Ecuador to Galapagos boat
2. Re: How to book a last minute Galapagos Cruise
We travelled in September, so it was off season. That meant that many of the boats were not operating as they pull them out of operation for maintenance. From that perspective, it limited some options, as there were a couple of boats we really liked that were not operating. We were pretty sure that the boats we wanted had space available, as three of the four were still offering cabins online. As it turns out, the one we booked (Treasure) showed full online when we left for Quito, but still had one cabin available. We learned that they upgraded one couple to the big suite, which must have been open, and gave us their original room. We ended up thinking that they probably show reduced cabin availability online to make people believe that they had better book in advance.
We booked on Tuesday for a trip that left on Saturday. Getting this settled was the first thing we did after arriving in Quito. We used the intervening time to sightsee and firm up the rest of our travel plans. We booked our flights through Creter Tours as well. They insisted on this as part of the deal, although their price was competitive anyway. They did meet us at the airport to make sure we got on the right plane as part of their service. FWIW, we returned to Guayaquil, not Quito, so it was not a round trip booking.
A couple of other notes: If you want to do this, I think it's critical that you deal with the boat operator, not a tour company that's just selling trips. A modicum of Internet research will usually let you find how who operates the boats you want...I found the information pretty easily for all the boats we liked. Also, we paid cash for the boat portion, something we made clear when we walked in the door. If you don't have some flexibility on the departure date, I'm sure you will still be able to find a last minute boat but it might not be the one you want. If you end up being offered something on a boat that you are not familiar with you definitely need to research it before accepting. I suppose that there is some risk that you will show up and not be able to find a space at all, although I think the probability of that happening is rather small. For us, in a worst case scenario, we would have rearranged our trip to do the Galapagos at the end. Personality-wise, if you don't deal well with uncertainty when you travel, I don't suggest trying this. Just pay full freight and have the comfort of knowing that everything is taken care of. We are kind of on the opposite end of the travel spectrum, as we arrived in Ecuador with two nights of hotel booked and no other reservations made at all for our one month stay. We saved several thousand of dollars on the Galapagos trip, which made it worthwhile from our perspective.
Some people actually fly to the islands and negotiate with a travel company there to get on a boat, literally at the dock. One person on our trip did this, joining our boat on its mid-way stop. Oddly, relatively speaking she paid more than we did, so I'm not sure that this approach yields more savings and you will definitely have trouble picking the boat that you want. I think that most of the boat operators have their offices in Quito, not on the islands.