Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise - Nine of the Best Isles

Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise - Nine of the Best Isles

Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise - Nine of the Best Isles

Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise - Nine of the Best Isles

Travel information 11 days MS Santa Cruz II
Departures
32 departures between Jan 2023 and Mar 2024
Price from $ 13,818
$ 10,786
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Join us on a journey of ecological discovery as we set off from Quito, Ecuador, to experience the natural wonders of the incomparable Galápagos Islands.

Beautiful Quito and volcano adventure

Your adventure begins with two nights at a hotel in Quito, one of South America’s most charming capitals. This UNESCO World Heritage City, filled with graceful Spanish-era architecture, is packed with cozy restaurants and small artisanal shops. From here, we pay a visit to an active volcano, embark on a nature walk among stunning surroundings, and stop to visit a vibrant open-air market.

Darwin’s islands of evolution

The Galápagos Islands are famously associated with the evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin. Our comprehensive itinerary calls at the islands of Santa Cruz (centrally located), the volcanic Fernandina, Isabela, Floreana, and balmy Baltra, before continuing to Santiago, the adjacent islands of Rábida and Bartolomé, and the isolated Genovesa. This journey thus includes three of the four islands Darwin visited. The landings take in a wide variety of ecosystems and picturesque landscapes and provide great opportunities for seeing wildlife like sea lions, turtles, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, flamingos, and iconic Darwin’s Finches.

Your expedition ship: MS Santa Cruz II

MS Santa Cruz II’s itineraries provide the best island coverage and wildlife viewing opportunities in the Galápagos. Excursions take place at exclusive visitor sites, meaning we’ll often have entire areas to ourselves. Having multiple naturalist guides aboard Santa Cruz II also means you can choose from a wider range of activities each day.

Your ship is also one of the few vessels operating in Galápagos that comes equipped with a full range of exploration tools, including dinghies, kayaks, snorkeling gear, and paddleboards. There's even a glass-bottom boat. Safety and sustainability are paramount throughout your cruise, and the onboard medical officer is available 24/7.

Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise - Nine of the Best Isles Galapagos Islands Expedition Cruise - Nine of the Best Isles
  • Day 1
    Quito, Ecuador

    Arrive in the city of eternal spring, get your bearings, and unwind after your journey.

    Your journey of discovery begins on the equator in the lush Andean foothills. At 9,350 ft, Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world, and its main draw is the exquisite Old Town, which was founded on an ancient Inca settlement. This UNESCO World Heritage site is packed with well-preserved colonial architecture, including colorful plazas, magnificent churches, and stately monuments.

    If you have time in the evening, make sure to visit Calle La Ronda, an ancient pedestrian street with links to poets and other artists who have lived here. It’s full of shops and café and there also plenty of handicrafts for sale.

    Pre-Programs

    Why not experience another highlight of South America and discover the lost civilization of the Inca people? See the breathtaking mountain stronghold of Machu Picchu. This optional four-day Pre-Program in Lima before your cruise starts and ends in Quito.

    Or arrive a few days earlier to Quito and join us on a four-day-tour to a Cloudforest Lodge at the Mashpi Reserve. This area is part of the Ecuadorian Choco rainforest, known as one of the world’s greatest areas for biodiversity. This optional extension is also available as Post-Program.

    Day 1
    Quito, Ecuador

    Arrive in the city of eternal spring, get your bearings, and unwind after your journey.

  • Day 2
    Quito, Ecuador

    Get a taste for Ecuador with a visit to a traditional market and a trip to Cotopaxi Volcano.

    Today, you visit Cotopaxi National Park, home to one of South America's most active volcanoes. Along the way, you will stop at the photogenic Sangolquí open-air market, where you can browse the colorful stalls and unique handicrafts, and sample different local specialties.

    Afterwards, we walk to Limpiopungo Lagoon, tucked at 12,800 ft in a high valley within Cotopaxi National Park. Spot herds of llamas on the slopes and keep your eyes open for birds such as the Andean gull, several species of hummingbird and (with some luck) the majestic Andean Condor. Enjoy a tasty lunch prepared by some of the region’s best chefs before returning to your hotel in the late afternoon.

    Day 2
    Quito, Ecuador

    Get a taste for Ecuador with a visit to a traditional market and a trip to Cotopaxi Volcano.

  • Day 3
    Galápagos, Ecuador

    Fly away from the mainland to the Galápagos Islands, where your encounter with wildlife awaits.

    After breakfast, a short flight will take you to Baltra Island in the spectacular Galápagos archipelago. A transfer brings you straight to the port, where your comfortable expedition ship MS Santa Cruz II will be waiting.

    We begin our exploration of the Galápagos Islands in the afternoon. We will trace the north shore of Santa Cruz toward the fascinating landscapes of Cerro Dragón (‘Dragon Hill’), where we’ll land. The first part of the walk here passes by a brackish water lagoon that is frequented by shorebirds and American flamingos. Further inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago, as well as your first chance to encounter some land iguanas.

    Day 3
    Galápagos, Ecuador

    Fly away from the mainland to the Galápagos Islands, where your encounter with wildlife awaits.

  • Day 4
    Isabela and Fernandina Islands, Galápagos

    Explore the coast by dinghy and set foot on the island of the marine iguanas.

    Your day starts at Punta Vicente Roca, on the north-western tip of Isabela Island. After breakfast, we’ll explore the coast by dinghy and our naturalist guides will teach us about the area’s dramatic geology.

    This site is a nesting place for several bird species, so look out for flightless cormorants, Galápagos penguins, and boobies. Weather permitting, you can snorkel beside the cliffs, where you might find green sea turtles, oceanic sun fish, and even fur seals.

    In the afternoon, we’ll explore Fernandina, an island with a unique environment and a high density of marine iguanas. Scan the coast for sea lions, Sally lightfoot crabs, hawks, and penguins.

    Day 4
    Isabela and Fernandina Islands, Galápagos

    Explore the coast by dinghy and set foot on the island of the marine iguanas.

  • Day 5
    Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos

    Meet the famous giant tortoises of Galápagos at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

    Today, you’ll explore Santa Cruz Island. In the morning, we disembark at Puerto Ayora to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.

    The Station includes a giant tortoise breeding center and an impressive forest of prickly-pear cacti that’s home to an array of land birds. It also serves as the headquarters for the island’s scientific investigation, conservation, and the National Park administration. After the visit, we head up to the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island for lunch.

    You can choose from several options in the afternoon, which you will decide with your Expedition Leader. At the end of the afternoon activities, you will return to Puerto Ayora and re-join MS Santa Cruz II.

    Day 5
    Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos

    Meet the famous giant tortoises of Galápagos at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

  • Day 6
    Floreana Island, Galápagos

    Discover Galápagos history and look for underwater wildlife.

    After breakfast, enjoy a dinghy ride among the channels on Floreana’s north shore before taking in the incredible views of the island from Baroness Cove. Later, we land at Post Office Bay to visit the historic barrel that has served as a post office in the archipelago for over two centuries.

    After lunch, explore the underwater wonders around Champion Islet in a dinghy or glass-bottom boat. This is one of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago.

    From there, we head to Cormorant Point, where we walk from an olivine-crystal beach to a brackish lagoon. Along the way, see if you can spot American flamingos, pintail ducks, and other birds.

    Day 6
    Floreana Island, Galápagos

    Discover Galápagos history and look for underwater wildlife.

  • Day 7
    Galápagos, Ecuador

    Relaxation day at Santa Cruz Recharge your batteries and lounge on Las Bachas beach.

    Relax on board while we anchor off Baltra Island. After four days of exploring the unique environment of the Galápagos, pause for a while and recharge your batteries for the days ahead. Use the many onboard facilities, flick through the books in the library, or exercise in the gym. Do what you feel.

    In the afternoon, we land at Las Bachas beach, located on Santa Cruz Island. This glorious white beach with turquoise waters is a great place to spot iconic Galápagos wildlife like flamingos and sea turtles. Swim or snorkel before heading back to the ship for a briefing about the next day’s expedition and dinner.

    Day 7
    Galápagos, Ecuador

    Relaxation day at Santa Cruz Recharge your batteries and lounge on Las Bachas beach.

  • Day 8
    Santiago Island, Galápagos

    Explore Santiago Island and see its wild residents and impressive rock formations.

    Today you can explore Santiago Island’s pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes. Take in the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove on the northwest coast, home to a large number of marine birds and sea lions. Immerse yourself in the scenery through a range of water activities and marvel at fantastic rock formations such as ‘Elephant Rock’ and ‘The Bishop’.

    In the afternoon, we head to Puerto Egas, one of the best visitor sites on the island. Here, you can see a colony of fur seals and exotic birdlife on an excursion. Or you could just swim or snorkel along the rocky shorelines, typically in the company of marine turtles.

    Day 8
    Santiago Island, Galápagos

    Explore Santiago Island and see its wild residents and impressive rock formations.

  • Day 9
    Rábida Island and Bartolomé Island, Galápagos

    See some amazing wildlife and beautiful landscapes, and try out the glass-bottom boat.

    Day 9
    Rábida Island and Bartolomé Island, Galápagos

    See some amazing wildlife and beautiful landscapes, and try out the glass-bottom boat.

  • Day 10
    Genovesa Island, Galápagos

    Start the morning with a climb to better see this birdlife paradise.

    Today, you explore Genovesa Island. The morning starts with a short-but-steep climb (only 90 ft) up a flight of steps to reach a flat and rocky plateau. There, you can walk comfortably and check out huge colonies of Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, great frigatebirds and storm petrels. Afterwards (or instead), hop into a kayak for an aquatic adventure!

    In the afternoon, we’ll land at the beautiful beach that fringes Darwin Bay for a swim. After this refreshing dip, observe hundreds of island birds on a relaxed stroll. You could also swim, snorkel, kayak, or just take it easy on the beach.

    Day 10
    Genovesa Island, Galápagos

    Start the morning with a climb to better see this birdlife paradise.

  • Day 11
    Santa Cruz & Baltra Island, Ecuador

    Your cruise has come to an end, so enjoy a slow goodbye at the giant tortoise sanctuary.

    We start our last morning on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. After breakfast, your baggage will be taken to the airport while you visit the Tortoise Reserve. After a dry landing at a passenger’s wharf and a bus ride to the island’s loftier region, behold the last highlight of the cruise: giant tortoises in the wild.

    The windward slopes of the island are home to two species of giant tortoise. These lush highlands include dense forests of Galápagos daisies, orchids and bromeliads, and several endemic land birds. After this visit, we transfer you directly to Baltra Airport for your flight to Guayaquil and home—or continue your adventure in Quito.

    Post-Programs

    Explore more of Ecuador with one of our optional Post-Programs. Travel with us to the Napo River, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Fly to Coca and spend three nights in a lodge surrounded by the beautiful rainforest. Observe and learn about its flora and fauna through different activities.

    You could also travel from Quito to the Mashpi Reserve, a unique habitat and ecosystem. Enjoy a three-night stay in a luxurious Cloudforest Lodge and discover the breathtaking aera from there (also available as Pre-Program).

    Both post-programs include two nights of hotel in Quito.

    Day 11
    Santa Cruz & Baltra Island, Ecuador

    Your cruise has come to an end, so enjoy a slow goodbye at the giant tortoise sanctuary.

Departures

2023

January:
10.
24.
February:
7.
21.
March:
7.
21.
April:
4.
18.
May:
2.
16.
30.
June:
13.
27.
July:
11.
25.
August:
8.
22.
September:
5.
19.
October:
3.
17.
31.
November:
14.
28.
December:
12.
26.

2024

  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
January:
9.
23.
February:
6.
20.
March:
5.
19.

Available Promotions on This Itinerary:

  • New Season

    Life changing experiences start here. Discover our new itineraries for 2023 and 2024.
    See Special Offer

What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Hotel  

  • Two nights of hotel in Quito before the expedition cruise, including breakfast and dinner on day 2. 

Flights

  • Roundtrip flights in economy class (from Quito to Baltra, and Baltra to Guayaquil).

Transfers  

  • Transfer from the hotel in Quito to the Quito Airport before the expedition cruise, and transfers between the Baltra Airport and the ship

Excursion

  • Full-day nature tour to Cotopaxi National Park, including lunch

Extras

  • Galápagos Islands National Park admission fee
  • Transit control card for Galápagos Islands
  • Access to the airport lounge at the Guayaquil or Quito airport upon return from Galápagos Islands

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Aune restaurant, including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water)
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Limited complimentary Wi-Fi for suite guests. Wi-Fi is available for purchase, but be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team to guide activities and provide educational information, on board and ashore 
  • Welcome and farewell cocktails

Onboard activities

  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has a library, microscopes, and samples
  • The Citizen Science program allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • An onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • Use of the ship’s hot tubs and gym

Landing Activities

  • Landings, hikes, coastal exploration, and activities that include kayaking, snorkeling, and our glass-bottom boat
  • Complimentary wetsuit rental for suite guests. Wetsuit rental available on request

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling

Notes

2 people kayaking in front of the ship Santa Cruz II.
Your Ship

MS Santa Cruz II

Year built 2002
Year of refurbishment 2021
Shipyard ASENAV Shipyard (CHL)
Passenger capacity 90
Gross tonnage 2,664 T
Length 236 ft
Beam 44 ft
Speed 10.5 knots
2 people kayaking in front of the ship Santa Cruz II.

When you are exploring the Galápagos Islands with us aboard the Santa Cruz II, you’ll enjoy a relaxed atmosphere in premium surroundings. The ship’s small size (with a maximum guest capacity of 90) offers a cozy yet sophisticated environment. It’s easy to feel at home on board.

Read more about MS Santa Cruz II

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