SAN CRISTOBOL ISLAND — January 7, 2020 — High on the bucket list of many travelers, the Galápagos Islands have a special attraction due to their isolation, unique animal life, and designation by UNESCO in 1978 as a World Heritage site and in 1985 as a biosphere reserve. Quito-based travel company Latin Trails offers Galápagos cruises on board two recently rebuilt and refurbished luxury yachts, Sea Star Journey and Seaman Journey (a catamaran), both exclusive to 16 guests maximum. We will be cruising on Sea Star Journey.
To get to the Sea Star Journey today from Quito required flying, with a brief stop in Guayaquil, on Avianca to the airport on San Cristobol Island in the Galápagos. Upon arrival in a drizzling rain, we were transferred by van to catch an awaiting Zodiac that took us across the harbor to the yacht. These Zodiacs will be used throughout the cruise for shore excursions.
When I first saw the yacht, with the name Dominica on the bow as well as Sea Star on the side, I was confused. Had Latin Trails booked us on the wrong yacht? After meeting with Kyra, the yacht’s cruise director, I was assured that we were on the right yacht and that there are two names for the yacht. As I understand it, all cruise boats in the Galápagos must be owned by local residents. Therefore, the name Dominica was chosen by its owner. Sea Star is a subsidiary of Latin Trails, which leases the yachts from the owner and has designated them Sea Star Journey and Seaman Journey for their marketing purposes. Whatever the name, a look around assured me that it is a fine looking vessel.
A fully equipped 42-meter long yacht, the Galápagos Sea Star Journey y/p Dominica (the y/p stands for yacht/passenger) is fully booked for this cruise. Surprisingly to me the demographics of the passengers lean toward the young and middle aged (I suspect that I’m the “old guy” on this cruise). Fellow passengers, a single, three couples and two families with teenagers, have come from all directions — Australia, Switzerland, England, and Brazil (originally from Ireland). Not to mention that cruise director Kyra comes from Belgium.
Compared to the only other small-passenger vessel on which I’ve cruised, a French canal barge carrying ten passengers, the public spaces on this yacht are abundantly spacious, as are the rooms. Wood floors, as well as wood paneling and patterned woodwork wall decorations, are prevalent throughout the ship providing a somewhat rustic feel to the ambiance of the yacht.
Air-conditioned cabins are equipped with large windows, a desk and sitting area, and private bathrooms with hot showers, wide vanities with marble counter tops, quality toiletries, towels (which get changed on request), slippers (although most passengers prefer going barefoot on board), and a hair dryer. One thing missing is enough hooks to hang damp and wet clothing. It’s easy to go through several changes of clothing daily and everything, bathroom towels included, dry very slowly during the tropical “warm season” of December to May.
Our first lunch on board was impressive with both fish in a peppercorn sauce and chicken in a mushroom sauce. Dinner featured both beef and shrimp. Meals are prepared by a specialized chef from Ecuador and are served in a cozy dining area. This seems more appropriate than the French barge which employed an English chef.
Due to the remote nature of the islands most Galápagos cruises are all-inclusive — excursions, snacks and meals are included in the price. On the Sea Star Journey alcoholic drinks, including beer and wines, are not included and are a bit on the expensive side. The bartender keeps a tab with payment made in cash on the final evening of the cruise.
The yacht offers a large sun deck solarium with shaded and open areas, two Jacuzzi’s, and kayaks, wet suits (additional charge) and snorkeling equipment (complimentary use) onboard for excursions.
In the public sitting area there are shelves with several photo books on the Galápagos that would inspire any photographer. From their well-worn look, it appears that they have inspired many passengers, photographer or not. A mini-library that includes books for other tastes is available in a reading area nearby. But the question I have is: with the busy schedule of activities planned by the staff, when would there much enough time to read them.
Cover photo: Sea Star Journey / Dominica, photo by Jialin Cox
All other photos by Dennis Cox / WorldViews, All Rights Reserved
Dennis Cox is All Things Cruise Writer and Official Photographer
Editor’s Note: Latin Trails offers cruises of the Galapagos Islands with two 16-passenger yachts for six-day cruises, plus a small catamaran for day trips. Certified naturalist guides onboard each cruise will share their local knowledge of the area.
To learn more about Latin Trails and to book a Latin Trails yacht cruise, go to https://allthingscruise.com/browse-cruise-lines/latin-trails/