SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Our first full day on the cruise started at 6am with a quick breakfast in the room before we set off on a “strenuous hike” to Bartolome’s Summit. We were expecting a dry landing from our zodiac – what this meant was that the zodiac stopped at a dock with towels rolled out for us (wet landing meant you were about knee deep in water as you got on shore). The hike was very beautiful and lasted about 90 minutes. I must admit, I am incredibly impressed by the folks who were twice our age; no matter the activity, they powered through it like champs!
After Bartolome, we were off to snorkel at a beautiful beach on the same island (almost every day there was an option to snorkel – either right off the beach or deep water snorkeling where you jump off the zodiac). We LOVE snorkeling, but as weather conditions would have it, the first two days of the cruise turned out to be the roughest seas that the guides have ever seen during this time of year (February through March is THE best time to cruise the Galapagos).
So, the snorkeling turned out to be more of “diving in the mud” activity as we both kept losing our flippers (first, my hero, Kieran found my flipper and while doing so, lost his). The most we saw during this snorkeling activity were each other’s flippers, but we became very confident rough water swimmers for our future snorkeling activities.
Then we were back on-board for some much needed lunch and nap (napping was a daily activity for me as I was still pretty sick). Post nap, we were up and about for a “zodiac tour” of the Caleta Bucanero, Santiago Island. What this meant was that in groups of 10-12 people, we got into the zodiacs with a guide, and toured the island/cove (never stepping on the island itself) to animal watch (birds, sea-lions, sea turtles, iguanas, etc.). As mentioned above, being that this was the worst weather conditions that any of the guides have seen, instead of smooth and calm zodiac ride, it turned out to be a bit nauseating of a ride for an hour and a half; nonetheless, the coastline of this impressive cove was absolutely breathtaking with “blue footed boobies” (I still giggle like a 12 year old boy as I say that out loud) and bright red crabs surrounding the cliffs.
After the rocky zodiac ride, we were back on the boat by 6pm for teatime, followed by get ready time and then a 7pm recap of the day with a presentation by the cruise director of what was to come the next day.
This evening we decided to dine downstairs (the fancy shmancy restaurant), as we all have learned that I should not be cooking my own food on deck 5. It is a very lovely dining experience with great service and plentiful options (from vegetarian, to vegan, to gluten free, etc.) where the wine and cocktails were flowing and you could order as much dessert as you like (my kind of place). Except for one other evening when we joined others on deck 5, we preferred the food on deck 2 and decided to stick to that!
You can now understand why we passed out every night at 9:30pm; not so much because of the super exhausting schedule, but rather due to the daily food coma (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, nap, teatime snack, dinner, drinks).
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23
The next morning, we were up bright and early again for another zodiac tour of the Isabella Island followed by deep sea snorkeling. This was another very rough day at sea and the captain with a very thick accent made an announcement over the speaker and I quote: “It is a very rough day at sea and we are prepared for ALL casualties.” UMMMM WHAT????????
Turns out, the poor guy mis-spoke and meant to say that the crew is ready for any and all “conditions”. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. He never corrected that mistake. So, the joke lived on until the end of the cruise.
Because the water was so rough with pretty big waves, the cruise director announced that the snorkeling should be considered only by very “skilled” swimmers (neither one of us are); but, we felt like we HAD to try again due to the muddy experience the day before. And it was BEAUTIFUL!
There is nothing like seeing “Tommy the Turtle” and having sea-lions trying to get your attention by swimming all around you or watching Kieran swim away and let me drown as a tiny jelly fish passed us by (I think he thought it was a great white). Since we did not have water cameras with us, all of the under water exploring has to be left to your imagination, but to put it simply, there is nothing like it! So pristine…
After snorkeling and a much needed lunch (followed by a nap), we were off for a two hour walk to explore Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island. A beautiful walk with lots of birds, iguanas, sea-lions, penguins, etc. I wish I could describe how beautiful and peaceful it is to be on an island that is uninhabitable by anyone but wildlife, but the pictures will just have to suffice.
After a wet landing . . .
we made our way through the spitting iguanas…
tanned with the friendly sea-lions…
watched Paloma and the birds dive for their dinner…
and just simply enjoyed the views…
Once back on-board, I realized that I had five days until Kieran’s birthday. So, in my normal “let’s throw a parade” fashion (even if Kieran hates attention), I announced to everyone from the chef, to the butler, to the pianist, to our favorite bartenders that five days from now they need to do WHATEVER it takes to throw Kieran a party. Of course, I was told that it was against the on-board rules to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ in the dining area; blah blah blah, eye roll eye roll…have they met me?
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Another beautiful day in paradise! We continued to explore Isabela Island by going to Caleta Tagus in the morning and to Bahia Elizabeth in the afternoon. Since the weather had improved and the ocean was as calm as a lake, we decided to sign up to do some kayaking that day (note to us: Kieran and Alina are not good at team sports together) – the guy who was following us around on the zodiac was literally rolling on the floor laughing as we tried to keep the kayak the right side up without either one of us ending up in the water.
Afterwards, we decided to never do THAT ‘together’ again and to stick to deep water snorkeling; luckily, that was next! We swam with baby sharks, sting rays, sea-lions, turtles, penguins and thousands of beautiful fish.
More of the same followed after we returned at 6pm with some wine and cheese tasting added in between (as if we haven’t eaten enough!).
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25
We were told the night before to prepare postcards (which were provided, of course) as we were going to the “post office” on the island of Floriana. So, first thing in the morning, we joined our zodiac group and were off to a beach with postcards in-hand to send to California and to Ireland. What we didn’t understand is how the “post office” system there works. You leave a postcard (without a stamp) in a wooden box, wrapped in a plastic bag with about 1000 other postcards and hope that one day, someone who is traveling to where your postcard is addressed to, will pick it up and mail it upon returning home. Now, what I really didn’t expect is that one week later my parents in California would receive the post card!!! TOO COOL!! Sadly, no one wants to send the card to Ireland.
Then, we did a bit of beach snorkeling…
followed by lunch, jacuzzi time and some more deep-water snorkeling (no, not in the jacuzzi).
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26
Thursday was all about Galapagos Tortoises and Doctor Montoya. Let’s start with Dr. Montoya (aka, the cruise Doc or Dr. M). I first heard about Dr. M when our cruising friend from Switzerland, Peter, developed a really bad leg infection (we are talking infection to the bone where the doctor asked Peter “Do you believe in God?”). Luckily, Dr. M had access to some great antibiotics and about 5-6 days into the cruise Peter was doing much better with the infection improving.
So, on Thursday, I decided to visit Dr. M as I was feeling like someone punched me in the face and lungs (no, it wasn’t Kieran). He didn’t ask me if I believed in God, but he did diagnose me with bronchitis and flu (WHAT? AGAIN?). The doctor that I am, I decided that he was nuts while rolling my eyes. Talk about DENIAL!
Ignoring the health news, I continued about my day which consisted of hanging out with tortoises (and Kieran) at the Galapaguera Reserve on the San Cristobal Island…
…and exploring Cerro Brujo beach in the afternoon (I think everyone was so tired from the day that only about 10 of us made it to the beach). What a beach it was!!!! Absolutely mesmerizing – probably the best beach either one of us have seen to date.
This was followed by watching a gorgeous sunset…
That evening, I started to re-think what Dr. M said and started taking some of his prescribed medications (I was a mess to say the least).
Then we joined Peter and Christine for dinner along with two other cruising friends of ours, Jeanie and Judith (both from Illinois) who are too cool and traveled to Galapagos on their own; not only on this particular cruise but also through the Amazon beforehand while leaving their husbands at home to work. I can respect that!
I made sure to mention to all of them that this was Kieran’s birthday eve and that they should be prepared the next day!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27 (aka KIERAN’S BIRTHDAY)
I woke up dying from the flu (dang it, Dr. M) and couldn’t face to leave the boat and felt absolutely terrible about leaving Kieran to go on all of the tours by himself on his birthday. But it was either that, or him dragging me by my hair to look at more turtles.
He was back around noon, just in time for lunch; have I mentioned that flu, bronchitis and whatever else I may have had never lessened my appetite? At lunch, without any of our knowledge, Jeanie went up to Alfredo (the pianist) and asked him to start playing the “Happy Birthday” song. About 5 seconds in, Kiearan realized that it was for him and that the 60+ people having lunch were all singing happy b-day to him. I wish I captured the embarrassment. Thanks, Jeanie – that was AWESOME!
And, the chef made a special birthday lunch for Kieran…not really, but we like to think so 🙂
As this was our last night, we had a farewell toast in the evening with all of the crew members followed by a dinner with a few of our new friends.
At one point, when the chef came by our table to ask how the dinner was and to wish Kieran a ‘Happy Birthday’, Kieran jokingly pointed out that he was expecting a cake…lo and behold..the cake was coming next … AWKWARD.
If I may say so myself, it was an awesome birthday dinner with the entire dining room singing to Kieran (all the “no singing” rules going out the window). Then, we went back to the room to pack. Kieran arrived to the room and was surprised to see disco lights, balloons, a shark, champagne and all kind of fun goodies!
This was followed by champagne at the bar!
In my opinion, the birthday ‘day’ was a success! (Editor: agreed).
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28
After breakfast, it was time to take the zodiac followed by a bus back to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye to the beauty of the islands and the wonderful people that we have met. It was a once in a lifetime trip that neither one of us will ever forget! To anyone reading who is considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands, just DO IT!
Next stop, Colombia!