"THE ONLY CLEARING HOUSE FOR GALAPAGOS CRUISES"

An excellent tool for both individuals AND travel agents world wide

"Galapagos Cruise Links really helped me quickly narrow my search down to a few ships. By being able to contact the actual ship owners directly, I was able to get accurate and timely information and book the right cruise for us in no time."

"Because the buck stops with the ship owner, I felt I had more control over my trip, and I knew that if there were any problems, the chances of getting the run-around were a lot smaller than if I booked with an unknown intermediary travel agent".

Save the time and frustration surfing the web, trying to find reliable information on different ships, wondering if you're comparing apples and oranges. 

Remove potentially unreliable intermediaries from the transaction. 

WHAT IS GCL ABOUT?

  • many ships of different classes and sizes
  • special promotions, last minute prices
  • direct access to ship owners or their sales teams.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • Availabilities are posted regularly on the website by ship owners / their sales team. 
  • Search for cruises by date, or by price.
  • If you find something of interest - contact the ship owner (or their designated sales representative) directly.

WHAT'S THE ADVANTAGE OVER OTHER "LAST MINUTE" SITES?

  • GCL puts you in touch directly with the people who operate the ships or with their designated sales teams
  • This reduces the risk of any transaction problems.  If anything goes wrong with the payment, or the trip, you have much better chances of getting things fixed.  Last minute trips are notorious for administrative issues / payments going missing. 
  • GCL is the only one-stop market place where ship owners themselves are posting their availabilities

STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING YOUR CHANCES AT FINDING A GOOD PRICE:

  • Search for a trip by your preferred dates;
  • Contact up to 2 ship owners (the system allows only 2 contacts per 24 hour period - so be sure of the ships you are interested in);
  • Ask them for their latest prices and availabilities (posted information may be outdated at times) and any other question;
  • Provide clear information on your dates, and number of people;
  • NOTE: Most offices are closed on weekends - any requests sent from Friday afternoon, Quito time, may not be answered until the following Monday.

We also offer you online advice should you have any questions. Contact us should you need any additional information.

 


 

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Ship Classes

Ship Classes Defined Once and for All!

Any search on the internet will show you that Galapagos cruise ships are classed using what appears to be a variety of classifications systems often leaving you a bit puzzled as to what they actually mean. We've done a good amount of research, contacting the Galapagos National Park Service's (GNPS) department of tourism, the Galapagos Chamber of Tourism (CAPTURGAL), and the International Galapagos Tour Operators' Association (IGTOA), and have compared the results to our own personal knowledge of several ships to come up with the following answers we hope will help clarify any confusion.

There is only one official classification system - the one set up by the Galapagos National Park Service in 1995. It classes ships according to 3 basic criteria:

  • Whether or not cabins are private;
  • Whether or not cabins have private bathrooms, and
  • Whether or not there is air conditioning.

Galapagos National Park Ship Classification System:

Article 87 of the administrative statute for the Galapagos National Park, adopted in Quito on January 21, 1995, defines the minimum specifications for 4 classes of cruise ships operating in the Galapagos. These are:

  • Class A: Luxury vessels - Private berths with private bathrooms, air conditioning. 
  • Class B: Semi-luxury vessels - Private berths, private bathrooms, no air conditioning.
  • Class C: Standard vessels - No private berths and/or private bathrooms, no air conditioning.
  • Class D: Any ship, regardless of comfort level, carrying out day trips exclusively (e.g. no sleeping aboard).

Although this provides a good first step in classifying ships, the GNPS's system is somewhat outdated in that most ships today offer both private berths with private bathrooms and air conditioning putting the vast majority of them in Class A. Of the 77 registered cruise ships listed in the Galapagos National Park Service website, 66 are Class A, 6 are Class B, and 5 are Class C/D (combined) - licensed to perform day trips only.

The very wide range of comfort levels provided by the 66 ships in Class A is not does not take into consideration other factors which might, for some people, be important contributing factors to overall comfort.  Important factors are:

  • General spaciousness: Room size, amount of covered and uncovered deck space available, existence and sizes of salons on board, etc.
  • General maintenance standards:  How rapidly does a ship fix broken or run-down items?  Will the air-condition work, or is it chronically broken?  Does it need a paint job?
  • Professionalism of the crew: Are they always very attentive? Do they go the extra mile?
  • Guide Quality: Does he/she really know what he/she is talking about? Is he/she easily understood? Does he/she have lots of enthusiasm?
  • Cuisine: Simple meals versus multiple course meals with fine china settings, attentive dining room service, freshly brewed coffee versus instant, etc.
  • Quality furnishings: Presence of polished brass fixings and high end marine decor, use of professionally crafted materials, versus basic fixtures.
  • Extras: On board pool / sauna, email access, comprehensive reading room, medically trained staff person etc.

It is commonly acknowledged that levels of overall comfort vary greatly within ship classes. Some Class A ships will go all the way, whereas other Class A ships, while respecting GNPS class specifications (private berths with air conditioning and private bathrooms) will provide very little deck space, basic dining facilities, moderate attention to furnishings.

In an attempt to convey these differences, an alternative, informal Galapagos ship classification system has evolved, led primarily by the tour industry. Our experience and first-hand knowledge of the ships lead us to believe that the tour industry classification system is generally accurate and reliable.

Tour Industry led Galapagos Cruise Ship Classification System:

No formal definitions exist. Most commonly seen classes are:

Luxury/Deluxe - First Class - Tourist Superior - Tourist

Generally, this rating system is fairly accurate, but one can find a ship classed as "First Class" on one web site, and "Tourist Superior" on another.   There is no clear separation between classes -but rather a continual improvement from Tourist to Luxury.   Some higher end Tourist Superior ships might be compared favourable with lower end 1st Class ships, for instance. Luxury ships go  all the way in attention to detail, spaciousness and service.  First Class ships may have similar service levels as Luxury ships, but are usually smaller, and less spacious. Tourist Superior ships are usually quite reliable and offer the basics in service and attention, whereas Tourist class ships can be considered backpacker specials.  Tourist class ships should be considered by those for whom the lowest possible cruise price is the main/only deciding factor. Having said this, we strongly recommend finding sufficient funds for at least a Tourist Superior class ship and reduce the chances for unpleasant surprises.

Average non-discounted daily rates (2019 / 2020 prices):

  • Luxury: $700 and higher
  • First Class: $525 - $700
  • Tourist Superior: $475 to $525
  • Tourist / Economy:  $325 to $475

OUR FINAL WORD ON SHIP CLASSIFICATION:  In the end, we suggest that the price of a cruise generally reflects the relative level of luxury you can expect on board, with the risk of unexpected problems occurring rising rapidly at the very lowest end of the price scale.

 

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About Us

Galapagos Cruise Links:  Who We Are

Galapagos Cruise Links is run by a Galapagos cruise travel operator specializing in custom cruises and highly personalized service.

We recognized the importance of the "last minute" market for Galapagos. However, because last minute service is not what we wanted to specialize in, we decided to build a "clearing house" business model approach, helping people quickly access a range of last minute offers and putting them in touch directly with the ship owners and their designated sales team. 

This system allows us to be involved in this market indirectly, while working with ship owners directly. 

 

 

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Links

Links to Websites that Provide Useful Information
about the Galapagos Islands and Galapagos Cruises

Frequently Asked Questions  
What we believe is the most comprehensive FAQ site out there.  From pre-trip planning to climate and on-board routine. 

Reading List   
An exhaustive list of reading materials, covering a very wide range of subjects, well ordered for easy browsing.  Headings include ecotourism, Darwin, natural history, birds, biogeography and more!

What to bring to the Galapagos   
This link will provide you with a list of what to bring on a Galapagos cruise. Most ships supply masks and snorkels - quality may vary, bring your own to ensure satisfaction.

Health Considerations   
No special vaccines are required for travel to the Galapagos. However, go to this site for general health considerations when traveling to Galapagos and Ecuador.

International Galapagos Tour Operators Association   
A tour industry led membership based association dedicated to promoting conservation through wise tourism practices. The site includes a good deal of the latest news on the most pressing conservation challenges in Galapagos. We are proud members.

Charles Darwin Research Station   
Nearly 50 years of conservation work in the Galapagos islands – the CDF is the premier scientific authority for the Galapagos. Its mission is to carry out research to support conservation. Lots of information on all kinds of conservation issues.

United Nations World Heritage Centre

Because Galapagos is a World Heritage site, the UN monitors how well Ecuador is doing in terms of long term conservation.  You'll find plenty of interesting material here. 

 

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