Read on for tips on Galapagos ship size and amenities from our experts. While there are an incredible number of Galapagos cruise ships to choose from, 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 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. Let our experts inform you, and then get you aboard with ease and our decades of booking experience.
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Smaller yachts carrying 14 to 36 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 types of Galapagos 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 Galapagos yachts. 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.
Small Galapagos Ships
Because mega cruise ships are not allowed in the Galapagos, small ships carrying 50-100 passengers are the largest to cruise the region. These ships are the most stable, so they are the best Galapagos ship 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.
Comparing Galapagos Ships
When comparing ships, upfront know that a few things are common to all Galapagos cruise ships and their operations:
- 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 boats unique. For example, some may include photography courses, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and/or glass-bottom boat rides. Some may have interconnected cabins, and some might have private balconies. Look for the little nuances and additions to help you choose.
Considerations on Cruise Lines
You can also compare Galapagos ships by seeking the best cruise line match. In the Galapagos, these vary from single-ship operations to multi-ship fleets. Some focus on culinary and luxury touches, while others hone in on education or sustainability. 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 appeal to travelers willing to pay a premium for an intellectual and educational experience.
Rest assured though that if you are booking with AdventureSmith, we have done the initial homework on each operator. And we regularly inspect all our Galapagos cruise ships. Furthermore, we often specifically choose our 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 Galapagos boats.
In general, as with many industries, you will find that the most experienced guides work aboard the nicest Galapagos ships. These ships have higher prices, which translates into more tips for the best guides.