There is no other place on earth like the Galapagos, and nothing but cruising lets you experience this unique destination to its fullest. The ultimate bucket list adventure, a photographer’s paradise, a snorkeler’s theme park, a nature lover’s wonderland—the Galapagos Islands are many things to many people, but most are drawn in by the wildlife, scenery and exclusivity, and all return astounded.
The Galapagos Islands are a remote collection of volcanic islands and rocky islets located in the Pacific Ocean, almost 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador. This Ecuadorian archipelago is perhaps best known for its role in Charles Darwin’s research on evolution and natural selection, and—thanks to much of the islands belonging to the protected Galapagos National Park—it still offers an opportunity to experience the stunning ecology that Darwin would have seen when he landed in 1835. Strictly regulated to protect the unique landscape and ecosystem, Galapagos National Park allows a very limited number of cruise ships and visitors—making this the type of vacation opportunity you grab when you have a chance!
The Galapagos consist of 18 main islands and over 100 smaller islands and islets, so the only way to experience the diverse ecosystems of each island is to travel throughout the archipelago by ship. If you’re going to be exploring by ship, make it one with comfortable accommodations and its own expedition team and naturalists, as provided by each of The Cruise Web’s preferred Galapagos cruise lines (Avalon Waterways, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises).
Given that the majority of your time on the islands will be spent in the water or hiking under the powerful equatorial sun, you’ll be glad to be only a short zodiac ride away from a delicious meal, refreshing drink and comfortable accommodations.
For the best experience, book a Galapagos cruisetour package that includes your flights to the island of Baltra or San Cristobal. These short flights often depart for the Galapagos from either Quito or Guayaquil, and are chartered if booked with Celebrity Cruises or arranged on commercial flights with Avalon Waterways or Silversea. Plus, our recommended tour packages include your Entry Card for the Galapagos National Park (otherwise purchased at the airport—$100 for adults and $50 for children—where entry can potentially be denied based on visitor numbers).
On land in the Galapagos, which is reached via nimble zodiac craft, you’ll be escorted by certified Galapagos Island guides who are experts in everything about the islands—from its geology and biology, to its history and active research initiatives. The strict oversight on the islands dictates that you always be escorted by a certified naturalist guide, and with their expansive knowledge and first-hand insights, you wouldn’t want it any other way! Best of all, these naturalists remain crew members onboard your ship—and with a maximum of 16 guests per naturalist, you’ll become well acquainted over the course of your adventure.
Wildlife of the Galapagos
One of the primary reasons to cruise to the Galapagos is for the abundant and unique wildlife. Whether it’s underwater, on land or soaring overhead—it’s everywhere for your enjoyment! Check out our wildlife slideshow below to preview some of the 2,000+ endemic species found in the Galapagos Islands:
Departing for the Galapagos Islands
Galapagos cruises sail aboard smaller expedition-style ships that are more like a yacht than a typical cruise ship. The ships operated by Avalon Waterways, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises depart from either Baltra or San Cristobal, both of which are located within the Galapagos. This means that you’ll need a flight to Ecuador (usually into Quito or Guayaquil), as well as an additional flight to your ship. Fortunately, flights to Ecuador are shorter than most would expect since the country is located due south from Florida, and not as far west as most assume. As for the short flights from Ecuador to the Galapagos—this is a process much simplified when booked through The Cruise Web’s preferred providers which all offer Galapagos packages inclusive of flights and transfers, as mentioned above.
When to Go
Galapagos cruises are available year-round, but your experience can vary based on the month in which you visit. January through June, for instance, typically offer warmer temperatures in the upper 80s—making them more comfortable for snorkeling—but with an increased likelihood of rain. Meanwhile, July through December are drier with cooler temperatures (thanks to the Humboldt Current) often ranging from the low 60s to low 80s. The changing weather patterns draw different fish and sea birds, so review our useful Galapagos Wildlife Calendar, courtesy of Celebrity Cruises.
The most “busy” time for Galapagos travel is usually from December through January, or June through August. Keep in mind, however, that “busy” is a relative term and you’ll never find the Galapagos crowded since tourism is carefully regulated to protect the natural habitat and wildlife.
Packing for the Galapagos
When packing for the Galapagos, it’s important to consider both the climate and the activities that will occupy most of your time on land. You’ll find a few suggestions below, and are encouraged to call our experienced cruise consultants at 1-800-377-9383 for additional packing questions:
- Lightweight, quick-drying hiking shirts (both long and short sleeves)
- Lightweight shorts and quick-drying pants you can roll up—occasional “wet landings” aboard Zodiac craft mean you might be stepping out into a foot of water on the beach!
- Lightweight rain jacket, windbreaker or sweater
- Resort casual attire for onboard (plus sweater or light jacket)
- Water shoes or closed-toe sandals (like Keen or Teva-style) for wet/dry landings
- Comfortable and durable hiking shoes and breathable wool socks (optional)
- Floppy or wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for sun protection
- Camera and/or GoPro with waterproof case or enclosure (and plenty of memory cards!)
- Waterproof or zipper-lock bags to protect electronics and valuables
- Sunblock (something coral-friendly) and aloe
- Insect repellent with DEET (or Vicks VapoRub™ as a more environmentally-friendly alternative)
- Motion sickness medication (just in case)
- Small backpack to carry water and daytime essentials
Do’s and Don’ts of the Galapagos
Please consider a few do’s and don’ts to help you best experience the Galapagos while leaving the beautiful, diverse ecosystem just as you found it:
- DO stay at least six feet away from wildlife, even the curious ones that approach you.
- DON’T touch or feed the wildlife.
- DO take as many picture as possible!
- DON’T use flash photography.
- DO stay on the marked trails with your certified naturalist guide.
- DON’T smoke or bring food on land excursions.
- DO drop off a postcard at Post Office Bay, and pick up one to hand-deliver at an address near your home!
- DON’T purchase souvenirs made with banned materials (coral, lava rock, animal parts, etc.). Keep in mind, shopping within the Galapagos is extremely limited (really just on San Cristobal), so your best chance for shopping is typically in Quito or Guayaquil.
- DO dress to handle the powerful sun—you’re at the equator!
- DON’T wear bright pink/red/orange as these are warning colors in nature.
- DO book an all-inclusive package with roundtrip flights to the Galapagos.
- DON’T forget cash for your Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100 pp), unless you are with one of our preferred cruise lines which include Park Entry as part of your package.
- DO a little pre-cruise research a la Charles Darwin and check out The Origin of Species or The Voyage of the Beagle (Charles Darwin), The Beak of the Finch (Jonathan Weiner) or Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut).
- DON’T keep pushing off this one-of-a-kind cruise vacation!
Simple adherence to the guidance above will ensure you leave the Galapagos Islands just as you found them, helping others to enjoy them as they were meant to be seen—and keeping them pristine for your return expedition!
Cruise Lines & Itineraries
The Cruise Web offers several amazing cruise lines, three of which currently sail to the Galapagos Islands: Avalon Waterways, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises. Each of these lines offers a unique Galapagos experience, but you’ll notice a few common perks like onboard naturalists, engaging lectures, included excursions, complimentary snorkel gear and more. Continue below to learn more about the Galapagos experience provided by our preferred cruise lines:
Galapagos cruises from Avalon Waterways offer an intimate, front-row seat to the islands’ wonders. Included onboard are delicious meals, as well as Galapagos-centered enrichment activities, educational lectures, snorkeling equipment, private guided excursions and a stargazing program. With Avalon Waterways, every guest receives an outside cabin with individual climate control and private bathrooms, plus complimentary wine with onboard meals.
Avalon Waterway’s Galapagos voyages sail aboard the 16-passenger Treasure of Galapagos, which is chartered exclusively by the line. Onboard you’ll find all of your Galapagos-musts, including a Jacuzzi, sun deck, air conditioning, reading room, free snorkel equipment, observation area, lounges and bars.
Avalon Waterways offers 8- to 20-day Galapagos cruise packages, some of which include Peru, the Amazon and Machu Picchu!*
Learn more about Avalon Waterways cruises to the Galapagos
Celebrity Cruises might possibly offer the widest breadth of Galapagos cruising options, with multiple ships and the broadest range of itinerary lengths. Focused on bringing a modern feel to expedition travel, Celebrity Cruises ties environmental stewardship into a variety of all-inclusive packages—each of which includes a 7-night Galapagos cruise in oceanview or better. Guests with Celebrity will enjoy twice-daily shore excursions led by Galapagos National Park certified Expedition Leaders and naturalists, and fares include park entrance fees. Onboard, take advantage of included gratuities, complimentary Wi-Fi, free snorkeling equipment, daily naturalist briefings and fascinating lectures. Plus, onboard dining is locally-sourced and onboard drinks are included!
For the most inclusive experience, consider Celebrity Cruises’ 10+ night packages including roundtrip flights between Ecuador and the Galapagos, along with luxury hotel accommodations and fully-escorted tours throughout.*
Celebrity Cruises’ Galapagos fleet currently includes Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Xperience and Celebrity Xploration, but the latter two will be replaced by the upcoming Celebrity Flora, which debuts in May 2019. When the 100-guest Celebrity Flora launches, Celebrity Xpedition’s guest capacity will be reduced to 64 to meet regulated passenger capacities. Onboard amenities include gourmet dining, complimentary drinks, observation lounges, panoramic viewing decks, premium bedding, free snorkel equipment and wet suits, along with free Wi-Fi in public spaces!
Celebrity’s Galapagos cruise packages range from 7 to 16 nights, with longer voyages including tours in mainland Ecuador and/or Peru, some featuring Machu Picchu.
Learn more about Celebrity Cruises to the Galapagos
Known primarily for their ultra-luxury voyages, Silversea also knows a thing or two about expedition cruising. Their expertise in both aspects—luxury and exploration—allow Silversea to perfectly blend luxurious all-suite comforts with exotic adventure travel. In addition to the luxury service expected with Silversea, you’ll enjoy expedition perks like tours with certified naturalist guides and complimentary Zodiac, snorkeling and kayaking excursions.
Silversea’s all-inclusive Galapagos packages include transfers and roundtrip airfare to Ecuador (for a limited time only from select gateways), as well as roundtrip air between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Plus, prior to your cruise, enjoy a 2-night hotel stay in Quito and complimentary evening tour.*
Silversea Cruises’ Galapagos cruises sail aboard the 100-passenger Silver Galapagos, complete with luxurious suites and gourmet dining, both indoors and out. Other onboard amenities include a Jacuzzi, spa, library, fitness center, piano bar, lounge and snorkel area with complimentary gear available!
Silversea offers 7-night Galapagos expedition cruises with year-round departures!
Learn more about Silversea Cruises to the Galapagos
When you combine the value and convenience of cruising with the wonders and sense of adventure found only in the Galapagos, the result is a truly remarkable, entirely unique vacation.
To learn more about cruising the Galapagos Islands, contact The Cruise Web’s friendly cruise consultants at 1-800-377-9383. We’ll help you choose an itinerary, plan your voyage and get the best Galapagos cruise deal!
* Itineraries, amenities, rates and offers are capacity controlled, subject to availability, and may change without notice.
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