By Adam Coulter
Cruise Critic UK Managing Editor
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Santa Cruz II Entertainment & Activities

There are no activities during the day, and no sea days. The ship travels at night between the islands and during the day everyone is off doing shore excursions.

Should you choose to skip an excursion, the Explorer Lounge, a recessed area on the Explorer Deck, is stuffed full of board games, books and DVDs. On cruises with children, this is their space, and most of the books and movies are for them. It's a bit of an odd room with card-sized tables and straight-back chairs rather than comfy chairs, and is not really used by most passengers.

In the evening, most people congregate for a pre-dinner drink -- and occasionally a post-dinner drink -- at the Observation Lounge. The Observation Lounge really is the heart and soul of the ship, with a bar area in the center and comfortable chairs and round tables ranged around both sides. There is an open area in front of the bar for impromptu dancing. As the name suggests, there are large windows around the room. Two doors lead outside to the open Panorama Deck. At the bar, cocktails start at $11, wine by the glass is $8.50, local beers are $4 and imported beer is $6. Soft drinks are $4.

A daily briefing takes place each evening before dinner either here or in the ship's library; groups are split by languages spoken. On our cruise, we also had one lecture on Darwin.

On some evenings, when the ship sets sail at sunset, the crew will host a happy hour, with free cocktails or sangria, in the Observation Lounge. On the last night, farewell drinks take place up here after dinner. (The Observation Lounge is open 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to late.)

In terms of entertainment, there is usually one night of music and dancing per cruise on the evening the ship stays in Santa Cruz till midnight. A group of local musicians and dancers perform traditional songs and dances, and passengers are encouraged to join in. But this is the exception, rather than the rule, and on most nights passengers go straight to bed after dinner. There was a rumor of karaoke, but it never materialized.

The cruise line's wealth of experience really comes into play with the excursions, which make up the bulk of activity on this cruise. (Metropolitan Touring was the first company to operate a ship round the Galapagos.) The depth of knowledge and attention to detail from the guides is extraordinary (though some are more knowledgeable and engaged than others).

Passengers are divided into groups, usually of about 16 as that is the maximum number a RIB (or panga, as they are called in these parts), can carry, depending on age, ability and language spoken. Each is given the name of iconic Galapagos animals (everyone wants to be a booby), and given a dedicated guide who stays with you throughout the cruise. Each evening, the guides will brief passengers on what they can expect to see, timings, the terrain and whether it will be a wet landing or dry landing the following day.

Excursions vary in time and difficulty, and are taken at a very gentle pace as there is so much to see. Groups are called at intervals to disembark in order to  avoid overcrowding at the back of the ship.

Most paths through the islands are exactly a mile in length (a group of U.S. naturalists visited the Galapagos before it opened up to tourism and designed the paths), though on one or two islands they are a little longer. For example, the visit to Darwin Lake on Isabela is nearer 1.5 miles, and on Bartolome there is a set of stairs that lead up to a viewing point; the total trek is closer to 1.5 miles and considerably steeper than the usual terrain.

Most excursions are theoretically open to people with limited mobility (for example, those who use walking sticks), but not wheelchair users. Note too, that the ship makes no provision for disabled passengers, and getting on and off a panga would be impossible. The ship also boats a permanent professional photographer onboard.

The ship also carries a glass-bottom boat that it operates in calm and sheltered bays on select days.

Santa Cruz II Public Rooms

Reception and a boutique are adjacent to each other on the Horizon Deck. The boutique sells logo caps and hats ("The Big 15"), shirts and jackets, as well as various wood carvings of animals and small trinkets. You can also pick up travel essentials such as sun block and sunglasses. Both reception and the boutique are intermittently manned throughout the day.

There is no Internet cafe, so bring your own laptop. The ship is theoretically Wi-Fi enabled, with hot spots in public spaces and certain cabins adjacent to the hot spots, but it is patchy at best, often drops and varies depending where you are in the islands. It costs $40 for unlimited use throughout the cruise.

The library is a large space on the Explorer Deck at the front of the ship, ringed by an outside observation deck where on odd days you can meet the guides for wildlife spotting. It is well stocked with books including every conceivable tome on the Galapagos available to read or borrow (an honor system operates). It has a large TV for presentations. What it does lack is a bit of character, or decor, to make you feel like you are on an expedition; a few framed old maps or the odd compass or spyglass dotted about would not go amiss. We felt it was under-utilized.

There is a permanently staffed medical facility on the Horizon Deck.

Santa Cruz II Spa & Fitness

You'll find the gym at the top of the ship on the Sun Deck. It's small, with just two treadmills and two bikes, but it has a lovely view with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Adjacent is the actual sun deck, which consists of a small space with enough room for six loungers and a few tables.

There are two hot tubs at the back of the ship, on the Explorer Deck. There is no pool onboard, but on one or two days (weather permitting), you can swim off the back of the ship. There is also no spa.

Santa Cruz II For Kids

The ship welcomes children from 18 months, but caters for kids from the age of eight and older, with a dedicated children's program.

All children are given a Young Pirates logbook in which they can sketch and write about what they see, filling it in at briefings every day.

Depending on parents' and children's wishes as to whether they want to be together, the ship will also lay on a number of dedicated shore excursions for children (giving mom and dad a break), with a naturalist assigned to the group throughout the cruise. These excursions might include walking at a swifter pace than the adults to get to higher or more remote spots on the islands (without the picture-taking, dawdling grown-ups slowing them down). They also get to steer a panga, and have separate briefings and meal times (again, should they wish) each day. Many of the naturalists are great sketchers and storytellers, and will help kids with their drawings.

There is no onboard babysitting.

The ship has two triple cabins and 36 interconnecting cabins, all of which would suit families.

Additional Santa Cruz II Information

Santa Cruz II Details
  • Crew: 50
  • Launched: 2002
  • Decks: 5
  • Passengers: 90
  • Registry: Ecuador

Find a Cruise