Last Minute Galapagos Cruise: All The Facts

Last minute Galapagos cruise

There's no escaping the fact that visiting the Galapagos is not cheap. With that in mind, many travelers opt for last minute Galapagos cruise deals. 

Before you do this though, it's best to be aware of the pros and cons of booking a last minute Galapagos cruise. 

Last year over 225,000 people visited the Galapagos Islands. This is continually rising and there is some serious competition when it comes to cruise operators. Whilst this is great for getting last minute deals, it can also feel overwhelming with the amount of itineraries and ship choices on offer.  

When booking a last minute cruise to the Galapagos Islands there is a host of things to consider. Options include route, level of cruise, length of cruise, when to travel, and what is included such as diving, snorkelling, hiking, drinks etc. 

Keep in mind that when booking a last minute cruise, these option choices diminish considerably. 

Below we have written the pros and cons of booking a last minute Galapagos cruise. 

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Pros Of Booking Last Minute

As stated above, visiting the Galapagos is not a cheap option. On top of the actual cruise cost, you have to consider things like park fees, flights, insurance, transportation, etc. For a full article on Galapagos cruise costs, please click here

The average price for a cruise in the Galapagos Islands is over $2,500 per person. If this feels like a punch in the gut, then a last minute option may be ideal. But how much will you save?

Sadly there is no set about or price you should pay. However, we would always aim to see at least a 25% reduction on the original cruise cost, if not more (50% does happen occasionally).

Whether your operator will tell you the honest original cost is another matter. This is where research comes in. You need to make a bunch of enquiries prior to arriving to get a sense of the cruise costs. 

Be aware that cruise costs vary significantly depending on the level of ship and length of itinerary. Also be aware of park and entry fees. 

Please don't think that you can turn up last minute and book a $500 cruise for 7/8 days - it's just not going to happen. No matter which way you swing it, the Galapagos is not a cheap destination. Expect to pay well over $1,000 per person for a super basic ship. A more realistic price is $2,000 per person. 

Should you book early? 

It's always tempting (and less stressful) to book your cruise before you depart for Ecuador. There are many reasons why you should book ahead (all are mentioned in the cons section below), however, the cheapest deals will come from booking in-country. 

Certainly email agencies about last minute deals prior to leaving, but you'll probably get a better price the closer you are to departure, especially if the operator has not filled the cruise. 

It's also nice to discuss your cruise in person and get a sense of the operator and how they work/come across. 

Book in Quito or Galapagos? 

We get asked this question all the time - will I get s cheaper cruise by booking in the Galapagos or in Quito before hand? 

The simple answer is that there is no huge difference. The main factor is how long you book before your cruise departure date. As mentioned above, if the operator is leaving in two days and has not filled the boat, then they'll give you a great price no matter where you're booking from. 

We tend to favour booking in Quito as many cruise itineraries have different start and end points. Booking in Quito means you can arrange your flights around your cruise itinerary. 

On the flip side, the super last minute deals come when you literally book and walk on your ship the same day. These are done in the Galapagos for obvious reasons. Doing this gives you absolutely zero control over ship choice or itinerary though. 

What questions should you ask? 

Every cruise operator is different and there are some key questions you should consider asking prior to booking. 

1. Ask what activities are included? For instance, almost all cruises include snorkelling and guided hikes. But do they include kayaking, diving etc? Most budget options won't. 

2. What level/grade guide is leading you? The Galapagos National Park has three levels of guides - 1,2,3. Level 3 is the highest and means that your guide will speak fluent english and have a degree in a relevant subject. The luxurious cruises get the best guides generally speaking. 

3. Will snorkelling equipment be included? I.e wetsuit, fins, mask etc. Also ask how many snorkelling and hiking trips there will be. Should be daily. 

4. Ask for pictures of the boat, the cabins and the food. A good operator should be proud to show you their lovely ship. 

5. Lastly, ask yourself 'are you comfortable with this operator'? Be honest with yourself. These operators are sales people and if something doesn't ring true then move on. 

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Cons Of Booking Last Minute

Whilst booking a last minute Galapagos cruise can be tempting, especially for people on a budget, there is a whole host of reasons why it may not be the best idea.

For people not on a budget, then we seriously suggest planning and booking ahead. Below are the main reason why. 

Lack of choice

The main problem with booking last minute cruise to the Galapagos is the lack of choice.

Lets say for example that you want to dive around Wolf Island and also visit San Cristobal Island. The chances of a last minute cruise offering your perfect itinerary is pretty much zero.

In fact, if you want a diving itinerary at all, then definitely book ahead as these are much rarer. You get the point - options are limited when you turn up last minute and jump on what you can.

Almost all luxury cruise vessels get booked up very early. So if you're after a luxury cruise, then definitely book ahead. Although more expensive, you'll get the best guides, the best food and the best accommodation aboard these vessels.  

It makes planning difficult 

Last minute cruises to the Galapagos may suit people who are traveling, but for families and couples on holiday, it's not ideal.

If you simply turn up hoping for the perfect cruise you'll have no idea how long the cruise will last or when it will depart. This means you need to be super flexible in your dates.

If you are a family of 4 or 5 then you'll also have far less options as family cabins are not as common as double cabins. You may have to wait a week or so to get a slot. For holiday makers this is simply not possible.

You also need to consider the rest of your trip. Do you want to visit the Charles Darwin Centre or perhaps the giant tortoise sanctuary on Santa Cruz? Then knowing the dates of your cruise allows you to plan extra trips in advance.   

In short, booking ahead allows you to plan your perfect holiday without the stress of the unknown. 

It could work out cheaper

Although you may not believe it, it can often be cheaper booking ahead. Whilst the cruise will be more expensive, you may save money in other ways.

As everyone knows, the earlier you book your flights, the cheaper they will be. If you know the dates of your cruise then you can book your flights to the Galapagos earlier which will save you a fair bit. 

You can also book a hotel either side of your trip which will also save money. Many people who book last minute end up staying in a  hotel for days waiting for their cruise.

These things can add up and often cost more than just booking ahead and having a smooth itinerary. 

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In conclusion, booking a last minute cruise to the Galapagos can be great way of saving money if you have enough flexibility in your travel plans. You'll also need to realise that you won't get as many options when it comes to itineraries and ship choices. 

On the flip side, booking early gives you peace of mind, far more options, and cheaper travel arrangements. There are also plenty of early-bird deals to be found if you contact operators and specialists well in advance.

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.


If you have any queries or questions regarding a last minute Galapagos cruise, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.

Thank you and happy travels!

Expedition Cruise Team

About the Author Expedition Cruise is the web’s most authoritative information portal on adventure and expedition cruising. Our mission is to provide up to date and comprehensive information on traveling to the Arctic, Antarctica and further afield, so that your experience is as fulfilling and safe as possible.

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