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There's no way around it -- trips to the Galápagos are expensive. But if you book a cruise at the last minute, you can sometimes save substantially off the regular rates. Most boats would rather sell a few spaces at steep discounts than send the ship out with empty staterooms. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find a last-minute price, and you run the risk of not finding space. During the high season (June-Sept and late Dec-early Jan), you shouldn't even waste your time looking for one. Even during the low season, you shouldn't expect to come to Ecuador and immediately find a boat leaving the next day. In some cases, you may have to wait a week to 10 days before you find an opening.

Your best bet for finding a discount is to hit several of the budget-oriented travel agencies in the Mariscal district of Quito, or along Avenida Charles Darwin in Puerto Ayora. In addition, I've found the following agencies to be some of the best at arranging a last-minute Galápagos cruise.

In Quito

  • Ecoventura operates five ships and yachts in the Galápagos. Through their website (www.ecoventura.com) they sometimes offer last-minute deals at reduced rates. If there are no special discounts on the website, stop in or call their local offices in Ecuador. They have an office at Almagro N31-80, Edificio Venecia (tel. 02/2907-396); in Guayaquil their office is in the Edificio Samborondon Business Center, Torre A Piso 3 (tel. 04/2839-390). At both offices, you can try to book a last-minute berth at last-minute prices.
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  • Quasar Náutica (tel. 800/247-2925 in the U.S. and Canada, 0800/883-0827 in the U.K., or 02/2446-996 in Ecuador; www.galapagosexpeditions.com), at Jose Jussieu N41-28 and Alonso de Torres, is one of the larger cruise operators in the Galápagos, with a fleet of boats, and a permanent office in Puerto Ayora.
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  • Zenith Ecuador Travel (tel. 02/2529-993; www.zenithecuador.com), at Juan León Mera 453 and Roca, has access to information on about 100 boats that ply the waters around the Galápagos Islands. Give the staff your dates and your requirements, and they'll talk to their contacts and try to find you a special last-minute deal. Ask to speak to the owner, Marcos Endara, and tell him you are a Frommer's reader.

In Puerto Ayora

  • Moonrise Travel Agency (tel. 05/2526-589; www.galapagosmoonrise.com), on Avenida Charles Darwin near the corner of Charles Binford, is an excellent family-run local operation that specializes in booking last-minute trips on a number of different vessels (all classes and sizes).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.