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Sail Date: March 2018
My husband and I and our three teen-aged boys recently returned from a spring break trip on the Santa Cruz II, Western Itinerary. We thoroughly enjoyed the Santa Cruz II. Everything was clean and modern. The food was very good and the ... Read More
My husband and I and our three teen-aged boys recently returned from a spring break trip on the Santa Cruz II, Western Itinerary. We thoroughly enjoyed the Santa Cruz II. Everything was clean and modern. The food was very good and the waiters went out of their way each day to bring my son gluten-free breads and waffles without us ever having to ask. The outdoor deck was lovely. The bar and lounge areas were comfortable and inviting. The boat's staff at the Quito airport, on arrival in Baltra, and on the ship were all very organized and friendly and we always knew where we were going and what we were doing. The snorkeling equipment was excellent and seemed top quality. The ship's photographer takes pictures that are provided at no cost, which I thought was a very nice touch. I would sail on this ship again without the slightest hesitation. Our naturalist guide for the trip was a very nice young man, but he could have talked a little less (sometimes you just want to silently enjoy the nature around you!) and been a little better informed. At times when he was asked questions I think he just improvised when he didn't know something. He often answered the same question different ways at different times. He explained evolution as "if a bird had an injured wing his offspring would then also have injured wings." My real complaint, however, was the itinerary. Days 2 & 4 were excellent. Day 1 was ok, Day 3 was terrible. On such a short cruise at such a high cost, every day should be amazing! Day Two: Snorkeled with sea lions, penguins, and turtles, and really saw lots of interesting animals up close. Really enjoyed both stops. Day Four was our favorite. We snorkeled from the shore of a beautiful beach and kayaked among playful sea lions in the morning, then enjoyed a glass-bottom boat tour in the afternoon. The highlight was the evening, when 12 sharks and a few sea lions swam right alongside the boat for HOURS, chasing flying fish. The fish would leap out of the water to escape, and one flew up into my son's chest on the deck. He will never forget that. Day One (afternoon after embarkation), Dragon Hill was ok. Lots of walking for very little animal sightings, and it was hot and dry and dusty. Seems like there could be a better place to start. Day 3, however, just felt like filler. First we trekked to the Charles Darwin Research Center, which was not interesting at all. A huge production to go into a special building where they have the taxidermy body of Lonely George, the last of a particular species of tortoises who died several years ago. Then outside to see some giant tortoises, including babies in breeding areas. Overall, not impressive and it required a bus ride, then a long walk. Would recommend omitting this stop entirely. Then we were bussed to a sugar cane farm for a 5 minute demonstration, followed by an hour of standing around. Everyone seemed hot and annoyed. Next we were loaded back on the bus and taken to a lava tube. We got out, hiked into the tube, turned around and hiked back to the bus. Again, seemed rather pointless? Then the bus took us to a restaurant, where we had an outdoor buffet. The food was fine, but then it was back on the bus again for a drive to a reserve where we saw giant tortoises. This last part at the reserve was about 45 minutes - and it was enjoyable - but it came at the end of a very long day. We would have much preferred if this day could have been broken in two like the other days, with a return to the ship mid-day, and a more interesting stop/excursion in the morning. A tortoise center in the morning and tortoises in the wild in the afternoon seemed unnecessarily repetitive. The sugar can farm and lave tube stop just seemed like filler. NOT why one travels to the Galapagos! We felt cheated out of one of our precious few days in the Galapagos on this day. So all in all, we had a wonderful trip to the Galapagos and would recommend the Santa Cruz II, but pick an itinerary without the long day on Santa Cruz Island. Also, if you are deciding between a full week and a 5 day/4 night as we were, we all agreed the 4 day was just the right amount of time. I think it might have started to feel repetitive with a few more days. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
My husband I and were onboard Santa Cruz II at the end of February for a 7-day, adventure-filled island hopping in the Galapagos Islands. I booked this trip through Metropolitan Touring online. This ship can accommodate 90 passengers, ... Read More
My husband I and were onboard Santa Cruz II at the end of February for a 7-day, adventure-filled island hopping in the Galapagos Islands. I booked this trip through Metropolitan Touring online. This ship can accommodate 90 passengers, which is on the larger size. This turned out to be a blessing when we hit turbulence in the water while crossing the seas from island to island on several occasions. The islands we visited are: Santa Cruz, South Plaza Island, North Seymour, San Cristobal, Espanola, and Santa Fe. The passengers on this trip were all sophisticated travelers. One of the pleasures of traveling is meeting other people from around the world. On this trip, we met some wonderful people whose acquaintances we will cherish forever. GETTING THERE: We flew on JetBlue from New York to Quito, with connection in Fort Lauderdale. We stayed overnight in Quito before flying to the Galapagos Islands. The flight had a stopover in Guayaquil, where they picked up more passengers. Once we landed on the Baltra Island, a bus took us to a small dock (5 min.) Each of us was handed a life jacket before boarding a small dinghy (also called PANGA) to Santa Cruz II anchored nearby. It was a bright sunny day and we were SUPER excited to start our adventure! STATEROOM: Our room was located on the Expedition Deck in the middle of the ship. The room has closet with shelves on one side (and safe), and hangers on the other. There is one small chair by the desk. Bathroom is adequate size with shower only -- shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel are provided. There are two colors of towels – blue and white. The blue towels are for use in the bathroom. The white towel is for use outside -- i.e. for beach or for snorkeling. You cannot lock your room from outside, only from inside. We didn’t have any issue with this, except for the first night, when someone came into our room while we were out and took one of the chocolates left by our room steward. (Every night, our wonderful room steward turns down our bed and leaves a chocolate on each of our pillows.) It’s not the missing chocolate that bothered us, of course, but the fact that someone actually came into our room to take it. It was a small matter and did not detract us from our trip. The outlets in the room are limited. We brought a travel charger with USB ports from home to charge our iPhones and camera batteries. There is no TV in the room. You don’t need it. My biggest objection with this room was finding how thin the wall is. You can hear conversations through the wall as though there was no barrier. Lucky for us, only one side of our room was connected. The bed was comfortable and we both slept well. Our invisible room steward kept out room tidy and clean. FOODS & DRINKS: Breakfast and lunch are buffet style; only dinner is a la carte, which you need to select at lunchtime. You can always change your mind, but by selecting ahead of time, the kitchen staff can make the necessary preparations. The food onboard was delicious, flavorful, and well presented. Seating at the dining room is not assigned. You can sit anywhere and with anyone you pleased. Since we always sat on the same table, we had the same waiter throughout our trip. Mauricio came to know us. He knew my husband preferred coffee in the morning, while I only liked the juice. He made our dining experience special. Bar had ample drink selections, including non-alcoholic beverages, along with occasional hors d’oeuvres, but they always had popcorns. AMENITIES AROUND THE SHIP: The ship felt dated, but it was roomy with several public places to hang around. There are two large Jacuzzis, which we never used, but they looked very inviting. My favorite amenity on this ship is the presence of two large dryers. I brought a small bottle of detergent from home and washed our swimwear in the bathroom sink. I put them in the dryer while we went to dinner. By the time we finished eating, our clothes were dried. This makes it much easier to pack in our luggage on the last day. (Note to self – next time, pack some dryer sheets!) The daily schedule is posted on the hallway. You take photo of this schedule with your iPhone and use it as your reminder. Everything was well organized and pretty much as listed. The list also includes alternative activities (i.e. going on glass-bottom boat instead of snorkeling, or riding on panga instead of hiking, etc.) EXCURSIONS: Mari Ramierz gives briefing every day about the following day’s activities. She is everywhere and does everything. She is like a mother hen to all of us! The wakeup call every morning is at 6:30 AM. Mari will come on the speaker to greet everyone. (As she likes to remind us, we are on an ADVENTURE not a VACATION!) We usually wake up earlier (as did some other passengers) to watch the beautiful Galapagos mornings from the Sky Deck. The activities are broken down into morning and afternoon tour -- except for the day we visited Santa Cruz Island where we spent the entire day on the island. Some hikes are more strenuous than others. Be sure to bring good grip, amphibious shoes with you. You will be on a panga a lot to transport you to and from your excursions. There are two types of landing – DRY and WET. DRY landing is when the passengers get off the panga on a dock or rocky terrain. WET landing is when the panga is dock close to the beach and passengers wade (ankle deep) to the shore. Each group is small - about 12 passengers or so, accompanied by an English-speaking naturalist guide. There are several guides onboard Santa Cruz II, everyone is very knowledgeable about the Galapagos Islands. Our favorite guide is Henry Abad, whose passion for nature is clearly shown in his voice as he narrates each species we encounter. Using snorkeling equipment is complimentary. You can also rent their wet suite for $18 for the entire trip. As the water temperature was warm when we were there, we did not wear our wet suites that we brought from home. Passengers are greeted with a glass of refreshing juice whenever we come back from our excursions. The ship’s photographer, Martin Barreiro, will gladly take your family’s photos with your camera. He also takes photos of everyone onboard and shows them as slideshow on the last day of the trip. And if you leave your email address with him, he will send this slideshow to you free of charge. He also gives a lecture on how to take great Galapagos Islands photos. Don’t miss it! While we had a wonderful time on this cruise, it wasn’t perfect. On our last snorkel outing, I was getting tired after 30 minutes of swimming. I signaled to my husband that I had enough. The safety protocol was that you raise your hands above the water whenever you want to get back into the panga and the naturalist onboard will come and pick you up from where you are. But when my husband and I looked up, our panga was a tiny dot on the horizon – far, FAAAAAR, away! We waved our hands frantically to get the guide’s attention, but the dot did not moved. As I struggled to stay afloat, I looked around and found no one around us -- just silence and eerie sounds of water lapping near our faces. I knew I didn’t have enough strength to swim that far, and wondered how we strayed so far away from our group. Panic began to set in and my heart raced. The prospect of drowning in the Galapagos Islands was not very appealing, so I began to splash the water with both hands and my husband began shouting at the top of his voice while waving his arms like a maniac. It was only then that the guide saw us, and she quickly came to our rescue. That incident left me a little shaken. In hindsight, we should’ve chose glass-bottom boat instead of snorkeling on our last day. It was a bad decision on our part. I would still give Santa Cruz II a 5-star review because we had a FANTASTIC time overall! In conclusion, visiting Galapagos should be on everyone’s bucket list! To get the best value, check out the last minute deals for vacancies. The tour company will publicize this info (if any) few weeks before the sail date. Metropolitan Touring (who owns this ship) is a well-established entity in this region. Everywhere we went, we had the whole place to the wildlife and ourselves. Not a bad arrangement to visit one of the most magical places on Earth! Some notes: 1) Your tour price does not include the mandatory $100 park entrance fee/pp, or the $20 migration fee/pp. You can ask your travel agent to include both in your tour price. It’s one less thing to worry about. 2) Ecuador uses USD as their currency. You don’t need FX exchange. You also don’t need electrical converter, since the country uses the same voltage as US. 3) You don’t need to bring water bottles. You will receive two souvenir bottles in your stateroom. You can fill them with water from the dispenser in the hallway. 4) Galapagos Islands are volcanic in nature and the paths are rocky and slippery. Be sure to wear shoes that have good grip. Walking stick is provided for anyone who needs it. 5) We brought insect repellent, but rarely used it. We didn’t find mosquitoes or other insects to be a problem in any of the islands we visited. 6) The sea lion pups are very cute, but you should not go near them. The reason for this precaution is that your scent may transfer to the pup. When the mother sea lion comes back to feed it, she may not recognize her pup’s scent and will not feed it. It’s best to take the photos from some distance away so as not to disrupt their lives. 7) Bring a small bottle of fabric spray. All the life vests have strong smell of perspiration on them. You cannot claim one as your own and clean it since they are collected and randomly distributed on every outing. 8) Tipping – it’s always awkward trying to figure out how much to tip. Here’s a general guideline on Santa Cruz II (as suggested by Metropolitan Touring): Crew: $15/pp per day Naturalist: $10/pp per day Barman: $5/pp per trip You can add this to your bill at the end of your trip and pay with your credit card. This will be shared equally among the crewmembers. We tipped extra (in person) to those crewmembers who made our trip more memorable. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We chose this ship because is was not too small, nor too large and it was a great choice. We were not able to tour San Cristobal Island before we left, but we were excited to start the cruise and didn't mind. The ships guides and ... Read More
We chose this ship because is was not too small, nor too large and it was a great choice. We were not able to tour San Cristobal Island before we left, but we were excited to start the cruise and didn't mind. The ships guides and crew take your bags from you at the airport and you find them next in your cabin. They had buses waiting to ferry us to the ship. Pangas: Okay, I was nervous. But the crew knows this and is safety-focused. By the last day, I was a panga expert. The rides are not comfortable between the exhaust and the sea-spray. But this an adventure in the Pacific, not a canoe trip down the creek. We did have one very rough night where the ship was rocking side to side and pitching stem to stern. I didn't sleep much that night. We went the next day to tour the bridge and the kind captain explained we had turned into the current. Further, this ship was designed to go around the tip of South America, so the current was not really an issue. And we wouldn't have another night like that. Food: The food on board is great. Quite a variety and a vegetarian option at each meal. Breakfast and lunch are buffets (eat the ceviche!). Dinner is ordered at lunch and brought to you by great dining room staff. Dinner food is pre-cooked and then stored in the steam tables they use for breakfast and lunch. We did have some overcooked fish, but it still tasted great. Schedule: This is not a ship where you party all night, mostly because you are exhausted. They wake you up at 600 or 630, breakfast is at 700/730 and you disembark by 830. The Galapagos only allows a certain number of people to be on each island a day and they can only stay for a limited time. Back onto the ship it is lunch time. You get a bit of rest, and then go off on your afternoon adventure. After your morning adventure, they greet you with juice and a snack. Some evenings they had a cocktail hour on the deck (BOGO cocktails, snacks, etc), a meeting to plan the next day, and then dinner was around 730. Activities: Each night before dinner, the staff brief you on what you will be doing and seeing the next day. Very helpful, attendance recommended. And they make it fun. They broke the passengers into groups of 10 or so. We got along well with everyone in our group. The tour guides were knowledgeable at the flora, fauna and history of the islands. Most were native Galapaguenos, all spoke English well. If you do not snorkel, or just want a break from the wet suit, I recommend the glass bottom boat. it was a great way to see fish. My favorite island was South Plaza, but really everyone one has something unique and fantastic. The shore excursions all involved walking but most were easy hikes with many stops for flora, fauna and fotos. One Espanola Island, the trail is very rocky, a walking stick is recommended. But the crew and by then, our fellow travelers, were very helpful. Two or our group and I had to visit the ship's doctor. Nothing major, but get it checked while you have access to medical care. She is a good doctor, respected our privacy and didn't judge our foolish wounds. I appreciated having her on board very much. We were late in the vacation season, so only a few kids on the ship. But the ship had special activities for the kids and they were having a great time running around in a pack. Tipping: On the last night, they have a photo show of your time on the ship (which they email to you later. Some of the best photos we have. Thanks Eddy!). They also give you a sheet with tipping guidelines for the crew, the dining staff, the tour guides. etc. They put 4 boxes at the purser's desk and you can drop your cash tips in there. Or you can put it on a charge card and fill out a form telling the purser how to divide it up. We also gave the guides sunscreen we didn't need any longer. Yes! I would do it again! Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
I highly recommend this cruise. The staff and naturalists are outstanding. The food is top notch all 3 meals per day and some of the dinners were truly works of art--coconut fish and crab stuffed fish, for example. The desserts were not at ... Read More
I highly recommend this cruise. The staff and naturalists are outstanding. The food is top notch all 3 meals per day and some of the dinners were truly works of art--coconut fish and crab stuffed fish, for example. The desserts were not at the same level and way too heavy on the mouses, but the meals were so satisfying, it didn't matter. The Galapagos are a treasure and seeing the wildlife was unforgettable. The excursions are well organized and there are often several options (panga ride vs kayak vs snorkel). You really can't get the most out of the trip if you can't walk on uneven ground (including climbing large stone steps, hopping over lava crevices, and dealing with loose gravel) and/or snorkel. This is not a criticism of the cruise, just a warning for those with mobility issues that this might not be the optimal choice. For those of us lucky enough to still have 2 good knees, it was a blast. We saw birds and animals present nowhere else right up close and had plenty of time to take it all in. I hope to come back someday! Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
As anyone who has travelled on this vessel can tell you, this is not a traditional cruise. It is a port intensive, early wake-up call, adventure to some very unique islands. First, embarkation does not involve issuance of your cruise ... Read More
As anyone who has travelled on this vessel can tell you, this is not a traditional cruise. It is a port intensive, early wake-up call, adventure to some very unique islands. First, embarkation does not involve issuance of your cruise card -there are none. Instead you are transferred to the dock by very helpful ship-based staff members. Once at the dock, you don your life jacket and head to the ship via "panga." Pangas are zodiacs boats- rubber vessels with flexible flooring and an outboard motor. These pangas, you will soon learn, are an essential part of the cruise. Virtually all the islands lack docks or even approachable landing areas other then some rock formations that allow for a rubber boat to beach. Without the pangas, there is no cruise. In fact, all the ships supplies, and your luggage as well, will be transported via panga. The adventure begins within hours. Each time we boarded a panga in groups (by language) and headed ashore with our naturalist who walked us through the trails and let us know what we were seeing. Each shore visit lasts from about 2.5 hours to about 3.5 hours and there NO bathrooms on most of the islands. Meals are served in the main dining room, buffet at breakfast and lunch, and waiters at dinner. The captain and his staff always have a table in the dining room as well. There are several choices at each meal. At about 300 feet with about 100 cabins, the Santa Cruz II is one the largest vessels in the Galapagos, but you can be back in your cabin from any part of the ship in a matter of seconds. There are no elevators and the stairs are quite steep. Hold on please! Now the magic. Since the animals in the Galapagos are protected by law from people, and since they have no naturual predators and are isolated, they have absolutlely no fear of people. As a result, the seal will lie in your path and not move. The iguanas will not bite you or even pretend to be aggressive. The birds will not fly away on your approach. On the downside, it is hot. The sun is relentless and the flies can be as well. The ship is comfortable but not luxurious. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
My mother organized this trip for 4 family members. We'd only done private charters previously, but this was fantastic. A truly wonderful experience. A 90 passenger boat, service is personalized, you get to know some of the staff and ... Read More
My mother organized this trip for 4 family members. We'd only done private charters previously, but this was fantastic. A truly wonderful experience. A 90 passenger boat, service is personalized, you get to know some of the staff and the other passengers. The food was fabulous, and I am hard to particularly please in this category. I hear the ship was renovated recently, so it is likely even nicer than when we went. I shared a twin room with my brother, and only had one night where I had to take dramamine for rough seas. They keep a bowl of it on one of the decks (thank goodness). The Santa Cruz II ship was very comfortable and had a nice layout. They don't have broadway-type shows like I've heard the huge cruise ships have, but they did have music and we danced the nights away with our fellow passengers - a style I much prefer as it involves participating in the fun rather than observing a "show". The Santa Cruz II staff that lead our groups around the different islands were second to none: Informative, friendly, and professional. This is one of the ships that is considered mid-range in terms of price, but I can't imagine it being any better. Read Less
Santa Cruz II Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 5.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0

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