A step by step guide to choosing the best Galapagos cruise

There are hundreds of Galapagos Cruise boats and itineraries that it can be a nightmare to figure out what is the perfect Galapagos cruise for you. And since I have been there before, I thought I would share with you some tips to help you find the best Galapagos Cruise that meets your needs both in terms of the level of service and boat, and itinerary. So if you are deciding which Galapagos Cruise and you are somewhat overwhelmed by all the options this is your post.

First of all, let me explain why I can help you. I have been in the Galapagos for three weeks on the three main islands, Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and before getting there I have researched the entire internet space and I have studied the whole Lonely Planet guide, which is always a good old source of information.

I was traveling with a friend at the time and we were uncertain whether to book a cruise or create a DIY itinerary, so we explored both options, after learning about the Galapagos islands in General, we searched through blog posts and travel cruise companies, including Liveaboard.com which we found to be the most complete cruise site for the Galapagos.

The site in fact showed us all the offers available among all the Galapagos boats and itineraries they featured. It was easy to navigate and compare prices, itineraries, and kinds of cruises. We dreamed for a while but after studying the entire Galapagos cruise page in Liveaboard.com (we knew almost all the cruise prices and itinerary by heart) we had a specific idea of what we wanted and we could not find it, for our tight budget, so we choose to create our own Galapagos itinerary.

The result was that we become experts of all the cruises and we have promised ourselves that one day we will join a cruise, the best of all, while in the meantime I am just writing about it. 🙂

Blue bay surrounded by a rock coast and two boats off the shore
San Bartolome’ – Galapagos Islands

Oh and I also ended up working for Livearboad.com one year later, where i had an even deeper training on all the cruises, overall.

So these are all the reasons why I can help you find your own cruise. 🙂 so stay with me here…

Insider tip – once you get to Santa Cruz Island, you will see that many local travel agents (where you book your tours) offer amazing super last-minute cruise deals. However, the issue is that to get to the Galapagos you must have booked already all your flights and lodging in advance, as one of the Galapagos Entry requirements, therefore even if the cruise dates matched with your outbound flight, you would lose what you had already pay for the accommodation. That’s why it’s much better to have everything organized beforehand.

How to choose the perfect Galapagos Cruise for you

Liveaboad.com has many last-minute and early booking deals that you should always keep monitored. The website offers a wide array of cruising options for many types of itinerary and boats and prices where you can easily compare to find what’s the best for you. Also, they have the best rate guaranteed policy, which means that if you find the same cruises with exactly the same characteristics on another website that has a lower price, they match it! Isn’t it great!?

Ok but not let’s get to the point, how do I find the best Galapagos Cruise for me? with so many available? You may wonder. Before calling Liveaboard.com customer service, you should do some research first. And I am going to help you do that.

It is very easy to get excited when you see a super special rate or the itinerary that you really had in mind that you forget to check all the other factors and you end up booking a trip that is not exactly what you were looking for.

So here is a list of features and parameters that you should take into consideration when you book a cruise to the Galapagos Islands (or anywhere else, really).

You can also move on to my articles about the top 5 Galapagos Luxury cruises and the 13 Amazing Galapagos Island Cruises for any budget if you are undecided and need help narrow down your search.

Blue footed boobie -bird-
Blue Footed boobie

Decide the cruise dates or month

If you are not flexible with dates keep in mind your traveling date and use the site filters to filter out only the cruises that are included in that date range. It will help you narrow down the search and find what you are looking for faster.

Decide what you want to see

In the Galapagos islands, there are so many things to visit and you cannot see everything in one cruise. Obviously, the longer is the cruise the more sites you can squeeze in, so keep that in mind and make sure you check the itineraries available and what’s included. Spend time reading through the itinerary and make sure that if you have questions you ask the operator.

Decide your budget

While browsing through the cruise option, take a look at the prices. On Liveaboard.com you can see on the top left the average price per day and in the cruise detail the total of the cruise. But if you click on the cabin options, you can check the availability and price of each cabin. Please keep in mind that the availability is not in real-time, so it’s better if you can select a few cruises in order of preference and check with the operator the real availability.

Decide the length of the trip

Based on your budget and the time you have you can decide how long you want to be on a cruise in the Galapagos Islands.

Use the filters

You can use the left sidebar option to filter out the parameter you have decided so that you can further narrow down the search and get less overwhelmed when deciding. Let the system decide for you based on your requirements.

How to use filters on Liveaboard.com to narrow down your search

Screenshot © Liveaboard.com

Check the cancellation policy

This is a very important aspect to consider. From what I have learned while working at Liveaboard.com, cruise companies are very strict when it comes to cancellation policies and just apply what they have previously stated in their terms and conditions. And this is why it’s always important to read them well before booking and have your own travel insurance to cover you in case of cancellations. Especially because cruises have a significant price it would be a shame to lose such amounts of money just because of misinformation. I always recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing but always make sure you read their terms as well and if they cover trip cancellations.

Liveaboard.com has classified its cruises according to the flexibility level. I will explain that later on in this post.

Check the trip details

Now that we have narrowed down our research that leads to the best Galapagos Islands cruise, we need to look into the details. (see also the graphics below)

Check the boat details -Is it big enough that guarantee a stable cruise if you are subject to seasickness? Or is it too big that can hold too many people and you don’t like big crowds?

Check the itinerary – is there everything you want to see in the Galapagos Islands included in the itinerary? Sometimes we need to be flexible if we don’t find the exact same itinerary that we have in mind. But probably there are must-see places that are non-negotiable for us. Or maybe we find exactly the itinerary we want but we don’t like the boat or it’s too expensive for our budget. So make sure go through the itinerary properly.

Check the previous customers reviews – it is always important to see what previous guests’ opinions are, but keep in mind that we have all different experience based also on personal expectations. So read the reviews but also make sure not to let one bad review prevent you from booking. If you are undecided about a negative review, ask the operator if what has been described is the truth.

Check the final price – the rate that you see on the front page is approximate. You will need to simulate a booking if you want to see the real final price. In fact, you need to first select the cabin and each cabin a different price and then the system will calculate the taxes.

page site instruction
Screenshot from © Liveaboard.com

💡 Insider tip – if you suffer from seasickness, make sure you chose a lower-deck cabin, you have less view but your body will be grateful because you will be less likely to feel the motion.

On Liveaboard.com, reservations are always on request because Liveaboard.com staff needs to reconfirm price and availability with the operator before confirming the reservation. Once the operator confirms, they will send you the payment request for the entire cruise or a deposit (depends on the operator’s terms and conditions). You won’t need to commit until you send the first payment. Once that is done, your Galapagos Island cruise is confirmed.


How to make a reservation on Liveaboard.com

Following up on what’s mentioned above, making a reservation on Liveaboard.com, is very easy.

  1. Once you have decided which cruise you are interested in, just click on the Select Cabin button and you will be taken to a screen (Image #1) where you will see all your available cabin options (please note the real availability is yet to confirm).
  2. There you must select how many people will be in the cabin. If you are traveling alone, some boat will offer the following choice:
    • having the cabin all for yourself at an extra cost that varies for each company
    • book a single cabin
    • share the cabin with another traveler that will select the same option
  3. Include your email address
  4. Read the booking conditions
  5. Click “continue to next step”
  6. Fill out the form with all your details (Image #2)
  7. Make sure you check the total price
  8. Send the request
  9. The Liveaboard.com team will acknowledge your request and send it to the operator
  10. Once the operator confirms availability and rate Liveaboad.com staff will get back to you with the information and payment request and you will have a few days to decide whether to confirm the cruise or not.
  11. If you decide to confirm the cruise you will have to send a downpayment or full payment depending on the terms and conditions of the boat.
  12. Make sure you have insurance both because it’s basically mandatory in the Galapagos to enter with insurance and for your own peace of mind. Check out either World Nomads or Safety Wing.
  13. From there you are in the capable hand of the Liveaboard.com team who will take you by the virtual hand throughout your booking process and will be happy to reply to any questions or concerns.
  14. Happy cruising!

I hope this helped. So once you know what to look for when you are deciding about your Galapagos Island Cruise, let me help you to actually chose one. I have written a massive post on the best Galapagos Islands cruises where I have selected some cruise options of different lengths, itineraries, and prices, including spectacular luxury cruises, also based on customers feedback. I hope it helps find your perfect Galapagos Cruise!

Important general information on Galapagos islands cruises

  • The majority of the cruises do not include flights to the Galapagos, exception be made by Eden and Yolita. So something to keep in mind when you compare prices. Flights to the Galapagos are from Quito or Guayaquil and normally cost from 400 to 500 depending on the season.
  • There are specific entry requirements to the Galapagos, including the payment of National Park Fees (100 USD per trip, per person that you pay once you land in the Galapagos), Visas and Fees (20 USD per trip that you pay before boarding). These are never included in the price. For other entry requirements, you can refer to my complete Galapagos Islands Vacation travel guide.
  • To enter the Galapagos Islands it is mandatory to have travel insurance and so is to board on a Galapagos Cruises. So make sure you purchase one before you travel. I use either World Nomads or Safety Wing. Make sure you check their terms and conditions before booking.
bird with wings wide open and sea in the background
Nazca Boobie in Española Island

Liveaboard.com new flexibility standards

In order to reduce “booking anxiety” which is so normal after these difficult times that we have been through, LIveaboard.com has classified all their available trips according to the flexibility of cancellation of the operator. So you will notice that each boat on LiveAboard.com will is labeled with one of the following three notes.

EXTRA FLEXIBLE BOOKING* – you will be able to reschedule their trip within 24 months if you are not able to travel due to Covid-19 related restrictions. If you’d rather cancel instead of rescheduling your trip, you will be refunded 90% of the trip value up to 30 days before the departure date. (see below conditions that apply)

FLEXIBLE BOOKING* – you are allowed a free trip reschedule within 24 months if you are unable to travel because of Covid-19 related restrictions. In case you decide to cancel instead of rescheduling your trip, the standard cancellation terms of the operator will apply.

NON-FLEXIBLE BOOKING – It is not possible to reschedule and therefore if you need to cancel due to Covid-19 related restrictions, or for any other reasons, normal cancellation terms apply. It is recommendable that you only book these trips if you are absolutely sure you can travel to the destination. Or make sure you purchase insurance that gets you cover in case of cancellation.

*With Covid-19 related restrictions, one of the following must apply:

  1. The destination country don’t allow you to enter due to their governmental restrictions on your country of residence.
  2. You have contracted the virus within 30 days to departure and can provide medical evidence (certificate/statement) to support this.
  3. Your country of residence prevents you from departing due to their governmental guidelines and restrictions on the embarkation point for the liveaboard.

Only if one or more of the above apply, this liveaboard operator will offer a free re-schedule of your trip within 24 months from the initial departure date.

Also – rescheduling is subject to availability. Rescheduled trips must be of equal or lesser value. Should the rescheduled trip be of lesser value, there will be no partial refunds. Please check on the Liveabaord.com website for any updates on this policy.

Flamingo head and beak - How to choose the best galapagos cruise
Flamingo in Isabela Island

Galapagos Islands Cruises FAQ

What is the best cruise to the Galapagos?

Well, there is no one answer, all the cruises are excellent because they take you around such a unique area, the Galapagos Islands. Obviously, the higher the costs, the better the services and the more luxurious is the boat. However, even budget Galapagos Cruises will be able to take you around incredible places. It all boils down to what you want to see, how much time you have and the budget available.

Why are Galapagos cruises so expensive?

There are many factors that make the Galapagos Cruises expensive, including:

  • boat operational costs
  • high-quality standard of the boat and service, even in the non-luxury boats
  • high costs of permissions and taxes
  • in Ecuador the minimum wage is much higher than in other country in South America, and so is the quality standard of living.
  • Highly qualified staff on board

What is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?

This is very difficult to answer as the Galapagos are a year round destination and there is not a cheaper month. However I can assure that around Christmas and Easter that’s when it gets more expensive and crowded. So I would suggest avoid those months.

Is Galapagos worth Cruise?

It is indeed because on a cruise you get to visit places that you can’t reach otherwise. However, it all depends on the way you like to travel. In this detailed post on the difference between a DIY trip or a cruise in the Galapagos islands, I explain the pros and cons of both ways of traveling to the Galapagos Islands.

peninsula in  blue ocean - arial view
San Bartolome’ – Galapagos Islands

Which cruise line is the cheapest?

It really depends on how many days you want to be on a cruise, but among the cruise, I have checked out the cheapest is the Golondrina.

What cruise lines go to the Galapagos Islands?

There are many different cruises but not commercial ones. The Galapagos islands’ cruises don’t belong to the big international cruise groups. On this site, you can find pretty much the most popular cruises in the Galapagos.

How long is the boat ride from Ecuador to Galapagos?

There is no boat transportation from the Ecuador mainland to the Galapagos Islands. You will need to fly from either Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra or San Cristobal island if you want to get to the Galapagos and from there you will board on your Galapagos Crise.

How much does a Galapagos cruise cost?

It varies for length of trip and standard level of the boat, and itinerary. Prices for a Cruise to the Galapagos Islands range from $ 200 to $ 1200 per day.

How much does it cost to fly to the Galapagos Islands?

To fly from the Galapagos Islands can be either from Quito or Guayaquil and the return flight would range from 450 to 500 USD depending on how much in advance you book it and what season. Here below the two airlines that are now operating to the Galapagos Islands.

I hope that this post was useful and know you have a better idea on how to select your Galapagos Islands cruise. If you have any specific question, please let me know. I will be extremely happy to help out!