OnboardMetropolitan Touring's three Galapagos-based yachts, the 90-passenger MV Santa Cruz, the 40-passenger Isabella II and the 48-passenger La Pinta, toe the line between the necessity of an expedition cruise and the need for comfort. The blue-footed birds, cactus-loving iguanas and baby seals are the reason to cruise the Galapagos, but passengers certainly don't complain about the top-ship hot tub, congenial lounge, and ceremonial post-excursion snack and juice.
Despite the variation in size, MT's ships are similarly configured. Open seating meals are served in a dining room that accommodates all passengers simultaneously. A general purpose, Wi-Fi-ready lecture room doubles as the ships' before- and after-dinner watering hole. And the sun decks include a hot tub, secondary dining space for the occasional al fresco meal and a smattering of sun beds.
There is, however, considerable variation in cabins. For instance, all cabins found on La Pinta, added to the fleet in 2008, are at least 189 square feet. Most cabins on the larger MV Santa Cruz are sized at a more expedition-like 125 square feet.
Experiencing the undersea world is a quintessential part of a Galapagos cruise, so snorkeling gear (masks, fins and snorkels) is included in the cost. Wet suits, which most passengers wear during the "cool season" (June/July to December) are available to rent onboard. Each vessel also carries several "pangas," zodiacs that shuttle passengers from ship to shore; sea kayaks; and a glass-bottom boat.
Entertainment comes by way of BBC documentaries, briefings given by the amiable, multi-lingual naturalists, and conversation with the extremely well-traveled passengers the line attracts. Santa Cruz also features an "underwater naturalist," who gets in the water with passengers to point out the flightless cormorant turned torpedo that's chasing an eel.
Smoking is prohibited in all indoor areas, including cabins, dining room and reception lounge. Passengers are allowed to light up on a few designated outdoor deck areas.
About Metropolitan TouringQuito, Ecuador-based Metropolitan Touring was founded in 1953 and soon after became one of the pioneers of Galapagos cruise tourism. (These days, the company also offers tours in Columbia, Peru, Chile and Argentina.) MT owns and operates three expedition ships based year-round in the Galapagos Islands. The company is also associated with a trio of hotels, including the Finch Bay Eco Hotel (Puerto Ayora, Galapagos), Mashpi Lodge (located a few hours' drive from Quito in the Andean rainforest) and the stunning Casa Gangotena (a luxury hotel located in Quito's Old City).
Metropolitan Touring FleetMetropolitan Touring owns and operates three Galapagos-based expedition cruise ships. The flagship, the 48-passenger La Pinta, was introduced in 2008 after an overhaul (it debuted in 1982 as a Bahamas-based casino boat). The 90-passenger MV Santa Cruz was built for Metropolitan Touring in 1979. The ship, which was designed to cruise the Galapagos, was reconstructed in 1998. The 40-passenger Isabela II was built in 1979 as a supply boat. The ship was converted into an expedition ship in 1988. All three vessels regularly go into dry-dock.
Fellow PassengersFrom September through May, Metropolitan Touring attracts an extremely well-traveled, well-educated babyboom-plus crowd. Passengers are sociable and have an obvious affinity for nature. During the summer months, families materialize.
La Pinta and Isabella II cater predominantly to English-speaking passengers, though there may be a decent mix of multi-lingual Europeans.
The larger MV Santa Cruz attracts a more international crowd and is the only ship with special family programming (kids' meal times, snorkeling offerings, etc.). One Metropolitan staffer jokingly compared the ship to the Galapagos' version of the United Nations. Multi-lingual guides are matched to appropriate passengers.
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