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Cruising the Galapagos Islands Aboard the M/Y Grace

The graceful M/Y Grace

Since there are at least 60 other first-class ships cruising the Galapagos, selecting the right ship can be a daunting task. You can spend endless hour researching them all only to end up just crossing your fingers and hoping that you made the right pick. But having recently returned from what was truly was “the trip of a lifetime” may I make one very helpful suggestion? Book your cruise on the M/Y Grace.

What makes cruising on the M/Y Grace so special?

Princess Grace aboard my very same yacht

1. They had me at Princess Grace

About 50 years ago, Aristotle Onassis graciously gave his yacht to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco for their wedding present, which the royal couple used for a romantic honeymoon cruise. During the years that followed, this classic craft went through many different owners and name changes, until Ecuador-based, Quasar Expeditions, one of the most experienced names in Galapagos travel for over 25 years, acquired the aging vessel in 2007. She was completely renovated and re-christened M/Y Grace.

2. Just right size

Measuring 146 feet in length, Grace is just the right size… small enough to venture to areas not frequented by bigger ships, yet she still offers plenty of  expansive deck space for the 18 guests who can be accommodated. All of the public spaces, which included inside and alfresco dining areas, a sun deck, library, bar (stocked with plenty of tasty, albeit pricey, Latin American wines) and the Jacuzzi, were immaculately maintained and comfy-cozy.

Spacious staterooms

3.  Spacious Cabins

My suite was incredibly roomy and bright, with to windows on both sides of my cabin! Here are the details in case you’re a number’s type:
Staterooms: Grace offers 2 Master Suites, 2 Twin Suites and 5 Premium Staterooms of up to 19 square meters (200 square feet) with private facilities, individual climate controls, safe boxes, telephones and plenty of storage space for clothing and luggage.
Bathrooms: All staterooms have private bathrooms with hair dryers, amenities and ample space to store toiletries.

Love the popcorn garnish on the shrimp ceviche

4.  Great Food

If you’re like me and think that a major part of traveling is trying the local cuisine, you’re in luck. Our Chef did a wonderful job keeping us happy and well-fed with three huge meals a day, plus many tasty snacks.  Meals featured both traditional Ecuadorian dishes as well as more generic Continental offerings for those with less curious palates.  We were introduced to some tasty local favorites such as: llapingachos-cheesy potato cakes, hornado-slow roasted pork, shrimp and mixed seafood ceviche, humitas-Aztec style tamales, plantain pancakes and hot figs with cheese for dessert.

5.  Fabulous Cruise Director

Although our cruise director, Cesar Venegas, was relatively new, I’m sure he’ll have a long and successful future with the company. Warm, gracious, with a personality as big as the ship, Cesar impressed us with his professionalism and genuine interest in everyone’s well being. Every special order I made, from Day 1, when I asked for a side of spicy homemade salsa, Cesar answered with a smile and “My pleasure.” Since he knew I was a foodie, he even brought me a bowl of Guatita (an Ecuadorian tripe stew in a potato peanut sauce) to try from the staff meal. Scrumptious.

6.  Naturalist guide extraordinaire

Naturalist guides in the Galapagos hold different classifications with various educational backgrounds. We were all thrilled with our exuberant, knowledgeable, articulate (in at least 3 languages) good-looking University-trained naturalist guide, Juan Carlos Naranjo (J.C.). After 25 years of guiding there wasn’t a single question he couldn’t answer, but more importantly, he still managed to maintain an almost childlike enthusiasm for his surroundings that instantly infected us all. Plus, he gets extra credit points for his wacky sense of humor.

J.C. respectfully gives right of way to sea lion

7.  The Ship’s Captain-silent but  steady
The Captain kept a very low-profile, probably due to the fact that since we often cruised at night he most likely spent most of the day sleeping. The important part was that he steered the ship with a very sure hand. Although I came fully armed with anti-nausea wrist bands, Dramamine and ginger tea bags, I never needed them.

8. The Itinerary

My eight-day cruise left from San Cristobal and included visits to the Genovesa, Isabela, Fernandina, Bartolome, Santa Cruz, the Charles Darwin Research Station, and Hood (Española) Island. Every day would start with a panga (dinghy) ride to the island, where J.C. would lead us in a nature walk, or on occasion, a full-fledged, calorie-burning hike, followed by a swim with the animals, or snorkeling with a rainbow of fish, take some National Geographic caliber photos, or maybe just work on our tans for a while.

Paradise for bird-lovers

We got up close and personal with 500-pound tortoises, prehistoric-looking iguanas, frolicking sea lions, penguins, blue and red-footed boobies, the famous Darwin finches and a plethora of  indigenous wildlife by land and sea, providing  a lifetime of unforgettable experiences.

Lunch time?

Holidays aboard the M/Y Grace are organised by Quasar Expeditions who are currently offering some amazing deals, which include the Galapagos Roundtrip airfare, Galapagos Park Fee and Transit Cards in the price. For more information see: http://www.galapagosexpeditions.com/

My favorite playmate

About Janice Nieder

Janice Nieder
Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. Previously a specialty food consultant in NYC, Janice is currently a SF-based culinary tourism writer who has wined & dined her way through 80 countries

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