Trip Suggestion: The Galapagos Islands
What do you get when you cross an adventurous couple with a desire to travel for their honeymoon? A trip to the Galapagos Islands! After researching and completing trainings on some options for them, I wanted to share some of the information with you!
Here’s a rundown of many of the most popular cruise options to the Galapagos Islands. While none of the options are “cheap,” the Galapagos Islands can be an incredible itinerary for travelers who wish to experience nature and exploration at its finest.
Things to know: Cruise itineraries are strictly monitored by the National Park Service, and daily excursions often start early in the morning from the ship. You’re not obligated to go on any excursions, however, so you can still get a chance to sleep in. But definitely remember that the Galapagos attract a far more adventurous and active type of traveler due to the opportunities for Zodiac wet and dry landings, hiking, and explorations. Due to strict ecological rules to preserve the national parks, cruise ships aren’t allowed to visit the same site twice in 15 days, which is why you will see a variety of itineraries or some re-arranging of back to back stops.
Each island is different which mean you won’t get bored on your cruise! Some of the highlights may include giant tortoises, sea lions, iguanas, volcanic lava flows, red sand beaches, flamingoes, albatrosses, Zodiac (boat) excursions, glass-bottomed boat expeditions, snorkeling, diving, and more…
When to go: Cruises to the Galapagos are available year-round. High season, reflected in prices, is June-September and December-January.
What to pack: Casual wear! Good hiking shoes and hardy sandals are appropriate, as is a hat for the equatorial sun. And don’t forget a camera for your animal encounters!
How to book: Contact me and I can help book you on any of these options, leaving you time to concentrate on the important things in life!
Budget: 2017 cruises start at $4,299pp for oceanview cabins. Almost everything is included, including alcoholic drinks, excursions every day on the islands, gratuities, naturalist guides, and national park entry fees.
Celebrity Cruiselines, a sister company to Royal Caribbean and Azamara, takes its special boat, the Xpedition, to the Galapagos 365-days a year! The boat holds only about 100 guests, so it’s a quite different feeling from Celebrity’s other sailings. Indeed, Celebrity itself refers to Xpedition as a “mega-yacht” rather than a ship.
Guests who already sail frequently on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity may prefer this sailing, as they will continue to earn frequent cruiser points and/or apply their current status for perks. The atmosphere is casual, as are most Galapagos cruises – the proximity to nature naturally attracts easy going conversations about the day’s activities and sights. Dining is open-seating (you pick who you want to eat with) and often features fresh-caught fish from the local fishermen!
Here’s a sample itinerary from Celebrity:
And the Inner loop:
Celebrity offers 7-, 10-, and 11-night sailings; the longer sailings are actually the 7-day cruises couple with pre- and post-cruise land extensions. On these longer cruisetours, you’ll find into Quito first and spend a few days touring Ecuador, before catching a flight from Ecuador straight to the Galapagos. I highly recommend this option as Quito is one of my favorite cities, and you’ll be flying to Ecuador anyway as this is the only gateway to the Galapagos. You may as well spend a few days before or after cruising getting to know this fantastic city. Celebrity Xpedition operates an exclusive, non-stop flight from Quito straight to Baltra, Galapagos.
All-Inclusive Value: Although its other sailings in the Caribbean and Europe don’t always offer all of the following options, Celebrity’s Xpeditions sailings include the following values:
- (10- and 11-day sailings) 2-night pre-cruise and 1- or 2-night post-cruise hotel accommodations, meals, tours, and beverages during meals. VIP check-in/check out services at the JW Marriott hotel. Luggage service including mandatory agricultural inspection of all luggage at the hotel pre-departure.
- Full-day guided tour of historical Quito, including a visit to Middle of the World Park and the Colonial City Center.
- Round-trip airfare Quito-Baltra-Quito, on exclusive non-stop flight, with meet-and-greet services by Celebrity Xpedition® Naturalists, all airport transfers and pier-to-Zodiac transfers.
- 7-night all-inclusive Celebrity Xpedition cruise (including all gratuities, shore excursions, open bar, Internet service, )
- Park entrance fee and Galapagos Tourist Card fee
As in every Galapagos sailing, it’s best to book early as cabins fill up quickly. Currently Celebrity is offering its 2017 promotion on Galapagos sailings: “Go Big, choose 1 FREE perk on our 2017 sailings*: FREE DRINKS FREE INTERNET FREE TIP $150 to spend on board”
It’s also worth mentioning this other fantastic option: Celebrity’s 15-night Galapagos AND Machu Picchu Expedition, departing December 8, 2017. Now that would be a bucket list cruise!
National Geographic Expeditions and/or Lindblad Expeditions
National Geographic partners with Lindblad for its Galapagos trips. Prices are the same regardless of which vendor we book with.
National Geographic Expeditions carries a heftier price tag than Celebrity, but carries the cache of the National Geographic brand and everything you can expect from these two prestigious partners. As their website states, “Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts — from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture.” They also even offer special family sailings!
Budget: 10 day sailing to the Galapagos start at $6590 per person, and cruises depart with a charter flight from Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Activities (just a sample):
- Snorkeling (snorkel gear and wetsuits provided)
- Zodiac and glass bottom boat excursions
- Wildlife viewing and island exploring
- Walk, hike, or kayak
- No assigned groups – choose your naturalist guide to join each day
UnCruise is a fantastic option for travelers wishing to see the Galapagos by ship but who wish an alternative to traditional cruising. UnCruise offers 8- and 9- day itineraries, both departing on charter air from Quito, Ecuador.
Budget: 2017 cruises start at $8,295.
- Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Galápagos Islands and Quito’s Colonial city center
- Two nights at Quito’s historic Casa Gangotena
- Six-night Galápagos cruise aboard La Pinta
- A private dinner at Quito’s premier view restaurant
- Set foot on seven islands and islets
- Nesting birds and wildlife in their natural habitat
- View marine life by snorkel and glass-bottom boat
- Charles Darwin Research Center
- Certified guides escort small groups of 12
- Roundtrip air between Quito/Galápagos
- Alcoholic beverages on La Pinta
UnCruise’s mission is: “To provide our guests an enriching adventure travel experience and inspire an appreciation of local cultures and the natural world.” Guests come back raving about the quality of the staff, the “un-cruiselike” atmosphere of the adventures, and the company’s emphasis on small ship cruising and sincere interaction with cultures.
Truck Small Ship Cruising
Tauck is renowned for its land tours and has applied this emphasis on the destination to its small ship cruising. They’ve created this Galapagos cruise in conjunction with BBC Earth! (Note: for the Galapagos sailings, they’ve partnered with Metropolitan Tours.)
Their six night cruise features no more than 40 guests! This is the perfect match for the traveler who truly wants an intimate experience. They also offer their multigenerational Bridges programming on select sailings, making it a perfect trip for grandparents, parents, and children alike.
Travelers praise the Tauck commitment to quality and focus on the incredible small ship cruising atmosphere. Recent travelers came back raving after the naturalists onboard alerted travelers during breakfast that there was an unplanned orca sighting and anyone who wished to get in the zodiacs to take a closer look could do so!
Budget: 2016 prices from $6,240 plus on-tour air for 9 Days
What does it include?
- All gratuities to Tauck Director, guides, naturalists and ship staff
- On-tour film vignettes custom-made for Tauck by BBC Earth natural history experts
- Field equipment may include FLIR® thermal imaging cameras and shotgun microphones
- Exclusive 6-night Galápagos Cruise aboard the expedition ship, Isabela II– with no more than 40 Tauck guests
- Private Tauck Shore Excursions in the Galápagos Islands with expert naturalist guides – averaging two daily – for an up-close experience with some of the most unusual and intriguing species of the world
- Two nights at Hilton Colón Guayaquil, gateway to the Galápagos Islands
- Daily cocktail hour, all-day soft drinks and wine with dinner aboard ship
- Airport transfers upon arrival and departure as noted
- 21 meals (8 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners); service charges, applicable fuel surcharges, admission fees, entrance fees to Galápagos National Park, porterage
Silversea is a luxury cruise line, perfect for those who still want that luxury, elegant vacation feeling combined with the expedition of a Galapagos adventure.
Budget: $6795 starting fares with early booking bonus.
-Roundtrip airfare to Ecuador from USA select airports, offered at $199pp
YOUR ALL INCLUSIVE FARE INCLUDES:
- Included flights between Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands
- Included Transfers
- Included pre and post Hotel*
- Included National Park fees
- Personalised service – the best crew-to-guest ratio in expedition cruising
- Butler service in every suite – all guests are pampered equally
- Open-seating dining options – dine when and with whomever you please
- Beverages in-suite and throughout the ship – select wines, premium spirits, specialty coffees and soft drinks, plus your own tailored mini-bar
- In-suite dining and room service – available 24 hours aboard Silver Explorer, and from 06:00 to 23:00 aboard Silver Galapagos and Silver Discoverer
- Enrichment lectures by a highly qualified Expeditions Team
- Guided Zodiac, land and sea tours, and shoreside activities led by the Expeditions Team
- Gratuities always included in your fare
- Roundtrip Economy Air between Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands
- Two-night pre-cruise hotel stay with breakfast at the Quito JW Marriott
- Evening tour of Quito’s historic city highlights
- Post-cruise hotel day room at Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil (for guests with flights after 10pm)
- National Park, Ingala Transit Card and porterage fees
- Transfer from JW Marriott to the airport in Quito
- Transfer between the airport and Silver Galapagos in Baltra
- Transfer from the airport to the hotel in Guayaquil
- Transfer from Hotel Oro Verde to the airport in Guayaquil
Sample suite on Silversea (all cabins are oceanview suites – this is the lowest fare!)
How to Choose?
Wow! There are even more options for the Galapagos than published here – including land vacations without cruising. (But it’s highly recommended to cruise because each island is different!) Don’t waste time or get overwhelmed searching through all the options. As an accredited travel agent I can help narrow down your choices by listening to your budget, travel style, “must see” wishlist, and schedule. If you’d like to book a trip to the Galapagos, contact me today!