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Galapagos Fiasco

  • Submitted by: Rita Miller, United States
  • Submission Date: 01st Jul 2008

FlashTravel aka operated by CEO and president Francisco Jose Jarrin Calderon and assisted by his sales agent, Alexandra, provided the most mismanaged, distruptive, and unsatisfactory tour on which I have had the displeasure of travelling.
The website touts "our quality standard guarantees 100% client satisfaction and honesty. We deliver exactly what you booked..." They failed on this one. FlashTravel is the most incompetent and unreliable tour company I have experienced in my 42 years of travelling.
This is a summary of my Galapagos nightmare:
1) My itinerary included 4 islands: Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela, and San Cristobal. Due to six itinerary changes during my 8 day tour, I did not go to Floreana.
2) My itinerary had me on the company sppeed boat. Due to itinerary changes, I was put on public transportation. There was NO lifejacket offered to me. I had previously inquired if the FlashTravel boat met the Ecuadorian Navy standards. Reply was yes; implication: life jackets were available.
3) My itinerary had morning and afternoon activities each day. The island Plazas was substituted for Floreana. My sister and I were the only two clients of the FlashTravel guide that day. The guide did not put us on the dingy to the tour boat but got on himself with about a dozen German tourists and never came back for us. We were left on the dock. After three unanswered phone calls to FlashTravel, and one call to my day tour guide in Quito who finally managed to contact FlashTravel, I called FlashTravel again and Alexandra answered. Eventually a taxi was sent for us and took us back to Puerto Ayora. This fiasco cost me an island visit and 6 hours of tour time.
4) The island Plazas was rescheduled for three days later. At 10 PM before the morning of the Plazas trip, I was summoned to the coordinator's office (in Isabela) and was told that my private tour for four (me, my sister, and two people we had previously met) was cancelled because it cost too much to run a tour for four people. Of course they didn't know this during the three days between scheduling and cancelling. Because of this cancellation, I stayed an extra day in Isabela. I went snorkling in the morning but there was no activity in the afternoon. I lost another 6 hours of tour time.
5) I was guaranteed a guide in each island. In San Cristobal, I was met by a Galapagos guide, but he did not stay with me. The guide also had a tour/diving company and assigned his divemaster to me. Nice guy, but he didn't know the answers to my tourist questions.
Why all these itinerary changes?:
FlashTravel put my sister and me with a group of 16 who were on a FIVE day tour. These people had travelled together for 30 years (no exaggeration, they talked about trips from the 1970's). They thought they were on an "exclusive" tour. Their leader threw a fit and we were out of "their group." (There was verbal abuse and in one instance, physical abuse, from "the group" towards my sister and me.) After the first day, at dinner, they were briefed on the rest of their tour. When I inquired as to what was planned for day five through 8 of my EIGHT day tour, the guide was dumbfounded. He didn't know what to do with me on the group's day five, go-home day. The decision was made to separate us from the group and give us our own itinerary. "Our own itinerary" was changed 6 times in the eight days.
Trying to combine tours and subsequently pulling us out and making last minute arrangements showed the absence of booking guarantees and the incompetence of FlashTravel.
Indicative of our dissatisfaction with the tour, my sister and I changed our flight tickets out of the Galapagos and left earlier. We elected to fly out of San Cristobal and forgo returning to Santa Cruz and visiting the Gemelos on our last day.
FlashTravel has a bank account in Miami but is an Ecuadorian company. Book with someone else. Anyone else.