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 naturalist Charles Darwin. Our northern itinerary calls at Santiago, the adjacent islands of Rábida and Bartolomé, isolated Genovesa, and the centrally-located Santa Cruz. The landings take in a wide array of ecosystems, picturesque landscapes, and give 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.
Arrive in Quito a few days early and join us 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 Sangolqui 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 land at Las Bachas beach located on the northern shore of Santa Cruz Island. This glorious white beach with turquoise waters is a great first place to spot iconic Galápagos wildlife like flamingos and sea turtles, and it’s named after some sunken barges left after WWII. Enjoy some swimming or snorkelling before heading back to the ship for a welcome cocktail and an expedition briefing about the following day.
Today you’ll 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’ll head to Puerto Egas, one of the best visitor sites on the island. You’ll have the opportunity to see a colony of fur-sea lions and exotic birdlife on an excursion. Or you could just swim or snorkel along the rocky shorelines, typically, in the company of marine turtles.
Your day starts on tiny Rábida Island, located off the southern shore of Santiago. You can go for a thrilling dinghy ride along the coast or join an excursion exploring the island’s mesmerising, red-coloured beach. Soak up the sights and sounds made by a colony of sea lions, and spot marine iguanas, mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers and several species of Darwin’s Finches.
In the afternoon, we’ll sail to the golden sands of Bartolomé Island, dominated by the imposing Pinnacle Rock. You can swim or snorkel off the beach here or discover colourful marine life from our glass-bottom boat, and spot Galápagos Penguins on the shore. Hike up to the summit of the island for fantastic views.
Today you’ll explore Genovesa Island. The morning starts with a steep but short climb – only 90 ft – up a flight of steps to reach a flat and rocky plateau. Once there, you can walk along comfortably and check out large colonies of Nazca Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds and Storm Petrels. Afterwards or instead, hop into a kayak for some aquatic adventuring!
In the afternoon, we’ll land at the beautiful beach that fringes Darwin Bay for a swim. Following this refreshing dip, take a stroll and observe hundreds of island birds, or alternatively just take it easy on the beach, swimming, snorkelling or kayaking.
We start our last morning on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. After breakfast, your luggage will be taken to the airport while you visit the Tortoise Reserve. A dry landing at a passenger’s wharf and a bus ride to the loftier region of the island will provide 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’ll transfer directly to Baltra Airport. Farewell to Galápagos.
Explore more of Ecuador with one of our optional Post-Programmes. Join us as we travel to Napo River, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Fly to Coca and spend three nights in a lodge surrounded by the beautiful rainforest and observe and learn about the flora and fauna on selected activities.
Or instead, travel from Quito to the Mashpi Reserve, a unique habitat and ecosystem. Here you’ll enjoy a 3-night stay in luxurious Cloudforest Lodge and discover this breathtaking area (also available as a Pre-Programme).
Both post-programmes have two nights in Quito included.
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