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Leslie_S Apr 28th, 2012 05:46 AM

How nice to get to Hawaii once a year - we've not been yet - it's definitely on my list.

We leave mid-May so I have a little time left to sort out my packing list. You're tips have been very helpful!

Hopefully I'll have the time/energy to write up a little report when I get back but I usually have neither after returning from a trip. I'm usually just on to focusing on the next one.

Thanks again :)

Eschew Apr 30th, 2012 03:45 PM

Librarylass, glad you enjoyed the trip and found the post here helpful. If I knew your age earlier, I would probably recommend different footware, and definitely not the Vibram!

I can't wait to get back there again in a few years time. But then there are so many places on my bucket list.

Leslie_S, we found a nice restaurant in Quito called" Rincon La Ronda". It is not located in La Ronda. It is only called La Ronda. Make sure you tell the cab driver it is the restauarnt ou are going to. It is only $3 cab fare away from the Colon Hilton. Great service, great local music and great local cusine. The ceviche langostinos del Pacífico is highly recommeded as an appeitizer. Warning: portions are big and spliting an order is quite acceptable. They will even do it for you in the kitchen. Most staff speaks Spanish only but there are staff that speak good enough English.

If you have time, visit the equator museum while in Quito.

Wet landing, it's really nothing to worry about. Go look at the picture posted. The links is somewhere on this thread above.

Good luck on your trip!

Leslie_S May 1st, 2012 09:49 AM

Getting close now. Once we get packed (maybe this weekend) I'll really be excited!

Librarylass May 5th, 2012 12:15 PM

Hi Eschew,
BTW, I thought about you while we climbed through the ruins at Ollantaytambo--and was so careful I didn't even trip once!What a beautiful place it is. Later our guide told us that a few days after we were there a woman who was so focused on taking photos of those ruins took a terrible fall. Unfortunately there was speculation that she might not live. I tried to find any news about it on Google--but no luck. Sad.
About shoes? I do think those toe shaped shoes are really fun looking- but perhaps not the best thing for me. hee hee. However, I must tell you that I did manage to do the early morning climb to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu--in the rain, mind you! So where there is a will...well, you know what I mean! Thanks again for the great review of the Galapagos cruise--it was so helpful--yup, I would like to go back as well--however, like you--my Bucket List still has many other wonders on it that I hope to see.
Leslie S--have a wonderful trip--I know you are going to have tons of fun and many adventures!Oh do try to check in when you return--OK?

Leslie_S May 5th, 2012 01:30 PM

Thanks - I'll definitely report back.

Eschew May 9th, 2012 02:39 PM

Hi Librarylass,

Glad that the report on the Galapagos was helpful. Did you find Cezar and Daniella (Tinkerbell) as described?

My fall was totally my fault as I was trying to "run" down to catch up to my wife. It obviously could have been a whole lot worst if I didn't managed to stop my slide after the fall. I hope whoever that lady the guide refered to is okay. I saw a lady slipped on the last step when she was getting off her tour bus. I found out later that was taken to the hospital to Cusco by ambualnce. So anything could happen.

Good for you that you made it to the Sun Gate. It wasn't really that bad a climb. We went early in he morning as well. There was only 5 of us (plus a local guide) and we didn't encounter many people on our way up or down. We stopped many times and admired the view and took many pictures.

Librarylass May 23rd, 2012 04:19 PM

Hi Eschew,
Just checking to see if Leslie S. has returned from her trip--and here you are!
Oh, on the Explorer-- I did like Cezar lots--he was one of the more friendly guides. However, we were not graced with Danielle/ Tinkerbell. No one around to take our pix--too bad--it sounded like she was a fun lady. What a wonderful trip it was--starting to feel like it was all just a dream! The one piece of advice I have been giving younger folks who have MP & Galapagos on Bucket List is--don't wait--do it now or asap--while you have your youthful energy and before they start limiting how many people can be there at any one time. Our guide in Peru told us there was an ongoing discussion about starting to limit the number of people on the MP site each day--and we heard speculation that a similar process may be in the future for the Galapagos. The beat goes on.

Eschew May 27th, 2012 01:24 PM

Librarylass, nice to hear from you again. Too bad Danniella is gone. Maybe she took some time off? They do not have a photographer on staff to take pictures and sell you the pictures and CDs afterward?

The Galapagos limit is already happening. The ships are not allowed to stop at the same place twice within a certain time frame (it was 9 days) but I heard it will be expanded to 14 days so everyone is looking for new spots.

It is understandable taht they ahve to set limits. Too many tourist will ruin teh eco system and it has already affecting many world heritage sites by too many (and unruly) tourists.

They have put a limit on number of people trekking through the Inca trail but not to the MP site itself but I heard it is coming.

Yup, do it now while you are still youthful and have the energy. Walking with a cane is tough at the best of time and MP and Galapagos will be even more challenging.

Percy May 27th, 2012 05:29 PM

Yep, do it while you can and you can still get around well.

I did the Galapagos, and Machu Picchu 4 years ago when there were no restrictions, but it seems with each passing year, restrictions are creeping in.

Four and a half years ago I paid $20.00 ( my tour guide got me a ticket ahead of my visit ) to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I here now the Italian Government has and is clamping down on the number and the frequency of people climbing the Leaning Tower.

Maybe it is already forbidden.?

Yes sir do as much as you can while you can.

I am waiting for Leslie and her husband's trip report on the Galapgos. :)

Hi Everyone

Leslie_S May 29th, 2012 08:33 AM

Hello -- just back from our wonderful Galapogos adventure. I'll try to write up a little trip report next weekend (in a separate post) but in the meantime I wanted to say thanks to you folks here for the advice you gave me beforehand. It was super helpful - fodorites are the best :)

We had a great time and I thought smartours did a fabulous job. This was my second trip with them and both were A+. I realize most fodorites are DIYers but in case anyone is looking for a group to go with I'd recommend them.

Anyhoo, more on all that later but a big thank you to Eschew and Librarylass!

Eschew May 29th, 2012 01:12 PM

Weldome back Leslie, I guess I will have a bit longer before I can read it as we are leaving this weekend for the Baltic.

Percy, we have booked with Alla (I can never spell her last name) for 4 different cities. I'll let everyone know how it went after we got back.

Percy May 29th, 2012 01:47 PM


Okie Dokie!!!

Her last name is Ushakova

Leslie_S May 30th, 2012 06:13 AM

Enjoy your Baltic cruise - another beautiful area - very different from the Galapagos! :)

Eschew May 30th, 2012 10:40 AM

Just got word that my foreign currency is in. The Baltic will be a more relaxed trip. No more 6:30 am wake up call and probably a whole lot more sitting than walking.

Percy, we ended up booking to Berlin rather than Rostok. Gotta keep peace in the family. Happy wife = harmony in the household?

Personally, I am not looking forward to the 3 hours train ride there and then 3 hours back. I will have my eye-covers and headphones with me so I hope I can sleep all the way both ways. I ended up getting a 25% discount from the ship for the Berlin excusion so I booked it through the ship instead of Alla as I do not have to worry about traffic jam and not getting back to the ship on time. Paying a bit extra for "insurance" purposes. BTW. I have been told no AC on the train.

On a seprate note, on the Galapagos trip, LAN cancelled the flight back to the US and we were stranded in Guayaquil overnight and missed all the conenctions going home. We finally received the insurance settlement yesterday.

We ended up staying at Miami for overnight as well and rebook all our flights. All in all, costed us almost $1,000 extra. We bought travel interruption insurance but they won't pay us until LAN told them why it was cancelled and LAN is not replying to me or them. So I was surprise to see the pay out. I knew my TA was working on the background trying to help. So, this is the one time that travel interruption insurnace pays off.

I think what what saved us was the pictures I took of the board for the flight cancellation and a picture of the boarding pass that had "cxl" written on top and then the new flight info was written on top. The insurance comapny wanted us to show proof of cancellation before they will do anything so the 2 pictures were what I used to intiate the claim. Happy ending, but it took 7 months to get my money back.

Percy May 30th, 2012 03:15 PM

Eschew :

Have a nice trip.

Yeah ,I know , keeping peace in the family!! :)

Enjoy Berlin, the tour guide from the cruise ship , of course will know where to take all of you for the best sites.

When you see that TV Tower almost in the middle of the city... I waited a good hour in line to go to the top. Great views of course.

In the same Square as the TV Tower is the Old Red City Hall.

This is where President Kennedy stood and said, " I am a Berliner", as the German crowd went crazy !!

It is really something to see where the Berlin Wall once was.

A part of the Wall remains for tourist to see.

If no Air Condition on the Train,let hope it is a cool day.

Oh , yes , you can buy a postcard with a piece of the Berlin Wall under a bubble pak.

Bon Voyage

Leslie_S May 31st, 2012 10:33 AM

That was smart to take pictures of the flight cancellation notice - I'll keep that in mind for the future. I've only had to submit a claim twice for travel insurance but both times I got reimbursed with no hassles.

But I want to look into getting an annual policy just for travel medical insurance and taking a chance on the other - flight delays, etc. Trip insurance is becoming a big part of my budget!

Librarylass Jun 8th, 2012 03:51 PM

Hi Leslie S!
Great that you are back and that you had a good experience with Smartours. Looking forward to any observations you may have about the Galapagos Islands and G. Explorer II ship!

Percy Jun 8th, 2012 06:27 PM

Leslie S posted a Trip Report, maybe you missed it.

Just scroll down , it is on the left hand side.

Leslie_S Jun 10th, 2012 05:15 AM

Thanks, Librarylass. As Percy mentions above I did do a little trip report titled "Cruise on the Galapagos Explorer II" if you want to relive any of your trip or see how ours was different.

I was just reading above and saw about the ship photographer on Eschew's trip but not yours. We didn't have one either -- and it would have been nice because my photos are all quite amateurish. The one I like best of my husband and myself was taken by another passenger & has our feet cut off so we look a bit dwarf-like. A pro on board to help us and also to buy good shots from would've been great.

Librarylass Jun 17th, 2012 11:02 AM

Hi Leslie S!
Very nice review on your Galapagos and ship board experience. You are pretty much right on the mark with our experience as well. It all seems like a dream now...sigh.
We would have no problem doing another SmarTours--and yes, I would love to see more of the Galapagos Islands, however, there are so many more places we have yet to see. We signed up for a cruise in 2013 that goes around South America (49 days!) including a visit to the Falkland Islands --that will tick many of our Bucket List travel dreams. Life is good.
Chow for now!

Eschew Jun 18th, 2012 03:45 PM

Obviously, they lost Daniela (who we have nicknamed Tinker Bell for the Tinker bvell back pack that she carries).

We bought 2 CDs from her. One CD conatins shots that she took of wild life and vegetations, the other were candid shots she took of the passengers. Each CD conatins a few hundred pictires, which are not high resolutions but still decent enough quality if you print 4x6s. I think might have paid $15 for each CD which is very cheap.

She also sold full resolution full size pictures but there wasn't too many takers as they did not have a display area for her shots (like the mass amrket ships) so what happened was the passengers would approach her and she showed them the shots on her laptop, people pick the picture, she printed it and collect the money after and I think it was a token $5 to $7 for each picture, which is also cheap.

I am not sure what the deal was between her and the ship. I didn't know if she was an employee or free lance on her own and the ship provided "space".

She also used our camera and took picture of us (she did it for anyone who asked) which was veruy nice, but didn't make business sense. Can you imagine the mass market ship's photographers taking your picture with your camera?

In small talks, she said she is leaving at her end of her contract to go to Spain and pursuit studies in photogrpagy. She did gave me a date but I didn't remember when it was but it would have been in early 2012.

Maybe they have not find a suitable replacement yet. May be it is a business decision. By her taking pictures of us with our camera, there really isn't any compelling reason or incentive to buy pictures from her candid shots of us, unless the shots are amazing, which I admit, they were.

But even for those that bought the picture, what was charged wasn't a lot of money and with only 100 passenger and each couple buying 1 photo on average, it is still not a lot of money generated for her or the ship, especailly when the CD has most of the shots anyway and the CD wasn't that expensive eitehr. Again, with 100 passengers, she might have sold 50 sets maximum. I knew our group of 9 bought 4 sets of 2 CDs in total. Based on revenue generated, I can see the photographer position may be a luxury that the ship cannot afford.

It is too bad taht they didn't ahve a photographer for your trip.

Percy, did they have a photographer on teh Isabella?

Eschew Jun 28th, 2012 01:33 PM

It is with great sadness to report the passing of Lonesome George, on Sunday June 24, 2012, near a watering hole at the Charles Darwin research center. He was the last of of a 10 million year old tortoise subspecies.

Percy Jun 28th, 2012 06:28 PM

Hi Eschew

No we did not have a photgrapher on the Isabella II.

I was saddened to hear about Lonesome George.

Leslie_S Jun 29th, 2012 04:05 AM

I was saddened also by LG's passing. And glad to have seen him just a few weeks before...

LibraryLass...49 days around S. America...that is awesome. You'll get to see so much in 7 weeks. That much time on a cruise ship would require some amount of discipline as far as eating goes. I've gained weight on every cruise I've taken and the longest was only 2 weeks. I guess after a while you figure out how to regulate or even get sick of looking at all that food!

Eschew Jun 29th, 2012 12:46 PM

Leslie, we have managed not to gain weight on our last few cruises and we have to thank a certain lady that we have met on the ship a while back.

Tip #1 - walk everywhere and do not take the elevator.
Tip #2 - breakfast and lunch at the dinning rooms rather than buffet.
Tip #3 - avoid snacks and midnight buffets!

We have followed this guidelines maybe 70% of the time and we managed to keep our weight in check. We have breakfast in the dining room maybe 50% of the time but lunch in the dining rooms or pub (not buffet) 100% of the time. For dinner, we select lighter items and avoid eating the potatoes and heavy desserts. We did not avoid food that we like, nor did we skip out on our favorite desserts and fattening items such as lattes. Okay, we don't dip too much in the cream sauce either but I have been known to sneak into the buffet later in the evening if they have the cream of wild mushroom soup!

Percy Jun 29th, 2012 03:34 PM

Very Good , I always following your three tips.

And I do the deck walk about 6-10 times a day, especially on Sea Days !

Leslie_S Jun 30th, 2012 07:02 AM

Good tips! We do #1 and #3 and also workout in the fitness center as often as possible.
If you do lunch & breakfast in the dining room doesn't it take a lot longer? We'll have to try that on our next cruise (not until Oct. 2013).

Percy Jun 30th, 2012 09:52 AM

Breakfast/ Lunch in the Dinning room is actually faster.

While you are having coffee,oatmeal, danish, orange juice or whatever ...your omelette is being made.

I use the Dinning room rather than buffet about 90 % of the time.

When I have to be off the ship early , I go to the dinning room ...order and tell them I have to be out of here in half an hour...never had any problems ever.

Leslie_S Jun 30th, 2012 11:34 AM

Good to know! Now I'm ready to book a 49 day cruise :)

Eschew Jul 1st, 2012 01:13 PM

We did come across newbie servers from time to time, especially at breakfast time. It appears that Princess uses the brekfast setting as a training ground for their potential future dinner servers. By and large, it is 45 minutes max but some newbies did managed to stretch it out to 1 hour.

Bonus: No line ups, don't have to hunt for a seat with plate in hand, food more fresh and made/cook to order, well portioned, and the coffee is better (stronger) than the buffet for whatever reason.

By the time I polished off the juices, fresh cut fruits and fresh pastries, my eggs arrives.

Percy Jul 1st, 2012 05:49 PM

49 day cruise Wow !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Leslie_S Jul 2nd, 2012 05:56 AM

Percy, just to make sure you know i was kidding and only referring to LibrayLass's post up above about having booked a 49 dayer herself.

Maybe after retiring we can do that but right now I'd certainly be laughed at if I asked to have 49 days off! Or fired.

I'm definitely interested in the dining room b'fast now - sounds like all pros no cons even if newbies in training are waiting on us. I like the portion control element most of all.

Percy Jul 2nd, 2012 02:44 PM

Hi Leslie_S

To me there is no cons to having breakfast in the dining room.

I usually have coffee ( of course) , orange juice ,oatmeal and a choice of some Dainish...I also order my Omelette and brown bread toast.

Beats waiting in a buffet line and then getting stuck behind someone who is trying to make up their mind, which piece of bacon to take :)...
then you have to walk around with your plate to find a table ..

Yep, the dining room is better , faster, and more personal.

But hey, nothing wrong with a buffet if you have time to linger.

Eschew Jul 3rd, 2012 08:31 PM

Percy, you mean how high they can stack the bacon on the plate without falling, and not which piece of bacon to take ... ;)

If you want really fast service and extra attention, have a few dolalr bills ready. They will remember you and your preference real quick!

Leslie_S, the freshness of the food makes a bigger difference. It actually tasted better. My freshly cooked soft poached eggs beats cold greasy overcooked fried eggs sitting on a warming table for 15 minutes any day!

Percy Jul 4th, 2012 06:28 AM

Your right Eschew , it is more as to how high they can pile the bacon !!!

Yep you are right again by having a few dollars bills and tip them right after breakfast.

I usually get the same waiter each morning ( and noon if I am there for the noon lunch), when I leave breakfast in the dining room, the waiter usually says , "see you tomorrow morning".

So I assume he has his eye out for me the next morning.

After a day ot two he knows exactly what I want ,unless I alter the order. :)

RobertYoung Sep 26th, 2012 11:26 AM

Awesome!! We also went to Galapagos on a Great Cruise. We booked through

Eschew Nov 16th, 2012 11:16 PM

And on the news today ... Galapagos to eradicate 180 million rats with 22 tons of rat poison. Did I read it right?

kenav Nov 17th, 2012 03:07 AM

Eschew - For some reason this link is taking forever to come up, so I didn't read the story.

Guess the Galapagoans (?) like their birds and sea lions, but not their rats?

How would they know the poison would only kill rats and not other animals?

Percy Nov 17th, 2012 07:29 AM

Here are a few excerpts from the link

"A helicopter is to begin dropping nearly 22 tons of specially designed poison bait on an island Thursday, launching the second phase of a campaign to clear out by 2020 non-native rodents from the archipelago that helped inspire Charles Darwin's theory of evolution."

"The rats have critically endangered bird species on the 19-island cluster 600 miles (1,000 kilometres) from Ecuador's coast."

"The goal is to kill off all nonnative rodents, beginning with the Galapagos' smaller islands, without endangering other wildlife. The islands where humans reside, Isabela and Santa Cruz, will come last."

Seems like a necessary evil .

Eschew Nov 18th, 2012 01:48 PM

Intetresting enough, feral cats were introduced years ago to help control the rats but they have to eradicate the cats (just like they did with the goats and pigs which are not native to the islands) as they are harmful to the local ecosystem.

The rats were originally introduced to the islands back in the 17th century by the buccaneers and whaling ships. With few natural predatror, they just multiple to the point of 10 rats per square meter on Pinzon Island (7 square miles in size and there is no human population there).

The current operation is limited to Pinzon and an islet near by. They have trapped and remove hawks and iguanas for their protection as they may eat the poisoned rats.

#kenav, This link is from NBC. Hopefully it will load better.

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