We began our luxury Galapagos cruise arriving to the Baltra airport from the mainland Ecuador, where the Metropolitan Touring guide was waiting for us. We took a bus to the pier where a zodiac boat took us out to the cruise ship, the Santa Cruz II. This ride lasted about 20 minutes until we made it to the cruise ship, our home for the next 5 days and 4 nights touring the western islands of the Galapagos.
For lunch and dinner on the cruise they offered 3 options for starter, main course and dessert, as well as a vegetarian main course. Non-alcoholic beverages are included in the Galapagos cruise tour package, while alcoholic beverages are additional. Read on for the full itinerary and our review aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise.
Day 1: Santa Cruz Island
The first thing we did is leave our hand luggage in our cabin, as the larger bags we already brought to the room by the friendly crew members. We then headed down to the restaurant to enjoy a delicious lunch. In my case, I ordered tuna with onions, fish in caper sauce and a delicious passion fruit mousse for dessert.
Then, we got on a zodiac boat that took us to our first visit, Cerro Dragón, on the northwest of the Island of Santa Cruz. This place is perfect to see marine and land iguanas. You walk along a 1,600-meter-long trail that passes through a palo santo forest. After almost two hours exploring the area we returned to the cruise boat to enjoy dinner.
Day 2: Isabela Island and Fernandina Island
We begin our second day of adventure aboard the Santa Cruz II, with a fresh breakfast buffet. From there they took us on a one-hour panga tour along the coasts of Isabela Island, in Punta Vicente Roca. Its main feature is its fascinating geological formation from the eruptions of this Ecuador volcano. Here we observed penguins, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, a large number of marine iguanas, sea lions, turtles and other birds.
Once the tour was over, we returned to the boat and had the option to change into our wetsuit for snorkeling or take a tour in glass-bottom boats through the same area. There we went snorkeling with turtles and a great variety of fish. We returned to the boat to rest and have lunch. On this romantic Galapagos cruise there are many great on board experiences including several lounge decks, a hot tub, coffee station, and bar.
In the afternoon we toured Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, where you find the largest marine iguanas in the entire archipelago and the densest colonies of iguanas. Here you can also see the famous flightless cormorants. This tour lasts approximately 3 hours. Fernandina Island is one of the most beautiful islands in Galapagos, as it is one of the most pristine islands in the world, having never had a human population or non-native animals introduced.
Day 3: Santa Cruz Island
On the third day we left the Santa Cruz II boat early and stayed on land for almost 10 hours on Santa Cruz Island. After our buffet breakfast, we went ashore to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we learned about the giant Galapagos tortoises.
It is impressive what the scientific station has done to benefit various species of these endangered turtles, which are so unique and important for Galapagos. Then we went on a bicycle ride for almost 4 kilometers to a coffee, cocoa and sugar cane farm, where we learned about the cultivation and process of these products. If you don’t want to ride a bike, no problem, you can go by bus.
We finished our day at Rancho Manzanillo, where we observed the giant Galapagos tortoise in its natural habitat. The ranches on Santa Cruz Island are private, so while there is an entrance fee, it is included as part of your cruise. The government and Galapagos national park made agreements with the owners of these ranches so they leave the native land alone, and protect the area from the turtles, with the ability to use it a tourist site where they can charge a small contribution to tourists.
The food at the ranch, delicious buffet style. At the end of the day, tourists who wanted to stay a few hours (maximum 2) in the center of Santa Cruz could do so, with the panga boat returning to the cruise ship every half hour.
Day 4: Floreana Island
Our last full day on the cruise we docked on Floreana Island, the first island to have inhabitants in all of the Galapagos, making it the perfect place to learn about the human history on the islands. Our first stop was Post Office Bay. Later we advanced to Punta Cormorant, where we could go snorkeling or kayaking. Our last visit was to the islet of Champions, one of the best places for snorkeling (recommended only if you have experience, as there is a strong current) or for diving.
Day 5: Santa Cruz Island + Finch Bay Hotel
We got up, had breakfast and were sad that it was time to disembark in Santa Cruz. Here we had two options: get a transfer to the airport or take a transfer with Metropolitan Touring back to downtown Santa Cruz. If you fly the same day the cruise ends you also get access to the VIP lounge at the airport.
In our case, we went straight to the Finch Bay Hotel, also owned by Metropolitan Touring, where we spent the day enjoying its pool, the Germans’ beach, and of course its gourmet food and drinks. The alcoholic beverages and lemonades offered at Finch Bay are delicious and you cannot leave Santa Cruz without at least trying one of its many local beverages. We recommend trying Endemico, Finch, Petit Punch (my favorite), Spicy Passion Fruit, and the quaint Baby George.
We recommend you try the fish ceviche, the local tomato soup, the tuna tartare, the Macadamia fish, the basil and parsley chicken, and for dessert the moist chocolate cake.
The buffet breakfast service is open from 6:15 AM to 10:00 AM, the à la carte lunch is served from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and the dinner service is open from 6:30 PM to 10:00 PM. You do not need to stay at the hotel to enjoy the restuarant.
My experience on the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise was top notch. A very nice, modern cruiser with first class attention. The food was astounding the whole trip, with a wide variety of options for breakfast, lunch and snacks. The truth is that I recommend this luxurious cruise and wonderful experience. Of all the ways I have visited the Galapagos Islands, this is undoubtedly one of the best.