National Geographic Islander Galápagos Cruise
Fantastic guides will lead you through a true paradise
A Galápagos Cruise on board the Islander
100% CO2 carbon footprint offset
Kayaks on board
Doctor on board
Single travellers can share cabin
- Twin hulls for superb stability
- Medical officer on board
- Superb naturalist guides and expedition equipment
- Fantastic social spaces
A purpose-built expedition ship, Islander is truly worthy of wearing the "National Geographic" name. With big ship facilities like a doctor's office and email station, yet the intimacy provided by only 24 cabins, you get the best of both worlds from a Galápagos cruise on National Geographic Islander.
A range of comfortable accommodation
National Geographic Islander was built as a naturalist expedition ship, but not at the expense of your comfort! With five classes of cabins to choose from, there's something for everyone on this Galápagos islands cruise. All of her cabins feature two full-size single beds that can be converted to generous queen-size doubles if you prefer. For families, or those traveling as a group, there are two cabins that can sleep a third person.
Every accommodation enjoys at least one standard window with ocean views, and some offer an enclosed private balcony area. The largest cabins on the upper deck provide superb wrap-around windows offering you unrivalled vistas as you cruise the Galápagos islands. Every room features a private bathroom with a shower, individual climate control, power sockets, and a desk.
The decor is classic, with plenty of beautiful natural wood, and the walls feature unique wildlife photography of the Galápagos from National Geographic's stunning photo libraries.
Social spaces in which to relax and discover
Despite being "built for adventure", National Geographic Islander offers high levels of comfort while you are on board between excursions. You'll find that you will bond quickly with your like-minded fellow guests thanks to her large dining room, which accommodates everyone in a single sitting. You will swap tales of your Galápagos discoveries while enjoying the freshest local and international cuisine prepared by the on board chefs.
Breakfast and lunch are usually buffet-style, with dinners being served to you. There's no formality on National Geographic Islander, and guests freely mingle. You'll often be joined for dinner by your naturalist guides, giving you an even deeper insight into the Galápagos as you enjoy this relaxed ambiance. The ship's large and comfortable lounge bar quickly becomes the social hub of your trip, and this is where you'll gather daily for your briefing and the National Geographic tradition known as "Recap". There's plenty of comfortable seating here for relaxing, reading, or just watching the world outside the panoramic windows.
If you want some quiet time to yourself, why not select a book from the well-stocked and cosy library? Or perhaps head out to the decks and enjoy one of the hammocks that are rigged for guests - what could be better than basking in the Galápagos warmth like a marine iguana while the ship gently sways beneath you? For an even more indulgent experience, why not book the ship's wellness specialist to give you a relaxing - or invigorating - treatment in the on board spa? You can also enjoy a guided stretching session on the open decks every morning.
Extras that help you really explore Galápagos
Given all the creature comforts that Islander offers you may forget that she is a National Geographic Galápagos expedition ship. But exploration and discovery are at the heart of what she offers. Her naturalist guides are among the most experienced in the islands, and she carries four zodiacs (known locally as "pangas") which means the whole ship's company can be transported to excursions at once, eliminating waiting times on board, and increasing your time on the Galápagos islands themselves.
As well as pangas, National Geographic Islander carries 8 sea kayaks (a mix of singles and doubles) for guests to use. These offer a unique way to explore shallow inlets and mangroves, as well as to enjoy an "up close and personal" ocean experience. You will also be issued with your own snorkel gear for use during your cruise, including 3mm "shorty" wetsuit, allowing you to spend longer in the water with the amazing Galápagos wildlife, such as Galápagos sea lions, green turtles, and Galápagos penguins.
Other unique facilities include a high definition underwater camera and a video microscope - both of which are used to great effect by the ship's naturalist experts to enhance your understanding of the flora and fauna of Galápagos.
There is no bigger name in natural history than "National Geographic", and we love the focus that this cruise puts on giving you a deep and rich understanding of the Galápagos islands and its wildlife and landscapes. Complimentary full snorkel gear, sea kayaks, and even a video microscope will bring you closer to Galápagos than other cruises. When you add to this the luxurious cabins, "big ship facilities", and the superb food and attentive crew, this Galápagos cruise really does offer it all.
Pictures and Deckplans of Islander
Dates & Prices on board the Islander
When do you want to travel?
The sailing routes of Islander
Amenities on board the Islander
Transfers to and from ship
Gym on board
$500 discount for children age 8-17
Snorkel gear (free of charge)
Internet / WIFI
All meals throughout the cruise
100% CO2 carbon footprint offset
Kayaks on board
Beer+wine with dinner
Air conditioning & private bathroom
Doctor on board
Standup paddle boards
Single travellers can share cabin
Water, Coffee, Tea & fresh juices
Sustainability on board the Islander
At Galapatours we love and respect the pristine ecosystems and fascinating wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, and we insist that our cruise partners do too. To protect the archipelago all our cruise vessels must have sophisticated water filtration systems, modern efficient engines, and strict maintenance schedules to minimize pollution.
The Galápagos National Park authority also defines exact cruising routes that dictate which ships can visit highlights at specific times, as well as limiting passenger numbers. These measures ensure that animals and habitats are not disturbed by too many visitors.
But at Galapatours we like to go even further. We voluntarily offset all the CO2 emissions of every cruise we sell - at no cost to you. And you can also play your part by traveling responsibly and following our Eco Guidelines during your stay. Click here to find out more about these guidelines, our commitment to sustainable tourism, and the Galápagos National Park rules.
Technical details of Islander
First Class Ship
Food & Drinks on board the Islander
The food on our Galapágos Cruises is among the very best you will find in South America. Most of the on-board chefs are internationally trained and have prior experience working in the best hotels and restaurants in Ecuador and indeed around the world.
You can expect a first-class selection of food, including a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally sourced poultry and fish/seafood, rice and pasta dishes. Most boats will always include some typical Ecuadorian dishes on the menu during your cruise. If you have specific dietary requirements then these can usually be accommodated by the chef providing you have given advance notice. Please make sure you tell us about any allergies or dietary requirements you have at the time you book with us. If you leave it until you arrive at the dockside, then it may well be impossible to accommodate your needs.
Most boats serve a range of options at meal times in a relaxed buffet-style. At the first class and luxury end of the market, some boats have more formal dining where you will be served at your seat. However the atmosphere is always relaxed on board our cruises, and never stuffy or formal.
Cabins categories on board the Islander
Main Deck #201-206 - Cabins feature a window and two lower single beds that can convert to a queen bed.
Main Deck #207-210; Bridge Deck #301-302 - Centrally located cabins feature a window and two lower single beds which can convert to a queen bed.
Bridge Deck #303-306 - Conveniently located, cabins feature two lower single beds which can convert to a queen bed and a window. Note: Cabins 305 and 306 can accommodate a third person.
These spacious cabins on Upper Deck #403-408 feature two lower single beds which can convert to a queen bed. All cabins feature a window and outside glassed in terraces with seating. There are large windows in the top half of the terrace doors.
Upper Deck #401, 402 - These are the largest cabins onboard. These cabins feature two lower single beds which can convert to a queen bed and wrap around windows. Both have a desk, chairs, and table.
Reviews of Islander
Birthdaygirl 513 from NYC
UTTERLY FANTASTIC! We just returned from the trip of a lifetime on the National Geographic Islander (Lindblad), and since there aren’t too many recent reviews of this ship I thought I’d post a detailed one. So please excuse the length. If you don’t want to read it all, the short version is: UTTERLY FANTASTIC!
A bit of background as to why we chose the Islander. My husband is an academic, and is quite knowledgeable about evolution and biology. He wanted to be sure that the quality of the naturalists and the information provided would be as strong as possible, and we had heard rave reviews about this aspect of the NG tours (this proved correct). We are not “cruise people”, and wanted something very low-key and not fancy. We also wanted a mid-sized boat. The Islander (we had 44 passengers on board, from all over the world) fit the bill. Admittedly it was more expensive than other ships, but we felt it would be worth it, and we were not disappointed. We didn’t much care which itinerary we went on, since we didn’t have anything specific we felt we had to see (other than what we knew we’d see anywhere) so we were fine with their wait-and-see policy. Since my husband is not a strong swimmer, we also wanted something that would give us options for each outing in case he didn’t want to snorkel.
Long before the trip we were sent lots of information about what to pack, and about the ship and the Galapagos. Shortly before we were to leave we received a packet with luggage tags, description of the process for meeting and getting to the ship, the final itinerary, and other details. The organization of everything was impeccable from start to finish. Everything was included except our transatlantic plane fare and alcoholic drinks and sundries on board. And gratuities at the end, which you could add to your boat tab and pay with credit card if desired (the recommended amount was $180 per person, which was divided among the staff).
The trip began with our non-stop flight from NYC to Guayaquil. We arrived 3 hours late due to weather issues in NYC, but there was someone waiting for us with a sign just outside of the baggage claim area. The van took us to the Guayaquil Hilton Colon (you can read my review on TripAdvisor – it was not a great hotel) where a Lindblad rep met us and gave us details about meeting the next morning to get to the ship. Baggage was to be left outside the room quite early, and was transported to the airport. The passengers met in the lobby and took a bus to the airport, were ushered through check-in, and boarded an hour and a half flight to San Cristobal, where we then took another short bus ride to the dock. We had about half an hour there, and this was our first experience of the real Galapagos. Sea lions lounged on the benches and the walkways, as well as the rocks by the ocean. They barely noticed the presence of the humans as we came close to take pictures. We were psyched and ready to go!
We then took the first of our many panga (or zodiac) rides on a short trip to the Islander, where we were met with warmth and enthusiasm by the staff. Our luggage was waiting for us in our rooms, and we had a brief time to dump our hand luggage and go to the lounge for our first orientation.
We were very lucky to have chosen a room on the top deck (406) with its own little glassed in “porch” area with a lounge chair, a small table, and two chairs, as well as numerous hooks on the wall for hanging our snorkeling gear, etc. The room itself was small but incredibly well designed, with a great deal of storage space, more than we needed. There was a ledge along one wall, with a small lip so nothing could fall off, a pitcher of water, two water bottles, two glasses, an outlet (we brought a surge protector with 3 outlets and two USB ports, which came in handy). Inside the closet was a built-in box with a lock, where we kept our passports and cash. There are no locks on the room doors, which was never a problem. The bathroom was extremely small but also very well-designed, with ledges and wire baskets for holding toiletries, and hooks for hanging toiletry bags. Towels were replaced several times a day. There were dispensers on the wall with shampoo, shower gel, and body lotion, and a large bottle of hair conditioner - and they were good products. I’m fussy, so had brought my own, but ended up using theirs. There was also a wall-mounted hair dryer which worked beautifully. I think the only room on the ship which was larger and had a larger bathroom was the suite at the front of the top level; the rooms on the lower levels were the same size, just without the porch area. I think there were one or two triples, which were also larger. We really enjoyed having the outside area both for lounging and for the extra space, but would have done fine without it. Everyone said you don’t spend much time in your room, and that was pretty true. You can find good pictures, including panoramic ones, on the Cruise Critic website. We had them make up the two singles as a queen; there was enough room to walk around the bed, and it was extremely comfortable. We all joked about taking the comforters home with us!
Orientations were in the lounge, a lovely large room with big windows, couches and chairs. Cocktail hour was here as well, and there were usually snacks available. Also a soda machine, espresso machine, and a small fridge for beer (honor system sign-up). Vanessa, the expedition leader, gave us our daily recaps, next day orientations, and other information here. Vanessa was amazing – cheerful, warm, funny, responsive, and especially wonderful with the children on board. We had about 6 kids under 12 and about 6 teens, all of whom were delightful and a joy to be around. They really added to the fun of the trip with their excitement, their questions, and their energy.
I won’t go into detail here about all the amazing things we saw – wildlife, sea life, geological formations, etc. – but do want to add a word about the 3 naturalists on board: Enrique, Gianna, and Jonathan. All are natives of the Galapagos, and their love of the islands shines. They were incredibly well-informed – there was never a question they couldn’t answer – but more importantly they were fun to be with. They each had their own unique senses of humor, were unfailingly cheerful and responsive, and never made anyone feel silly or stupid for asking a question. How they do this so well week after week amazes me – their excitement felt like it was brand new, and it was contagious. They were patient with my husband who wasn’t that confident a swimmer; they encouraged him to keep trying the snorkeling and never made him feel bad when he wanted to quit.
Most days we had at least 3 different outings, one of which was usually snorkeling. Often there was a choice of snorkeling from the panga in deep water or off of the beach. Several days there was an option to either kayak or paddle-board instead of snorkeling or instead of a panga ride. There was always at least one hike, sometimes with wet landings and sometimes with dry ones (which usually meant getting out onto rocks). Everything was perfectly organized and ran like a clock. I should say that the snorkel gear they provided was in great shape – like new, and in every conceivable size. No one had a problem with it. I brought my own full length skin to wear under the shorty wet suit, since I tend to get cold. The water ranged from about 65 to 72 degrees, and with the wet suit didn’t feel cold at all. They provide a mesh bag with your room number on it for all the gear, and there are hangers on either side of the ship to store them – one side for even numbered rooms, one for odd. There are hoses to rinse things off, and even a small electric wringer for bathing suits, which helped the drying. One thing about being on the ship is that things didn’t dry very well. I had thought I’d do hand laundry but gave that up quickly (more about that later). You could always hang things on the sky deck in the sun, and we could hang bathing suits on our porch in the sun, but most other things stayed a bit damp. The wet suits, however, did dry out.
Food. There was a lot of it! I have to say, though, that the food was the least good thing about the trip, though it was perfectly fine and often excellent. It’s just that everything else was A+, and I’d give the food a B+, with the occasional A. Breakfast and lunch were buffet, most dinners were sit-down served meals, with choices made that morning (usually a fish, meat, or vegetarian option at each meal). Wine or beer were extra, and they had good options. Desserts were quite good – one, the passionfruit mousse, was fabulous. There were a few buffet dinners – the Ecuadorian feast, and the sky deck barbecue (that was my favorite). Meals were all at large tables of 6 or 8, with open seating, which encouraged everyone to get to know each other and the staff.
Weather. It was surprisingly cool. I had expected, and prepared for, blistering heat, but we had many overcast days which were nevertheless quite bright and comfortable. I was glad I had thrown a few long sleeved shirts into my pack at the last minute. Also, the air conditioning on the ship was very strong – several times we asked them to turn it up to make it a bit warmer in the public areas. The bedrooms all had their own individual controls. We kept it off during the day, turned it on before we went to bed, and it was cool in seconds. Although the forecast I had checked before we left called for rain each day, as per people’s comments on this forum, that was totally inaccurate, and it never rained. Vanessa gave us advice about what to wear for each outing in the pre-dinner briefings.
Packing. The one thing I would have liked to have brought is a small plug-in night light. Once the sun sets around 6pm it’s pitch black, and when the ship lights are turned off it’s very dark in the room. It would have been nice to have something dim to light the way to the bathroom without having to turn on the full bathroom light. We did laundry several times during the trip – they provided a bag, and if you left it on your door in the morning it was back before night (we spent a total of about $130 for the trip, a lot, and we could have managed without it). Most people, including us, wore quick-dry pants or shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, and a hoodie, fleece or light jacket over that. We were extremely diligent about using SPF50 sunscreen and had no sunburn problems. Binoculars were useful, sunglasses were a must. I never wore the hat I brought, and my husband only wore a baseball cap. We didn’t bring a whole lot, and could have done with less. I brought one sun dress, wore it a few evenings just for a change, but was the only one who did. As far as shoes go, we were surprised that the rule we had read about of taking off shoes after leaving the panga wasn’t even mentioned. I brought sneakers, tevas, and flipflops, and that was perfect. The sneakers for dry landings, the tevas for wet landings, and the flipflops for walking around the ship. My husband kept his shoes on in the ship. One note about the transatlantic flight: I was concerned about the LATAM carry-on requirements, which were slightly different from the US carriers, but no one ever checked either size or weight.
Photography. One of the naturalists, Jonathan, was also a photography specialist, and for those who were into it, he offered one–on-one help and advice as well as having a few group sessions. Unfortunately we’re not camera pros, but I know we would have appreciated his expertise if we were. We did buy an inexpensive underwater camera that was fun for using while snorkeling. Otherwise we used our iPhones. There was a videographer on board, Ashley, who chronicled our entire voyage and provided a DVD at the end (which we had to pay for – a minor gripe - considering the cost of the entire trip you’d think they’d give it to us for free, but whatever….)
A note about seasickness. We had none. I put on a patch before we got on board just in case, but found the side effects (dry mouth and sore throat) too bothersome. I took it off and was just fine. We could definitely feel the ship rock, but found it soothing. I slept better on board than I have in a long time. It has taken a few days of being off the ship to get back my land legs; for a while if I closed my eyes I still felt as if I was rocking. Not a bad feeling though. As far as I could tell, no one on board had a problem, and I only spied one patch. Maybe we were a hearty lot!
So a quick note about what we saw: sea lions galore and of all sizes, fur seals, iguanas (land and sea and one very rare hybrid), lava lizards, sea turtles, every conceivable kind of fish, rays, sharks, starfish, all 3 kinds of boobies (nazca, red-footed and blue footed) including red-footed boobies nesting with eggs and in a few cases with just-born chicks, pelicans, galapagos penguins, flamingoes, galapagos owls (rare), hawks, giant tortoises, finches, galapagos mockingbirds, galapagos doves, frigate birds, swallowtail gulls, albatrosses, herons, scorpions, and the skeleton of a sperm whale. All up close and personal – these animals and birds have no fear of people. And that doesn’t even mention the giant cacti, the incense trees, the lava tunnels and lava-covered island we hiked, or the post office barrel (one of the most charming customs I’ve encountered).