Galápagos cruise plus airline caveat

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In 2005, my wife and I were two of the estimated 60,000 visitors to the Galápagos Islands. Our trip, which we found out about through Bridgerland Audubon Society (BAS Mini-Grants, 1738 Country Club Dr., Logan, UT 84321; 435/753-7744 or www.bridgerlandaudubon.org), took place May 28-June 7 and cost $2001 per person, including everything except international airfare.

We wanted to share a very positive experience we had with our tour boat and guide and also alert readers about an airline’s actions.

The catamaran Archipell II was operated by Gala Cruises (phone 593-2-2523-234) and carried only 16 passengers. The crew was exceptionally attentive and offered such little niceties as meeting us when we returned from snorkeling in the morning with cups of hot chocolate or, after midday hikes, with cool drinks and a snack. The food was plentiful and well prepared.

The guide, Valentine, was category-3 qualified and held his own with the several college biology professors who were on the trip. A divemaster was on board for those who wanted to scuba. The two pangas used for shore excursions could accommodate everyone.

We flew from Houston International into Guayaquil (the Quito airport was closed for repairs) on a Continental flight that arrived near 1 a.m. on the 29th. Our intent was to have a day of rest before catching an early Aerogal Airlines flight to San Cristobal on the 30th. We had arranged for our flight to be met by Carlos Commancho (cell phone 09-449-3783), a local guide, who booked us into the Andaluz hotel ($18 per person per night including breakfast).

Here comes the “heads up.” Continental flies 737-800/900 aircraft configured to carry 155 to 167 passengers on this 5-hour flight. Reportedly, they are almost always 100% full, which means a lot of baggage. We were among some 12 passengers whose baggage was left behind.

Apparently, this is a common problem, since Continental had several employees waiting at desks so we could fill out “baggage delayed” forms. In my 50-plus years of air travel I’ve filled out many a “baggage lost” form, but this was the first time I’ve even seen a “baggage delayed” form!

Fortunately, Carlos knew the key Continental agent and was able to assure that our baggage came in on the next flight, which arrived at 3 a.m. on the 30th, just a few hours before our Aerogal flight. He also got us $100 from the airline for emergency supplies. Others never got their baggage until two days after their boat sailed, and Continental offered them no money for replacement clothes.

My advice — don’t check in early on that flight. I was told that it is the early check-in luggage that is most often left behind.

JOHN A. DAVISON
Sandy, UT

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

In 2005, my wife and I were two of the estimated 60,000 visitors to the Galápagos Islands. Our trip, which we found out about through Bridgerland Audubon Society (BAS Mini-Grants, 1738 Country Club Dr., Logan, UT 84321; 435/753-7744 or www.bridgerlandaudubon.org), took place May 28-June 7 and cost $2001 per person, including everything except international airfare.

We wanted to share a very positive experience we had with our tour boat and guide and also alert readers about an airline’s actions.

The catamaran Archipell II was operated by Gala Cruises (phone 593-2-2523-234) and carried only 16 passengers. The crew was exceptionally attentive and offered such little niceties as meeting us when we returned from snorkeling in the morning with cups of hot chocolate or, after midday hikes, with cool drinks and a snack. The food was plentiful and well prepared.

The guide, Valentine, was category-3 qualified and held his own with the several college biology professors who were on the trip. A divemaster was on board for those who wanted to scuba. The two pangas used for shore excursions could accommodate everyone.

We flew from Houston International into Guayaquil (the Quito airport was closed for repairs) on a Continental flight that arrived near 1 a.m. on the 29th. Our intent was to have a day of rest before catching an early Aerogal Airlines flight to San Cristobal on the 30th. We had arranged for our flight to be met by Carlos Commancho (cell phone 09-449-3783), a local guide, who booked us into the Andaluz hotel ($18 per person per night including breakfast).

Here comes the “heads up.” Continental flies 737-800/900 aircraft configured to carry 155 to 167 passengers on this 5-hour flight. Reportedly, they are almost always 100% full, which means a lot of baggage. We were among some 12 passengers whose baggage was left behind.

Apparently, this is a common problem, since Continental had several employees waiting at desks so we could fill out “baggage delayed” forms. In my 50-plus years of air travel I’ve filled out many a “baggage lost” form, but this was the first time I’ve even seen a “baggage delayed” form!

Fortunately, Carlos knew the key Continental agent and was able to assure that our baggage came in on the next flight, which arrived at 3 a.m. on the 30th, just a few hours before our Aerogal flight. He also got us $100 from the airline for emergency supplies. Others never got their baggage until two days after their boat sailed, and Continental offered them no money for replacement clothes.

My advice — don’t check in early on that flight. I was told that it is the early check-in luggage that is most often left behind.

JOHN A. DAVISON
Sandy, UT