When planning a Galapagos cruise, it might seem like the options are limitless, but keep these hacks in mind and planning it will be a breeze.
1 – Set your price.
- Budget cruises ($1000-$2000/ person for a weeklong cruise): If your goal is simply to see the stunning nature of the Galapagos Islands and not break the bank, a more conservatively priced Budget cruise ought to do the trick. Don’t expect gourmet food or spacious cabins, but you’ll still enjoy a friendly crew and an exciting itinerary.
- Mid-range cruises ($1500-$2500/ person for a weeklong cruise): If you have a bit more wiggle room in your budget, consider upgrading to a mid-range cruise, which will offer you more comfortable accommodations, better food, and likely better social areas onboard (like an al fresco dining area or a bar and lounge).
- First Class cruise ($2000-$4000/ person for a weeklong cruise): First class cruises are very similar in comfort and design to a luxury cruise, but some minor differences, like maybe the lack of a Jacuzzi on the sun deck or cabins that don’t feature balconies keep the prices lower on these than on luxury cruises.
- Luxury cruise ($2500-$6000/ person for a weeklong cruise): If price isn’t an issue for you, then a luxury cruise will offer you an unparalleled experience in cruising – from spacious and well-appointed suites and private balconies to multiple open-air decks and lounges to gourmet food and expert bilingual naturalist guides, these cruises set the bar in Galapagos vacations.
2 – Determine your non-negotiables. When planning a Galapagos cruise, you can really narrow down the list when you consider what parts of your cruise are non-negotiable.
- For example, if you’re an avid scuba diver looking for your next great adventure, then there are only a few liveaboard cruises that offer diving.
- Or if you know that you want to see the humpback whales as they migrate through the Galapagos, you must visit between the months of June and September. There are around 100 visitor sites in the Galapagos Islands and a lifetime of activities,
3 – Choose a ship type:
- Catamarans are yachts that float over two hulls, adding excellent stability and more flat deck space than other yachts of similar occupancy. These are a great option for those who want the cruise experience but are worried about getting motion sickness.
- Single-hulled motor yachts tend to have occupancy for less than 20 people, like catamarans, and provide an intimate atmosphere onboard. Note that these do tend to be more prone to rocking with the current and have tapering hulls that may limit cabin size.
- Cruise ships in the Galapagos are the highest occupancy passenger vessels in the Galapagos, but still accommodate just around 150-200 people, unlike the giant ocean liners that you might see in the Caribbean. These ships usually feature multiple dining areas and many more onboard amenities like perhaps an exercise room, spa, boutique, or even a pool on the top deck. Note that there will be a greater selection of rooms on cruise ships, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the cabins are bigger than those on smaller yachts.
- Sailing schooners offer a much more classic maritime atmosphere onboard. While these boats generally do have motors to supplement the sails, your cruise will largely be at the pace of the sea wind. There are very few of these boats in the Galapagos, so if this is your preference, make sure to book early.
4 – Save on the ticket price. There’s no way around it – Galapagos cruises are expensive! But there are some reliable ways to save up to 50% of the ticket price per passenger, which could result in thousands of dollars saved – If you do it right, that’s like getting your airfare for free.
- Book in the shoulder season – March & April and September & October are the off months in the Galapagos, which means you might find some great deals. If you’re traveling in the summer, this is the high season for tourism, so don’t expect a lot of discounts.
- Book a last-minute cruise – This is a risky strategy, since you might not get the yacht, itinerary, or cruise that you had your eye on, and there aren’t always last-minute deals available, but if you can find one, expect heavy discounts. Boats hate to sail with an empty cabin! This is much easier to do if your travel date is more flexible.
5 – Check a wildlife calendar. There are always natural events happening in the Galapagos Islands, from the blue-footed boobies performing their quirky mating dance to the hatching of green sea turtles on the beaches or the migration of tortoises from the Santa Cruz highlands to the coast and back. Take some time to familiarize yourself with this wildlife calendar [link calendar] to figure out which month sounds most exciting for you.
6 – Go through a travel company. Galapagos tour operators work very closely with travel companies (like us!) to book their cruises. That means that when there is a hot deal or a hard-to-miss discount, we’re among the first to know. It’s also nice to know that you have someone to send your questions to when they arise: There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet, and it can be stressful to try to figure out what’s true and what isn’t. If you work with a travel company, they will accompany you through the whole process and make sure that once you show up at the airport in Baltra or San Cristobal in the Galapagos, the rest of your vacation is “smooth sailing.”