Cruising the Galapagos on a 4-day Tour
If time and money are major limiting factors for your Galapagos trip, then booking a 4-day cruise may be your best option.
Why choose a 4-day cruise?
- The 4-day cruises are the bare bones option that still give you the ability to see the Galapagos. While almost half of the trip (Day 1 & Day 4) will be dedicated to traveling to and from the boat and not the actual activities, you will still be able to witness the beauty of the Galapagos Islands first-hand, which is a privilege less than four million people have experienced in this century.
- For those looking to combine land-tours with a cruise, the 4-day cruise is a smart and affordable opportunity. Many travelers feel that five, eight, or fifteen days at sea is simply too much. If you want to experience more of the lively bar/ restaurant scene in addition to your cruise, then a 4-day cruise is a cool way to combine your time in town with your time aboard.
- If you are concerned about getting seasick, then this is your best choice. Although larger ships or catamarans offer surprising stability, many people still feel that more than three nights on a boat can be too much.
Why not consider a longer cruise?
- Even the shortest Galapagos cruise is a major investment. If you get anything longer than 4 days, you are increasing the price significantly (double or even triple, depending on which length you choose).
- They might wear on you. Galapagos cruises are jam-packed with action from the moment you set sail to the moment you dock again. The longer the cruise, the more activities there are to experience. Of course, that's not a bad thing. On longer cruises, you are not obliged to do all of the activities, but it's definitely hard to say no, which can be quite exhausting.
- For older couples, cruises can be an amazing way to share retirement; however, long cruises might be more difficult with the constant boarding and de-boarding of the boat and the full itineraries.
- Conversely, if you are traveling with young children, spending a lot of time on a boat can be hard to manage. A 4 or 5 day expedition is usually plenty for parents who decide to bring the kids along.
Nearly all Galapagos travel experts agree -- 4 days just isn't enough time on the islands to get the optimal Galapagos experience. The first and last days of the cruise include your flights from mainland Ecuador plus transportation to and from the boat. That only leaves two full days to explore the Galapagos!
Conversely, a 5-day trip gives you three full days, about 50% more time exploring the islands! That can make the 5-day trips a better value, even though the total price is greater. The 8+ day options are considerably more expensive.
If you want to spend more time on the islands than a 4-day trip enables, but find it hard to afford high cruise prices, consider spending a few days before or after your cruise in a hotel or in a land-based tour in one of the major inhabited islands. This can improve the value of the trip while providing alternative experiences from a cruise.
What might my 4-day cruise include?
- Welcome cocktail
- Land visits and hikes to four to six National Park visitor spots
- Several snorkeling and swimming opportunities on days two and three during which you will swim with the marine life, like tropical fish, turtles, iguanas, or maybe even sharks
- Several hiking opportunities on days two and three when you will get a chance to see a particular ecological zone in its pristine natural beauty
- Excellent photo opportunities throughout the whole trip
- A stop at the Charles Darwin Station to see Galapagos conservation efforts in action
- A kayaking opportunity (if the schedule permits)
A quick guide to boat types
- Catamarans: These are the most stable of the Galapagos boats. The body of the boat is spread over twin hulls that limit the rocking feeling. This is the best type of boat for people prone to motion sickness. This is also a good option if you want a more private experience, as they usually accommodate no more than 16 passengers and the crew.
- Motorboats and sailboats: These are best for the adventure seeker. Their smaller size means there is a more intimate atmosphere for the travelers, which in turn means there will be more liberty with the schedules. Since they are small, they will rock more than larger boats or catamarans.
- Large cruise ships: The 30-100 passenger boats are the biggest passenger vessels that navigate the Galapagos Islands. They are single-hull, which means you will notice the rocking more; but since they are larger, it is not as amplified as in smaller boats. There are more facilities (gyms, Jacuzzis, etc.) on these boats. Itineraries are more concrete, and boarding and de-boarding can take more time as well. Large cruise ships are a good option for families and couples seeking a social experience.
Cruise boats are categorized by the following:
- Ships and larger boats. 4-Day cruises range from around $1,600 to $3,000
- Luxury Yachts. 4-Day cruises tend to be around the $3,000 to $5,000
- First Class Yachts. 4-Day cruises range from around $1,600 to $2,300
- Mid Range Yachts. 4-Day cruises range from around $1,300 to $1,700
- Budget Level Yachts. 4-Day cruises tend to be under $1,000 to $1,400
Things to think about when choosing your boat
- Don't book a room near the engines. Especially on smaller vessels, the engines can be very noisy, so try to get a room far enough away that they won't be heard.
- Air conditioning can greatly improve your cruise's comfort level, especially during the months of the rainy season, between December and January.
- Booking a cruise through an operator in Ecuador is your best bet. Not only will you be able to score the best deals and negotiations with the boat of your choice, but also consider that companies based in Ecuador really know this product. They are the experts, so you can trust that your trip will be well coordinated and put together.
What you can expect when planning your trip with Columbus Travel
What can you expect when you book with us? It's simple: High quality and Excellent service.
Unlike travel agencies based in North America and Europe, we are rooted right in Ecuador. The Galapagos tours and other add-on packages are ALL that we do, so you can count on getting the best advice and saving thousands of dollars from the get-go. In addition to this, we arrange all of the itineraries and reservations manually, meaning that each tour is hand-crafted and designed to fit your interests and desires. We will work with you to figure out exactly what will make this your dream vacation.
As far as value goes, look no further. We can almost always get you the lowest prices on the best boats, beating out the normal contract prices boat owners have with other agencies. Why? We do more volume in sales than any other Galapagos operator, so we are able to negotiate the best prices in the market.
Planning your trip to the Galapagos Islands can be an exciting adventure or a nightmare of logistics. If you let us guide you through the process and take care of all of the details, we can guarantee you the trip you have always dreamed of.
Article writen by Brian Bayer January 2016.