One cruise destination that escapes the recognition of many travelers is undoubtedly the Galapagos. Situated some 500 miles off the western coast of Ecuador, the islands first appeared on maps toward the end of the 16th century.
By 1793, the Galapagos Islands could be used as a suitable base for the numerous whaling operations that were in operation. Fast forward more than a century and a half later: In 1960, tourism began to develop in the area. Cruising, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the Galapagos.
For most of us, getting from North America to the Galapagos is something of a multi-connection wonder. Most will be routed through Miami, Florida en-route to Guayaquil, Ecuador. From there, a two-hour flight will transport you to Galapagos Island, Ecuador — airport code GPS, also known as Baltra or Isla Baltra, depending on your itinerary.
The experience that awaits in the Galapagos makes the long journey worth it. While some cruise lines offer ports of call in the Galapagos as part of longer voyages, two noteworthy lines routinely offer Expedition-style voyages to this fascinating region of the world.
Celebrity Cruises has offered weeklong Galapagos sailings for a number of years now, operated aboard the intimate Celebrity Xpedition. Carrying just 100 guests, Celebrity Xpedition is based year-round in the Galapagos and provides cruisers with an in-depth look at these volcanic islands, which were studied extensively by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle that took place between 1831 and 1836.
Celebrity typically offers four itineraries on this ship – an Outer Loop, an Inner Loop, a Northern Loop and Southern Loop. Their knowledgeable crew, environmentally sound ship design and Galapagos National Park-certified onboard naturalists all help preserve this delicate archipelago, while enlightening passengers on the region’s natural and evolutionary significance.
Celebrity is also expanding its Galapagos service, with two new ships: Celebrity Xperience, which provides an array of all-inclusive vacations, holds just a privileged 48 guests; and Celebrity Xploration provides an even more intimate experience, carrying just 16 passengers. This ship is ideal for family get-togethers and small groups who want to explore together. The ship features new itineraries with ports that are brand new to Celebrity.
Also gracefully exploring the Galapagos is ultra-luxury line Silversea, which has been providing luxury expedition cruises aboard the 100-passenger Silver Galapagos since late 2013.
Silver Galapagos features a few different itineraries:
A sample of its North Central Itinerary includes stops in Bahia Darwin, El Barranco, Seymour Norte, Punta Carrion, Rabida, Bahia Bellena, Galapaguera Cerro Colorado, Punta Pitt, Bahia Gardner, Punta Suarez, Estacion Darwin & Puerto Ayora, and Plazas Sur. Silversea also offers Western Itineraries.
Silversea also offers pre- and post-cruise land adventures, such as an add-on to visit Machu Picchu and the surrounding areas, or a river cruise along the Peruvian Amazon.
So why should you consider a voyage to the Galapagos Islands?
Simply put, these are some of the most scenic and diverse islands you’ll come across. They are incomparable to nearly any other destination, with their stunning mix of wildlife and landscapes ranging from stark and barren to lush and verdant. The islands are also one of the few places on earth that lack an indigenous population, which makes them highly unique.
For lovers of strange and exotic wildlife, these islands are a veritable paradise; one that should be a part of any Avid Cruiser’s destination bucket list.