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An Epic Galápagos Cruise on the National Geographic Endeavour II [In-depth Review]

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Katie Seemann
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Katie Seemann

Senior Content Contributor and News Editor

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Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, F...
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Nick Ellis

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Keri Stooksbury


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A Galápagos cruise has been on the top of my bucket list for years. I knew when I was able to finally make it happen that I wanted to book it with Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions (those beautiful, glossy catalogs that they have been sending me for years worked, I guess).

In this post, I will take you on a tour of the ship I sailed on, the National Geographic Endeavour II, and tell you a bit about what I did on this trip. This was my first experience on such a small ship, so it was all new to me (I’ve only cruised on traditional large ships before).

If you’ve had your eye on a Galápagos cruise, I hope this post will give you an idea of what you can expect.

An Epic Galápagos Cruise


There are a couple of different Galápagos cruise itineraries offered by Lindblad/National Geographic. I booked the 10-day/9-night Galápagos cruise on the National Geographic Endeavour II.

10 day Galapagos aboard National Geographic Endeavour II booking
I booked this 10-day Galápagos trip on the National Geographic Endeavour II

I wish I could tell you that I redeemed points at an amazing 6 cents each in value, but I can’t. I booked this trip the old-fashioned way — with cash a credit card.

Hot Tip:

Unfortunately, the partnership between Lindblad and Hyatt ended on December 31, 2023, so it’s no longer possible to earn 4x points by paying for Lindblad trips with Hyatt credit cards.

Lindblad now has a partnership with World of Hyatt, but I booked this trip before that partnership was announced and wasn’t able to take advantage of any of the benefits (which bummed me out). I paid the initial deposit on my Chase Sapphire Reserve® to earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points. However, I was still able to earn a lot of World of Hyatt points in the process because I paid for the majority of the trip after the partnership was announced.

I paid for the balance of the trip using both of my World of Hyatt credit cards — The World of Hyatt Credit Card and the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card. I was even able to use the charges to help me hit the minimum spending requirement for the welcome bonus on the World of Hyatt Business card.

The good news is that Lindblad/National Geographic trips code as Hyatt purchases and therefore earn 4 points per $1 when you use either World of Hyatt credit card. This is separate from the 5 points per dollar you can earn booking through World of Hyatt, and you can earn the credit card points even if you don’t book through World of Hyatt.

Here’s a breakdown of what I spent:

Credit CardAmount SpentPoints Earned
Chase Sapphire Reserve card$1,5004,500 Ultimate Rewards points
World of Hyatt card$100400 World of Hyatt points
World of Hyatt Business card$13,61454,456 World of Hyatt points

Additionally, I earned a 75,000-point welcome bonus on the World of Hyatt Business card and these charges triggered the 2 $50 Hyatt credits on that card, as well.

So, in total, I was able to earn 129,856 World of Hyatt points and 4,500 Ultimate Rewards points from this trip!

Bottom Line: Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions offers an incredible collection of bucket-list-worthy cruises and land excursions.

Why Book a Cruise?

There were a lot of reasons I booked a cruise to the Galápagos Islands instead of staying in hotels on land. The first reason is that Galápagos is an area where you’ll want to see lots of different locations, many of which are small, uninhabited islands, and a cruise is the best way to access those.

Also, most of these locations require visitors to be with a naturalist at all times, so these aren’t places you can just visit on your own. Plus, a cruise gives you easy access to all of the water activities you’ll want to try, such as snorkeling and kayaking.

Bottom Line: A small ship cruise is a great way to visit the Galápagos Islands because it gives you the best access to all of the places you’ll want to see and takes care of all of the regulations, like the required naturalists, so you can just enjoy your trip.

Getting to Ecuador

The Galápagos Islands are a part of Ecuador, so I flew from Columbus, Ohio (CMH) to Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE), with a stop in Miami (MIA) as the first leg of this trip.

We stayed overnight at Hotel Oro Verde and had a day to explore Guayaquil. We flew in a day early because we didn’t want to get in late at night (the flight from Miami didn’t land until 10 p.m.) and then have to get on the ship the next day.

We stayed at Hotel Oro Verde for 2 nights before the cruise and 1 night after the cruise, and it was all arranged by Lindblad.

Treats at Oro Verde Hotel
We had treats and Lindblad/National Geographic branded reusable water bottles waiting for us in the hotel room in Guayaquil.

Lindblad/National Geographic required all passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to provide a negative COVID-19 test result 3 to 5 days before the trip. We also had to take another test upon arrival in Ecuador.

Hot Tip: If you find yourself at Guayaquil José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE), be sure to check out the VIP Aeropuertos Club lounge.

Getting to the National Geographic Endeavour II

The next day, we flew on Avianca from Guayaquil to San Cristóbal Island (SCY) to board the National Geographic Endeavour II. After a short bus ride, we arrived at a small dock and hopped on a zodiac to get to the ship. It was there that I first saw what I discovered was a common sight in the Galápagos Islands — sea lions everywhere!

Sea lions at the San Cristobal dock
Sea lions are a common sight in the Galápagos Islands — and not just in the water!


My Galápagos cruise visited many different islands and points of interest:

  • Day 1: San Cristóbal Island
  • Day 2: Española Island/Gardner Bay/Punta Suárez
  • Day 3: Floreana Island
  • Day 4: Santa Cruz Island
  • Day 5: Dragon Hill/Guy Fawkes/Daphne Major
  • Day 6: San Salvador Island/Bartolomé/Sombrero Chino
  • Day 7: Genovesa Island
  • Day 8: Baltra Island

National Geographic Endeavour II map of Galapagos itinerary
A map displayed on the ship tracked our location each day.

Each day, we would usually stop in 2 different locations — 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. There would be a variety of included activities available, ranging from hiking and snorkeling to photography tours and glass-bottom boat rides.

Activity schedule on National Geographic Endeavour II
Here’s a schedule for a typical day aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II.

National Geographic Endeavour II Review

I sailed through the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour II. The ship carries 96 passengers in 52 cabins. It has 4 categories of cabins along with 3 categories of suites. Select rooms can accommodate solo travelers or groups of 3.


There are only 52 cabins on 3 deck levels on the National Geographic Endeavour II. I booked a Category 1 cabin — the least expensive option. There are only 2 examples of this cabin level on the ship — rooms 201 (mine) and 202.

The room itself was just a hair smaller than those in other room categories (excluding suites) and was more than sufficient for my husband and me. But there was a problem, and it was a big one, in my opinion. My room was located right above the anchor, and it was incredibly loud when it was raised or lowered.

Unfortunately, this happened most nights in the middle of the night as well as during the day on occasion. It sounded as though someone was in my room hitting a large metal pipe with a shovel — it was crazy loud! I was really surprised that this wasn’t disclosed at the time of booking, and I think it should have been.

My mom’s room was next to ours (a Category 2 solo room), and she was bothered by the noise every night as well.

I understand I booked the least expensive room, but it was by no means cheap, so this isn’t something that I would expect based on how much the room cost.

Bottom Line: There are only 52 cabins, including 4 suites, accommodating up to 96 passengers on the National Geographic Endeavour II. If you book a Category 1 or some Category 2 rooms, prepare to be woken up every night by the very loud anchor.

Category 1: Room 201

My room was small, but it was fine for my husband and me. This wasn’t the kind of trip where you spend a lot of time in your room, so we didn’t need more space.

There was a comfortable king-sized bed with a large window behind it that let in a lot of light. There were small bedside tables and lamps on either side of the bed.

Cabin 201 National Geographic Endeavour II
The comfortable king-sized bed had a large window behind it.

There were plenty of plugs available by the bedside lights and within the headboard of the bed.

Bedside plugs on National Geographic Endeavour II
There were plenty of plugs in my room to charge all of my devices.

Opposite the bed was a small desk and chair. The desk had a drawer with a lock where you could store any valuables. There was also a pitcher that was filled with cold water each day by the housekeeping staff.

National Geographic Endeavour II desk
There was a desk and chair in my room.

Next to the desk was a closet with 4 small drawers and space for hanging clothes. There was a laundry bag in the closet, as well as an extra blanket and 2 robes.

National Geograhpic Endeavour II closet
The closet had hanging space and drawers.

The entryway had hooks for hanging your life jacket and other essentials.

Entry to Cabin 201 NatGeo Endeavour II
There were hooks in the entryway to hang the provided life jackets.

There was a cute do not disturb sign in case you didn’t want housekeeping services.

National Geographic Endeavour II do not disturb sign
The do not disturb sign was perfect for a Galápagos cruise!


The bathroom was small but functional — which is all I expect on a cruise.

Bathroom on National Geographic Endeavour II
The bathroom was small but functional.

There was a toilet and sink with a few small shelves by the mirror.

Cabin 201 bathroom shelves
There were some small shelves and cup holders by the sink.

The shower always had plenty of hot water and good pressure, which was a nice treat after adventuring every day.

National Geographic Endeavour II Bathroom
The shower always had plenty of hot water.

There was shampoo, conditioner, and body wash available in large containers in the shower.

Shower on National Geographic Endeavour II
Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash were provided.

Unlocked Rooms

The cabins on the ship only locked from the inside. Any time you left your cabin it would remain unlocked, so you never needed a key to enter. I found it strange the first time it was mentioned but it ended up being great. It was a small and intimate ship so I never had any worry that something would be stolen from my room.

The rooms could be locked from the inside so that you didn’t have to sleep or shower in an unlocked room.

The 3-Person Cabin

There were a few rooms on the ship that could accommodate a third person. My mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law shared a room, so I was able to get a photo. It was definitely tight with the third bed, which folded out from the wall, but it was less expensive than having the additional person in a separate room.

National Geographic Endeavour Cabin for 3 people
Select rooms on the ship could accommodate a third person.

Bottom Line: My cabin, 201, was small but functional. It had a comfortable king-sized bed with a large window, a desk, a closet, and a private bathroom.


There was hand sanitizer and filtered water available in the ship’s hallways. High-touch areas, such as railings, were cleaned multiple times a day.

Hand sanitizer and water filling station on National Geographic Endeavour II
There was always hand sanitizer and filtered water available.

Dining Room

There’s 1 dining room on the National Geographic Endeavour II. We had every meal there except 1 during our expedition.

Overall the food was great, and it exceeded my expectations. I had gone in assuming that since this was an activity-focused expedition, food may be an afterthought. It absolutely wasn’t. I appreciated that most of what was served had an Ecuadorian or South American flair and wasn’t “Americanized.” The one exception was a BBQ-themed dinner with ribs and hamburgers which ended up being my least favorite meal of the entire trip.

Dinner on National Geographic Endeavour II
This was one of my favorite meals: a traditional chicken enchilada with Mexican street-style charred corn.

Breakfast Buffet

Breakfast was served buffet-style each morning, but coffee, tea, and fresh juice were served at the table. Pastries were available before breakfast in the lounge for early risers.

Each morning, there was a selection of cold items, such as cereal, yogurt, and fruit.

Breakfast on Endeavour II
These crepes were delicious!

There was a featured fruit of the day in addition to common fruits that were served every day. These featured fruits were usually relatively obscure or tropical fruits that we don’t see often in the U.S., such as tree tomato, soursop, and dragonfruit.

Endeavour II Fruit of the Day
Some of the fruits featured were tree tomato, soursop, and dragonfruit.

There was also a hot buffet with typical breakfast fare, such as eggs, pancakes, and hash browns, as well as rotating items that included Ecuadorian dishes.

Endeavour II breakfast buffet
There was a hot breakfast buffet each morning.

There was also an omelet station. After a day or 2 on the ship, the waitstaff seemed to know everyone’s names and where you were sitting in the dining room, so you could order your omelet and the staff would bring it to your table.

Omelet station at breakfast on Endeavour II
You could order omelets or made-to-order eggs.

Bottom Line: Breakfast was served buffet-style each morning on the ship. There were also pastries available in the lounge before breakfast.

Lunch and Dinner

Lunch and dinner were served as sit-down meals each day. Each had a choice between 3 entrees — a meat option, a fish option, or a vegetarian option.

Dinner menu on Endeavour II
Dinner menu on Endeavour II.

There was usually a soup or specialty salad each day in addition to the option of a green salad or Caesar salad.

Each meal concluded with dessert and/or a choice of ice cream. We had the same waiter for each meal and he got so used to the way my husband ordered his ice cream he ended up bringing it without even asking by the end of the trip.

National Geographic Endeavour II dessert
Dessert on the ship.


The lounge was an important part of the ship because that’s where we met each evening for the day’s recap. It was bright and cozy, with plenty of seating and lots of windows.

National Geographic Endeavour II lounge
The lounge was a nice spot to meet each day.

There were also different lectures and seminars held in the lounge throughout the week.

Recap in the lounge of the Endeavour II
All guests met in the lounge every evening before dinner.

There was a coffee machine that made regular coffee as well as specialty coffees, such as cappuccinos and mochaccinos, that was available at all times. There was also an ice machine and a selection of teas.

Coffee and tea in the lounge of the Endeavour II
There was an ice machine, a coffee machine, and a selection of teas available at all times.

Plus, there were snacks available throughout the day — the locally-made plantain chips were my favorite.

Snacks in the lounge
I loved these locally-made plantain chips.

There was a different fresh juice and flavored water available daily.

Fresh juice in the Endeavour II lounge
There was a different fresh juice and flavored water each day.

In addition, there was a mini fridge with sodas and local beers.

Soda and beer in the National Geographic Endeavour II lounge
Soda and local beers were available in the lounge’s mini-fridge.

The bar was open during the evening recaps, and most drinks, except for some high-end liquors, were included.

Endeavour II Included Alcohol
Many alcohol brands, including beers and wines, were included in the cost of the cruise.

Top-shelf liquor brands could be ordered for an additional charge.

Top shelf liquor on Endeavour II
Top-shelf liquor was available for an additional charge.

Appetizers were served each evening during the recap and before dinner. There were different options each night, ranging from Caprese salad bites to mini pasta bowls to sushi.

Appetizers in the lounge
There were appetizers during each evening’s recap in the lounge.

There was also a specialty cocktail served each evening. The Santa Cruz was my favorite. I’m not a big drinker, so I ordered mine without rum, and it was very tasty.

ENdeavour II Cocktail of the day
The Santa Cruz was my favorite specialty cocktail.


The ship’s library is on Deck 4, and I found it to be a great place to sit and relax. It has lots of seating and floor-to-ceiling windows, making it easy to take in the stunning vistas around you.

National Geographic Endeavour II Library
The library was a nice spot to relax and enjoy the view.

Coffee and tea were available at any time in the library, just as they were in the lounge.

Endeavour II Library coffee machine
Coffee and tea were available throughout the day in the ship’s library.

Plus, there was a computer station available for use.

Endeavour II Library computer station
There was a computer station for use.

Next to the library is the Global Gallery, the ship’s gift shop. It was open each day after breakfast, after lunch, and before dinner.

Endeavour II Global Gallery
The Global Gallery sold items made by Galapagos artisans.

It sold a variety of items made by local artists, along with a few toiletry essentials and Lindblad/National Geographic-branded expedition clothing.

National Geographic Endeavour II gift shop
There were a few toiletry items for sale in the Global Gallery.


There is a gym onboard the National Geographic Endeavour II, but I honestly don’t know how anyone could find the time to use it! It has large windows and fantastic views, but the trip was so packed with activities I can imagine it only got used by die-hard gym rats.

I’ll admit, I never stepped foot inside the gym except to take this photo!

National Geographic Endeavour gym
There’s a small gym on the ship, but I didn’t use it.

There were 2 treadmills, 2 bikes, and an elliptical machine, along with some accessories, such as balance balls, yoga mats, and free weights.

Gym equipment on Endeavour II
The gym had some free weights and exercise bands in addition to cardio equipment.

Each morning, the ship’s wellness expert hosted a stretch class on the deck. I wanted to try it out but the times were just too early for me!


Guests could book massages with the ship’s wellness expert/masseuse in the spa room. I wanted to get a massage, but I didn’t want to miss out on any activities, so I skipped it. My mom got a massage, and she said it was excellent.

Massages are not included in the cost of the cruise.

National Geographic Endeavour II spa
You could schedule a massage on the ship.

Observation Deck

The top deck was open for guests to enjoy anytime. There were a few chairs set up, but I didn’t use them much because the shade was minimal.

National Geographic Endeavour II Observation Deck
The observation deck on the Endeavour II.

There were also racks set up if you needed to dry off any clothing.

National Geographic Endeavour II top deck drying racks
There were drying racks on the top deck.

One evening before dinner there was a wine tasting event on the top deck that took place as the ship was circumnavigating Daphne Major Islet.

Endeavour II wine tasting event
One evening there was a wine tasting event on the top deck before dinner.


There were plenty of activities during my cruise through the Galápagos Islands, and everything was included in the cruise price.

Katie snorkeling with a Galapagos sea lion
Being in the water with playful Galápagos sea lions was a thrill.

The ship was well-equipped with kayaks, paddleboards, zodiacs, snorkeling equipment, wetsuits, walking sticks, and even a glass-bottom boat.

I snorkeled with sea lions, took hikes along rugged ocean cliffs, kayaked with sea turtles, and got to see animals up close, including blue- and red-footed boobies, Galápagos land iguanas, Galápagos tortoises, and much more.

Katie with a Galapagos tortise
Seeing a Galápagos tortoise up close in the wild was so cool.

Each time we went ashore, we went in small groups accompanied by a certified naturalist (this is required by law in many locations) who was able to educate us on the local flora and fauna we were seeing.

There were also photography-themed groups that went ashore with certified National Geographic photo instructors.

Sea lion at Gardner Bay on Espanola Island Galapagos
The sea lions in Gardner Bay on Española Island played on the sand and slept in the sun without giving a second thought to the tourists taking photos!

During normal times, the ship’s staff can arrange for guests to scuba dive (which I really wanted to do), but due to COVID-19, the cruise line still wasn’t allowing it. I was disappointed, but now, at least I have an excuse to go back!

Diving isn’t included in the price, so when it’s available there is an extra cost.

Bottom Line: All of the activities were included in my Galápagos cruise on the National Geographic Endeavour II, including snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding, zodiacs, and glass-bottom boat rides.

Open Bridge

The National Geographic Endeavour II had an open-bridge policy, so you could check it out at any time of day. And they really mean any time — they even gave my mother-in-law a wake-up call in the middle of the night so that she could be on the bridge while the ship crossed the equator.

Equator Crossing pin from Lindblad National Geographic
Speaking of crossing the equator, the expedition leader gave everyone special pins to mark the occasion!

There’s a nice observation deck at the front of the ship that can be accessed via the bridge.

View from bridge of National Geographic Endeavour II
The bridge has a nice observation deck on the front of the ship.


The Wi-Fi on the ship was bad, plain and simple. However, I wasn’t sure I’d have any Wi-Fi at all, so I was happy with the little I got. It was just enough to send my daughter a quick text or to post a photo to Instagram. It usually only worked for a couple of minutes at a time, so you couldn’t do much more than that.

The nice thing was that the first 7 hours of internet use were free — and I don’t think I could have used that much if I tried!

Crew Workstation

This ship has a crew workstation that served as the central hub for signing up for activities, getting information about the day’s plans, signing up for spa treatments, and much more. This area also had a map that tracked where we cruised each day and a checklist of all of the wildlife we saw.

Endeavour II staff workstation
The crew workstation had activity sign-ups plus information about the day’s activities.

Staff and Crew

I can’t say enough about the staff and crew of the National Geographic Endeavour II. Everyone I came into contact with was simply fantastic.

From the expert naturalists and photo instructors to the waitstaff and zodiac drivers, the service was top-notch.


Cabins were serviced 3 times per day! It seemed like every time I came back to my room it was picked up, and I had fresh towels. In the evenings, we got the next day’s itinerary along with some local chocolates.

Daily program and chocolates from housekeeping on Endeavour II
Chocolates and the next day’s itinerary were left on the bed with the turndown service.


Gratuities weren’t included in the cruise fare. An amount of $200 per person for the 7-night cruise was suggested on board. This amount could be adjusted and added to your shipboard account.

COVID-19 Protocols

My trip was from April 28 to May 8, 2022, so there were extra COVID-19 considerations that we had to deal with in order to travel.

Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions took its COVID-19 protocols very seriously. First, every guest had to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We also had to take a PCR test 3 to 5 days before traveling. The Ecuadorian government wasn’t requiring this, but the cruise line did.

Then, we had to take another test once we got to the hotel the day before we departed on the cruise. Lindblad/National Geographic set this up, and the cost was included.

Once on the ship, masks were required in public areas and during embarkation and disembarkation on the zodiacs that took us ashore each day.

There was hand sanitizer widely available and there were yellow symptom cards that we had to turn in each day to confirm that no one in the cabin had experienced any COVID-19 symptoms.

Despite all of the effort, there ended up being 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during our cruise. The expedition leader was very open about this and disclosed the details to all of the guests. As it turned out, all 4 cases were from guests and staff that had participated in a pre-trip extension. The guests that were in close contact with those infected were tested on board as were all of the crew and staff.

Unfortunately, 2 of the photography experts who were traveling with us were among those infected, which was disappointing. Those infected were taken off of the ship and sent to a hotel.

Lindblad/National Geographic also administered the tests we needed to fly back to the U.S. after the cruise. Thankfully, there was no additional spread after the 4 who tested positive and everyone else got a negative test and was able to fly home as scheduled.

Final Thoughts

This Galápagos cruise on the National Geographic Endeavour II was indeed a bucket-list trip for me and one that I highly recommend if you enjoy active vacations, incredible scenery, and unique wildlife.

I loved that everything was included — I didn’t have to pay extra for any activities, and this trip was jam-packed with things to do, such as snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and paddleboarding.

I’ll definitely consider booking through Lindblad/National Geographic again — especially since there’s now a partnership with World of Hyatt that allows you to earn or use World of Hyatt points on these expeditions!

The information regarding The World of Hyatt Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Galápagos cruise worth it?

To me, it was 100% worth it! I absolutely loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat if I could. If you enjoy activities, such as snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and seeing incredible animals, then you’ll probably love a trip to the Galápagos Islands.

What country owns the Galápagos Islands?

The Galápagos Islands belong to the South American nation of Ecuador. You can fly from mainland Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands in about 90 minutes.

How many days do you need in the Galápagos Islands?

I did a 7-night cruise through the Galápagos Islands and felt that was a good amount of time to see a lot. I would say anything less than 5 days wouldn’t be enough time.

What's included in a Galápagos cruise on the National Geographic Endeavour II?

Almost everything is included when you cruise the Galápagos on the National Geographic Endeavour II, including food, drinks, activities, and transportation. The only things that cost extra on board were top-shelf alcohol, massages, gift shop purchases, and gratuities.

Katie Seemann's image

About Katie Seemann

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, Forbes Advisor, and Fortune Recommends.


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