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How to Have Best Luxury Cruise Vacation in the Galapagos Islands

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What do you need to know to plan the best possible luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands? We recently spent two weeks in Ecuador on a luxury cruise through the Galapagos on the Silversea Silver Origin. Here are some of the highlights from our trip and some insider tips in case you decide to plan such a trip yourself (which we strongly recommend that you do!) We’re sharing some of our best photos and our planning and packing tips for a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

essentials to know for the best luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands

If you’re considering taking a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands, you’ve got lots of questions. Which cruise line is the best? What time of year is best? What makes the Galapagos so special? Is it really worth all the expense to take a Galapagos luxury vacation cruise?

How to have the best luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands.
How to have the best luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

We went through that same process, and we just returned from a truly splendid luxury vacation cruise to the Galapagos on Silversea’s Silver Origin. We’re sharing lots of photos and highlights from each of the major stops we made in other posts. This post is to share 10 things we wish we had known before we packed that you may not find in other writeups on luxury cruises to the Galapagos Islands.

How to have the best luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands.
How to have the best luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Here are some inside tips so that you can be sure this vacation is the right one for you, and how to pack to maximize the impact of the extraordinary experiences that await.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

1. The mornings are early.

This is something that we don’t recall reading in all the prep materials we received before embarking on our luxury Galapagos cruise: the start time for some of the best excursions is really early, especially for those who love to sleep in. Most days the morning excursion Zodiacs were heading out between 7:00A and 7:15A. Meaning breakfast at 6:00A most mornings.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

We’re early risers, and we love the crisp fresh optimism of the morning. But if you’re imaging late nights and leisurely brunches, this is not the vacation for you.

2. It’s a very active vacation.

Most people have a vague idea that a luxury cruise to the Galapagos is not like staying at a luxury beach resort. They know it’s an adventure vacation. But in fact, it could not be more different than a typical beach vacation. Not just a little different, but a lot.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Every day there are multiple options for getting off the ship and making excursions into the surrounding waters and islands. Challenging hikes on island mountains, deep water snorkeling and kayaking are daily offerings – so if you’re looking for an active trip, this is perfect for you. For the more sedentary, the daily Zodiac rides are not strenuous. Unless you consider the need to put on water or hiking shoes every time you go out, in addition to a life vest, a backpack, a water bottle, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses as strenuous. Which sometimes we do.

3. It’s a perfect Dark Sky opportunity.

One of the incredible benefits of a luxury cruise vacation to the Galapagos Islands is one that is often under-sold. It’s a perfect opportunity for those who are keen to stargaze.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

The Silversea Silver Origin has a “Skygazing Deck” on its top level that has comfortable seating ideal for laying back and looking at the stars. It’s open all night, and it was common to hear people say that they went up in the wee hours of the morning and had the entire place to themselves, with the stars so bright that they seemed to be within arm’s reach.

4. It’s worth it to invest in a great camera.

We decided to invest in a really good SLR camera, despite the fact that we have the latest iPhone Pro. A smartphone is great for lots of things, and in a pinch you’ll get terrific shots on hikes and Zodiac tours with one.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

But if you really want to shoot crisp closeups of birds in flights, iguanas on the rocks or sea lions at play, you’re going to want a strong telephoto lens. We highly recommend our Canon EOS 6D Mark II, by the way. But any great SLR with a long lens will be perfect.

5. You should also bring an underwater camera.

If you’re planning on snorkeling (and nearly everyone is) then you should also invest in a good underwater camera so you can shoot photos and videos of the amazing undersea life of the Galapagos. If you’re swimming with dolphins, or seeing your first hammerhead shark, you’re gonna want to have a record of it, right?

What to know, best photos and packing tips for planning a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
What to know, best photos and packing tips for planning a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

6. You’ll need altitude and motion sickness meds, just in case.

Everyone focuses on motion sickness as a possible issue on a luxury vacation cruise, but when visiting the Galapagos Islands you may also need altitude sickness meds in your suitcase. If you fly into Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, you’ll be visiting one of the highest altitude capitals in the world. And if you do as we did and take the cable car ride even higher up for panoramic views of the city . . . well, the altitude might be more than what you’re used to.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

You may not need either, but we’d bring both motion sickness and altitude sickness over-the-counter medications, just in case.

7. Arrive a day early and spend time in Quito.

Speaking of Quito, most luxury cruises to the Galapagos require an international flight in one of two airports: Quito or Guayaquil. We experienced both, and we highly recommend planning to arrive a day early so that you have a chance to explore these two remarkable cities.

Quito, Ecuador. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

We’re sharing everything we recommend you do in the capital city of Quito here. It’s nestled in the foothills of the Andes, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a marvelous place to explore.

8. Stay a day late and spend time in Guayaquil.

One of the most perfect luxury hotels we’ve ever stayed in turned out to be one we hadn’t actually planned to check into. Due to our flight schedule, we arrived in San Cristobel and took a connecting flight to the port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador  that arrived too late to get back to New York that same day. So we had to spend a night in Guayaquil at the Hotel du Parque.

What to know, best photos and packing tips for planning a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands.
What to know, best photos and packing tips for planning a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

We initially complained that we just wanted to get home – but once we checked in, we kind of wished we could stay another night. It’s a marvelous boutique luxury hotel that’s part of Relais & Chateaux. The vibe is serene and welcoming and it turned out to be the perfect way to ease back into the real world in the gentlest possible way.

9. a Galapagos cruise can also be a culinary adventure.

We had never really focused on the foods and culinary heritage of Ecuador, so it was a happy surprise that adventurous eating was also a part of our luxury cruise experience. We had the most amazing empanadas in Quito.

Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

Once onboard the Silver Origin, we had options every day to sample Ecuadorian staples like ceviche. There was even an onboard ceviche cooking class during our day at sea. Avocado, banana and cocoa are among the ingredients that showed up in inventive ways throughout our voyage.

10. A Galapagos cruise is a perfect multi-generational trip for families.

We were on a family trip with mom and college-age kids, and we wondered what kinds of fellow travelers we’d find on the Silver Origin. Onboard our vessel, there was every possible combination of travel groups: families with elementary school age kids; parents traveling with their adult kids; solo travelers; couples married for a few decades; and newly engaged couples. Meaning: all are welcome, as there is so much flexibility in the daily itinerary that there’s literally something for every member of the group. We made friends with lots of fellow passengers, which was also an unexpected and lovely element of our Galapagos cruise.

What to know, best photos and packing tips for planning a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands
What to know, best photos and packing tips for planning a luxury vacation cruise in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.
The Silversea Silver Origin at sunset near Elizabeth Bay in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © Dandelion Chandelier.

luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos Islands

We hope these tips and the information we’ve shared will help you decide how to plan the best possible luxury cruise vacation in the Galapagos. One last note: before entering the Galapagos, all of your checked luggage will have to be inspected to ensure that you’re not bringing anything into the ecosystem that might cause harm. So be sure that your checked bags can be unlocked by the inspectors – and if you’re not sure if something might be harmful to the precious environment of the Galapagos, leave it at home.

Have a wonderful time if you decide to go, dear reader. It’s one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.

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