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Galapagos Cruise vs. Caribbean Cruise

  |   Galapagos

You’ve decided to take a cruise and now the debate arises: Galapagos cruise or Caribbean cruise? Both are dreamy destinations promising unforgettable scenery, yet the actual experience of a cruise in each location can be quite different. For those still deciding which to choose, here are both sides of the Galapagos cruise vs. Caribbean cruise discussion to help you make the right decision on which cruise is best for you.

Galapagos Cruise, The Anahi Catamaran 

Galapagos Cruise, The Anahi Catamaran 

Galapagos Cruise vs. Caribbean Cruise: The Ships

One of the greatest differences to consider when comparing Galapagos cruises to Caribbean cruises is that each region permits completely different types of ships, which will have one of the most significant impacts on your experience.


The average Caribbean cruise ships boast a capacity for thousands of guests on board (3,000 person ships are common). Galapagos cruises, in comparison, carry an average of 16 passengers per ship, for a more intimate experience. The smallest ships in the Galapagos hold a mere 8-10, whereas the absolute largest can hold 100 passengers. This means groups can even book a Galapagos cruise entirely to themselves, or select a charter departure that is completely customizable and personal. 


Because the ratio of staff to guests is so much smaller on a Galapagos cruise, you can count on getting to know the staff members and your fellow passengers well throughout the course of your cruise, leading to a more personal experience. Most of the staff are originally from the Islands, offering a wonderful opportunity for personal encounters with locals, and you can be sure they’ll know your name and how to help you by the end of the first day. While the larger Caribbean cruises are certainly well-staffed, you can’t count on seeing the same crew member more than once.


Galapagos Sea Lion seen while snorkeling in the Galapagos.

Galapagos Sea Lion seen while snorkeling in the Galapagos.

Galapagos cruise vessels are often referred to as ‘boutique cruises’. Smaller in size and certainly less of a floating city and more of an actual ship, they make sure to deliver on everything you need (on-board, restaurant, bars, Jacuzzis, libraries, etc.), without going overboard. Rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach to the ships, you’ll also have a huge variety of ships to choose from. Whether you prefer luxury or family-friendly, a classic sailboat or modern catamaran, a group itinerary or private charter, there is a Galapagos cruise to meet your needs.


On Galapagos cruises, you’ll have everything you need to keep you happy while on-board, but the itinerary aims to focus on actually exploring the on-shore destinations themselves. And considering how unique of a destination the Galapagos Islands are, more time on-shore is a true luxury. 

Exploring the Galapagos Islands

Exploring the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Cruise vs. Caribbean Cruise: The Destinations

Of course, an essential aspect in deciding between a Galapagos cruise and Caribbean cruise is the actual destination you’ll get to see. From landscape to wildlife to local culture, the Galapagos and Caribbean offer something completely different.


On a Caribbean cruise, you can expect the main attractions in the itinerary to be the on-board activities. Every day has something for every member of the family, and schedules are full throughout the day and night. Usually the cruise will focus on a selection of port-of-calls (on-shore destinations), sometimes as many as one per day (sometimes one every other day). In these destinations you will have a selection of a wide variety of activities, which may include beach days with water sports, city tours and more. Keep in mind that each tour group will be large, and it will generally involve transportation to and from a destination, and time to spend exploring either with a guide or on your own.


This is where Galapagos cruises most significantly diverge from Caribbean cruises. As the emphasis will be on exploring the archipelago itself on a Galapagos cruise, the itineraries will be based around a minimum of two land excursions every day, rather than one. Excursion groups will be much smaller (by law, there must be one tour guide for every 16 passengers), so even those embarking on a 100 person Galapagos cruise will still be in small groups for excursions. 


Activities in the Galapagos are intended to educate travelers about the marvel that is the Galapagos archipelago, and to demonstrate the unique qualities that first inspired Charles Darwin. Naturalist guides lead all Galapagos cruises, and help travelers experience meaningful interactions with the destination’s remarkable wildlife (think penguins, sea turtle, whale sharks, reef sharks, blue-footed-boobies, dolphins, albatross, seals and more). The aquamarine waters of the Galapagos are just as impressive as those of the Caribbean, yet they are accompanied by a much more diverse landscape. You’ll certainly find beautiful beaches here, but in addition to white sand paradises you’ll find others made of black volcanic rock. Bordered by lush jungles, volcanoes, deep valleys, and lava formations, every inch of the Galapagos Islands promises something special and impossible to find anywhere else.


Snorkel in the protected Marine Sanctuary as sea turtles swim past, or scuba dive with hammerhead sharks. Kayak alongside dolphins, and witness a flurry of exotic birds fly past as you take boat rides along the coast. Each evening will be spent aboard your boutique cruise ship as you sail into the sunset and unwind on board, ready for another day of adventures in the morning.


Galapagos Iguana

Galapagos Cruise vs. Caribbean Cruise: The Winner

In summary, a Caribbean cruise will be exactly as you expect it to be, like many large cruises you’ve taken before. It will certainly be a good time, but the mass-scale production of it tends to take away the charm that we appreciate when sailing.


On the other hand, a Galapagos cruise will be personal. Each cruise sails to its own tune, and it’s very easy to find the one that is perfect for you. A destination most only visit once in a lifetime (if you’re lucky), the Galapagos can promise something you won’t find anywhere else. With more time spent doing excursions, a greater range of activities, and some of the world’s most impressive flora and fauna, a Galapagos cruise is guaranteed to deliver. For more information about booking a Galapagos Islands cruise, please contact us

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About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises and tours, providing you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Panama. As South American travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


Geri Daniel loved her vacation with Rainforest Cruises.
We had an absolutely fabulous time on the cruise. Thank you again for the trip of a lifetime.
— Geri Daniel, Austin, TX
The Johannson family encounter a sloth on their rainforest cruise.
We had a wonderful time. We were all impressed with the efficiency and organization of the trip from start to finish.
— Jeanette Johannson & Family, USA