The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, three nights' accommodations in Quito, a three-night cruise, some meals, tours and activities, and regional airfare from $2,099 per person — plus taxes and fuel surcharges of about $390.
When: Nov. 26-Dec. 9, 2007, Jan. 8-21, 2008; add $400 for Dec. 9, 2007-Jan. 8, 2008.
Gateways: Miami; add $100 from New York City.
The fine print: Breakfast daily in Quito, all meals aboard the cruise ship, round-trip regional airfare, and transfers are included. The additional $390 in taxes and fees breaks down into a fuel surcharge of $250, a $100 Galápagos entrance tax, and a $40 Ecuador departure tax. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $840. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Escapes Unlimited, 800/243-7227, escapesltd.com.
Why it's a deal: In comparison, according to a recent Sidestep search, the lowest round-trip airfare from Miami to Quito is $516, departing in late November (Avianca) as well as mid-January (COPA). Add to that the cost of a round-trip fare between Quito and the Galapagos Islands, which starts at $349 per person (TAME), and you're spending $865 on airfare alone. For an additional $1,234, or about $206 a night, Escapes Unlimited provides hotel accommodations in Quito, a three-night cruise, all transfers, some meals, and guided tours — plus the convenience of one-stop shopping.
Trip details: The Ecuador and Galapagos package includes nonstop, round-trip flights to Quito on Lan Ecuador and six nights' accommodations.
Your trip begins in Quito, the second highest elevated capital in South America (after La Paz in Bolivia) with the Andes as a dramatic backdrop. You'll stay three nights at the 212-room Hotel Dann Carlton, close to the commercial district; the Quicentro shops and La Carolina and Metropolitano parks are less than a mile away. Amenities include a restaurant, a bar, a gym, a Jacuzzi, a sauna, and laundry service. Hotel upgrades are available to the luxury JW Marriott for $40 per person per night.
The northern part of Quito, with its shopping malls, businesses, various embassies, and the national and international airports, feels modern. The southern section of Old Quito, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has narrow cobbled streets, colonial buildings, cathedrals, museums, and outdoor markets.
Following your three-night stay in Quito, you'll take a two-and-a-half hour flight on the government's TAME airlines to the Galápagos Islands to board the 100-passenger Galapagos Legend cruise ship for a three-day sail. The package as priced includes three nights in an inside cabin. Add $350 per person to upgrade to an outside cabin.
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While the exact itinerary depends on whether you board on Monday or Thursday, one highlight of the cruise is Bartolomé Island, where you'll explore volcanic formations like the lava bombs, spatter, and cider cones. You'll also hike to the summit for a picturesque view of the neighboring islands.
Passengers will visit Urbina Bay, known for its fossil beach and coral area. As you're strolling along the bay, keep an eye out for giant tortoises, land iguanas, and flightless cormorants. You'll conclude you visit with a snorkeling adventure.
Another stop is Fernandina Island, home to marine iguanas, as well as sally-light foot crabs, Galápagos penguins, hawks, and sea lions. Other featured islands: Española Island, known for bird-watching; the national park and breeding center on San Cristóbal; and North Seymour, a major nesting colony of blue-footed boobies. Each offers opportunities for snorkeling.
Not ready to head home? Extend your stay in Quito for $40 per person per night, based on double occupancy and $80 for single rooms.
While Ecuador's weather is perfect for year-round travel, the months of May through December are considered the rainy season, with a slightly cold, misty current along the coastal Galápagos area. Before you go, check the weather forecast.
Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.