MS Santa Cruz II
With carbon-neutral operations, MS Santa Cruz II is environmentally-sustainable and socially conscious with the local community.
Join us on a journey of ecological discovery as we set out from Quito to explore the incomparable beauty and wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.
Begin your adventure with two nights at a hotel in Quito, one of South America’s most charming capitals. This World Heritage city of graceful Spanish-era architecture is packed with cosy restaurants and small artisanal shops. From here we’ll journey to an active volcano and go on a nature walk in stunning surroundings, stopping to pay a visit to a vibrant traditional open-air market.
The Galápagos Islands are famed for their association with the evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin. Our western itinerary calls at Isabela and Floreana, two of the four islands visited by the famous naturalist, at the volcanic island of Fernandina, and the centrally located Santa Cruz Island. The landings take in a wide array of ecosystems, picturesque landscapes, and offer great opportunities for seeing wildlife such as sea lions, turtles, marine iguanas, giant tortoises, flamingos, Nazca and Red-footed Boobies, and iconic Darwin’s Finches.
MS Santa Cruz II’s crafted itineraries give you some of the best island coverage and wildlife viewing opportunities in the Galápagos. Many 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’ll be able to 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, snorkelling gear and paddleboards. There's even a glass-bottom boat. Of course, safety and sustainability are paramount throughout your cruise, and there’s a 24-hour Medical Officer onboard at all times.
We'll help you plan where to go, when to visit and how long to stay
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. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s packed with well-preserved colonial architecture, including colourful plazas, magnificent churches and handsome monuments.
If you have enough time in the evening, make sure to visit the Calle La Ronda, an ancient pedestrianised street with links to the poets and artists who’ve lived here. It’s lined with shops and cafes, and there are many handicrafts available to buy.
Why not experience another highlight of South America and discover the lost civilisation of the Incas, including the breathtaking mountain stronghold of Machu Picchu. This optional 4-day Pre-Programme starts in Lima and ends in Quito.
Or arrive in Quito a few days early and join us instead on a 4-day tour to Cloudforest Lodge in the Mashpi Reserve. The area is part of the Ecuadorian Choco rainforest, one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots. This optional extension is also available as a Post-Programme.
Today you’ll visit Cotopaxi National Park, home to one of South America's most active volcanoes. But first, you’ll stop at the photogenic Sangolquí open-air market, where you can browse colourful stalls with unique handicrafts, and sample different local specialities.
Afterwards, we’ll walk to Limpiopungo Lagoon, tucked in a high valley within the Cotopaxi National Park at 12,800 ft above sea level. 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 luck – the majestic Andean Condor. You’ll enjoy a tasty lunch prepared by some of the region’s best chefs before returning to your hotel in the late afternoon.
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 awaits.
In the afternoon we’ll begin our exploration of the Galápagos Islands following the north shore of Santa Cruz towards the fascinating landscapes of Cerro Dragón - or Dragon Hill - where we’ll land. The first part of the walk here passes by a brackish water lagoon that’s 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 a chance to get a first look at some land iguanas.
You’ll start your day at Punta Vicente Roca, on the north-western tip of Isabela Island. After breakfast, we’ll explore the coast by dinghy, learning about the dramatic geology of the area from our naturalist guides.
This site is a nesting place for several bird species, so look out for flightless cormorants, Galápagos penguins, and boobies. Weather permitting, you’ll get to snorkel alongside 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.
Today, you’ll explore Santa Cruz Island. In the morning, we’ll disembark at Puerto Ayora to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.
The Station consists of a giant tortoise breeding centre and an impressive forest of prickly-pear cacti that’s home to many land birds. It also serves as the headquarters for scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. After the visit, we’ll head up to the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island for lunch.
You’ll have several options to choose from in the afternoon, which you can decide on beforehand with your Expedition Leader. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, you’ll return to Puerto Ayora and re-join MS Santa Cruz II.
After breakfast, you’ll 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 on, we’ll 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, you’ll explore the underwater wonders around Champion Islet in a dinghy or aboard a glass-bottom boat. Here, you can snorkel in one of the best spots in the archipelago.
From there, it’s onwards to Cormorant Point, where we’ll take a walk from an olivine-crystal beach to a brackish lagoon, where you can see American Flamingos, Pintail Ducks, and other birds.
Take a closer look at our ships typically used on this expedition
Learn more about what you can experience when going with us
Post-Programme Ecuadorian Amazon Adventure
Go wildlife watching in the Amazon rainforest, staying in a luxury ecolodge in the heart of the jungle.
Post-Programme Mashpi Reserve
Extend your Galápagos expedition with a wild adventure in the Ecuadorian rainforest on a 6-day tour.
Galápagos Islands Adventure – in Darwin’s Footsteps
15 departures between Jun 2022 and Dec 2022 - 10 days
MS Santa Cruz II
All-inclusive Galápagos Islands Adventure – in Darwin’s Footsteps
12 departures between Jun 2022 and Nov 2022 - 11 days
MS Santa Cruz II