From the sublime to the sumptuous
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.
A seal greets visitors landing on the red-sand island of Rabida