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Big or Small Ship?

The beautiful 100-passenger Galapagos Legend
The beautiful 100-passenger Galapagos Legend

Going into this Galapagos trip, I thought for sure that I’d have a strong preference for a small vessel, something in the 16-20 passenger range.  Quaint and cozy, where everybody knows your name.  After my cruise on the 100-passenger Galapagos Legend, I now see major advantages to both and was surprised by how much I loved a larger crowd and more room to roam on board.  In the cruising world, relatively speaking, a 100-passenger ship is still quite small!  But for some travelers who wouldn’t necessarily want to identify as a “cruiser,” it can sound like an intimidating leap in size.

Large ship misconceptions.  Let’s clear the air, shall we?
  • Bigger groups?  Not at all. Since the Galapagos National Park service enforces a strict 1:16 guide-to-passenger ratio for all guided services, each ship will have an appropriate number of naturalist guides on board in order to not exceed this ratio.
  • Long wait times?  Not to worry!  On the Legend, we were always summoned to the disembarkation area by groups - rotating the order in which we were called - and the process from start to finish would take about 10-15 minutes.  This didn’t eat into our time for excursions, and we were never standing around waiting.  Remember, these cruises are offered year-round, and the crews have it all down to a science.
  • Crowded excursions?  Nope.  The guides do a great job of starting in slightly different locations so that the groups aren’t on top of each other, competing for space and air time.  If you’re on a smaller ship, you can expect to see a few other vessels at your landing sites in order to maximize the number of travelers that can be in a location at one time.  The larger ships will usually max out that particular landing site, so you’re rarely landing with other ships nearby.

Would a bigger boat be the right fit for me?
  • If you’re seriously worried about seasickness, a larger ship is definitely something to consider.
  • If you're an older traveler with more limited mobility, the larger ships will often have more amenities on board to make your experience more comfortable.  Most ships over 40 passengers will have a doctor on board (the Legend did), and the Legend always had the glass bottom boat ready to go for travelers who weren’t comfortable with snorkeling in open waters - a great alternative!
  • If you’re looking for a few more creature comforts - fitness center, lounges, bars, pools, libraries, hot tub (all of which the Legend has) - a larger vessel might be for you.
  • If you’re stressed out at the thought of sharing each excursion and meal time with the same 16 travelers, you might enjoy the ability to meet more people and/or blend in with your surroundings - nothing wrong with a bit of anonymity when on vacation!
  • If you're a large family traveling with young children, the larger ships will usually have more options for triple cabins and interconnected rooms.
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