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About Galapagos Islands Cruises

Discover an archipelago of such breathtaking biodiversity that it inspired Charles Darwin. Today, it promises unrivaled opportunities for wildlife watching.

Trace the story of life itself by taking a cruise to Galapagos, one of the world’s most wildlife-rich areas. This stunning archipelago features all kinds of evolutionary oddities, including giant tortoises, flightless birds, swimming lizards and Darwin finches. Snorkel around these islands where colonies of multicolored fish frequent the waters. Even those who are not impressed by wildlife will be awed by the Galapagos’ volcanic scenery and forest-covered islets.

Cruises to Galapagos are rarely mega-ship expeditions found in places such as the Caribbean. Most operators offer ships with occupancies no larger than 100 people, sometimes taking as few as 20 or 10 guests. Visit these unique natural landmarks, which feels like escaping into untamed wilderness, where nature is free to run its course.

Choose between several different types of Galapagos cruises. This trip doesn’t have to use your entire vacation budget, as Galapagos cruise deals are available with economy berths. For something a little more upscale, choose operators that offer luxury options for a truly relaxing journey, far more comfortable than Darwin’s expedition on the Beagle.

Look for Galapagos cruises with Level 3 guides, a designation given by Galapagos National Park to specialists in the field. These highly trained expedition leaders can describe the lives of giant tortoises in Santa Cruz or explain the striking lava flows of Fernandina.

Remember, visiting Galapagos comes with some restrictions. In order to preserve the natural beauty and thriving ecosystems that make the islands so special, Galapagos National Park is open only from sunrise to sunset. As such, when it comes to debarkation, Galapagos cruises run tight schedules to ensure that you can fit everything into your onshore visit.

Take a Galapagos cruise at any time of year to see the native wildlife. June to September and December to January are the peak seasons, but weather throughout the year is largely amenable to cruises. Bring seasickness medication as the ocean around Galapagos can at times get uncomfortably choppy.

As Galapagos is still a wild, untamed swath of nature, bring appropriate all-weather gear. Quick-drying clothes and sturdy footwear are both recommended.

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6 Best Galapagos Cruises For Every Kind of Traveler

By Meena Thiruvengadam

View from Bartolom Island GalÃpagos Islands

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Galapagos cruises are the best way to experience the collection of remote, mostly uninhabited islands about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. But cruises in the Galapagos Islands aren’t like cruises anyplace else. The ships here are smaller, with some carrying as few as 16 passengers. There are no water slides, elaborate Broadway shows, casinos, or wild nightclubs. And don’t expect big bus tours in port either. 

Galapagos cruises are about experiencing nature and wildlife while limiting environmental impact as much as possible. Ships are built for sustainability and toting items like kayaks, paddleboards, and scuba gear. Itineraries may feature two active excursions a day, limiting downtime on board the ship. Instead of museums and historic sights, you’ll visit uninhabited islands to encounter marine iguanas, sea lions, unspoiled beaches, and the adventures of a lifetime. 

Trips to the Galapagos Islands are logistically complicated, making cruises an especially good way to experience the area. Travelers to the Galapagos Islands must first fly to Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a night before flying to the Galapagos to board their ships. All travelers must also be accompanied by National Parks Guides who can help them navigate these largely undeveloped islands. 

Galapagos cruise itineraries are typically a week long and cover a portion of the islands, sometimes more. Here's everything to know about cruising in the Galapagos, from frequently asked questions to the best itineraries to book now.

  • Best luxury Galapagos cruise
  • Best Galapagos cruise for stargazing  
  • Best Galapagos cruise for adventure seekers  
  • Best Galapagos cruises for solo travelers  
  • Best small ship Galapagos cruise  

Best Galapagos cruises for families

When is the best time to cruise the galapagos islands .

With pleasant temperatures all year long, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is whenever you’re ready to go. Several cruise lines sail to the Galapagos Islands all year long. While you can see wildlife all year, December is hatching season for the giant tortoises, and July is mating season for blue-footed boobies and short-eared owls. Sea turtles lay their eggs early in the year and fully formed marine iguanas typically hatch in April and May. 

Are Galapagos cruises expensive?  

The Galapagos Islands aren’t a bargain destination. Expect to pay somewhere between $5,000 and $12,000 per traveler depending on the ship, itinerary, and length of the voyage. 

One thing’s for sure: Whatever your preference, there’s a Galapagos Islands cruise for you. These are six of the best Galapagos cruises for every type of traveler.

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Silver Origin cruising the Galapagos Islands.

A suite on board Silver Origin comes with butler service.

Best luxury Galapagos cruise 

There’s no more luxurious way to sail the Galapagos Islands than on  Silversea's Silver Origin , a ship custom-built for cruising these islands. Silver Origin is Silversea’s first destination-specific ship and includes several features meant to minimize its environmental impact. The all-suite ship can carry up to 100 passengers, is all-inclusive down to the premium spirits in your stateroom's minibar, and includes the luxury cruise line’s signature butler service. There’s also a salon and fitness center on board, a rarity for ships sailing in this region. Most itineraries on the Silver Origin are seven nights, but longer cruises are typically scheduled around winter holidays. The Silver Origin sails the north, central, and western loops of the Galapagos Islands.

Best Galapagos cruise for stargazing 

This region may be better known for its landscapes and wildlife, but the Galapagos Islands are also an excellent place for stargazing. And there’s no better Galapagos cruise ship for stargazing than the  Celebrity Flora . The 100-passenger vessel feels more like a luxury yacht than an expedition ship. It has a stargazing platform on its top deck and provides binoculars to help guests spot constellations as the ship cruises along the equator. The modern expedition ship also offers a glamping experience that includes a naturalist-guided stargazing session and a luxurious night of glamping under the stars. Prefer to sleep in your bed on board? Have dinner under the stars at the ship’s restaurant before heading back to your suite. The Celebrity Flora ’s Galapagos itineraries range from seven to 16 nights. 

Best Galapagos cruise for adventure seekers 

Lindblad Expeditions has been cruising the Galapagos Islands for more than 50 years. It now sails to the Galapagos year-round in partnership with National Geographic, giving guests the chance to encounter giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, and more. A staff of expert guides is on board to help travelers spot wildlife and better understand the volcanic landscapes, mangrove thickets, and seagrasses they encounter. Activities include unforgettable snorkeling adventures, hikes through pristine wilderness, and walks along remote beaches. Lindblad’s newest Galapagos Islands cruise ship, the National Geographic Islander II , feels more like a boutique hotel than an expedition ship and carries just 48 passengers in 26 suites. Some itineraries offer advanced divers the chance to commune with a variety of marine life. And while rugged adventures may await travelers off the ship, each suite offers travelers plenty of comfort: They come equipped with flat-screen TVs, in-room espresso machines, and bathrooms with double sinks.

Best Galapagos cruises for solo travelers 

Galapagos cruises aren’t cheap, especially if you’re sailing solo. Hurtigruten makes cruising the Galapagos Islands more affordable by waiving the single supplement on several of its Galapagos cruises. Hurtigruten Galapagos cruises range from seven to 14 days in length and take place on the MS Santa Cruz II , a ship that comes equipped with panga boats, kayaks, snorkeling gear, paddleboards, and a glass-bottom boat for viewing marine life. The ship carries a maximum of 90 passengers, and its operations are carbon-neutral. There’s a small gym and a hot tub on board. Regular prices start around $8,500 for a one-week cruise. Look for sales to bring your price down even further.

Best small ship Galapagos cruise 

Avalon Waterways may be better known for its European river cruises , but it also sails the Galapagos Islands. Avalon sails this region on two ships, the Treasure of the Galapagos and the Delfin III . The Delfin III , which also sails the Amazon in Peru, is its newest and most luxurious Galapagos cruise ship. The ship has just 22 suites, almost guaranteeing you’ll make new friends along the journey. The Treasure of the Galapagos is even smaller, carrying a maximum of 16 guests. And while there’s no long list of restaurants on board either ship, there are creative, locally inspired menus featuring seasonal ingredients and lots of vegetarian options. On board both ships, you’ll find daily natural history lectures, a team of multilingual naturalists, floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, and plunge pools.  

For an adventure your kids will never forget, hop on board an Adventures by Disney cruise of the Galapagos Islands. Just be sure to wait until your kids are at least seven years old. This is the minimum age for most Galapagos cruises, though Disney recommends this itinerary for children eight and older. This isn’t your typical Disney cruise. It’s a small ship expedition itinerary with a hint of Disney magic in a setting fit for a fairy tale. Adventures by Disney's Galapagos itineraries span nine days and visit about 15 sites. 

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Best Galapagos cruises for an epic wildlife adventure of a lifetime

Fran Golden

About 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador , in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands are a remarkable place to visit for wildlife sightings. You can see flightless Galapagos penguins, Galapagos sea lions, giant Galapagos tortoises, marine iguanas and hundreds of other species found nowhere else on Earth.

The islands are also one of the places in the world that are best explored by cruise ships.

To get close to Mother Nature in the mostly unpopulated islands, you need to get on the water — and land on islands in the company of a licensed Ecuadorian naturalist guide. Galapagos National Park tightly controls who comes in and where ships can explore.

All the ships are Ecuadorian flagged, Ecuadorian crewed and owned by Ecuadorian companies, sometimes in partnership with leading cruise companies. Excursions, often twice a day, are included in cruise fares. The sailings are year-round, and routes are always subject to change based on park control.

Related: My first cruise to the Galapagos: The good, the bad and the absolutely adorable

The cruise companies use various descriptors of where they go, but basically, if your ship heads north and west, you'll see more volcanic landscapes; if you go south or central, you'll explore more beaches and bays. Wildlife sightings on both routes are thrilling, both above and under the sea — where you may find yourself snorkeling with sharks and sea lions.

Bird-watchers may want to do a full 14-night trip to touch every corner and add many species to their life list. For the rest of us, a week or less can provide enough brag-worthy wildlife encounters to last a lifetime.

Choosing a ship will depend on how long you want to explore, how much you want to pay and what level of luxury you expect. It's not uncommon for travelers to combine a Galapagos cruise with land exploration in Quito, Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Amazon or Machu Picchu in Peru. Most cruise lines offer add-on land-based itineraries.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

Here are our picks for the best Galapagos cruises.

Short cruises on La Pinta

cheap galapagos cruise

Metropolitan Touring operates this intimate, 48-passenger yacht and offers popular four- and six-night itineraries. These are a good option if you are short on time.

Cabins are spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows so you can take in the views even when getting ready for the day or relaxing in bed. Four cabins can be connected for families or friends traveling together (some sleep three). The entire ship sports a comfortably upscale ambience, and a favorite hangout is the sun deck with its hot tub and bar.

An expedition leader, along with onboard naturalists, will guide you through your trip. The ship is equipped with kayaks for guest use, and a glass-bottom boat provides views for those who aren't into snorkeling.

Cost : Four-night cruises start from $5,812 per person; six-night cruises start from $7,789 per person. Small-ship expedition specialist UnCruise Adventures also charters La Pinta. Seven-night packages that combine a pre-cruise hotel stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with a six-night cruise start from $10,900; they are available on select dates from April through December.

Related: Galapagos cruise guide: Best itineraries, planning tips and things to do

Hurtigruten expedition experience on Santa Cruz II

Also operated by Metropolitan Touring, the 90-passenger Santa Cruz II is an expedition ship with contemporary decor and comfortable single, double and triple cabins.

When you aren't in your cabin you might catch views from the ship's two hot tubs. Activity equipment includes snorkeling gear (with wet suits available to rent), a glass-bottom boat and kayaks, plus a top-deck fitness room.

The ship, which is operated on a carbon-neutral basis, is under charter to the well-regarded expedition company Hurtigruten for select dates from now through March 2025 and some dates in 2026.

Cost : Eight-night packages combining a six-night cruise with two hotel nights in Quito are available from $11,227 per person. Other options include 11-night cruises from $10,171 per person and six-night itineraries from $5,734 per person.

Related: Short on time? You can do this Galapagos cruise in just 1 week

Yachting with Quasar Expeditions' Grace

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Quasar Expeditions has the most historically prestigious ship in the Galapagos market. The 16-passenger Grace is a classic yacht from the 1920s that carried Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco on their honeymoon in 1956 (in the Mediterranean).

Reflective of the golden age of travel, it's all about luxury on board — polished woodwork, gourmet meals and service from a crew of 10, plus two naturalist guides.

Cost : Seven-night cruises start from $9,950 per person.

Island exploration with Adventures by Disney on Galapagos Legend

Adventures by Disney offers sailings in the Galapagos on the 100-passenger Galapagos Legend in June, July, August and December in 2024 and March, June and July in 2025.

The minimum age is 7, and the recommended age is 8 and older. The comfortable ship has the rare-in-the-Galapagos feature of a swimming pool, plus a hot tub. When Disney is on board, its trained Adventure Guides lead special Junior Adventurers activities for kids in addition to the usual snorkeling, kayaking and glass-bottom boat rides. Select sailings invite special guest experts on board to give workshops and presentations in their area of expertise.

Cost : Fares for eight-night trips beginning with two hotel nights in Quito followed by a six-night cruise in 2024 start at $8,999 (adults) and $8,499 (children). Rates for the same itinerary in 2025 start from $8,999 (adults) and $8,099 (children). Other companies, such as Go Galapagos, offer three-night cruises on Galapagos Legend starting from $2,113 per person.

Relais & Chateaux experience on Origin, Theory and Evolve

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Ecoventura's 20-passenger, all-suite yachts, Origin, Theory and Evolve, are recognized by the prestigious Relais & Chateaux gourmet restaurant and luxury hospitality association, and intimate and luxurious exploration is their calling card.

The crew of 13 includes a French-trained chef, a concierge and two naturalists.

Pampering ensues — even for young guests who are on board select family departures, during which added activities include a cultural exchange with local students. Check out the rare Galapagos publications in the library when you're not in the outdoor Jacuzzi, on the kayaks or on paddleboards.

Cost : Seven-night cruises are available from $9,950 per person. Charter the entire yacht starting at $199,000.

Superyacht sailing with Aqua Expeditions

Aqua Expeditions is well known in luxury circles for its superyachts in the Peruvian Amazon and Asia. The company bills its 16-passenger, all-suite, all-inclusive Aqua Mare as the "first true superyacht in the Galapagos Islands."

The interior decor is by Italian superyacht designer François Zuretti. Also, the Peruvian-Japanese fusion cuisine is by chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, famed for his "rainforest to table cuisine," which features ingredients grown only in the Amazon jungle and focuses on sustainable culinary practices.

Among the spacious suites, the top Owner's Suite is 861 square feet. The Jacuzzi is big enough for six guests. The yacht is also stocked with kayaks and paddleboards for guests to use.

Cost : Seven-night cruises start from $10,500 per person. Charter the entire yacht starting at $218,500.

Galapagos with Avalon Waterways

cheap galapagos cruise

River cruise line Avalon Waterways is known for sailings in Europe and on the Mekong. However, it's also in the Galapagos, chartering the 16-passenger small ship Treasure of Galapagos for seven-night sailings in August and December in 2024 and 2025.

All cabins on the ship, including the 430-square-foot master suite, have balconies and are done up in welcoming, contemporary decor. The ship's design is outdoor-focused, with alfresco dining and a bar near the Jacuzzi.

Indoors is a small lounge and dining area. Wine and beer are included with meals.

Cost : Seven-night cruises (beginning with two nights in Quito) start from $6,003 per person.

Expedition sailing with Lindblad's National Geographic Endeavour II

Top expedition company Lindblad Expeditions has been sailing in the Galapagos for more than 50 years, evident by the seasoned team of naturalists and the experiences they deliver, including exploring the sea thanks to innovative underwater equipment.

This 96-passenger ship is a spacious base camp. Passengers can explore with Zodiacs, kayaks, glass-bottom boats and stand-up paddleboards.

Select expeditions feature guest National Geographic biologists, authors and photographers who can help you get the perfect wildlife photos. The cruises are popular with families, and a diving program is available for advanced divers.

Cost : Fares for a 10-night cruise (including two nights in Guayaquil) start from $6,605 per person. Lindblad also has a 52-passenger, all-suite luxury yacht in the market, the National Geographic Islander II, with as many crew members as guests. Fares for its seven-night cruises start from $6,864 per person.

Ultra-luxury experience on Silver Origin

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Ultra-luxury line Silversea Cruises delivers everything on a silver platter on the 100-passenger Silver Origin.

Request Champagne from your butler while you lounge in the hot tub. Guests will likely also appreciate the high-tech walls that feature touch-controlled high-definition screens, allowing you to zoom in on exclusive wildlife videos shot by drone in Galapagos National Park.

There is also the luxury of space to spread out, indoors and out, amid gorgeous contemporary furnishings. Everyone stays in a large butler-serviced suite.

Additionally, the cuisine is extraordinary — the Ecuadorian executive chef even takes time to explain the local ingredients he uses. The staff includes one naturalist guide for every 10 guests.

Cost : Fares for seven-night cruises start from $10,900 per person.

Related: 5 best Silversea Cruises destinations

All-suite megayacht cruising on Celebrity Flora

With a design similar to Silver Origin, Celebrity Cruises ' Flora delivers a first-class experience.

Suites include either a step-out balcony or an "infinite veranda" created when you push a button to open the top half of a wall of glass.

Menus are crafted by chef Cornelius Gallagher, who has helmed Michelin-starred restaurants. Personal suite attendants cater to your needs, while experienced naturalists lead stargazing sessions.

Guests on a 10-, 11- or 16-night itinerary can reserve a glamping experience on the top deck and spend the night under the stars in a cabana equipped with a double bed.

Cost : Fares for seven-night cruises start from $6,539 per person, and a 10-night cruise with two overnight stays in Quito starts from $8,139 per person. Celebrity Cruises also offers sailings on the 48-passenger Celebrity Xpedition, a small luxury ship. Seven-night cruises start at $5,571 per person. Additionally, seven-night sailings aboard the even more intimate 16-passenger Celebrity Xploration start from $5,615 per person.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Celebrity Cruises ship

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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Exploring Galapagos Islands on the Cheap: A How-To Guide

cheap galapagos cruise

S oft, snow-white sand. Belching sea lions at your feet. Radiantly coloured fish swimming before you. These are the things that come to mind when one daydreams of a visit to the Galapagos Islands.

For many, that is all the Galapagos ever is – a mere daydream. It's often dismissed as unfeasible to visit due to its exorbitant costs.

But what if you could travel the Galapagos on a first class, all-inclusive cruise with a personal guide for up to a third of the retail cost? What if you could dine and sleep on <$60 a day in one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations? I’m happy to tell you that you that this is not a dream , but a feasible reality that we ourselves have done.

Intrigued? Here's our ultimate guide on how to see Galapagos on the cheap!

  • 1 Galapagos 101: What you need to know
  • 2 How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?
  • 3 Why last minute cruises exist
  • 4 How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos
  • 5 Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise
  • 6 Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts
  • 7 Last minute cruise booking checklist
  • 8 When to visit Galapagos
  • 9 Getting there: Flights & inter-island transfers
  • 10 Where to stay
  • 11 What if you don't book a last-minute cruise?

cheap galapagos cruise

Galapagos 101: What you need to know

First off, yes, you can visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour . This is the most important myth to dispel, as there are four islands that tourists can reside on without being on any sort of tour. These islands are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), Isabela, and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta). The islands are serviced by ferries.

You can fly into the Galapagos yourself and stay on any of these islands. Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the busiest, most populated islands and have the most to offer in terms of tours, restaurants, and accommodation. However, all of the islands have beaches, sights, and activities which can be explored for cheap or free on your own. For tips on that, read our post here !

cheap galapagos cruise

How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?

This depends on how you want to explore the Galapagos, and the flexibility of your trip. If you want to do a pre-booked multi-night cruise, this is the most expensive option. A midpoint alternative would be booking a last minute cruise after arrival. The cheapest approach is to stay on an island and do day tours. In this post we'll compare all of these options!

NOTE:  By using the right credit card, you can save hundreds of dollars on your trip. For example, foreign transaction fees on most credit and debit cards are up to 3%, which add up quickly over a trip. You should use a no foreign transaction fee card like the  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to avoid these fees, earn travel points on every purchase, and get a massive sign-up bonus of 60,000 points (worth $750 ) when you hit the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months with your everyday purchases.

Land based, day tours only

Concept : Stay on an island (and/or island hop), do land or sea-based day tours and visit local sites Pros : Cheaper, flexible option & easy-going pace Cons : Cannot access many islands by day tour Average cost : $500-$800 USD  for 5-nights with activities & food (breakdown below) Example tours: – Puerto Ayora: Bartolome Island and Sulivan Bay Day-Trip – From Santa Cruz: Galapagos, Excursion to Tortuga & Tour – Cerro Mesa Reserve and Garrapatero Beach Tour Book through: GetYourGuide , Viator

Last minute cruise

Concept : Stay on an island & attempt to book a last minute discounted cruise Pros : Significant savings, able to visit more distant islands Cons : No guarantee of finding a cruise, requires flexibility Average cost : $800-$1800+ USD  for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below)

Pre-booked cruise

Concept : Book a cruise in advance Pros : Security of knowing you have the cruise, route, and class you want Cons : Expensive! Average cost : $2500+ USD  for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below) Example tours: – Galápagos Islands 5-Day Nature Tour – 6-Day Galápagos Adventure Tour on 4 Islands – San Cristobal: 4-Day Galapagos Island Tour Book through: GetYourGuide , Viator , Intrepid Travel , G Adventures

Land-based, day tours only: Cost breakdown

cheap galapagos cruise

Basing yourself on an island and taking day tours is the most affordable way to see the Galapagos. Take note once more, there are only four islands in the Galapagos that tourists can stay over on without a tour : Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

Detailed cost breakdown:

  • Accommodation : prices start at $25+ USD/night for single, budget private room. A basic budget double room is ~$40 USD/night on average.  HotelsCombined.com  is comprehensive for Galapagos and includes hostels.  AirBNB has comparable listings too.
  • Food : $5-$15+ USD per meal out (cheaper to eat outside of tourist zone!)
  • Tours and activities : $50-$200 USD per tour (land tours cheapest, diving tours most expensive)

GRAND TOTAL : $550-$800+ USD  for 5 nights (varies depending on accommodation, # of tours taken, and where you dine e.g. such as local or DIY meals vs tourist restaurants)

Booking a last minute cruise: Cost breakdown

Photo from our last minute, first class cruise in 2013

This approach works for those who are flexible with their trip duration and  are okay with the possibility of not finding a last minute cruise. If you don't find a last minute cruise, you can simply do land-based day tours/island hopping.

Here is a cost breakdown of finding a last minute cruise:

  • 5-night cruise : $800-$1700+ USD total (varies by cruise class, duration, route). This is inclusive of accommodation costs.
  • Food : included
  • Tours and activities : included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits could be extra)

GRAND TOTAL: $800-$1700+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise.

Pre-booked cruise: Cost breakdown

cruise galapagos

A pre-booked cruise is the most costly way to see the Galapagos. This is why people envision The Galapagos as an expensive place. Prices vary by company, class, and route, but you will pay a premium to have a secured spot on a particular ship in advance. There are endless company options, but  Viator , Intrepid Tours , and G Adventures  are popular and have accessible reviews.

  • 5-night cruise : $2500-$5000+ USD (varies by class, ship, route, etc.). Accommodation costs included.
  • Tours and activities : included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits for diving could be extra)

GRAND TOTAL : $2500+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise. Prices vary hugely by company, class, boat size, route, and more.

Why last minute cruises exist

Cruise ships charge outrageous prices in advance for their tickets, preying on holiday-goers who have a fixed annual vacation slot to fill. In reality, these seats do not always sell out and as a departure date approaches, remaining tickets are hugely slashed in price to fill the spots. In both the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil), there are businesses that operate entirely on selling last minute cruise tickets.

Now, one can never guarantee a booking within a set timeframe, but there's usually at least some options within a few days window. The worst case scenario is that you don't book a multi-night cruise and do a land-based approach instead. This is arguably not a bad alternative, given the abundance of wildlife and world-class beaches that  can be seen for free or via day tours . We've done this on our second trip to Galapagos, and it worked out great.

At the bottom of this article is a map marked with important reference points. It includes where to book last minute tours and cheap/free activities. 

DSC02936

How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos

As the name implies, “last minute” cruises must be booked on short notice – typically a few days before departure . Last minute cruises are booked in person, usually at tour shops that specialize in selling vacant cruise spots.

Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise

Guayaquil, Quito, and the Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristobal specifically) all have shops that sell discounted tours. Below is a list of shops offering last minute tours.

Personally we've only booked on arrival to Galapagos (in Santa Cruz), which is usually the cheapest option. Mainland tourist shops find cruises the exact same way as Galapagos-based companies; that is, by making a phone call to contacts in the islands. However, cruises sold on the mainland often involve increased pressure to book and (false) claims that you definitely won't find cruises on arrival.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Moonrise tour agency.

About : This is a family run business that mainly specializes in last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book several day trips and were pleased with their service and the tours themselves. Address : Avenida Charles Darwin near the corner of Charles Binford (See map) Website :  www.galapagosmoonrise.com Phone : 05/2526-589

Joybe Tours

About : This is another family run business that sells day tours and last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book our multi-night last minute cruise and were hugely impressed with our first-class cruise! Address : See map Website : N/A Phone : N/A

Quito & Guayaquil

About : Based in Quito and Guayaquil, this company occasionally posts last minute deals on their website, otherwise visit in-person in Quito. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Almagro N31-80, Edificio Venecia. Guayaquil – in the Edificio Samborondon Business Center, Torre A Piso 3. Website : www.ecoventura.com Phone : Quito – 02/2907-396, Quayquil – 04/2839-390

Quasar Expeditions

About : One of the bigger cruise operators and also has an office in Puerto Ayora. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Almagro Plaza, Ponce Carrasco E8-06 y Av. Diego de Almagro, Oficinas 1101-1106 Website : www.quasarex.com Phone : USA – 1.866.481.7790, UK – 0.800.883.0827, Australia – 1.800.463.266

Zenith Ecuador Travel

About : Has access to ~100 boats and can reach contacts to try and find a last-minute deal. Simply provide your dates and requirements and ask to speak to eh owner, Marcos Endara (tell him you are a Frommer's reader). Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Juan León Mera 453 and Roca Website : www.zenithecuador.com Phone : 02/2529-993

Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts

Choosing a route, boat, and company, routes & itineraries.

Whatever you do, don't book a last minute tour blindly. Research your preferences ahead of time, including which islands you want to see. Each island and cruise route offers unique wildlife and scenery. Some itineraries focus more on landscapes, while others feature diving or wildlife.

There are more “typical” cruise ship routes which include visiting islands that you can see independently on day tours (e.g. Floreana, Bartolome, etc.). These routes tend to be cheaper since they are closer to the main islands, whereas those going to more remote islands are more costly.

land iguana

Companies & boat types

When choosing a boat and a company, try to look up reviews in advance. Where possible, find out who will be the naturist guide, as this is the wildlife narrator of your entire trip! Trip Advisor is a good place to get trip reports on companies, boats, and tour guides. It can also be a useful place for determining the going rate for full price and last-minute bargains for ships, routes, and classes.

As you research, make a shortlist of boats and routes that meet your approval (we've got a handy list below). It will be hard to remember this on the spot, so we really do advise making a “must have” list. You can then cross-check this against the last-minute options available. You may wish to print this out beforehand in case wifi is not accessible.

Allow buffer time & bring CASH

If your holiday time is fixed, you may want to book two weeks off if you want to do a 5-7 day cruise. Buffer room is essential. In our experience, we had 12 days which was plenty to book a 5-night cruise in two days time. It may take a couple days  of popping in and out of cruise shops to find a ship/route you like that works with your departure date.

Take note that most last minute tour offices only accept cash for tour bookings.  Be  sure to know your bank’s daily withdrawal limit, bring some cash ahead of time, determine your tour budget and ensure that you can withdraw that amount over a couple of days beforehand to pay for your cruise.

Know what's included in your tour

When booking, be sure to clarify what is included in the price (meals, diving equipment, tours, etc.) . Most often alcohol is not included, so if you want to drink, factor this into your on-board cash stash. Finally, tipping is expected. Be sure to bring cash for this too so you can tip crew members after your tour ends.

Be wary of bottom of rock bottom deals

Tread cautiously around extremely cheap cruises.  Reduced costs may be due to under-qualified guides with limited English, or boats that are crammed or unreliable. There's nothing like forking out a wad of cash for a disappointing trip. Know what you want, be prepared to ask questions, then show up and see what's on hand.

Last minute cruise booking checklist

Here is a checklist when booking!

Our experience booking a last minute tour

In 2013 we booked a 5-night, first class cruise for less than one third of the retail price. We did so within two days of arrival to Santa Cruz and booked at Joybe Tours. Our boat was The Odyssey , a 16-person yacht that included visited the Isabela, Fernandina, and Bartholomew Islands. We had a very knowledgeable and friendly guide, great food, and tours. It was the rainy season when we visited (December), which meant occasional drizzle, warmer ocean water for swimming, and less tourists.

In total, we paid $840 USD each for our all-inclusive first-class cruise . We splashed out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but there were cheaper alternatives available. The less pricey options were lower class boats that visited islands we could (and later did) access via day tour.

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When to visit Galapagos

When is the best time of year to visit the Galapagos? The truth is, there are benefits to visiting in different months. Galapagos birds, fish, and animals have different breeding  seasons, so you can see surges of particular species at various times of the year.

  • The warm, rainy season is from late   December to June . This means warmer waters for swimming, but the chance of cloud and showers (though these are often quick passing).
  • The cool, dry season is from  late June to December.  “Cool” is a relative term here as the days are still warm but the water is cooler. As the temperatures are a bit more comfortable, this is the breeding season for sea lions, shore birds, fur seals, marine iguanas, which is exciting for wildlife viewing.
  • Peak periods include Christmas/New Years (late December/early January), and June to September. Consider that you will have a harder time finding last minute cruises and accommodation during these periods. It may be wise to at least book accommodation ahead during peak times.

Getting there: Flights & inter-island transfers

The cheapest way to get to Galapagos from Ecuador is between  Quito, Ecuador and  Baltra Airport, Galapagos (GPS).  Baltra is the airport for Santa Cruz, even though it is physically located on a different island. After landing in Baltra, tourists are immediately transported to Puorto Ayora, Santa Cruz by bus and ferry. Be sure to have small cash for these transports (a few dollars will suffice). Alternatively, you can pre-book an airport arrival transfer direct to your hotel, which includes all ferry tickets and coach transfers, and the option to stop at the Charles Darwin Station. Departure transfers are also available.

If you wish, it is possible to plan an open-jaw trip by flying into one island and out of another. You can transfer between islands by ferry ( pre-book on Viator ), and fly in or out of San Cristobal (SCY) airport.

Ecuador flights

Flight costs

If you book in advance (~6+ weeks), a flight to Baltra should be around $200+ USD  one-way from Quito. You will find the best rates by searching  Skyscanner , and we recommend selecting “whole month” when searching to find the cheapest day.

If you're not planning to start or end in Quito, try searching from your preceding destination to the Baltra Airport anyway. There's a good chance Skyscanner will be able to find a cheap route between the two points, usually connecting via Quito or Guayaquil.

For more hacks on how to find cheap flights to Galapagos , check out our other posts:

  • How to Book the Cheapest Flight Possible to Anywhere
  • How to Fly Cheap in South America: A Guide to Budget Airlines and Air Passes
  • How to Find Airline Mistake Fares (& Get Ridicuously Cheap Flights)

How to get between islands in Galapagos

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A handful of islands in the Galapagos can be accessed by transfer ferries. You can book these yourself in person by showing up at the relevant dock. Transferring islands is essential if you wish to book an option-jaw flight (flying into one island and out of another).

Generally speaking, there is one early morning (e.g. 6AM) and one afternoon (e.g. 2PM) ferry between islands each day. These are general time estimates subject to change, and you must confirm this on arrival as it varies by island. It's recommended to buy ferry tickets the day prior so you know the timing in advance.

Prices range from around $20-$60USD one-way depending on the island. As of 2016 prices between San Cristobal and Santa Cruz were $30 USD one way.  This website provides a schedule, but we cannot take liability for errors in the schedule or price ( confirm in person and in advance of your travel plans). Alternatively, pre-book your island transfer with pickup direct from your hotel on Viator ( San Cristobal to Santa Cruz  and  Santa Cruz to San Cristobal ).

bartolome

Where to stay

Before flying into the Galapagos Islands, you'll likely start your trip in Quito or Guayaquil. From there, you can fly to Baltra or San Cristobal and stay in one of four islands where tourists are allowed to stay. These include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta).

Quito, Ecuador

Hotel plaza internacional.

The Hotel Plaza Internacional is what I call a budget “boutique” hotel. This colonial-style accommodation will set you back $26 USD/night for a private double room with an ensuite.

My best friend and I stayed here in November 2015 on our “flashpacking” trip (i.e. you can get cheaper but this is good value for what it is). We loved the generous free breakfast (eggs are extra but worth it!), and the gorgeous city view. The hotel staff were very helpful and were always be happy to flag a taxi on our behalf to ensure a fair price.

Hotel Plaza Internacional

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Villa garza inn.

The Villa Garza Inn  ( read reviews ) is another mid-range budget option that is clean, spacious, and with a friendly staff on board. Most attractively this hotel includes FREE transport to and from the airport. The price per night is $44/USD, but factoring in the inclusion of transport, free wifi, and a private ensuite room – this is a pretty good option. Ask the owners for food recommendations nearby, we had phenomenal asado (BBQ meat) up the street!

Villa Garza Inn

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Santa Cruz is the busiest of the four tourist islands. Its capital, Puerto Ayora, is filled with tourist shops, tour booking agencies, bars, and even a small grocery store. There are several land-based activities accessible here, including lava tunnels, a tortoise sanctuary, and a lagoon (check our post here for ideas).

Santa Cruz has the most booking agencies for day trips and last minute tours, so this is arguably your best starting point if you're trying to snag a discounted cruise.

Hotel España

We stayed at Hotel España  ( read reviews ) in 2013 and once again in November 2015. This is a clean, centrally-located budget option that starts at ~$29USD/night for a single private room with an ensuite. It's definitely a great “flashpacker” style option, especially if you get a room in the newer half of the building. Free functional wifi and a TV are included. The main lobby has hammocks that are perfect for swinging in with a beer at the end of a jam-packed day!

Hotel Espana

San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

San Cristobal is the second busiest of the islands that tourists can stay on. It is noticeably less buzzing and built up, but is still freckled with tourist shops and restaurants. The peace and quiet can certainly be a welcome reprieve from the busyness of Santa Cruz, and it does offer some stunning hikes and snorkel sights accessible on foot.

Hostal Laura de Casa

This cute little hostel is clean, fairly close to the main strip, and is colourfully outfitted. During our visit in November 2015 the wifi was strong and so too was the hot water. The owners have created an adorable garden here where guests can lounge. Single rooms start at $25 USD/night.

hostal casa laura

Floreana Island, Galapagos

Floreana is the quietest inhabited island, with a population of just 150. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the tranquility means far less options for accommodation and dining. Most commonly tourists stay on Santa Cruz and/or San Cristobal, but if your budget allows it, there are definitely more off-the-beaten track vibes to be had here.

Isabela Island

One of the most volcanically active places on earth, this is the largest island in the Galapagos. On offer here is plenty of volcanic landscapes, the second largest volcanic crater on earth, and colourful wildlife including flamingos and sea turtles. We haven't stayed overnight at this island but made a day visit to it during our multi-night cruise in 2013 and it was incredible! Transfers from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island can be pre-booked on Viator .

Book in advance or on arrival?

Accommodation in Galapagos is a bit pricier to book ahead online, but can be essential during peak travel periods such as Christmas and New Years. We've visited twice (in November and February) and booked accommodation on arrival during these visits. While not booking ahead is a gamble no matter what, you can usually determine how busy it is based on remaining availability on sites like Booking.com .

Keep in mind that in South America, many accommodation options are not listed online. Countless times while backpacking we would panic upon discovering no accommodation vacancies online, only to find that there were many (unlisted) places available when we arrived.  If you're hesitant to book on arrival , you can always book your first night or two and then explore your options when you get there.

For more tricks and websites to help get the best hotel rates when you travel, check out “ How to Book the Cheapest Hotel Possible “!

What if you don't book a last-minute cruise?

Put simply, being land-based is not a bad way to explore the Galapagos. If you aren't looking to visit remote islands or particular diving/spots sights, then you probably won't be disappointed with this option!

If you want to see the main highlights of Galapagos – sea lions, volcanic craters, tortoises, marine iguanas, glimmering beaches and the like – you can do all of this being land-based . Remember, you can also island hop to San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana without a tour, offering your own DIY island exploration.

Day tours are highly recommended (do at least a couple!). This will allow you to see islands that you can't access without a tour (which is the majority of them). Prices range from $70-$200+ USD and most include a meal (diving/snorkel trips are priciest). Bartolomé Island is an excellent tour for stunning scenery. South Plaza Island (Isla Plazas) showcases yellow land iguanas and gorgeous contrasts of red and green flora from cacti and shrubbery.

Besides booking tours, you can also visit beaches, lagoons, lava tubes, tortoise reserves entirely on your own. Keen to snorkel or kayak? You can even rent that gear yourself. For detailed ideas on how to explore the islands yourself, check out our article on cheap & free Galapagos activities .

tortoise

Eating cheap & local

Get off the tourist strip.

If you wander a bit, you'll find Mom and Pop restaurants lining the backstreets, just North of the tourist strip. Prices are around the $5 mark per meal. Take note these are true hole in the wall places (to keep well, check our health tips here to avoid food poisoning!).

When in doubt or lost in translation, just ask for the platos del dia or almuerzo (plate of the day) which is usually a tasty, filling combination of soup, salad, rice, and a meat (often fried fish or chicken). Yum!

Make or bring your own food & snacks

Making your own meals helps stretch the funds here. San Cristobal actually has a small grocery store where you can stockpile items like tuna, bread, and produce for a DIY picnic anywhere. Prices are still shockingly higher than the mainland, but these DIY meals are much cheaper than a meal on the tourist strip.

Keep in mind that you cannot bring any produce (e.g. fruit, veg) out of protection for the flora here. Even some packaged goods like nuts may be sacked by airport security.

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The Thrifty Gist

  • Consider a land-based approach to seeing Galapagos via day tours or free/cheap activities on your own
  • Avoid booking ahead for a multi-night cruise if you can
  • If booking a last minute cruise, be sure to bring cash and/or know your bank's daily withdrawal limit
  • Consider basic accommodation, pack some of your own meals, and/or check out local dining spots to cut costs. Save your budget for tours and exploring!

Related Posts

  • 10 Ways to Explore the Galapagos on a Budget
  • How to Plan Your Own Trip (& Save Big Travel Bucks)

Have you travelled the Galapagos on a shoestring? How did you cut costs? Have a general question or comment on how to do the islands cheaply? Share below!

Thrifty Nomads has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Thrifty Nomads and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Thanks for the info Jen. I have a couple of questions – do you have any advice/comments on a single woman travelling alone? and since day trips don’t go to some islands, would it be a good idea to check for day trips first and then maybe book a multi-day cruise to islands that don’t have day trips? thanks, Maggie

I was wondering how you would book a last minute cruise yet still be able to have nice accommodations in case you don’t find one.

Thanks, Mary

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  • Last-Minute Galapagos Cruises

We have last-minute availability and specials that change daily!  It would be almost impossible to keep it updated.  You can use the quick form on this page, email ([email protected]) or call (800-214-0579) to talk with our no-hassle Adventure Consultants and we'll find something perfect for you!

Find yourself craving an adventure, and craving it now? Jump on a last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands , exploring the enchanted isles and their fascinating wildlife, with Galapagos Unbound. We offer last-minute Galapagos cruises that take all of the pressure off of planning a trip so that you can simply book, pack and adventure on into one of the world’s most astounding destinations. Explore the Enchanted Isles aboard one of our carefully selected, Galapagos small ships   for an intimate size, incredible comfort, exceptional staff, world-class cuisine and, of course, Galapagos Island-hopping fun. When you’re not on board, hike the Galapagos Island’s lunar landscapes, trek its volcanoes and delve into its underbelly as you follow the twists of lava tunnels. With plentiful marine life, glistening waters and wildlife that isn’t just world-class but out-of-this-world, there’s plenty to explore offshore as well! Just because booking your Galapagos cruise is last-minute doesn’t mean your adventure needs to be.

We also have Galapagos vacation deals which doesn't always mean last-minute but does help the budget friendly traveler.  We also suggest checking out our multi-sport tours to get a good idea as to why we are an award-winning tour operator.

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If you’re looking for a cheap Galapagos Islands cruise or vacation you’re in the right place. We’ve sailed the breadth of the beautiful Galapagos archipelago and explored its astonishing islands to bring you the best Galapagos cruise deals and Galapagos Island vacation deals available.

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Don’t miss this great deal and get up to 15% discount when cruising the Galapagos aboard the Legend or the Coral I & II , Plus Free hotel nights in Quito!

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Special Discount of 12% - Galapagos Legend and Coral I & II Cruises

Special discount of 12% on the cruise when you travel with the Coral I & II or the Galapagos Legend. 

– To confirm a booking, a non-refundable deposit of USD $500 net per person per short cruise is required – Total balance must be fully paid 61 days prior to departure – Subject to availability, for more information please contact your Travel Specialist

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Save up to 10% when cruising the Galapagos with the Origin, Theory & Evolve. Valid for selected 2024 departure dates.

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Save up to $2,000 aboard the Endemic, Elite and Ocean Spray!!

Book before March 31, 2024 and save up to $2,000 per person on select departure dates, until March, 2024!!

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Get free air tickets to/from the Galápagos Islands when cruising aboard the Seaman Journey on all departures in July and August 2024!!!

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– subject to availability.

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Get 1 Free Night aboard the Endemic, Elite and Ocean Spray!

Book before March 31, 2023, and extend the length of your stay in your next Galapagos Cruise from September 1st to December 15th, 2024!!

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Up to 20% Off - Galaxy Sirius, Alya, EcoGalaxy, Galaxy Orion & Bonita Cruises

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Get 10% off per person for groups of 4 passengers or more, valid for all departures in June, July and August 2024. Book your next Galapagos Cruise before March 31, 2024 and don’t miss this great deal!!

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Get up to 50% Off aboard the Monserrat Yacht

Take a trip to the enchanted islands with a variety of our spectacular discounts of 20, 30, 40 and even 50% off per person! Valid for select 2024 departures in June, July, August and September!!

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– reservations must be confirmed, and deposits received no later than may 31st, 2024.

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Solo Reduced Rate on board the Origin, Theory & Evolve

Explore the Galapagos as we give solo special reduced rate of $11,949 instead of $17,999 with the stunning Origin, Theory & Evolve cruises on selected travel dates in 2024. Get more information about 2025 departure and prices with our Destination Specialists of Rainforest Cruises!!

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Chef Hosted Departures aboard the Origin, Theory and Evolve

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Galápagos Adventure: Snorkelling & Sea Lions

The Galápagos is amazing! G-adventure has a well-organized tour. The rooms are basic but have air conditioning.

Galápagos Express Adventure: Wilderness & Wildlife Tour

Galápagos Express Adventure: Wilderness & Wildlife

My tour guide was amazing! He is so passionate about The Galapagos. He took great care of us.

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An amazing 2 weeks holliday around The Galapagos and Ecuador, fantastic Tours and guides.
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10 Days Galapagos Highlights Small Group Tour Tour

10 Days Galapagos Highlights Small Group Tour

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7 Day Galapagos Island Hopping

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Galapagos Experience: 5 days Tour

Galapagos Experience: 5 days

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Ultimate Galapagos 6 Days Tour

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GALAPAGOS ISLANDS DISCOVERY TOUR 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS Tour

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS DISCOVERY TOUR 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS

Very personalized service. Each day we had awesome excursions and enjoyed every part of our Galapagos trip.

6-Day Galapagos Islands plus Bike, Kayak, Hike, Snorkel Tour

6-Day Galapagos Islands plus Bike, Kayak, Hike, Snorkel

Discover the best of Santa Cruz in a basic 4 days and 3 nights tour! Tour

Discover the best of Santa Cruz in a basic 4 days and 3 nights tour!

The islands are a step back in time. Felt like we were in a Jurassic parks movie with giant turtles iguanas and seals.

Highlights Of Quito and Galapagos Islands Tour

Highlights Of Quito and Galapagos Islands

The experience was great. Nearly everyone who assisted us was very helpful.

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This was a great tour, the galápagos is amazing! G-adventure has a well organized tour. There are some early morning days but they don't matter because you are in the Galápagos! The rooms are basic but have air conditioning which is good since it is very hot there. José was a fantastic guide and had so much knowledge about the islands. Definitely choose the add-on snorkeling trips they are worth it. I think the Galápagos needs to be on everyone's list.
lovely tour - very good itinerary and comfortable pace

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Updated daily. these offers sell out quickly, so contact us now, why should i book my last minute galápagos cruise deal with galapatours.

Because we're the Galápagos cruise deals experts! It's all we do. And because we don't use middlemen and deal direct with the boat owners and operators we guarantee to get you the best prices and to offer you the best last minute Galápagos cruise deals. Thanks to our great relationships with the cruise operators we can sometimes offer deep discounts of up to 50% off the full price, without any compromise in the quality of your Galápagos experience. Another reason to choose Galapatours is that we are a German travel company, operating under German and EU laws. This means that your money and travel plans are 100% safe and insured, even in the case of any insolvency or financial difficulty, giving you great peace of mind whether you are paying full price or taking advantage of one of our great last minute Galápagos cruise deals. So get in touch today and let one of our Galápagos expert travel advisors help you find your perfect adventure!

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Sometimes, quite a lot! We are able to offer last minute Galápagos cruise deals because we work directly with the boat owners and operators in the archipelago. If they have been unable to fill all cabins on a particular cruise with just a few weeks left to go, we are able to secure deductions on the price for our customers. These discounts can range from anywhere between 10% and up to as much as 40% off or more against the full prices that were previously offered.

It's important to note that price reductions are never guaranteed, and we would always recommend that you book as far in advance as possible in order to secure your perfect Galápagos cruise. However, if you are flexible with your travel arrangements and can be ready to leave for Ecuador at short notice, some of our last minute Galápagos cruises can represent astonishing value. They sell out very quickly, though, so if one of the deals on this page fits your needs you should contact us immediately to have the best chance of securing your places. If you are flexible on your dates then we may be able to offer even better Galápagos cruise deals. The important thing is to get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can secure the best prices for you.

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Go Backpacking

How to Book a Last Minute Cruise to the Galapagos Islands

By: Author Dave Lee

Posted on Last updated: January 27, 2024

I will share with you how to book a last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands based on my experience.

Here's a dirty little travel secret: you can show up at almost any popular tourist activity worldwide and save serious cash by taking advantage of last-minute deals to book your trip.

Whether hiring a Nepali guide and porter for a trek to Everest Base Camp or going on safari in Africa, rare will be the occasion you can't get started within a few days of arrival.

Blue Footed Boobies are a beloved symbol of the Galapagos Islands.

Before I dive into how you can visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site, I'd like to offer a disclaimer.

Results will vary significantly due to variables, from the time of year to tourism trends and the degree of desperation boat owners demonstrate at any given time to fill remaining beds before a cruise departs.

Table of Contents

Water Temperatures

Peak tourism, migratory patterns, puerto ayora, santa cruz island, length of cruises, economy / tourist class – least expensive, 1st class – most popular, deluxe / luxury class, cruise ships, my experience, itemized list of all my expenses.

Due to their proximity to the Equator, the weather on the Galapagos Islands remains relatively constant, making it a great year-round destination.

However, there are still a few factors to consider when deciding when to go.

While the air temperatures may remain relatively constant, there are hot and cold seasons based on ocean currents.

Warm Wet Season = Late December to June

Cold Dry Season  = Late June to December

If you plan to go scuba diving or take advantage of snorkeling opportunities (as almost everyone does), the warm water season is the best time to book a cheap Galapagos cruise.

During the cold water season, you can still get in the water. However, you'll probably be more comfortable renting a wetsuit from your boat (or bringing your own).

The high season for tourism is June to August due to the summer holiday season in North America and Europe.

Expect cruise rates and, therefore, last-minute prices to be higher during this time, and you may need a little extra time to book your preferred boat.

Some wildlife species are only present in and around the islands at certain times of the year due to their migrations.

If you have your heart set on seeing whales or a specific type of bird off the coast of Isabella Island, do your research in advance.

For example, the giant waved albatross is not typically seen from December to mid-March.

Where to Buy a Galapagos Island Tour

Backpackers in Puerto Ayora, The Galapagos

There are three main cities where travelers are best off shopping around for and booking their last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands.

The Mariscal neighborhood around Plaza Foch in Quito has a high density of hostels, hotels, restaurants, bars, and tour agencies.

You can easily walk out of your hostel and spend a few hours collecting quotes and special offers from tour agencies, searching for the best price to make an informed decision.

While booking from Quito may be the easiest option, it will not necessarily offer you the best deals.

If you're serious about saving a few hundred dollars off the price of a cruise, you can arrange your flight(s) to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island (home to giant tortoises) and then shop around for very last-minute cruises.

The longer you can wait before a cruise departs, the more likely you will get a bargain basement price.

Don't sit on a quote you like too long because someone else can put down a deposit at any time, and you'll either have to wait longer or go with an otherwise second or third choice.

For example, one Australian couple I know flew to Puerto Ayora and booked their 8-day cruise there. They learned everyone had paid a different rate on their boat, from $800 to $1,200.

Unfortunately, I don't know which boat class they used; however, based on the price, it was either Economy/Tourist Class or, more likely, a 1st Class motor yacht.

Puerto Ayora is a tiny town and not particularly picturesque; however, you can make many inexpensive day trips, such as visiting the Darwin Research Center or Tortuga Bay, to kill time before your cruise departs.

Be forewarned that these two popular spots may also appear on cruise itineraries.

There are several decent Internet cafes in town. Rooms can be had for $20/night, and if you avoid tourist restaurants and eat with the locals, you can get by on $5 per meal.

Located on the coast, Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city and is considered more dangerous than Quito.

There's no central tourist area to compare with Mariscal in Quito, so shopping at different agencies to compare last-minute Galapagos cruise deals isn't as easy.

While you may save $40 on your airfare to/from the islands by flying out of Guayaquil, it's the least attractive location to book your last-minute cruise, let alone kill time before flying there.

Most (non-diving) cruises are sold for five or eight days, and the last day of the cruise is short, so you're better off thinking of them as four- and 7-day cruises.

To go a step further, the first day is only a half-day, so choosing a 5-day cruise equates to 3 full days, while an 8-day cruise equates to 6 full days.

A cruise around the Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most travelers, so I highly recommend the 8-day cruise to make the most of your visit.

The more walks you go on and the more snorkeling you do, the higher your chances of seeing all the fascinating wildlife.

Another option is to take the 5-day cruise and tack on some extra time, in the end, to explore independently or do some scuba diving through another company.

Types of Ships

Estrella del Mar - a typical 1st class motor yacht, which is a common choice for a last minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands.

The most significant variable in determining how much you pay for a last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands will be the class of boat you choose.

Finding out what others paid to their cruise operators is meaningless unless you also ask which boat they took.

In addition to the class of boat, which equates to the comfort level and quality of service, there are three main styles:

  • Motor yacht

Sailboats are primarily for show and are often powered by their motors more than the wind.

Motor yachts are the most common boat. And modern catamarans offer increased stability for those who are prone to seasickness.

The best options for budget travelers are the Economy and 1st Class motor yachts.

The economy class boats offer the Galapagos experience for those with the least money to spend.

Comfort, quality of food, and itineraries are all sacrificed to some degree when you choose these budget cruises.

Slower boats, such as the old sailboats, will not have itineraries as varied as the faster boats. These boats carry 12-16 passengers.

Within the category of 1st Class are a wide variety of small yachts.

Therefore, some websites and tour operators break them out into the lower, middle, and higher levels to further delineate the quality of service and justify the pricing.

From a marketing standpoint, this makes sense — getting on a “1st Class” boat sounds much better to customers than an “Economy” one!

The good news is even the lower-level 1st Class yachts are sufficient (if not entirely enjoyable) in terms of comfort, food, and quality of service by the crew.

For example, I experienced both Eden and Estrella del Mar and can say that while each had its pros and cons, they both met my expectations, if not exceeded them.

Common features included:

  • Nice interior design
  • Comfortable cabins and bathrooms
  • Good air-conditioning
  • Great and varied food
  • Friendly staff

These boats can carry a small group of 12-16 passengers.

Queen Beatriz - a typical Deluxe catamaran

Check out the Galapagos luxury cruises if you can afford to splash out on your adventure at sea.

These yachts and catamarans offer the highest quality service and the best-educated naturalists (who will also speak the best English).

And if you're looking for a jacuzzi on deck, these are the small ships for you.

National Geographic's Endeavour

Larger ships like the National Geographic Endeavour II offer luxury and stability that smaller boats can't compete with.

Larger boats also mean more passengers, which may be the preference of some visitors to the Islands.

I recommend getting quotes for all boats available when shopping around.

Don't be scared away by rates you see published online. Remember, you've got the advantage of booking at the last minute, at potentially significant savings!

You may get a great, last-minute deal on a Deluxe catamaran for the price of a typical 1st Class boat.

Itineraries

Itinerary for the visit to Espanola Island in the Galapagos.

When I was getting quotes for my last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands, I found the faster, more expensive yachts often have plans focused on only encircling Isabella Island.

Isabella is the largest island on the western side of the Galapagos archipelago.

The coldest water passes along Isabella's western coast, which means it's suitable for whale watching, and there's also the chance to see dolphins, in addition to much of the same wildlife you can see on the smaller islands.

However, even some smaller, 1st Class boats have fabulous itineraries.

I initially chose Eden, for example, because it was one of the few boats to visit the small, northern island of Genovesa on an 8-day cruise.

It's a very out-of-the-way island home to the world's largest colony of red-footed boobies, among many other birds.

Unfortunately, that yacht had a mechanical problem the first day, and we missed out on Genovesa as it wasn't on our new boat's, Estrella del Mar's, itinerary.

As a result of that experience, we learned that it takes a minimum of eight days for the park services to approve changes to cruise itineraries.

If something goes wrong, there's little chance your boat will be able to make up for it on another day.

All itineraries will ensure you have plenty of fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. So, if you get dizzy looking at and comparing them all, don't worry too much about it.

The itinerary of any given boat is a more significant factor if you're dead set on seeing certain types of birds or wildlife, such as the whales, which are only around Isabella Island, and the red-footed boobies on Genovesa.

My Favorite Island

Of my 8-day itinerary, the best day was spent on Espanola Island, where we could snorkel with wild sea lions , see red and green “Christmas” marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies , Galapagos hawks, frigate birds, and the waved albatross.

Related Expenses

The airport runway on Santa Cruz Island

The boat cost may be the most significant single expense if you want to book a last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands; however, there are additional costs to budget. Luckily, these are all well-known and easy to account for.

  • $430 – Roundtrip Airfare to/from Islands (this is slightly less in the Low Tourist season or if you fly out of Guayaquil vs. Quito). I was informed you could try to book the airfare yourself and note you're an Ecuadorian to get about a 50% lower rate. However, if they call you out on this at the airport, you'll be required to pay the difference on the spot.
  • $100 – Galapagos National Park entrance fee (paid on arrival at the airport)
  • $10 – Airport fee (paid at the airport from which you depart the mainland)
  • $100+  Tip for the guide and boat crew. The rule of thumb is to tip at least $10 per day, split between the guide and boat crew. At the end of your cruise, you'll receive two envelopes for divvying up the cash. Tip more if you had a great time!
  • $30 – Wetsuit rental for a week. Necessary during the cold water season and a good idea any time if you're prone to sunburn. The boats carry a range of full and half-length sizes to rent.
  • $30 – Snorkel rental for a week. On nicer boats, this fee is included in the overall cost of the cruise, so make sure you find out when you're getting quotes. Or bring your own.
  • Bar Tab – On lower level 1st Class yachts, the beers were $2.50, and cocktails $4-$5.
  • Souvenirs – You'll have a few souvenir shopping opportunities in towns like Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

Ecuador is very much a cash-based economy, so unless you want to pay high fees to pay for your trip with a credit card, expect to make a few large withdrawals from the local ATMs. The good news is the official currency is the U.S. dollar.

I booked my trip through Sangay Tours, which was recommended to me by Uncornered Market , and I'm happy to recommend them as well.

When I booked, they charged a 10% fee for using credit cards and a 4% fee for using PayPal.  

If you have a debit card that charges a lesser foreign transaction fee, such as 1%, it'll make sense to take money out via ATM and pay in cash.

Depending on your daily withdrawal limit, this may require multiple trips to the ATM and travel office, which is another reason to book your trip in Quito or Puerto Ayora.

There should be no fee for paying the airline ticket via credit or debit card.

Related: Packing List for the Galapagos Islands

Preparing to board the Eden our 1st day

Total Cost of My 8-Day Galapagos Cruise

As soon as I'd announced my pending cruise to the Galapagos Islands, I started getting questions about how much the trip cost me, both from those who were planning to go and those who'd been.

I confirmed my spot on the last-minute Galapagos cruise four days before it departed.

  • $1,550 – an 8-day cruise on a (lower level) 1st Class motor yacht. The first night was spent on Eden, with the remaining six on Estrella del Mar. The rate includes transport between the airport and boat on the Galapagos, snorkel equipment, 7-night onboard accommodation, and three meals daily. Paid in cash.
  • $428.60 – Roundtrip airfare from Quito to Santa Cruz Island via TAME Airlines. Paid on a debit card.
  • $10 – Quito airport departure / park-related fee. Paid in cash.
  • $100  – Galapagos Park fee. Paid in cash.
  • $30 – Wetsuit rental for the week. I paid in cash on the first day on the boat.
  • $3 – Souvenir stone-carved sea turtle.
  • $21 – Drinks and ice cream in a few towns we visited.
  • $9 – Yacht bar tab (I was so tired from activities that I didn't drink much alcohol).
  • $110  – Tips for guide and yacht staff, paid in cash.

My Total Cost = $2,261.60

This was the most I've ever paid for a single tour; however, it was a unique experience. I enjoyed learning about the Islands' history, geology, and wildlife.

I hope this information proves helpful when planning your last-minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands.

cheap galapagos cruise

Dave is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Go Backpacking and Feastio . He's been to 66 countries and lived in Colombia and Peru. Read the full story of how he became a travel blogger.

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Sunday 21st of May 2017

Does it matter if we land in Baltra or San Cristobal while waiting to find a cruise?

Monday 15th of May 2017

Hi Dave! I think your article is very useful and thanks for the tips. How important is the size of the ship? I heard that if you choose small ships (16-20 guests) you cannot have different activities to choose. What if I cannot do snorkeling and want to do glass bottom boat? or if I want to stay at the beach while my husband goes kayaking... what do you recommend? I would like an option that offers different type of activities to choose. Thanks!

Personally I don't think it makes a difference. I was on the boat called Samba which was known to be smallish but most activities are on land or are snorkeling etc anyway so it makes no difference ad to how big the boat is. I don't see how a glass bottom boat add much to it really. Much better to be on land or in the water with the wildlife. I'm sure I remember kayaking being possible to do on the samba. I would thoroughly recommend it the service was excellent being an intimate small group

Hi Bernarda,

That may be the case, yes. I did not research larger cruise ship type services so I can't speak to the options you would have with them.

I can say from my experience on the smaller motor yacht that our group stuck together for most of the excursions -- whether snorkeling in the water or walking on land. I did skip one snorkel out of the four or so times it was offered. But the boat is so small and you already spend so much time on it, I think most folks appreciate the chances to get off it to see the wildlife more closely.

Yuliya Pyankova

Saturday 28th of January 2017

thank you for your review! I am planning to go to Galapagos very soon, in February, and your report gives a lot of useful info! I just have one question: do you think that you can get a better last minute deal in Quito or in Santa Cruz? I saw opinions that if you go directly to the office of the boat company, you will get a lower price. But I don't really want to spend time in Quito or Guayaqill, and would prefer the isles

Monday 30th of January 2017

I don't blame you for wanting to limit time in Quito or Guayaquil. I don't know. I doubt it will make a significant difference. What matters most is you're in Ecuador and have some flexibility with your time.

Carmen Everywhere

Tuesday 23rd of February 2016

Galapagos Island- now that is the place to be. I just hope they have not ruined the pristine beauty of that place. The photos seems it has become quite commercial now. Certainly not what Darwin would have encountered, eh? I will happily be proved wrong though.

Monday 28th of December 2015

I have found the information you have provided very useful. I'm travelling to Ecuador with my husband and two teenage children and will be arriving on Saturday 9th January 2016 and want to book an 8 day tour of the Galapagos. As cost is an issue (paying for 4 passengers) we would like to book a last minute cruise from Quito when we arrive but only have a window of 13 days to go.

Will the tour agencies be open on the Saturday when we arrive in Quito at about 3-4pm as booking a cruise will be our priority on arrival and we don't want to have to wait until Monday to book.

Please let me know - I'm hopeful this won't be too busy a time of year and we will be able to get something at a reasonable price.

Saturday 16th of January 2016

Was wondering how your trip went and if you did 5 or 8 day cruise as I'm thinking of 3/2016 with my son.

The Adventures of Nicole

How to Score a Cheap Galapagos Cruise

Updated November 202 3,   How to Score a Cheap Galapagos Cruise was originally written in May 2017

The Galapagos Islands are notoriously known for being a must-visit destination. It’s a sought-after, remote, well-known, and world-renowned destination. Its popularity means that a lot of trips and cruises are fully booked well in advance so it can be hard to plan a last-minute trip there. But did you know you can take a Galapagos cruise for much much less than the advertised prices you see online?

The following tips are going to give you advice on how to get a last-minute Galapagos Cruise.

Remember, that if you pre-book a cruise online you will most likely pay exponentially more money for it, however, you get that comfortable feeling that things are squared away and all you gotta do is show up. But remember convenience comes with a price tag. 

For example, one couple we met on our catamaran that did so because they had very limited time paid double what we did to be on our catamaran for only 4 days (we were on it for 8)!

If you’re just starting to plan your trip to the Galapagos, I recommend picking up a copy of Bradt’s Ecuador & Galapagos .

So, to cut the fat and get to the goods, here it is

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Need Travel Insurance and Evacuation Services for Ecuador & Galapagos?

Start shopping for travel insurance plans over at  IATI Insurance . Readers of the Adventures of Nicole get a 5% discount off your plan.

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How to Take a Cheap Galapagos Cruise

These four simple tips will help you get the best price on your Galapagos cruise.

1. Bring that Cash Money

US dollars are the official currency in Ecuador. Bring the maximum dollar amount you’d be willing to pay when you’re going from agency to agency. You can book last-minute cheap Galapagos cruises after you arrive in the islands, as well as at agencies in Quito or from Guayaquil.

Personally, we ended up booking a super last-minute deal in Puerto Ayora. We flew into Baltra, took the bus and ferry across to the island of Santa Cruz, were dropped off in Puerto Ayora, got a room for the night, met a fun couple staying there, and headed out to the Charles Darwin Station with them for the afternoon, then came back to our hotel, changed clothes and headed out to score our cheap Galapagos Cruise.

30 minutes, 1 agency, and  $1,200 each ($2,400 total)  later, we were set up to leave the very next morning on an 8-day, tourist-superior class, all-inclusive, cruise of the Galapagos Islands with a private cabin on a 16 passenger catamaran, the S/C Solitario Jorge in  June of 2016- yep friends, that’s the high season!  That comes out to  $150 a day each  for all accommodations, meals, and activities.

2. Come with flexible time constraints

Wanting to take a 5-day cruise but only booked roundtrip tickets that will put you on the islands for 5 days and it’s the high season? Well, that’s was your first mistake. You need wiggle room if you want to get a cheap Galapagos Cruise. If you turn up at a booking agent with rigid timeframes these guys will sniff it out.

We went into the agent we purchased from and asked which cruises were leaving in the near future and what their lengths and stops were.

3. Don’t be scared to haggle

If you’ve been traveling Ecuador or South America prior to your Galapagos arrival you likely know this song and dance is just a way of life here. What’s the worst? The agent says no and won’t budge.

There’s a plethora of agencies around Puerto Ayora (or Quito and Guayaquil if you’re still on the mainland), so you can always pick up and move along to the next one. Knowledge of the Spanish language here is beneficial.

The agent I booked with only knew a few words of English, but I knew enough Spanish to communicate my needs and to barter a price with him.

4. Know what you want

Are you willing to go on a more economical-style catamaran trip? Or are you expecting luxury?

Willing to share a cabin with a stranger/strangers? How many days? Which islands and locations do you want to visit?

These preferences will, of course, make a big difference in what kind of price you’ll pay. Personally, I’m not fussed about much, so we opted for a catamaran that could only take up to 16 passengers (a small group is more my style anyway).

We didn’t even ask if we would be sharing a cabin with anyone else because quite frankly, we didn’t come to the Galapagos to sleep in solitude- we came for the wildlife and the unusual landscapes. We did end up with our own cabin that had a private toilet/shower and air conditioning.

I knew I wanted a minimum week-long Cruise. So when we found an 8-day catamaran to the eastern islands I was sold.

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Bonus Tip #1: Visit in the offseason

June to September and Christmas/New Year (late December and early January) are the peak seasons. The benefit is that there are tons of ships, yachts, and catamarans leaving daily, but prices tend to be a little higher.

June to September is officially the dry and cool season and the best time for wildlife viewing. December to June is the wet season so more showers and warmer temperatures can be expected, but this is when the landscapes are most lush.

My best friend’s parents spent 3 weeks in the Galapagos in February 2016 and scored an amazingly cheap deal on a last-minute cruise seeing that it’s the rainy offseason and that they had tons of time to play with.

Bonus Tip #2: BYOB

Yup, bring your own booze! (or soft drinks if you enjoy them). On our catamaran, a beer or glass of wine would set you back $3 apiece and an 8oz bottle Coke, Fanta, or Sprite $1.50 each, which isn’t astronomical, but it adds up if you’re a drinker.

Bonus Tip #3: Ask to see your vessel before you pay

Sometimes these offers for a cheap Galapagos cruise are too good to be true. If the price is rock-bottom and way lower than what would fall within the ‘normal’ price range for a cheap Galapagos cruise, it may be for a reason.

There are passenger accounts online for being booked onto a problematic yacht, catamaran, or ship. Anywhere from rooms that smell so awful you can’t be in it without gagging to downright dangerous damages to the vessel.

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Don’t forget to tip the crew!

These guys bust their asses to make sure you have a great trip. It’s not required but it is very much appreciated.

We actually are still good friends with our naturalist guide Andreas (he’s seriously one of the BEST guides I’ve had the world over) he even came to Alaska a few months later and stayed at our house  (of course I missed him because I was off traveling again).

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What to be wary of

Is the price too good to be true? It likely is.

When shopping around expect 5 day cruise deals to come in around the $750 to $1,800 range depending on the cruise class. If prices are extremely low it can be a bad sign.

It could include an unqualified guide, poor equipment, or an unreliable ship  (yes, the occasional shipwreck does and can happen out here) . It’s a good idea when booking to ask to see the yacht, ship, or catamaran before you agree to book.

Know what’s included. Typically most cruises will include meals, tours, and snorkel gear. Scuba trips and alcohol are usually an additional fee. Know before you pay.

My cruise included meals, snorkel gear, and all tours. Scuba gear was onboard but did cost extra if anyone wanted to go diving, wet suits were onboard and available for an extra fee for the duration of the trip, and alcohol/soda was extra.

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Unavoidable costs

  • $300-500 roundtrip from Quito/Guayaquil airfare.  Let’s face it, you can’t swim to the Galapagos. It is possible to use airline miles to get out to the Galapagos, that would be the only possible cheaper way.
  • $100 per person Park Fee (children are $50).  Upon arrival at the Santa Cruz Airport, you will be charged this fee that  MUST BE PAID IN CASH . When we arrived there were a couple of people that didn’t know and didn’t have the cash to pay the fee. They were allowed to continue to Santa Cruz, but passports would be held there at the airport as collateral until they returned to the airport with fee money in cash. There have been rumors for the last few years of it being increased eventually to $200 or $300 per person.
  • $3.00-21.00 for the ferry+bus/taxi from the Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora.  Once you have paid your national park fee and grabbed your luggage, head outside, and catch the free bus to the Itabaca Channel where you will get on the ferry that takes you across to Santa Cruz Island. When you get to the Channel, take your luggage and put it on the roof of the ferry and then get on. Someone will come around and collect the $1 fee. Once across to the Santa Cruz side you can either wait for the bus or grab one of the white taxi trucks. The bus will set you back $2.00 and drop you in downtown Puerto Ayora. A taxi should cost about $20 to Puerto Ayora.
  • $10-100’s for accommodations.  Accommodation costs can vary widely. You will likely need to stay at least a night before or after catching your cruise. There are a few  Couchsurfing  hosts in Puerto Ayora, so free accommodation is possible, a couple of hostels offer rooms for as little as $10 per night per bed (although $20/night per dorm bed is average), private single rooms $25/n on average, $40/n on average for a double. Hotels can run the gamut from $50 to hundreds per night. Camping is possible typically with a guide and permissions from the national park (but this comes with a price tag).
  • $1 on up for meals.  Food costs can vary widely depending on your budget, where you want to eat, and how long you’ll be on land before you get on your likely all-meals-included cheap Galapagos cruise. It’s possible to eat for as little as a few dollars per day as there are tiendas and even a supermarket in Puerto Ayora where you can purchase provisions and prepare your own meals. There is a street of local restaurants off the main road where cheap dishes can be eaten, usually, a full meal will set you back $4. Expect to pay typical prices you’d pay in the US, Canada, or Europe at restaurants in the main tourist area in downtown Puerto Ayora.

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But what about being land-based and doing day tours?

If you’re on a budget and cruise prices even at last minute are too high for what you’re working with being land-based is an option.

After quizzing my best friend’s parents, as well as numerous people I know back home who have gone to the Galapagos and did both cruises and land-based activities the consensus was:  it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most people, SPLURGE ON A CRUISE!

My best friend’s parents spent 21 days in the Galapagos, 12 were onboard a ship, the remaining was spent doing day trips around the islands. While they said they enjoyed the day trips they did, they felt the cruise was a much more valuable experience as being land-based and day-tripping out can really limit your options as to where you can realistically visit.

Another thing to remember that if you do decide to ultimately stay land-based that you will be paying for your accommodation, meals, and tours.

Tours can range from $50-$200 per day, (most hover around $100 pp/per day), accommodation can range from free if Couchsurfing to $25 per night for a private room and up to the hundreds of dollars per night range, and of course meals will range depending on your preferences.

This can rack up to the same cost or more per day than a last-minute cruise would cost you if you’re not careful with your expenditures.

Some savvy travelers report doing all this on less than $50 per day per person. Which for two people comes out to less than the cost of one person per day on the catamaran I went on.

A great comparison to read is  Flora the Explorer’s  trips to the Galapagos on both land-based and cruise trips. She really highlights the pros/cons of each.

It is possible to fly to/or out of either Baltra or San Cristobal and take ferries between the main islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Floreana, and Isabela and create sort of a DIY super cheap Galapagos cruise. You can do day tours from each location to get a mixture of different areas and islands.

Each of those four islands offers free hiking, areas you can snorkel independently and of course, wildlife hasn’t cashed in on charging fees to view them, however, visiting other islands beyond those four listed you usually need permissions from the national park and be accompanied by a guide.

Wanna check out ferry schedules and costs?  Read this post .

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Where to stay on Santa Cruz

Galapagos Best Hostel |  Hotels.com  |

Hotel Coloma Galapagos |  Booking.com  |  Hotels.com  |

Hotel Acacia |  Booking.com  |  Agoda.com  |

Where to stay on San Cristobal

Hospedaje Arvakeni |  Booking.com  |  Agoda.com  |

Galapagos Eco-Friendly |  Booking.com  |  Hotels.com  |

Casa Opuntia |  Booking.com  |  Hotels.com  |

Where to stay on Isabela

Posada del Caminante |  Booking.com  |  Hotels.com  |

Drake Inn |  Booking.com  |  Hotels.com  |

Cormorant Beach House |  Booking.com  |  Hotels.com  |

Wanna shop various Galapagos excursions?  Click here!

How I feel about the cheap Galapagos cruise I took?

We were both very happy with our catamaran trip of the Galapagos. I feel we saw all the wildlife and all the landscapes we had come to see. I actually do not feel a need to ever go back to the Galapagos and for good reason: because we saw so much.

I don’t feel we missed anything at all. Of course, we didn’t get to experience the western islands of the Galapagos because the cruises were on their three-week trips to the east (The national park allows boats in the east for 3 weeks, and then the west for 3 weeks to give wildlife breaks from the boats).

I was thoroughly happy with what I experienced on the eastern islands. We had an amazing guide who was knowledgeable on anything Galapagos (he was born and grew up on Santa Cruz).

I was also impressed with how well regulated the park is and what is being done to conserve the environment and protect it from the impacts of tourism.

Have any questions about cheap Galapagos cruises?

Ask your Galapagos cruise and Galapagos budget questions in the comments section below!

More Posts from Ecuador:

Paritutu Beach, Taranaki, New Zealand, New Plymouth, Snapper Rock, Motuotamatea

The Best Road Trips In The World

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2 thoughts on “How to Score a Cheap Galapagos Cruise”

Hi Nicole, my husband and I have paid for our flights into Baltra (early ) on 23 Oct 2022 and fly out early Tues 08 Nov 2022 from Baltra. I’ve seen that Discovery Galápagos Travel have quite an active facebook presence, so I will contact them (and any other local TAs that I can find easily on fb, etc). Husband and I want to do as long a trip as possible that goes to Genovese. We realise that we’ve allowed plenty of time for a decent 8 days – or even longer, as we have flexibility to get the best price, hopefully. Do you have any specific recommendations for boats and agencies ? regards. We’re coming from New Zealand, and have never done a big trip like this ! regards, Pam .

A company “Barefoot Expeditions” I know is going everywhere giving the benefit of a tour at a very low cost. which offers Incredible deals on Galapagos Islands Tours, Ecuador Tours.

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The Best Galápagos Island Cruises

A cruise is one of the best ways to see all that this remote Ecuadorian archipelago has to offer.

cheap galapagos cruise

There's no better way to cover ground on your trip to the Galápagos Islands than to sail on a multiday cruise.

Galápagos National Park regulates the number and type of tourist boats that are allowed to operate in the famously biodiverse area. This helps with overcrowding, conserving the environment, and minimizing stress on the amazing wildlife of the Galápagos. Many tourist boats in the area offer five- to seven-day all-inclusive itineraries that are strictly monitored by the national park officials. There are also cruises operating illegally, so you have to take care when choosing a tour.

To help you find a cruise fit for your wildest dreams, we've rounded up 14 of the best options, whether you prefer a small ship or bigger vessel, an action-packed itinerary or a casual drift around this remote archipelago in the Pacific.

Small Galápagos Cruises

Most of the cruise ships in the Galápagos Islands carry fewer than 20 passengers. These vessels, typically motor yachts, can't provide some of the luxurious amenities available on larger ships, but they do ensure personalized service, a more intimate experience, and quicker trips on and off the boat.

Quasar Grace

The 18-passenger Grace was once owned by Grace Kelly. She and Prince Rainier spent part of their honeymoon on the motor yacht, and now you can sleep in their bedroom, the Grace Kelly Suite, which is one of nine rooms aboard. The ship sails three routes, taking eight to 15 days, and guests get plenty of snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, and panga rides along the way.

Ecoventura Letty

The Letty is one of the best full-service motor yachts in the Galápagos for value. This 20-passenger boat is a solid option with great service and comfortable accommodations. A trip on the Letty promises a 10 guest-per-guide ratio, as well as dinner with the captain. You get a choice between two seven-day itineraries, each including opportunities to snorkel, hike, and learn about the local wildlife from knowledgeable guides.

Ecoventura Origin

The 20-passenger Origin is like a floating boutique hotel. All 10 cabins are on the same deck, there’s an open-bar policy, and Wi-Fi is available on board. A unique hull design means this ship is also one of the most fuel-efficient in the Galápagos. Like the Letty , Ecoventura's Origin sails two routes around the archipelago, each lasting eight days and providing plenty of chances to get up close to nature.

Medium Galápagos Ships

If you're stuck between whether to book your cruise on a small ship or a large vessel — both have their advantages — one of these medium-sized boats accommodating 20 to 50 passengers could be the best of both worlds. You'll enjoy more space, a larger group to mingle with, and sometimes a wider variety of activities and services to accommodate more people.

Quasar Evolution

The 32-passenger Evolution was designed by Adriana Hoyos, a furniture and interior designer renowned for her work on luxury hotels across the Americas. Its cabins have a contemporary boutique-hotel aesthetic. There are indoor and outdoor lounges, a bar, and a library. Passengers can choose between three itineraries, ranging from eight to 15 days and taking different routes around the Galápagos.

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Islander II

All cabins on the 48-passenger National Geographic Islander II have windows, and some even have private patios. The ship offers deck hammocks, Wi-Fi, and food made with ingredients sourced from farms in the Galápagos whenever possible. Itineraries range from seven to 12 days and include cultural experiences in addition to wildlife viewing and water sports.

Large Galápagos Ships

Galápagos National Park officials have set a maximum of 100 passengers per vessel, so these are some of the largest ships in the archipelago. Travelers may opt for a larger-capacity cruise ship for more space (such as bigger hallways and staircases for easier movement around the ship) and increased services like an onboard doctor. The downside of traveling on a large ship is the time it can take to complete transfers by zodiac from the boat to the islands. Also, some areas of the Galápagos may be off limits to larger ships.

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Endeavour II

The 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour II has Wi-Fi, a doctor, SUP gear, a clear-bottom zodiac, a free digital photo kiosk with iMacs, and a spa. Like the Islander II, food brought from the mainland is carefully prepared and packaged to prevent the introduction of invasive species to the Galápagos Islands.

Celebrity Flora

The 100-passenger Celebrity Flora features all of the design elements, amenities, and services of its sibling ships and then some. It has two 1,288-square-foot penthouse suites (the largest in the Galápagos), naturalist-guided stargazing sessions, and outdoor cabanas that you can reserve for a unique glamping experience.

Silversea Silver Origin

The 100-passenger Silver Origin is an all-suite ship with accommodations up to 1,722 square feet, some with in-room espresso machines and mini-bars, private verandas, and butler service. Tips are included in the price. The ship also has a fitness center, a spa, a communal fire pit, and two restaurants. There are more than 100 cruise options, some lasting as long as 18 days.

Galápagos Catamarans

These small boats have a unique hull design, like the dual parallel runners of a sled, that many believe makes catamarans more stable in the water.

Celebrity Xploration

The 16-passenger Celebrity Xploration is arguably the most luxurious catamaran in the Galápagos. Its eight suites and junior suites feature extras like binoculars, personal refrigerators, a pillow menu, and room service. The catamaran cruises two routes, a northern route and a southern route, both lasting seven nights.

Anahi Yacht Catamaran

The Anahi has eight rooms accommodating up to 16 passengers, including two spacious suites. Travelers can expect traditional yacht design details, like polished wooden floors and portrait windows. There are multiple itineraries to choose from, each stopping off at different islands and exploring different parts of the Galápagos. The cruises range in duration from four to 15 days.

Royal Galapagos Cormorant II

The Cormorant II can carry 16 passengers in nine cabins, all with private balconies. Some of the suites even come with walk-in closets and their own Jacuzzi tubs. Travelers can opt for a four- to eight-day cruise with inclusive excursions such as snorkeling, kayaking, and glass-bottom boat tours.

Live-aboard Dive Boats

If you’re a certified scuba diver, a live-aboard dive boat might be for you. These boats are built to accommodate the specific needs (and gear) of divers, and they navigate special routes and itineraries that include top dive sites. The Galápagos is home to whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, spotted eagle rays, manta rays, sunfish, and many other marine creatures.

Explorer Ventures Humboldt Explorer and Tiburon Explorer

Explorer Ventures ' two live-aboard vessels, the Humboldt Explorer and Tiburon Explorer , accommodate 16 passengers each. The Humboldt has a large dive deck, which makes it easier to get into and out of your dive gear. The eight-day excursion includes up to 19 dives and the 11-day excursion includes up to 28.

Galápagos Nortada

The 84-foot Nortada has only four cabins and can sleep eight guests. Passengers can congregate on the bridge, the galley, or in the dining room and lounge. Dive trips last either seven or 14 nights, and itineraries include up to four dives a day.

Galápagos Aggressor III

The Aggressor ships have been cruising around the Galápagos Islands since 1993. The Galápagos Aggressor III accommodates 16 passengers. Charters last a week and include four dives a day plus two land excursions.

Related Articles

Galapagos Islands Visitor Sites Map

The Galapagos Islands, thanks to their location and formation, are home to some of the most incredible volcanic landscapes and also to unique and endemic wildlife that has migrated and evolved in this archipelago. The following map will give you a precise location of every visitor site in the Galapagos. By clicking on the red spot next to the site’s name you will be lead to a brief description of the sightseeing.

Main Islands and Islets of the Galapagos

Every island in the Galapagos has its own particularity, history, animal species, or natural volcanic formations that make them stand from each other. Below you will find a description that highlights the most important feature of every island, as well as links that will lead you to other visitor sites comprehended by the island.

Baltra Island

Baltra Island

Baltra, also known as South Seymour, is a small flat island located near the center of the Galapagos. Baltra is home to one of two airports connecting Galapagos with mainland Ecuador and is the point of arrival for most travelers to the Islands. More about Baltra

Back to top

Darwin Island

Darwin Island

Often coined "the best dive site in the world", Darwin Island is an underwater circus with stars like whale sharks, hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, pods of dolphins, and a few killer whales and tiger sharks making guest appearances!

Visitor sites:

  • Dawin's Arch

Española Island

Española Island

Española Island is located at the extreme southeast of the archipelago. Relatively flat with small hills, a group of geologists found signs of volcanic activity in the 1980s. Vegetation on the island includes many thorny plants and native animals include the waved albatross, marine iguanas, and lava lizards. More about Española

  • Osborn Islet
  • Gardner Bay/Islet
  • Suarez Point

Genovesa Island

Genovesa Island

Genovesa Island is located at the inner part of Darwin Bay. This area contains an abundance of frigatebirds and other interesting seabirds. Behind the small beach filled with nesting areas for frigates, red-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls are a number of tide pools. At high tide it is likely that the trail will be covered with water. More about Genovesa

  • El Barranco/Prince Phillip's Steps

Mosquera Islet

Mosquera Islet

Located between the islands of Baltra and North Seymour, this reef of rocks and coral (the result of an uprising) is only 160 meters across at its narrowest width. This island has one of the largest populations of sea lions and is home to many shorebirds. There have been occasional reports at this site of Orcas feeding on sea lions.

Rabida Island

Rabida Island

Rabida is one of the most colorful and volcanically varied islands in the archipelago and a great snorkeling site. Its famous maroon sandy beach and stunning lookouts provide wonderful landscapes. The island is a birdwatcher's delight. Some of the rarest species are in abundance, such as nine varieties of finches, large-billed flycatchers, Galapagos hawks and brown pelicans.

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island

Home to the largest town in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora, the Island has a large variety of vegetation. Pit craters, Scalesia Forest, cacti and ferns are found in its vegetation zones. The island is comprised of a younger part formed by volcanic cones and lava and an older narrow strip of land formed by uplifted lava flows and tuffs. More about Santa Cruz

  • Puerto Ayora
  • Bachas Beach
  • Black Turtle Cove
  • Carrion Point
  • Charles Darwin Station / Fausto Llerena Breeding Center
  • Dragon Hill
  • Garrapatero Beach
  • Lava Tunnels
  • Tortuga Bay
  • Twin Craters
  • Gordons Rock

Isabela Island

Isabela Island

The archipelago's largest island, Isabela, was formed by the joining of five young volcanoes. While these volcanic regions contain extensive lava fields and little vegetation, the southern highlands and various other regions are covered by dense vegetation including the unique red mangrove. Isabela Island is also home to many native Galapageños living in the island's largest town, Puerto Villamil. More about Isabela

  • Albemarle Point
  • Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center
  • Chico Volcano
  • Concha de Perla
  • Elizabeth Bay
  • Flamingos Lake
  • Puerto Villamil
  • Moreno Point
  • Sierra Negra Volcano
  • The Wall of Tears
  • The Wetlands
  • Vicente Roca Point
  • Las Tintoreras
  • Cape Marshall
  • Roca Redonda
  • Tortuga Islet
  • Cuatro Hermanos Islets
  • Cowley Islet

Santiago Island

Santiago Island

Santiago Island has a narrow, steep-sided point of land, which provides an extraordinarily beautiful landscape complete with cliffs and pinnacles where hundreds of marine birds rest. During the 17th and 18th centuries, pirates used this site for maintaining their ships, and supplying themselves with fresh water, meat, and firewood. More about Santiago

  • Buccaneer Cove
  • Chinese Hat
  • Espumilla Beach
  • Sullivan Bay
  • Albany Islet
  • Cousins Rocks

Wolf Island

Wolf Island

Wolf Island is located in the extreme northern part of the archipelago. There are no land visits to this island, and it is only visited by live-aboard dive ships. This is a dive site only for experienced divers. The surge is heavy, currents can be quite strong, and visibility is often limited. Some very impressive and large animals such as whale sharks, hammerheads and dolphins are spotted here.

  • El Derrumbe
  • Shark Point

Pinzon Island

Pinzon Island

Pinzón is a small island is found to the west of Santa Cruz. It is a great location to see red-lipped bat fish, seahorses, and horn sharks. Dumb Islet is one of the nearby dive sites.

Pinta Island

Pinta Island

Pinta Island was the original home of Lonesome George. Introduced goats decimated the vegetation on the island and wiped out the native tortoises. The goats were eradicated in 1990, and the vegetation is beginning to recover. There are no land visits to this island. Cape Chalmers, Cape Ibbetsoin and Nerus Point are one of the nearby dive sites.

Bartholomew Island

Bartholomew Island

Most famous for its view from land, Bartholomew also has a lot to offer below the sea: fascinating lava and rock formations, white- tip sharks, rays, palegic fish, reef fish, rays and turtles. More about Bartholomew

Daphne Minor Island

Daphne Minor Island

Located between Santa Cruz and Santiago Islands. Most tourists are restricted from visiting these islands by the Galapagos National Park; however, the islands continue to be a popular stop for scientists researching the unique qualities of the Galapagos finches. Once used as target practice during WW2, the remaining rock piles offer white-tipped sharks and Galapagos sharks.

Fernandina Island

Fernandina Island

Fernandina, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands, is always a visitor favorite, as it is very beautiful and is home so several species rarely found anywhere else. Punta Espinosa is one of the best visitor sites in the islands, featuring marine iguanas , lava lizards , Galapagos Penguins , flightless cormorants , sea lions and interesting marine life . It is also a great chance to get an up-close look at mangrove plants and different lava formations. More about Fernandina

  • Espinosa Point
  • Mangle Point
  • Cape Douglas

Floreana Island

Floreana Island

Floreana, officially "Santa María," is located at the far south of the archipelago. The island is associated with a strange and curious history of its inhabitants. Snorkeling around this area is one of the best in the Galapagos. More about Floreana

  • Baroness Viewing Point
  • Post Office Bay
  • Champion Islet
  • Cormorant Point
  • Devil's Crown
  • Asilo de la Paz

North Seymour Island

North Seymour Island

Galapagos Sea Lions, Blue-footed Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds are abundant on North Seymour Island. The island was formed by a series of submarine lavas containing layers of sediment that were uplifted by tectonic activity. The island is characterized by its arid vegetation zone. More about North Seymour

Marchena Island

Marchena Island

There are no land visits to Marchena Island. It had recent volcanic activity in 1992. The island exhibits pristine flora and fauna since it was never inhabited by humans. The island is remembered for the mysterious discovery of the mummified remains of two bodies on the beach. One of the bodies was the remains Rudolf Lorenz, one of the lovers of the infamous Baroness who lived on Floreana.

South Plaza Island

South Plaza Island

This small island with steep cliffs was formed by rising lava and is now covered by Opuntia cacti. It is also home to one of the largest sea lion colonies as well as colorful yellow and red land iguanas. The most characteristic plant is the Sesuvium. During the rainy season its color is a greenish to yellowish tone and in the dry season (end of June through January) a bright red.

Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe (Barrington) is home to the small picturesque bay and anchorage on the island's northeast coast. The bay has two visitor trails, one leading to a scenic viewpoint atop a cliff, and the other spanning from a small beach to a tall prickly pear cactus forest.

San Cristobal Island

San Cristobal Island

San Cristobal is home to a small town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and the Junco Lagoon, located 700 meters above sea level. El Junco has been the object of a study in which the sediments on the bottom of the lake were analyzed to uncover information about the vegetation and climate of the archipelago thousands of years ago. More about San Cristobal

  • Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
  • El Junco Lagoon
  • La Galapaguera/Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Center
  • Interpretation Center
  • Kicker Rock
  • Lobos Island
  • Ochoa Beach
  • Puerto Chino Beach
  • Punta Carola Beach
  • Tijeretas Hill

Galapagos Islands Travel Tips

Galapagos wildlife by island and visitor point.

Some of the wildlife species in the Galapagos can only be found in specific islands, some have evolved differently from one island to the other. In the following chart you can find the animals classified according to the island and visitor site.

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Pacific Coastal Cruises

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Discover the Splendor of the Pacific Coast

Marvel at diverse cultures and intriguing flavors on a Pacific Coast cruise with Celebrity. Admire the scenery that spans everything from the snow-capped mountains of British Columbia to the rolling vineyards of California’s Napa Valley.

Enjoy English-style afternoon tea in Victoria, Canada. See iconic landmarks in San Francisco, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Explore Vancouver’s lush Stanley Park, the city’s gleaming skyscrapers as a backdrop. Celebrity’s stylish, contemporary ships will show you the very best of this fascinating coastline in unparalleled style.

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Take your sense of wonder to new heights with our in-depth Pacific Coast itineraries. From the sun-soaked beaches of Southern California, to the rich green rainforests of British Columbia, you’ll experience a vacation like no other.

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Iconic landmarks.

You’ll be wowed by spectacular landmarks on a West Coast cruise. Sail under San Francisco’s graceful Golden Gate Bridge and gaze at the city’s skyline in the distance, the Transamerica Pyramid, and Alcatraz brooding in the bay. In Victoria, Canada, admire the lavish chateau-style architecture of the legendary Empress Hotel. When you’re in Astoria, check out the intricate Astoria Column, its elaborate artwork telling the story of westward exploration.

Exciting Marine Life

There’s wildlife to spot all the way along the Pacific coast—including the unexpected. Vancouver Island is known for its spectacular whale watching, including orca, minke whales, and humpbacks. You could even see humpbacks breaching in San Francisco Bay as you sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. Astoria, meanwhile, is a great place to spot sea lions basking along the waterfront.

Fine Food & Wine

Culinary adventures await in every port along the Pacific coast. From San Francisco, head over the Golden Gate Bridge to Napa Valley for a wine-tasting tour. In the city, sample authentic dim sum in bustling Chinatown. Astoria is famed for its salmon, artisan cheeses, and hazelnut ice cream. Try craft beers and those famous Oregon wines. In Vancouver, foodies will love Granville Island’s Public Market, where anything from organic coffee to Mexican street food is on offer.

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Why Cruise the Pacific Coast with Celebrity Cruises

Explore the Pacific coast with Celebrity and you’ll travel in a haven of relaxation on our contemporary ships. Rejuvenate your spirit in The Spa, unwind by the pool, and toast the end of another perfect day at the Sunset Bar as the coastal mountain ranges glow pink in the dusk.

On Celebrity’s ships, you can enjoy a different restaurant at every meal. Try anything from delicious seafood to flavor-packed Italian and gourmet French cuisine. Elevate your cruise to the next level with The Retreat®, with suite accommodation, access to a private lounge, and dining at the exclusive Luminae at The Retreat.

Let Celebrity take you to some of the most exciting ports along the Pacific coast, from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, famous for its Spanish colonial architecture and buzzing beaches. Take in the culinary scene and gorgeous beaches of San Diego and hike flower-filled trails on Catalina Island. We will help you make the most of your time ashore with our range of imaginative excursions, from Destination Highlights to Small Group Discoveries and custom-designed Private Journeys.

Let Celebrity take you to some of the most exciting ports along the Pacific coast, from San Francisco to Vancouver, famed for its laid-back lifestyle and beautiful mountain backdrop. We will help you make the most of your time ashore with our range of imaginative excursions, from Destination Highlights to Small Group Discoveries and custom-designed Private Journeys.

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Top Pacific Coastal FAQs

Where do Pacific Coastal cruises go?

Pacific Coastal cruises sail between Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada.

Ports between Los Angeles and Vancouver include San Francisco and Victoria on Vancouver Island. You could also enjoy a day in Astoria, Oregon, or an overnight stay in San Francisco, depending on the itinerary.

Both of Celebrity’s itineraries include days at sea to enjoy the ship, relax in the spa, bask by the pool, and look out for marine life.

Where do cruises depart from on the West Coast?

Cruises depart from Los Angeles on one-way northbound voyages, ending in Vancouver, or from Vancouver on southbound voyages, ending in Los Angeles. 

What should I pack?

The Pacific Northwest can include considerable variations in climate between Los Angeles and Vancouver. A light waterproof jacket is a good idea for the northernmost ports, as are layers. The weather can transform in an instant, especially in San Francisco, which is prone to fog that can melt away in the sunshine. Pack good walking shoes, too, as there are multiple opportunities to explore beautiful landscapes and cities on foot.

Bring a pair of binoculars as the marine life in the Northwest is spectacular, and you stand a good chance of spotting whales and dolphins.

Throughout the ship, casual resort wear, sundresses, shorts, polos, or button-downs are appropriate, paired with sandals, low heels, and loafers. In main and specialty dining, we ask guests to refrain from wearing swimsuits, see-through cover-ups or robes, bare feet, tank tops, T-shirts, and baseball caps. 

Smart Casual attire is required for entry to main dining, specialty dining, and the theater. Smart Casual means you look comfortable yet tasteful in a dress, skirt, long pants, or jeans with a stylish top or button-down. Shorts and flip-flops are not considered Smart Casual. 

Each itinerary features at least one to two “formal” nights that we call Evening Chic. Evening Chic means you dress to impress, glamorous and sophisticated in your own way, with a cocktail dress, skirt, slacks, or designer jeans, an elegant dress top, or blazer—some guests even pack a tuxedo or gown for onboard photos. 

The daily program, delivered to your stateroom and available at the Guest Relations Desk, will be your guide to the correct attire each evening. If you do not wish to participate in Evening Chic, Smart Casual attire is acceptable for dining and attending the theater.

Are there any ports of call outside of the U.S.?

Yes, both of our Pacific Coast itineraries include ports of call outside of the U.S. You’ll visit Victoria and Vancouver in Canada.

When is the best time to cruise?

The best time to explore the West Coast is spring, summer, and fall, when the weather is generally good. In spring and fall, places like Los Angeles are pleasant, rather than hot, and you should have ideal conditions for hiking, strolling around cities, and even sunbathing. Early fall is another beautiful time to visit, when the days are still warm and the trees in the coastal forests are beginning to take on their fall colors.

How long are cruises along the West Coast?

Our cruises along the West Coast last for six nights.

What types of landscapes and sights can I expect to see during the cruise?

On any Pacific Coastal cruise, you’ll see a wonderful combination of vibrant cities and beautiful landscapes.

San Francisco is famous for many things: the Golden Gate Bridge, vintage cable cars, Alcatraz, museums, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Pretty Victoria is known for its colonial charm and the glorious colors of Butchart Gardens, while Vancouver is surrounded by water, with a backdrop of often snow-capped mountains.

You’ll have a chance to be immersed in nature on these cruises. Astoria, on the edge of the forested, misty Pacific Northwest, is a great place for cycling and hiking, as well as learning about the epic expedition of Lewis and Clark. In contrast, California’s Napa Valley is the place to head for rolling hills, lush scenery, and wine tasting.

What kind of excursions can I book?

We offer a wide range of excursions to suit every taste. You can go whale watching from Vancouver Island and cycling in Astoria. From San Francisco, you could take a tour to Sausalito and Muir Woods, or to Sonoma Wine Country for a tasting. If you choose an itinerary with an overnight in San Francisco, you could join a nighttime city tour with dinner in Chinatown.

Essentially, you will find a shore excursion to suit your tastes, whether your interest is history and architecture, wildlife, food and wine, or nature and physical activity. 

How many days at sea will I have? What is there to do on board?

Our Pacific Coastal itineraries each have two days at sea, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the ship.

You’ll find a wonderful choice of activities during these sea days. Relax by the pool or join a workout class in the Fitness Center. Listen to live music or try a wine tasting. Sample delightful dishes from all the different restaurants on board, which range from poolside made-to-order burgers and salads to delicious sushi, contemporary Italian, and clean cuisine in Blu. In the evenings, you’ll find glittering entertainment in The Theatre, as well as late-night dancing.

Elevate your experience at The Retreat® , which gives you suite accommodation and access to a luxurious lounge as well as the fine dining restaurant Luminae at The Retreat.

What is there to do on the ship?

You’ll find no shortage of things to do on board your luxurious Celebrity ship. Sunbathe by the pool, relax in a bubbling hot tub, join a class in the Fitness Center, or indulge in a treatment in the spa. 

Enjoy exploring all the different dining options, from made-to-order burgers and salads by the pool to French classics and a delightful 3D cartoon animation in Le Petit Chef, and steaks and seafood in the elegant Tuscan Grille. Elevate your experience to The Retreat and you can enjoy fine dining in Luminae, as well as suite accommodation and access to an exclusive lounge.

On Edge-Series ships, the Magic Carpet, suspended over the side of the ship, gives you uninterrupted sea views and is the perfect place to sit with a coffee or cocktail, enjoying the sea air. Or spend part of your Panama Canal transit in the Sunset Bar, at the aft of the ship, for wonderful views of the ships following you.

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Everyone you know is going on a cruise

Travelers on the deck of a cruise ship

­­­ Lots of people will be getting their sea legs this summer.

Ports have been packed with cruise ships over the last few years, as vacationers flock to ever larger vessels and operators race to accommodate a surge in post-pandemic bookings — many of them from first-time passengers. The industry expects even more this year.

Benjamin Xiang, a San Francisco-based flight attendant, went on his first cruise last August, setting aside his reservations about “cruise people” and a type of trip he’d imagined would be “not my travel style.”

Benji Xiang enjoyed a Virgin Voyages cruise.

Taking advantage of a Virgin Voyages promotion that let him use credit card points to cover the $2,500 bill, Xiang booked a weeklong, all-inclusive, adults-only cruise from Barcelona, with stops at Mallorca, Ibiza and along the French Riviera.

“I invited my best friend, we prepaid a $600 bar tab, and we were like, ‘We’ll just hang by the pool, read a book or something,’” said Xiang, 35. “Turned out we partied every single night and had a blast.”

He’s among the many cruise newbies who’ve helped power the industry’s recent growth. Some 27% of cruise passengers over the past two years have been first-timers, up 12% from the prior two-year period, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade group.

Turned out we partied every single night and had a blast.

Benjamin Xiang, 35, San Francisco

“Will I go back? I think yes,” Xiang said. “Will I pay this time? Yes.”

That’s exactly what cruise operators are hoping for, and so far they’re getting it: 82% of all cruisers say they’ll book again, CLIA’s latest report found.

After welcoming 31.7 million passengers last year, 7% more than in 2019, the industry expects volumes to swell to 34.7 million by the end of 2024. Experts say a combination of newcomers, repeat bookers and younger travelers are powering the uptick.

Like Xiang, many first-time cruisers are groups of friends traveling together, said Jennifer Klaussen, who owns Sundari Travel in Malibu, California.

“Once they get on a cruise and realize it’s not what they thought it would be, they’re usually interested in future cruises and diverse destinations,” she said, adding that newer operators have managed to “reduce the stigma associated with cruising — that it’s only for the elderly.”

Two cruise ships at the port

Passengers under age 40, including kids, made up around 42% of cruisegoers last year, up from 35% in 2019, according to CLIA. While the average age of a cruise customer is 46 industrywide, millennials now make up nearly the same share — 22% — as baby boomers and Gen Xers, who each comprise 24%.

“The cruise industry has been hard at work to launch new ships and experiences that are attractive to a younger, newer demographic,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, “whether that’s a big, new ship with eye-catching attractions for families, or more bucket-list-worthy experiences like sailings in the Galapagos or Antarctica.”

The cruise industry has been hard at work to launch new ships and experiences that are attractive to a younger, newer demographic.

Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic

Amenities don’t hurt either, said Nathan Rosenberg, chief brand officer at Virgin Voyages, which began sailing only in 2021, as the cruise industry rebounded from the pandemic. “Millennials and Gen Z love the fact that everything is included. Think meals foodies would love, tips covered, Wi-Fi to stay connected and a ton of fitness classes,” he said.

Vessels are getting bigger to handle the growing demand.

In January, Royal Caribbean Group launched Icon of the Seas — currently the world’s largest cruise ship, with 20 decks, 40 restaurants and room for more than 7,000 passengers and 3,000 crew members.

The company, meanwhile, reported a 16% increase in new cruisegoers between this year and last across its various cruise lines. Nearly half of all Royal Caribbean guests are millennials or younger, CEO Jason Liberty said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Lines CEO Harry Sommer told CNBC earlier this month, “We appeal obviously to older customers, but millennial and Gen Z is the fastest-growing segment of our cruising right now.”

In an aerial view, Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas

Cruises generally aren’t cheap, though, and Sommer noted that the company’s target customer is middle- or upper-income. As consumer spending cools down across much of the economy, Americans are adjusting their summer vacation plans to fit their budgets.

The share of travelers put off by steep prices hit 32% in Deloitte’s annual summer travel survey , up sharply from 24% last year. But more affluent vacationers still seem eager to shell out on everything from first-class airfare to luxury train trips , as the industry continues to push premium offerings .

“More higher-income travelers are headed to cruises,” whereas “lower-income travelers are going camping,” the Deloitte report, released Tuesday, said. (“RV trips are up across the board,” it added.)

That doesn’t mean cruise passengers aren’t paying attention to price.

Jaclyn Groh will be going on her first cruise in March 2025, sailing around the Caribbean. The 34-year-old therapist and social work professor at Ohio State University in Columbus typically takes her family on boat trips on a lake, beach visits, “and of course the occasional Disney adventure for the kiddos,” said Groh.

Jaclyn Groh booked a cruise for herself and her husband next year, a change of pace from family-friendly beach resorts they've visited in the past.

While some of her friends have done family cruises, she’s never been interested in the largest cruise ships because they seem “overwhelming.” But in shopping around for a vacation next year for just her and her husband, Groh said her travel agent’s description of the packages available won her over.

The smaller Explora II vessel she opted for has a “boutique feel that we love,” she said. And it’s priced about the same as the resort in Curaçao where the couple will be celebrating their 10th anniversary this fall. That week on land will run about $6,500, while the cruise comes to about $6,700.

“The price seems very reasonable for all of the inclusions, and yet with the cruise we will get to experience so many new locations and excursions,” said Groh, who’s looking forward to “a perfect combination of resting in luxury and adventuring.”

Harriet Baskas is an NBC News contributor who writes about travel and the arts.

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Everyone you know is going on a cruise

­­­ Lots of people will be getting their sea legs this summer.

Ports have been packed with cruise ships over the last few years, as vacationers flock to ever larger vessels and operators race to accommodate a surge in post-pandemic bookings — many of them from first-time passengers. The industry expects even more this year.

Benjamin Xiang, a San Francisco-based flight attendant, went on his first cruise last August, setting aside his reservations about “cruise people” and a type of trip he’d imagined would be “not my travel style.”

Taking advantage of a Virgin Voyages promotion that let him use credit card points to cover the $2,500 bill, Xiang booked a weeklong, all-inclusive, adults-only cruise from Barcelona, with stops at Mallorca, Ibiza and along the French Riviera.

“I invited my best friend, we prepaid a $600 bar tab, and we were like, ‘We’ll just hang by the pool, read a book or something,’” said Xiang, 35. “Turned out we partied every single night and had a blast.”

He’s among the many cruise newbies who’ve helped power the industry’s recent growth. Some 27% of cruise passengers over the past two years have been first-timers, up 12% from the prior two-year period, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade group.

“Will I go back? I think yes,” Xiang said. “Will I pay this time? Yes.”

That’s exactly what cruise operators are hoping for, and so far they’re getting it: 82% of all cruisers say they’ll book again, CLIA’s latest report found.

After welcoming 31.7 million passengers last year, 7% more than in 2019, the industry expects volumes to swell to 34.7 million by the end of 2024. Experts say a combination of newcomers, repeat bookers and younger travelers are powering the uptick.

Like Xiang, many first-time cruisers are groups of friends traveling together, said Jennifer Klaussen, who owns Sundari Travel in Malibu, California.

“Once they get on a cruise and realize it’s not what they thought it would be, they’re usually interested in future cruises and diverse destinations,” she said, adding that newer operators have managed to “reduce the stigma associated with cruising — that it’s only for the elderly.”

Passengers under age 40, including kids, made up around 42% of cruisegoers last year, up from 35% in 2019, according to CLIA. While the average age of a cruise customer is 46 industrywide, millennials now make up nearly the same share — 22% — as baby boomers and Gen Xers, who each comprise 24%.

“The cruise industry has been hard at work to launch new ships and experiences that are attractive to a younger, newer demographic,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, “whether that’s a big, new ship with eye-catching attractions for families, or more bucket-list-worthy experiences like sailings in the Galapagos or Antarctica.”

Amenities don’t hurt either, said Nathan Rosenberg, chief brand officer at Virgin Voyages, which began sailing only in 2021, as the cruise industry rebounded from the pandemic. “Millennials and Gen Z love the fact that everything is included. Think meals foodies would love, tips covered, Wi-Fi to stay connected and a ton of fitness classes,” he said.

Vessels are getting bigger to handle the growing demand.

In January, Royal Caribbean Group launched Icon of the Seas — currently the world’s largest cruise ship, with 20 decks, 40 restaurants and room for more than 7,000 passengers and 3,000 crew members.

The company, meanwhile, reported a 16% increase in new cruisegoers between this year and last across its various cruise lines. Nearly half of all Royal Caribbean guests are millennials or younger, CEO Jason Liberty said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Lines CEO Harry Sommer told CNBC earlier this month, “We appeal obviously to older customers, but millennial and Gen Z is the fastest-growing segment of our cruising right now.”

Cruises generally aren’t cheap, though, and Sommer noted that the company’s target customer is middle- or upper-income. As consumer spending cools down across much of the economy, Americans are adjusting their summer vacation plans to fit their budgets.

The share of travelers put off by steep prices hit 32% in Deloitte’s annual summer travel survey , up sharply from 24% last year. But more affluent vacationers still seem eager to shell out on everything from first-class airfare to luxury train trips , as the industry continues to push premium offerings .

“More higher-income travelers are headed to cruises,” whereas “lower-income travelers are going camping,” the Deloitte report, released Tuesday, said. (“RV trips are up across the board,” it added.)

That doesn’t mean cruise passengers aren’t paying attention to price.

Jaclyn Groh will be going on her first cruise in March 2025, sailing around the Caribbean. The 34-year-old therapist and social work professor at Ohio State University in Columbus typically takes her family on boat trips on a lake, beach visits, “and of course the occasional Disney adventure for the kiddos,” said Groh.

While some of her friends have done family cruises, she’s never been interested in the largest cruise ships because they seem “overwhelming.” But in shopping around for a vacation next year for just her and her husband, Groh said her travel agent’s description of the packages available won her over.

The smaller Explora II vessel she opted for has a “boutique feel that we love,” she said. And it’s priced about the same as the resort in Curaçao where the couple will be celebrating their 10th anniversary this fall. That week on land will run about $6,500, while the cruise comes to about $6,700.

“The price seems very reasonable for all of the inclusions, and yet with the cruise we will get to experience so many new locations and excursions,” said Groh, who’s looking forward to “a perfect combination of resting in luxury and adventuring.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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