The Galápagos’ Evolving Cruise Ship Scene

Cruising is staging a comeback in the Ecuadorian islands with a raft of new vessels and itineraries.

A Galápagos iguana eyes the Origin, one of Ecoventura’s stylish vessels. (Courtesy of Ecoventura)

If there’s ever been a time to cross the Galápagos Islands off your bucket list, this year might be it. Not only has the protected marine reserve around the isolated Ecuadorian archipelago just been expanded to a whopping 198,000 square kilometers, but the arrival of a number of small, stylish ships is taking the regional cruise experience to a whole new level.

In January, Norwegian expedition line Hurtigruten began its first-ever itinerary in the Galápagos Islands, teaming up with Ecuador-based outfitter Metropolitan Touring to offer carbon-neutral sailings aboard the newly refitted Santa Cruz II, a 72-meter vessel that sleeps up to 90 guests. On a more intimate scale, Aqua Expeditions is set to debut its newest vessel in May. With custom interiors by renowned superyacht designer François Zuretti, the Aqua Mare will carry a maximum of 16 passengers on its adventures around the archipelago.

Silver Origin, the first destination-specific ship built by Silversea Cruises, will begin plying the Galápagos in June. Claiming the highest crew-to-guest ratio in the islands, it also comes with 51 spacious suites (all with balconies), a stargazing platform, and a fleet of eight Zodiacs for shore excursions. Family-run operator Ecoventura, meanwhile, is on track to launch its third vessel in the Galápagos in January 2023. A 20-passenger mega-yacht, Evolve will explore parts of the archipelago that bigger ships can’t reach, and do so in style: like its twin sister ships Origin and Theory, it has already been inducted into the exclusive Relais & Châteaux collection.


This article originally appeared in the March/May 2022 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Making Waves”).

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