11 Reasons for going on a family cruise in Galapagos

We've been helping families organize a Galapagos trip of a lifetime since 1999.  

Of the 65 or so expedition cruise ships in Galapagos, fewer than a dozen offer dedicated family departures.  These usually take place in the northern hemisphere school holiday periods. Most of these ships are higher end and offer a wonderful experience.  

If you’re keen on a family departure, but are not into the high end market, a Galapagos specialist travel company (like CNH Tours…) can usually look around and find departures on which other families have already booked.  It’s not unusual to see more kids in Galapagos during the school holiday periods on many ships. 

Either way, a family cruise in the Galapagos islands will build lifelong memories for all.  Below we list a few good reasons to consider this once-in-a-lifetime trip. 

  1.  First of all - for yourself, the parent: The up front and personal, “in your face” nature of Galapagos can’t help but bring out the child in everyone and reawaken your latent sense of wonder.  It will be easier to drop that façade of adulthood, and let the child in you emerge again if you’re in the company of children.

                                                                                        Parents letting loose

                                                                                          Make like an iguana

                                                                                          Doing the Upward Sealion

    2. For your children: Be they youngsters, pre-teens or teens, Galapagos is an over-the-top eye-poppingly amazing place to explore. Every day will bring new remarkably close encounters with all kinds of wildlife, both above and below the sea.  Giant tortoises, blue and red-footed boobies (the name always elicits a few giggles), sea lions (they cavort like under-water puppies), penguins and much more. The volcanic landscapes are as near as being “out of this world” as any other place on Earth. Whales and dolphins are just about guaranteed.

                                                                                           Tropical penguins

                                                                                Sea turtles abound

3. Naturalist guides with a youth-oriented slant: On dedicated family cruises, or even on cruises where several children are on-board, the naturalist guides will adapt their talks and activities with the younger group in mind (and sometimes that’s just fine with the parents too) while the ship’s crew will usually also join in (inviting kids to pilot the ship, checking out the galley etc…).  Be prepared to build sandcastles, to engage in a bit of friendly horseplay or simply to loaf about on a variety of pristine beaches. There will be opportunities to snorkel, kayak or maybe a guitar will make an appearance in the evenings.  Jumping off the top deck into the sea is also good fun... The next generation will have all kinds of stimulation on offer. Parents can join in if they like of course. 

                                                                                     Whale anatomy lesson

                                                                              Happy hour Galapagos style

4. Built-in child minding: Your children will befriend other children on board, freeing up some of your time to enjoy adult moments. 

                                                                                           New friends

                                                                                         More new friends

5. Commiserating with other parents: You can share your experiences and thoughts with adults going through the same stage of life and avoid being surrounded by those smug retirees who will tell you stories of the marvelous carefree lives they are living, traveling the world (patience, just a few more years before you join them….). 

                                                                                           Adult wind-down time

6. Not worried about your kids bothering others: You won’t be sharing a ship with people are traveling without kids, expecting a full adult atmosphere on board, resenting having to put up with your active, giggling and adventurous children. 

                                                                              No adults in the jacuzzi please


  1. A unique learning experience: Are you reluctant to have them miss a few days of school? Don’t worry about it.  A week on a Galapagos expedition cruise ship will expose children / teens to a whole new world. It will entice them to ask questions, to wonder about natural phenomena and to develop a greater first-hand understanding of the world around them. Your kids will be directly and indirectly exposed to a wide variety of topics such as volcanic geomorphology, astronomy, GPS technology / crossing the equator, marine biology, climate science, oceanography, marine engineering, biological evolution... You can pack in plenty of learning in a short amount of time. 

                                                                                     Ship schooling
  1. Rich and diverse extension options: While you are in Ecuador, you can consider a variety of easy to arrange extensions on the mainland that will expose your children to local culture (participatory arts / crafts; cuisine), history and architecture (Quito is a World Heritage city). If you want more exposure to the natural world, the mysterious cloud forest is easily accessible, and the Amazon basin is just a 30-minute flight out from Quito, while nearby snow-capped volcanoes can be explored. Many people include a visit to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley in neighbouring Peru on their itinerary. 

  1. “Easy peasy – lemon squeezy”: Compared to a land-based family trip in Galapagos, on a ship, you will not have to worry about a thing between the moment you embark and the moment you disembark. No wondering about where to get your next meal, packing / unpacking and checking in / out of hotels, waiting around for others in your day tripping group to arrive at the dock.  You won’t be spending a good part of each day simply commuting back and forth to a visitor site.  For parents, the logistics of rounding up the kids and herding them to and fro can really take the fun out of a trip.  On a ship, that entire aspect of “family travel” will disappear. 

  1. Child friendly pricing: Depending on the ship you choose, the time of year, and your children’s ages (usually for those under 12 – but other formulas exist), there may be discounts of up to 50% on the ship, the park entrance fee and the flight from the continent. 
  1. Family memories to last a lifetime: An expedition cruise in Galapagos, where everything is taken care of, will allow the family to focus on enjoying what the islands have to offer, building strong and vivid memories that will strengthen family bonds. 


Is there a minimum age requirement for children?

We generally recommend that your child should be at least seven years old before considering an expedition cruise.  Your child should have a good sense of self-control and judgement.  You’ll be taking some nature walks, stopping frequently to observe wildlife. He/she will need to stay on the trail, and you'll be expected to ensure he/she does.  You’ll also be on a ship, and your child should be old enough to be careful moving about while the ship is underway.  Finally, your child should be comfortable in the water, and better yet, at ease using a mask and snorkel.  Underwater Galapagos is half the fun.  There’s always time to learn and practice before your trip.