The 164-foot-long Aqua Mare is more akin to a private superyacht than a cruise ship, with four decks and seven spacious guest suites ranging in size from 215 square feet to an 861-square-foot Owner’s Suite, which is the largest most luxurious suite in the Galápagos Islands, according to the company. The ship can accommodate up to 16 guests with a 1-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio ensuring personalized service.
Shared spaces include a six-person jacuzzi, outdoor barbecue area and workout zone, as well as shaded and open sun decks. A “Beach Club” platform at the stern is the launching point for exploration and water sports, including snorkeling, standup paddleboard and kayaking among the pristine waters of the world’s richest marine biosphere reserve.
Known for its singular flora and fauna, the Galápagos Archipelago, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, consists of 18 islands and more than 100 small islets located about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Its unique positioning and environmental conditions created remarkable land and marine ecosystems.
“By far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago…is that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings,” wrote Charles Darwin in the The Voyage of the ‘Beagle.’ Darwin arrived there in 1835 and studied the dramatic volcanic landscape and flora and fauna, which planted the seeds for his famous theory of evolution. He also commented on the extreme tameness of the land animals, which are not accustomed to predators.
Guests can explore this veritable Eden with twice-daily expeditions led by two world-class naturalist guides who guarantee an unforgettable wildlife adventure on land and at sea. Walk among mythical giant tortoises; snorkel with penguins, sea turtles, and marine iguanas in Espinoza Point; witness the courtship dance of blue-footed boobies in North Seymour; or be greeted by groups of sea lions lounging on the rocks at Suarez Point. It’s also a paradise for birders with rare species, such as flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, and Darwin’s finches—named after the famous biologist, who studied them.
On the culinary angle, Aqua Expeditions once again teamed up with the award-winning Peruvian chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, to curate a culinary program with a Peruvian Japanese Nikkei-inspired menu made with the freshest, locally sourced ingredients. Menu highlights include Galapagueña lobster lettuce wraps with Acevichado dressing, potato llapingachos, tuna crudo, barbecued plantains, shrimp ceviche and more.
“With its pedigree, Aqua Mare perfectly fills a niche that I felt was missing,” says Francesco Galli Zugaro, CEO and founder of Aqua Expeditions. “Whilst there are incredible ships in the Galápagos Islands, Aqua Mare really fits a demographic of guests that have been looking to take expedition cruising to a new level in the destination.”
Rates on Aqua Mare start from US$9,450 per person for a seven-night itinerary or the entire boat can be chartered for a seven-night cruise starting at US$196,000, including house spirits and a private masseuse for five hours per day.