The Top 10 Galapagos Cruises for all Different Groups & Budgets

Galapagos Islands Travel - Knowmad

The Galapagos Islands have so much to offer: wildlife like nowhere else in the world; ideal weather year-round; and the best small-ship, expedition style cruises. Together, let’s navigate the different boat options, itineraries, and seasonal differences to ultimately create the Galapagos Islands trip of your dreams!

The Trip Specialists at Knowmad will help you navigate the different boat options, itineraries, and seasonal differences, coordinating Galapagos and mainland Ecuador travel for a holistic, seamless and safe experience, all at a guaranteed best value. If you’re interested in crafting a custom trip to the Galapagos Islands, reach out today at 612-315-2894 or fill out the short form above! 


Different Galapagos cruise boat types

The two main boat types for Galapagos cruises are monohull vessels and catamarans; however, there are also a few sailboat options. There is not one boat that is the best, as there are advantages and disadvantages to each, so let’s take a look at them.

Monohull Galapagos Islands Travel
are considered to be stronger and safer than catamarans, although the latter has been highly debated. What is sure is that Monohulls are generally more economical. They are great for those looking to cruise through the Galapagos without the higher catamaran price tag. However, if you are someone that has a history of seasickness, especially if you are going during the choppier season (August, September, and October), we would recommend going with a catamaran instead of a monohull, or considering a larger boat.



Catamaran Galapagos CruiseCatamarans are generally more spacious than monohulls. They are very stable, and therefore better for those who deal with seasickness or haven’t spent much time on a boat before. They are also fantastic for getting into places that many other ships cannot reach. Catamarans are usually 16 passenger ships.




Sailboats Top 10 Galapagos IslandsSailboats Galapagos cruises are required to stick to pre-approved itineraries from the national park. This makes it almost impossible to do a Galapagos cruise strictly by sail. But, there are a few sailboats that use a motor along with the sails, making it possible. Boat lovers really enjoy these ships, and they certainly create a romantic and traditional feel while on board.




Different Galapagos cruise CLASSES

There are three different classes of boat that Knowmad Adventures works with, and that we would suggest cruising on: luxury class, first class, and tourist superior. We do not suggest boats below the tourist superior class as this is where you will really see a drop in quality of the guides on board, both in terms of knowledge and language ability, as well as a drop in quality of balanced and well-planned itineraries, and also of food and cabins. Take a look at the differences below between the three classes we do recommend!

Luxury cruises are the nicest in the Galapagos. They have the most spacious and comfortable cabins generally with king size beds, gourmet food, jacuzzis, and some even feature private balconies and included alcohol choices. Most also have kayaks on board and include wetsuits in the rate. Like any luxury experience, they do come with a price tag. Luxury cruises average $800 to $1,000 per person per day, with cruises ranging from 4 to 8 days and up.

First class cruises are just one step down from luxury, in terms of price and how nice your cabin and boat are. These are some of Knowmad’s favorite boats because you can find a lot of variety within this class. There are many first class boats offering a luxury level experience but on a first class vessel and with a first class price tag. However, there are also many that really should be calling themselves a tourist superior option instead, so it’s important to work with a Trip Specialist who has inspected cruises and knows the best first class boats out there.

Overall, if working with a good first class boat, the biggest differences you will find between first and luxury class is the variety and level of food, spaciousness and luxury of the cabins, and the amenities on board. For example, first class boats do not include wetsuits in the rate, but instead provide them for rent at an extra charge on board. First class cruises average $600 to $700 per person per day, with cruises ranging from 4 to 8 days and up.

If working with a tighter budget, there are several fantastic tourist superior options out there. The cabins are generally quite small, but you spend most your time outside of the cabin on the different sun decks or on the islands exploring in the Galapagos anyways. The food will be good, but not on the same level as luxury or first class boats. However, the Galapagos is about the incredible wildlife and the beautiful outdoors, and the most important thing is being on a reliable boat with a great guide and itinerary. Knowmad knows the tourist superior options out there that achieve this while providing an incredible experience for your dollar. Tourist Superior options range in price from $400 to $600 per person per day.


Different Galapagos cruise group sizes

You can charter a Galapagos boat with just you and your family or group, cruise on a catamaran with 16 passengers, as well as join a larger cruise with almost 100 passengers, and everything in between. You are guaranteed a great Galapagos cruise experience with any of the ships we work with, but of course there are advantages and disadvantages to each. Big boats generally mean more amenities, and even though you are with a larger group on board, you are still doing your day excursions with a small group. As these larger ships have multiple guides, they have the capability of splitting travelers into groups based on things like how active they are, their age, and more. Smaller boats are of course more intimate and you have more opportunities to really get to know the other passengers and your crew. There is less time spent getting everyone on board on the zodiacs to head out on excursions as well.


Galapagos cruise durations

Top 10 Galapagos Cruises

From 4 days to 15 days, there are many different Galapagos cruise durations to choose from. Let’s take a look!

We personally feel that this duration is just really too short. Your plane ticket out to the Galapagos Islands will average around $550, so it is really best to take advantage of it once you are there and opt for a cruise with a longer duration than this. However, this duration is fantastic when pairing with a land-based Galapagos experience, like Knowmad’s Land Based Active Adventure or Galapagos Safari Camp. Three nights on a cruise plus three to four nights on land can be a spectacular and varied way to see the Galapagos.

Five days is really the best minimum duration. If you are trying to see the Galapagos in a short time span, wanting to save time for mainland Ecuador or a combo trip with Machu Picchu, but still want to get the most out of your time there, five day cruises are great options.

In our opinion, this is really a fantastic cruise duration. They are less expensive than 8-day cruises by quite a bit, but give you nearly a full week on board, and allow you to really see and experience the islands. Many cruises do not offer this duration, so you’ll want to plan well in advance.

For many, the main draw back of 8-day cruises is the price tag. If the price is manageable for you, then you are in for a treat and guaranteed an incredible week full of new discoveries each day. Eight days is considered the tRaditional, full-length Galapagos program where you can hit all the highlight species.

Now that you know what to consider when choosing your boat and cruise duration, let’s look at our top 10 Galapagos cruise guide to see which is the best fit for you!


Top 10 Galapagos Cruises by Category

Small Galapagos Luxury CRUISES (20 passengers or less)

Ocean Spray Top 10 Best Galapagos Islands

Ocean Spray, CAMILA, & Petrel are luxury Catamarans with unparalleled cabin sizes and itinerary choices. Their elegant design and modern features include a large sun deck, jacuzzi, and spacious cabins with private balconies. Camila, their newest and most luxurious boat, is the only ‘trimaran’ in the Galapagos. They have 4, 5, 6, and 8 day cruise options, meaning they have an itinerary to suit nearly every wishlist. They also have very rare single cabins with no single supplement which can be a great option for singles or groups with odd numbers of travelers. The single cabins book up far in advance though, so you’ll want to book early.

Boat Class: Luxury Class

Cabin Types:

Ocean Spray: 8 double cabins and 1 single cabin

Camila: 8 double cabins

Petrel: 2 suites, 6 double staterooms and 1 single cabin

Size: 16 passengers on each boat

Durations: 4-day, 5-day, 6-day, 8-day, and 15-day cruises

Knowmad Tip: These boats are truly incredible, but with them comes a higher price tag. Ask Knowmad about Ocean Spray, Camila, and Petrel specials and deals, as they occasionally offer them. Let your dates and preferred itinerary make the difficult decision between these three boats. All three are so similar and you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience on any of them!



Top 10 Galapagos Islands Cruises

ORIGIN & Theory are two of the newest and most luxurious boats in the Galapagos. The cabins are smaller than Ocean Spray, Camila, and Petrel without private balconies, but you have unparalleled amenities on board like included alcohol, a gym, stand-up paddle-boards, and even a glass bottom boat for those who want to see the underwater life without snorkeling. The biggest advantage of Origin & Theory are that they have 2 naturalist guides on board for just 20 passengers, meaning they provide a 10:1 guest to guide ratio, the best in the Galapagos (most boats have a 16:1 ratio).

Boat Class: Luxury Class

Cabin Types: 10 deluxe staterooms. All can be set up either with two twin beds or one king size bed. Two sets of cabins have connecting doors, making them great options for families, and there are also two cabins with the ability to accommodate triples.

Size: 20 passengers

Durations: 8-day cruises (they do have the ability to allow you to disembark one day early, making it a 7-day cruise, but this only provides a 10% discount on limited departures, and cannot be combined with their better child and teen discounts).

Knowmad Tip: A great option for families as they are one of the few boats to offer not only child discounts (25%) but teen discounts (15%) and college age discounts (10%) as well. They also have set family departures where your kids are more likely to be on board with other kids and teens.



Natural Paradise Top 10 Cruise

NATURAL PARADISE has fantastic itineraries and several different cabin types accommodating many group dynamics. They also have four cabins on board with private balconies. Like its competitors, you also find kayaks on board, a jacuzzi, and wonderful naturalist guides.

Boat Class: Luxury Class

Cabin Types: 4 standard cabins, 2 junior suites with private balconies, and 3 master suites (2 with balconies and 1 with a spacious sitting area).

Size: 16 passengers

Durations: 4-day, 5-day, and 8-day itineraries

Knowmad Tip: Natural Paradise often has incredible discounts, sometimes $1,000 off or more. Ask your Trip Specialist if there is a discount, and don’t overlook this luxury boat if you’re wanting to stay in a first class budget range, as the discounts sometimes make it cheaper than some first class options.



Small Galapagos FIRST CLASS CRUISES (20 passengers or less)

Galapagos Islands Anahi Cruise

Anahi, named after the owner’s daughter, is technically a first class boat rather than luxury class, but a very nice one. Knowmad considers the overall experience on Anahi to fall more somewhere in between the two classes, so it is a great option for those looking for a nice boat, with a lesser price tag. Their crew, guides, and itineraries are fantastic.

Boat Class: First Class

Cabin Types: 6 standard twin (2 can be transformed into a queen bed) and 2 suite cabins with a king-sized bed & a sofa bed (can be used as a triple).

Size: 16 passengers

Durations: 4-day, 5-day, and 8-day

Knowmad Tip: Anahi is one of the few first class catamaran options, so a great choice if trying to cruise on a cat with a smaller budget than your luxury options. Like many luxury boats, they also have kayaks and a jacuzzi on board.



Travel to the Galapagos Islands by Cruise

LETTYis operated by the same company as Origin & Theory, and shares some of the same pros but at a first class price, like the 10:1 guide to passenger ratio, stand-up paddle boards on board, and family-friendly departures and discounts.

Boat Class: First Class

Cabin Types: Four lower (iguana) deck cabins with port holes and two twin lower beds (two also include one upper bunk bed to be used as a triple); two middle (booby) deck cabins with a double bed and picture windows; and four upper (dolphin) deck cabins with two twin beds or one double bed and picture windows.

Size: 20 passengers

Durations: 8-day cruises

Knowmad Tip: Like Origin & Theory, this boat is great for families as they have set ‘family departures’ where the little ones will have plenty of other kids on board to play with. They offer the same child and teen discounts as Origin & Theory.



Odyssey Galapagos Islands Cruise

ODYSSEY is an excellent first-class monohull. Like Anahi, we find the guide and itinerary quality on par with luxury class boats. The Oddysey has two kayaks and a jacuzzi on board, as well as very nice and spacious common areas and sun deck.

Boat Class: First Class

Cabin Types: One single cabin on the lower deck, four standard cabins on the main deck, two standard cabins on the upper deck, as well as two suites on the upper deck that can also be used as triples. All cabins on the main and upper deck have large picture windows.

Size: 16 passengers

Durations: 5-day and 6-day cruises

Knowmad Tip: Odyssey is one of the few first class boats that has a 6-day itinerary: a great option if looking to save some time and budget for mainland Ecuador or Machu Picchu, while still getting a good amount of exploration in the Galapagos.


Medium & Large Galapagos Monohull Cruise Boats

La Pinta Best Galapagos Cruise

LA PINTA is a wonderful mid-size ship, combining the best of the intimacy of the smaller ships with the amenities of the larger ships. You’ll enjoy gourmet food, kayaks, a glass bottom boat, and a jacuzzi on board. The cabins have some of the best views with floor to ceiling windows.

Boat Class: Luxury Class

Cabin Types: Cabin layout is very straightforward with just 20 double Luxury cabins and 4 Luxury Plus cabins for triples. There are also four interconnecting cabins.

Size: 48-passengers

Durations: 5-day and 7-day cruises

Knowmad Tip: Due to its owners long-standing history in the National Park, La Pinta has some of the best itineraries around in the Galapagos, as well as spectacular guides.



image of woman sitting on Legend cruise balcony,   

THE LEGEND is a First Class Large Ship with a variety of choices for cabin size and itineraries. It’s a modern ship (refitted in 2021) and the higher category cabins could be considered “luxury class” rather than first class with very spacious rooms and balconies. There are several social areas, two dining areas (one outside), library, bar, swimming pool (the only one on the island), 2 jacuzzis, spa and gym, kids corner, and a sun deck for lounging or reading. There is a doctor on board the ship which is a nice amenity compared with the smaller ships. This is one of the largest ships in the Galapagos, at 100 passengers, which makes it great for larger groups or families. They have specific departures that are marketed as “family departures” and you can request triple or quadruple rooms or connected cabins. Upon arrival onto the ship, you’ll be put into a group based on room category and other travel style preferences (young kids, older passengers). There are up to 7 guides so the max group size you’ll have will be 14 people. For travelers who don’t enjoy snorkeling, they have a glass bottom boat and kayaking. Despite the large number of passengers, they rotate which group gets to go first each excursion and it didn’t feel like anyone was missing out by having to go last.

Boat Class: First Class with the higher category cabins could be considered Luxury

Cabin Types: Standard Interior, Standard Plus, Jr Suite, Jr Suite Plus, Balcony Suite, Balcony Suite Plus, Legend Balcony Suite

Size: 100 passengers

Durations: 4-day, 5-day, 6-day, 8-day, and 15-day cruises.

Knowmad Tip: There are two balcony suites (cabin 40 and 41) that have front windows as well as side windows so you get a great view from your cabin. Travelers can go out on the deck in front of your room so you won’t want to keep your shades open all the time.


Tourist Superior CLASS CRUISES

Top Ten Galapagos Cruises - Baluga

BELUGA is our favorite budget-friendly option. Technically considered a ‘superior first class’ boat, it’s a great option to save some money, but still be on a vessel with great crew and guides and wonderful itineraries. The boat is nice, but no frills.

Boat Class: Superior First Class

Cabin Types: All cabins on board are the same price, but with different bed layouts (2 beds or 1) and different style windows. There is one triple cabin on board with 2 lower beds and one bunk style bed.

Size: 16 passengers

Durations: 4-day, 5-day, 6-day, and 8-day itineraries

Knowmad Tip: If available, pick cabin 6, 7 or 8 as they have the large picture windows instead of the port holes.



Galaven Cruise - Galapagos Trip

GALAVEN is another great economical option. This boat has 2 naturalist guides for its 20 passengers, giving it a 10:1 ratio, which is a huge plus, and a rare ratio to see on a Tourist Superior option. They also offer free airport assistance at the Quito and Guayaquil airport.

Boat Class: Tourist Superior

Cabin Types: 4 double cabins with twin beds and 3 double cabins with 1 double bed & 1 bunk bed on the lower level; 2 double cabins on the main deck; and 2 double cabins with twin beds on the upper deck.

Size: 20 passengers

Duration: 4-day, 5-day, and 8-day

Knowmad Tip: Galaven has one cabin with a double bed on the bottom and a bunk on top, making it a nice option for a family with one child. If looking for a cabin with one bed, try and get one on the main deck as they are bigger than the cabins on the other decks.



Have you decided yet which cruise is perfect for you? Or looking for personalized advice on the options? Give us a call today at 1-877-616-8747 or email [email protected] to get the ball rolling on your dream Galapagos vacation. We can check itineraries, dates, and availability for your favorite boats seen here, or even countless others. The Galapagos Islands is truly a magnificent and special place, and cruises are Knowmad’s favorite way to see a variety of islands and wildlife. There is nowhere else in the world like the Galapagos, considered a ‘melting pot’ of wildlife, and it makes the perfect destination for your next family vacation, romantic get-away, or just an adventurous trip amongst friends!


¡Saludos! Renee

South America Travel - Renee DaviesRenee is a Trip Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She lived in Mexico for over 3 years and is excited to help Knowmad travelers discover the wonderful impact not just travel, but really experiencing a different country and culture can have on your life. Read Renee’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.