With cruising opening back up this summer and fall, there are some exciting bucket list destinations just begging you to visit. While some are relatively easy to understand how to book or who to book with, others such as South American cruises on the Amazon or Galapagos are far more difficult. With regards to Galapagos cruises, this is because while there are big names such as Celebrity, Azamara, or Holland America Line, this is really a special place that deserves a special type of cruise ship, training, and planning. Let's take a look at what you need to know before booking a Galapagos cruise.
Galapagos Is More Than Just One Island
It should be obvious from the "s" on the end that Galapagos is simply short for Galapagos Islands and that means that just like when planning a Hawaii cruise, you'll want to know exactly where you are going. Even more important is that not every island is accessible or even permitted for cruise visits.
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador spanning both sides of the equator and located about 605 miles west of the country's Pacific Coast. The archipelago of volcanic islands includes 18 major islands and 21 total. The highest peak tops out at 5,600' and while the water between the major islands is relatively shallow it plunges to as deep as 13,000' on the southern edge of the island chain. Under the water, there are more than 350 seamounts along with some of the densest and most diverse marine life habitats anywhere on earth.
Make Sure To Research Itineraries Before Booking
As you would expect, each of the islands has a unique personality. To ensure that you get the experience you are hoping for, it is essential that you research different itineraries since not every Galapagos Islands cruise goes to the same places. Furthermore, like in Antarctica, Alaska and Hawaii for instance, some destinations will be scenic cruising instead of a landing. Different vessels have different abilities and permits to allow for landings and this can have a major impact on your overall cruise experience.
Know What You Want To Do Before Booking A Galapagos Islands Cruise
Different people have different types of vacation experiences in mind. Some simply want to say they visited a bucket list destination. Others want to go diving on their Galapagos cruises. Still others are more interested in birding or observing natural beauty and capturing it to share through photos and videos. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how to best experience the Galapagos Islands on a cruise. However, you need to be able to look for different options and make sure it fits both your needs and budget.
Not Every Galapagos Cruise Has To Be Insanely Expensive
Visiting the Galapagos is going to be expensive. There is simply no way around that reality and that's even before you set foot on the boat. For instance, flying to Ecuador is expensive and then you need flights to the islands, and then you also have to pay for a National Park entrance fee of $100 USD (cash only) and a $20 immigration control permit that is also required to be paid in cash. On top of this, Galapagos cruise vessels are not the huge mega ships that you find in the Caribbean or Alaska and so they don't benefit from economies of scale. Nor do you want to do a Galapagos cruise with thousands of people fighting to get on and off the ship at each stop.
Instead, vessels here are usually small ships - for instance Celebrity Flora is one of the most luxurious vessels sailing in the Galapagos and it has only 100 passengers. Others such as Blue Spirit (one of the more affordable options) only have space for 16 passengers with 8 standard cabins and 2 single cabins.
While you can pay as low as $2,500 for a five-day Galapagos cruise, the sky is the limit, with cruises on vessels like the brand new ultra luxury Silver Origin where you can spend as much as $35,000 for an Owners Suite on a 7-day voyage.
One of the things experienced Galapagos cruise veterans discover is that while their travel advisor might push them to big brand names that you are already familiar with, there are dozens of smaller, independent cruise companies sailing the Galapagos Islands. Do your research and check out sites where you can compare different ships and reviews and then make the pick that is right for you.