The isolated archipelago of the Galapagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, are home to remarkable marine and animal life found nowhere else on earth. Choosing from the great range of luxurious yachts to small cruise ships, the best luxury Galapagos cruises will allow you to discover the flora and fauna of one of the world’s most impressive natural destinations for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Luxury Cruising in the Galapagos
Most luxury Galapagos cruises are naturalist cruises, appealing to the general-interest traveler looking to see and learn about wildlife in the Galapagos, guided by biologists and trained local experts with specialist knowledge. A handful of diving cruises operate for divers with prior experience and relevant diving certifications – the best is Galapagos Sky – and a few vessels have special family departures. There are a wide range of boat types to choose from to suit all tastes and budgets, including private charters.
Luxury cruises in the Galapagos are a great way to cover more ground than staying in hotels and lodges. While wildlife excursions are arranged as day trips from a hotel base, cruises typically travel overnight reaching further afield. Luxury Galapagos cruises are enjoyed as stand-alone journeys, though it is also possible to extend your stay with a night or two in the best luxury Galapagos hotels and lodges.
Luxury Galapagos Cruises
How to choose the right boat for your Galapagos cruise will in part depend on the duration of cruise you’re looking to take, your preferred comfort level and personal taste. A key differentiating factor between cruises is size. While very large cruises are prohibited – the biggest can cater only to a maximum of 100 guests like the Santa Cruz II – there is still a range from boutique-size boats for up to 20, and larger vessels which tend to come equipped with more facilities thanks to their additional space. Smaller boats typically feel more intimate and exclusive, though larger vessels can allow you to better meet other travellers. Regardless of the vessel size, the ration of guides to travelers is normally around 10:1. Other considerations include whether your room has a balcony or not, the type of window it has and the type of vessel – there’s everything from brand-new purpose built boats to the historic Grace.
Choosing a Galapagos Cruise Itinerary
Galapagos cruise itineraries start from as little as three days, but considering the relative effort it takes to get to the Galapagos – with a flight from mainland Ecuador and time spent on the first and last day of any cruise itinerary embarking and disembarking – we strongly recommend opting for a cruise that is around five days, as a minimum. Longer cruise itineraries – around seven or eight days – allow you to visit more sites and reach further afield, such as more remote uninhabited islands that are only reachable if you take a cruise, such as Fernandina in the far west.
Each cruise operates a fixed departure schedule, with different routes followed on different days. Some will circle back so that you fly in and out of the same airport; others have you start and end in the two different airports on the Galapagos Islands. As the Galapagos Islands are a highly sensitive site, to help manage the impacts of visitation all cruise companies change their itineraries every two years to help avoid over-tourism.Contact our expert travel team for up-to-date advice on the best cruise options in the Galapagos.
Diving in the Galapagos
The best way to dive in the Galapagos is with a specialist diving cruise, suited only to divers who already have experience. If you’re looking to combine diving with generalist wildlife watching, or not everyone in your group can dive, you’re best off basing yourself in a luxury hotel in the Galapagos and taking day diving trips before or after your cruise to have the best of both worlds. Galapagos Sky is the best diving cruise; alternatives are Agressor III and Nortada.
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Luxury Galapagos Cruises with Aracari
With so many luxury Galapagos cruises to choose between, our expert travel team provide specialist advice to help you choose the right cruise for you. Our team regularly travel to the Galapagos, drawing on their first-hand travel intel when planning luxury trips to the Galapagos. We can also talk you through the options for staying in lodges and hotels – or combining these with cruises. Contact us today for expert advice and to start planning your trip to the Galapagos.