Metropolitan Touring is the most professional and delightfully welcoming enterprise.
My mother and I went on a 5-day tour of the Galapagos Islands aboard their Santa Cruz ll, and stayed a few days prior in Quito to explore the city and natural areas. While I have never been on a cruise before, or expedition ship, (or a medium sized charter boat) for more than 8 hours I had no expectations for the kind of service and hospitality I would encounter, and they raised the bar daily in every way.
The lovely and knowledgeable Hyades who greeted us warmly at the airport and talked us through our itinerary and some history on our ride to the hotel ushered our stay in Quito. She was so kind! She answered all of our questions, and on the day of our departure to the islands--my birthday--she surprised me with an Ecuadorian bar of chocolate and a rousing rendition of a birthday song. It was such a nice little gesture I still can not get over, and truly made the experience that much more memorable. Also while in Quito we went on a bespoke birding tour (a mish-mash of two separate itineraries the company suggested we do to maximize our time because they realized my enthusiasm for birds is quite high) and spent a whole day with the intelligent Marcos and our driver who I regrettably forgot the name of but who was a real treasure of a driver and great bird spotter. We saw Andean Condors, a million hummingbirds, and explored the different ecologies of surrounding the city. It was truly magical, and it was all due to the guides.
The following day we did a quick tour with (I believe his name was) David and the driver Eduardo. He was a great wealth of knowledge on the city’s history and took us around the old plazas with great glee. Again, I didn’t know what to expect out of the city, but they made it so enjoyable with their enthusiasm for their culture and history.
The logistics and execution of everything surrounding this trip was perfect. I’m a planner, and I never had to think of one single thing they had not done before hand or didn’t even know I was anticipating. They took care of every need and let the guest relax with ease.
The transfer from Quito to the boat was smooth and painless and you can tell everyone involved works hard to keep everything flowing seamlessly.
On the ship the service was incredible. We were immediately greeted by the crew handing out juices and warm wet towels for our faces and hands that really set the tone for the level of service we were about to receive. After every excursion upon our return to the boat we were greeted by fresh juice and a snack to tide us over until our next meal. The food was incredible, and the head chef presides over every lunch and dinner with great gusto and eagerness for feedback (the desserts are all so fabulous, and at lunch buffets a very dangerous thing.) The banquet chief, Carlos, and his servers and waiters (Andres, Lesli) were quick to establish a rapport, and were the most attentive and generous staff. They surprised me with a cake for my birthday and fulfilled every request I had (like ordering off menu ice cream to go with it.) The bar staff was equally as professional and hospitable. Sit with different people at dinner, lunch, and breakfast! It was so fun and interesting to spend a little time with all the people on board. You spend quite a bit of time with the people in your group, so it's hard to interact with everyone else, and the meals allow for it. Of course it's not required, but it does make for a lovely atmosphere and camaraderie. Don't order red meat on board!! Not that it is bad, it's just not ideal. They are not allowed to import raw meat, so all of their beef has come pre-cooked. I would always suggest going with the seafood.
The crew was the nicest and most accommodating. Our cabins were constantly clean, and they moved with stealth during their nightly turn down service. The panga drivers were the unsung hero of every outing, and managed to be indispensable and inconspicuous. The library was always stocked with secret treats and desserts, and there is a bowl of motion sickness pills for the taking at reception, which I crept into a few times. It was all a dream of an experience on board that ship, and I haven’t even gotten to nature part. The boat had all kinds of outlets, so no need for adapters. They take no cash through out, and you have to pay your bill on the last night--which is a great system that eliminates lost money and having to carry around anything but a glass of wine around the boat.
PLEASE TIP YOU GUYS. I saw and heard some really sad behavior around the suggested tipping guide, that really broke my heart. And even if I have a done a terrible job of remembering names, it's nice to acknowledge those that stood out.
The Galapagos is a wildlife lover’s dream come true: to be feet away from curious seal lions, mockingbirds, marine iguanas, and silly boobies. It was incredible and completely unreal. The national park is a standard bearer of how to maintain a pristine ecosystem, and they are doing a great job at this. I was amazed at the level of care taken to preserve and protect, and it was very inspiring. The naturalist guides, led by the inimitable Desiree Cruz, were all abound with passion and information to share. Our group’s was the kind and smart Richard. There was never a question that was answered with “I don’t know” or a lack of knowledge. You could tell they loved their job (and made us all want to join them.) The photographer, Felix, was also a joy to have around! He welcomed every picture request and truly has one of the best jobs in the world (or at least on this boat.) They really took advantage of all the activities possible, and the time allotted so that you left each island with a real understanding and appreciation. If you have your own wet suit, bring it! They have some for rent, however. Bring lots and lots of sunscreen and sun protection, and you don't even have to bring shampoo and body wash, since they have their own on the boat in each cabin. I would recommend some noise canceling headphones or earplugs for sleeping, since the boat moves at night and it can get a bit noisy. They also start their movement of zodiacs to the water early in the morning that could wake a light sleeper.
In conclusion, (if you’ve made it this far, thank you) if you are considering the Santa Cruz ll, or even if you are not and stumbled on this, do yourself a favor and book this. The Galapagos is a once in a lifetime destination and it would be a disservice to your existence to not stay with the best.
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