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Sail Date: March 2018
My husband and I and our three teen-aged boys recently returned from a spring break trip on the Santa Cruz II, Western Itinerary. We thoroughly enjoyed the Santa Cruz II. Everything was clean and modern. The food was very good and the ... Read More
My husband and I and our three teen-aged boys recently returned from a spring break trip on the Santa Cruz II, Western Itinerary. We thoroughly enjoyed the Santa Cruz II. Everything was clean and modern. The food was very good and the waiters went out of their way each day to bring my son gluten-free breads and waffles without us ever having to ask. The outdoor deck was lovely. The bar and lounge areas were comfortable and inviting. The boat's staff at the Quito airport, on arrival in Baltra, and on the ship were all very organized and friendly and we always knew where we were going and what we were doing. The snorkeling equipment was excellent and seemed top quality. The ship's photographer takes pictures that are provided at no cost, which I thought was a very nice touch. I would sail on this ship again without the slightest hesitation. Our naturalist guide for the trip was a very nice young man, but he could have talked a little less (sometimes you just want to silently enjoy the nature around you!) and been a little better informed. At times when he was asked questions I think he just improvised when he didn't know something. He often answered the same question different ways at different times. He explained evolution as "if a bird had an injured wing his offspring would then also have injured wings." My real complaint, however, was the itinerary. Days 2 & 4 were excellent. Day 1 was ok, Day 3 was terrible. On such a short cruise at such a high cost, every day should be amazing! Day Two: Snorkeled with sea lions, penguins, and turtles, and really saw lots of interesting animals up close. Really enjoyed both stops. Day Four was our favorite. We snorkeled from the shore of a beautiful beach and kayaked among playful sea lions in the morning, then enjoyed a glass-bottom boat tour in the afternoon. The highlight was the evening, when 12 sharks and a few sea lions swam right alongside the boat for HOURS, chasing flying fish. The fish would leap out of the water to escape, and one flew up into my son's chest on the deck. He will never forget that. Day One (afternoon after embarkation), Dragon Hill was ok. Lots of walking for very little animal sightings, and it was hot and dry and dusty. Seems like there could be a better place to start. Day 3, however, just felt like filler. First we trekked to the Charles Darwin Research Center, which was not interesting at all. A huge production to go into a special building where they have the taxidermy body of Lonely George, the last of a particular species of tortoises who died several years ago. Then outside to see some giant tortoises, including babies in breeding areas. Overall, not impressive and it required a bus ride, then a long walk. Would recommend omitting this stop entirely. Then we were bussed to a sugar cane farm for a 5 minute demonstration, followed by an hour of standing around. Everyone seemed hot and annoyed. Next we were loaded back on the bus and taken to a lava tube. We got out, hiked into the tube, turned around and hiked back to the bus. Again, seemed rather pointless? Then the bus took us to a restaurant, where we had an outdoor buffet. The food was fine, but then it was back on the bus again for a drive to a reserve where we saw giant tortoises. This last part at the reserve was about 45 minutes - and it was enjoyable - but it came at the end of a very long day. We would have much preferred if this day could have been broken in two like the other days, with a return to the ship mid-day, and a more interesting stop/excursion in the morning. A tortoise center in the morning and tortoises in the wild in the afternoon seemed unnecessarily repetitive. The sugar can farm and lave tube stop just seemed like filler. NOT why one travels to the Galapagos! We felt cheated out of one of our precious few days in the Galapagos on this day. So all in all, we had a wonderful trip to the Galapagos and would recommend the Santa Cruz II, but pick an itinerary without the long day on Santa Cruz Island. Also, if you are deciding between a full week and a 5 day/4 night as we were, we all agreed the 4 day was just the right amount of time. I think it might have started to feel repetitive with a few more days. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
We chose this ship because is was not too small, nor too large and it was a great choice. We were not able to tour San Cristobal Island before we left, but we were excited to start the cruise and didn't mind. The ships guides and ... Read More
We chose this ship because is was not too small, nor too large and it was a great choice. We were not able to tour San Cristobal Island before we left, but we were excited to start the cruise and didn't mind. The ships guides and crew take your bags from you at the airport and you find them next in your cabin. They had buses waiting to ferry us to the ship. Pangas: Okay, I was nervous. But the crew knows this and is safety-focused. By the last day, I was a panga expert. The rides are not comfortable between the exhaust and the sea-spray. But this an adventure in the Pacific, not a canoe trip down the creek. We did have one very rough night where the ship was rocking side to side and pitching stem to stern. I didn't sleep much that night. We went the next day to tour the bridge and the kind captain explained we had turned into the current. Further, this ship was designed to go around the tip of South America, so the current was not really an issue. And we wouldn't have another night like that. Food: The food on board is great. Quite a variety and a vegetarian option at each meal. Breakfast and lunch are buffets (eat the ceviche!). Dinner is ordered at lunch and brought to you by great dining room staff. Dinner food is pre-cooked and then stored in the steam tables they use for breakfast and lunch. We did have some overcooked fish, but it still tasted great. Schedule: This is not a ship where you party all night, mostly because you are exhausted. They wake you up at 600 or 630, breakfast is at 700/730 and you disembark by 830. The Galapagos only allows a certain number of people to be on each island a day and they can only stay for a limited time. Back onto the ship it is lunch time. You get a bit of rest, and then go off on your afternoon adventure. After your morning adventure, they greet you with juice and a snack. Some evenings they had a cocktail hour on the deck (BOGO cocktails, snacks, etc), a meeting to plan the next day, and then dinner was around 730. Activities: Each night before dinner, the staff brief you on what you will be doing and seeing the next day. Very helpful, attendance recommended. And they make it fun. They broke the passengers into groups of 10 or so. We got along well with everyone in our group. The tour guides were knowledgeable at the flora, fauna and history of the islands. Most were native Galapaguenos, all spoke English well. If you do not snorkel, or just want a break from the wet suit, I recommend the glass bottom boat. it was a great way to see fish. My favorite island was South Plaza, but really everyone one has something unique and fantastic. The shore excursions all involved walking but most were easy hikes with many stops for flora, fauna and fotos. One Espanola Island, the trail is very rocky, a walking stick is recommended. But the crew and by then, our fellow travelers, were very helpful. Two or our group and I had to visit the ship's doctor. Nothing major, but get it checked while you have access to medical care. She is a good doctor, respected our privacy and didn't judge our foolish wounds. I appreciated having her on board very much. We were late in the vacation season, so only a few kids on the ship. But the ship had special activities for the kids and they were having a great time running around in a pack. Tipping: On the last night, they have a photo show of your time on the ship (which they email to you later. Some of the best photos we have. Thanks Eddy!). They also give you a sheet with tipping guidelines for the crew, the dining staff, the tour guides. etc. They put 4 boxes at the purser's desk and you can drop your cash tips in there. Or you can put it on a charge card and fill out a form telling the purser how to divide it up. We also gave the guides sunscreen we didn't need any longer. Yes! I would do it again! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Just back from a wonderful week in the Galapagos Islands aboard La Pinta. It was a wonderful trip. The ship is perfect sized - large enough to accommodate more passengers (most ships this size do) but they keep it feeling small and ... Read More
Just back from a wonderful week in the Galapagos Islands aboard La Pinta. It was a wonderful trip. The ship is perfect sized - large enough to accommodate more passengers (most ships this size do) but they keep it feeling small and intimate. The cabins were much bigger than I (as a first time cruiser) expected and were very comfortable. The common spaces were generous and there were three separate spaces on board where all the passengers could meet at once (bar/lounge, the outside dining area and the inside dining area). Linens were clean, comfortable and plentiful. The ship itself was terrific. If the ship was terrific, the staff was even better. The staff to passenger ration was very high and we were pampered at every turn. Every time you were away for a meal or an excursion, you would come back to a tidy cabin. The wait staff was wonderful and Lois did an outstanding job watching over us with our many food allergies. Finally, the itinerary was perfect. We saw great sights and the naturalists were fantastic (especially Carlos). All five that we had exposure to on the trip were exceptionally knowledgeable and caring and flawlessly bi-lingual. The trip was everything we wanted and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend La Pinta. Read Less
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