This Galápagos Cruise Is Designed Specially for Children With Autism — With Quiet Rooms, Discussions for Parents, and Experts on Board

Limited to only 32 guests, the weeklong getaway departs in June 2023 and is lead by a special needs expert.

Quasar Expeditions has introduced a new Galápagos itinerary specially designed for children with autism and their families to experience the natural wonders of Ecuador's islands.

The seven-night trip departs on June 24, 2023. It will be limited to 32 guests and led by special needs expert Denise Carbon, who works with Special Advantage and has three decades of experience working with children and their families to help uplift those with autism.

The al fresco dining deck onboard the Evolution with Quasar Expeditions
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

"Kids with autism are very sensitive," Carbon said in a statement sent to Travel + Leisure. "Their systems are heightened. Their sense of smell, sight, sound, and touch is heightened, so they tend to absorb that energy from their surroundings. If they are in an open space and there is this harmony between the animals and the people, they are going to feel that calming energy."

Exterior of the Evolution with Quasar Expeditions
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

Among the specially designed elements of the trip are quiet zones aboard the expedition yacht, comfort supplies (like weighted blankets, beanbag animals, and fidget spinners), and discussion groups in the evenings for the parents.

Interior of a master suite on board the Exterior of the Evolution with Quasar Expeditions, Evolution ship
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

"One of the big fears of parents who have children with special needs is acceptance from other parents… other 'judging eyes,'" Carbon said in an interview with Quasar. "I love the idea of having a specific adventure where families with children with special needs can go together."

A family sight seeing the Galapagos from on board the Quasar Expeditions, Evolution ship
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

The itinerary called "Footsteps Back in Time" departs from and concludes on San Cristobal Island with stops including Santiago Island, Prince Phillip's Steps, Floreana Island, and Santa Cruz Island to visit the Wild Land Tortoises Reserve and Charles Darwin Research Station's Breeding Center. The week will be spent on the Evolution yacht — which has an oversized Jacuzzi and dive deck — and there will be opportunities to snorkel, kayak, hike, and go on panga boat rides. All along the way, there will be chances to see the Galápagos' endemic species, like marine iguana, fur seals, penguins, and giant tortoises.

A little boy taking a photo of a giant tortoise in the Galapagos
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

"Having seen the effects that animals have on children with autism, like equine therapy for example, I think it is so incredibly powerful to enter into any situation (and the Galápagos is definitely this sort of situation), where the child can feel that the energy is different," Carbon said.

A little boy with a baby sea lion in the Galapagos
Hernan Olaya/Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

And that is exactly the goal behind this offering. "Quasar's aim with this specific departure is to provide a great setting where parents can feel comfortable opening up to other parents, where kids can connect with other children who have special needs as well as typically developing siblings, and where everyone can be on the same page and feeling the same energy," Quasar's marketing director Fernandoz Diez said. "A place where everyone is ready to take things as they come, one day at a time, and let the islands and the daily experiences do their magic, especially with the children."

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