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Last Minute Cruises

boston
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456 posts
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Last Minute Cruises

Anyone booked one? They seem to be a lot cheaper than booking in advance. What are the pro/cons of last minute cruises? I assume you don't get a great deal on airfare, but what else? Thanks in advance for any advice you can share!

Texas
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1. Re: Last Minute Cruises

The problem is you will not have as many choices if you wait till the last minute and you may waste a lot of your vacation time trying to book. There are more than 80 boats and they all have different schedules and options. A cruise is a very large purchase and you may want to spend several hours choosing the one that will be the best for you. Think of any major purchase and how much detail you need to make a good choice for you and then complicate that by being under severe time pressure if you wait to book until you get to Quito.

BTW, I went on the Evolution and recommend it. I spent many hours comparing many boats and schedules. I booked before I left home and felt a lot of relief knowing the specifics. Our boat asked a lot of medical info and personal info so that they would be prepared for us. They also provided a lot of useful info to us before we arrived.

Ecuador
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2. Re: Last Minute Cruises

The above advice is true. You may save some money by booking last minute. At the same time you risk not finding what you are looking for, you get less details taken care of, for example: if you have allergies or dietary restrictions, these will not be taken care of on a last minute booking - basically because there are not always food supplies available at the minimarkets in the Islands.

This is but one example. There is also the possibility that you do not find a suitable cruise on the dates you expected and you have to extend your stay (if you have a job this may not be possible) or settle for day trips from the inhabited Islands.

In my opinion you save money by booking in advance, you can plan for when the international airfare is at its lowest (this is a big expense), ask your agent or the cruise company for an early bird discount - nowadays everyone in Galapagos is sick of having to sell their cruises last minute at a lower price, so there is a great chance that if you request an early bird discount you will get it. Combine this with the well planned lower price air ticket and the peace of mind of having everything ready before your arrive... priceless a worry free vacation at a similar price to the one you would have obtained at last minute less the hassle.

boston
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3. Re: Last Minute Cruises

Your responses are just what I was looking for....peace of mind has no price tag so booking the boat we want and the cruise we want will be the way we go...well in advance. Thanks for your good adivce...much appreciated.

Tucson, Arizona
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for Quito, Ecuador
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4. Re: Last Minute Cruises

A wise decision indeed! My sister and I booked a whole year in advance so she could take advantage of her miles to get free airfare to Quito. We had booked a lower deck but when we boarded we were somehow magically upgraded to an upper deck; I wondered if they upgraded us because we booked so early and they had a customer wanting a lower deck cabin.

Quito, Ecuador
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651 posts
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5. Re: Last Minute Cruises

HI Nala,

I like your comment "peace of mind has no price tag". I hope I can use it in the future, as this is a very commonly asked question! A "good deal" is one where you feel comfortable and happy with the choices you´ve taken, the plans you have made, and the company that you choose to work with!

Have a blast...and the research will make the trip even MORE rewarding! After all, it will be the trip of a lifetime!

Kiawah Island...
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for Kiawah Island, Charleston
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6. Re: Last Minute Cruises

We too booked our cruise a year in advance (as did all our shipmates on the Samba), we did our research and found what we wanted and did it, we were very happy to have that "piece of mind".

St. Petersburg...
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7. Re: Last Minute Cruises

Well, it's interesting to see how the agents ("galapago", "GalapagosExpert" and others) are trying to make people think that last minute cruises are not an option. Well, they are. And, actually, big time!

Simple math: there are three flights a day from the mainland to the islands. That means, less than 500 people arrive daily to Galapagos (provided all planes fly full, which is rarely the case). Which means, that at the ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM just over 3000 people could come to the Galapagos in any given week. On the other hand, there are almost 100 cruise boats with capacity between 16 to 100 passengers. Which means that there are about 3000 places on those cruise boats. So, EVEN IF EVERY TOURIST, WHO COMES TO THE GALAPAGOS, GOES ON A CRUISE FOR ALL THE TIME HE SPENDS ON THE ISLANDS THERE STILL WILL BE SPACE ON THOSE BOATS. But, in reality, planes never come full (except for late December - early January), some of those seats are occupied by locals and many tourists simply choose to do land-based tours. Which means, that there are always more places on cruise ships than customers.

Hence, simple supply and demand rules come into effect. Any captain will be happy to get any money from you rather than to travel with an empty cabin (something is better than nothing, right). At that point the class of the ship, list price, his costs are all no longer relevant. The only valid question will be HOW MUCH YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY not how much he wants/needs. Once you arrive to the Galapagos there will be plenty of offers. There will be dozens of places on those boats and they all will be competing for YOUR business. Once you there you will be the king...

As for the plane tickets, nothing stops you from buying those are early as you want. Quito-Baltra tickets could be easily bought on Expedia as early as 330 days in advance. The price is fixed, so the local agency can't sell them to you any cheaper than Expedia. And, once you land, you'll be amazed to see what the REAL PRICES of those cruises are. And, a day later, while sipping cocktails on a deck you'll be quietly laughing at those, who booked their over-inflated-price cruise a year in advance...

Quito, Ecuador
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651 posts
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8. Re: Last Minute Cruises

Dear Greakly (and others)

I am not set against booking last minute, nor have I ever said "don´t do it". YOu make some interesting points and claims towards last minute bookings:

Depending on timing, last minute on-site purchases are possible, as long as you are willing to accept "what you can get"...many people enjoy traveling like this, and i am not against that whatsover!

My argument for booking in advance comes with the fact that (although if you calculate your numbers the way you have, it seems that everyone would be booking last minute), if you arrive during peak season, many (if not all) of those boats are actually sold out. If you arrive during lowest season, many of the boats go into dry dock and do not operate...so last minute purchasers have even more limited access to what they want.

If a passenger has no expectations and no strong desire to see one particular island or travel in a particular way, then by all means go ahead and book on site...just remember that you generally get what you pay for, in my opinion.

I did my time (and loved it!) as a last-minute backpacking traveler when i was younger, but I wouldn´t enjoy it now ...especially for a once in a lifetime holiday..but that´s just me!)

Also, I am not a travel agent. I lived in the islands for the better part of 7 years, and have just moved to mainland Ecuador..i miss my islands and want everyone who visits them to have wonderful experiences there like i did.

St. Petersburg...
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9. Re: Last Minute Cruises

Well, just a straightforward question: two of my friends recently booked "on site" last-minute eight-day, seven-night tour on Yolita II for $1050 per person. If I want to book the same tour now (a few months before my departure), how much is it going to cost me?

Oceanside...
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10. Re: Last Minute Cruises

I don't know specifics about boats and prices, but it sounds like your friends feel they got a good deal. Good for them. Just as you cannot be guaranteed to be LUCKY with a last-minute cruise--getting a cruise on a great boat with exactly the itinerary you want--you are not guaranteed to be UNlucky, either. Such is the nature of luck. It comes in both good and bad.

I don't think any of the regular posters here have said that one should never book last-minute in the archipelago. It's just that you have to play the odds. Some people are just fine with doing that--rolling the proverbial dice and seeing what shows up as available during the window of time they have in the islands. Many people are not or simply may not realize just what chances they may be taking with their trip of a lifetime. I see folks' posting about the risks inherent in waiting until the last minute to book a cruise as making sure all are informed of what might happen--not as some kind of plot by evil travel agents to make everyone run screaming with their fistfuls of dollars, Euros, or whatevers for the security of a booked-ahead cruise.

In addition, one needs to keep in mind that sometimes the cost of a last-minute cruise booked on the islands simply cannot be compared to the price of a cruise booked through an agent with other things added in. For instance, the cost of our trip looked a tad expensive even to us until you figured in the fact that the cost included all transfers and transportation, the roundtrip airfare from the mainland to the archipelago, 2 nights in Quito and one in Guayaquil (including 3 meals each day), National Park entrance fee, and the INGALA fee. If you've already paid those fees and are in Puerto Ayora already, you're comparing apples and, say, tuna fish.

Clearly, I am a "book ahead, get exactly what I want, and start dreaming" kind of traveler. It sounds as if you may be the exact opposite. There's also a middle ground that hasn't been mentioned. "Last minute" is a relative term. There are Web sites that allow you to see what cruises are being offered anywhere from 3 days from now to 3 or 4 months from now--often at discounted prices (although I don't know the depths of those discounts). One that I'm aware of is this one: www.galapagoscruiselinks.com/index.php… I imagine there are others too. Something to consider if price is a major concern but you also wish you had a bit more of the trip nailed down.

Just as there is probably a bias toward booking in advance among many of the frequent posters, there is a bias (myself included) toward liveaboard cruises (rather than land-based tours or island hopping) and toward 7-day cruises (rather than the shorter ones). However, folks who are clearly asking for info about the other kinds of experiences receive respectful, considerate, thoughtful suggestions all the same. At least that's how I read most of the posts. As it should be.

Tina

trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/