Kayaking in Gardner Bay with 2 guests, an activity in the Galapagos Island
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Why is exploring the Galapagos Islands different from going on a cruise?

User Avatar Author: Kevin Wright
4 years ago - July 7, 2020

Reading time: 8 mins

As the world teaches us to change our habits, from how we socialize to using public transport, we also need to rethink how we embark on new adventures around the globe. The first thing we have to do is choose a destination. Where can we go to make sure that we are safe and still be immersed in adventure and unique experiences?

Let us introduce you to the Galapagos Islands! They have it all: endemic flora and fauna, sparsely populated islands, stunning views, and otherworldly landscapes. A voyage through the Galapagos Islands offers an intimate, expedition-focused journey through a magical world.


But why is it the best?
1. All Galapagos tours utilize expedition vessels
2. Most tourist sites are located on uninhabited islands
3. The Galapagos Islands have strict customs and biosecurity laws
4. 24/7 access to a certified guide and onboard doctor
5. The changes we have implemented for your benefit.

All Galapagos tours are expedition-style ships

No massive cruise ships sail in Galapagos

A cruise? Don’t they usually have thousands of people on board? In the case of vessels that sail in the Galapagos Islands, we use ‘cruise’ for lack of a better word. Any vessel with a capacity of more than 100 passengers can’t sail in the Galapagos archipelago. This not only guarantees the preservation of the many Galapagos species −from the jovial Galapagos penguins to the colorful blue-footed boobies−, but it also allows every guest to have their own intimate visit with each species they encounter.

In fact, a Galapagos cruise is a far cry from a traditional one. Instead of the usual paraphernalia of indoor theaters, casinos, and giant swimming pools, expedition vessels focus on an intimate exploration throughout the archipelago. Activities include close encounters with curious Galapagos endemic species, snorkeling in the warm waters, and basking in the sun on the vessels’ multiple decks. Every experience is specifically tailored to ensure that each visitor has the experience of a lifetime.

Did you know?

Even though we often use the word cruise when we talk about our expedition vessels, according to definitions provided by CLIA, Cruise Critic, and the CDC based on gross tonnage and number of passengers aboard, these are the boats that actually sail in the Galapagos Islands:

Type of vessel (According to definitions used by the CDC and CLIA)

Gross registered tonnage (GRT)

Number of passengers

Super Mega Cruise Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

More than 140,000 Approximately 5,000
Large Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

More than 60,000 Approximately 3,000
Medium Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

Less than 30,000  Approximately 500
Extra Small Ships

(Sail in the Galapagos Islands!)

Less than 3,000  Approximately 100
Intimate Ships

(Sail in the Galapagos Islands!)

Less than 1,000  Approximately 40

Expedition vessels don’t focus on the number of passengers, but rather on helping guests connect with nature. Guests can enjoy the vessel’s many relaxation areas, chat with like-minded passengers, and enjoy luxurious bars and dining areas. Every day is focused on exploration, access to new knowledge, and fun adventures, plus so much more!

Most visitor sites are located in uninhabited islands

Get exclusive access to uninhabited islands

Another advantage of booking an expedition vessel in the Galapagos is that the traveling party will be relatively small. A traditional large cruise ship will follow the familiar international cruise routes, which means visiting ports filled with thousands of other travelers. The result is a rushed visit to a densely tourist-populated town where all you can find is souvenirs and knick-knacks. But there’s nothing quite like the real thing that’s found in the Galapagos Islands.

That’s because 97% of the Galapagos is designated National Park area, and only 3% of the islands are populated. While traveling on a vessel throughout the archipelago, most of your time will be spent visiting uninhabited islands. Your most frequent companion will be the curious animals who call these islands home.

Such unique flora and fauna call for a special protection plan. Therefore, if you’re considering the best time to visit Galapagos, it’s important to know that Galapagos has one of the strictest conservation policies in the world and takes extensive measures to minimize human impact. Each visitor group is limited by the strictest rules, in size and visiting time. Most islands you visit will have no other tours happening at the same time.

If you choose one of the top expedition vessels, you’ll have exclusive access to the best visitor sites.

Galapagos Islands’ strict customs and biosecurity laws

Galapagos is highly regulated

As Galapagos authorities aim to reduce the number of visitors to any site within the National Park at any one time, they highly regulate the amount of tourists entering per year. On average, the islands receive 65,000 guests year-round, whereas New York receives double that in a day!

Each visitor must access Galapagos via one of Ecuador’s international airports, at either Guayaquil or Quito, to ensure they and their luggage are checked thoroughly for biosecurity hazards to the Galapagos’ delicate ecosystem. Every piece of luggage is checked, sealed, and tagged to show that it has passed inspection. Only after that can passengers exit the National Institute for the Galapagos (INGALA) control area in Ecuador’s mainland airports.

All of these strict measures mean that the Galapagos Marine Reserve and National Park are protected from pollution, industrial fishing, and external disease vectors. But it also means that your holiday won’t be spent with thousands of other tourists vying for the perfect selfie. Instead, you’ll have a peaceful and relaxed encounter with the peculiar biodiversity of this pristine paradise.

Full-time access to a Park-certified guide and onboard medical officer

24/7 access to health care professional

It is prohibited to travel throughout the Galapagos archipelago without a Galapagos National Park-certified guide, so each cruise has at least one onboard. Premium and top-rated expedition vessels, such as our very own fleet, have more than one, who speak multiple languages for the ease of the passengers. These vessels have their very own medical doctor onboard, too!

Our onboard doctors are particularly trained in the unique environment you will find yourself in, from ocean-induced problems to possible ship-related accidents. They are well versed in every aspect of the Galapagos, and truly care for the wellbeing of their patients. The medical doctors are available 24/7 for your peace of mind.

It is also important to note that Galapagos National Park-certified guides have received extensive training on your surroundings and every activity that you will participate in. They will make sure your cruise is filled with information, up-close animal encounters, and safe activities. In the unlikely event of any injuries or emergencies, they have been specifically trained in first aid to assist you until you can get onboard to see the medical officer.

Our advice
Be sure to ask your travel agency or Galapagos contact if your chosen expedition vessel has its own medical officer. Not all Galapagos cruise ships do!

The changes we’ve made for your benefit

In light of the world’s current situation, we have also made more changes to our safety protocols to ensure that your trip runs smoothly. Our top priority is your comfort and safety, and as smaller vessels with little red tape to go through, every measure is taken to make sure you are always protected. Some changes that we have implemented are as follows:

Spacious dining areas

We know that each traveler has different needs, and this extends to the dining area. Ours are always getting updated to ensure that every passenger has access to comfort and space. Of course, it’s your choice. You’re welcome to swap exploring stories over the table with other passengers or enjoy the peace and quiet at a spacious table with your own group.

Crew members will not disembark as we sail through the Islands

Our fleet’s crew members hail from Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, but they are more like family. Each one is carefully screened by our Medical Officer upon boarding our vessels, but for peace of mind of our passengers, none of our crew members will disembark during the entirety of your itinerary. This is to ensure that our travel bubble during your Galapagos adventure remains with those who are on board with you.

Interested? Find out more!

Download our Galapagos Basics e-book!

The Galapagos Islands are not like other destinations. As a protected paradise, contact with people is minimal and restricted aboard your exclusive cruise ship. The most interaction you’ll have will be with the many endemic species that roam the uninhabited islands of this glorious National Park. We love our insular paradise and invite you to enjoy this stunning part of the world with us!

You’re in good hands.
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