I had heard that the best way to explore the Galapagos Islands was via cruise ship, which made me wary of what sort of experience I should expect; would I be stuck on the upper deck of a 3,000-person cruise liner 500 feet from shore, leaning over the railing just to get a few inches closer to a faraway tortoise? Would I be hustled through cafeteria-style dinner lines at chow time? Would I have any fun at all?
I shouldn't have worried. Some of the established Galapagos outfitters, like the fantastic Metropolitan Touring, know exactly the sort of experience travelers crave when they visit the islands: small numbers (my ship had roughly 30 guests), smaller expedition sizes (we went out in groups of 8-10), and knowledgeable, exciting naturalists. Best of all, we were afforded the opportunity to disembark on many of the islands for some firsthand exploring, like our afternoon on gorgeous Fernandina Island. When you're booking a Galapagos cruise, keep in mind the size of your ship, the number of naturalists on board, and the reputation of your outfitter. It makes a difference.