Galapagos Boat FAQs
Ever since tourism in the Galapagos Islands exploded in the late 20th century, cruises have reigned as the number one way to explore the Galapagos Islands. Not only do they offer unparalleled access to even the most remote Galapagos visitor sites, but they also have the advantage of being all-inclusive, leaving you to enjoy your vacation without the stress of any additional planning. Plus, with decades to develop, the cruise operators have become the best tour providers in the Galapagos Islands.
What type of boat should I choose?
There are only a few options to choose from, but they are all very different:
- Ship – Unlike the mega ocean liners of the Caribbean, the biggest ships in the Galapagos Islands usually accommodate from 50-200 passengers. They frequently have several dining areas, bars, and restaurants, amenities like onboard pools, exercise rooms, and spas, and perhaps gift shops. They are great for socializing with different people every day and are generally very stable due to their weight. A disadvantage is the amount of time it may take to de-board and board for each activity, cutting into the time spent actually doing the activity. Fortunately, most big ships host a group of guides so that the daily tours are still done in smaller groups of 10-12 people.
- Motor-sailor/ single hull boats – With occupancy for about 10-20 people, these provide a much more intimate experience. Many find that cruising aboard a motor sailor or single-hull boat also provides a much more “classic” feeling to their cruise. Note that these boats are usually a bit tighter for space than ships or catamarans due to their design.
- Catamaran – Balanced over two hulls, these are the most stable small yachts in the Galapagos Islands and also take advantage of the wide beam to feature larger cabins and suites, ample indoor and al fresco social/ dining areas, and often even a Jacuzzi on the spacious sun deck. These generally host up to 16 passengers.
Are Galapagos cruises worth it?
Definitely! It’s no secret that cruises are almost always more expensive than land-based tours, but the value is hard to beat. Exclusive access to isolated sites, all-inclusive itineraries, built-in guides that accompany you every step of the way, not to mention the comfortable appointments that have become synonymous with luxury Galapagos cruises. At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a “cheap” Galapagos vacation, so it really is a better value to pay a bit more for a cruise for a more comprehensive and authentic Galapagos experience.
Are Galapagos cruises a bad option if I get motion sickness?
Not necessarily. If you know you are prone to motion sickness but still want to take a cruise, simply choose a larger ship that sits heavier in the water and rocks less or a catamaran, which balances over two separate hulls and offers surprising stability.
What is a typical day on a Galapagos cruise?
Galapagos cruises are jam-packed with activities and are ideal for the active traveler. The morning usually starts with breakfast around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. Then it’s off to the morning activity – perhaps a hike across hardened lava flows, an ascent to the top of a volcano’s crater, or a bird-watching journey down a winding trail.
You might head back to the boat for a snack to recharge your batteries before visiting yet another site – maybe where pirates once docked their ships or the informal “post office” where lovesick sailors of the 19th century left letters to home.
Then it’s time for lunch – usually a quick bite, a bit of time to digest, and then another exploration of the Islands – this time by sea, with a panga ride around a mangrove colony to see sea lions or snorkeling alongside rays, sharks, and tropical fish.
Afterwards, it’s back to the boat for dinner and a briefing on what you will be doing the next day.
Are Galapagos cruises a good option for leisurely travel?
Probably not. Those who choose to travel to the Galapagos Islands have an expeditioner’s heart, hoping to retrace the footsteps of naturalists like Charles Darwin and witness the “living laboratory” first-hand. These trips prominently feature (sometimes technical) hiking, swimming, snorkeling, and other high intensity activities. Of course, there is also plenty of time to relax between activities and in the evenings, but generally speaking Galapagos cruises keep you on the go.
Are Galapagos cruises a good option for families?
They absolutely can be, but be wary if you are traveling with young children. Cruises are a great way to share an unforgettable vacation with your family. They are ideal for adult families looking for some quality bonding time or for families with adolescents who are hoping to engage their minds on an active exploration of these natural wonders.
They are not good for families traveling with young children who will feel anxious confined on a small yacht or who aren’t old enough to appreciate the environmental focus of most cruises.
What class of boat should I choose?
This question is usually a matter of budget – the luxury vessels provide the best service and accommodations you could possibly hope for. First-class vessels are a compelling alternative if you are hoping balance price and comfort. Budget vessels tend to cut out many of the finer elements of luxury and first class cruises, but still manage to provide excellent experiences for travelers hoping to save some money.
- Luxury cruises will feature plush and spacious accommodations, gourmet meals that draw on locally sourced and expertly prepared cuisine, onboard amenities that range from spas and pools to Jacuzzis and lounges. The guides on these cruises are the best multilingual experts, usually with degrees in environmental studies or biology, and the captain and crew are extremely detail-oriented to make sure that nothing is missing from your Galapagos experience.
- First class cruises may not include bathrobes, private balconies, or onboard Jacuzzis, but you can still count on ample space and comfort in your cabin or suite, excellent service and knowledgeable guides. These are a great compromise between economy and comfort, offering some of the best values on Galapagos cruises.
- On budget cruises, vessels tend to be smaller, often with bunk beds in the cabins, porthole or small windows, and fewer onboard amenities. The crew will be friendly and welcoming, and the food will be well prepared to keep you energized, but don’t count on gourmet buffets and snacks between activities. The guides will also be knowledgeable, but may not have a degree in a related field and may not have the best English either.