Metropolitan Touring m/v Santa Cruz by Hubert de Palm Galapagos Islands February 21, 2005
This cruise is certainly not an ordinary cruise. We cruised the Galapagos for seven days. We took the Monday-to-Monday trip during the month of February 2005. Like the tour leader explained to us this is not a cruise but an expedition. The ship the M/V Santa Cruz operated by Metropolitan Touring (ETICA) has a maximum capacity of 90 passengers. At merely 1675 tons this ship is like a nutshell compared to the 100,000+ tons luxury liners sailing nowadays. But size is not everything the service and program during the seven days is very good to excellent. The staff is friendly and the service before, during and after the cruise is excellent. The thing that makes these Galapagos excursions so special is the close encounter with the wildlife on the islands.
OK that is the summary let's go into some more details:
Most people we talked to arranged their Galapagos voyage though a local agent who made the arrangement directly or indirectly with Metropolitan Touring in Ecuador. A lot of folks also combine the Galapagos with a longer visit to South America. We had only the Galapagos seven days cruise with a night stay over in Quito before and after the cruise. This because we had already visited the mainland of Ecuador in the past.
On arrival in Quito a representative of Metropolitan Touring at the airport who arranged the transfer to the Hotel expected us. We were informed of the pickup the next day and the basic things we needed to know for our stay in Quito. The next morning pickup was on time (5:30AM) for transfer to the airport for our flight to Baltra (Galapagos). This service was excellent. The whole check in at the airport was completely arranged. Your luggage was taken from you at the hotel and was completely taken care of. The next time you see it back is in your cabin on the boat. Flight to Galapagos is carried out by an Ecuadorian airline TAME which uses a brand new Airbus.
Once in Baltra you have to pay the park entrance fee, which is US$100 (02/2005). For some folks this was already paid for in their package in this case your name will be on list with the park officer. After going through this you will be greeted by some crewmembers of the ship who will take you to a small dock to get to the ship. Here you will already be greeted by some sea lions. With small zodiacs the passengers are carried to the Santa Cruz.
On board we are welcomed with a drink and you check into your room. Shortly after that a briefing of the chief naturalist who will explain the basics of the ship and give an introduction of the program of the week. O sorry the naturalists are the guides who will take you ashore during the excursions on the islands. Santa Cruz has a total of 6 naturalists who are very well trained and very knowledgeable. Among them they speak at least 4 languages fluently (Spanish, French, English and German).
Itinerary Monday: Arrival, Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) (Santa Cruz Island) Tuesday: Bartolomé Island, Puerto Egas (Santiago (James) Island) Wednesday: Darwin Bay (Genovesa (Tower) Island), North Seymour Island Thursday: Santa Fé Island, Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) Friday: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island), Exploring the Coastline of Stephen's Bay Saturday: Gardner Bay (Española (Hood) Island), Punta Suarez (Española (Hood) Island) Sunday: Urbina Bay (Isabela Island), Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island) Monday: Departure
Global overview of the daily Program Wake up call is early between 6:30 to 7:30 everyday. Breakfast is served around 7:15. Around 8:00 first visit to the island. This will be a dry or wet landing on the beaches of the Island visited for a guided walking tour with very detailed and interesting explanation by our guides (naturalists). Some days you have the opportunity for swimming or snorkeling at the end of the walk. Back on board around 11:00 to 12:00 Lunch is served around 12:30 After lunch till ±15:00hrs time to rest and enjoy in the salon or on the sun deck. During this time the ship will often change location. Around 15:00 hrs a second visit to an island which will last till around 17:30. 18:00 hrs back on board. Depending on the day there will be a cocktail in the bar or on the sun deck. 19:00 hrs briefing with lots of interesting information and the program for the next day. 20:00 hrs dinner During the night the ship sails to a different location. Every day you wake up at a different Island.
Food on Board:
Breakfast is buffet style. Lots of items besides the basic things there will be a different item available each day. Lunch buffet style and this is also different everyday. Dinner is a 5-course menu every night. There is always a selection available for the main course. Most of the time 3 items including vegetarian. Depending on the day there may also be a choice available in the appetizers. Snacks: Will be available during the cocktails and briefings. And these can be nice too. The overall quality of the food is good to very good and it is very nicely presented.
Other points of interest:
We had a standard cabin, which is not big but ample enough. The ship is not big so movement of the sea will be felt. Some people had trouble with motion sickness. During December to March the sea is at its calmest. So be aware if you sail outside this period. The sounds of the engine can be felt throughout the ship. Remember it is a small vessel. Not that it troubled us. We slept most of the nights like a rock.