Follow Darwin’s footsteps to the “cradle of evolution” in style on these stunning vessels
Mention the Galapagos Islands in conversation and most people will tell you a visit to this remarkable archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is undoubtedly on their “bucket list”. The best way to experience the unique and fragile habitats and wildlife of this volcanic treasure is through a liveaboard cruise, moving from island to island and allowing you to see far more than a land-based stay. Not so long ago, the only cruise options available were rather basic, older boats – often converted fishing vessels or end-of-life former private yachts – with few amenities and little in the way of comfort.
Thankfully, you no longer need to make such sacrifices to experience the Galapagos. The Galapagos tourist cruise fleet has developed enormously in the last ten years. A key battleground among operators has become the luxury end of the market, and the increasing competition to outdo each other has meant that there has never been a better time to enjoy a stunning five star + experience as you encounter flora and fauna that just can’t be found anywhere else on Earth.
With so many options to choose from, we turned to independent luxury Galapagos cruise experts Galapatours.com to help us narrow down the top 5 vessels sailing around the islands today. By using their online luxury Galapagos cruise portal, you can specify your chosen dates and filter from a range of preferences to find the perfect Galapagos cruise experience for you. Here’s our pick of the Top 5 Galapagos cruises you can book today.
1. Galapagos Infinity
The Infinity is one of the newest boats in the Galapagos cruise fleet. Launched in 2018, she set a new standard for luxury as well as offering one of the most sustainable cruise options currently available. Each guest stateroom is sumptuous, with modern interior design flourishes complemented by stunning natural wood features, and floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, private balcony, and opulent en-suite bathroom. The yacht has been designed with ample space for socialising with like-minded travellers, and her communal spaces include inside and outside bars, al fresco dining area, a luxurious saloon, and a massive sundeck with a jacuzzi pool.
Dining on board is a world-class experience. Galapagos Infinity’s chefs provide a range of fine-dining dinners and relaxed al fresco lunches, all of which feature the freshest local ingredients. Her wine cellars are well-stocked with an excellent variety of South American and Old World vintages, and her 14 crew will ensure that your every whim is catered for on your time aboard.
Infinity carries a maximum of 20 passengers, and not one but two naturalist guides, giving you a genuinely intimate Galapagos experience as you travel in groups of only ten people, compared to the industry standard of 16. The range of itineraries is excellent, and you will experience close encounters with iconic species including Galapagos Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Sea Lions, Blue-footed Boobies, rays, sharks and many more.
For the most stable ride through the swells that are sometimes present off the islands, a catamaran hull design is a must. Galapagos Petrel is a state-of-the-art motor catamaran, and her twin-hulls allow her to offer more space than other vessels in the class. And what better way to take advantage of this than by booking one of her two luxury suites?
A suite onboard Petrel provides you with a remarkable 460 square feet of light-filled space to call your own during your cruise around the islands. With panoramic windows, private balcony, private sitting room and stunning contemporary finishes, Petrel’s suites are some of the most generous accommodation to be found anywhere in the Galapagos fleet.
Fine dining is another of Petrel’s specialities – her two chefs have excellent international experience, and they provide a seemingly never-ending range of stunning Ecuadorian and Mediterranean-influenced dishes, as well as signature barbecue lunch buffets served on the sun terrace.
Unlike many of the luxury vessels in Galapagos today, Petrel is a family-owned and run boat. Captain Camillo takes a personal interest in ensuring everything on board is perfect, including the superb naturalist guide and an excellent and varied choice of wildlife itineraries that allow you to visit iconic islands such as Isabella, Fernandina, Genovesa, and more. Snorkelling with sea lions is a particular treat, as is spotting dolphins and whales, encountering the unique Galapagos Flightless Cormorant, and many other endemic species.
Camila is another new boat launched in 2018, but this time a real Galapagos first – the archipelago’s first luxury trimaran. Three hulls give her distinct advantages, including extra stability that other small ships can’t match; a faster cruising speed, which means less time travelling and more time experience the wildlife; and a more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly performance.
Camila’s eight staterooms are superb – modern, bright, with designer finishes and delightful artwork and with more space than almost any other ship in her class. Attention to detail is apparent everywhere you look, and her communal areas are reminiscent more of a contemporary boutique hotel than what you’d expect to find in a tourist boat.
Despite all the luxury, you should be prepared for a genuinely hands-on Galapagos cruise adventure. Camila carries a fleet of kayaks for guests to use to get even closer to the marine life, Galapagos mangroves and shorebirds. Her bilingual naturalist guide is an expert on the flora, fauna and geology of the islands, and will provide unforgettable close encounters with some of the rarest species to be found on the planet, including the iconic Darwin’s Finches and the Galapagos Mockingbird.
Another newcomer to the Galapagos cruise fleet, Alia is an ultramodern luxury catamaran with every possible amenity you could need aboard a tourist motor yacht. Hosting a maximum of only 16 passengers, Alia takes a stunning modern design and marries it with the space only a catamaran can provide to bring you one of the roomiest vessels in her class.
Alia was designed and built for Galapagos cruising, and she uses the latest in glass technology to provide enormous panoramic windows throughout her decks. The view of the islands from inside your stateroom is one of the best you will find. And if you want to see even more, just step out onto your own private balcony. The decor is based on traditional wooden decks and fixtures, but with a luxurious contemporary twist.
Captain Jaime is entering his 10th year skippering luxury vessels in the archipelago and knows the waters like the back of his hand. Alia also carries a dedicated Hotel Manager, Lissette, whose sole purpose is to ensure your every need is taken care of and that the servicing of your stateroom happens several times a day when you are out on excursions. Service on board is impeccable.
Alia’s standout luxury is matched with a relaxed feel, making her a different experience from other high-end boats in the fleet. Her meals are also fine-dining quality but are usually served in a more informal buffet style, or taken in the al fresco dining area. This relaxed ambience appeals to the modern luxury traveller, and Alia is a superb way to mix sumptuous comfort with a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience.
Endemic is a stunning luxury catamaran that was purpose-built for Galapagos, first launched in summer 2018. Endemic brings a new twist to high-end cruising in Galapagos – rather than trying to give the feel of a top hotel, Endemic’s layout and interior design is more reminiscent of a large luxury penthouse apartment.
Her eight staterooms not only enjoy king size beds and a sitting room but also private balconies with breathtaking full width opening floor-to-ceiling glass walls. No other vessel gives you such a fantastic view when you wake in the morning.
Endemic’s communal areas are opulent, yet cosy. There’s an emphasis on comfort and relaxed intimacy rather than out-and-out splendour, giving it more of a home-from-home feel. This is a luxury cruise on which you can truly unwind. There are plenty of comfortable sofas and easy chairs, as well as quiet spaces around the ship to enjoy some undisturbed tranquillity. Her two bars (one inside, one alfresco) offer plenty of opportunities to sample her excellent cellar and range of premium spirits, and dining is of the highest international standard.
Outside space is among the best to be found on any boat – a fantastic lounger runs the entire width of the upper deck, with a jacuzzi spa as its crowning glory. There are plenty of shaded as well as sunny areas, and this deck is the perfect place to spot Galapagos Sea Lions by day, and the equatorial stars by night.