The Galapagos is one of the world's true bucket-list destinations, a veritable wonderland filled with stunning vistas, amazing wildlife and plenty of expedition-style opportunities. Nearly a hundred ships call this region home, but we've picked seven of our favorites that offer a great mix of authentic experiences ashore and world-class comforts.
The 100-passenger Celebrity Flora is a rarity in the world of Galapagos cruising: a thoroughly modern, purpose-built Galapagos-based ship with the cachet of a much larger ship. Essentially a mega-yacht, the ship's sleek, pleasing public rooms, staterooms and suites all boast huge windows and plenty of natural design elements that reflect the natural world of the Galapagos; stateroom bathrooms feature showers with inlaid pebble flooring that mirrors the beaches. Couple that with the scientifically minded Discovery Lounge and some of the most environmentally friendly technology in the region, and it's a recipe for an unforgettable experience.
Sleek, modern design
Largest suites in the region
All-inclusive pricing and luxury amenities
Best For: Adventurous cruisers, active couples and fans of Celebrity's big-ship ocean cruises
The 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour II offers lots to like, including plenty of window-lined public rooms and staterooms that are smartly designed but decidedly unpretentious and uncomplicated. Truly the perfect ship for those looking for education, it's stocked with books on the Galapagos and manned by an expedition team of locals primed for adventure. Because of the National Geographic name, it tends to attract plenty of multigenerational families cruising with kids. The younger ones may be at loose ends onboard (the ship lacks dedicated kids' facilities), but the quality of the crew and the nature of the explorations ashore make this ship a winner for families looking to follow Darwin's footsteps.
Adventurous water sports options
Cozy accommodations and great public areas
Best For: Families with kids, younger couples, cruisers looking for a truly educational adventure and active travelers
Carrying 100 passengers, the all-suite Silver Origin distinguishes itself from the get-go. Suites feature butler service, tremendous space and Silversea's trademark pillow menu and luxury linens. The ship is one of the few in the region to offer more than one dining venue and is even equipped with Silversea's popular Hot Rocks on-deck grilling experience, offered in the ship's casual open-air restaurant. The ship is beautifully appointed, with a state-of-the art marina, lecture lounge, fitness center and even a small nook for buying locally made crafts and jewelry. After a day of exploring with the ship's dedicated expedition staff, returing to the comfort of a luxury ship is tough to beat. In keeping with Silversea's indulgent nature, fares are all-inclusive and frequently include airfare and hotel stays.
Plenty of open deck space
Butlers for every level of accommodation
Best For: Luxury-minded couples, past Silversea cruisers and those looking to explore the Galapagos in style
Celebrity's first Galapagos-based expedition ship may not be the new kid on the block anymore, but this vessel still packs a punch. After Celebrity Flora made its debut, Celebrity Xpedition's passenger capacity was knocked down from 100 to just 48, meaning this is one spacious expedition ship. The ship offers all drinks and tips included in the price, along with excursions guided by a stellar expedition team and the high-quality cuisine and service that Celebrity is known for.
One of the highest passenger-to-space ratios in the region
Great staterooms and public areas
Celebrity's trademark service
Best For: Adult couples, Celebrity fans who don't need the level of luxury of Celebrity Flora and anyone looking for a larger ship with fewer passengers
Quasar Expeditions' 32-passenger Evolution stands out among the crowded Galapagos market. With its sleek bow and classic yacht-like styling, Evolution offers a stately cruise experience that's straight out of the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Both indoor and outdoor dining options are offered onboard, along with a comfortable lounge and bar that also doubles as a lecture hall. Open deck space is plentiful, and Quasar even offers an onboard Kids Club that keeps younger discoverers happy with activities like stargazing, movie nights and the opportunity to keep their very own expedition journal.
Classic design with plenty of open deck space
Only 32 passengers
Best For: Families with kids, travelers looking for a yacht-like ship and couples celebrating special occasions
The 48-passenger catamaran National Geographic Islander is more intimate than National Geographic Endeavour II. Each of the 24 cabins offers outside views (though only eight offer French-style balconies), and the ship's two Category 5 cabins are noteworthy for offering wraparound views overlooking the bow of the ship. Equipped with a fleet of inflatable Zodiac rafts, kayaks, stand-up paddle-boards and snorkel gear, the ship has everything an explorer could want in the region, all supervised by Lindblad-National Geographic's world-class expedition team. The ship also features a few cool novelties, including video microscopes and an underwater bow camera.
Skylit bar and lounge
Cool catamaran design
High-tech expedition tools
Best For: Families, couples and those who don't need a full, step-out balcony
Quasar Expeditions' beautiful Grace is a ship with a historic pedigree: the 16-passenger yacht was built in 1928, served during World War II and hosted the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly, the former Princess of Monaco, after it was gifted to her and Prince Rainier of Monaco by shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis as a wedding present. Acquired in 2007 by Quasar and rebuilt from the ground up, the ship turns heads everywhere in the Galapagos. Rooms are attractively paneled with wood and brass accents, and public rooms are suitably comfortable. Open deck space is superb for a ship of this size.
Classic yacht design
Nautically themed cabins
Plenty of open deck space
Best For: Couples and maritime buffs wanting to sail a piece of history