Galapagos cruise typical day

Read about a day aboard a Galapagos cruise ship in Tom's blog.

After breakfast aboard your vessels, you go ashore or for a snorkel with your naturalist guide in a small boat, called a "panga".

Well marked paths lead you to fascinating wildlife discoveries, including sea lions, iguanas and Galapagos penguins.

Snorkeling is encouraged, with opportunities most days to explore an incredible underwater world and enjoy close encounters with a host of colourful fish, sea lions and sea turtles.

You return to your vessel for lunch, followed perhaps by a short siesta while sailing to the next visitor's site. The rest of the afternoon is spent on shore or snorkelling, before returning to your boat to enjoy a spectacular sunset.

After dinner, your naturalist guide will usually offer a briefing on the next day's activities.

Since each island has its own unique landscape and diverse animal, bird and plant species, every day is a new adventure.

If you are worried about seasickness, read our blog about Galapagos and avoiding seasickness.

 

Itineraries

Read our guide to Galapagos itineraries.

Galapagos boats may change itineraries without notice if necessary.

This could be due to Galapagos National Park regulations, weather conditions, route availability or to allow the cruise to reach its desired visiting point.

Boat may also change itinerary to prevent the migration and protect the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands, domestic flight alterations and acts of providence.

 

Passengers embarking

Please note that there may be changes of passengers on some days throughout the cruise, which may result in waiting times for remaining passengers.

Equally, if passengers are arriving and leaving on different flights there may be waiting times either on board or at the airport.

 

Food

Please remember the isolated location of the Galapagos - any food on board is flown in from the mainland.

This may mean limited meals choices on board, and while special dietary requirements (vegetarian/vegan/etc) are catered for, there will likely be a limited selection.

Galapagos boats, cruises, hotel-based trips

 

Read our blog about Cruise or Hotel? for more in depth information.

 

Boats

These cruise slowly around the islands, usually at night while you sleep aboard, and you launch in a small panga to visit the islands.

Boats range from Tourist motor boats to First Class yachts, and hotel-based trips from three star five stars, so there are plenty of options to suit your travel plans and budget.

First class boats will typically offer larger cabins with twin or double beds and private bathrooms, more deck space, faster cruising speeds and sometimes free extras such as a Jacuzzi, sea kayak or drinks. The boats could be sailors, yachts or catamarans and will be the most comfortable option.

Superior Tourist boats generally offer bunk beds in cabins with private bathrooms, and offer great comfort at great value. There are a huge variety of boats in this bracket.

Tourist standard boats will offer a standard service, ideal for those on a budget or backpacking. Cabins will be bunks, often with private bathroom, but may not have some extras such as air conditioning and hot water showers.

 

Hotels

Land-based trips use a combination of pangas and speedboats to move you around to the various sites and you spend your evenings relaxing on the islands. Some land-based trips move around various islands, some offer day trips from one hotel, such as Finch Bay.

We have hotel-based group trips departing most months of the year, or we can design a private trip, perfect for everyone from families to honeymooners.

Choose from standard accommodation upwards.

Introduction to Galapagos

These magical islands comprise of 50 volcanic islands of varying shapes and sizes, which lie 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador.

Here, unlike anywhere else on Earth, you can enjoy a thousand close encounters with a weird and wonderful variety of ‘friendly locals’, including giant tortoises, fur seals, sea iguanas, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.

Read our Galapagos Islands Guide and more about diving.

In 1535, Tomás de Berlanga, Bishop of Panama, floated into this archipelago and named it Galapagos after the giant tortoises he encountered. Pirates used the islands for refuge and to bury their stolen treasure after that.

The islands’ most celebrated visitor was Charles Darwin, who arrived aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. The rare life forms he encountered helped him formulate his theory of evolution, which he published in The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

It wasn't until 1959 when it became part of Ecuador’s national park system that this fragile ecosystem with its rare and endemic species came under protection.

In 1979 the Galapagos archipelago was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Weather in Galapagos

 

When to visit Galapagos Islands: weather and wildlife

There is no real ‘best’ time to visit Galapagos on holiday as there is always wonderful wildlife and weather to enjoy.

Most animals – tortoises, sharks, sea lions and boobies – are found year round and many of the species here are non-migratory.

The Galapagos Islands are located right on the equator so air and water temperatures do not vary by much.

Having said that, there are two recognised seasons, and each months brings natural marvels for the visitor to enjoy.

Below is our quick guide to the weather and wildlife you can find on the Galapagos Islands.

 

General weather information

 

The warm season (Jan-Jun)

  • Calm, clear warm waters, great for snorkelling, often without a wetsuit.

  • Great weather, with February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.

  • Occasional heavy bursts of rain in the afternoons.


Sea temperatures:  22-25°C / 72-77°F

Land temperatures:  21-32°C / 72-90°F

 

The dry 'garua' season (Jun-Dec)

  • It's a great time for marine life in the cooler seas. Snorkellers may want a wetsuit.

  • August and September the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy.

  • There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.


Sea temperatures:  15-22°C / 60-72°F

Land temperatures:  18-24°C / 65-75°F

 

[caption id="attachment_13082" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Galapagos sea and air temperatures and rainfall month by month Air and sea temperatures in Galapagos, month-by-month[/caption]

Weather

Patagonia, the very southern tip of South America, has a four-seasons-in-one day climate.

Summer (Nov-March) see temperatures reach up to 20°C, when glorious light pours over the region for up to 18 hours. This is the best time to visit, nevertheless, spring and summer is also when the central and southern Patagonian regions sometimes get buffeted by strong, westerly winds.

Summer days in national parks can also bring sunny, windless conditions, and you may well find yourself hiking in shorts and t-shirt. Afternoons can be warm with lots of sunshine. (Note: Patagonian UV rays are very strong).

It is usually cool and windy all year round but seldom does the temperature fall below freezing point. Some days start with snow and end in balmy sunshine. It is always interesting, and can range from 10°C-20°C in the summer, although the wind can make it feel chilly.

Even in summer (Dec-Mar) you should come prepared to find cold, strong winds (up to 130 km/hr) and rainfalls. The summer’s average temperature is 11ºC/52ºF (24ºC max, 2ºC min). It has been known to snow in camps in summer!

In general, the further south you go, the cooler it gets and the further west you go - towards the Andes and Pacific coast - the wetter and less predictable the weather is. The further east - towards and across the Patagonian plateau - the drier and more stable.

Winter (May-Sept) visits to these southern areas are possible, but many hotels close and not all trips are possible. Daylight hours can be very short and temperatures typically range from -2°C in the winter.

The lack of visitors can greatly improve chances of seeing wildlife in parks such as Paine. Winds tend to die down.

 

 

On the South Patagonian Ice Field (average height, 1,500 metres), the appearance of lenticular clouds - signifying changing conditions - can translate into extreme winds (up to 150 kmh) and heavy snowfall. Here, summer pre-dawn temperatures commonly reach -20°C, with wind chill lowering temperatures even more. However, on sunny, windless summer days, you might get away with wearing just a couple of thin layers.

In Peninsula Valdes, it does not rain much in the region on an annual basis, summers are usually mild, and the temperature sometimes gets very hot (touching 30ºC) and then eases off in the evening. The area does get very windy at times, especially on the peninsula, and warm and water/windproof clothing is recommended.

If you head to Ushuaia, due to its extreme southern location, temperatures may remain chilly during summer (Oct-March) the use of plenty of warm layers of clothing. Winter and Antarctic visits will require extreme clothing.

Weather, seasons and highlights

Expedition Ships begin visiting Antarctica in late October (the Antarctic Spring) and continue through late February or early March (the Antarctic Fall).

While there is an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty throughout the seasons, changes in the weather and currents affect the landscape as well as the wildlife.

 

October and November

The pack ice begins to break up, and the landscape is at its most pristine, with plenty of fresh snow. It’s mating season for the penguins and other birds. Adélie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo penguins and other seabirds return to their breeding sites. You’re likely to witness courtship displays, nest building, and egg tending.

In South Georgia, Elephant Seals and Fur Seals are mating, and King Penguins are laying their eggs. Parents can be seen “carrying” eggs on their feet so that one parent can shuffle around the colony while the other adult goes out to sea to feed.

This is a fantastic time for photography, as the start of summer brings with it amazing sunsets and ever-changing cloud formations. This is also the time when albatross, marine fulmars, and petrels adorn the Southern Ocean, and the blue-eyed shags return to the region.

Antarctica is never crowded, but in the early season there are far fewer ships and the vastness and purity of the region is even more pronounced. For many of us who work in or travel to Antarctica frequently, it is our favourite time to be there.

 

 

December and January

It's the height of the Austral Summer, and the Sun is up 18 to 20 hours a day, so photo opportunities and sightings of all sorts abound.

Penguin chicks are hatching, and you’ll likely see them chasing after any adult penguin that is carrying food. Whale sightings of baleen and toothed whales along the Antarctic Peninsula increase and seal pups can be sighted on the beaches in South Georgia.

Some 30 days after hatching, penguin chicks can be found in “crèches,” resembling a nursery of sorts, which leaves their tired and hungry parents free to rest and hunt for food.

 

February and March

Sightings of whales are at their peak in the Peninsula, and the receding ice makes it possible for us to explore further south. An increasing number of Fur seals can be found along the Peninsula and offshore islands; young fur seals are also quite playful in South Georgia.

Penguin colonies are very active. The penguin chicks begin their molt, losing their fuzzy down and developing their adult plumage.

By now, most parents have abandoned their chicks, and have gone out to sea to feed and fatten up for their own molting stage. Most colonies (Adélie, Chinstrap and Gentoo) are nearly vacated by early March.

Extra information - life aboard the Ushuaia

Air Conditioning and Heating

The ship is fully climate controlled. Each cabin is equipped with individual temperature controls. Please contact our staff in case you wish to change these controls to your own comfort level.

 

Announcements

All announcements are made via our Public Announcement (PA) system on board. The bridge announces interesting events and wildlife attractions. Should there be an emergency call from the bridge we will make sure that you receive it.

 

Bridge

The Ushuaia encourages you to take advantage of our open bridge policy. During the days we are underway, the officers invite you to observe the navigational operations of the ship and will gladly answer any questions you may have. We kindly ask you to respect the bridge as the working area for the officers. Occasionally, for reasons of safety, the bridge may be closed to visitors.

 

Communication

The Ushuaia is equipped with the INMARSAT system, which allows direct communication with the ship by telephone and fax from any location in the world.  For communications with the USHUAIA you will receive a list of numbers prior to your departure.

Emails can be sent and received at a per minute charge to be confirmed at the start of the sailing. The ship's bridge a computer for your use. Emails will be sent several times a day.  Attachments, digital photos etc. can be sent, but charges may be significant. Incoming emails will be distributed several times a day.

 

Conservation

Please keep in mind that many of the places you are visiting on the voyages are unique. We are very proud of our outstanding reputation for conservation and respect for all the ecosystems we visit. Please assist us in maintaining this reputation. Our lecturers and staff will accompany you on shore excursions and provide you with guidance and specific information for the region. We kindly ask you to bring back any kind of garbage to the ship where it will be correctly disposed of. For cruises to Antarctica you will receive our Antarctic Guidelines with your travel documents.

 

Currency

Currency aboard the Ushuaia is US Dollar. Euro is accepted as well as the following credit cards: MasterCard and American Express (see Payment below). However, for credit card payments minimum charge is US$100.

 

Daily Program

Each evening the daily program for the next day will be presented by your Expedition Leader. Included in the program is information about the next day's activities, events, landing times, meal times, and lecturers.

Please remember that the expeditionary nature of this voyage may result in changes to the daily program due to sea, weather, ice and local conditions. Also, your Captain and Expedition Team may deviate from the program to take advantage of unexpected opportunities such as wildlife sightings, advantageous sea conditions, or other local events.

Any changes to the daily program will be announced over the PA system. We thank you in advance for your understanding and flexibility.

 

Dress Attire on Board

Casual attire (expedition style) is the accepted apparel for the voyage. Clothing should be comfortable and versatile as described in the detailed packing list enclosed with your preliminary documentation.

 

Dress Attire on Shore

Comfortable, casual clothing in expedition spirit is the rule for attire worn on shore excursions.  The most important factor in determining appropriate clothing for your time ashore will be your route and mode of travel. Please refer to the detailed packing list enclosed with your preliminary documentation.

 

Electrical Appliances and Outlets

Electric current on board is 110 V/ 60 Hz and cabins are fitted with multi-type sockets suitable for several international plugs. However, we recommend to bring necessary converters and any special adapters with you as only a limited number can be borrowed on board.

Some outlets in public areas are 220v-240v and are clearly marked. However, they are fitted with Argentine outlets. This plug has two flat pins in V-shape and also has a grounding pin. The ungrounded version of this plug with only two flat V-shaped pins or a plug with two thin round pins also work.

 

Expeditionary Staff

Your voyage will be directed by an Expedition Leader in conjunction with staff assistants, zodiac drivers, and a team of lecturers. Staff members are specially selected and trained to provide an eventful cruise.

 

Gift shop

The gift shop on the Main Deck F is stocked with ladies and men's clothing, film, sundry items, apparel, gift and souvenir items.

 

Gratuities

The customary gratuity to the ship's service personnel is made as a blanket contribution at the end of the voyage and is divided among the crew. You will receive detailed guidelines aboard.

Tipping is a very personal matter and the amount you wish to give is at your discretion. As a generally accepted guideline, we suggest US$15 per person per day. Cash US Dollars would be appreciated, unfortunately credit cards cannot be accepted.

 

Hairdryers

All cabins on the Upper Deck G are equipped with a hairdryer for your comfort. Additional hairdryers can be borrowed from the Hotel Manager.

 

Language

As part of your voyage experience, you will find many languages are spoken aboard the ship. English and Spanish are the languages used and spoken by all officers and crew (although some crew members may only speak Spanish). All announcements are made in English and Spanish and lectures are given in both languages.

 

Laundry and Valet Service

We regret not to be able to offer Laundry or Dry Cleaning services on board.

 

Lectures and Films

Both lectures and films are offered in the specially equipped Lecture Room on Deck E.

Passengers are encouraged to participate in all the ship's activities, including the stimulating and informative lectures.

 

Library

The ship's library on the Main Deck F contains a good selection of international titles, with an emphasis on reference material essential to your voyage. A variety of games, including playing cards and board games, are also at your disposal.

 

Medical Facilities

A qualified physician accompanies every voyage to provide both emergency and routine health care. The ship's infirmary is located on Deck E. Office hours are posted in your daily program. In case of emergency, please call the bridge (phone #108).

There is a charge for this consultation:

  • In ship's infirmary US$ 20

  • In your cabin US$ 25


There is an extra charge for medication. Seasickness is treated free of charge. If you are in need of constant and / or special medication, please make sure you bring a sufficient supply.

 

Open Door Policy

The Ushuaia maintains an open-door policy. If you wish to store your valuables, please contact the Hotel Manager.

 

Passports

All passports are collected upon embarkation and kept with the purser during the voyage. Passports must be kept for administrative and safe-keeping purposes.

 

Payment: Your Personal Account

We suggest that you bring at least US$300 (in small bills). On most voyages, particularly to Antarctica, this sum will be more than sufficient spending money as we will be navigating through isolated areas where spending opportunities are rare.

For services rendered aboard the ship, you will be provided with a personal account using a "chit" system. Your purchases will be kept on record and totalled at the end of your voyage.

Your account must be settled prior to disembarkation in cash (U.S. Dollar and Euro). If you prefer to pay by credit card, please advise the Hotel Manager at the beginning of the voyage. We accept MasterCard and American Express for charges over US$100. However, we can not accept gratuities by credit card.

 

Recaps and Briefings

On a daily basis, the Expedition Team will summarize experiences ashore and update you on our plans for the next day. These informal sessions are generally held during cocktail hour.

 

Rubber Boots

A supply of rubber boots or Wellingtons, are available on board and includes a wide variety of sizes. It is recommended that you bring your own only if you require a special size. Please note that the boots on board have been used by previous passengers.

 

Safety Deposit Boxes

Safety Deposit Boxes are available with the Hotel Manager. We are not responsible for the loss of personal effects and valuables such as jewellery and cash.

 

Safety at Sea

Our highest priority during your cruise is the personal safety of all passengers and crew. Our vessel meets all international requirements as well as U.S. Coast Guard Guidelines.

Officers and crew are well trained and regularly practice emergency procedures to ensure your comfort and safety.

Within 24 hours of embarkation there will be an emergency drill which all guests are required to participate. Through this exercise, you will become familiar with procedures that must be followed in the unlikely event of an emergency.

 

Shore Excursions

Shore excursions will be outlined during recap and briefings the day before. Before disembarkation information on the length of time on land and the type of landing ("wet" or "dry") will be announced.

Your Expedition Team will accompany you on daily shore excursions and provide you with extensive information. Please carefully follow their instructions and advice.

 

Smoking Policy

Smoking is permitted on all exterior decks with the exception of the "Zodiac Deck".

Inside the ship, all areas, including cabins, are designated non-smoking. For safety and environmental reasons, NEVER throw cigarette butts or other (burning) materials into the sea!

 

Weather and Sea Conditions

Weather and sea conditions play important roles in expeditionary cruising. All planned activities are subject to modification or cancellation due to changing weather and/or sea conditions. We thank you in advance for your understanding and flexibility.

 

Wildlife Watch

During the time we are in areas where there is a possibility of sighting wildlife, the ships' officers and staff are constantly on the lookout. However, please don't hesitate to report a sighting to the bridge or staff.

If we are fortunate enough to sight wildlife, we will announce it from the bridge, regardless of the hour. If you wish to go back to sleep please do so.

 

Zodiacs

The Ushuaia carries her own fleet of zodiacs and RIB's. Zodiacs accommodate up to 12 guests and, in the hands of our skilled boatmen, are stable, safe and manoeuvrable.

Constructed of high-performance plastimer fabrics, with several airtight compartments, they are easy to board and disembark. Their versatility, their ability to open whole new worlds of exploration make zodiacs the key to expedition cruising enabling you to go ashore and investigate some of the world's most unique regions.

Instructions will be provided on how to properly embark and disembark these water craft.

Weather in Antarctica

Antarctica is going to be cold, whenever you go - the question is more what you want to see.

The season runs Nov-March and is the only travel window as the ice has broken up enough to let ships pass.

November is very cold and the best time to see pristine ice and snow and huge icebergs.

December-January are the most popular times to visit. There are up to 20 hours' sunshine every day, and the relative warmth (temperatures hover around freezing) make for perfect conditions for seal pups and penguin chicks.

As you move from January towards February the chicks here fledge and many more whales start to arrive. February is warm and means you may be able to cross the Antarctic Circle.

March sees the continent head back towards sub-zero temperatures as the long nights draw in. Water is clear and good for diving/seeing whales.

Then the ice freezes over once more and Antarctica is impossible to visit April-Oct.


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