I’ve been considering a Galapagos cruise as a future vacation option, because what I know about the place really fascinates me. However, I always like to do some research and I figured someone on these boards probably has some experience/opinions to offer.
Here are my main questions:
Is it getting really touristy? I know I’m a potential tourist myself, but are the islands overrun with gawkers?
I suspect it’s a lot of walking, but do you have to be in extra-good physical shape?
Celebrity Cruises or smaller tour operator?
How does a Galapagos cruise compare with the typical “funship” type?
Sorry for the late reply, but your thread quickly got buried. My wife and I went a couple years ago (plus I’m from Ecuador myself) so I’ll try to answer briefly–feel free to provide whatever follow-ups you want.
Kind of a weird question–the only people on the Galapagos are tourists or those in the service industry, really. Still, given that there aren’t many places to stay on the islands (most tourists lodge on boats), the islands are kept very pristine. We visited 10 islands or so, and we never saw another tourist group on the islands themselves (except for the slightly populated Santa Cruz, of course, where the Charles Darwin Center is located). For every hiking or diving excursion, it always felt like we were the only ones there (though ocassionally there would be other ships anchored nearby). The islands have about 60,000 visitors annually.
No, though it doesn’t hurt. The hikes are usually long (a couple hours) but not overly rigorous–and some tours will give you a few options in case you’re not up for the more strenuous stuff. This also goes for options if you don’t have much experience diving.
We heard lots of feedback that the larger the ship, the worse the experience (maybe not in terms of comfort, but in terms of seeing and learning as much as possible from the islands). We used Metropolitan Touring and found the service and amenities exceptional. A great experience.
I’d say the food is comparable, if not better. Our boat always had excellent food.
There are, however, almost no activities on board, short of a nightly slide show orienting you to the next day’s island and its particular flora/fauna. That’s OK, though, because by the end of the day, you’d usually be exhausted anyway. Our boat had a small jacuzzi, a bar, library, and decks to relax on. A typical day was Breakfast–Morning Excursion–Lunch–Afternoon Excursion–Dinner. Don’t underestimate how pooped you’d be at the end of the day, so there was very little “nightlife”, and there was never a day where you were just sailing (all that’s done at night, so you arrive at your next island by morning). You have the option of skipping an excursion and staying on the boat instead, but nobody ever did–partially because every island was one where the only existing X or Y could be found, and because the diversity of the islands was so rich that it never got boring or repetitive.
Hope that helps, for starters. Feel free to add any additional questions if you’re still considering this vacation.