As anyone who has travelled on this vessel can tell you, this is not a traditional cruise. It is a port intensive, early wake-up call, adventure to some very unique islands.
First, embarkation does not involve issuance of your cruise card -there are none. Instead you are transferred to the dock by very helpful ship-based staff members. Once at the dock, you don your life jacket and head to the ship via "panga." Pangas are zodiacs boats- rubber vessels with flexible flooring and an outboard motor. These pangas, you will soon learn, are an essential part of the cruise. Virtually all the islands lack docks or even approachable landing areas other then some rock formations that allow for a rubber boat to beach. Without the pangas, there is no cruise. In fact, all the ships supplies, and your luggage as well, will be transported via panga.
The adventure begins within hours. Each time we boarded a panga in groups (by language) and headed ashore with our naturalist who walked us through the trails and let us know what we were seeing. Each shore visit lasts from about 2.5 hours to about 3.5 hours and there NO bathrooms on most of the islands.
Meals are served in the main dining room, buffet at breakfast and lunch, and waiters at dinner. The captain and his staff always have a table in the dining room as well. There are several choices at each meal.
At about 300 feet with about 100 cabins, the Santa Cruz II is one the largest vessels in the Galapagos, but you can be back in your cabin from any part of the ship in a matter of seconds. There are no elevators and the stairs are quite steep. Hold on please!
Now the magic. Since the animals in the Galapagos are protected by law from people, and since they have no naturual predators and are isolated, they have absolutlely no fear of people. As a result, the seal will lie in your path and not move. The iguanas will not bite you or even pretend to be aggressive. The birds will not fly away on your approach.
On the downside, it is hot. The sun is relentless and the flies can be as well. The ship is comfortable but not luxurious.