Planning your honeymoon? Or maybe a special anniversary celebration? A couples’ cruise to the Galapagos Islands is an unforgettable experience for you and your partner to share. It’s got everything a couples’ trip needs: Adventure, gorgeous sea and landscapes, interesting activities, exotic locations, and plenty of opportunity for romance.
If you’ve never been to the Galapagos Islands (or if you’ve never planned a cruise before), you may feel a bit overwhelmed with the planning process, so we’ve put together a few tips to help you make the right decisions for your trip.
Read on to see how easy it can be to plan the perfect couples’ cruise to the Galapagos.
Start with the length of time you can be away from home.
Most Galapagos Islands cruises are between 4 and 8 days, so that means that even if you only have a week to travel, you can still plan a cruise. That said, it’s best if you have 10 days or more, because you’ll need a full day of travel coming and going from continental Ecuador to the Islands and back.
Generally speaking, longer cruises are better financially than shorter ones because your “fixed” costs are spread out over more days. Your airfare, for example, is more economical if you spread it out over 12 days instead of 7. And your per-night costs on an 8-day cruise are lower than the costs for a 4-day one.
Of course, if you’ve never been on a cruise before, a short itinerary gives you a chance to test the waters, so to speak, without a huge commitment. On the other hand, a short cruise often means fewer choices in terms of boat class and amenities—and you won’t get to visit as many islands, which may leave you wanting more from your trip.
Consider your dream Galapagos Islands itinerary.
If you’re thinking about a Galapagos Islands cruise, you probably have a few ideas about what you really want to see.
Maybe it’s a particular animal or bird, or maybe you’re an amateur volcanologist. The thing is, when you’re planning a cruise, you want to make sure you’ll actually see the things that matter to you.
- Southern Islands (San Cristobal, Santa Fe, Plazas, Espanola, Floreana) focus more on human history and wildlife diversity. This is the only place to see the waved albatross, for example.
- Northern Islands (Santiago, Bartolome, Rabida, North Seymour, Genovesa) are noted for their volcanic landscapes and lava fields, as well as the red-footed booby colony and the penguins on Bartolome.
- Western Islands (Isabela and Ferdinanda) have the most active volcanoes as well as amazing wildlife including the flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguins, and whales. Isabela Island is the largest of the thirteen main islands in the Galapagos, it is also the only island to have the equator run through it.
Be sure to carefully read over the cruise itinerary to make sure it matches your vacation goals.
Determine when you want to travel.
There’s really no bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands, but there are definitely times that are better than others when it comes to viewing certain wildlife.
There are two peak seasons: June through September and then December through January. Even though these are the most crowded times, the national parks impose a strict number of visitors who can visit, so there’s never a crush.
However, there are better times to see and experience all that the Galapagos Islands has to offer. For example:
- December through May is the rainy season (but the rains are very sporadic and short-lived, so it won’t really disrupt your trip) and the water is warmer, which makes snorkeling much more pleasurable. It’s also mating season for many of the animals, so you can watch their interesting dances and rituals, as well as witness the tortoises nesting. In March and April, the sea lion pups are born, so you can see them exploring the islands. If you’re given to seasickness, this is definitely the time to visit, since the seas are calmer.
- From June through November, the Humboldt Current brings cooler water and an abundance of plankton, which attracts the birds, and penguins. The blue-footed booby does its amazing mating dance during this season, and the diving is at its finest, if you can brave the cooler waters.
Choose your vessel’s class and size carefully.
There are many different types of ships and boats that cruise the Galapagos Islands, so give some thought to the size of the craft and available amenities you want. Vessels include:
- Full-size cruiseliners (with a maximum capacity of 100 people)
Nearly all Galapagos Islands cruise vessels have air conditioning and private baths as well as spacious sun decks and rest areas. They provide meals with menus that vary based on the size and class of the boat. In general, cruise vessels are assigned to the following classes:
- First class
Consider whether you’d prefer a smaller vessel (which is usually the cheaper option) with more intimacy with your fellow passengers or a larger cruise ship that allows for more privacy and a wider range of on-board amenities. If you are prone to seasickness, a bigger boat or a Catamaran is a better option.
If diving is on your bucket-list, you can also book a diving cruise, which may be a single day adventure or a series of dives over several days.
Nail down your cruise cabin, travel arrangements, and any add-ons.
Once you’ve selected a cruise itinerary, departure date, and vessel, don’t waste any time booking your air travel and transfers—the sooner the better to get the best flights and fares. Depending on where you depart, you’ll fly into Ecuador, arriving in either Guayaquil or Quito.
From there, you’ll need to arrange a flight on TAME, Aerogal, or LAN airlines to either Baltra or San Cristobal, depending on where your ship departs.
This is also the time to book any add-on activities like a day tour of Quito, a tour of the Mindo Cloud Forest or Ecuador jungle, swimming with the sealions, or snorkeling with the sharks, for example.
Think about packing for your trip.
You’ll have a variety of adventures and experiences on your trip, so it’s important to give some thought to what you’ll need to pack before you go. In addition to an assortment of easily layered clothing and other daily essentials, here’s a list of specific items to bring on your Galapagos Islands cruise:
- Seasickness meds, antacids, Imodium, ibuprofen or other analgesic plus any other medications you take regularly
- Sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses
- Camera, extra batteries and memory cards, and waterproof bag for your camera gear
- Travel alarm clock
- Aluminum or heavy-duty plastic water bottle
- Day pack
- Insect repellant
- Walking shoes and sturdy sandals
- Lightweight jacket
- Rain gear or poncho
- Beach towel
Remember to pack light, because there is a very restrictive 20-kilogram weight limit on charter flights to Baltra or San Cristobal.
Get all the travel and health bits in order.
You’ll need a passport with at least six months validity from your date of departure from the Galapagos Islands – read more about entry requirements here.
Have at least $200 in US dollars when you arrive, because you’ll need to pay $20 for an INGALA migration control card and $100 for a national park card before you can embark on your cruise.
The US dollar is the accepted currency in the Galapagos Islands and once you leave the airport, there may be limited access to bank machines. There are ATM machines in both airports in the Galapagos. Be sure to carry enough cash to handle the incidental expenses not covered by your cruise package.
Travel insurance is important. This should be bought separately as most tours don’t cover this.
The islands are very remote and medical care is extremely basic and may not be readily available—it may take 48 hours to access care.
The environmental regulations limit the movement of air ambulances even in serious situations.
For that reason, it’s important that you to get a travel medical insurance policy that covers accidents, air ambulance services, and other medical care while you travel.
It’s also a good idea to get traditional travel insurance to cover your belongings and reimburse you if you are unable to take your trip for any reason.
Schedule a visit with your doctor to make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date and ask about typhoid, hepatitis A and B, malaria and yellow fever, especially if you’re visiting Ecuador.
A couples’ cruise to the Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that will make any occasion memorable, whether you’re honeymooning or celebrating another important milestone in your lives.
If you’re ready to plan your adventure, get in touch today to see how easy it is to arrange the ultimate Galapagos Islands cruise. And if you’re not quite ready to have a conversation, sign up for our free email course to learn everything you need to know to plan a Galapagos Islands vacation.