If you’ve read all our other posts on The Galápagos, you’ve probably gathered that we are big fans of the independent travel option to exploring the Galápagos islands. However we arrived in Ecuador with the intent to explore the option of a good last minute cruise deal. Through our own research as well as talking first hand to multiple tour agencies both on and off the islands, we gathered a lot of valuable insight. We’ve organized that information into a pros and cons list just for you! We’re confident that you’ll have a wonderful time either cruising The Galápagos islands exploring them on your own. Hopefully it will make your decision easier, and save you some time in the process!
Pros to Cruising:
- Save time travelling between islands. Most cruise ships travel at night while you sleep, so you can just wake up and get on with the next activity.
- Cruises take the worry out of planning your trip! You can relax, and spend all your time taking in the beauty of the islands.
- Access to islands you can’t visit on day trips. There are three main islands you cannot get to via day trips from inhabited islands. If any of these islands excite you, then cruising the Galápagos might be the right decision for you! They are:
- Genovesa – Known for it’s many bird species, including one of the only places you can get up close and personal with red-footed boobies.
- Fernandina – This is the most volcanically active and youngest island. It’s known for Galápagos Penguin sightings and for it’s large population of land iguanas.
- Darwin and Wolf – A world famous dive site only reached by live aboard dive ships. It’s known for it’s whale sharks, large schools of hammerhead sharks, and giant manta rays.
- You’ll find cheap last minute cruises once on the island! The cheapest ones we found were in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. Booking in Quito or Guayaquil is significantly cheaper than booking outside of Ecuador, but booking in the Galápagos is where you’ll find the real bottom line prices. For example, the cheapest cruise we could find in Guayaquil was $1100 USD for a five day cruise. In Puerto Ayora we managed to find a few cruises as low as $850 USD.
Cons to Cruising:
- Finding the right cruise is hard. Cruises range from 4 days to 2 weeks, but we found that most cruises shorter than 8 days wouldn’t be worth it. And here’s why: The first and last day of most cruises are actually half days, involving a small activity such as visiting the Charles Darwin Research Centre, which we could do independently for free. So realistically if you’re looking at an 8 day cruise, think of it more as a 6 day cruise. Most of the cruises we found that went to islands we wanted to see also went to islands we weren’t that keen on. We found it better to go independently, which ensured that the places we saw were only the places we really wanted to see. We were able to select and design our own itinerary!
- Short cheap cruises don’t visit the far islands. Any cruise that was within our budget only included islands we could visit on day trips from Santa Cruz.
- You’re bound to a schedule. Even if you don’t care much for seeing a certain area, if it’s on your itinerary that’s what you’re doing.
- You’re also bound to your group and your guide. If you don’t like them, there’s no way to change boats mid-cruise. We were able to explore parts of the archipelago completely by ourselves, or simply spend time wandering around souvenir shops with a beer in hand. As well, we had some great guides and groups and some not so great guides and groups on our day trips. We would not have been happy getting stuck with the latter option while cruising the Galápagos for 8 days.
- Diving cruises are very expensive. Scuba diving was also expensive on a day trip, but we looked into live-aboard diving cruises and they were way out of our price range. Selecting diving trips independently on each island we went to allowed us to see all the dives sites we wanted to see, without spending time diving at spots we didn’t. It also let us create our own mix of days diving and days visiting other sites. Often, a live aboard dive cruise will solely focus on diving, leaving little time for any other activities.
- The bottom line is that the cruises are much more expensive than exploring the islands independently. We spent approximately $1270 USD each (including food, accommodation, 3 day trips and 3 dives) over 10 days. (For comparison: You won’t be able to find an eight day diving cruise for less than $2500 USD.)
We hope that this list helped inform your decision on cruising the Galápagos. If you’ve decided against a cruise or you want more budget tips for the islands, check our related posts below. Happy cruising (or not haha!).