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Galapagos Boat or Small Ship? Size Matters in Galapagos

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Galapagos cruises are the most popular way to experience the Galapagos Islands, but with so many boats to choose from, determining which boat is right for you can seem like an impossible task! The first thing to consider is whether you’re looking for a large cruise ship or a smaller yacht. In the Galapagos Islands, even the largest ships accommodate just over 100 passengers, so even if you choose a bigger ship, you won’t be on one of the 2,000-passenger ocean liners of the Caribbean with five restaurants, a mall, and a water park. Still, the experience aboard a 90-passenger vessel is quite different than that of a 12-passenger yacht. So which should you choose?


Pros of a bigger ship

  • Stability! If you’re prone to motion sickness but still want to experience a cruise, then rest assured that the weight and size of the larger vessels helps limit their rocking.
  • More onboard amenities & social areas. Bigger ships feature many more onboard spaces than smaller yachts, including several dining areas, a spa, a boutique & gift store, guest services desk, an ample upper deck that sometimes includes even a pool, exercise room, and multiple lounges, exhibition areas, or libraries. Of course, each ship has its own design and may feature any combination of these or other spaces.
  • More people to meet and spend time with. For many, a big part of any cruise is meeting other couples, families, and travelers. Since large cruise ships accommodate more people, it makes socializing a broader experience.
  • Excursions are usually in small groups. Larger ships still try to preserve the small group experience, with multiple guides and dinghies that take groups as small as 6-12 people on each excursion so that the activities never feel crowded.


Pros of a smaller boat

  • More intimate onboard experience. When you’re on a boat with 12-16 other passengers, you’ll really get to know them over the course of your cruise. Plus, you’ll also get to know the crew and usually even the captain, which can make your cruise feel much friendlier.
  • You don’t have to sacrifice stability. Many cruise-goers feel that small catamarans are actually the most stable boats on the water thanks to their twin-hull design. If you’re afraid of motion sickness but still want the small boat experience, definitely book with a catamaran.
  • Perhaps a bigger cabin. This might seem counterintuitive, but on some smaller boats, the cabins are designed to give passengers more space than larger ships, which are designed to accommodate more passengers, one good example is the Infinity Galapagos cruise which is a luxurious yacht offering very spacious cabins with many amenities and private balconies.
  • Still features social areas and amenities. Many of the smaller yachts still have a lounge, al fresco dining area, an ample dining room, a sun deck, and sometimes even a Jacuzzi.
  • More flexible itinerary. The daily destinations are planned out months in advance, but how much time you spend on any given activity at each site is more flexible on a smaller cruise. If you want to do a shorter hike and spend more time snorkeling afterwards, for example, your guides are much more likely to accommodate these interests on a smaller cruise, especially if everyone agrees.


Cons of a bigger ship

  • Less flexibility with the schedule. Managing a lot of people requires strict schedules that the crew & guides must enforce.
  • Less activity time. Boarding and deboarding 100 people can take up to an hour, which means that you might lose some time on an activity like snorkeling or hiking simply to get on or off the boat.
  • Less personal attention from the crew and captain. You can still count on good service from the crew and some individual attention, but certainly not as much as a smaller boat.
  • There are fewer to choose from. This could be a pro too, if you don’t want to browse through a lot of ships to make your decision. The majority of the Galapagos vessels are small yachts and motor sailers - there are only several big ships in the Galapagos.


Cons of a smaller yacht

  • Less stability. Unless you’re on a catamaran, smaller boats are much more vulnerable to the rock and sway of the currents.
  • Fewer onboard spaces. All the essential areas (dining room, lounge, sun deck, etc) will still be there, but there probably won’t be a spa or exercise room. But remember: Galapagos cruises focus on the daily excursions, not the time on the boat.
  • Might have smaller cabins. While some yachts actually offer larger cabins than the ships, others (especially sailboats) tend to have much smaller cabins.
The moral of the story? It all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. There’s really no such thing as a bad Galapagos cruise, so whether you pick a big ship or a small yacht, you’re guaranteed a great time. Decide what kind of atmosphere and amenities are important to you and go from there! Our team of Galapagos experts is always ready to help you make the right decision for your particular case, get in touch and let us plan your dream trip!
By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
By Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders
Ecuador & Galapagos Insiders is a leading travel company based in Ecuador and run by local tour guides and travel specialists, we are happy to provide expert and free trip planning advice, no commitment fee involved.
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders