Galapagos Islands Cruises
Let our bright and insightful crew be your guide to a Galapagos Islands cruise. We offer the confidence of booking with a licensed, insured and award-winning US-based company that understands your questions, concerns and needs. We can handle all aspects of your expedition, from permits, flights and hotels to transfers and add-on tours, creating a seamless vacation for you and your loved ones. Need more reasons to book your Galapagos cruise with AdventureSmith?
Work with one USA-based specialist to research, purchase & prepare for your Galapagos cruise.
Select Your Cruises
We offer an unmatched selection of small Galapagos cruises aboard more than 25 expedition ships.
Expert naturalist guides, certified by the National Park, lead excursions aboard every cruise.
Secure deals with our insight & partnerships. We’re here to help you save on your Galapagos Island cruise.
All You Need for a Galapagos Islands Cruise
AdventureSmith Explorations sends hundreds of passengers on Galapagos Islands cruises each year. And our company founder, Todd Smith, is an elected board member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association. Let our team be your clear, efficient & trusted resource throughout the selection, booking and trip preparation process. In changing times, we have the experience you need and the logistics down to a science.
Find everything about the latest Galapagos entry requirements, or read all about planning Galapagos cruises for 2024 & 2025, including what’s new and noteworthy for this & upcoming years. Our team is known for our unbiased knowledge and personal experience aboard small ship Galapagos Island cruises. Trust us to take you there.
How to Choose the Best
Wondering how to choose the best Galapagos cruise? The experts at AdventureSmith Explorations have years of experience answering this question and booking travelers on the best Galapagos tours for their interests, ability and budget. To find your own best, follow our top tips here. Or call us any time. We are here to help with honest, unbiased opinions and expert advice to get you booked on the best Galapagos cruise.
Determine the Best Galapagos Cruise Itinerary
How to decide which Galapagos Islands to visit? With 13 major islands in the archipelago, each offering a unique mix of wildlife, it can be dizzying to figure out the best Galapagos cruise itinerary. We actually advise not getting too hung up on a particular itinerary, but to instead focus on your cruise length and ship choice. If you choose at least an 8 day cruise, you are sure to see a great, wide variety of Galapagos habitats and species. And if you stay longer than 8 days, you don’t have to really focus on the itinerary at all!
Why? The Galapagos National Park dictates sailing schedules and landing sites over a 15-day circuit to protect this treasured, pristine archipelago. Thus, among your choice of itineraries you will find more or less the same sites visited, just in different patterns. For the most comprehensive Galapagos cruise, choose a two-week, 15-day itinerary (all have no repeated landing sites), but there are a range of longer options between 8 and 15 days.
If you choose any cruise fewer than 8 days, carefully consider what islands and experiences are important to you. Shorter cruises will inevitably miss out on some species.
Pick Your Galapagos Ship
As we noted above, the best Galapagos cruise is a longer one. So if you are not limited by a short itinerary, the best tactic in deciding how to choose the best Galapagos cruise is to pick your ship first. We’ve compiled some of our top tips for choosing your Galapagos ship below.
Choose When to Go
Next up in how to choose the best Galapagos cruise is often deciding when to go. This deciding factor can sometimes help you choose your itinerary, especially if you are very specific on your wildlife wish list. But since this is a year-round, warm destination on the equator, you can really cruise to Galapagos any time and have fun and see lots of wildlife.
When cruising the Galapagos, there is no hurricane season to consider and it’s extremely rare to encounter stormy conditions, so really you are just looking at averages for rainfall and water temperature. If you are susceptible to sea sickness, you can also try to time that. Increased tradewinds during the cooler months (June through November) can bring increased chop on open-water crossings. So the best Galapagos cruises for you might fall in the summer or early fall.
Consider Special Interests to Compare Galapagos Cruises
Even if you’ve narrowed down your ship or general ideal itinerary, it can still be overwhelming. We advise next considering your special interests and travel needs to find the best Galapagos cruises for your group.
Consider your group size, ages of travelers, if you plan to also travel by land, your activity interests, how customized you like to travel, and so on. These considerations can help you compare Galapagos cruises to hone in on the perfect match.
Upfront, know that a few things are common to all cruises to the Galapagos:
- daily guided shore excursions in small groups to explore the islands and experience wildlife up close
- disembarking the ship twice daily for landings or exploration by pangas (dinghies)
- breakfast, lunch and dinner served on board
- snorkeling as an included activity
With that in mind, you can aim to figure out what makes some Galapagos Islands cruises and ships unique. For example, some Galapagos cruise ships may include photography courses, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and/or glass-bottom boat rides.
Traveling with a family? Not all ships are created equal for Galapagos family cruises. The best cruises to Galapagos for families often tack on extra kid-specific programming, menus and/or themed departures. You can also look for ships with triple- or quadruple-occupancy options, extra space and/or interconnected cabin doors. Or perhaps you want less (or more) time at port in towns? Many families consider Galapagos Islands yacht charter for even more flexibility and customization.
For many, the best Galapagos cruise itinerary is one they can help design themselves! Let every encounter be a private one by chartering a private cruise to Galapagos. A Galapagos Islands yacht charter can help small groups save money, all while customizing their trip.
Budget is also a special interest to consider, whether you are on the spectrum of seeking a Galapagos luxury cruise or the best Galapagos cruise deal. When booking your trip, obviously be smart about your finances, but also keep in mind that the sweetness of low cost can easily be overshadowed by a bad trip or a mismatch for your travel interests. The Galapagos is a place filled with unusual wildlife experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. And booking your passage with reputable guides and sustainable operations is paramount. Do what you can to budget for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
One of our top tips for finding the best cruise to Galapagos is to plan ahead. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most spectacular and remote locations on Earth. Visitation is limited by the national park, vessels are small and cabins fill up fast. Thus, many Galapagos cruises are often sold out 6 to 9 months in advance, with holidays booked out more than 12 months in advance. For the best Galapagos cruise selection, advance reservations are encouraged, and often required.
Planning ahead also allows for the excitement of anticipation. While a last-minute trip is better than no trip, it’s certainly more fun to have the time to learn about this enchanting destination and feel the flutter of anticipation longer.
Planning ahead also often equates to savings due to early-booking deals. See our Galapagos cruise deals for more tips and the latest savings.
Ask an Expert or Past Traveler
There are now countless Galapagos Island cruise and travel review websites on the internet. Many offer honest advice, but many need to be taken with a grain of salt. Use Galapagos reviews as a tool but don’t rush to judgment when you read a poor review. Often this is a result of a mismatch between the style of the traveler and the type of cruise they were on.
The best Galapagos cruise review is a personal referral. Ask your booking agent if he/she can put you in touch with someone who has traveled to the Galapagos with similar interests as you or aboard the boat you are inquiring about. Reputable Galapagos agencies will gladly refer their past clients. To learn more and research what our past clients say, view our Galapagos cruise reviews.
Most important, speak with an experienced Galapagos expert to receive a curated recommendation of best Galapagos cruises. AdventureSmith Explorations employees are award-winning Galapagos small ship cruise specialists with a focus on guided small group nature tours and custom travel. Our staff has decades of experience guiding, arranging and selling wilderness adventures. We offer firsthand knowledge, personal service, sustainable practices and unbeatable prices, and can match you with the best Galapagos cruise for your travel needs.
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Choosing Your Galapagos Ship
There are an incredible number of ships operating Galapagos Island cruises. But the secret is that most offer the same itinerary stops (they have to, based on Galapagos National Park regulation). Therefore, much of the decision when planning your Galapagos Island cruise comes down to where you want to relax after a long day of exploring. Or what adventure equipment you want aboard.
To assist in this choice, we’ve separated Galapagos ships into three categories: small yachts and catamarans carrying up to 32 passengers, mid-size cruisers carrying 40-60 passengers and small ships carrying 60-100 passengers.
Smaller yachts carrying 14 to 32 guests can vary considerably in price and amenities from rustic floating base camps to luxurious yachts that will satisfy the most refined travel styles. These yachts cruising the Galapagos offer the most intimate experience with the most time ashore. It is easier to get 16 travelers ashore in one group than it is to ferry 100 passengers ashore in multiple groups.
The tradeoff is that these boats are smaller. They have smaller cabins, bathrooms, dining room and deck space, and there are not as many public places to go for a private moment. However, travelers aboard small yachts often comment that getting to know their fellow passengers and crew is one of the highlights of the trip.
The sister ships Coral I & II and the Galapagos Infinity are the most popular mid-priced yachts offering cruises to the Galapagos Islands. The Grace, Evolution, Aqua Mare and Origin/Theory/Evolve are luxury yachts for those who want to see the Galapagos in style.
Mid-sized cruisers carrying 40-60 passengers offer the efficiency and intimacy of a small yacht combined with the space and amenities typically found on a larger Galapagos ship. They often have larger cabins, spacious bathrooms, ample deck space, delicious cuisine, a high crew-to-passenger ratio and excellent guides. There are multiple decks where you can always find a moment to watch the sunset and enjoy the solitude.
Mid-sized Galapagos ships offer ample time ashore. They have efficient landing systems with multiple shore craft to ferry hikers to the trail or to snorkel in speed and comfort. At this ship size, added activity options like glass-bottom boats can be found aboard.
The La Pinta and Isabela II combine elegance and adventure while the National Geographic Islander II’s Wild Galapagos Escape Cruise offers the region’s finest expedition leaders from National Geographic.
GALAPAGOS CRUISE PLANNING
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Because mega cruise ships are not allowed in the Galapagos, small ships carrying 60-100 passengers are the largest to cruise the region. These ships are the most stable, so they are the best Galapagos cruise option for travelers concerned about seasickness.
And with a larger ship in the Galapagos, you will still explore the islands up close in a small group since the Galapagos National Park limits shore groups to 16 people to minimize the impact to the environment and preserve a wilderness experience for visitors.
They are also very appealing for families with children because some offer adjoining cabins and additional cabin space, as well as more chances to have other families aboard. Single travelers can also look to larger vessels for more single-occupancy cabin options.
Galapagos small ships offer a variety of cabin categories from affordable with portholes to elegant with balconies. Usually there are multiple decks, vistas, libraries and salons where you can mingle with other guests or find space for yourself.
Each small ship has a unique personality and appeals to a certain clientele. The Legend and Santa Cruz II are popular and affordable, and the National Geographic Endeavour II features expedition leaders and lecturers from National Geographic.
Considerations on the Best Cruise Line for Galapagos
Among the many ship examples listed above, you can also compare Galapagos cruises by seeking the best cruise line match for your trip. Galapagos cruise lines vary from single-ship operations to multi-ship fleets. Some focus on culinary and luxury touches, while others hone in on being the best cruise line for Galapagos education or sustainability. And others have longevity and owners from the Galapagos Islands.
One Galapagos cruise line, Lindblad Expeditions, stands above the rest in terms of onboard programs and naturalist guides. In addition to guides employed by the Galapagos National Park, they employ a wide range of experts from National Geographic. Lindblad cruises aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II and National Geographic Islander II (Wild Galapagos Escape Cruise) appeal to travelers willing to pay a premium for an intellectual and educational experience cruising the Galapagos with National Geographic.
Rest assured though that if you are booking a Galapagos Islands cruise with AdventureSmith, we have done the initial homework on each operator. And we regularly inspect all our Galapagos cruise lines. Furthermore, we often specifically choose our Galapagos cruise partners with guides in mind. Knowing that the experience and demeanor of your guide will have a profound impact on your overall experience, it remains one of our top considerations when vetting our best cruise lines for the Galapagos.
In general, as with many industries, you will find that the most experienced guides work aboard the nicest ships. These ships have higher prices, which translates into more tips for the best guides.
Galapagos Cruise FAQ
Have a question about Galapagos cruising? We have an answer. We’ve compiled our most frequently asked Galapagos Island cruise questions here to inform and inspire your research into this enchanted archipelago. Read this Galapagos FAQ to find out if your burning question is a common one, or contact one of our Galapagos cruise specialists anytime to ask an expert directly.
What is the best Galapagos cruise itinerary?
Any one that is at least 8 days long. If you choose any cruise fewer than 8 days, carefully consider what islands and experiences are important to you. Shorter cruises will inevitably miss out on some species.
Which Galapagos loop is best?
There is no one best “loop” or Galapagos cruise itinerary since since travelers’ interests are varied and cruise lines don’t follow the exact same paths. Ask us which one might suit your interests! Galapagos Island cruise routes are often generally referred to by general directions: northern, southern, eastern and western islands, and combinations thereof.
How do I best compare Galapagos cruises?
Ship size, amenities aboard and islands/sites visited are some of the best ways to compare Galapagos cruises. Our experts can lead the way to help you compare Galapagos cruises and make the selection process fun.
What are the best Galapagos boats?
The best Galapagos ships match your interests. We’ve tested the top ships and can help matchmake you with the best choice for you. Galapagos luxury cruise seekers often gravitate toward the Galapagos Origin for her prestigious Relais & Châteaux association, but there are newer up and comers, including her sister ships, to consider. And families often consider other ships like the Legend, Coral yachts or other Galapagos family favorites to be the best.
What Galapagos boats have scuba diving?
Consult our list of small ship cruises with scuba diving for details on what to expect from a Galapagos scuba diving experience. These options are ideal for certified divers traveling with family and friends who may prefer different activity options on those days.
What is the best month for viewing animals native to the Galapagos Islands?
If native animals are your focus, consider what stage of life and which species you’d like to witness the most. For example, in January and February some species begin to nest while others have already finished courting. Some species actively breed in August while others are birthing or hatching at that time. Your ideal time of year to take a Galapagos Islands cruise may depend on what interests you the most. While no species are guaranteed to be seen, one of our Adventure Specialists can guide you through which month is right for you. Our Galapagos Islands animals and Galapagos by Month: When to Go & Why blog are also great guides, outlining which animals are doing what when.
Is Galapagos cruising too difficult for someone in their 70s?
No! If the Galapagos Islands are on your bucket list, do not let age deter you. Our Adventure Specialists are happy to discuss mobility levels and which ships are most accommodating for specific travelers’ needs.
What cruise lines go to the Galapagos Islands?
We partner with 13 Galapagos cruise lines operating more than 25 Galapagos ships. Some names you may recognize as global cruise lines (Lindblad Expeditions), and others are specific to the Galapagos Islands (Enchanted Expeditions). Most ships that sail in the Galapagos remain year-round!
Are triple cabins for families available in the Galapagos Islands?
Yes. Our Adventure Specialists are well versed in the different cabin configurations available on ships in the Galapagos Islands and can talk you through the options for triple cabins, quadruple cabins, single cabins and/or other family-friendly options.
Should I be prepared for motion sickness on a Galapagos cruise?
The Galapagos is known for fairly mellow seas and smooth sailing, but it’s always good to be prepared, check out our How to Prevent & Treat Seasickness guide. Or if you are extremely susceptible, you can consider your route choice and months of travel to choose more protected waters and avoid months known for more tradewinds (June through November). Learn more about the best time to visit Galapagos.
Are small children under age 2 allowed on Galapagos cruises?
Yes, but it depends on the ship. Each Galapagos ship has its own policies regarding young children, and many have minimum or recommended minimum ages. Our Galapagos family cruises page offers more insight on recommended ages.
If I don’t snorkel on a Galapagos cruise, will I miss out?
Snorkeling is indeed an integral part of a Galapagos Islands cruise and is offered most days, along with Zodiac rides. If you are not able to snorkel, consider a ship that carries a glass-bottom boat. These specialized watercraft are a great way to see and learn about the underwater wildlife as guides are able to explain what is being seen under the boat. Ships with this added activity option will offer the best cruise to the Galapagos for anyone not able to get in the water.
What is the terrain like in the Galapagos Islands?
Terrain varies between sandy beaches, lava rocks and established paths that may be flat or hilly. Naturalist guides are very good at pacing excursions so guests of all levels can enjoy the wildlife and have plenty of photographic opportunities. Dry landings are on solid surfaces, and wet landings require guests to step from a dinghy into water. But you may always opt out of an excursion or landing, perhaps taking a Zodiac ride with easy coastal wildlife viewing instead.
What should I not miss while cruising Galapagos?
For fun insights and must-do’s before and during your Galapagos small ship cruise, check out our Galapagos travel tips. You can make the most of your trip by taking Galapagos Island cruise information straight from our well-traveled crew.
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Galapagos Cruising Year-Round
At the equator, weather is perfect for small ship Galapagos Islands cruises year-round. The climate of Ecuador’s Pacific coast and the Galapagos Islands are almost entirely influenced by the ocean currents, with the warm Panama current arriving from the north December through May and the cool Humboldt and Peru currents descending June through November. Interested in which seasons are best to cruise the Galapagos Islands? Hint: they are ALL amazing, but there are benefits to each month. Get a grasp of the seasonal variations, from wildlife occurrences to water temperature, by reading our Galapagos Climate page and Best Time to Visit Galapagos. Learn more about planning your Galapagos small ship cruise around the weather and wildlife diversity that each season brings.