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How to Choose the Best Cruise to Galapagos – Complete Guide

Galapagos Island Cruises

Choosing the best cruise to Galapagos can be a daunting task. The Galapagos Islands are a magical destination yet a remote one, which is why you have to make sure you choose the best option for you. Investing your time and money in a smart way will ensure you have an unforgettable and life-changing experience. If you are hesitant about where to start your search or what factors to consider in order to make the best decision, read our list of the most important points to consider to find the most suitable Galapagos cruise for you, your plans, and your family. These valuable tips on how to choose the perfect cruise for your Galapagos adventure are all you need to know.

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Type of Ship: Finding Your Seafaring Sanctuary

The Galapagos Islands offer visitors a variety of ship types to explore the unique archipelago. Each type of vessel provides distinct features and benefits, catering to the different preferences and needs of travelers.


Catamarans are a popular choice for exploring the Galapagos Islands due to their stability and comfort. These vessels have two parallel hulls connected by a spacious deck in the middle. Archipel I, Archipel II, and Reina Silvia are examples of catamarans available in the Galapagos. Catamarans offer excellent stability on the water, making them ideal for those prone to seasickness. They provide a smoother sailing experience and have less roll motion compared to other types of vessels.


Yachts in the Galapagos Islands offer a luxurious and intimate experience for travelers. These vessels are smaller in size, accommodating a limited number of passengers. Yachts often feature upscale amenities, elegant interiors, and personalized services. They provide a more private and exclusive atmosphere, allowing passengers to enjoy the beauty of the islands in a more intimate setting. Nemo II and Nemo III are two of the yachts available in the Galapagos.

Motor Vessels:

Motor vessels, such as the Legend, Santa Cruz, and Isabela, are larger ships designed to navigate the open seas with stability and comfort. These vessels are equipped with powerful engines that provide a smoother ride even in rougher waters. Motor vessels offer spacious cabins and common areas, providing ample room for passengers to relax and enjoy the journey. They often include amenities like lounges, restaurants, and observation decks, enhancing the overall onboard experience.

Monserrat Galapagos cruise.

Monserrat cruise at Kicker Rock

Number of Guests Onboard: Intimate or More Social Explorations

Galapagos Island cruises offer a range of passenger capacities, accommodating different numbers of guests. This variation in passenger capacity, accommodating anywhere from 16 to 100 guests, is often determined by the size of the boat, and it has an impact on the level of personalized service and the opportunities for social interaction during the cruise.

Smaller catamarans and yachts, with their limited passenger capacity, provide a more intimate setting for travelers. With fewer guests on board, these vessels can offer a higher level of personalized attention and service. The smaller group size allows for a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere, fostering the opportunity to form closer bonds with fellow travelers. Passengers on smaller vessels often have more opportunities to interact with each other and the crew.

On the other hand, larger vessels accommodate a greater number of passengers. These larger ships provide additional amenities and facilities that may cater to a wider range of preferences and interests. For example, they may feature hot tubs, boutiques, libraries, or dedicated spaces for children, making them particularly suitable for families traveling together.

To assess the level of comfort and spaciousness on a cruise ship, a useful metric is the guest space ratio or GRS. This ratio is calculated by dividing the size of the vessel’s Gross Tonnage (a measure of the ship’s overall internal volume) by the number of passengers it can accommodate. The guest space ratio provides an indication of how much space each passenger has on average. A higher guest space ratio generally implies more spacious accommodations and common areas.

Guests onboard cruise.

Guests onboard a cruise.

Number of Cruise Days: Crafting Your Itinerary

Galapagos Island cruises provide travelers with a variety of duration options, ranging from shorter 4 or 5-day itineraries to longer 7 or 8-day voyages. 

Shorter itineraries, typically lasting 4 or 5 days, are designed to showcase the highlights of select islands. They are perfect for travelers who have limited time but still want to experience the iconic sites and wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Shorter itineraries often include visits to popular islands like Santa Cruz, Bartolome, or North Seymour, which are known for their abundant biodiversity and stunning landscapes. Choosing a shorter itinerary can be a more budget-friendly option without sacrificing any of the archipelago’s must-sees.

On the other hand, cruises to Galapagos that offer longer itineraries, such as the recommended 8-day option, allow for a more comprehensive exploration of the islands. They cover a wider area of the archipelago, providing a more in-depth experience. Longer cruises offer the opportunity to sail to more remote and less-visited locations such as Fernandina Island, or Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove on Isabela Island. Additionally, extended cruises provide more time for your favorite activities such as snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. 

Some cruise operators also offer the possibility of combining two itineraries, creating an extended and even more comprehensive 15-day adventure. This option provides the ultimate exploration of the Galapagos Islands, allowing travelers to visit almost all of the islands that are open for visitors. On a cruise to Galapagos, you will find you can never have too much of a good thing. 

Galapagos cruise activities.

Galapagos cruise activities.

Galapagos Cruise Itineraries: Discovering Untamed Wonders

When choosing a Galapagos Island cruise, it’s crucial to explore all itineraries and select the regions that ignite your sense of adventure. These four regions—Northern Galapagos, Western Galapagos, Central Galapagos, and Eastern Galapagos—each have their own captivating sites and wildlife encounters that will leave you in awe.

  • Northern Galapagos: Visit islands like Genovesa and Bartolome. Genovesa Island is a bird lover’s paradise, with the enchanting red-footed boobies taking center stage. Meanwhile, Bartolome Island boasts stunning volcanic landscapes, including the iconic Pinnacle Rock. Hiking to the island’s summit rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding islands.
  • Western Galapagos: Explore Isabela and Fernandina. Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago, offers an extraordinary array of biodiversity. Meanwhile, Fernandina Island’s untouched beauty and volcanic activity create a unique habitat for flightless cormorants, a sight to behold. Snorkeling and swimming adventures abound, providing encounters with graceful sea turtles and mesmerizing rays.
  • Central Galapagos: Discover the islands of Santa Cruz and Santiago. Santa Cruz Island serves as a bustling hub with a myriad of visitor sites, including the renowned Charles Darwin Research Station. Santiago Island presents dramatic volcanic landscapes and captivating lava formations. Keep an eye out for diverse bird species such as the majestic Galapagos hawk and the charming Galapagos dove.
  • Eastern Galapagos: Home to islands like San Cristobal, Española, and Floreana. Española Island entices with its waved albatross colonies and bustling sea lion havens. Don’t miss the mesmerizing natural spectacle of the “blowhole,” where water shoots into the air like a geyser. Floreana Island offers a glimpse into the human history of the Galapagos, where you can participate in the centuries-old tradition of leaving and picking up mail at Post Office Bay.

It’s important to note that itineraries vary among cruise operators as they may combine regions together to create different offers. By considering your wildlife preferences and prioritizing the islands that most interest you, you can narrow down your search and tailor your experience even more, which takes us to our next point.

Discover the Galapagos aboard a cruise.

Discover the Galapagos aboard a cruise.

Galapagos Wildlife: Tailoring Your Wildlife Encounters

The Galapagos Islands are home to a variety of iconic species that have captivated visitors for centuries. Identify the wildlife that interests you and choose a cruise that offers the best opportunities to witness it. Here are some of the remarkable species you could encounter:

  • Galapagos giant tortoises: These gentle giants can live over 100 years and weigh up to 550 pounds. Observing them in their natural habitat is awe-inspiring.
  • Blue-footed boobies: Known for their vibrant blue feet, these birds perform elaborate courtship dances and torpedo-dice into the ocean to catch fish.
  • Galapagos marine iguanas: These iguanas are the only ones in the world adapted to a marine lifestyle. They can dive deep to feed on algae and are often observed basking in the sun on volcanic rocks.
  • Galapagos penguins: The only penguins found north of the equator, they have evolved to survive in warm waters by dispersing heat through their feet and flippers.
  • Flightless cormorants: These birds have adapted to a fully aquatic lifestyle and are excellent divers, reaching impressive depths in search of fish.
  • Galapagos sea lions: Playful and curious, they can be found basking on sandy beaches, swimming in the ocean, and engaging in social interactions. Snorkeling with them is a unique experience.

The list of iconic Galapagos species is long so consider your preferences in order to make an informed decision about the wildlife encounters that most inspire you

Sealion encounter.

Sealion close encounter.

Budget: Whatever Your Budget, Galapagos Will Deliver

The Galapagos Islands boast approximately 70 independent cruise boats, catering to a diverse range of budgets. These cruises can be classified into four categories: Luxury, First Class, Tourist Superior, and Tourist. Each category offers its own unique set of amenities and accommodations, allowing visitors to choose a cruise that aligns with their preferences and budget. While Luxury cruises provide the highest level of service, with more spacious cabins and gourmet dining options, Tourist Class cruises offer affordability without compromising on the overall experience.

Regardless of the category you choose, one thing remains constant: the Galapagos Islands’ iconic species and breathtaking sites are the main events. From swimming alongside sea lions and snorkeling with sea turtles to witnessing the unique courtship rituals of blue-footed boobies and observing the majestic giant tortoises in their natural habitat, the Galapagos wildlife never fails to surprise and amaze visitors. 

Moreover, the warmth and hospitality of the local people in the Galapagos, who work on the boats and vessels, are another highlight of the journey. The residents of the islands, known as Galapagueños, take pride in sharing their knowledge and passion for their unique environment. Whether you’re on a Luxury cruise or a Tourist Class cruise, you will encounter the same level of warmth and expertise from the local crew members. They are welcoming hosts, eager to enhance visitors’ experiences by providing insights into the islands’ history. Interacting with the locals offers a deeper connection to the Galapagos Islands and enriches the overall travel experience.

Happy guests.

Happy guests at Isabela Island.

Activities: Diving into Adventures

Galapagos cruises offer a wide range of activities to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the archipelago. A typical itinerary includes two visits and four activities per day, ensuring that you have ample opportunities to explore. Snorkeling, swimming, hiking, panga riding, and kayaking are common activities that allow you to get up close and personal with the fascinating wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. If snorkeling isn’t your preferred activity, choose a cruise that offers alternative options, such as glass-bottom boat rides or kayaking. For certified divers, there are specialized dive cruises that offer unique itineraries to discover the rich underwater world of the Galapagos.

Difficult Level of Activities: Tailoring to Your Abilities

When choosing a Galapagos Island cruise, it’s crucial to consider the difficulty level of the activities offered. While snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking are common activities, the intensity and physical demands may vary. Some cruises cater to all fitness levels, offering options for both beginners and experienced adventurers. It’s important to ensure that the activities align with your abilities and preferences, allowing you to fully enjoy the adventures while feeling comfortable and safe throughout your journey.

Kids Friendly: Seafaring Adventures for the Whole Family

If you’re planning a family vacation, it’s essential to choose a Galapagos Island cruise that caters to children. Some vessels impose minimum age restrictions, so it’s important to consider this factor. Larger cruise ships often provide a more comfortable experience for families. They may offer dedicated entertainment options for kids and more space for them to play. These family-friendly cruises ensure that everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, can fully enjoy the Galapagos experience together.

Rebecca's family vacation in the Galapagos Islands.

Rebecca’s family vacation in the Galapagos Islands.

Cabins: Seeking Comfort on Your Cruise to Galapagos

The level of comfort provided in Galapagos cruise ship cabins may vary depending on the vessel of your choosing. Some feature spacious suite-style cabins with living areas, roomier bathrooms, and even balconies, allowing for a more private experience. On the other hand, simpler accommodations may offer compact bathrooms and bunk beds. It’s important to consider your preferences and select a cruise that aligns with your desired level of comfort. Whether you prefer luxurious amenities or are content with more intimate spaces, there is a cruise option for you. Keep in mind you will spend the better part of your days exploring this awe-inspiring archipelago.

Onboard Amenities: Enhancing Your Voyage

Galapagos Island cruises often provide a range of onboard amenities that may enhance your overall voyage experience. Spacious sundecks, lounges, bars, and dining areas offer comfortable spaces to relax and enjoy panoramic views of the stunning surroundings. Depending on the cruise, additional facilities such as gyms or hot tubs may be available for ultimate relaxation. These amenities add a touch of luxury and make your time onboard even more enjoyable.

Inclusions: Navigating the All-Inclusive Experience

When selecting a Galapagos Island cruise, it’s important to consider the inclusions provided. Most cruises offer a comprehensive package that includes guided daily excursions, soft drinks, and all meals. The meals are typically served buffet-style, starting from lunch on the first day to breakfast on the last day. However, it’s crucial to clarify the details regarding extras that may not be included, such as alcoholic beverages, wetsuits, snorkeling equipment, tips, and airfares. Understanding these details beforehand will help you make an informed decision and avoid any surprises.

Galapagos cruise excursion.

Discover Galapagos Last Minute Deals and start your adventure!

At Rebecca Adventure Travel, our knowledgeable sales agents are dedicated to assisting you in choosing the ideal cruise to Galapagos. By carefully considering the factors mentioned above, we will help curate a once-in-a-lifetime experience tailored to your preferences. Don’t forget to explore our Galapagos Last Minute Cruise Deals, offering exceptional opportunities for spontaneous adventurers seeking extraordinary voyages through this remarkable archipelago.

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