Planning a cruise to the Galapagos can be overwhelming simply because there are hundreds of ships and tour companies to choose from. Once you’ve decided when you want to visit the Galapagos Islands, taking a cruise on a small yacht is the best way to see the more remote islands and wildlife.
Don’t let the word “yacht” give you the impression that you’ll spend your days lazing in the sun as you drift among the islands — tours to the Galapagos come with itineraries calling for early-morning wakeup calls, challenging hikes and multiple excursions daily. Translation: You’ll be spending most of your waking hours exploring the islands rather than relaxing on the ship. But you wouldn’t want it any other way when given the chance to visit a destination known for wildlife so epic that it inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
I opted to cruise with Adventure Life because this sustainable travel company is a member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) and helps fund conservation projects to protect this double World Heritage site. As a guest on the M/Y Galapagos Grand Odyssey, I saw first-hand the benefits of traveling on a smaller luxury ship because it made the expedition experience both more intimate and comfortable. Here are some things I learned from traveling the Galapagos by ship:
Size matters. I took a 16-passenger yacht whose 8 rooms and 1 suite were much roomier than I expected — about 25 square meters. While you won’t find any mega cruise ships here because the national park restricts the size of boats to 100 passengers, I really enjoyed the cozy feel of having only 15 other travelers onboard. The M/Y Galapagos Grand Odyssey is a good bet if you’re traveling with family because it has cabins that connect. Tip: Those of you prone to seasickness may want to keep in mind that larger ships tend to be more stable, but booking lower cabins on small yachts helps ease symptoms since you won’t notice a churning sea as much when down below as compared to higher cabins. My cabin was actually on the upper level and I had no real issues with seasickness even without taking any preventative medication.
Comfort counts. For me, having a well-educated, interesting guide was very important since the Galapagos is a place to learn all about its unique nature. Our bilingual, naturalist guide Christian was a native of the islands and was very passionate about sharing his knowledge with travelers. And even though we didn’t spend much time on the ship, I really appreciated being able to watch the sun set from one of the 2 Jacuzzis on the sun deck and having a private bathroom big enough to spread out in to wash off the saltwater and dirt after a day spent snorkeling in the ocean and hiking volcanic terrain.
Food is a luxury. Going on such an active vacation is bound to give you an appetite, and you’ll have no choice but to eat the food available on your cruise. Ships aren’t always known for their culinary masterpieces, but I actually looked forward to meals on the Galapagos Grand Odyssey because the intimate dining room was a social hub and the chef’s local and international dishes were unexpectedly tasty and basically healthy. Breakfasts offered fresh fruit and juices, lunches usually had a salad option and dinners often featured some fresh catches from the local fish market. Nothing fancy, but definitely satisfying. If you’re like me and good food is important to you, you might think about reading a variety of ship reviews online to get a take on the overall dining experience.
More on the Galapagos Islands:
By Holly C. Corbett
Holly C. Corbett is a part of a trio of female travelers known as The Lost Girls and a regular Girl Getaway contributor to TravelChannel.com. She has written for digital and print publications including USA Today, Redbook.com, Shape, Budget Travel, MensFitness.com and CondeNastTraveler.com. She’s happiest when she’s getting lost in a new place, diving with sharks in Belize or Borneo, and training for Runaway Bridesmaids—a charity race she founded that raises money to fight sex trafficking.