Pros and Cons of a Galapagos Small Ship Cruise

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The Galapagos Islands have been on my bucket listing for years, particularly as soon as I noticed how a lot I like to journey to see distinctive wildlife. But the alternatives in the case of Galapagos journeys appear countless – and subsequently a bit overwhelming – while you first begin planning.

The first main resolution you must make is whether or not you wish to go on a cruise, or strive a land-based journey. I knew I wished to do a cruise, since you see a lot extra. (Plus, land-based journeys nonetheless have you ever spending fairly a little bit of time on boats to go to different islands, because it’s the one technique to get round!)

Then there are the itinerary combos to select from (japanese islands! central islands! western islands! japanese and central! western and central! and so forth.). And, in case you’ve settled on doing a cruise, you then should determine what dimension ship you wish to sail on.

Small ships anchored at South Plaza island in the Galapagos
Small ships anchored at South Plaza island

Ship sizes within the Galapagos

First issues first: it’s essential know that cruising within the Galapagos is just not like cruising within the Caribbean or Mediterranean. The “big ships” within the Galapagos are tiny compared to a few of their mammoth counterparts elsewhere on this planet.

Because of laws within the Galapagos, cruise ships legally can not maintain greater than 100 passengers – and a lot of the largest ships crusing the islands prime out round 90.

These are subsequently the three ship sizes you must decide from:

  1. Small ships – Usually maintain as much as 16 passengers (and I’ll clarify why this can be a magic quantity a bit later!); good ship instance: Reina Silvia Voyager or Cormorant II
  2. Medium-sized ships – 40-50 passengers on common; good ship instance: National Geographic Islander II or La Pinta
  3. Large ships – Around 90 passengers; good ship instance: Silversea Silver Origin or Santa Cruz II

And throughout the smaller ship class, you will discover each single-hulled ship designs and catamarans.

After heaps and plenty of analysis and comparability, my dad and I made a decision to sail on a small ship (with simply 16 passengers) on a central + japanese islands itinerary. And I believe it was the BEST resolution! Read on to seek out out why.

Reina Silvia Voyager ship in the Galapagos
The ship we sailed on: the Reina Silvia Voyager

Why I selected a small ship within the Galapagos

I truly took myself abruptly in selecting to sail on a small ship within the Galapagos! Going in to planning this journey, I used to be leaning in direction of reserving on a 90-passenger ship with Hurtigruten. But, the extra I learn concerning the totally different ships accessible, the extra I began leaning in direction of a smaller vessel as a substitute.

The deciding issue for me personally got here right down to a collection of guidelines that Galápagos National Park enforces. The variety of cruise passengers within the Galapagos is extremely regulated, and the utmost group dimension on any land tour off a ship is 16 folks per naturalist information.

And whereas bigger ships get permits to take a number of teams on land directly with a number of guides, on a smaller ship you do not have to fret about any of that. And to me, that sounded nice.

A group of tourists on a lava field in the Galapagos
Our complete group might do every part collectively

PROS and CONS to a small Galapagos cruise

We ended up selecting that smaller ship – the Reina Silvia Voyager, to be actual, which is presently contracted out by G Adventures. This catamaran-style ship has simply 10 state rooms and sails with 16 passengers, 8 crew, and 1 information. Our crusing had 15 passengers.

We selected this ship for two principal causes:

  1. The itinerary matched my Galapagos want listing
  2. The ship provides 2 devoted single rooms on board and would not cost a full single complement for them (the one rooms are barely costlier than what 1 particular person pays in a double room, however not exorbitantly so – they normally run about 20% greater than the double room worth, as a substitute of being double the worth).

Want to see the precise journey I took? Check out the itinerary right here.

After residing on this ship for a full week, listed here are all the professionals and cons I got here up with. Hopefully they will help you make the identical resolution I did about whether or not a small ship within the Galapagos can be proper for me!

Amanda in a hot tub on a ship in the Galapagos
Me fortunately residing the small ship life within the Galapagos

PROS of a small ship within the Galapagos

1. One group, one information, no ready

Like I discussed above, Galapagos National Park strictly regulates cruise passengers within the islands. You can not have greater than 16 guests per 1 naturalist information, and there are additionally limits on how many individuals may be on land at any given time.

On a small ship with simply 15 passengers, it meant we might all do the identical factor on the similar time with our information, Venus. No one needed to wait their flip, and it meant all of us received to have the identical experiences with the identical information collectively.

Group of tourists on a beach in the Galapagos
Seeing a 3-day-old sea lion as a gaggle

On bigger ships, they divide all of the passengers into teams and assign them guides, however park guidelines typically imply that teams should take turns doing actions. You have to attend to your flip to get on land, and doubtlessly spend much less time there if there are extra teams ready for his or her probability.

I’m positive this runs easily general, however I a lot most well-liked not having to waste time ready round for my flip to get right into a zodiac.

2. You get to know everybody

On a smaller ship – particularly one with simply 16 passengers! – you get the prospect to know everybody all through the course of your cruise.

Our ship solely had 2 eating tables, and we typically swapped seats for each meal so we had an opportunity to speak with everybody. By the tip of our 7-day cruise, we felt like one massive household with group-wide inside jokes and reminiscences made collectively.

Dining area on the Reina Silvia Voyager
We received to know each other on this eating space

We additionally received to know our 8-person crew; it was good to know the names of everybody making the journey so memorable!

3. More time with guides/naturalists

Since a 16-passenger ship simply wants one naturalist information, it means you get to know them rather well, too! We spent numerous time with our information Venus day by day, from the early morning moist landings to the snorkeling excursions to the pre-dinner briefings.

Getting to know Venus and her infectious love for the wildlife within the Galapagos was half the enjoyable day by day. She even took us to some secret spots solely she is aware of (like a spot the place we received to see nesting red-billed tropicbirds up shut), and edited a video of our complete journey for us.

Galapagos guide
Our rockstar of a Galapagos information, Venus!

I’m unsure you get as a lot personalised expertise on the bigger Galapagos ships (although I’m positive the extent of service continues to be wonderful).

4. You go locations massive ships cannot

Another main bonus of crusing on a smaller ship within the Galapagos is that you simply get to go to some spots that the massive ships merely cannot. We anchored in locations with different small ships, exploring components of islands that visitors on the biggest ships do not normally go.

Kicker Rock at Golden Hour
The solely time we even noticed an even bigger ship was this 50-passenger ship close to Kicker Rock

There are a handful of extra fragile spots within the Galapagos which can be actually solely visited by visitors crusing on the smallest ships – which is fairly cool!

On a smaller ship, we had been additionally in a position to sail nearer to sure factors of curiosity, like Kicker Rock and some different small rocky islands.

Sailing up to a crater island in the Galapagos
Sailing as much as a crater-island with flamingos within the middle

5. Some flexibility

I say “some” right here, as a result of Galapagos National Park strictly regulates every part within the islands. They set the itinerary for each ship, designate particular instances for landings, hand out permits for issues like snorkeling, and dictate if/when adjustments must be made.

For instance, in late 2023, there was an ongoing fowl flu outbreak in South America, and there have been just a few particular fowl colonies that had been closed to vacationers to guard the birds. This meant that our itinerary modified on a few days, however our crew and information had no say over the brand new actions we had been assigned to.

Blue footed booby bird in the Galapagos
Our visits to red-footed booby colonies had been canceled – however our different itinerary allowed me to get pictures like this of some blue-footed boobies!

BUT, in different circumstances, our small group dimension did give us some flexibility.

One day we got here again on board from snorkeling just for the crew to identify an enormous pod of dolphins within the distance. We loaded again into the dinghies inside minutes, and went out to see them earlier than they had been gone. That would by no means occur on a big ship.

Watching Galapagos penguins from dinghies
We additionally added this further penguin-spotting dinghy trip as a result of we might

Having only one group additionally meant that once we went on land, we might take our time and watch animals for so long as we wished (nicely, inside our allotted on-land time, a minimum of), since there was no second group ready to take their flip.

I by no means felt rushed throughout our landings, even once I was busy taking lots of of pictures of sea lions and birds.

Cerro Brujo beach in the Galapagos
We might take our time once we had seashores like this to ourselves!

6. Really good ship choices

There are each price range and luxurious ships in every dimension class within the Galapagos, nevertheless it looks like there are extra selections in the case of the small ships. The smaller ships supply generously-sized staterooms (a few of the extra luxurious ships are all-suite!), and customary areas like lounges and solar decks.

You may not anticipate a ton of area on a smaller ship, however I used to be tremendous impressed with the Reina Silvia Voyager. Not solely do 8 of the ten rooms have non-public balconies on this ship, however even the 2 single rooms on board had full-size beds, large closets, and a bathe larger than the one I’ve at house.

A single room on the Reina Silvia Voyager
My single room on the Reina Silvia Voyager
Bathroom on Reina Silvia Voyager
My lavatory, with an enormous bathe
Private balcony on Reina Silvia Voyager
My non-public balcony

Our ship additionally had a giant solar deck with a jacuzzi, a lounge with a small bar, and kayaks on board. Things like wetsuits and snorkeling gear had been additionally included.

Some very good small ship choices within the Galapagos embrace:

  • Reina Silvia Voyager (the one I sailed on!)
  • Grand Queen Beatriz
  • Grand Daphne
  • Cormorant II
  • Infinity
  • Ocean Spray
  • Origin & Theory
  • Beluga
Kayaking in the Galapagos
Getting prepared for a kayaking journey!

CONS of a small ship within the Galapagos

There are after all some downsides to selecting a small cruise, although a few of these may not hassle you in any respect!

1. More probability of seasickness

The largest con on a small ship is that (typically dreaded) movement of the ocean. You can really feel the waves and currents extra on a small ship – and extra particularly on the smaller, single-hull ships.

I did not even sail throughout the roughest season (and we had been on a extra steady catamaran), however there was a minimum of one night time once I could not sleep in any respect as a result of the ship was rolling a lot.

The excellent news, although, is that as somebody who DOES endure from movement illness (seasickness, automobile illness, you title it and I’ve in all probability skilled it), I used to be completely high-quality on this journey taking Dramamine (the less-drowsy sort). I took 2 tablets per day for the primary couple days, after which simply 1 pill per day after that. And I did not really feel ailing as soon as!

Amanda from A Dangerous Business on a beach with sea lions in the Galapagos
No pretend smiles right here – I actually did really feel high-quality the entire journey!

In truth, nobody on our cruise received sick from the movement. Just undoubtedly go ready with some seasickness meds or a Reliefband (this stuff actually do assist!), and use them prophylactically – DON’T wait till you’re feeling sick to take one thing.

While I used to be impressed by what was included on our small ship (like a sizzling tub, non-public balconies, snorkeling gear/wetsuits, kayaks, and even climbing poles), it will not examine to what you will discover on the largest ships within the Galapagos.

The larger ships supply extra frequent areas, libraries, bars, gyms, and so forth. They are likely to have precise eating places for eating, comfortable hours, extras like paddleboards and even glass-bottomed boats for excursions, and typically a health care provider on board.

Indoor lounge space on the Reina Silvia Voyager
The shared indoor lounge area on the Reina Silvia

I truthfully did not miss any of the “fancy” extras since we spent a lot time OFF the ship, however this would possibly make a distinction for others.

Again, this did not actually hassle me a lot, nevertheless it’s value noting for any choosy eaters in your group! The crew onboard the Reina Silvia Voyager was nice at accommodating dietary restrictions and allergy symptoms, they usually served up a giant breakfast buffet, snacks after most land excursions, and normally 3-course lunches AND dinners.

But there was by no means a menu or selection of dishes at lunch or dinner; everybody was served the identical factor. The meals was all scrumptious (for my part), nevertheless it did imply that if one thing got here out you did not actually take care of, there wasn’t an alternative choice accessible – and we additionally did not know forward of time what the meal can be.

Galapagos cruise ship meal
3-course meal within the Galapagos – we ate a lot of seafood!

This is perhaps totally different on different small ships, however I doubt any of the cooks on these smaller vessels will supply a number of dishes to select from once they should mainly top off for your complete week in the beginning of the cruise. There are no grocery shops on any of the islands you will be going to!

If you might have actually sturdy meals preferences, make sure to let the crew know earlier than your cruise. (For instance, one visitor on our ship would not eat cheese, and the cooks made all her dishes with out it!)

4. Fewer passengers

This one can undoubtedly be both a professional or a con, relying the way you have a look at it. In my thoughts, a smaller group is nice since you get to know everybody. But if you find yourself with folks in your small group that you simply simply do not vibe with, it will be robust to keep away from them on a small cruise like this.

Also, in case you’re touring as a household or with older individuals who perhaps aren’t fairly as lively, a smaller ship would not offer you any choices in the case of tour exercise degree. Everyone does the identical factor, so in case you do not wish to do a selected stroll or snorkeling journey, then you definitely’d simply keep on the ship and never have an alternate choice.

Amanda and Dad atop Bartolome Island in the Galapagos
My dad, for instance, skipped kayaking and a few snorkeling classes, however did all of the climbing!

On a few of the bigger ships, they’ve the power to assign teams up primarily based on pursuits and desired exercise degree. Just one thing to remember!

(But additionally I can say from expertise that nobody on a smaller ship will care in case you skip an hour of snorkeling or decide to not kayak; typically chilling on the solar deck with a ebook is simply what you want!)

Who is a small ship Galapagos cruise proper for?

Cruising the Galapagos on a small ship was proper for me in the long run. But it may not be best for you, and that is completely okay!

A small ship cruise is best for you if:

  • You like the thought of attending to know your fellow vacationers and ship crew rather well.
  • You need an lively journey, and also you wish to spend essentially the most time attainable on actions.
  • You do not endure from seasickness (or are comfortable to take meds to forestall it).
  • You’re not occurring this cruise for the intensive meals menu.
Reina Silvia Voyager in the Galapagos

A small ship cruise may not be best for you if:

  • You are relying on extra actions and locations to lounge onboard your ship.
  • You do not thoughts ready your flip to get off the ship for actions.
  • You wish to be barely extra nameless while you journey.
  • You need a barely smoother trip (although I’d nonetheless suggest seasickness tablets).

No matter which dimension or class of ship you select, your journey to the Galapagos goes to be epic and memorable!


So what do you suppose? Does a small ship Galapagos cruise sound just like the one for you?

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