Cruising in the Galapagos Islands: How to Choose the Best Cruise

Posted by on April 6th, 2021

Boasting an almost-mythological status as a world lost in time, the Galapagos Islands present one of the world’s most spectacular stages for biodiversity and a top destination for wildlife-viewing. Located roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the islands’ stark, lunar-like landscapes and fragile ecosystems teeming with a wealth of fauna and flora have remained a closely guarded natural secret for millions of years.

The spectacular landscape of Galapagos
The spectacular landscape of Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and are now a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site; however, you don’t have to be a naturalist or evolutionary biologist to soak up the beauty of these isolated lands.

One of the best ways to explore the islands is on a multi-day Galapagos cruise or tour where you can explore the beauty of one of the world’s most famous and pristine natural laboratories in comfort and luxury. Whether you are traveling with family or friends, or on a special anniversary or honeymoon trip, an all-inclusive or personalized Galapagos cruise will be nothing less than the trip of a lifetime.

Sea turtle swimming in the Galapagos Islands

Choosing the Best Galapagos Cruise

There is no better way to experience the beauty of the Galapagos Islands than from the water. Take in the moon-like volcanic landscapes, tranquil bays of turquoise waters, and the myriad wildlife both in and out of the water on a guided cruise through the archipelago.

Vaya offers Galapagos cruises on small vessels, many accommodating just 16 passengers. These small Galapagos cruise ships make every voyage an intimate and one-of-a-kind experience. Smaller vessels, which include both schooner-style sailboats and modern motor yachts and catamarans, have fewer people, which allows you to develop a relationship with your guide, get to know your fellow shipmates, and have a quieter, more relaxed experience.

Mary Anne
Cruising Galapagos on the Mary Anne

A smaller vessel also has less of an impact on the fragile Galapagos environment and can anchor at some visitor sites that larger ships cannot get to. Choosing a small Galapagos cruise does not mean you have to skimp on luxury – our list of preferred Galapagos ships is divided into luxury, mid-range, and economical categories to suit your needs, so you can see which ships offer luxury amenities and which ships have more of an expedition feel to them. All cruises have highly trained, top-quality, bilingual naturalist guides on board to share their knowledge of the fauna and flora of the region.

Exploring Galapagos on the luxury catamaran Endemic
Exploring Galapagos on the luxury catamaran Endemic

Tourist Superior Class Yachts

If you are looking for a comfortable, clean, and budget-friendly Galapagos cruise option, then the tourist class Galapagos boats are your best bet. These boats are a great choice if you are traveling with family as they tend to have a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere, communal dining, and simple, comfy cabins. As with all Galapagos vessels, there is a bilingual naturalist guide on board to lead you through the beauty of the islands.

Angelito Galapagos
The Angelito, a Tourist Superior Class yacht

First Class Yachts

A first-class Galapagos vessel is ideal if you are looking for a bit more luxury than the tourist class boats. Ranging from classic schooners and catamarans to motorized yachts, these vessels have slightly larger cabins and more deck space.  

Treasure of Galapagos
The Treasure of Galapagos, a First Class catamaran

Luxury Class Yachts

Sleek, elegant, and modern, our favorite Galapagos luxury yachts are the perfect choice for travelers who want to combine natural exploration with a luxury experience and amenities. The best Galapagos luxury ships offer spacious cabins and deluxe amenities like private balconies and Jacuzzis.

Ocean Spray
The Ocean Spray, a Luxury Class catamaran

Other factors in choosing the best Galapagos cruise

Deciding on your budget and the type of vessel you prefer will go a long way in helping you select the best Galapagos cruise ship for you. There are other factors that will help you narrow it down even further:

The itinerary. The different Galapagos Islands have specific visitor sites where travelers can disembark. Generally, a ship can only dock at any site once within a 15-day period. To accommodate that regulation, the ships often follow a sort of figure-eight path that takes them around the islands, stopping back at the central islands of Baltra and San Cristóbal (where the airports are located) in between cruises to let passengers off and pick up new ones. While any Galapagos cruise will let you see the archipelago’s fascinating flora and fauna, some travelers have specific visitor sites in mind that they want to explore. Vaya’s Destination Specialists can walk you through the differences between itineraries and talk to you about the different options.

The extra activities. Every Galapagos cruise will give you the chance to snorkel and hike. Some vessels also have extra options, such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, or glass-bottom pangas.

Camila - Kayaks
Kayaking during a cruise on the Camila

Galapagos Cruise-and-Country Combinations

One of the attractions of the Galapagos Islands is their remoteness and isolation from the rest of the world. Located 600 miles off the coast of South America, the only way to get to the islands is to fly from Quito or Guayaquil, two of Ecuador’s major cities.

Galapagos giant tortoise crossing the road
Galapagos giant tortoise crossing the road

Combining a Galapagos Islands cruise with a visit to another country or famous landmark is a great way to extend your Galapagos Islands vacation:

Galapagos Cruise and Peru

Discover the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands and the magnificent cultural treasures of Peru with a Galapagos Cruise and Peru combination vacation.

Home to the world-famous Inca Trail and citadel of Machu Picchu, Peru has a rich culture and history that is evident in every corner of the country. As complex as its most intricate and exquisite weavings, the South American country has spectacular landscapes of breath-taking beauty, ancient sites reflecting lost civilizations, vibrant festivals marking old-world rites, and out-of-this-world cuisine.

Machu Picchu and Galapagos
Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands

With a history dating back over 5,000 years, Peru is so much more than the glorious Inca citadel of Machu Picchu that draws thousands of travelers every year. Ancient wonders include the puzzling geoglyphs at Nazca, the remote Incan citadel of Choquequirao, the stunningly biodiverse Manu Wildlife Center, and the magnificent fortress of Kuélap.

Explore the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, trek along the world-renowned Inca Trail, hike to ruins in the Urubamba Valley, and witness the sunrise on magical Machu Picchu. You can easily combine all of this with a spectacular Galapagos cruise. Check out our Top 10 Ways to Combine Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Pressed for time? Click here to read our tips for Touring Peru and the Galapagos in Under 2 Weeks.

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