When heading to the Galapagos, you certainly have some options. You can try and do it alone, basing yourself out of Puerto Ayoro and arranging day trips to other islands. Or you could join a multi-day Galapagos cruise and travel between the islands on a boat.
A Galapagos cruise is not a typical cruise. These are not huge ships with thousands of passengers. Most of the boats are of the yacht type, some looking good and others looking like they’ve seen much better days, holding anywhere from 10 – 100 passengers. Itineraries vary between 3, 5 and 8 days (sometimes longer) and between eastern and western and central routes as well.
I took an 8-day, eastern itinerary on board the S/S Mary Anne, run by the excellent Andando Tours.
The Mary Anne is the only sailing vessel in the Galapagos and the only vessel that could indeed complete its voyages by wind power only.
She had a presence. She was different than every single other boat we saw during our 8-day trip. She had a classic style to her, whereas the other boats were just that, boats.
The Mary Anne holds 14 passengers, with a combination of double, twin and single cabins (with no extra fees if you’re a solo traveler!). There are 10 crew members, too. The price of the trip includes accommodation, transportation, food, local permits and all activities.
Here’s a short video I made that shows you what it’s like on board the S/S Mary Anne…
S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: Accommodation and Food
The cabins are a good size, if not the largest cabins I’ve ever seen. And while they are simple, they are spotless, bright and comfortable (they have A/C, great beds and even closet space, along with good-size bathrooms with a full shower). I slept wonderfully every night, falling asleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.
All meals were eaten communal style at two large tables, with all kinds of dishes being served. The food was excellent and varied at all times. Breakfast would involve eggs, fruit, breads, local pastries and more. And for lunch and dinner, there was fish and meat, salads, soup, a couple of local sides and a delicious dessert.
After most of our activities, there were also fresh snacks waiting for us when we got on board and there were always snacks, coffee, tea and water available in the dining room throughout the day.
S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: Activities
When it comes to activities, each day is divided into a morning and afternoon session and usually, there were two activities per session. These could be any combination of hiking, snorkeling or kayaking, depending on what island we were at and what there was to see.
The hiking was never too strenuous as it was always along well defined paths set up by the Galapagos conservation board. The hiking pace was always slow as there was simply so much to see everywhere that our guide would stop frequently to explain what we were looking at. Even after a two hour hike, our group wanted more every time!
Kayaking took place on sturdy two-person kayaks and we usually took them out along the coast of an island, into beautiful coves, along white sand beaches where sea lions were playing around and past rocky outcrops where we could spot all kinds of wildlife. It was super fun to be out there paddling around in such settings.
With the snorkeling, the equipment was top notch, and the snorkel sites were some of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Hundreds of fish, sharks, sea lions, octopus, stingrays, turtles and more would make up a typical snorkel session. Every time we went snorkeling I said to myself that I would only stay in the water for 20 minutes or so and every single time I ended up out there until the end, usually an hour or more.
(One of the staff from the boat would follow us in a dingy so that if anyone wanted to get out of the water at any time, he was right there to pick you up.)
All of the above were not mandatory of course. Every activity is always optional as the idea is for all passengers to have the experience they want to have, something the staff stressed often.
S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: Our Guide
Our guide, Fernando, was phenomenal. Every other guide we passed during our hikes would stop and ask him questions as he clearly had more knowledge than all of them combined. His lengthy experience in these islands was unmatched and his passion for his work turned every single activity into an eye-opening, educational treat.
Again, phenomenal is the only word to describe him.
He also took safety very seriously.
While we watched as passengers from other boats fell on rocks, got separated from their group and were forced to board their dingy in dangerous conditions, we never had any of those issues. Fernando and the team were always watching, always helping and always making sure that everyone was safe at all times.
This might not seem like a big deal but in the Galapagos Islands, it’s a wild and rough terrain. And if you’re not careful, there are opportunities to hurt yourself. But again, nobody on our trip had any issues at all thanks to our guide and the incredibly attentive staff.
S/S Mary Anne Galapagos Cruise: The Experience
At night, we would head outside and stare up at the sky in order to take in that magical delight that is a sky full of stars, from horizon to horizon. The boat gently pushed through the small waves, we sipped our beers and enjoyed a mix of conversation and silence until we were ready for sleep.
In the mornings, despite the early wake-ups, there was plenty of chatter, with the excitement about spending yet another day in these islands quite evident among us.
And if you think that watching sea lions and sharks and iguanas and albatross and blue-footed boobies and turtles would get old after a couple of days, believe me when I say that boredom is not possible when in the Galapagos. Every moment spent observing wildlife is beyond fascinating, it’s never the same as any other moment and it only further solidifies the notion that a trip to these islands is an experience of a lifetime.
It’s not only the wildlife though. It’s the views, volcanoes, beaches, colors, natural aromas, plants and trees, warm winds and pure remoteness that builds this trip into something that can’t be copied anywhere else on this planet.
A Galapagos cruise is surreal. It needs to be experienced. And I can’t imagine a better way to visit this mind-blowing destination than on the beautiful S/S Mary Anne, a ship as unique as the islands she travels around!
Any questions about the Galapagos or about my trip on board the Mary Anne? Let me know!
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I spent a good 2.5 months in Ecuador but couldn’t visit Galapagos owing to the high budget it requires.
Hopefully another time.
Man, I barely know what to say, that’s how awesome that whole experience seems.
But, Fernando, this oracle watching over you all, is he always with S/S Mary Ann, so if you want not to fall on rocks and hit your knee real hard, that’s the ship to go with? Or does he also have loyalties elsewhere?
I’m more jel than the jelliest jellyfish right now, can’t wait to go on my next trip.
Hey Anna – Fernando does move around to some other ships but he works with this particular company (Andando Tours) as often as he can!
Really enjoyed you shouting out your guide, Fernando. Every time I travel, I’m very skeptical of working with guides since I’m always worried that I’m going to fall into the jowls of a scam. During my last trip to Malaysia, I took a chance and worked with a guide while forest exploring and man-oh-man, was he great!
I’m definitely more open to local help when exploring now 🙂
Amazing images! Love the pictures of the flora and fauna and the sailing boat in particular! Certainly worth a trip!
The place looks stunning and makes you feel like you are one with nature 🙂 I love it!
Galapagos is so on my bucket list! Gorgeous experience, can’t wait till I get to live it!
I loved reading about your experience in Galapagos Cruise. Your descriptions really made it come alive for me. Happy travels!
This is a careful audit, Derek! Galapagos has been in my container list for some time now, however once my significant other and I have enough spending plan, I’d love to go island jumping as well! A year ago, we went scuba making a plunge Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, and it awesome! So perfect, thus much untamed life! Can’t envision how that is in Galapagos. Will stick this for further reference, much appreciated!
Hey, Derek! It was amazing reading your blog. It was really interesting going through all the details. Would love to go on a Galapagos cruise. Thank you for sharing.
Great blog mate and really interesting as I’m heading to South America with my blog for the remainder of the year starting in April. Will certainly look into this option.
This is a thorough review, Derek! Galapagos has been in my bucket list for a while now, but once my husband and I have enough budget, I’d love to go island hopping too! Last year, we went scuba diving in Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, and it mind-blowing! So gorgeous, and so much wildlife! Can’t imagine how that is in Galapagos. Will pin this for further reference, thanks!
Amazing! Would really like explore this cruise. Thanks for sharing.
OMG this looks absolutely amazing experience. I would be freaking out as I am scared of water but would love to do it anyway!