Paul Schicke
Written by Paul Schicke Senior Expedition Designer

Updated: January 22, 2024
Published: December 27, 2023

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Galapagos Flamingo

Ever dreamed of embarking on a voyage to an exotic land where sea lions laze around beautiful white-sand beaches and blue-footed boobies dance in the background? A destination that transports you to the past, to the time animals ruled the world, providing a glimpse of life as it developed through millions of years. Head to the Galapagos Islands for an expedition cruise like no other. But the big question is: Are Galapagos cruises worth it?

Simply put, absolutely! The Galapagos is a one-of-a-kind destination that most travelers, and especially wildlife enthusiasts, have on their bucket lists. There’s no better place on earth where you can safely get up close to wild animals in their natural habitats.

There are over 40 national park landing sites throughout the islands where travelers are permitted to go ashore, enjoy adventure activities, and interact with the rare species that inspired Darwin’s revolutionary research. Over 70% of these landing sites are not accessible when staying in a hotel. Therefore, a Galapagos cruise guarantees an immersive adventure that follows in Darwin’s footsteps.

Are Galapagos Cruises Worth It?

If you're pondering the question, "Are Galapagos cruises wortth it?" then let's cut to the chase. The answer is a definite YES. There are several reasons why most visitors to the Islands choose Galapagos luxury cruises as the way of exploring the Islands.

The unique biodiversity of these islands is like nowhere else on Earth. From sea turtles swimming off Santa Cruz Island to flightless cormorants and marine iguanas basking in Isabela Island's sun, there's something for every wildlife lover here.

Cruising allows you access not only to popular spots like San Cristobal but also smaller, far-removed islands where unique species reside that can't be seen anywhere else in South America, or indeed, the world.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise with a bird on shell

The costs of a Galapagos cruise might seem steep initially when compared with other destinations. But remember, your cruise fare usually includes everything—from meals and accommodation aboard expedition ships down to the activities and fully guided tours by local experts who share fascinating insights about this UNESCO heritage site.

You're investing not just in a holiday but an unforgettable adventure tour teeming with unparalleled wildlife encounters. Now isn’t that worth considering?

Pros of Galapagos Cruises

Going on a cruise to explore the Galapagos Islands offers advantages that can't be found with any other type of travel. It's not just about cruising, it's an adventure into nature's own exhibition hall.

Access to the Park’s Best Visitor Sites

Over 97% of the Galapagos archipelago is a national park, completely off-limits to human establishments. Only 3% of the islands are human-inhabited where hotels can be built. Therefore, the only way to access the majority of the visitor sites is on a cruise throughout the entire archipelago.

If you are considering a hotel-based visit, one major problem you’ll face is how to access the national park. There are roughly 70 terrestrial and 70 marine visitor sites throughout the national park where travelers are permitted to go ashore or go snorkeling to see animals up close. Only a handful of these landing sites are accessible from the hotels by day boat, usually at additional cost. Still debating between the two? - Cruises VS. Hotels in Galapagos

Galapagos Grace Yacht passengers going to land on panga

The Wildlife Encounters

The Galapagos Islands are home to unique species found nowhere else in the world—talk about exclusive.

Once you reach the town of Puerto Ayora, you will head to the main municipal dock where a zodiac from your selected cruise ship will pick you up to take you onboard.

You might come face-to-face with a sea lion while snorkeling, or witness marine iguanas sunbathing and expelling salt from their noses next to you on Fernandina Island. From playful penguins and flightless cormorants on Fernandina Island to massive tortoise breeding centers in Puerto Ayora, each island holds its own magic waiting for visitors like yourself. And the only way to visit all these different animals on their different islands is by navigating around the archipelago on a cruise.

Panga rides with dolphins in Galapagos

Top Galapagos Guides

A pivotal aspect of any Galapagos trip is the experience level of your Galapagos National Park guides. The best guides not only have degrees in environmental sciences, but they are also top-notch educators and conservationists.

The most practiced, renowned naturalists are locals with a special passion for their home, and they are almost always found working aboard Galapagos cruises. The reality is that cruises offer the best Galapagos guides permanent employment on consecutive weeks at a time, which is why we have found that the best guides in the Galapagos work aboard cruises.

Great guides give you unique access to those unexpected wildlife encounters which can elevate your understanding of the physical world and leave you feeling not only entertained but also educated. High-level guides go the extra mile to fulfill the high hopes you have for Darwin-like wildlife, snorkeling, and hiking experiences.

Top Galapagos Guides on Cruises

Cons of Galapagos Cruises


So, you're asking about the cost of a Galapagos cruise? Well, buckle up, because it's not exactly pocket change. But don't let the cost deter you if you are looking for the best Galapagos experience.

A voyage on an expedition ship for one week could cost anywhere between four to ten thousand dollars per person depending on the cruise category you choose. On the more upscale cruises like Quasar’s, this includes almost everything—accommodations, meals, alcoholic drinks, wifi, and snorkeling equipment, and all excursions are guided by naturalists who really know their islands.

Why such a hefty price tag? The Ecuadorian government restricts the number of visitors to protect its unique species and ecosystems. Limited supply plus high demand equals higher prices. It’s simple economics, really.

But on top of that, the logistics to get supplies out to the islands is also not simple, making everything more expensive in the Galapagos.

Galapagos luxury cruise cabins

If this is more than your wallet can handle right now but your heart still yearns for those remote beaches and blue-footed boobies, consider land-based or hotel-based tours instead, also often referred to as 'island-hopping'. Land-based trips could save some greenbacks while giving you opportunities for encounters with wildlife like sea turtles or Lonesome George — he was the Galapagos’ most famous tortoise, in case you were wondering.

They Are Not Ideal for Very Young Children

There are times when it makes sense to stay in a hotel. If you have a family with very young children under 5 years of age, you will likely find you can’t go on a permitted park vessel unless you charter the entire yacht, in which case a hotel-based stay is the alternative. With very young children safety onboard ships can become an issue, and the last thing you want to be worried about is a child accidentally falling overboard.

Galapagos cruises not ideal for infants

Supporting the Local Economy

Staying at a hotel in one of the port towns is a greater investment in local commerce. When you shop at local shops, buy handcrafted souvenirs, or dine in family-owned restaurants around the ports, you're pouring money directly into the Galapagos local economy, which is a big benefit.

However, like Quasar, there are plenty of responsible cruise companies in the Galapagos that do give back to the local communities in the form of permanent employment, buying food and goods from local producers for their cruise operations, and more. Furthermore, with many companies like Quasar, a portion of every cruise package price goes toward conservation efforts like turtle breeding programs and habitat restoration projects—all aimed at maintaining this unique ecosystem intact.

When booking a Galapagos cruise, we encourage you to talk to them to learn how they support the local economy. As travelers, we have a responsibility toward our travel destinations and how we choose to spend our money.

supporting the local Galapagos economy


So, are Galapagos cruises worth it? The short answer is, ABSOLUTELY! If unique wildlife encounters and exclusive experiences are your jam, then a Galapagos cruise is the way to go.

On most Galapagos cruises get to see the "big 15" species up close, from sea lions lounging on beaches to flightless cormorants swimming by your side. And don't forget about those cute little penguins!

Yes, a Galapagos cruise can be more expensive than staying in a hotel. But remember—hotels keep you in the port towns, and the reason why most people visit the Galapagos Islands is for the spectacular wildlife that is found inside of the national park and outside of the inhabited areas.

Reading a book on the Galapagos Grace Yacht

Hotels give you great access to the port towns, which are small and can be fun, but they are not the key reason the Galapagos has become a premier destination. Only on a cruise will you get to see the amazing islands and experience the magical Galapagos animals & wildlife encounters that have made Darwin’s archipelago so famous.

If amazing wildlife encounters are your thing—then start packing for a cruise! The enchanted Islands await...

Paul Schicke
By Paul Schicke
Senior Expedition Designer

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

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