf, and homemade banana cake.
Another lunch included an Ecuadorian potato and cheese soup, broccoli and tuna salad, grilled steak lowlands style, grilled chicken with beans and rice, and deep-fried plantains.
Like the lunches, dinners were served buffet style. One dinner we had vegetable soup, a radish salad, grilled wahoo with caper sauce, turkey with fig sauce, potato casserole, steamed vegetables, and brownie with ice cream. Another dinner had lentil soup, a meat ravioli salad, fish, chicken, au gratin potatoes, and chocolate cake.
Other examples of our meals on the Evolution can be found in this daily journal of a Galapagos cruise.
Interiors of the Galapagos Islands Small Adventure Cruise Ship
All of the interior public areas of the Quasar Evolution are found on the Beagle Deck. In addition to the dining room, the ship has a reception desk, small gift shop, well-equipped library with lots of books on the Galapagos and its flora and fauna, and indoor lounge shown above.
The ship has a medical doctor onboard and a small infirmary on the Cormorant Deck.
Outdoor Deck Areas of the Galapagos Islands Small Adventure Cruise Ship
The Evolution has some great outdoor deck areas and comfortable seating, all designed to make the shipboard experience and viewing the Galapagos more enjoyable. As seen in the photo above, the Albatross Deck Sky Lounge offers 270-degree views of the surrounding areas. Coffee is served in the morning, and snacks and drinks are served in this lounge after excursions ashore.
Forward on the same deck are lounge chairs that overlook the Beagle Deck. On this deck are more lounges, along with a nice-sized hot tub, which is perfect for warming up after snorkeling or for soaking those tired muscles you'll have after hiking. There's a clothes line on the Beagle Deck where wetsuits are hung up each day to dry and where guests store the bags with the snorkel gear. The bags and snorkel gear are labeled by cabin number, so it's easy to keep things sorted out.
Galapagos Islands Year-Round Itineraries
The Evolution sails two different 8-day/7-night itineraries in the Galapagos Islands, making back-to-back cruises even more attractive.
Itinerary A sails from Baltra Island and ends at San Cristobal, with most days spent on the islands of Isabela, Fernandina, Bartolome, Hood, Santiago, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. This trip has stopovers on the two largest islands of the Galapagos but also promises guests the opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife.
Itinerary B starts at San Cristobal and debarks at Baltra. Islands visited include South Plaza, Santiago, Genovesa, North Seymour, Santa Fe, Floreana, Santa Cruz, and Baltra. This is the itinerary that I enjoyed on our cruise of the Galapagos Islands on the M/V Evolution. Be sure to read this 13-page, detailed cruise travel log of a memorable journey.