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Marriott CEO Tells Senators Passport Changes Being Considered After Data Breach

Skift

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson is looking to make major changes at the chain in the wake of the hack of the Starwood reservation system. Skift

Skift Take: You can see the dilemma that Marriott and other hotels face: Keep passport data strictly at the property level, where management may not be technically adept, or centralize the information where it can be potentially hacked in one fell swoop. CEO Sorenson is leaning toward the local approach. Either way is risky business.

— Dennis Schaal

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United Tests Software to Hold Planes for Late-Connecting Passengers

Bloomberg

A traveler looking at flight schedules at an airport. United wants to relieve the frustration of passengers scurrying for a connecting flight. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Few things can be more loyalty-jarring for business travelers is when they can’t make tight connections at the airport. United’s experiment is an admirable one as long as it doesn’t impede its on-time arrival efforts. It also shows the cushion built into on-time arrival statistics.

— Dennis Schaal

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American Plots Long-Haul Expansion

BriYYZ  / Flickr

An American Airlines Boeing 787-9 takes off in Los Angeles. The airline may use future Dreamliner delivers to open new routes in Africa and India. BriYYZ / Flickr

Skift Take: American Airlines has never flown to Africa, and the last time it flew to India, it lost lots of money. But the airline is now the world’s largest, and it could soon expand internationally.

— Brian Sumers

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A Galapagos Cruise On Board the Incredible Mary Anne

Galapagos Cruise - Mary Anne full view

When heading to the Galapagos, you certainly have some options. You can try and do it alone, basing yourself out of Puerto Ayoro and arranging day trips to other islands. Or you could join a multi-day Galapagos cruise and travel between the islands on a boat.

A Galapagos cruise is not a typical cruise. These are not huge ships with thousands of passengers. Most of the boats are of the yacht type, some looking good and others looking like they’ve seen much better days, holding anywhere from 10 – 100 passengers. Itineraries vary between 3, 5 and 8 days (sometimes longer) and between eastern and western and central routes as well.

I took an 8-day, eastern itinerary on board the S/S Mary Anne, run by the excellent Andando Tours.

The Mary Anne is the only sailing vessel in the Galapagos and the only vessel that could indeed complete its voyages by wind power only.

She had a presence. She was different than every single other boat we saw during our 8-day trip. She had a classic style to her, whereas the other boats were just that, boats.

The Mary Anne holds 14 passengers, with a combination of double, twin and single cabins (with no extra fees if you’re a solo traveler!). There are 10 crew members, too. The price of the trip includes accommodation, transportation, food, local permits and all activities.

Here’s a short video I made that shows you what it’s like on board the S/S Mary Anne…

S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: Accommodation and Food

The cabins are a good size, if not the largest cabins I’ve ever seen. And while they are simple, they are spotless, bright and comfortable (they have A/C, great beds and even closet space, along with good-size bathrooms with a full shower). I slept wonderfully every night, falling asleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.

All meals were eaten communal style at two large tables, with all kinds of dishes being served. The food was excellent and varied at all times. Breakfast would involve eggs, fruit, breads, local pastries and more. And for lunch and dinner, there was fish and meat, salads, soup, a couple of local sides and a delicious dessert.

After most of our activities, there were also fresh snacks waiting for us when we got on board and there were always snacks, coffee, tea and water available in the dining room throughout the day.

Galapagos Cruise - Mary Anne cabin

Galapagos Cruise - Mary Anne meals

S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: Activities

When it comes to activities, each day is divided into a morning and afternoon session and usually, there were two activities per session. These could be any combination of hiking, snorkeling or kayaking, depending on what island we were at and what there was to see.

The hiking was never too strenuous as it was always along well defined paths set up by the Galapagos conservation board. The hiking pace was always slow as there was simply so much to see everywhere that our guide would stop frequently to explain what we were looking at. Even after a two hour hike, our group wanted more every time!

Kayaking took place on sturdy two-person kayaks and we usually took them out along the coast of an island, into beautiful coves, along white sand beaches where sea lions were playing around and past rocky outcrops where we could spot all kinds of wildlife. It was super fun to be out there paddling around in such settings.

With the snorkeling, the equipment was top notch, and the snorkel sites were some of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Hundreds of fish, sharks, sea lions, octopus, stingrays, turtles and more would make up a typical snorkel session. Every time we went snorkeling I said to myself that I would only stay in the water for 20 minutes or so and every single time I ended up out there until the end, usually an hour or more.

(One of the staff from the boat would follow us in a dingy so that if anyone wanted to get out of the water at any time, he was right there to pick you up.)

All of the above were not mandatory of course. Every activity is always optional as the idea is for all passengers to have the experience they want to have, something the staff stressed often.

Galapagos Cruise - baby sea lion

Galapagos Cruise - Land Iguana

S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: Our Guide

Our guide, Fernando, was phenomenal. Every other guide we passed during our hikes would stop and ask him questions as he clearly had more knowledge than all of them combined. His lengthy experience in these islands was unmatched and his passion for his work turned every single activity into an eye-opening, educational treat.

Again, phenomenal is the only word to describe him.

He also took safety very seriously.

While we watched as passengers from other boats fell on rocks, got separated from their group and were forced to board their dingy in dangerous conditions, we never had any of those issues. Fernando and the team were always watching, always helping and always making sure that everyone was safe at all times.

This might not seem like a big deal but in the Galapagos Islands, it’s a wild and rough terrain. And if you’re not careful, there are opportunities to hurt yourself. But again, nobody on our trip had any issues at all thanks to our guide and the incredibly attentive staff.

S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: The Experience

At night, we would head outside and stare up at the sky in order to take in that magical delight that is a sky full of stars, from horizon to horizon. The boat gently pushed through the small waves, we sipped our beers and enjoyed a mix of conversation and silence until we were ready for sleep.

In the mornings, despite the early wake-ups, there was plenty of chatter, with the excitement about spending yet another day in these islands quite evident among us.

And if you think that watching sea lions and sharks and iguanas and albatross and blue-footed boobies and turtles would get old after a couple of days, believe me when I say that boredom is not possible when in the Galapagos. Every moment spent observing wildlife is beyond fascinating, it’s never the same as any other moment and it only further solidifies the notion that a trip to these islands is an experience of a lifetime.

It’s not only the wildlife though. It’s the views, volcanoes, beaches, colors, natural aromas, plants and trees, warm winds and pure remoteness that builds this trip into something that can’t be copied anywhere else on this planet.

Galapagos Cruise - view from the island

Galapagos Cruise - booby

A Galapagos cruise is surreal. It needs to be experienced. And I can’t imagine a better way to visit this mind-blowing destination than on the beautiful S/S Mary Anne, a ship as unique as the islands she travels around!

Any questions about the Galapagos or about my trip on board the Mary Anne? Let me know!


More posts from my Galapagos cruise:

My Galapagos Trip – 34 Favorite Photos
My Galapagos Trip was an Experience of a Lifetime

The post A Galapagos Cruise On Board the Incredible Mary Anne appeared first on Wandering Earl.

My Galapagos Islands Trip – 34 Favorite Photos (and a video)

Galapagos Islands Trip - Iguana resting

A short time ago, I was on a flight to Ecuador, about to embark on a 7-day Galapagos Islands trip. As I’m traveling constantly, I barely had time to process my plans or to research or to gain a fair understanding of what I should expect.

All I knew is that my Galapagos Islands trip would involve:

a) Sailing for 1 week on board the S/S Mary Anne (run by the wonderful Andando Tours)
b) A lot of animals
c) Probably some other interesting stuff

How naive was I.

First, I spent 7 days/nights on board one of the coolest sailing vessels out there and in my opinion, the best ship for a trip around the Galapagos. As for interesting stuff…between kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, stargazing, constantly learning and just staring in awe at the otherworldly landscapes, I’d say that was easily covered.

And then the animals. A lot of animals?

In one week I ended up seeing an absurd amount of incredible, colorful, unique creatures…on land, in the water and in the sky. If I took a single hour from this one week trip, I would still be able to say that I did indeed see ‘a lot of animals’. Multiply that by 16 waking hours, multiply that by 7 days and you get the idea.

Here’s a taste of the experience that is an incredible Galapagos Islands trip (photos and a pretty cool video)…

Boobies

When I mention my Galapagos Islands trip, one of the most common questions I’m asked is whether I saw any blue-footed boobies. Well, yes I did, along with red-footed and nazca boobies….EVERYWHERE!

Galapagos Islands Trip - Blue Footed Booby

Galapagos Islands Trip - Red footed booby

Galapagos Islands Trip - Birds

Galapagos Islands Trip - Booby

Sea Lions

By the end of the second day, we had already seen well over 50 sea lions. You might think this would be sufficient and any further sea lion spottings would become boring. Not the case! I would have been thrilled to see 50 sea lions every day as they were by far the most playful, active, curious and wacky of all the animals we came across (as you saw in the video above!).

Galapagos Islands Trip - Sea lions on the beach

Galapagos Islands Trip - Sea lion sleeping

Galapagos Islands Trip - Sea lion on a bench

Baby Sea Lions

What’s even better than 50 sea lions per day? Baby sea lions. Look at the photos, watch the video and tell me you don’t want to adopt a baby sea lion right away!

Galapagos Islands Trip - Baby sea lion

Galapagos Islands Trip - Baby sea lion sleeping

Galapagos Islands Trip - Sea lion and crab

Wild Landscapes

I think the photos speak for themselves but every time we hopped onto the little zodiac boat for a ride to shore, we had no idea what we would actually find. Yes, we knew that the nature would be stunning but until we stepped foot onto each island, it was impossible to know just how stunning it would be…

Galapagos Islands Trip - viewpoint

Galapagos Islands Trip - Red beach

Galapagos Islands Trip - Volcano

Galapagos Islands Trip - red landscape

Galapagos Islands Trip - Volcano crater

Galapagos Islands Trip - colorful island

A Galapagos Islands Trip Onboard the S/S Mary Anne

This is the awesome sailing vessel that I traveled on for the entire week during my Galapagos Islands trip!

Galapagos Islands Trip - S/S Mary Anne

Galapagos Islands Trip - Sunset

With the super friendly Captain Mario at the helm…

Galapagos Islands Trip - S/S Mary Anne Captain Mario

Iguanas and Lizards

From colorful marine iguanas to spaced out land iguanas to perky lava lizards and more…almost every island we visited was full of such creatures. There they would always be, sitting on the beach, swimming in the water, sunbathing on rocks or just wandering around.

There were actually so many iguanas and lizards that our guide had to constantly warn us to watch where we were walking to avoid stepping on one!

Galapagos Islands Trip - Iguana walking

Galapagos Islands Trip - Baby lava lizard

Galapagos Islands Trip - Marine iguana

Galapagos Islands Trip - Iguanas

Galapagos Islands Trip - Lava lizard

Galapagos Islands Trip - Iguana resting

Giant Tortoises

The giant tortoises were naturally impressive, often weighing in at over 730 lbs (350kgs) and living for over 100 years. They don’t move around too much but it’s difficult to take your eyes off of them. They seem to reach deep into your inner being when they stare at you (ok, not that intense but they’re fascinating to observe!)…

Galapagos Islands Trip - Giant tortoise

Albatross

With their intricate courtship dance, huge size, crazy ability to fly super long distances and the fact that young albatrosses spend 6 years at sea before returning home to find a mate, seeing these birds on Espanola Island was a real highlight…

Galapagos Islands Trip - Albatross

Galapagos Islands Trip - Albatross mating dance

So Much More

Everywhere I looked on this Galapagos Islands trip there were animals. Too many to remember, too many to even fathom. But every time I look at the photos myself, I realize that I spent an entire week completely amazed, impressed and thankful for such an opportunity, which is why a trip to this remarkable destination is worth every single dollar as far as I’m concerned. It’s a dream trip in every way.

Galapagos Islands Trip - Owl

Galapagos Islands Trip - mockingbird

Galapagos Islands Trip - Stingray

Galapagos Islands Trip - Nazca booby

Thanks for reading!

Galapagos Islands Trip - Sailing

Any questions about the Galapagos Islands? Let me know!

If you’re interested in taking a Galapagos Islands trip, the 8-day experience aboard the S/S Mary Anne with Andando Tours is beyond incredible!


My other posts about the Galapagos Islands: My Galapagos Trip Was An Experience of a Lifetime

The post My Galapagos Islands Trip – 34 Favorite Photos (and a video) appeared first on Wandering Earl.

Travel Advisors Can Be Part of Overtourism Solutions

Bloomberg

Travelers form at crowd at JFK International Airport. Travel advisors recommend that people sometimes travel during the off-season. Bloomberg

Skift Take: Overtourism is becoming a bigger problem for popular destinations, having a negative impact on local communities as well as on the visitor experience. Travel advisors can help the situation by suggesting alternatives to crowded places and times to take trips.

— Maria Lenhart

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Overtourism Has Travel Advisors Telling Their Customers to Please Go Somewhere Else

Bloomberg

Travel agencies have been giving their customers suggestions on where to go to avoid overtourism. Bloomberg

Skift Take: While everyone has heard horror stories of overcrowded destinations, hostile locals, and lining up for hours for a glimpse of a tourist attraction, travel advisors are still faced with requests to visit the world’s most popular places. They have a dilemma: Do they make the booking or risk losing the business by recommending alternatives?

— Allan Leibowitz

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