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Luxury Galapagos cruises make memorable corporate travel incentives and meeting venues for groups of less than 100 people.

M/Y Letty
M/Y Letty
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Nearly 90 ships cruise in Galapagos. The largest carry 90 to 100 passengers. Mid-size ships carry 32 to 48 passengers, while yachts hold 16 to 32 passengers. There are also a few live-aboard Galapagos boats for divers, such as M/Y Galapagos Sky.

Should corporate meeting planners book a large or small ship for a Galapagos cruise? There are pros and cons for each.

The largest ships, such as the Silver Galapagos, formerly the Galapagos Explorer II, offer a conference room, pool, Jacuzzis, massages and some balcony accommodations. La Pinta, a 48-passenger ship, has a conference room with A/V equipment.

Although the largest Galapagos ships are more spacious and stable, they anchor in deeper water and take longer to transport passengers to and from shore excursions than small ships.

For meetings and incentives with fewer than 20 participants, corporate planners can charter small Galapagos yachts, such as the M/Y Galapagos Grand Odyssey. Although dining rooms and lounges double as meeting space, participants have the ship to themselves, rather than sharing it with other passengers.

Passengers meet in lounge.
Passengers meet in lounge.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Galapagos travel information

Ships range from basic to luxury Galapagos cruises. Some have level 1 and 2 national park guides. Others offer top-proficiency level 3 Galapagos guides.

Although the official language of the Galapagos Islands is Spanish, English is used on most Galapagos cruises. The dress code is casual on all ships. No inoculations are required for Galapagos tourists.

Because Galapagos cruises have busy itineraries with morning and afternoon excursions or snorkelling trips, there is little time for long meetings on-board.

Copa Airlines flies to Ecuador.
Copa Airlines flies to Ecuador.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Galapagos flights

Galapagos flights begin in Guayaquil (airport code: GYE) or Quito (airport code: UIO), Ecuador. Corporate groups overnight in these cities before boarding flights to San Cristobal (airport code: SCY) or Baltra (airport code: GPS) airport in the Galapagos.

Most flights to Galapagos depart in the morning. Arrival time for flights from Galapagos is late afternoon. Flight times range from 90 minutes (Guayaquil to San Cristobal airport) to 2.5 hours (Quito to the Baltra Seymour Airport).

What is the Galapagos time zone? Galapagos is one hour behind (earlier than) Eastern Standard Time (Ecuador time). Ecuador does not use daylight savings time. Most Galapagos cruises use EST.

Pre-cruise hotels

Both Guayaquil (Ecuador's largest city) and Quito (the capital of Ecuador) have excellent venues for meetings and conferencing facilities in hotels, convention centers and cultural attractions, such as museums.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island
Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

For groups planning Galapagos cruises, it is most convenient to arrange pre- or post-cruise meetings in hotels where groups meet prior to flying to the islands, such as the five-star Hotel Oro Verde Guayaquil and Swissôtel Quito.

Santa Cruz Galapagos hotels

Because 97% of the Galapagos is national park, only five islands are populated. People live on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, Baltra and Floreana. The population of the Galapagos Islands is 30,000.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, (population 10,000) is the largest town in the Galapagos. Meeting venues and conferencing facilities are minimal in the small 4, 4-1/2 and 5-star hotels in Santa Cruz.

The exception is Royal Palm Hotel in the highlands, nine miles (15 kilometers) from Puerto Ayora. The Santa Cruz hotel has accommodations for 40, a gourmet restaurant, a library/conference room, AV equipment, WiFi access and an art gallery that can be used for conferences (capacity 60).

Land-based vs cruise Galapagos trips?

Major Puerto Ayora hotels can arrange Santa Cruz Island tours as well as boat tours to Galapagos Islands that are close enough for day trips. This excludes more distant islands like Fernandina and Tower Island.

Photographing blue-footed boobies
Photographing blue-footed boobies
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

If passengers are concerned about sea-sickness, larger cruise ships are better than the small Galapagos boats used for day-trips. Most ships cruise at night so passengers arrive at new destinations each morning.

Galapagos tourists on land packages lose valuable sightseeing time by having to travel to other islands during the day.

Corporate team-building

For meetings and incentive travel to Galapagos, corporate travel planners don't need to arrange structured team-building activities when groups can bond over nature's wonders.

Shared close encounters with giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and sea lion pups make it easy for corporate groups to build camaraderie.

Galapagos penguin
Galapagos penguin
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

What to see in the Galapagos

Galapagos National Park guides provide nightly recaps and briefings to passengers about daily hikes, snorkeling trips and kayaking (on select ships).

There are many things to see and do in the Galapagos Islands for incentive programs and meeting groups on cruises. Each island offers unique wildlife and varied landscapes.

Fernandina Island, for example, has so many marine iguanas that you have to be careful not to step on them. Espanola Island is the world's only nesting site for waved albatrosses.

Birds in Galapagos are endlessly fascinating, from yellow-crowned night herons to the world's only penguins north of the equator.

The Galapagos is accessible to people of average fitness levels. Hiking can be on sandy or rocky paths, but the pace is slow because naturalists stop frequently to talk about flora and fauna.

Best time to go to the Galapagos

Galapagos cruises run year-round. Itineraries range from four to 15 days long. Wildlife activities, such as courting and rearing offspring vary seasonally.

Photographing red-footed booby chick on Genovesa Island
Photographing red-footed booby chick on Genovesa Island
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

For example, the best time to see blue-footed boobies courting is in May and June. The best time to see Galapagos sea lion pups is August to December.

The Galapagos cool/dry season is July to December. January to June is the warm rainy season, but rainfall is normally low, less than two inches (five centimeters) per month. June to November is the garua (misty) season.

February and March are the hottest months in the Galapagos. Passengers on Galapagos cruises go on early-morning island tours and spend much of the day snorkeling to stay cool.

Sea lion mother and pup
Sea lion mother and pup
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The best months to snorkel in the Galapagos are between July and October. The water is cooler, but the sea lions and marine mammals are much more active.

When was the last El Nino season in the Galapagos? It was 1997 to 1998. The strongest El Nino in Galapagos was 1982 to 1983.

Galapagos Islands history

When did the Galapagos become part of Ecuador? In 1832. The Galapagos became a national park in 1959 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Much has not changed in the Galapagos since Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835. Yet, elsewhere, goats, cats, dogs, donkeys, rats, cattle, horses and aggressive plants introduced by early whalers and modern cargo ships have played havoc with the Galapagos habitat and endemic and native species.

Eco-friendly travel

The $100 Galapagos National Park fee that visitors pay helps fund captive tortoise-breeding programs and the eradication of introduced species to restore balance. (The currency of Galapagos and Ecuador is US dollars.)

Galapagos National Park sign
Galapagos National Park sign
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

To help safeguard the pristine environment, meeting planners can look for environmentally friendly operators that leave a low-ecological footprint. Ecoventura's three ships, for example, are Smart Voyager-certified. M/Y Letty was the first Galapagos hybrid-energy vessel.

No incentive or meeting participant can visit Galapagos without being touched by its untamed and fearless wildlife.

Corporate travel planners who are arranging incentive programs and meetings can find information about cruise companies that operate in the Galapagos from the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association.


Ecoventura: www.ecoventura.com

Copa Airlines: www.copaair.com

Ecuador Ministry of Tourism: www.ecuador.travel

More things to see & do in the Galapagos Islands:

Santa Cruz Galapagos Giant Tortoise Reserve - Rancho Primicias

North Seymour Galapagos Trip - Land Iguanas and Magnificent Frigatebirds

Santiago (James) Island Galapagos - Birds, Animals and Plants

Gardner Bay Espanola Island Galapagos Beach - Sea Lions, Sea Turtles and Galapagos Hawks

Bartolome and Pinnacle Rock Galapagos Cruise Tour