La Pinta Cruise Review
Itinerary: Galapagos and Peru - April 2016
We arrived back on April 15th and have been catching our collective breaths absorbing the many experiences and memories, and culling through our many pictures trying to organize our thoughts.
To summarize, this was truly an awesome adventure and one that we both truly loved and will relish as we relive it with the re-telling to friends and family that seem to occur almost daily – and we haven’t even seen or spoken to most of them yet.
It was a very different type of trip for Donna and I both in terms of the destinations and the levels of activity. Most of our previous experiences have all been with river cruising, primarily in Europe. That is much more sightseeing focused with a high-end luxury component. This trip was much more adventure oriented. We now know that we like both types, but are glad we did this one when we did and while we could. This level of “on-the-run” activity is starting to get beyond our (my) enjoyment level – as an example, for the Machu Picchu portion, we were the oldest couple of the 10 guests by far. Donna being the younger and more athletic of us was less challenged than I, but we were involved with and enjoyed virtually all of the activities both in the Galapagos and in Peru. (Although there was one point where I was heard to say “This is not fun!” I got past it.)
There really wasn’t a single highlight of the trip -- there were so many wonderful experiences, one right after the other. The Galapagos Islands are unique and beautiful – the wide variety of wildlife and their innocence in the presence of humans was amazing. La Pinta is a wonderful yacht and the accommodations and crew were terrific, all oriented to make sure we had the most complete and wonderful experience possible. The critical strength of La Pinta was the corps or Naturalists on board – Carlos, Grace, Fabian and Antonio were with us constantly, conducting briefings, guiding our ventures and adding insight and experience to our times together. They always were available to answer questions or provide suggestions. And considering that we were off the ship several times daily, we were together with them pretty constantly.
And a special word for the “panga” (Zodiac) drivers – not only did they know where to find the best sites for viewing wildlife or amazing vistas during our shoreline rides, but they were adept at piloting the pangas to make sure everyone on board was able to get “the money shot” up close and in focus.
There was a wide variety of activities each day and we started early enough to get back and out of the heat of the sun by late morning – only to go out again mid-afternoon. We can’t say enough about how well this was conceived, organized and executed. And with only 48 guests, our individual tours were never more than 12 people.
I’m afraid that one thing we weren’t really impressed with was the food. As time progressed, we were having more and more difficulty finding meals we really liked. But this was not primarily based on the boat or the chef. As we discovered when we moved on to Peru, Donna and I just didn’t really like the South American cuisine – not just the basics, but the seasoning as well. That’s our problem, not theirs.
In terms of amenities, only half facetiously, the greatest one was the inconsistency of the Wi-Fi reception. After a while, we learned to live with (or without) it. The cabins were roomy and well appointed – all on one deck – and were neatened up numerous times daily. The public areas were nicely and modestly done. The crew was responsive, polite, and for the most part English-speaking. Hospitality and customer service was superb. (BTW, the only female crew member on our voyage was one of the Naturalists, Grace.)
The time in Quito before the Galapagos as well organized and informative. It would have been helpful to know beforehand that Quito is at over 9,300 feet. While we were only there for maybe 36 hours, the time was breath-taking if you pardon the pun.
The transfer from the islands to Cusco (11,100 feet) through Lima (sea level) went smoothly and our trip through Peru, while very different, was uniquely interesting. We certainly learned much about the Inca civilization that I didn’t know. It’s amazing how influential it was historically despite its relatively brief existence. Gladys, our Peruvian tour director, did wonderful job with our 10-member group. She really knows her “stuff” and is a pretty adept Den Mother as well. And can she trek and climb as if it’s nothing at all. Still, she recognized that different guests had varying capabilities and adjusted accordingly to assure that we all had a complete, thorough and enjoyable experience. She is a valuable resource to Condor Travel, the Peruvian subcontractor, and to use. By the way, our trip was Cusco (11,000 ft.), Pisac in the Sacred Valley (9,500 ft.) to Machu Picchu (7,900 ft.) and then back to Cusco.
Happily, we all made it up to the main part of Machu Picchu and were able to enjoy it. Even the brief rain shower we encountered up there didn’t cool our spirits or sense of where we were and the wonder of what it took to construct the complex. But we still were exhausted, happily so, when we came down after the first trip up. A subgroup of more avid and energetic souls actually went back up the next morning with Gladys to complete the trekking (“Sun Gate”, etc.)
The last day in Lima and environs, as we prepared for late flights home, gave us insight into to non-Incan Peruvian history and some special vistas.
You really asked a simple question in your email. Unfortunately, you sent it to me and I tend to run on about things. In summary, the trip and the experience was “PRIMO” – a not-to-be missed adventure of the mind and the senses. One to be savored and remembered fondly for times to come.
Thanks you all you’ve done both to introduce us to Un-Cruise back when we sailed the Legacy in Alaska and now with this trip. We truly appreciate it.