Most travelers to the Galápagos archipelago explore it aboard a cruise ship. Nowadays, there are options to suit a range of traveling styles, from luxurious larger vessels to plush yachts that hold just a handful of guests.
Lindblad has organized expeditionary Galápagos cruises for half a century, and the company now partners with National Geographic. Guests can choose between the 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour and Endeavour II or the 48-passenger National Geographic Islander. Each sails with expert naturalist guides as well as an undersea specialist and a certified photo instructor. The itineraries afford the opportunity to snorkel on most days, and the Endeavour II also has a glass-bottom Zodiac.
Category 1 Accommodation for 10-day trip, from $13,180 for two
Although this Silversea ship holds up to 100 people — a large number for a Galápagos cruise — it manages to also fit between 11 and 13 naturalists, professors and other specialists to serve as guides and lecturers. The large number of guides means that the passengers can be split into numerous small groups, so shore excursions are uncrowded. Even the smallest suites contain a love seat, chair and walk-in closet, and many accommodations have balconies. Public spaces include two restaurants, a piano bar and a lounge.
Explorer Suite for seven-day cruise, from $14,670 for two
I enjoyed a memorable week with Un-Cruise in Hawaii earlier this year, and I have no doubt that the company’s new Galápagos itineraries are equally compelling. Its La Pinta holds a maximum of 48 passengers. Un-Cruise itineraries have a less formal and more expeditionary feel than Silversea’s, but they are hardly uncomfortable. The aft deck, for example, has a hot tub.
Captain Cabin for eight-day trip, from $16,590 for two; Captain Cabin for nine-day trip, from $17,990 for two
A few years ago, when this ship was called the Eclipse, we used it for an Andrew Harper Family Signature Tour to the Galápagos. The vessel holds 48 passengers, and each onboard naturalist guide leads a maximum of 12 people. Like the Silver Galapagos, this ship has space for al fresco dining in the mild Galápagos evenings, and like the La Pinta, it has a more expeditionary (but still very comfortable) atmosphere. Certain departures are dedicated to families.
Stateroom for eight-day cruise, from $11,998 for two; Stateroom for 11-day cruise, from $14,598 for two; Stateroom for 14-day cruise, from $20,998 for two
The most exciting debut in the Galápagos this year was Ecoventura’s 20-passenger luxury yacht, which features a maximum of just 10 guests per naturalist guide. At 140 square feet, its cabins are smaller than the entry-level suites of the Silver Galapagos, but they do have large windows and chic décor. Public spaces include a stylish lounge, a barbecue restaurant, an upper deck with daybeds and and an aft deck with a Jacuzzi.
Stateroom for seven-day cruise, from $13,500 for two; Stateroom for eight-day cruise, from $15,000 for two; Stateroom for 15-day cruise, from $30,000 for two