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.
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.
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 Card||Amount Spent||Points Earned|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve card||$1,500||4,500 Ultimate Rewards points|
|World of Hyatt card||$100||400 World of Hyatt points|
|World of Hyatt Business card||$13,614||54,456 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. There’s even a partnership with World of Hyatt that allows to you either earn or use World of Hyatt points on Lindblad trips.
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 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
There were plenty of plugs available by the bedside lights and within the headboard of the bed.
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.
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.
The entryway had hooks for hanging your life jacket and other essentials.
There was a cute do not disturb sign in case you didn’t want housekeeping services.
The bathroom was small but functional — which is all I expect on a cruise.
There was a toilet and sink with a few small shelves by the mirror.
The shower always had plenty of hot water and good pressure, which was a nice treat after adventuring every day.
There was shampoo, conditioner, and body wash available in large containers in the shower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were also different lectures and seminars held in the lounge throughout the week.
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.
Plus, there were snacks available throughout the day — the locally-made plantain chips were my favorite.
There was a different fresh juice and flavored water available daily.
In addition, there was a minifridge with sodas and local beers.
The bar was open during the evening recaps and most drinks, except for some high-end liquors, were included.
Top-shelf liquor brands could be ordered 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.
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.
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.
Coffee and tea were available at any time in the library, just as they were in the lounge.
Plus, there was a computer station available for use.
Global Gallery (Gift Shop)
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.
It sold a variety of items made by local artists, along with a few toiletry essentials and Lindblad/National Geographic-branded expedition clothing.
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!
There were 2 treadmills, 2 bikes, and an elliptical machine, along with some accessories, such as balance balls, yoga mats, and free weights.
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.
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.
There were also racks set up if you needed to dry off any clothing.
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.
There were plenty of activities during my cruise through the Galápagos Islands and everything was included in the cruise price.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a nice observation deck at the front of the ship that can be accessed via the bridge.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
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!