Last updated on November 23rd, 2016
I spent 5 nights aboard the Aida Maria and cruised through Galapagos Islands. I visited the central and western islands.
This is my review of the Aida Maria Galapagos cruise; it’s not exhaustive but covers the main points.
The tour started from Santa Cruz and we visited the islands of Isabela, Fernandina, Santiago, Rabida, and North Seymour. When the tour ended, we were dropped off at the airport on Baltra Island.
Our tour guide was Ruben and he spoke fluent English. We learned a lot of valuable information about the Galapagos from him. I felt he knew his facts accurately. The guides can change on the Aida Maria
The visits to the islands consisted of hikes and snorkelling. The average water temperature was around 20⁰ C and was cold for most people. Everyone used wetsuits except me. To rent wetsuits costs $12/day. Snorkels and fins were included in the tour price.
We saw plenty of animals in the water, air, and on land. To capture the best photos of wildlife, you should bring a telephoto lens. The landscapes varied in colors and shapes. As a travel and landscape photographer, the Galapagos Islands are exquisite to photograph.
The meals were buffet style and consisted of fish, pork, chicken, beef, fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread, cereal, fruit juice, etc. during different meals. All of the guests were pleased with their meals. Coffee, tea, and filtered water was provided free throughout the day. There was dessert at night after dinner.
There was enough food and snacks provided that you don’t need to bring your own snacks. I was never hungry.
There is a corkage fee to bring your own alcohol on board; nobody paid it and drank discretely. But I’m sure the staff knew but didn’t care. The beers cost $4.
The boat had ample room in the front deck to lounge or sunbathe. In the main cabin there was a TV with a DVD player, though nobody used it.
For me, the rooms were big enough for double occupancy and were made of bunk beds. You won’t be able to jump around in the rooms but space is sufficient.
Sometimes the main cabin and rooms had air conditioning at full blast, so it can be chilly. But you can ask the staff to adjust the temperature.
Each room had private bathrooms with hot showers. You need to make sure you shower before everyone else because the hot water tank runs out quickly. Otherwise, you should shower during non-peak hours if you want hot water.
Everyone on board was very happy with the tour. I don’t think there was really anything to complain about at the price I paid.
Aida Maria Itinerary
Monday, July 11
I was able to get a last-minute, five-night Galapagos cruise from Santa Cruz Island on the Aida Maria for $1050. I purchased the tour from Galapagos Cruising Muran on Islas Plaza and Charles Darwin Ave. I believe it was itinerary F. I also saw an Aida Maria agency on Baltra Ave after my cruise ended; the price might be cheaper if you buy directly from them.
Tuesday, July 12
I arrived on the Aida Maria at noon.
Lunch: string beans, carrots, rice, salad, shrimp in some type of buttered sauce, fruit salad (watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe).
Afternoon: hike on Santa Cruz, see wild giant tortoises at Chato Farm, walk through lava tunnels
Dinner: roast beef, potatoes, cabbage with cheese, salad,
Dessert: peach slices with yogurt
Wednesday, July 13
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, butter, bread, jam, frosted flakes, granola with raisins, yogurt, fruit salad (papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe) and passion fruit juice
After breakfast, we arrived on Puerto Villamil, Isabela. We each had to pay a $5 docking fee. I feel the docking fee should have been included with the tour price, but that’s business. It would be understandable if they listed this fee on their website or the tour agency mentioned this fee.
Morning: hike to top of Sierra Negra Volcano, on the way stop at lagoon to see flamingos
Lunch: corn with egg, potato patties made with cheese and onions, diced salad, pork steaks, fruit salad (watermelon, pineapple, and cantaloupe)
Afternoon: visit to giant tortoise breeding center, beach
Dinner: tuna, Greek Salad, pasta with cheese, and broccoli salad
Dessert: caramelized bananas with cinnamon.
Thursday, July 14
Breakfast: omelettes, toast, buns, cheese, ham, tamarind juice, fruit salad (grape, papaya, watermelon, pineapple)
Morning: hike on lava rock at Puerto Moreno, Isabela, snorkelling in Puerto Moreno (plenty of sea turtles feeding)
Lunch: spinach soup, rice, tuna, cauliflower, carrots, salad, fruit salad (strawberry, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe.
Afternoon: dingy tour in Elizabeth’s Bay, Isabela, see Galapagos Penguins, flightless cormorants, blue herons, sea lions, sea turtles including the Pacific Rim and hawksbill sea turtles
Dinner: chicken, potatoes, salad, radishes
Dessert: strawberry and vanilla cake
Friday, July 15
Before breakfast and around 6:45 a.m., we saw whales in the distance from Aida Maria. They were between Fernandina and Isabella, but closer to the Isabela shoreline; and between 200 and 1000 metres away. We weren’t sure the breed of the whales.
Breakfast: toast, bread rolls, pancakes, bologna, cheese, fruit salad (pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya), tamarind juice.
Morning: hike on Punta Espinosa, Fernandina, snorkelling, see the Galapagos Hawks, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, sea lions, lava lizards, pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea turtles
Lunch: rice, broccoli with cheese, salad, tuna, fruit salad (watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe)
Afternoon: snorkelling in Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela, see sea lions, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea turtles, cormorants, plenty of fish
Dinner: rice, vegetables, beef with mushrooms and ham
Saturday, July 16
Breakfast: boiled eggs, toast, mini sausages, cereal with yogurt, tamarind juice, fruit salad (watermelon, cantaloupe)
Morning: hike on Puerto Egas, Santiago, see marine iguanas, blue herons, Sally Lightfooted Crabs, Galapagos Hawks, snorkelling in James Bay, see white tip sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, plenty of fish
Lunch: rice, carrots, string beans, salad, tuna, fruit salad (pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupes)
Afternoon: hike on Rabida, the rocks were red and so was the sand, snorkelling in Jervis Beach, see pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, white tip sharks, Nazca Booby,
Dinner: rice, spaghetti, vegetables, chicken
Sunday, July 17
Morning before breakfast: hike on North Seymour, see plenty of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies with eggs and hatchlings
Breakfast: omelette, toast, cereal with yogurt, fruit salad (watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe), guava juice
After breakfast we landed on Baltra Island. We all went to the airport and then went our separate ways. I returned to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz.