Note that this review also includes comments on the traveler’s custom Quito and Cuenca trip with AdventureSmith Explorations.
All the arrangements were effected without a hitch. Drivers and guides met us at the airports and hotels. They were never late - in fact, they often came early. The expedition on La Pinta was just right for us - the itinerary, boat size, and amenities were perfect. Lastly, the trip to Cuenca was interesting and we very much enjoyed the architecture, restaurants, scenery, and the nearby gem of a national park.
The trip was all about the Galapagos Islands, and they did not disappoint. Seeing how treating animals with respect results in a very peaceful coexistence was eye-opening. I came away with some amazing pictures and experiences, including swimming with playful sea lions and stepping around iguanas and tortoises. That said, Cuenca was wonderful. We may very likely go back there after I retire to spend the winter months at least one year. What a beautiful city!
Quito is a big city and not particularly attractive. Our tour guide was good, but that did not change the fact that it was not somewhere we would want to spend a lot of time. We were told not to go out at night (though one restaurant had a free car service and it was worth the trip), versus in Cuenca where we went to a great restaurant about fifteen minutes from our hotel and walked back along the city streets after dark with no concern. There are some areas to avoid, but generally it seems to be a very safe city that also boasts clean tap water (though a several day acclimation period is recommended).
The hotels in Quito and Cuenca were very nice - particularly the one in Cuenca, which like many hotels there is a converted home of some wealthy resident. The accommodations on La Pinta were roomier than I had expected, with a large bed, big window and a bathroom with excellent water pressure and plentiful hot water. The boat, with 41 tourists on board, was just the right size.
The meals we had on our own on the mainland were good, particularly the breakfasts in Quito. On the boat, we enjoyed the meals very much, though breakfast and lunch buffets were clearly the highlight and the sit-down dinners were less impressive. We also had salmon our first night on the boat that could have been fresher. However, the lunches more than made up for the minor glitches.
Crew & Guides Review
All of our guides/naturalists on La Pinta were good. They were very knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. In Quito, we had a good guide, notwithstanding she had a limited palette of locations to work with. Our guide in Cuenca was excellent too. All guides and naturalists were very proficient in English, though when we were off the boat, we tried speaking Spanish as often as we could.
The arrangements were perfect. Not a glitch in the entire nearly two weeks. I was so pleased that drivers and guides were always there when they were supposed to be there and made us feel like we were in good hands.
AdventureSmith Explorations Review
Andrew was great. That's why I'm planning a trip to Peru through him. Information was provided in a very clear and relatively concise manner. We kept the trip instructions close at hand, particularly when on the mainland. The only thing I did on my own without instructions to prepare for the trip was to visit the Mayo Clinic's travel clinic, where they made sure certain vaccinations were up to date and prescribed Diamox for altitude sickness in case I had an issue, as well as something for stomach upset (which was really not an issue).
I am just very happy to have found AdventureSmith. The agency and agent, Andrew, were recommended by friends of ours who were on the same boat as we were some years ago. I am looking forward to working with Andrew and AdventureSmith again when my younger daughter and I travel to Machu Picchu. I have already mentioned AdventureSmith to several people.
Just that they should do their homework to get the most out of the trip, bring the proper clothes (we traveled very light but were just fine), and check in with a doctor to make sure you don't spend days dealing with altitude sickness or have some other issue (after visiting the doctor, we bought DEET mosquito repellent which was not necessary all that often, but we are glad we did). I took Diamox and my wife (who did not take any meds) had just one day on arrival in Quito when she had a splitting headache, but then we both hiked for a couple hours at nearly 13,000 feet and we were both fine. I will definitely make sure my daughter and I have Diamox before we land in Cusco.
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