From the sublime to the sump­tu­ous

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Tour­ing last month re­placed its vet­eran ves­sel Santa Cruz with Santa Cruz II, which had been cruis­ing the Chilean fjords as part of Cruceros Australis’s fleet. The jour­ney from Punta Are­nas in Chile to Guayaquil on Ecuador’s coast, where the ves­sel was re­fit­ted, was dra­matic.

“As we sailed off Chile, three times we had to turn around due to the weather and rough seas of the Southern Ocean. It was a chal­leng­ing voy­age. I re­mem­ber one time when the storm and wind made the ship turn 180 de­grees and high waves were seen in all di­rec­tions. This was the best test for a ves­sel,” says First Of­fi­cer Marco Mon­talvo.

By con­trast, the equa­to­rial wa­ters of the Gala­pa­gos were calm when the Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz II an­chored side-by-side near Cerro Ti­jere­tas (Frigate­bird Hill) on San Cris­to­bal Is­land on Oc­to­ber 10, their only of­fi­cial meet­ing in the Gala­pa­gos.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Tour­ing has spent $17 mil­lion buy­ing and fit­ting-out its new ves­sel, which fea­tures five decks (its pre­de­ces­sor had four) and 50 cab­ins ac­com­mo­dat­ing up to 90 pas­sen­gers.

The Swedish-de­signed sin­gle, dou­ble and triple cab­ins fea­ture large pic­ture win­dows; the three top-tier Dar­win Suites have dou­ble pic­ture win­dows and lit­tle ex­tras such as L’Oc­c­i­tane bath­room ameni­ties. The ship also car­ries kayaks, in ad­di­tion to pan­gas and a glass­bot­tomed boat.

Santa Cruz II is among the largest ex­pe­di­tion ships cruis­ing the archipelago; many of the re­gion’s 96 reg­is­tered ves­sels carry 16 or fewer pas­sen­gers.

The ad­van­tage of a big­ger ves­sel is that it can adapt its mix of naturalists to cater for dif­fer­ent lan­guage groups (the Santa Cruz was once called the “United Na­tions” of Gala­pa­gos ships); it also car­ries a doc­tor.

KA­T­RINA LOB­LEY

A seal greets visi­tors land­ing on the red-sand is­land of Rabida

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