How to Choose a Galapagos Cruise
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How to Choose a Galapagos Cruise

7 min read

Aug 23, 2012

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By Blake Lieberman

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Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

Expert Tips on How to Choose a Galapagos Cruise

The Galapagos Islands are undoubtedly one of the great highlights of South America. The archipelago consists of numerous protected islands that straddle the Earth’s equator. Each island has a unique microcosm of flora and fauna and is home to a wide variety of migratory and indigenous animals, making the Galapagos Islands a must-see destination for wildlife and adventure enthusiasts.

In fact, when the UNESCO World Heritage Organization began in the 1970s, the first place they chose to name a UNESCO World Heritage Site was . . . you guessed it – the Galapagos Islands. The best way to visit and explore the Galapagos Islands is by cruise ship. Although there are numerous cruise excursions in the Galapagos Islands, it can be daunting to choose the right cruise for your trip. The following Ecuador travel tips will help guide you on how to choose your next Galapagos cruise.

1. Determine duration

Perhaps the single most important factor in choosing the right Galapagos Cruise is to determine the length of your visit. There are 3, 4, and 7-night cruising options available. The longer the cruise length, the more islands you will be able to visit.

3 & 4-night Galapagos cruises

A 3-night cruise will give you a taste of the Galapagos Islands; however, given the effort and expense necessary to get to the Islands we recommend at least a 4-night cruise, as you will be able to see the main highlights of the Islands without feeling rushed.

7-night Galapagos cruises

Longer cruises explore the outer islands, which are more remote, and offer some of the best scuba diving in the area although it should be noted that only selected ships offer a scuba diving option and you should check before booking.

woman looking at kicker rock aboard a cruise ship
bird diving in front of a galapagos cruise

Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

2. Consider the type of ship

Once you’ve settled on your cruise trip length, you will need to choose an appropriate ship. Galapagos Cruise ships run the scale of luxury motor yachts to large cruise ships, with nearly everything in between. Your Galapagos Islands experience can be enhanced by choosing a ship that best suits your needs. Here are some considerations to take into account when choosing a cruise ship in the Galapagos Islands:

How to Avoid Seasickness

Those who have not yet developed their “sea legs” may want to consider a larger ship or multi-hulled ship. Nearly all the cruise ships have modern propulsion and balance systems to help minimize swells and/or rough seas. However, a larger ship tends to be less affected by ocean swells and thus tends to be a smoother voyage.

For those who want a more intimate cruise ship setting, yet are still concerned about wave action, a multi-hulled (bi- or tri-catamaran hull) will also help reduce the ocean’s movement. The best cruise option for seasickness is the Ocean Spray Cruise Ship.

Ship Amenities

Larger cruise ships typically offer more amenities than a smaller ship; however, this is not to say smaller ships are more basic. Indeed, there are several luxury yachts with full amenities, just as there are larger cruise ships with more basic amenities. We recommend you identify any “must-have” amenities and look for ships that offer them.

ocean spray galapagos cruise ship in front of the kicker rock
deck of the galapagos petrel cruise

Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

3. Decide your comfort level regarding capacity

Ship capacity can vary from smaller almost boutique style 8-10 person ships to larger ships that can accommodate up to 100 passengers. Smaller boats tend to create a more familial vibe, and may paradoxically be more suited to extroverted travelers while the more introverted may benefit from the relative anonymity offered by larger ships.

Smaller Galapagos ships

The Royal Galapagos Cruise line’s fleet specializes in smaller capacity ships such as The Cormorant Cruise Ship. This offers a very comfortable and homely experience.

Larger Galapagos ships

A good example of a larger ship is the Galapagos Legend Cruise. This ship has a capacity of up to 100-passengers and boats lots of great amenities such as a Jacuzzi and bar.

exterior of cormorant cruise ship
the sundeck and jacuzzi of a galapagos cruise

Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

4. Choose a ship with guided tours

Your excursions will be hosted by naturalist guides who will typically take you on 2-land and 2-water based excursions per day on a fleet of zodiacs. The Galapagos has a stunning array of terrestrial and aquatic life and your guides will accommodate you in optimizing your chances to interact with the animals as well as providing an illuminating insight into the natural forces that form to create this unique habitat.

sea turtle swimming near the ocean floor
sting rays swimming

Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

5. Look into the programs that the vessel offers

The Galapagos Islands are very strictly regulated by the Ecuadorian National Park Service, such that all ships are limited to visiting only those islands permitted by authorities. Even though the ships visit the same islands, their programs may differ between ships.

Ecology & science

Some ships focus on the ecology or science of the islands and are staffed with scientists, wildlife biologists, and certified natural guides. All of the natural guides are trained to the highest of standards and have a wealth of fascinating knowledge that they enthusiastically dispense during excursions.

Adventure tourism

Other ships focus more on adventure tourism and offer more opportunities for kayaking, snorkeling, and other activities. There are scuba-diving oriented cruises, with an itinerary that focuses on prime diving sites and luxury cruise options aboard yachts or schooners. You also have the option of arriving earlier to the islands to scuba dive at Kicker Rock before boarding your cruise.

girl on a guided tour of galapagos wildlife
snorkeling and scuba diving in the galapagos

Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

6. Choose a cabin type

You’ve now decided how long you will cruise and what type of ship and program you wish to experience. Now you need to select a cabin. As with hotels on land, cabins span the gamut from small and economical to luxurious suites, with everything in between. Although cabin amenities and sizes may vary greatly between ships, there are a few tips to look for in every cabin to make your cruise a little more enjoyable:

Location

Are you interested in the top deck or bottom deck? Front of the ship or the back? Landlubbers may want to consider lower decks and mid-ship cabins if they are at all worried about seasickness.

Windows

Look for cabins with large view windows; avoid those with small “porthole” windows.

Exterior cabins

Most ships offer all exterior cabins; just be aware of the cabin location when making your cabin selection (does it offer a view of the sea or an interior view?).

the balcony suite on the legend cruise ship
coral junior cabin suite

Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

7. Decide when you’ll visit the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination; however, sometimes of the year are better to visit than others. Avoid cruising the Galapagos Islands around August when the currents and winds make the water a bit colder and choppier. You also want to avoid holiday seasons and school breaks as prices increase and cabin availability decreases.

Lastly, for those who are very interested in wildlife, you will want to coordinate your visit with the migratory patterns of certain animals. The weather in Galapagos can be primarily categorized into two distinct seasons the colder drier period runs from July to August while the warmer wetter season runs from January to June.

The best time to visit the Galapagos, in my opinion,  is during the warmer season. You will typically have to snorkelling excursions per day on most cruises and although you will be provided with a wet or dry suit I think you will find the experience more enjoyable on the whole in warmer waters.

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Last updated on November 10th, 2020 at 09:24 am

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