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How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise

Seattle, Washington
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How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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We researched the boats before we left, including getting the addresses of the companies that own the boats. They are almost all in Quito, and most are in the same neighborhood. We narrowed our list down to four boats, all first class. When we arrived in Quito we went to these places to negotiate. We had a price in mind (less than half the current Internet rate). We started with our number one choice and got the trip for less than the amount we had in mind. So, we only had to visit one tour office, although we did have to wait a day for them to confirm that the cabin was still available.

In order for this to work, you need to have a little flexibility around your departure date. We were spending a month in Ecuador and had about a one-week window of viable departure dates for the Galapagos. I also spent many hours researching boats before we left to arrive at the short list of boats we wanted. Bottom line, we got a great deal on a one week trip on Creter Tours' Treasure of Galapagos. If you don't have date flexibility, I think there is some risk that you won't be able to get the trip you want with this approach. If you can schedule around your booking, it's true that you can save over 50% by booking at the last minute, particularly if you cut out the travel agency and book directly with the company that owns the boat. Many of these companies also happen to be tour companies (like Creter tours).

On an unrelated, note, the quality of your naturalist guide will have a large impact on the quality of your trip. If you can, find out which guide you will have and check out their reviews as well. We had a last minute switch on our boat (the original guide got sick) and the substitute was something of a disappointment.

Ottawa, Canada
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1. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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Very interesting information. As you say, more possible if you have time and have done your homework.

When did you travel, and did you know before you walked in that the ship wasn't already fully booked?

How long did you do this before the cruise date, and how difficult was it to arrange the GI flights? Who booked those flights?

Edited: 9 years ago
Seattle, Washington
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2. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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We travelled in September, so it was off season. That meant that many of the boats were not operating as they pull them out of operation for maintenance. From that perspective, it limited some options, as there were a couple of boats we really liked that were not operating. We were pretty sure that the boats we wanted had space available, as three of the four were still offering cabins online. As it turns out, the one we booked (Treasure) showed full online when we left for Quito, but still had one cabin available. We learned that they upgraded one couple to the big suite, which must have been open, and gave us their original room. We ended up thinking that they probably show reduced cabin availability online to make people believe that they had better book in advance.

We booked on Tuesday for a trip that left on Saturday. Getting this settled was the first thing we did after arriving in Quito. We used the intervening time to sightsee and firm up the rest of our travel plans. We booked our flights through Creter Tours as well. They insisted on this as part of the deal, although their price was competitive anyway. They did meet us at the airport to make sure we got on the right plane as part of their service. FWIW, we returned to Guayaquil, not Quito, so it was not a round trip booking.

A couple of other notes: If you want to do this, I think it's critical that you deal with the boat operator, not a tour company that's just selling trips. A modicum of Internet research will usually let you find how who operates the boats you want...I found the information pretty easily for all the boats we liked. Also, we paid cash for the boat portion, something we made clear when we walked in the door. If you don't have some flexibility on the departure date, I'm sure you will still be able to find a last minute boat but it might not be the one you want. If you end up being offered something on a boat that you are not familiar with you definitely need to research it before accepting. I suppose that there is some risk that you will show up and not be able to find a space at all, although I think the probability of that happening is rather small. For us, in a worst case scenario, we would have rearranged our trip to do the Galapagos at the end. Personality-wise, if you don't deal well with uncertainty when you travel, I don't suggest trying this. Just pay full freight and have the comfort of knowing that everything is taken care of. We are kind of on the opposite end of the travel spectrum, as we arrived in Ecuador with two nights of hotel booked and no other reservations made at all for our one month stay. We saved several thousand of dollars on the Galapagos trip, which made it worthwhile from our perspective.

Some people actually fly to the islands and negotiate with a travel company there to get on a boat, literally at the dock. One person on our trip did this, joining our boat on its mid-way stop. Oddly, relatively speaking she paid more than we did, so I'm not sure that this approach yields more savings and you will definitely have trouble picking the boat that you want. I think that most of the boat operators have their offices in Quito, not on the islands.

Edited: 9 years ago
Ottawa, Canada
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3. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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Thanks for the extra details. I have often looked at the ship's sites as well, and I am a preplanner, but trying to be a little more flexible. I tend to know my stuff by the time I arrive. I am developing a three to four week trip in an off season, but would only consider this if I was travelling solo. I would be happy to negotiate no single supplement. I do have another person interested in the GI portion but she is not so flexible, so it may or may not be an option. I have built in spare days, so would be flexible. I am not interested in flying to the Islands without reservations, however.

4. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise

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To read more about editing your posts, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/help/how_to_edit_your_posts Edited: 5 years ago
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5. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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Michael, thanks for this informative post. We are arriving in Ecuador next week and are also flexible and looking at a last minute Gallapagoes trip.

You indicated that your trip ended in Guayaquil. Did you spend any time there? The guidebook makes it sound like an interesting place and seems to have a few decent hotels. Did you by chance take the bus back to Quito or fly? Wouldn't mind the bus trip, other than it would eat up a day of of travel.

Benson, Arizona
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6. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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Great website Heather...thanks...

Seattle, Washington
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Actually we didn't spend any time in Guayaquil at all. We negotiated a rental car at the airport (easy because the desks were all right next to each other), and continued our trip by driving around the country. We went to Cuenca, Banos, Quilatoa, Chimobrazo, Otavalo, and Mindo before returning the car to Quito. One regret is that we didn't really spend any time on the coast. We should have skipped Banos and added a couple of days on the coast instead. There are probably cheap commuter flights from Guayaquil to Quito, but I would wait and book locally. Pretty much anything you book over the Internet will be more expensive. I'm not a fan of bus travel and I'm not in a position to comment on bus travel in Ecuador as we never took one.

Edited: 9 years ago
Seattle, Washington
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49 posts
57 reviews
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8. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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One more thing on the last minute booking for Galapagos. I did look at the above link, and all I'll say is that we got considerably better pricing in person.

Somewhere in Canada
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9. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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Great post, thanks for all the details. I am arriving in Quito June 1 and will only be in Ecuador until June 18. We plan on booking Galapagos in Quito on June 2, 2013 (as we arrive at just before mid-night the day before). Do you think this is too tight of a time-frame? We will most likely book a mid-price tour, but there are three of us (i.e. we'll need two cabins), and I'm a bit nervous about not being able to get to the GIs during our short trip.

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10. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
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We just returned from a 5 week trip to Ecuador and booked a last minute cruise in Quito. It took about 2 1/2 days to finalize everything as I wanted to do some more research on the last minute boats that were available. There were many options with boats leaving within a couple days of our arrival if we wanted a 3D or 4D cruise, however, we were looking for a first class or tourist superior 8d/7n cruise. We went on the Galevan and were happy with our choice and itinerary (B) and got a great price - much cheaper than the internet posted prices. Whatever itinerary you choose, you will enjoy it.

SkingLari, it doesn't sound like you have the time to wait for the ideal itinerary, however, if you are flexible about the number of days and itinerary you should be able to come up with something. Or do a shorter cruise in conjunction with a land based trip. The Galapagoes is amazing and not to be missed. One regret we have is that we did not spend a couple extra days after our cruise on one of the islands. Instead we flew back to Quito and went to Mindo, which was somewhat of a disappointment after the Galapagoes.

FYI - our room could have slept 3 as there was a double bed and bunk bed above.

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