There’s no question that the best way to experience all the Galapagos Islands have to offer is by cruise, and luxury class of ships, yachts, and motor sailors allow visitors to craft their journey according to their interests and while , the luxury cruises offer the best activities, guides, cuisine, and accommodations.
Within the luxury class of ships, certain things are standard:
- Top-notch service
- Bilingual guides Gourmet mesnu with national & international cuisine
- Air conditioned suites
- Private bathrooms with hot water
- Private balconies or large outward facing windows
- Ample deck space
- Comfortable lounge & dining areas
Before you choose which ship to book your cruise with, consider the following:
Ship, Catamaran, Yacht or Motor Sailor?
- Ships generally have occupancy for 50-100 passengers, meaning that you will have many more social opportunities onboard. This also means that boarding and deboarding for each activity can take longer and limit the actual time you are doing the activity. It also means less personalized attention and less flexibility. However, the size of the vessel generally ensures stability and less rocking, plus more onboard amenities, like spas, exercise rooms, or multiple dining options. Luxury class ships always offer enough guides to guarantee that your tour and activity groups are still between 10-20 people.
- Catamarans are the twin-hulled yachts that generally accommodate just 16 passengers but still offer spacious cabins, ample deck space, and a stable cruising experience thanks to their design. At the luxury level, you can expect suites that either have large windows or some with private balconies, en suite hot water facilities, and individual air conditioning units. There are also Jacuzzis on the large upper sundeck on many of the luxury catamarans.
- Motor yachts vary largely by design, but will commonly feature many of the same onboard amenities of a catamaran, like spacious sun decks with Jacuzzis, ample suites with private hot water bathrooms, and unrivaled cuisine prepared fresh by expert chefs. The main drawback is stability, as they are more prone to rocking with the current.
- Motor sailors are the least common cruise vessels in the Galapagos, but they do offer a more intimate, traditional experience. Since they are single hull and generally much smaller than the big ships, they do tend to rock more and cabin/ deck space is considerably more limited. The luxury class sailors, however, have been recently renovated and feature modern design, expert guides, and talented chefs to prepare a mix of local and international cuisine.
As a general rule, the more passengers a ship can accommodate, the less likely it is that they will have a flexible itinerary. Whereas 12-16 passenger yachts are usually able to make small changes like adding an extra snorkeling session one afternoon or extending beach time at a certain site by half an hour, the larger ships must stick to their schedules much more strictly in order to keep everything on track.
If motion sickness is something that concerns you, but your heart is set on a cruise, then either book a catamaran or a larger ship. The size of the larger ships helps keep them more stable, and the two-hull design of the catamarans dramatically reduces rocking.
How long is your vacation?
Another factor to consider is the length of your trip. The most popular option is the 8-day cruise, offered by most vessels, which visit many of the major sites throughout the Galapagos. If you are pressed for time, then there are several vessels that offer 4-5 day itineraries that focus exclusively on one region of the Galapagos. If you are interested in an even longer tour, there are also several vessels that have itineraries up to 16 days in length. If you are planning a shorter or longer trip, then this can really narrow down the list of boats to consider.
Why not choose a land-based tour instead?
- Land-based tours, also known as island-hopping tours, are definitely gaining in popularity as more hotels pop up in the Galapagos Islands, but they still don’t quite rival all that a cruise can offer.
- Cruises can reach destinations that are only accessible by boat, even on the inhabited islands like Isabela.
- Cruises are all-inclusive, meaning that you never have to worry about where your next meal or snack will be, which activity you’ll do next, or how you’ll get there.
- Cruises take advantage of the evenings & nights to travel between visitor sites, so you’ll never have to waste precious vacation time getting to the sites.
- Your guide(s) will travel with you and you will get to know them throughout the trip.
- You can always tack on a few days on Isabela, Santa Cruz, or San Cristobal after your cruise if you want to spend more time in the Galapagos.