Many visitors select a short cruise (i.e., 3 or 4-nights) when a longer cruise is what they really would have preferred; or selecting a long cruise (i.e., 7-nights) when a shorter cruise would have been more than sufficient.
What is not commonly stated is the following:
The first and last day of any given cruise are short days (as they are based on the flight arrival and departure schedules into/out of Galapagos). Cruises really start with the arrival of your flight into Galapagos between 09h30 and 11h30 the morning of the first day of the cruise in Galapagos, and end between 08h30 and 10h30 in the morning of the last day of the cruise.
Most classify Galapagos cruises as 4-DAY, 5-DAYS and 8-DAYS when these cruises really translates into 2, 3 and 6 full days, respectively (or 3, 4 and 7 full nights, respectively) in the Galapagos Islands. The two partial days at the beginning and end of the cruise are mainly occupied traveling to and from the islands.
In our years of experience we have equal numbers saying that a 4-night cruise was the perfect length, while others stated that the 7-night experience was without a doubt the best. If you want to cover as much of the diversity that the Galapagos has to offer, the 7-night cruise is the best and only option for you.
Regardless of the vessel, they all navigate and operate in a similar fashion – the major inter-island transitions (i.e., from Espanola over to Floreana, for example) are done on the overnight hours. That way, when you awake the next day, the boat is already anchored off the island to be visited that morning. This maximizes the daylights hours, and thereby attempting to reduce transitions during the day to a minimum.
There are occasional transitions done on some boats between the morning and afternoon visit (these transitions may be to another point on the same island or to a nearby island). These however are generally not that noticeable as passengers are enjoying lunch aboard during the transition.
Itineraries are generally variations on a theme. That is to say, most boats visit similar sites – just maybe in a different order.
Islands & sites that are generally common to most cruises are (based on 7-night cruises):
- Baltra airport (not technically a tourist site but the start and/or end point of most cruises);
- Santa Cruz Island (i.e., Puerto Ayora, Charles Darwin Station, Highlands);
- Espanola Island (i.e., Punta Suarez & Gardner Bay);
- Florena Island (i.e., Punta Cormorant, Post Office Bay, Devil’s Crown);
- North Seymour
- (South) Plaza
- Santa Fe
- San Cristobal (i.e., Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Interpretation Center, Leon Dormido etc)
Islands that (up until the end of 2010) are not as commonly featured in the majority of Galapagos cruise itineraries – but highly recommended – are:
- Fernandina Island (i.e., Punta Espinoza)
- Isabela Island (i.e., Elizabeth Bay, Urbina Bay, Tagus Cove etc)
- Genovesa Island (i.e., Darwin Bay & Prince Phillip’s Steps)
Just as important as the right duration for your cruise is, to find the right guide!
Without any doubt, the on-board naturalist guide is one of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects on a Galapagos Islands cruise. Although all are technically bilingual (Spanish / English), the degree of English spoken does vary. In addition, the level of knowledge regarding the Galapagos (i.e., the wildlife, the geography, the history etc) does play an important part.
You can have a guide that speaks almost fluent English but does not know a great deal on the Galapagos – you have a great conversation with them but won’t learn much about the wildlife, for example. Reversely, an extremely knowledgeable guide on Galapagos but one that has difficulty conversing in English won’t help that much either!
The key is to have a naturalist guide that not only speaks almost fluent English but is also extremely knowledgeable.
Written and contributed by Robin Slater