Cruising is considered the best way to experience the Galapagos Islands, since many of the visitor sites are on islands that can only be reached by boat. Plus, cruises take advantage of downtime and nights to travel, so you never have to waste time getting to a destination. But with so many boats to choose from, picking one that’s right for your trip can be a daunting task! That’s why we’ve come up with this handy guide to help you pick the right vessel for the best Galapagos cruise tours!
You’ll find that each of the 100 or so vessels that cruise the Galapagos Islands generally follow similar itineraries. That’s because the routes are pre-determined and established well in advance by the Galapagos National Park in order to control tourist traffic and help conserve the pristine condition of the visitor sites.
What are the options?
First, let’s clear something up – Galapagos cruises are very unique compared to cruises in other parts of the world, like the Caribbean. Unlike those cruises, which board giant ships that hold hundreds of people and countless social areas, Galapagos vessels across the board are much smaller, generally accommodating between 16 and 200 passengers. So what are your choices?
You can either choose a sailboat, a catamaran, or a cruise ship. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, but no matter which boat you choose, you will definitely have an unforgettable experience in the Galapagos Islands. It just depends on what you’re looking for!
You might notice that even on the largest of the Galapagos ships, there aren’t as many onboard amenities as the mammoth ships in other regions, but remember – the focus of Galapagos cruises are not as much about the onboard appointments as they are about the daily activities you’ll do off the boat. That being said, Galapagos ships are generally very comfortable and have a truly unparalleled level of service.
Catamarans are among the most popular Galapagos cruise vessels. Their twin hull design offers tremendous stability while still maintaining the intimate atmosphere of a yacht, which makes this ideal for people who really want to go on a cruise but are afraid of motion sickness. There are catamarans to suit all budgets in the Galapagos, from the more economical options to truly luxurious boats.
On the budget end, you’ll find comfortable accommodations and a friendly guide and crew, but overall much simpler onboard amenities. The luxurious catamarans tend to offer all the comfort of a big cruise ship, like spacious cabins with individually controlled air conditioning and private balconies, fruit baskets, and even perhaps a Jacuzzi on an ample sun deck. Most catamarans do offer both an indoor lounge & dining area and an al fresco dining area as well.
Plus, the fact that they accommodate just 16 passengers (on average) they allow for more flexibility with the schedule, meaning that if everyone agrees that they would like to spend a bit more time snorkeling, they can usually amend the schedule accordingly.
The disadvantage to the catamarans, although comparatively small, is that since it is technically a yacht, there are considerably fewer onboard amenities – no gym, spa, pool, gift shop, first aid center, or restaurants. Of course, since Galapagos nature and exploration are at the heart of Galapagos cruises, you won’t even notice these things are missing.
Galapagos sailboats and motor sailors offer a truly unique, traditional way to explore this enchanting archipelago. These boats, even those with motors, depend almost entirely on the wind as the main source of propulsion. This means that the itinerary is necessarily a bit less rigid as well, but the captain and crew make sure that you will still have plenty of time to experience everything on the agenda.
Since they are all smaller, they naturally accommodate fewer people, sometimes fewer than 10, which guarantees a truly intimate experience onboard. Plus, with the silent whisper of the wind pushing the sails that billow from the towering masts, it offers a distinctly romantic atmosphere.
The main disadvantage with sailboats is the fact that their small size does impact their stability, and there is noticeably more rocking than on catamarans or larger ships. Many people find that this doesn’t bother them and actually adds to the authenticity of their maritime Galapagos adventure, but if you are a person who gets seasick easily, then this might not be right for you. Cabins also tend to be markedly smaller, though very cozy and comfortable. The higher end sailboats even have cabins with private bathrooms.
Galapagos Cruise Ships
These are the largest boats in the Galapagos Islands and accommodate between 50 and 200 passengers. Their large build offers great stability for folks who get motion sickness, and they also have more onboard amenities, like perhaps a gym, a small pool & Jacuzzi, multiple dining areas, a spa, boutique, or gift shop. They also have more social areas. Obviously, with more passengers, that means there’s more opportunity for you to socialize and meet other people as well.
However, it’s worth noting that these larger ships are less flexible than their smaller counterparts – whereas a group of 16 people might decide they want to eat lunch faster and swim for more time, the cruise crews adhere to a much stricter schedule in order to make sure that they can stick to the itinerary. Despite their large size, cruise ships usually have several guides so that the tour groups can still be between 12-16 people.
Shruti Gupta is a writer, digital marketer and outreaching expert. She writes about technology, startups & other niches. She has contributed to a number of famous websites like Thenextweb deccanchronicle and Crazyegg. Stay tuned with her at:@shruti_gupta01 or via skype