Operated by Rolf Wittmer Turismo, a company founded by descendants of some of the earliest settlers in the archipelago, the Tip Top fleet boasts 3 motor yachts. We traveled on an 8-day cruise aboard the Tip Top II—an 90′ motor yacht that carries 16 passengers and 8 crew members. Two pangas or rubberized motor boats deliver you to and from the islands. The boat also had 2 tandem sea kayaks, for any who didn’t want to snorkel but who still wanted to explore the area. You can read more about the Tip Top fleet here.
When we first arrived, a booklet specific to the Tip Top fleet provided lots of information about the boat, the policies and procedures, and the islands we’d be visiting. One point leapt out at me—the packet stated that all employees were paid according to Ecuadorean and Galápagos laws and given all benefits as required. In addition, the company provided extra benefits such as private medical, life, and accident insurance. I don’t know if all of the crew received all of that—for example, the captain was a free-lancer, I believe—but I liked that the company offered these benefits at all. And I know that Carlos, our naturalist guide, had a 2-year contract with the Tip Top fleet, so they had provided important job security for him (and therefore had first dibs on his marvelous services as well!). It also supported what the Elderhostel material had told us: All staff were compensated fairly and a modest tip had been included in the fees we already paid; tips were only to be offered for above and beyond the call of duty. You can read about a nightmare around this topic that I had read about before we left on a travel Web site
Below is a photo of the deck plans of this boat from the Wittmer Turismo page. (Definitely a small, rather fuzzy view. If you click on the photo, you’ll see a slightly larger version. But it’ll still be pretty fuzzy.) From left to right—upper deck, with 2 passenger cabins; main deck, with the lounge, dining room, and galley; and the lower deck, with 6 passenger cabins. All cabins have small bathrooms with a shower and sink. The boat had a desalination machine on-board to produce fresh water, but water conservation was on everyone’s minds. I always had enough hot water. Of course, I took quick showers—so much going on, there was no time to dawdle. Although the desalinated water was potable, the boat provided a reverse-osmosis water dispenser in the lounge for drinking water. We all were given reusable Tip Top water bottles to use, a good green alternative to disposable water bottles. The water bottles themselves weren’t the most sturdily constructed and mine tended to leak a bit. So I mostly used that one for toothbrushing and my own, more rugged water bottle for the hikes.