SEATTLE, Sept 9 â€“ Cruise West, the global leader in small ship cruising, will now offer Quito & the GalÃ¡pagos Islands cruise available on select dates throughout 2009. The cruise sets sail onboard the luxurious 40-guest yacht, Isabela II. In the company of naturalist guides and a Cruise West Exploration Leader, guests will explore the natural museum of flora and fauna on the GalÃ¡pagos Islands as well as Quito, celebrated as the best-preserved Colonial historic center in Latin America.
â€œThe GalÃ¡pagos are a natural progression for Cruise West guests,â€ said Dick West, chairman & managing director. â€œMany of our Quyana members or past guests have already cruised with us to Alaska, the Sea of CortÃ©s, and Panama & Costa Rica and have loyalty to Cruise Westâ€™s up-close, casual and personal way of travel. I personally scouted these destinations and I know our guests will be as inspired as I was by the rich culture of Ecuador and Peru and the incredible beauty and abundant wild and marine life of the GalÃ¡pagos Islands.â€
The GalÃ¡pagos journey lasts 10 days and starts in UNESCO World Heritage site, Quito with two nights at the deluxe and centrally located Hotel Hilton ColÃ³n Quito. Guests may choose to explore Quito on their own or take a tour to Antisana, the 4th tallest volcano in Ecuador. The afternoon is spent on a guided walking tour with a chronological narrative of the areaâ€™s history as well as a drive up to the observation point El Ventanal.
Guests fly to Baltra Island to board the Isabela II and set sail for North Seymour Island known for its bird colonies of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, sea lions and marine iguanas. Along the way, they will learn the tales of its early inhabitants and the adventures of pirates and whalers who once traveled to these islands. At Gardner Bay on Hood Island there is ample opportunity to snorkel or enjoy the marine life on a glass bottom boat. At Punta Suarez, guests can walk on lava terrain to visit unique bird colonies including the Waved Albatross.
The highlights of Point Cormorant on Floreana Island include nature hikes to see the flamingos that inhabit a brackish-water lagoon as well as great snorkeling and kayaking opportunities. There is further exploration by panga boats to nearby islets to observe sea lions, rays and sea turtles, boobies and possibly the GalÃ¡pagos penguin. Tortoises are found on Santa Cruz Island, known for its seven different vegetation zones including Scalesia forests, home to a huge variety of smaller plants, many of them endemic to GalÃ¡pagos; the site of Los Gemelos; the infamous Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens.
Thousands of frigate birds, red-footed and masked boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds are found at the beautiful natural harbor Darwin Bay, Tower Island where adventurers may choose to walk up Princes Philipâ€™s Steps to observe more large bird colonies. After cruising across the Equator line on the Isabela II, anchor at Tagus Cove on Isabela Island where the landscape is tuff-stone and lava flows. Marine iguanas graze on the algae beds, indigenous GalÃ¡pagos fur seals welcome guests, and snorkelers will explore the bountiful sea life found in the area due to the upwelling of the Cronwell Current. Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island offers more wildlife including the highest density of marine iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorant. More island exploration is found on James and Bartolome Islands before guests disembark and fly to Guayaquil to either travel home or continue on the six-day Cuzco and Machu Picchu post-cruise program.
Add-on Cuzco & Machu Picchu Land Program
The fully guided Peru post-cruise land program includes six days of visits to Cuzco the historical capital of the Inca Empire; and â€œThe Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu, located at 7,875 above sea level. This inclusive program includes guided tours of Cuzcoâ€™s most historical monuments and markets; a special dinner of Novo Andina Cuisine (a fusion of Andean ingredients and European techniques); and the comfort of the exclusive five-star Hotel Liberador Palacio del Inca.
Guests travel by Vistadome Train to Aguas Calientes and transfer to the lovely Spanish colonial Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel for two nights. There they will spend a day and a half exploring mysterious Machu Picchu, guided or independently. The last night is spent back in Cuzco with tours of the Inca Fortress and Citadel of Ollantaytambo as well as the circular terraces of Moray.
Three departures will be offered on August 23, August 30 and September 6, 2009. For more information or to book a cruise, call 1-800-296-8307 or visit www.cruisewest.com/destinations/galapagos/