How to select a Galapagos Islands cruise

Written by sangay from | Category: Ecuador on October 25th, 2009 | 3 Comments | 3,526 views

Today there is so much information on the Galapagos Islands cruises available on the internet to make your head spin. This can be very advantageous and helpful for the reader as information is readily available …. everything from island descriptions, weather details, island maps, wildlife details and cruise options.

But how accurate and honest is most of the information regarding Galapagos Island cruise on the internet?

Information (data) is only as good and useful as it is accurate, honest and up to date. Making one’s decision based on inaccurate, incomplete and/or out-of-date information can cause not only frustration but a sense of deception. With accurate information, and complete information, your choices and decisions are made easier.

Let me explain the most common information that is either out-of-date or inaccurate.


With a Google search conducted on April 9th, 2009, I searched the following term: “Darwin Explorer” (a boat that, incidentally, that sunk in September 2005). There are dozens of agencies apparently offering cruises on a boat that no longer exists. The same holds true for other Galapagos boats that no longer exist, like the Spondylus, Parranda, Ambassador (to name a few).The same exercise can be applied to other frequent and wide-spread “errors” relating to Galapagos cruise details, which mainly include the following information that is inaccurate: (1) Cruise itinerary and/or departure days; (2) Classification of boats; (3) Images of boats (some are correct but have been ‘adjusted’); (4) Technical details (i.e., capacity, cabin types etc).

It is now wonder that many people are easily frustrate and confused during their Galapagos internet surfing as many inconsistency or conflicting information arises!

I have found that individuals’ experience and feedback comments on any given cruise are directly related to their expectations. If one’s expectations have been falsely (purposely or not) raised beyond the reality, the person will almost always be disappointed. If one’s expectations are in line with reality, one’s experience will be what you expect. A great deal boils down to one’s expectations. I would rather prefer to err on the side of caution and have my clients have a slightly lower level of expectation about their Galapagos boat and be pleasantly surprised when the reality is better than expected. I have seen, all too many a time, that on the same Galapagos cruise that there is a wide discrepancy regarding the passengers’ overall review of the cruise – with some disappointed, others exactly what they were expecting and others extremely satisfied. It boils down to how closely their expectations matched the reality!

That being said, there is no one Galapagos cruise that is perfect for everyone. Each client has his or her particular likes and dislikes, expectations and requirements. Some prefer the large, comfortable Deluxe cruise ships that carry 40 to 100 passengers (i.e., Galapagos Explorer II, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Legend, Evolution, Eclipse etc) while most prefer a more intimate, smaller option. Of these smaller options, they can neatly be divided into the following type: motor, motor sailer (or sailer) and catamarans (motor or motor sailer).

For those with an ecological and environmental concern and interest, there are a limited number of Galapagos boats that take serious steps to reduce any negative environmental impact and can be considered as responsible tourism options (please refer to RECOMMENDED BOATS)

The vast majority of the non-cruise ships are, on average for 16 passengers (allocated into 8 double cabins).

While most Galapagos boats only have double cabins (cabin for two people), a very limited number have single and/or triple cabin arrangements. The standard bedding arrangements are upper / lower twin bed berth (or bunk beds), while a good number – generally in the First and Deluxe classes – may have several cabins that have one double bed and/or two lower twin beds. With very few exceptions, almost every cabin on the various Galapagos boats has its own private facilities (i.e., shower, bathroom etc).

For those sensitive to motion or sea-sickness, there are two factors to keep in mind: (1) time of year – try to avoid late August through to October – as the seas are generally more turbulent this time of the year; and (2) try to avoid the sailing (or motor sailer) boats – the narrower the boat the more prone it is to rocking in the open waters, while the wider (and heavier) the boat is the more stable it is. The most stable are the large cruise ships and the motor catamarans (i.e., Athala, Anahi, Cormorant II, Queen of Galapagos), followed by the wider motor boats and then down to the narrow sailing boats.

Without any doubt, the on-board naturalist guide is one of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects on a Galapagos Islands cruise. Although all are technically bilingual (Spanish / English), the degree of English spoken does vary. In addition, the level of knowledge regarding the Galapagos (i.e., the wildlife, the geography, the history etc) does play an important part. You can have a guide that speaks almost fluent English but does not know a great deal on the Galapagos – you have a great conversation with them but won’t learn much about the wildlife, for example. Reversely, an extremely knowledgeable guide on Galapagos and all the aspects that has difficulty conversing in English won’t help that much either! The key is to have a naturalist guide that not only speaks almost fluent English but is also extremely knowledgeable.

Another consideration is the length of cruise. The fist and last day of any given cruise are short days (as they are based on the flight arrival and departure schedules into/out of Galapagos). Cruises really start between 09h30 and 11h30 the morning of the first day of the cruise in Galapagos, and end between 08h30 and 10h30 in the morning of the last day of the cruise. What most classify as cruises that are 4-DAY, 5-DAYS and 8-DAYS these cruises really translates into 2, 4 and 6 full nights respectively (or 3, 4 and 7 full nights respectively) in the Galapagos Islands. The two partial days at the beginning and end of the cruise are mainly occupied traveling to and from the islands.


The Galapagos is visited all year round, but most people select the holiday / vacation periods (i.e., Christmas/New Year’s, Easter, summer holidays/vacations). These periods sell out up to one year in advance (or more!).

The warmest period (air & water temperatures) generally run from November through to April. The coldest (and generally has more turbulent seas) are generally September and October. June through September is normally characterized by the presence of whales in Galapagos (mainly off the coasts of the western islands of Isabela & Fernandina. February through to April are the most desirable months. During this period, the islands not only adopt an emerald-green color, and turn humid and balmy warm, but many species start reproducing now.

* calmest waters;
* the hottest period in Galapagos;
* the islands are generally a lush green due to high humidity & scattered showers;
* most animals are in the height of reproduction, courting and/or nesting;
* Reproduction of land reptiles, as well as land birds.


TIME OF YEAR – First, it would be advisable to consider traveling the Galapagos in any month except for September & October (when the seas are generally rougher). Most of the wildlife is present all year round (although in different activities depending on the month in question). The Waved Albatross (usually present on Espanola only from March to December), and whales (usually only present between June and September) have very distinct calendars.

TYPE OF GALAPAGOS BOAT – The most stable boats are the large capacity cruise ships (Deluxe class), followed by the motor catamarans, and then the wider motor boats. The least stable are the sailing (motor sailer) boats.

Finally, the respective CRUISE PRICES DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE QUALITY OF THE CRUISE. Some reasonably-priced cruises are just as good as many more expensive options (but this greatly depends on the yachts in question). During high demand periods such as mid-December through to mid-January (Christmas/New Year’s), April (Easter) and July through to August (summer holidays/vacation), cruise rates can often increase in price (especially for last minute reservations) – this especially applies to Economic, Tourist and Tourist Superior options.

For these exact reason, we at Sangay Touring have found it necessary to create this blog to keep our clients and the general public up-to-date and informed on the ever-changing Galapagos details.


3 Responses to “How to select a Galapagos Islands cruise”

  1. Zuri

    The Galapagos Islands are the most incredible living museum of evolutionary changes, with a huge variety of exotic species (birds, land animals, plants) and landscapes not seen anywhere else.

  2. Jared

    I was there when I was 19 during a university cruise. One of the most fantastic adventures of my life.

    Good advice in your article. Very well put together.

  3. Jared

    Just wanted to add

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