View from Bartolom Island GalÃpagos Islands
Brandon Rosenblum/Getty

6 Best Galapagos Cruises For Every Kind of Traveler

These voyages make for truly once-in-a-lifetime vacations with unforgettable wildlife encounters.

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.

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.

A suite on board Silver Origin comes with butler service.

Courtesy Silversea

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.  

Best Galapagos cruises for families

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.