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Choosing the right Galapagos cruise is important, but it can also be a difficult decision. Websites, brochures and guidebooks often recommend different ships or itineraries and contain contradictory information and given the costs of a trip to the Galapagos and the wide choice available it can often be very difficult to know what to consider when choosing the perfect ship for you, so we've prepared a guide to try and help point you in the right direction and if you have further questions just get in touch with us.

The Galapagos Islands are an incredible destination and although it is possible to sleep on the islands in hotels by far the best way to experience the essence of what these islands offer and get up close with the wildlife is to explore them on a cruise. Galapagos cruises provide a unique and special way to experience the islands and they offer a more valuable experience as you have more time for excursions as the yacht can travel from destination to destination overnight allowing you the opportunity to visit many more of the islands.

Once you've read the below guide to choosing a cruise, to read about each of the Galapagos cruises and the cruise ships we provide see our Galapagos cruises.

The simple rule of thumb in the Galapagos is that the more luxurious the yacht or vessel, the more expensive the cruise for the same length itinerary, so you need to consider your maximum budget as a higher standard of cruise vessel may mean you need a shorter cruise to hit your budget.

However one of the most important things to remember is that the wildlife is the same regardless of which class of vessel you choose, so although cruise itinerary and cruise length can affect what you can see, the standard of the cruise ship itself will not affect your chances of seeing wildlife.

Cruise ship standards vary from entry-level vessels right through to extremely luxurious yachts, although the majority of yachts cater for somewhere inbetween.

One of the confusing things about the Galapagos cruise ships is that there isn't a consistent rating system for the yachts, and this means it is possible for the same yacht to be advertised as different standards in different guide books or websites which can be very confusing. When trying to understand the difference between the various classes of yacht the easiest comparison is to think about the differences between 3-star, 4-star and 5-star hotels. Here at Go Andes we have adopted a simple three-tier rating system as follows:

Budget: Budget cruises and budget yachts tend to have smaller cabins and communal areas, less knowledgable guides and more basic amenities or additional services. We do not offer these vessels.

cruise class tourist superior

Mid-Range: These vessels are often called "tourist-superior" and are equivalent to 3-star standard.

They offer a comfortable yet affordable way to experience the Galapagos. Cabins are usually twin or double (some may be bunk), cabins have en suite bathrooms and hot water, and communal areas such as lounge, bar, dining rooms and sun deck are provided. Meals are generally buffet style and decor less luxurious but perfectly acceptable. Mid-range vessels are the perfect choice for anyone looking for a comfortable yet affordable way to experience the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos. Our mid-range choice of cruise ships are usually for 16 passengers.

Cruise Class First GalapagosSuperior: Often called "first-class" these vessels are equivalent to a 4-star standard and are a very popular choice of vessel offering a higher level of comfort while still being affordable.

Typically communal areas such as dining rooms and lounges will be more spacious on a Superior vessels and cabins are generally larger with more luxurious decor. Cabins will feature twin or double beds, and some may include private balcony areas. Additional services may include features such as jacuzzi or hot tub, additional bar areas and sun decks. Our Superior vessels include a range of motor-yachts and catamarans, and are usually for 16 passengers. With excellent standards of guide and food Superior vessels make an excellent choice.

Luxury Cruise GalapagosLuxury: These vessels offer the highest luxurious standards of cruise ships available in the Galapagos and are equivalent to a 5-star or luxury standard.

Luxury-Class ships contain fantastic luxurious decor, spacious social areas and additional amenities. Luxury-Class vessels are typically larger cruise ships for up to 100 passengers, and many contain features such as fitness rooms and shops.

When choosing your cruise to the Galapagos one of the most important things to consider is how many days you want the cruise to last. The simple rule of thumb is the longer the cruise the more expensive the cost but the more islands you can visit and the more wildlife you are likely to see, so you may need to consider your maximum budget to decide between a shorter cruise on a more premium yacht or a longer cruise on a tourist-superior yacht.

Cruises are available in a range of lengths from 4 day introductory cruises right through to 15 day cruises which will visit the entire archipelago. Our more popular options are either 5 days, 8 days or 11 days:

5 Day Galapagos Itinerary Example5 Day Cruises: These are a great option to visit a few islands, spot a wide variety of wildlife and experience what the Galapagos has to offer in an affordable way.

Although you won't be able to visit all the islands on a cruise of this length you will get to visit a number of islands and see a range of habitats and wildlife. There is a wide selection of 5 day cruises available and they are a great introduction to the Galapagos and a popular choice as an extension to a holiday on the Ecuador mainland or elsewhere in South America.

Example Galapagos Cruise Itinerary8 Day Cruises: An 8 day cruise is our most popular cruise length and allows you to visit a large area of the Galapagos without being as costly as the longer cruises. Although a variety of cruise itineraries are available typically 8 day cruises would either visit the central and eastern islands, or the central and western islands.

11 Day Cruises: Although longer cruises are available an 11 day cruise is a great option to allow you to visit vast areas of the Galapagos on an extensive cruise without it being as costly as a 15 day option.

It is possible to create longer cruises on the same vessel by adding different cruise itineraries together.

When deciding on your cruise length one thing to consider is that on the first day of your cruise you will spend the morning flying from the Ecuador mainland to the Galapagos so will only enjoy an afternoon excursion, and on the last day of your cruise you will return to your Galapagos airport by late morning for an afternoon return flight to the mainland so will only enjoy an early morning excursion.

There are a variety of yacht sizes to choose from, including the typical 16 passenger yachts and catamarans, mid-sized vessels catering for 30 to 50 people, and larger cruise vessels which carry a maximum of 100 passengers.

sAN jOSE yACHTSmall Yachts (16 passengers): The smaller yachts and catamarans for 16 passengers are by far our most popular option.

There is a wide choice of vessel available offering different itineraries, standards and types of vessel (yacht and catamaran), and the smaller size allows for a wonderful personal experience, a great atmosphere, and easier access to the smaller bays and landing sites within the Galapagos.

Santa CruzLarge Cruise Ships (48-100 passengers): The bigger cruise ships that operate in the Galapagos have more space and additional services (such as fitness room, shop, massage rooms etc).

These large ships can feel more like typical cruise ships with a less personal service than on the smaller ships, although the larger size means they are more stable in the water.

Mid-sized vessels (20-48 passengers) are also available.

In the Galapagos there are four types of cruise yachts to consider:

San Jose Cruise YachtMotor Yachts: These are the most popular type of vessel in the Galapagos.

Motor yachts are small cruise vessels, usually for 16 passengers, and there is a wide choice available with a range of standards and itineraries.

They are an excellent choice for a Galapagos cruise as they are mobile enough to allow expansive itineraries while large enough to provide comfortable cabins.

Treasure of GalapagosCatamarans: Catamarans are similar to motor yachts and are a very popular option in the Galapagos.

The main difference between yachts and catamarans is that cataramans have a double-hull which means they can be more stable in the water so are a good choice if you are concerned about your sea legs.

Santa Cruz Galapagos Cruise ShipCruise Ships: These are the larger vessels in the Galapagos which cater for 48 to 100 passengers at a time.

If you are particularly concerned about space or want additional services such as a fitness room, massage and spa services, shops etc then you may want to consider one of these larger cruise ships as the extra size allows for these services.

The cruise ships are usually Luxury-Class and can be an expensive option, and the larger size and higher number of passengers can make the experience more impersonal. An advantage of the larger cruise ships is the size makes them stable in the water.

Galapagos BeagleMotorsailing Yachts: Motorsailing yachts offer a special and unique way to experience the Galapagos on a traditional sailing vessel.

Due to their size and design cabins and social areas on motorsailing yachts can be smaller than on other ships.

 

example galapagos itinerary1There is no such thing as a bad itinerary in the Galapagos, and whichever itinerary you choose you will get to experience the Galapagos islands, see a variety of wildlife, and admire the incredible landscapes of the archipelago.

If there is a specific island you want to visit or there is a specific animal or bird you want a better chance of spotting then let us know and we can advise which cruise itinerary is better for you (for example not all itineraries include the chance of seeing Giant Tortoises).

Each cruise itinerary is registered in advance with the Galapagos island authorities and cannot be changed (the authorities do this to protect the environment, and to ensure multiple cruise ships don't all arrive at the same place) so it is important you pick the itinerary you want as the ship won't be able to change this during your cruise.

When it comes to guides there are two main things to consider: the size of the group (i.e. the ratio of guides to tourists) and the standard of your guide.

Galapagos Tour Group SizeSize of Group: The maximum group size in the Galapagos is 16 passengers per guide and on the smaller yachts (for 16 passengers) there will be one Galapagos guide per ship. On the larger cruise ships there are more guides and the passengers are split into groups up to a maximum of 16 people per group for the various excursions.

Standard of Guide: During all excursions you must be accompanied by a trained and licensed naturalist guide. Although the more budget vessels (which we don't provide) do have a reputation for having guides with poor English language skills and less experience, in general for Tourist-Superior yachts or above guides tend to be very knowledgeable, passionate and speak good English. To a certain extent you get what you pay for though and the more luxurious ships do tend to recruit the better guides with the best reputation. All guides are on short-term contracts and regularly change from yacht to yacht.

The Galapagos Islands are a very popular destination and cruises can get booked up often over 12 months in advance. Being flexible with your dates of travel or your specific cruise vessel will make it much more likely we will have a cruise that will suit your requirements.

As an example if you have your heart set on a specific 8 day cruise itinerary with a specific ship and can only travel within a 3 week window, then the ship you have selected may only have one 8 day cruise departure for 16 passengers within your dates of travel and those 16 spaces can get booked up quickly.

As a general rule for the best choice of cruise ships and itinerary options we recommend you try and book around 12 months in advance of travelling.