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A Guide to the Best Cruise Ships in the Galápagos

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

When you’re visiting one of the most fascinating archipelagos on our planet, you want to do it in style. With a wealth of short and long-stay cruises on offer it’s important you choose the right ship to suit your needs. Whether you wish to walk across lava fields with giant tortoises, dive with hammerhead sharks at Darwin Bay or hike to Sierra Negra Volcano on Isla Isabela, we can help you choose the best cruise ships for your Galápagos adventure.

Best Yacht for an Intimate Experience – M/Y Grace

M/Y Grace has a rich history which passengers will love to explore. Built in 1928, the yacht - then named Monica, played host to the original tycoons before serving with the British Royal Navy during the Second World War. It was acquired by Aristotle Onassis in the early 1950s and hosted luminaries such as Sir Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Taylor before being presented to Prince Rainer III and Grace Kelly as a wedding present. The couple honeymooned on the yacht and it was recently renamed Grace, to recapture the old-world charm and romance she hosted on her decks.

Accommodating just 18 passengers plus crew, this timeless yacht allows you to experience cruising of old, just like Darwin did when he first discovered the islands. Offering 8 and 15-day itineraries, which take in the central, eastern, western and southern islands of Galápagos, you can discover the swashbuckling history of Isla Floreana, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz or snorkel with sea lions off Isla Española. A bi-lingual expert naturalist joins you on-board to advise on the best places to visit too, so you don’t miss out on anything during your cruise. Dining on M/Y Grace is a delightful experience as Ecuadorian and international dishes are served on the romantic outdoor deck. You can enjoy bird watching and dolphin spotting as you dine, before relaxing with a glass of champagne as the sun sets over the archipelago. If you’re travelling to the Galápagos for a special occasion, book the classic Adriana Hoyos-designed Grace Kelly suite and imagine life on the ocean waves as it was back in the 1950s.

M/Y Grace Outdoor Saloon

Credit: M/Y Grace

Best Yacht for Diving – Galápagos Aggressor III

There’s no doubt that the Galápagos islands possess some of the best dive sites on our planet. With crystal clear waters teeming with hammerheads, whale sharks, sea lions and manta rays, it’s a thrilling spectacle which intermediate and seasoned divers can enjoy. A stay on Aggressor III dive yacht offers some of the best dive itineraries in the Galápagos. Around Darwin Arch and Wolf Island, the hammerheads, silky and Galápagos sharks come to you in a magical performance played out beneath the surface, and at Cousins Rock, it’s not unusual to glimpse sea turtles, manta rays and the rare Pacific seahorse. Not only can you enjoy four thrilling dives each day you’re aboard the Galápagos Aggressor III, but night dives are also available for daring subterranean sea adventurers, and land excursions to Charles Darwin Research Station and Santa Cruz highlands also take place. The dive ship is fully equipped with a large swim platform, personal lockers, air/nitrox fill stations, camera tables and more – perfect for film crews and groups of friends travelling together. 

Diving with hammerheads off darwin island

Credit: wildestanimal

Best Ship for Adventurers - M/C Ocean Spray

M/C Ocean Spray is a Mega-Catamaran, elegant in design with spacious cabins, an attractive sundeck, jacuzzi and spacious social areas. Cruises itineraries on M/C Ocean Spray range from short 4 and 5-day cruises to an epic 15-day adventure where you can delve deep into the hidden secrets of the Galápagos archipelago. Each of the 8 cabins have private balconies so you can maximise photographic opportunities, plus there are telescopes onboard for evening stargazing. There are opportunities throughout your tour to hike, kayak, birdwatch and snorkel, plus you gain services of a bilingual naturalist guide on board who can advise the best locations to visit to gain the most from your experience. When it comes to accommodation, M/C Ocean Spray guest cabins are modern in design, boasting panoramic windows, balconies, air conditioning and ensuite facilities with hot water. In addition, all meals, soft drinks and juices on board are included in your cruise price, so all you have to do is relax with a glass of champagne in the jacuzzi and plan your next thrilling escapade.

M/C Ocean spray deck

Credit: MC Ocean Spray

Best Ship for Solo Travellers – M/C Petrel

Travelling alone can be a rewarding experience and fortunately, there are companies out there who welcome solo travellers. Although there are a few Galápagos cruise ships which cater to lone adventurers, M/C Petrel is probably the most luxurious. One of the newest ships in the archipelago, M/C Petrel is owned and operated by Haugan Cruises, a family business who focus on providing high-quality services and amenities that they themselves would enjoy onboard. The catamaran is friendly and relaxed with spacious social areas, providing a great place to meet other like-minded travellers. Single cabins are beautifully decorated with plenty of storage, private balcony access and ensuite bathrooms. Dining on the Petrel is a treat too as accomplished chefs serve Mediterranean and Ecuadorian dishes such as ceviche and lobster designed to make your mouth water! That’s not all - M/C Petrel and M/C Ocean Spray both have dedicated single cabins on board so there’s no sharing, you have the place all to yourself!

A suite onboard the M/C Petrel

Credit: M/C Petrel

Best Ship for Wildlife Enthusiasts - M/T Camila

The impressive Trimaran Camila is one of the newest ships to join the Galápagos islands circuit. With luxurious interiors and private balconies, this intimate 16 passenger ship also helps the environment, consuming much less fuel than its counterparts. M/T Camila offers unrivalled itineraries when it comes to exploring the natural wildlife of the archipelago. During their 8-day cruise itineraries, you can hike through lush highland terrain of Santa Cruz that is abundant with giant tortoises, snorkel with sea lions and discover rare bird species on remote eastern islands such as Genovesa.

It’s also possible to book two itineraries back to back on this ship and you won’t visit the same places twice. When it comes to accommodation, M/T Camila excels. Guest rooms are beautifully furnished with marine-themed artwork and each cabin has its own en-suite bathroom with L’Occitane shower products and safety deposit boxes for gifts you collect on route. As for dining onboard the Camila, you can enjoy delicious Ecuadorian and international cuisine prepared by experienced chefs using local ingredients, then partake in a cocktail or two on the deck as the sun sets over the islands.

M/T Camila

Credit: M/T Camila

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