Imagine following a pod of dolphins as they weave their way from stern to bow, watching an orca toss a sea turtle in the air like a balloon, or marveling at a school of manta rays somersaulting out of the water. Picture watching mesmerizing sunsets while the planets rise, and gazing at stars in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres simultaneously. These are just a few of the natural marvels you can witness from the best Galapagos cruises, designed with lounges, shaded spaces, and open deck plans to bring you ever closer to once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters and unobstructed views of the Galapagos. What are some specific features to look for or avoid in choosing the best Galapagos cruise yacht that enhances your journey? Follow this 5 question guide to narrow down your best yacht options:
In the cruise industry, the general thinking is that more is better, because more passengers generates more revenues. In Galapagos however, that thinking undermines the key reason for going in the first place: peak animal encounters. Your experience in the Islands is the #1 priority and only small adventure yachts deliver the best Galapagos cruise experience.EXPLORE OUR GALAPAGOS LUXURY CRUISES
In the cruise industry, the general thinking is that more is better, because more passengers generates more revenues. In Galapagos however, that thinking undermines the key reason for going in the first place: peak animal encounters. Your experience in the Islands is the #1 priority and only small adventure yachts deliver the best Galapagos cruise experience.EXPLORE GALAPAGOS LUXURY CRUISES
#1. Is the crew made up of the best Galapagos cruise experts and guest service specialists?
A passionate, experienced crew is perhaps the most important feature of any Galapagos yacht. They are the friendly engine that makes your trip of a lifetime run smoothly. Rule of thumb: When choosing which Galapagos cruise company to set sail with, opt for the crew with the most experience. The companies that have been around since the very beginning of Galapagos expeditions know the ins and outs of what guests are looking for, and they have employed the best team of experts for over 20 and 30 years. A crew of Galapagos enthusiasts and experienced guest service specialists will go to great lengths to make your trip one to remember, such as:
- Sharing their passion for food through incredible happy hour fare and 5-star cuisine.
- Immersing you in the landscape and wildlife of the Galapagos with naturalist expertise and insider access tours.
- Guaranteeing a high crew to guest ratio to ensure your needs are met, from the most seasoned adventure guides to hand-picked executive chefs.
- Cleaning your cabin twice daily and adding delightful touches, like towel animals and daily chocolates, to welcome you back to your stateroom.
#2. Can I move freely around the yacht, or are there deck and viewpoint layout limitations?
With an average annual high of 82˚F/28˚C, the Galapagos is one of the best cruise locations in the world to experience a year-round equatorial ocean climate and the thrill of breathtaking natural beauty. There truly is not a 'Best time to visit the Galapagos'. Choosing the best Galapagos cruise ship with a open deck plan can be the difference between feeling part of the Galapagos Islands and feeling blocked off from them. Surprisingly, some Galapagos vessels are configured with restricted deck space, minimal viewpoint access, and confining smoked glass.
Avoid cruise ships with these layout limitations:
- Barricaded sun decks on top of the vessel that hinder your ability to look out over the side.
- Tiny balconies that chop up the cruise ship’s exterior and impede your ability to walk freely around the deck.
- Confined interiors wrapped in smoked glass, which can contain your views, restrict strolls around the sides of the yacht, and block your access to the bow and stern.
#3. Is it a smooth-sailing monohull yacht, or a noisy catamaran?
Although monohull yachts provide a smoother ride through the crystal blue waters of the Galapagos, many travelers mistakenly consider catamarans as a more stable option for the journey. Why choose a monohull yacht over a catamaran?
- More stability. A catamaran navigating across a current can tilt between waves and swells, resulting in a less stable ride than a monohull yacht.
- A quieter ride. Several Galapagos catamarans are made from fiberglass, which tends to vibrate more than does the steel used in the hulls of most monohull yachts.
- More freedom onboard. Due to size and design, most of the Galapagos vessels that have more restricted deck access are catamarans.
- A better sleep. In rougher nighttime seas, waves can rise and strike the raised bottom of a catamaran, like striking a drum. This results in a noisy ride especially when you are trying to sleep. Monohull yachts simply cut through and ride over opposing waves without the thud.
#4. Are the yacht’s staterooms designed to enhance your Galapagos experience, or are they the highlight of the experience?
On true expedition cruises, time in your cabin will be spent largely on sleeping, showering, and post-lunch siestas. However, travelers planning for the best Galapagos cruise voyage often mistakenly spend a large portion of their research on which cabin to choose. You will find that upon your return home, memories of your interior cabin quickly fade – while the vibrant memories of outdoor experiences remain. Quick tip: Don’t make the cabin the main focus of your cruise decision. Look for companies that combine open yacht spaces, outdoor activities, expert guides, and adventure excursions to find the perfect Galapagos expedition.
Quasar Expeditions itineraries include two landings and two snorkeling outings per day, along with kayaking and dinghy rides – not to mention multi-course meals, happy hours, and tour briefings. Our private staterooms prioritize comfort for high sleep quality, so you can make the most of your Galapagos cruise itinerary.
#5. Is the yacht equipped with bonus amenities that will enhance my experience?Certain amenities, like oversized jacuzzis, dive decks, and shaded sun decks can enhance your outdoor experience and offer easier access to the Galapagos. For the best Galapagos cruise experience, choose a yacht with these bonus amenities:
1. Oversized jacuzzis. Quasar passengers regularly comment on the pure bliss of jumping out of their wetsuit and into the oversized jacuzzi after a snorkeling excursion. Yachts with fewer passengers and larger jacuzzis ensure that everyone can easily warm up and relax after a day of Galapagos memory making.
2. Dive decks. Yachts equipped with only a gangway can slow the process of getting passengers onto dinghys for their Galapagos activities. Dive decks allow passengers to step right off the back of the yacht and onto their dinghy, which speeds up the time it takes to go ashore.
3. Shaded sun decks. Many Galapagos cruise ships have open top sun decks, which can be dangerous given the intensity of the equatorial sun. Look for yachts with plenty of shaded rooftop spaces.
4. Exterior ("al-fresco") dining areas. The equatorial air in the Galapagos is always warm and pleasant, and you won’t want to miss a moment taking in the natural surroundings and wildlife sightings while you’re onboard. After years of feedback and guest observation, Quasar Expeditions observed that guests rarely wanted to eat inside and therefore, enhanced their yachts with outdoor dining areas.
Explore the best Galapagos cruise ship layouts There are many cruise ship features to consider when choosing the best Galapagos cruise, but the yachts that will turn your trip into the adventure of a lifetime are symbolic of the Galapagos: spacious, majestic, and most of all, unique. Take a virtual tour onboard Quasar's Yachts: Grace Yacht or Evolution Yacht!
We often get asked what the cost of the best Galapagos cruise is and the answer depends on the type of accommodations and experience that you are looking for.
Getting to Ecuador
Regarding flights, there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands. Anyone visiting the archipelago must first fly into the cities of Quito or Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador, and then connect to the Galapagos. Many major airlines offer international flights to Quito and Guayaquil, including Copa Airlines, Aeromexico, American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Jet Blue, Avianca, Latam and Iberia. Please check with each airline for the best possible flights to Ecuador, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to up to $800 if flying to Ecuador from the US, and between $900 and $1500 if flying from Europe.
In addition to the international flights you also have to book domestic flights to the Galapagos from either Quito or Guayaquil. Depending on where you are flying from (Guayaquil or Quito), flight prices range from $470 to about $530 for adults and $360 - $400 for children. Please note flight prices are constantly changing so it is best to always check with airlines like Latam and Avianca that currently have daily flights out to the islands. Children under 12 normally get an important discount on domestic air. You also need to pay a mandatory transit card (used to track visitors and make sure they don’t stay more than 3 months in the islands) and it costs $20 per person.
Spending a Few Days in the Mainland before flying to Galapagos
For anyone interested in cruising the Galapagos, it is strongly recommended to add a minimum of 2 nights in Mainland Ecuador on the front end of your trip to accommodate for flight delays, cancellations or baggage issues. How much you spend in your travels on the mainland will depend on the type of hotel you stay at and if you choose to do any tours while in Ecuador. But it’s always best to consider at least a couple of days in Mainland Ecuador as part of your overall Galapagos trip budget.
Entering the Galapagos National Park
Once in Galapagos, non-Ecuadorians must pay a Park fee of $100 for adults and $50 for children under 12. There are discounts available for Ecuadorians and for some Andean countries that are members of Pacto Andino.
Galapagos Cruise Prices
Galapagos is considered an expensive cruising destination, regardless of the type of traveler you are. As a general rule of thumb however, you can use the guidelines below to book the best Galapagos cruise to fit your budget. Galapagos cruise offers are available from time to time.
- Budget Cruises: In terms of accommodations, these cruises are the equivalent of 1 and 2 star hotels, and can cost anywhere between $250 - $430 dollars per person, per day. This normally includes accommodations, meals, excursions and all non-alcoholic beverages. A weeklong budget cruise can cost anywhere between $1800 to about $3,000 per person.
- Tourist Superior Cruises: Cruises in this category are the equivalent of a 3 star hotel and start at around $450 per person, per day and go up to about $600. A weeklong tourist superior cruise can cost between $3,100 and $4,200 per person.
- First Class Cruises: First class cruises are the equivalent of a 4 star hotel and they cost between $610 to about $780 per person, per day. A weeklong tourist superior cruise can cost between $4,300 and $5,500 per person.
- Luxury Cruises: These cruises are the equivalent of a 5 star hotel in terms of accommodations and service. Luxury cruises in Galapagos start at around $800 per person for the day, and go up all the way to around $1,700 per person for the day, depending on the suite category you choose. A weeklong luxury cruise can cost between $6,000 to around $12,000 dollars per person.
Finally, you should always consider some budget in your trip for extras like bar consumption, laundry, items of personal nature and tips to guides and crew. Drink prices are high in Galapagos, mainly due to the import tariffs on alcohol in Ecuador and the cost of getting the alcohol to the islands. With tips, you can expect to pay about $10 per person, per day for crew and for guides on budget ships and about $20 - $30 per person, per day on the luxury ships.
Guest reviews of the best Galapagos cruises and crew:
"The crew could not have been more accommodating. No request was too much. They made us all feel as if we were their very best friends and that we were the most important people in the world." Jim Currie
"The crew was fantastic, very nice & courteous. They went out of their way to please us. We felt very pampered!" Helen Kuo
"Not only did they do their jobs, they did them with real, true care and concern for our experience." Rick Hulett
Expert Tip on Galapagos Travel:
Although Galapagos is great year-round destination, there are a few months of the year that we like to call the "secret months" because they offer visitors some key advantages over other months when it comes to weather and wildlife. The secret months for galapagos travel are in September, October, November and the beginning of December.- Paul Schicke - Galapagos Expert at Quasar Expeditions