Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Day 4 (26 June 2017) – Puerto Lago to Galapagos Islands - Adventures by Disney Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Tour (23 Jun – 2 July 2017)

I don’t know when I started this annoying habit of waking up 30-45 minutes before an alarm was set to go off but this morning was no different. I tossed and turned for abut 40 minutes and finally got up just a couple minutes before my 4 am alarm went off.

We got dressed and finished packing up our things making sure to put our suitcases outside our door by 4:30 am. They did have us double check and make sure that our bags were both accounted for before putting it on the bus. It took about 1.5 hours to get to the Quito airport where we grabbed bags with a sandwich, chips, pear, juice box, and chocolate bar as we got off the bus. We were reunited briefly with our suitcases, went through security which involved scanning our suitcases and placing a ziptie on each bag. We then got in a line at the ticketing desk where we got our boarding passes and checked our suitcases in. We went through security one more time and then got to the VIP lounge which was very nice for Disney to arrange for us to wait in. We relaxed for about an hour and then boarded the plane.

After takeoff, our first stop was in Guayaquil but we just stayed on the plane. Soon we were taking off again and headed to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. On the way, Rhys was able to take a few shots of the volcano in the distance that was actually higher up than our plane.

We arrived into Baltra around 11 am – having gained an hour. What struck us right away besides how flat the island is was also how pretty desolate it was – much like a desert including cacti. It was noticeably warmer on the islands. The line through immigration was pretty long and we had been given visas and the standard immigration forms to fill out. We passed through immigration then had another bag inspection before picking up our suitcases.

We took our suitcases outside and had them put on a large truck which would be taking our bags straight to the Santa Cruz II. We then boarded a bus and waited for a bit as the rest of the passengers (non-Disney) boarded as well. The drive to the pier didn’t take long at all.

When we pulled up to the boarding dock, we saw our first Galapagos inhabitant: a land iguana. There were also some small black crabs on the rocks. We posed for family pictures by the ‘Welcome to the Galapagos Islands” sign then put on our life jackets (we were expected to wear these every time we got onto a zodiac or panga and waited to board the panga which would take us to the Santa Cruz II. We were instructed on the correct way to exit off the panga – always with both hands free and taking turns from each side of the panga so the balance wasn’t thrown off, and grabbing the wrist/forearm of the person helping you on/off the panga as they grabbed your wrist/forearm.

We got on the ship safely and were greeted with a cool wet washcloth and some juice. We were checked in promptly and given our room assignments. An interesting thing they did on the boat that we’ve never experienced before is their “No Key” policy. You can lock the door when you’re in the room but once you leave, the door remains unlocked. There is a safe in the room to put valuables in. This made it much more convenient as we could come and go very easily.

Lunch was at around 12:30 in the dining room – buffet style. Plenty of vegetables which I loved. We went back to our cabin after lunch and our suitcases had magically arrived so we unpacked. The cabin is pretty decently sized with 2 twin beds, a fairly good amount of storage, no tv (2nd time this year we’ve been on vacation to somewhere with no tv), standard bathroom with teeny tiny shower, and storage space underneath the beds. Surprisingly, this isn’t always standard on cruises and it poses a problem of where to store your suitcases. We had an AC control which we immediately turned down as low as it would go – the cabin was pretty warm and didn’t cool down until after the ship got moving following our expedition after the sun went down.

We relaxed for a bit until about 2 pm when we had a rather long briefing in the Panorama Bar. Both the cruise director as well as the head naturalist gave us instructions about how to behave while on board as well as on expeditions. There were about half a dozen different certified naturalists who would be on every expedition that we took. We were all pretty tired having gotten up around 4 am – it was a little hard to stay awake during the briefing but there was a lot of good information. The Galapagos Big 15 are the wildlife that we would looking for while in the islands – we were told that we would see at least 10 on this trip but seeing all 15 would be very difficult in just one trip. The ships in the Galapagos Islands are only allowed to carry up to 100 people including the crew so there were only about 50 passengers on board and as many crew members.

We were divided up into groups that we would be going on expeditions with – by cabin number it looked like. Each group had an animal name. Our group was the frigates. Each day’s itinerary would be posted on several bulletin boards on each deck to just take a picture of. I appreciated how mindful they were about wasting paper and preserving the environment. We had the standard lifeboat drill with our life jackets out on the panorama deck and then returned to our cabins to get ready for our first expedition where we would be taking a hike and then having an opportunity to swim on the beach.

I put on a swim suit and cover up with my water shoes and packed a backpack with a towel, sunscreen, bug repellent, etc. We reported to the library (where the coffee machine and cookies are – a very popular room. The oreos were gone in about 30 seconds flat) and waited for our group to be called. We disembarked from the back of the ship this time after “checking” ourselves out. A magnet system they had in place to make sure everyone was accounted for. Red magnets by your room number that yo would remove when you returned to the ship. We got onto the panga that took us to the beach for a “wet landing” meaning we would be getting off the panga into about knee deep water and wading to the beach. We met our naturalist tour guide, Indira or “Indi”, who would be our guide for the rest of our cruise

We went off on a hike and immediately saw a turtle in the water followed by iguanas sunning themselves on the beach. They’re black and blended in very well with the black rocks. There were an enormous number of orange crabs on the rocks and we got to see a sea lion laying on the beach. Indi pointed out all the wildlife she saw and gave us some basic information about the things we were seeing. What was amazing about most of the animals we saw was how laid back they all were – eyeing us but not afraid and running away from us. A yellow warbler followed us along the beach as did a stingray who even came partly up out of the water on the beach and seemed to be eyeing us.

We returned to the beach where we had been dropped off and were given about an hour to swim which the kids had a marvelous time doing. Just standing in the water it wasn’t too cold and there were little sand colored fish swimming around.

We took the 2nd panga back to the ship where we rinsed the sand off our shoes/feet before checking ourselves in on the magnet board. We showered and cleaned up then headed to the bar for a drink. The specials of the day was a Moscow Mule and Iguana Urbina. We opted for the latter not knowing exactly what Urbina was but it tasted good anyways. Rhys ordered a Moscow Mule. The drinks were charged to our room and the bar staff kept a running list of which you get a copy at the end of the evening during dinner.

There was another briefing at 7:15 to go over the plans for the next day including our options – long panga ride vs deep sea snorkeling in the morning; snorkeling and/or walking tour in the afternoon - as well as instructions on where to be at what time. Wake up call was going to be at 6:45 am followed by breakfast at 7 am. The long panga ride groups would be leaving almost 2 hours before the deep sea snorkeling group who had to meet to get their wet suits and snorkeling equipment issued first.

Following the briefing, there was a cocktail party where the senior crew on the ship was introduced and we all toasted with the captain. Dinner followed immediately afterwards and would be a served dinner that we had pre-ordered during lunch. I had the Caprese Salad, the Prawn Cream Soup, the Fish Fillet with White Coconut Sauce, and the seasonal fruits for dessert. The food has been quite good so far no the ship.  We also received our pin of the day.

Lauren stopped by our table during dinner and Air Dropped some pictures to us from our trip to the Center of the Earth – they turned out really well and had been labeled with Adventures by Disney. I couldn’t wait to see all the other pictures that both she and Robby have been talking all along!

After dinner, we turned in pretty early having been up since around 4 am.

No comments: