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The Galapagos is one of the world's premier cruise destinations. Filled with exciting flora and diverse species of all kinds, the Galapagos Islands are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were the basis of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution that arose from his own visit in 1835.
Galapagos cruise prices are higher than many other cruise destinations. Galapagos cruise ships are limited to just 100 passengers, and many Galapagos cruise lines are in a situation where demand outstrips supply, by far.
Complicating matters is the fact that getting to the Galapagos is no easy task. Due to the timing of domestic flights between the islands and the mainland, travelers can expect to have to overnight in Quito or Guayaquil pre- and post-cruise before boarding a charter flight to either Baltra or San Cristobal Island.
So, how much does a Galapagos vacation cost? Prices vary depending on your style of travel but tend to start just under $5,000 per couple for a quick cruise and $15,000 or $20,000 per couple for those who want a taste of the good life. While international flights are an extra cost, many cruise lines roll the flights from the Ecuadorian mainland to the Galapagos Island into the cost of the cruise itself.
Here are three basic pricing levels for cruises to the Galapagos, along with details on what to expect onboard:
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific?
The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights.
For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays).
However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise.
As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
Be you bucket-lister or wildlife buff, the idea of the Galapagos pulses with animal magnetism. A visit to the Ecuadorian islands is a science fiction adventure -- ship as time machine visiting a prehistoric land of volcanic eruptions, alien cactus trees, swimming iguanas, flightless birds and tortoises of lumbering immensity. A cruise, which lets visitors efficiently trace remarkable evolutionary variations from island to island, is the most immersive way to see the destination in a three- to 14-night stretch.
Given the Galapagos National Park's "sunrise to sunset" rule, the cruise experience is highly structured, almost military-like (though you can opt out of any activity without threat of pushups). Wake up: 0700\. Breakfast: 0730\. First landing: 0830\. And so forth until you hit the pillow after a post-dinner briefing and pisco sour.
There are typically two excursions per day, and if you participate in every hike and snorkel, expect limited down time -- and expect to be enthralled but slightly exhausted by debarkation day. It's a sacrifice worth making.