IWA Travel Blog


How to Choose the Right Ship for Your Galapagos Cruise

Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands

Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands


The Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of Ecuador, have become more and more popular in recent years as interest in nature and adventure travel has exploded. This small group of mid-oceanic islands, known as an archipelago, are famous for having inspired 19th Century explorer Charles Darwin’s famous Origin of Species. Today, it is a United Nations World Heritage Site and is protected by the Ecuadorian National Park Service to preserve the uniquely evolved animals and plants that exist nowhere else.

Because of the growing popularity, the number and types of ships available for the traveler to choose from for their Galapagos cruise has grown, making it quite bewildering for anyone planning their trip. Here are a few considerations for picking the right Galapagos cruise:

Galapagos Cruises, M/Y Grace

M/Y Grace, a beautiful 18-passenger yacht, previously owned by Princess Grace of Monaco.

Size of Vessel: Ship size varies from about 16 passengers to more than 100. Right off, you may prefer a larger vessel because of fear of seasickness or preferring the camaraderie of more fellow passengers. While large ships can be more stable, keep in mind that the islands are right on the equator and do not experience hurricanes or other large storms. The surrounding waters are usually quite calm, compared to cruises in other parts of the world. Occasionally larger swells from distant storms can affect the seas around the islands, but this is relatively infrequent and not a large concern for most travelers.

Smaller ships on the other hand offer a more intimate atmosphere for your Galapagos cruise. Most offer lots of deck space in sun and shade for lounging and watching for birds and whales, or just enjoying a drink with new-found friends while cruising. 

One major consideration is group size when going ashore or snorkeling. Remember, most people who go on a Galapagos cruise are there to see the incredible wildlife unique to the islands. When you go ashore, usually twice each day, you will have to contend with larger crowds when cruising aboard the large ships. With smaller vessels of 20 or less, you’ll have only your shipmates to contend with. Chances are, you’ll have much more time to linger over getting that perfect shot of a waved albatross taking flight from a cliff or watching a group of playful sea lion pups. Plus, transferring 16 to 20 passengers to and from shore is far quicker and easier than 100!

Luxury vs Economy: The level of luxury and amenities, not surprisingly, varies closely with the price. While all of the ships IWA offers provide excellent comfort, safety and service, not all of the boats permitted meet our strict standards. Be sure that the ship you cruise on provides the level of comfort and quality you expect.

Itinerary: Due to the significant increase in travelers to the islands, the Galapagos park service has had to significantly change the itineraries that operators can offer. Itineraries now offer, for example, the northern or southern islands in the archipelago. So if you have an interest in particular species or activities, make sure the itinerary you choose includes the island or activity you are most interested in. See our Galapagos Cruise Island Guide for individual island descriptions. Call our office to discuss your particular interests and we’ll help you match up the right itinerary for you!

Cruise length: While 3 – 5 night itineraries are available on some ships, our standard, and minimum recommended, itinerary length is 7 nights/8 days. This allows for ample time to get a real feel for what the Galapagos Islands has to offer. Any shorter and you just won’t experience the profound uniqueness of these enchanted islands. Also, consider that you’ve spent at least a couple of days traveling to the islands (and a couple of days to get home!) — you will want to make the journey worth your while.

And, you can always add on another three or four night iitnerary for a longer cruise, for an even better trip!

View IWA’s Galapagos Cruises.

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