The Emblematic M/V Santa Cruz
...everyone who works on board is dedicated to provide the guests with the best possible...
The 90-passenger M/V Santa Cruz (M/V stands for Motor Vessel) is a real icon of Galapagos tourism. The very first boat literally tailor-made to cruise the islands, built at one of Spain’s most prestigious shipyards has become an emblem of cruising the Enchanted Islands. The length, beam and draught of the ship were calculated precisely to navigate the often shallow inner waters of the Archipelago, to find good anchorages closer to shore and to provide it with greater maneuverability. The cabins, all equipped with en-suite bathrooms with hot-water showers and modern amenities offer all the comfort. Fully air-conditioned and with piped-in music and public address system for announcements, the three passenger decks provide diverse types of accommodations, from a few triple cabins with bunks and portholes to larger superior rooms and suites, two of them with external private balconies and several with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows. The public areas include a cozy Bar-Lounge, also used for briefings and audiovisual presentations as well as for dancing when guests feel like partying, and an elegant dining room which is the perfect venue to enjoy a delightful cuisine, from breakfast to dinner. Adjoining the Bar-Lounge is the small but comfortable Library and Reading Area; the Reception and Boutique; and the ship’s Infirmary and doctor’s office.
The Solarium offers under-canvas spaces, with deck chairs, and open spaces, also equipped with deck chairs, for serious “sun worshipers” wishing to tan in the Equatorial sun. A Deck Bar offers guests a wide variety of refreshments, soft drinks, cocktails and snacks. A Jacuzzi with its adjoining shower complete the large Solarium, which also features at the forward end an Observation Deck, a premium location with seats to enjoy the navigations and for en-route dolphin and whale watching.
The crew and staff on board are second-to-none in terms of experience, professionalism and friendly hospitality. From the Captain to the Officers and crew, the Passenger’s Service staff and the Expedition Staff, with its team of top-notch multilingual naturalist guides, everyone who works on board is dedicated to provide the guests with the best possible Galapagos experience, showing friendly courtesy and utmost efficiency and dedication in every aspect of the operation. The philosophy of the crew on board is one of quality and excellence to make the ship’s guests feel at home and happy at all times.
A typical day on board the Santa Cruz begins early with a morning wake-up announcement accompanied by soft music coming over the cabins’ loudspeakers and warning guests that breakfast will be served after thirty minutes. Optionally, it may start with an earlier wake-up for whale and or dolphin watching (depending on the itinerary assigned by the National Park) or for a scenic sunrise navigation along some of the most spectacular landscapes and sights of the Archipelago.
Breakfast is a daily bountiful buffet which includes varieties of breads, most of them baked on board; cheeses, cold cuts, butter, jams, coffee, teas, yogurts and cereals; and a varying selection of exotic fruit juices, with a prevailing trend to offer some of Ecuador’s most delicious ones, yet always with the classic orange juice available. At the hot kitchen, passengers can get eggs-to-order, including delicious omelets, pancakes and French toast, and there will always be a featured typical Ecuadorian breakfast specialty like green plantain or yuca (cassava) patties.
Soon after breakfast, the first outing of the day will start. From the cruise’s onset, guests are divided according to language factors or other affinity elements in groups of maximum 16 people, each one led by a licensed Naturalist Guide who will enhance the experience with his or her ample knowledge about the unique fauna and flora as well as the geological and ecological features of the extraordinary Galapagos Islands. Depending on the assigned island and site to visit, the morning will most likely start with a landing from the ship’s Zodiac dinghies either into a small man-made cement jetty, directly to natural shoreline lava rocks or with ankle-deep water at sandy beaches. Then, the groups will start a land walk over sandy, rocky or mixed-terrain nature trails, marked by the National Park with small black-and-white poles, thus keeping the area of human presence and impact limited to short spaces. Along the trails, visitors will be able to observe, depending again on the assigned location, different bird life, including the ever-famous blue-footed boobies, frigate bird colonies, Galapagos waved albatrosses, Galapagos penguins and dozens of unique land birds such as the equally famous Darwin’s finches. Also to be seen are land or marine iguanas, the always fascinating and often playful sea-lions, giant tortoises and some bizarre and spectacular geological formations.
At most sites, the second part of the morning is dedicated to aquatic activities which may include swimming and/or snorkeling and, depending on the location, sightseeing dinghy rides along the coastline or small islets, or glass-bottom boat rides to look at the amazing underwater life without getting wet. Guests also have the flexibility on most locations to just relax and enjoy some of the islands’ pretty sandy beaches or to return to the ship earlier to relax on board at the indoors or outdoors public areas.
Noontime is the moment for a second gastronomic feast, with a different and mouth-watering buffet every day. Here you will always find varieties of salads and “veggies”, pasta and potatoes, with diverse sauces and dressings, and the hot delicacies of the day with artistically decorated fish displays announcing another variety of preparations and delicacies, which always feature one or more typically Ecuadorian fare. Dessert will include pastry, traditional local sweets and varied fruit options. After lunch, a short break is allowed for guests to snooze or relax before starting the afternoon activities.
The afternoon programs usually offer a similar layout as the morning ones, depending on the characteristics of the assigned visitor’s site; thus a new land walk will be combined, before or after, with some aquatic activities like swimming, snorkeling, dinghy rides or a glass-bottom boat ride. The morning and afternoon visits are to entirely different locations, whether on the same island or on different islands, in which case the vessel would have sailed a relatively short to mid-length distance during lunch time.
Many afternoons (depending on weather and climate conditions) will allow for viewing some of the most beautiful sunsets, best enjoyed from the Santa Cruz’s Solarium and ideally with a cool drink in hand.
Then, there is some time to refresh and rest a bit, before the evening activities begin. Evenings start with a short talk and/or briefing delivered by the Naturalist Guides, to explain the next day’s schedule, activities and main highlights, as well as recommendations about what to bring and what to wear, from footwear to swimwear and the necessary accessories for a most pleasant outing. During the evening talks and after them, there is time to enjoy “cocktail hour” and test the skills of the ship’s bartenders. Next on the agenda it is time for dinner, one additional culinary experience meticulously prepared by the ship’s Chefs and kitchen staff. Sometimes a buffet, sometimes a menu with a few options of appetizers, main courses and desserts to choose from, will provide visitors with a new encounter with fine gastronomy, best accompanied by one of the fine wines of the boat’s cellar.
After dinner and usually with a long and exciting day behind, most guests start making their way to the cabins or stay for an extra drink or lively conversation at the Bar-Lounge or other public areas, including the Solarium. Some nights, when weather conditions allow for, the Naturalist guides will stage fascinating organized star-gazing sessions at the Solarium, all lights shut-off for the purpose, to learn and discover new wonders of the Equatorial skies.
The uniqueness of the Santa Cruz and the high caliber of its staff will make guests truly feel at home and to live an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind Galapagos experience.
For more information on:
- the M/V Santa Cruz, click here.
- the Galapagos Islands, click here.
- Ecuador's National Parks and Reserves, click here.