The Galapagos Islands are a wildlife paradise and a great destination to explore the natural wonders of the world. With its unique wildlife, pristine beaches, and rare volcanic landscapes, it’s no surprise that this archipelago is becoming one of the most sought-after places for tourists to visit.
For those who are looking for an even more immersive experience, a small ship cruise to the Galapagos could be the perfect vacation.
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the islands offer a unique ecosystem that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.
From flightless penguins, Galapagos sea lions, giant tortoises, and marine iguanas, to colorful coral reefs and sharks, rays, and tropical fish, the islands are filled with incredible wildlife.
With up to 27 species unique only to these islands, it’s no wonder why they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, you know a small ship cruise of the Galapagos Islands will prove to truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There are lots of other species rare to this destination but few of them are mammals, as most of these species had to swim to get here before climbing the evolution ladder.
The Origins and Quip of Small Ship Cruises – Barefoot and Shirtless
There’s an enduring legend of how one ambitious sailor named Capt. Michael Burke Sr. acquired the schooner ‘Hangover’ in 1947 – whether it was purchased for a mere $600 or won during a rum-fueled game of poker, this marked the beginning of the much-loved Windjammer Barefoot Cruises.
Although no longer around, the concept of sailing barefoot with the wind in your hair and your worries tossed aside lives on in these luxury small ship cruises. From the ship’s captain’s perspective during those windjammer days – one hand on the wheel, the other holding a beer.
Technically, the term “small ships” consist of under 100 passengers, but our top luxury small ship cruises will focus on ships that only carry up to about 30 passengers. To put it in perspective, the “Wonder of The Seas” cruise ship carries just under 7,000 passengers.
This makes your Galapagos voyage far more personal as it feels more like a friend and family outing – in one of the most amazing locations on the planet. It might have a robot bartender like the bigger ships, but trust us, you’ll survive.
Why Explore The Galapagos Islands By Small Ship Cruises
These special cruises are perfect for adventurers who want to explore the islands without the hustle and bustle of a larger ship. With fewer passengers, you can truly immerse yourself in the wonders of the Galapagos, from its unique flora and fauna to its stunning landscapes.
You’ll also get more time to observe the wildlife and take in the incredible scenery, as scheduling is more laid back compared to a large cruise ship. From visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station to learning about the local indigenous people, you’ll get a comprehensive view of the Galapagos that you just can’t get on a larger cruise expedition.
Also, smaller ships can navigate tricky waters and remote areas, allowing you to explore secret islands and undiscovered ports that larger ships simply cannot reach. With a range of itineraries available, from the Inner Loop to the Northern Loop, you’ll be able to find the perfect cruise to match your interests.
Cost: A week-long Galapagos luxury cruise can cost between US$6,000 to around US$12,000 dollars per person.
This state-of-the-art yacht, boasting a length of nearly 200 feet, strikes the perfect balance between size and stability, offering the intimacy of a small vessel and all the luxury amenities of a much larger cruise liner. Aboard, you’ll indulge in spacious suites with modern conveniences and a sleek, contemporary décor.
You can take in the views on all sides from the open-air 360-degree exterior walkarounds. The meals are sustainably sourced, deliciously crafted flavors of the Galapagos, and you’ll immerse yourself in the area’s rich culture, gastronomy, and people.
The Evolution has recently been refurbished, including updated cabins, floors, drapes, walls, furniture, and bathrooms, as well as a new noise insulation system in the engine and generator rooms.
On board, travelers will find an oversized Jacuzzi, triple cabins, and a dive deck, making it an ideal choice for families. Kids Club activities are also available, such as stargazing and movie nights, plus child-oriented guides.
Cost: A week-long cruise ranges from US$9,450.00 to around US$17,000.
Ecoventura, a top luxury expedition travel operator, has just recently added their third 20-passenger luxury mega-yacht, Evolve, which set sail on January 15, 2023. The fleet of Ecoventura has 2 other similar ships, named the Origin, and Theory.
Evolve’s itineraries are a carbon copy of Ecoventura’s existing schedule, with two A & B trips over a seven-night period, which can be joined together for a two-week long getaway.
With only 10 guests for each guide, travelers will be guaranteed an unforgettable and personalized adventure – taking advantage of the unbeatable naturalist-to-guest ratio of the region.
Escape to a cozy cabin boasting private bathrooms and spectacular windows that allow visitors to appreciate the mesmerizing wildlife and scenery even indoors.
Evolve’s green amenities contribute to a remarkable reduction of up to 30% in fossil fuel consumption, enhanced with a stabilizing system and cutting-edge bow design that make for a smoother and quicker voyage, up to 14 knots.
Snorkeling with Sea Lions and Penguins in the Galapagos Islands
This small ship cruise also has all your snorkeling needs right on board, which you’ll definitely want. The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the best snorkeling spots in the world, with a wide range of marine life. For visitors who want to experience it all, the islands offer an unforgettable opportunity to swim with sea lions, penguins, tropical fish, and even the occasional whale shark.
The most popular spot for swimming with sea lions is La Loberia Beach on San Cristobal Island. Here, curious pups often swim up to snorkelers and divers, and you can observe them playing in the surf. It’s important to keep a respectful distance from adult sea lions, but it’s hard not to be charmed by these playful creatures.
Penguins can be found on a number of islands, but they are most numerous on Fernandina and Isabela Islands. On Isabela, they are mainly found along the remote West Coast, but can sometimes be seen on other islands too.
Cost: Weekly excursion Starting at US$6,318 Average per person.
Whether you are looking to experience the Galapagos Islands like never before or just searching for a unique getaway, Celebrity Xploration’s 16-passenger cruise on this luxury catamaran will surely offer the most unforgettable travel experience.
Setting off on this unique adventure, you will navigate through the huge archipelago, uncovering its numerous wonders both above and below the surface.
With an array of exploration activities and exclusive tours, there is no doubt that you will have a truly remarkable time aboard this opulent expedition.
This excursion includes peaceful walks on black-sand beaches while spotting wildlife found only in the Galapagos. Enjoy giant tortoises mulling about, marine iguanas, and Galapagos penguins.
Guests will also join in twice-daily shore excursions guided by onboard certified naturalists from the Galápagos National Park, while those who prefer downtime during stops can relax on the sandy beaches or stay onboard and be treated to locally sourced cuisine.
To take it all in and make sure you don’t miss anything, each luxury suite features either a window or a veranda, complete with a personal fridge stocked with whatever beverages you desire, daily housekeeping services, and complimentary wetsuits and snorkeling equipment.
Cost: 8-day excursion, starts at US$5,569 per person
Embark on an adventure of a lifetime with the Galapagos Seaman Journey, a boutique, catamaran yacht boasting 8 cabins, room for 16 passengers, extending 42 meters in length. On board this luxury small ship cruise, you’ll have the unique benefits of a small yacht coupled with the luxuries of a first-class cruise.
With over 15 years of expertise in the region, you can be sure that this cruise has everything you need for the perfect island-hopping experience. The Seaman Journey gives you a great way to experience luxe ecotourism.
Ecotourism is a different way of traveling and a growing trend all over the world in recent years. The Galapagos is a biodiversity paradise and the Galapagos Seaman Journey small ship cruise is the perfect ecotourist destination, as you can get up close and personal with a variety of exotic species.
Aboard the catamaran, the sundeck is the ideal spot to relax and take in the breathtaking views of the Galapagos Islands. Spend some time soaking up the sun on vacation with the other crew members, or simply enjoy the picturesque sunsets from the liveaboard’s spacious outdoor area. A small ship, with huge views!
With only a maximum occupancy of 16, you’ll receive an intimate experience and plenty of privacy on the Seaman Journey. Plus, its twin hulls provide extra stability and comfort, making it suitable for those prone to motion sickness. Something to consider if your sea legs aren’t up to par.
The delicious cuisine served onboard adds to the pleasure. The meals are varied and interesting, and the cook takes special care to meet the dietary needs of all guests.
While the food may be Ecuadoran specialties, fish is often served. For those who prefer vegetarian options, there is always one main option available.
The Seaman Journey offers two different week-long itineraries, one exploring the western islands and the other focusing on the eastern sights. Plus, there are shorter northern and southern itineraries available.
Cost: 8-day, starts at US$8,745 per person
From scuba diving and kayaking to whale watching and nature walks, there’s something for everyone aboard this stunning yacht. Get ready to explore some of the world’s most unique natural wonders from the comfort and convenience of your very own private cruiser.
As soon as you step on board, you’ll be amazed at the lavish environment; two immense suites and eight staterooms, all outfitted with magnificent picture windows and personal balconies.
This small ship cruising experience is perfect for family reunions or getaways with close friends, as the Infinity provides plenty of room to relax with outdoor eating spaces, a barbecue area, and a living room.
Reviews from happy customers speak for themselves, with many praising the crew and the level of service they provided, as well as the gorgeous yacht and amazing cabins.
For those seeking an adventurous escape without the throng of people, a luxury small ship cruise in the Galapagos is the perfect way to get personalized attention and pampering, along with getting to do so much more around the islands. From scuba diving and kayaking to whale watching and nature walks, there’s something for everyone aboard these stunning yachts.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the planet’s most incredible ecosystems and exploring remote islands with these small ship cruises – though not inexpensive, it’s a unique opportunity you won’t want to miss!