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. Capable of carrying just 90 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 an “A” and “B” itinerary, both of which depart roundtrip from Baltra. The “A” itinerary navigates a fairly detailed route around the islands, offering calls on Daphne Island; Puerto Ayora; Gardner Bay; Punta Suarez; Post Office Bay; Punta Moreno; Urvina Bay; Punta Vincente Roca Isabela; Punta Espinoza; South Plaza; and Dragon Hill.
Their “B” itinerary offers even more destination options in the Galapagos, with little overlap. As a result, cruisers could book both the “A” itinerary and “B” itinerary to create a 14-day Galapagos experience.
On the “B” itinerary, Celebrity Xpedition visits Daphne Island; Las Bachas; Kicker Rock; P. Baquerizo; Cerro Brujo; Caleta Tagus; Puerto Ayora; Elizabet Bay; Rabida Island; Puerto Egas; Bartolme Island; Sullivan Bay; and North Seymour.
A new entrant into the Galapagos expedition cruise market is ultra-luxury line Silversea, which recently acquired the Galapagos II for its Silversea Expeditions brand of luxury adventure cruises. After an extensive refit to bring her up to Silversea standards, she will be renamed Silver Galapagos and will enter service on September 28, 2013 with voyage 8301 — a weeklong North Central itinerary operating roundtrip from Baltra.
What’s great about the itineraries Silversea has developed is that they are completely different from those offered aboard Celebrity, creating even more options for cruisers looking to fully immerse themselves in Galapagos. After departing Baltra, Silver Galapagos sails to Cerro Dragon; Bahia Darwin; El Barracano; Seymour Norte; El Chato Reserve; Punta Pitt; El Junco Lagoon; Centro de Interpretation; Frigatebird Hill; Punta Suarez; Estacion Charles Darwin / Puerto Ayora; and Plazas Sur.
Silversea will also offer an additional weeklong Western Itinerary that explores even more stunning locales in the Galapagos, allowing guests to create an immersive, 14-day luxury experience.
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.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com