Galapagos Cruise Ship Categories: How to Choose

by on 22nd November, 2022

The Galapagos Islands— and Galapagos cruise ships—offer visitors the chance to get close to incredible and tame wildlife, on land and in the sea, among a backdrop of dramatic volcanic landscapes.

The islands are a living laboratory, marrying preservation and conservation to create life-changing holidays. This year-round destination’s ever-changing seasons ensure every visit is spectacular, yet no Galapagos trip is the same.

Many people choose to cruise around the Galapagos Islands. There are several classes of Galapagos cruise ships and different kinds of boats to consider. Here, we explain the differences between the boat classes to help you choose the best Galapagos cruise.

Treasure of Galapagos Sun deck Jacuzzi

What is the Best Galapagos Cruise Ship?

There are more than 70 boats offering cruises around the Galapagos Islands. Additionally, you’ll find five different price categories and several ship types. There is something for every budget and travel style.

The best Galapagos cruise ship depends on many factors, including the wildlife you wish to see, activity and comfort levels, time, and route.

This guide explains the similarities and differences between Galapagos cruise ships to steer your decision-making.

Galapagos Cruise Ship Types

  • Yachts have single hulls (the bottom of the boat, which sits in the water).
  • Sailing ships/schooners have single hulls.
  • Catamarans have two hulls connected by a platform on which rooms sit.
  • Trimarans have three hulls: a single main hull and two outer hulls.

Anahi yacht Galapagos

Galapagos Cruise Ship Classifications (lowest prices to highest)

There are also larger cruise ship class boats with different cabin prices and sizes, from family rooms to interconnected cabins.

Galapagos Cruise Ship Similarities

Almost all Galapagos Islands cruises include the following as basics:

  • Qualified, bilingual, local Galapagos guide.
  • All meals from lunch on arrival day until breakfast on departure day.
  • Treated drinking water.
  • Guided daily excursions to islands (walks, snorkels, dinghy rides).
  • A capacity of 16-20 people (except cruise ships).

Extras to pay aboard are usually alcoholic beverages, wetsuits, snorkelling kits, and tips (in US$ cash).

Most extras are paid in cash, but many higher-end boats accept credit cards. They may also include wetsuits, snorkelling equipment, and kayak use without charge.

Main Differences Between Galapagos Cruise Ships

The main points to consider when weighing up which category of Galapagos Islands boat include:

  • Your budget
  • How the size of the ship affects cabin space, and the size and quality of communal areas
  • Beds available: Bunks vs twins vs double bed vs family rooms
  • Kids — some boats have a minimum age policy, and others have family-specific cruises
  • Service levels: from WiFi, and doctors aboard, to skilled bartenders

The more you pay, the higher the service levels (chefs, food and drink options), comfort (cabin balconies, Jacuzzis, libraries, gyms), guide experience, and overall personal service levels. Higher standard boats often include complimentary eco-friendly toiletries.

Luxury Class Galapagos Cruise Ships

Luxury class ships are as large and luxurious as many top-end hotel rooms. Many have private balconies, plenty of space for unpacking, desks, and large bathrooms. They often count with glass-bottomed kayaks, Jacuzzis, skilled bartenders, free underwater cameras to use, and some have a laundry service.

Many luxury boats come with an onboard cruise manager, professional room cleaning service, and extra touches to justify the luxury tag, including high-end furnishings. Examples include:

Coral outdoor Jacuzzi Galapagos

First Class Galapagos Cruise Ships

First-class Galapagos cruise ships keep a high-end feel. Bedrooms often come with king-sized beds; there may be private balconies, interconnecting rooms, and lots of cabin space. These boats tend to be larger to help with stability, counteract seasickness, and provide plenty of private areas for those needing a little relaxation.

Communal areas count indoor and outdoor dining areas. Often there is a Jacuzzi, solarium, and an outdoor bar. Service levels and guide knowledge remain very high. First-class ships usually include wetsuits, snorkel equipment, kayaks, and complimentary house wine and beer served with most meals.

Examples include:

Mary Anne and zodiac Galapagos

Superior Tourist Class Galapagos Ships

The popular Superior Tourist class of Galapagos Islands cruises represent the middle ground. Some cabins come with double beds, others offer bunks, and others have a double lower and bunk above, which serves as a triple. Windows may be large or portholes, and the cabin may be below the waterline.

Superior Tourist boats are smaller, and this is reflected in their cabins and bathrooms. The ships may rock a little more than larger ones, something worth bearing in mind for anyone that suffers from seasickness.

There are shared lounges, bars, and solarium areas, and many have libraries. A well-stocked bar usually offers cold drinks, cocktails, wine, and beers. Guides are often very experienced or rising stars. Examples include:

Cruise Ships in the Galapagos Islands

Cruise ships are much larger than the above and sail with more people and crew. They are very stable in the water, a real plus for those who suffer from seasickness. The leading five cruise ships are:

Such size brings more cabin choices and prices, making the boats a little tricky to place in an exact category. There is usually a cabin size and type for every traveller and plenty of communal and private space aboard. These boats may only sometimes be full, offering even more room.

More advantages come in the services, including WiFi, a gym, a doctor, a shop, and Jacuzzi. Glass-bottomed boats may suit older travellers who wish to see the underwater Galapagos but not snorkel or dive.

Larger boats are great for families, with extra space for children to play, plus kid-specific entertainment and events.

Galapagos Legend, al fresco dining

Tourist Class Galapagos Cruise Ships

These are the most basic ships with simple buffet-style food, small communal areas, bunk beds, and fewer crew members. They are aimed at the backpacker market and people booking at the last minute from Ecuador.

We don’t work with this class of ship, but many people enjoy their time aboard. Remember that you will most likely visit the Galapagos Islands only once and want to recall it for the right reasons.

When to Visit Galapagos?

The Galapagos Islands’ tropical climate enjoys two seasons: the warm season from December to June and the cooler season from July to November. Note that the average year-round temperature is 76°F (24°C).

Each month brings natural marvels to enjoy. Check our Galapagos weather guide and Ecuador weather guide if you are visiting there, too. Our handy map (below) provides a visual outline guide.

Seas are generally a little livelier in the cooler season, making Galapagos cruise ship size a vital decision for people that suffer from seasickness. Prefer dry land? Read more in our cruises vs hotel-based trip blog.

Flamingoes, necks entwined, Isabela, Galapagos

Choosing a Galapagos Cruise Ship

Our Galapagos experts can help you choose the best Galapagos cruise ship for your trip, as well as tips on itineraries, wildlife, weather, and any other questions you may have.

Contact us for more.


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