A Galapagos islands cruise is a trip of a lifetime. You will probably only go once so you want to get it right, but choosing the best Galapagos cruise for your personal preferences and budget can be confusing. There is a bewildering array of date and boat choices, bi-weekly itineraries, different cruise lengths, high and low season rates and even land based options.
These are the questions to ask yourself to get to the best Galapagos cruise for you;
Land or Cruise?
Before you delve into the cruises consider whether a cruise is what you really want. If you don’t like the thought of sleeping on a boat every night a land based option could be ideal. You still get to do daily excursions but sleep in the comfort of a hotel each night. Finch Bay has been recently refurbished and has a lovely relaxed feel while delivering top notch service. For the more adventurous a great middle ground is island hopping.
The smallest capacity is 16 which makes for a more intimate experience. There are several excellent catamarans of this size as well as small motor yachts. Some might think the catamarans are more stable but I don’t think there’s much in it, rather it’s a different type of movement. So if you are prone to sea sickness you can choose a larger ship. The largest ones still have a limit of 90 passengers who are split into small groups for the excursions. There are some great options that fall between these 2 with around 40-50 passengers. Ecoaventura are unusual in that they have a capacity of 2o so there are 2 guides which makes for a much smaller ration of guides to passengers. Their Eric/Letty cruises also have dedicated family departures so are great for families.
We have our favourite operators that we have used for years and get consistently good feedback from. Prices start from around £1,200 / $1,500 per person through the range to $6000 and beyond. There is no denying the Galapagos is an expensive destination. But if you don’t have a huge budget, rather than look for the cheapest boat that’s out there, enquire about special offers. Some of our partners regularly offer early bird discounts, free flights or last minute deals. Also, when budgeting keep in mind there are domestic flights and entrance fees to pay which are around £500 /$600 per person.
The best Galapagos cruise length is 7 nights but if you can’t stretch to that 4 or 6 nights is also fine. Be aware that some of the 7 night itineraries are a combination of 4 and 3 night ones so there may be a changeover of passengers half way through. This isn’t necessarily disruptive but something to be aware of. Any cruise is quite a full on experience so if you can, stay one or 2 nights in one of the hotels at the end to catch your breath and reflect on the wonderful experience.
When to Go?
The Galapagos islands are a year round destination and there’s no bad time to go. In August the seas are usually slightly choppier but the skies are clearer. At certain times of year you will see newbord sea lion pups and chicks, the mating dance of the Blue Footed Boobies, or migratory whales. Let us know if there’s anything particular you’d like to see on your visit and we will suggest the best time of year. Note that most operators levy a holiday supplement over Easter and Christmas departure dates.
Galapagos itineraries are very strictly controlled and each operator must stick to their allotted bi-weekly itinerary. Most operators label them A and B but each operator has its own route with the idea that visitors are spread out as much as possible . You can’t go too far wrong with any of the itineraries; all offer an enormous array of landscapes, activities and wildlife encounters. However if there is something specific on your wish list of things to see let us know so that we can be sure to suggest an itinerary that includes it. Some species only live on certain islands such as the Flightless Cormorant for example which you can only seen at specific places on Fernandina and Isabela islands.
Contact Steph or Rose who are experts at finding the best Galapagos cruise for your requirements.
Our partners are carefully picked to ensure that we are contributing to the local economy and not having a negative effect. This year we are proud to be supporting the Galapagos Conservation Trust and to be featured on Responsible Travel.com