Please sign in to post.

Galapagos Islands

Thinking about a Galapagos Islands cruise in 2020. Has anybody been on either of the Celebrity Galápagos Islands cruises? Is 7 nights enough? Another Galapagos cruise you might recommend?
Thanks in advance.
Pam

Posted by
291 posts

7 nights should be plenty, and is pretty standard for cruise lengths on offer. I've not been to the Galapagos with Celebrity but had been on Galapagos cruises with a smaller company in the past (on the M/V Santa Cruz, and then a much smaller boat with 20 or so passengers some years after that). I think the Santa Cruz vessel I cruised on has since been retired, and replaced by Santa Cruz II with Metropolitan Touring - https://www.metropolitan-touring.com/galapagos-cruises . And I can't for the life of me recall who the smaller boat was through.

Each island is very unique, so if there is particular wildlife you really want to see you might want to look at the various itineraries on offer and make sure the one you select visits places with that wildlife. I'd imagine most itineraries on offer would cover the "big 15" unique species, but it's worth double checking if there's a particular species you really would love to see and simply can't miss.

Posted by
379 posts

Wow, those Celebrity cruise are expensive! $8299 - $10,699 per person for 7 days.

We went on the Road Scholar's The Galápagos: Natural and Cultural History in June, 2018. Price for 2020 is $5499 per person for 11 days. https://www.roadscholar.org/find-an-adventure/6043/the-galapagos-natural-and-cultural-history
We were on the Tip Top III which has a capacity for about 18 passengers plus crew. There were only 13 in our group. The ship's accommodate were adequate. The food was good and plentiful. The crew is very helpful and friendly. Our guide was marvelous.
There were some rough waters, but it occur at night while you're in bed. No one got seriously seasick. One or two didn't feel too well but controlled with meds.

And yes, seven nights is enough.

Posted by
166 posts

@ Michelle. I am thinking of going to the Galapagos in the next few years. I thought Celebrity was too expensive as well. The only part I don't like about Road Scholar is they can not guarantee two beds because of the ship configuration. How is the weather in June. Warmer enough to swim and walk in shorts etc.

Posted by
2704 posts

Over 90% of the ships for Galapagos are under 40 persons. Most are even under 30 persons. There is a reason for that - access. These are not ports like a typical cruise line. In fact, I wouldn't want to approach the Islands as a 'cruise'. It is rarely about the 'boat' and its services. It is nature travel with water transport. Now, some want a different experience, in which case the larger ships may be worth the price for them.
You need to decide what you want. If it is access to quiet coves, snorkeling every day, 2 outings per day and about the animals and scenery then a small ship may be a better mesh.
If you are less physically fit and need elevators or multiple choices for dinner or a spa, then go large.
I chose the 15 passenger Samba with it's wonderful guide Juan Salcedo. The guide can really make the trip and all 13 of us wished we had been able to afford the second week that hits the other part of the archipelago. Juan was always on the lookout for things to see even underway. Once he spotted a pod of dolphins, so we got out the zodiacs and travelled with the pod playing chase and tag. Another ship didn't make any alteration and just kept going. Also didn't see the orcas we spied despite being in close proximity. A guide that is really into his job is a true gift to a trip like this. He schedules his life and trips a year in advance so he doesn't burn out from weeks and weeks back to back. This can happen to even an excellent guide, so I appreciated Juan keeping fresh.
Some find that Galapagos Island planning along with safari planning to be the hardest logistics and decisions to make....most likely due to distance, remoteness and costs. These are often truly once in a life time trips.
I used CNH travel. She only 'sells' the Samba. She has a tour including part of Ecuador, but you can also buy just the Island part. As I was in Ecuador for a month, that was my choice. Metropolitan Touring and Happy Gringo are both experienced and well reputed Ecuador travel agents.

Posted by
2704 posts

I found the main port and island a shock after a week of little habitation. We originally joined the Samba on a dock closer to the airport, so missed that initial harbour scrum.

Some find the open cigarette type boat to get to a second habited island to be difficult. lots of fumes and smacking waves. You need to know your tolerances.

Posted by
3980 posts

As time on the islands is limited, you need to be on a small boat that you can quickly get on and off, not queue up with a hundred others. A boat with 25 people maximum would be my choice.

I went there for 11 nights as we wanted to see some of the smaller islands and we took the view that it’s somewhere where we would only go once, so we may as well cover it as fully as possible. I was on the Reina Silvia as part of a small group tour, which was fantastic as we had 2 great guides.

Posted by
933 posts

We went with Celebrity in 2008 and loved it. We were able to use air miles to and from.
We arrived in Quito a few days ahead to acclimate some and to head up, via the gondola, to spend some time one day. We also visited the fake and real Meridian and museum.
We extended our stay after the cruise and spent three days in Cuenca. There we had a private guided tour of the city and some ruins outside of the city.
The food on the cruise and in the cities was fantastic.

Posted by
291 posts

While Celebrity is a big cruise line, their Galapagos ships are not massive ocean cruise ships. I don't believe you'll come across any Galapagos cruise ships that carry more than 100 passengers, Celebrity ships included (and one of their ships is a 50 passenger yacht). If I'm not mistaken, larger ships aren't even permitted by law. So when you're talking large vs. small, you're talking maximum 100 passengers down to mid-range 25-50, and the smallest ones taking no more than 20 passengers.

Some people might choose larger ships for a variety of reasons, and how prone one might be to sea sickness is one of them (the thinking being a smaller boat will bounce and sway around more, while larger ones might insulate you a bit more from the movement of the sea).

Even on larger ones, the islands have their own rules that limit group sizes - just because you're on a 100 person boat doesn't mean all 100 of you will be trekking around together in the same group, with the same naturalist (not to be confused with naturist!) and guide. When I went on the MV Santa Cruz many years ago, there were about 80 passengers on board but also several different naturalists. All the passengers were sorted in to 5 different groups, each group with its own naturalist. When we'd arrive at a specific island, all the groups would gather by group and board inflatable tenders that'd then take ya to the island for a wet landing (which is to say, there were almost never docks or anything of that sort, and whether you were on a small boat or large boat you'd have to take a tender from your cruise ship or yacht to the shore itself, then hop out in to the water and walk ashore). So in those terms of actual landings on and walks around the islands, the experience wasn't that different - we spent all our time on land with our specific group, and each group would venture off in its own direction when on the island or stagger and alternate schedules so we wouldn't come across one another. More than anything, minimizing environmental impact was the driving factor on how landings are carried out. When I visited a couple years later on a much smaller boat, it was somewhat similar in that everyone on the boat was in the same group and so we'd all go on walks and island excursions together - same group size.

Certainly, though, there are certain islands and locations the larger ships can't go to - they can't get close enough to shore and are just too big for certain spots. Mind you, there can sometimes be some give and take here - the vast majority of live-on boats operating in the Galapagos are < 20 passengers, with only a handful of larger ones. If you're pulling up to a smaller island with a couple other small boats, you'll be seeing just as many other human heads as the people on the one midsize boat that happens to be at another island by itself. Overall, though, the limited number of boats allowed to operate in the area all do a fairly decent job coordinating things (not just for the sake of passengers, but impact on the islands and wildlife most importantly). When I visited on a smaller boat, there were occasionally a couple other smaller boats tendering passengers at a certain spot at the same time but it never felt remotely crowded or anything.

Speaking of impact on the islands, that is definitely something worth keeping in mind - your smaller boats will burn less fuel, generate less trash, and overall have a much smaller environmental impact per sailing. That's a worthwhile consideration, given how fragile the Galapagos are. If you want to experience them, while leaving as little of yourself behind as possible so to speak, there's something to be said for the smaller - and newer and more efficient - boat options available.

Posted by
291 posts

Thank you, Maria!

As a quick aside, since some brought up flights, I think your only options might be TAME (Ecuador's national carrier), LATAM, and maybe one or two others (Avianca perhaps?). You're usually looking at flying from Guayaquil to Baltra in the morning, so unless you can find a flight from the US early enough you'll be spending a night in Guayaquil. If you fly from the US in to Quito, and take a flight to Baltra from there, you'll still be stopping in Guayaquil so it's essentially the same flight from that point. LATAM has an advantage for being an American Airlines partner as has been mentioned, so you can book yourself through to Baltra and back all at once. Pricewise, I don't think you'll see too much of a difference between TAME and LATAM (unless you're an Ecuadorian citizen - they can get super cheap flights on TAME), so see what works best with your schedule and what's more convenient.

Posted by
1081 posts

"Speaking of impact on the islands, that is definitely something worth keeping in mind - your smaller boats will burn less fuel, generate less trash, and overall have a much smaller environmental impact per sailing. That's a worthwhile consideration, given how fragile the Galapagos are. "

You have look at this as the amount of fuel per passenger, amount of trash per passenger. To get the same number of people to the islands it takes 2-3 times the number of small boats as one mid sized boat.

If 50 people are going to the islands is it better to take one mid sized boat or 3 small ones?

Posted by
137 posts

Here's my prejudice up front: I don't like the bigger boats. We did see the larger (but smaller) National Geographic boats - very crowded; and that limits some of your choices; spoke to some of the passengers and there were issues given the large size of the boat. I went in 2017, booked through REI Adventures, who uses Ecoventura. I can't say enough good things about the ship crew and naturalists. Only 12-14 passengers were on board. There is a more expensive option - can't speak to that new luxury ship because we were on the less expensive boat - but I truly felt pampered. After an expedition, you would be greeted with fresh squeezed juice and wonderful, fresh baked/made snacks. Ecuador requires the naturalists to be citizens of the Galapagos. I felt very much like I was on a Rick Steves' mindset-type trip, where you get to know the locals, learn about the environment, food/cooking, political, educational system, etc. as well as the natural environment. Lots of snorkeling, with options for paddleboards and kayaks. They supply wetsuits. Food was incredible. We also had two zodiac boats where we were able to get to the islands, but also explore coves and mangroves and had plenty of room. Lots of hiking. On our way to another island, we were eating lunch and we saw some whales and porpoises; we were able to drop everything and were treated to an incredible show. I hope you get to the Galapagos!

Posted by
291 posts

If 50 people are going to the islands is it better to take one mid sized boat or 3 small ones?

That’s a very good point, and why I made it a point to say “per sailing”, assuming a boat would sail regardless of whether or not we are on it. But what you mention can not be overlooked.

https://www.santacruzgalapagoscruise.com/sustainable-cruises-in-galapagos/

Is an interesting read and supports what you’re saying. Keep in mind that page is presented by the Santa Cruz II (large ship, and successor to the first MV Santa Cruz I sailed on in the early 90s) but it mentions the strict rules in place for all vessels, as well as things like anchor drops and a larger ship’s ability to treat wastewater on board and such.

I saw as well on another site that the maximum group size on any land expedition is 16 -
so whether on a bigger boat or smaller boat you will never go on shore and explore with a group larger than 16 people (and if your boat does do that, they’re breaking the law). I’ve also seen various pages talking about how strictly controlled the larger ones are, and how some older smaller boats are far less efficient and generate more waste.

A good idea, it seems, could be to actually grill your tour company on their boat and their environmental practices. They should be used to answering questions about this, given it’s the Galapagos. Ask how new the boat is, how fuel efficient it is, how they treat non-organic waste, how they handle water, do they make any contributions to sustainability programs, support any local environmental initiatives, etc.

Posted by
1803 posts

We lucked into a buy one-get one free Galapagos trip with Lindblad/National Geographic in 2016. It was the second to last cruise of their ship Endeavor and was a fabulous experience.

I had done some research on smaller boats for Galapagos and was turned off by reports of less than ideal sleeping conditions. I read about diesel fumes in cabins at night, and shared bathrooms. It sounded a bit rustic for me. I have never been a fan of camping — I like a comfy bed and a quiet, fume-free room.

Our trip included 7 nights on board the ship, with nights before and after in Guayaquil and airfare to/from the islands.

We never felt crowded. There were about 100 people on the ship, and we had our choice of numerous outings each day... maybe an early morning hike, or snorkeling, or kayaking, or long visits to islands. We would board zodiacs to get from the ship to the islands — maybe 10-12 people and one naturalist per zodiac.

Because there were so many small groups, we were offered lots of options — on one island there could be a long strenuous hike for some groups and a shorter, easier walk for others, with time for swimming or snorkeling at the end. We had birdwatching hikes and photography sessions.

Before dinner we had a recap of the day and discussion of the next days activities. Everything was extremely well organized. By the end of the week we were exhausted but felt so lucky to have had this experience.

I would highly recommend a trip to Galapagos — and if comfort is important to you, I would not hesitate to go on a ship of around 100 people. You will still have an amazing “small group” experience on the islands.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi - I’m traveling to the Galapagos this year and am wondering if there is anything I definitely should and/or should not bring with me.

Thanks!

Posted by
933 posts

Oil based sunscreen is not allowed.

Also, to clarify a bit about ships allowed to take tourists to any island, large ships are not allowed so long lines to disembark aren’t a factor.
The CelebrityXpedition allowed about 10 to 15 on each excursion, each group took different paths. There was never more than two ships at each island at one time. No crowds to deal with at all. We used zodiacs to find whales and to tour rocky outcroppings. I thought about a smaller boat but felt I’d not suffer seasickness as much if seas got rough.
We had 99 on our cruise and I meet and talked to everyone.

I’ve heard that taking the inter island boats often fill up, leaving disappointed people on the docks. That may have changed from 8 years ago.

Posted by
1 posts

Traveling to Galapagos in January. At one point I need to get from Quito to San Cristobal and later from Baltra to Quito. Any suggestions? Also any suggestions on where to stay a few nights in Quito?

Posted by
16 posts

We went to Galapagos as part of our O.A.T. tour on the Carina, a small 14-passenger yacht. Any protected areas require an authorized Naturalist Guide. Besides excellent food on board, we had twice daily zodiac rides to either hike or snorkel in the bays. With only 14 people we were usually alone where we went. We really loved it and wanted more than the 6 days we had!!

Posted by
166 posts

How would a Galapagos cruise be in December? Would the water be warm to swim in? At the time of year will you be able to see wildlife well?