There surely can be nowhere better in the world for wildlife-viewing than the stunning Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean – and of course Charles Darwin would agree! The volcanic archipelago has created an unspoilt wildlife paradise home to unique species and habitats who infamously have little fear of their human visitors which allows for some amazing up-close encounters.
The only five star hotel to stay in when you visit the Galapagos Islands, is one on water! There’s little point being in a conventional hotel as there are 19 islands and scores of islets to explore so do it in style and comfort on a cruise. Which only leaves the question of which cruise to take; here are our best 10 luxury Galapagos Cruises to help you decide…
Best for Sheer Luxury: Petrel Galapagos Cruise
Vast luxurious suites with private balconies and power showers, a sun deck with a Jacuzzi, a fitness area, a beautiful dining room, a sumptuous lounge and state-of-the-art equipment; a cruise on the Motor Catamaran Petrel is the ultimate in luxury. She is one of the newest vessels cruising in the Galapagos and travels smoothly and quietly with never more than 16 guests on board. The service from the 10 person crew is exceptional, the boat is family-owned and there is a warm friendliness as a result; the delectable cuisine is a particular highlight. Petrel carries kayaks, wetsuits and snorkelling gear and the resident bi-lingual National Park naturalists will ensure a wonderful experience with the region’s stunning wildlife.
Best for Families: La Pinta Galapagos Cruise
A cruise aboard La Pinta is perfect for families, uniquely the boat has a glass bottom so is perfect for children and there are also inter-connecting guest rooms and a dedicated medical officer. At over 209 feet long, La Pinta is an impressive vessel. Her size means she can accommodate some of the largest and most prestigious cabins. The contemporary cabins all feature floor-to-ceiling windows that connect you with the wonders outside. Four of the cabins can be interconnected and there are flexible bed arrangements too so you can make it work for your exact family needs. All that space means there’s room for great facilities too; a vast lounge room, a well-equipped fitness room, a hot tub and ample outdoor relaxation areas. With a cordon bleu trained Gastronomy Director at the helm you can be confident that meal times will be rather wonderful too!
Best for Diving: Sky Galapagos Diving Cruise
If diving the Galapagos is your priority, then look no further than The Galapagos Sky. A purpose-built, 100ft purpose-built luxury dive boat. She brings an added class to the traditional diving vessel and boasts beautiful accommodation and fine dining as well as giving you 4 dives a day with your 2 dive masters. There are 8 private double air-conditioned ensuite cabins on board and facilities include a beautiful salon area, a large sun deck and, of course, a very well-equipped dive platform with freshwater showers and rinse tanks.
Best First-Class Cruise: Galapagos Legend Cruise
An excellent first-class cruise option, the Motor Vessel Galapagos Legend is a 300 feet long, purpose built luxury expedition vessel. On board you have all the facilities that you would expect from a luxury cruise liner spread across 5 decks. Despite the sheer size, catering for only 100 guests means your communal areas and the feeling of space are excellent. You never feel cramped or crammed in and there’s a feeling of intimacy despite the size. Your huge choice of facilities includes: a superb restaurant, a beautifully appointed lounge, inside and outside bars, a choice of sun, observation and star gazing decks, a swimming pool, a well-equipped gym and a Jacuzzi. There are 57 cabins; discerning travellers should opt for the stunning Legend Balcony Suite or one of the 16 beautiful Balcony Suites.
Best Mid-Range Cruise: Archipell II Galapagos Cruise
The best option for a mid-range cruise has to be one that comes with a touch of luxury and that is definitely the case with the Archipell II catamaran. A fast, comfortable ride she has just 8 air-conditioned ensuite cabins so your experience on board is an intimate one. There is a lounge and a dining area and a wonderful sun deck where you can dine alfresco and relax and soak up the views.
Best Budget Cruise: Floreana Galapagos Cruise
Your time on the charming Motor Yacht Floreana will almost entirely be spent on the fabulous sun deck so you’ll barely even notice that this is a budget option cruise! On any Galapagos cruise you’ll typically only spend 20% of your waking time actually on the boat anyway, so for some the quality of the accommodation isn’t as critical. Traditional nautical décor, only 8 cabins and a very friendly crew (she’s family-owned) make your time on board memorable.
Best for Couples: Alia Galapagos Cruise
An ultra-modern catamaran, the Alia only caters to 8 passengers at any time and so offers a wonderfully intimate experience and is perfect for couples. Of the 9 stunning guest cabins, 8 have balconies and all have beautiful ensuites. Head to the Jacuzzi on the upper sundeck as the sunsets for an incredibly romantic experience. The food is amazing, the communal areas are beautiful and spacious and there are panoramic windows everywhere you look that flood the place with light and bring you up close and personal to the wonderful wildlife outside.
Best for Speed – Ocean Spray Galapagos Cruise
For an exhilarating ride that whisks you from island to island, take a trip on the Ocean Spray, a 15 kts mega-catamaran who is one of the fastest, most stable boats in the region. The stunning suites all have balconies, there’s a magnificent communal lounge saloon and the sun deck has a Jacuzzi excellent for star-gazing. The crew are very experienced, with bilingual guides to ensure that you make the very most of your Galapagos experience; there’s even a Quality Control Manager on board to make sure everything runs just so.
Best for Nature: Santa Cruz II Galapagos Cruise
The Santa Cruz II is purpose-built for adventurous travel to remote places which means you can take exclusive excursions to places other boats simply can’t. The facilities for the 90 guests are excellent; a wonderful bar and lounge, a separate lounge and library, a gym, 2 Jacuzzis on the vast sundeck, Scandinavian-inspired guest rooms and fine dining from Cordon Bleu trained chefs. The Santa Cruz ensures you get the best nature experience possible; they take groups of just 11 or 12 rather than the Galapagos standard of 16, snorkelling and sea kayaking are available, and the ship has its very own glass-bottomed boat. The land excursions include some exclusive destinations not available to 99% of the other boats in the Galapagos fleet.
Best for the Environment: Cormorant Galapagos Cruise
The best eco choice for your Galapagos cruise is definitely the carbon neutral Cormorant. This does not mean you have to sacrifice anything about your stay however; there are gorgeous suites available, all the rooms have private balconies and the communal spaces are large and luxurious. The outdoor decks are particularly notable; large enough to allow al fresco dining, the upper deck is also home to a Jacuzzi tub perfect for star-gazing. The zero carbon footprint is possible thanks to the carbon emissions being offset through CanopyCo, an Ecuadorian-based organization managed by local and European professionals who replant Ecuador’s native forests.
To book all these cruises, contact Glapatours who are experts on these magical islands with over 15 years’ experience. They pride themselves on the vast range of cruise options they list, as well as on the excellent local knowledge of their travel advisors. They are all well-seasoned South American travellers and are more than happy to share their knowledge and assist you with finding the perfect Galapagos cruise for you.
Disclosure: Most of our property, service & product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced by any sponsor.