LAST UPDATED: MAY 2015
We have subdivided the various sections as we continue to update and expand the sections to give our readers more ample, accurate and insighful information to assist them planning and arranging their visit to the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy!
Today there is so much information on 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?
Do you know what you are looking for?
INFORMATION (DATA) IS ONLY AS GOOD AND USEFUL AS IT IS ACCURATE, HONEST AND UP TO DATE.
Making a decision based on inaccurate, incomplete and/or out-of-date information can cause not only frustration but a sense of deception.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Let me explain the most common information that is either out-of-date or inaccurate.
EXAMPLES OF BOATS THAT NO LONGER EXIST ...
With a Google search conducted on April 9th, 2009, I searched the following term: Darwin Explorer (a boat that, incidentally, 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, Rumba (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:
Here is a summary of Galapagos cruise boats that no longer exist (have sunk or simply no longer operate in Galapagos) and notable accidents:
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. We would rather prefer to err on the side of caution and have our 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 cruises 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., Isabela II, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Legend, La Pinta, 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).
We have found that the naturalist guide(s) on any given cruise can almost literally make or break a cruise experience! More on this under 'Naturalist Guides'.
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!).
For those sensitive to motion or sea-sickness, there are two main factors to keep in mind:
Many visitors select a short cruise (i.e., 3 or 4-nights) when a longer cruise is what they really would have preferred; or selecting a long cruise (i.e., 7-nights) when a shorter cruise would have been more than sufficient.
What is not commonly stated is the following: The first 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 with the arrival of your flight into Galapagos 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.
Most classify Galapagos cruises as 4-DAY, 5-DAYS and 8-DAYS when these cruises really translates into 2, 3 and 6 full days, 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.
In our years of experience we have equal numbers saying that a 4-night cruise was the perfect length, while others stated that the 7-night experience was without a doubt the best. If you want to cover as much of the diversity that the Galapagos has to offer, the 7-night cruise is the best and only option for you.
The vast majority of the non-cruise ships are, on average for 16 passengers allocated into 8 double cabins - although there are a handful of boats with lower capacity (i.e., Nemo II carrying 12 passengers, for example) and several carrying more (Eric, Letty & Flamingo with a capacity of 20 passengers each, for example). The large capacity cruise ships (Santa Cruz, Galapagos Legend, Isabela II, La Pinta) carry between 40 to 100 passengers each.
The standard cabins (characteristic of most boats) are double cabins, for two people, each cabin with its own private facilities (hot/cold water shower, bathroom) and normally air conditioning. Most 16-passenger boats only have double cabins (8) and usually do not offer single and/or triple cabins. A limited number of boats (generally the large capacity cruise ships) offer a limited number of single and/or triple cabins.
An important issue to keep in mind is the cabin location - that is to say how close/far the cabin is located to the rear (aft,stern) of the vessel. This is generally where the motors/generators of the vessel are located - thereby a higher probability of noise and/or heat effects to the surrounding cabins. Generally speaking (but depends on the mechanical layout of the boat in question) the father forward and up the cabin is, the farther away you will be from the motors/generators. This translates into less noise, vibration, heat and possible fuel aroma.
Cabins are found on one (or more) different decks. Depending on the boat(s) in question, these are usually LOWER, MAIN and/or UPPER decks. The higher up the cabin is located, the more likely one is to notice the sway of the boat in open water ... but the added advantage is that it is not only farther away from the motors/generators but have better views and are more private.
The standard bedding arrangements are upper / lower single bed berths (or bunk beds). Cabins that have one lower double (or Queen) bed or two lower twin bed are generally found on the larger/wider First and Deluxe classes cruise ships and catamarans (as these vessels are wider they have extra space to permit this type of bedding arrangement).
Although only a few boats accept infants (children less than two years of age), most Galapagos boats do generally accept children with a minimum age is 6 years of age. Most require that the parent/guardian sign a waiver form. Most Galapagos boats classify children as anyone under the age of 12 years of age (while some determine the cut-off age as 10 or 11 years of age).
Many vessels have their own particular cruise policies when it comes to such issues as how many children, how the child is allocating into a cabin and the discount rate for the child.
The vessels that are more frequently chosen by family with young children tend to be the large capacity cruise ships - partly because of the extra space aboard which alllows children more freedom to move around and the capabilities of the crew to cater to the needs of children.
If you are planning on visiting the Galapagos Islands with your children, there are several issues/concerns to keep in mind: While aboard a boat you will be living in close contact with other passengers, each with different levels of tolerance. They have paid for an expensive trip what for many is the dream of a lifetime; On the island trails the group must stay together and stay with their guide. In addition, all tourist - regardless of age - must abide by the Galapagos National Park rules & regulations at all times; The flora and fauna should not be touched, picked, chased, petted or in anyway interfered with its natural state of being.
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 wont learn much about the wildlife, for example. Reversely, an extremely knowledgeable guide on Galapagos but one that has difficulty conversing in English wont help that much either!
The key is to have a naturalist guide that not only speaks almost fluent English but is also extremely knowledgeable.
Administration of the naturalist guide system
Regardless of the vessel, they all navigate and operate in a similar fashion ... the major inter-island transitions (i.e., from Espanola over to Floreana, for example) are done on the overnight hours. That way, when you awake the next day, the boat is already anchored off the island to be visited that morning. This maximizes the daylights hours, and thereby attempting to reduce transitions during the day to a minimum. There are occasional transitions done on some boats between the morning and afternoon visit (these transitions may be to another point on the same island or to a nearby island). These however are generally not that noticeable as passengers are enjoying lunch aboard during the transition.
Itineraries are generally variations on a theme. All boats now have two alternating 7-night cruise routes, which can generically be classified as:
There are different advantages and disadvantages of the various types of vessel (cruise ship, motor catamaran, motor-sail catamaran, motor boat, sailing and motor-sailers). The larger and heavier the vessel, the more stable it is in the water.
CRUISE SHIPSThat being said, there is no one Galapagos cruise that is perfect for everyone. Each person has his or her particular likes and dislikes, expectations and requirements. Some prefer the large, comfortable cruise ships that carry 40 to 100 passengers while most prefer a more intimate, smaller option.
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.