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Decoding Galapagos Cruises

Joy Martinello

Decoding Galapagos Cruises

Joy Martinello

Selecting a Galapagos trip now is a little more complex than it used to be since the Galapagos National Park stepped up the level of conservation for each landing site and mandated a new set of itineraries. Fortunately, your Galapagos experts at ExpeditionTrips have done their homework and have taken the guesswork out of selecting an itinerary and ship for your trip of a lifetime to these fascinating islands.

When selecting the right ship and itinerary for your adventure, you will want to consider these important elements:

1. What length of trip will you select?

Classic Galapagos
Trips offering 7-8 days onboard are called “Classic Galapagos” programs. This trip length allows you to explore the islands for the perfect amount of time and experience the diversity of wildlife species that captivated Charles Darwin. See completely different species from island to island, snorkel 3-4 times, and hear stories of the rough and ready adventurers that settled in the Galapagos. With travel time, these trips are 10-11 days total.

Galapagos In-Depth
Birdwatchers, biologists, and others fascinated by Galapagos flora and fauna should consider a longer trip of 9-12 days onboard. With travel time, these trips are 12-15 days total.

Galapagos In-Brief
Families with young children and people with tight schedules might select trips that offer 4-6 days onboard. With travel time, these trips are 7-9 days total. We recommend 5 or 6 days in the islands, as 4 days seems very short after traveling such a long distance, and is not recommended unless combined with a land program.

2. What size and style of vessel are you looking for?

There are three sizes of ships in the Galapagos: small at 16-20 passengers, mid-size at 30-50 passengers, and large at 80-100 passengers. Each size offers a different experience. For example, a smaller ship will allow you to get to know your fellow passengers very well, while a larger ship offers you more anonymity and a more diverse set of fellow passengers to meet. Families with teens often like larger vessels so their kids can socialize more. Mid-size vessels are known for offering luxurious surroundings and expert education programs. Both small and large ships include a range of styles from casual/basic to luxury ships.

A special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary might warrant a beautiful luxury ship with hotel-like amenities, while some families with children prefer smaller, more casual environments like a fun family sailboat or a small motor vessel with a single common area where people can gather.

Some travelers have been reading about and dreaming of visiting the amazing Galapagos Islands for many years and would want to have the very best education program onboard. If the education program is a main focus of your trip, your program manager will let you know which ships attract “Class 2” and “Class 3” guides, guides who have gone through special programs via the Galapagos National Park. Some ships, like the National Geographic Endeavour and the National Geographic Islander include guides who have been offered up to an additional year of training after completing the Galapagos National Park program and these ships have what we consider to be the “gold standard” of trips in the region.

We also offer a very popular set of land-based programs in the islands where you stay in hotels, though you may not see as many animal species on these trips. Land-based trips are excellent for adults sensitive to ship travel or for families with children who might not be comfortable on ships. Some of the land-based trips offer high-energy activities like mountain biking, kayaking or rigorous hikes.

3. What kind of animals are you most interested in seeing?

In order to take the guesswork out of selecting the best itinerary for wildlife viewing, your program manager will offer you a wildlife list highlighting which of the top 15 species in the Galapagos (the animals most people want to see) can be seen in which quadrant of the islands. Here are the animals we receive the most requests for:

Blue-Footed Booby
Darwin's Finches
Flightless Cormorant
Giant Tortoise
Green Sea Turtle
Humboldt Penguin
Land Iguana
Magnificent Frigate Bird
Marine Iguana
Nazca Booby
Red-Footed Booby
Sally Lightfoot Crab
Sea Lion
Waved Albatross

So whether your kids are super excited about swimming with sea lions or you’re determined to add the Humboldt penguin to your birder’s life list, we can help you select a ship and itinerary that’s just perfect for you.

Itineraries may have changed some in the Galapagos, yet you can rest assured that we, your adventure travel specialists at ExpeditionTrips, are here to help you narrow down the field of ships and plan a trip you and your family or friends will remember for years to come.