The Best Galapagos Island Cruises
There's no better way to cover ground on your trip to the Galápagos Islands than to sail on a multi-day live-aboard cruise ship.
Galápagos National Park regulates the number and type of tourist boats that are allowed to operate in the area to avoid overcrowding, to lessen the environmental impact, and to minimize stress on the amazing animals of the Galápagos. Most tourist boats in the Galápagos offer 5-day, 4-night or 7-day, 6-night all-inclusive itineraries which are strictly monitored by Galápagos National Park officials.
To find a cruise fit for your wildest Galápagos dreams, refer to this guide, which highlights some of the top Galápagos cruises for every type of traveler.
Related: Guide to cruise vacations
Small Galápagos Cruises (20 Passengers or Less)
Most of the live-aboard cruise ships in the Galápagos carry fewer than 20 passengers. Small ships can't provide some of the luxurious amenities available on larger ships, but they do ensure personalized service and easier trips on and off the ship.
Quasar M/Y Grace
The 18-passenger M/Y Grace motor yacht was once owned by Grace Kelly. She and Prince Rainier spent part of their honeymoon onboard, and now you can sleep in their newly renovated bedroom - the Grace Suite.
Ecoventura M/Y Letty
The M/Y Letty is one of the best full-service motor yachts in the Galápagos for value. This 20-passenger boat is a solid option with great service and comfortable accommodations. A trip on the M/Y Letty promises a 10 guest-per-guide ratio, as well as dinner with the captain.
Ecoventura M/V Origin
The 20-passenger M/V Origin & Theory is like a floating boutique hotel. All 10 cabins are on the same deck, there’s an open bar policy, and there's Wi-Fi available onboard. A unique hull design means this ship is also one of the most fuel-efficient in the Galápagos.
Medium Galápagos Ships (20 to 50 Passengers)
Quasar M/V Evolution
In October of 2017, a top-to-bottom redesign of the 32-passenger M/V Evolution was completed by Adriana Hoyos, a furniture and interior designer renowned for her work on luxury hotels across the Americas. The ship's refreshed cabins now have a contemporary, boutique hotel aesthetic.
National Geographic Islander
All cabins on the 48-passenger National Geographic Islander have windows, eight rooms have private glassed-in patios, and the ship's two suites have wrap-around views over the bow. The ship also offers deck hammocks, Wi-Fi, and a free digital photo kiosk with a trio of iMac computers. Food served onboard is made with ingredients sourced from farms in the Galápagos whenever possible, and any food imported from the mainland is washed, peeled, and sealed before shipping to reduce the risk of introducing invasive species into the fragile island environment.
Large Galápagos Ships (50 to 100 Passengers)
Galápagos National Park officials have set a maximum limit of 100 passengers per vessel, making these the largest ships in the archipelago. Travelers may opt for a large-capacity cruise ship for more space onboard (like bigger hallways and staircases for easier movement around the ship) and increased services, like an onboard doctor. The downside of traveling on a large ship is the time it can take to complete transfers by zodiac from the boat to land destinations. Also, some areas of the Galápagos may be off limits to larger ships.
National Geographic Endeavor II
The 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavor II was fully renovated in 2016. The ship has Wi-Fi, a doctor, SUP gear, a clear-bottom zodiac, a free digital photo kiosk with iMacs, and a spa. Like the Islander, food brought from the mainland is carefully prepared and packaged to prevent the introduction of invasive species to the Galápagos Islands.
The 100-passenger Celebrity Flora features all of the design elements, amenities, and services of its sister ships and then some, including two 1,288-square-foot Penthouse Suites (the largest in the Galápagos), and a marina that can accommodate three zodiacs at a time to facilitate faster transfers from ship to land.
The 100-passenger Silver Galapagos is an all-suite ship with accommodations up to 360 square feet, some with Illy in-room coffee makers, mini-bars, and private verandas. Wi-Fi (with some restrictions), butler service, select wines and spirits, and tips are included. There’s also a fitness center, spa, and two restaurants onboard.
These small boats have a unique hull design, like the dual parallel runners of a sled, that many believe makes catamarans more stable in the water.
The 16-passenger Celebrity Xploration is arguably the most luxurious catamaran in the Galápagos. Its eight suites and junior suites feature extras like binoculars, private refrigerators, choice of mattress, a pillow menu, and room service. Cuisine onboard has been created by chef Cornelius Gallagher.
The Anahi carries 16 passengers in eight rooms, including two 270-square-foot suites. Travelers should expect traditional yacht design details, like polished wooden floors and portrait windows.
One of the newer catamarans sailing in the Galápagos, the Alia can carry 16 passengers in nine cabins, eight of which have private balconies. Travelers can opt for various sailing lengths, with inclusive excursions such as snorkeling and kayaking.
Live-aboard Dive Boats
If you’re an experienced certified SCUBA diver, a live-aboard dive boat might be for you. These boats are built to accommodate the specific needs (and the gear) of divers, and they navigate special routes and itineraries that include top dive sites. Divers in the Galápagos regularly see whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, sun fish, and many other marine creatures that are on divers' bucket lists.
The Nortada is the smallest live aboard dive boat in the Galápagos, accommodating just eight passengers. Guests on the 85-foot-long ship can congregate on the bridge, the galley, or in the air conditioned dining room and lounge.
The Galápagos Aggressor III, part of a company that operates dive boats around the world, can accommodate 16 passengers and has been operating in the Galápagos Islands since 1993.