Let’s get this out of the way: Hurtigruten’s Santa Cruz II is not a cruise ship in the traditional sense; it’s an expedition ship. And that’s exactly why you’re on it. Don’t expect glitzy late-night shows or limbo on the lido deck. The thrill of Santa Cruz II is experiencing the Galapagos Islands.
The adventure begins in Quito, Ecuador, where guests are privy to a private tour through the Cotopaxi National Park. The next day, it’s off to the Galapagos Islands on the western itinerary, making port calls at Isabela and Floreana (two of the four islands visited by Charles Darwin), the volcanic island of Fernandina (considered one of the most pristine islands on earth), and Santa Cruz Island (home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and giant tortoises).
Onboard, the ship has 50 cabins (47 Explorer Cabins and 3 Darwin Suites), an expedition lounge and library, a cozy bar, a sky deck, a gym, and two hot tubs that overlook the water below.
Expert tip: Book this itinerary in the off-season for far fewer crowds. The weather was perfect (cool and sunny) and the water temps were easily accommodated by a short wetsuit.