Life aboard the Santa Cruz

Those travelers jaded by ho-hum cruises to lazy tropical isles may want to consider an adventurous cruise among the Galpagos.

Between walks on the wild side, M/V Santa Cruz was our civilized, floating retreat.

From the ship, we broke into small groups of about a dozen, and off we went on eagerly anticipated three-hour morning and afternoon hikes, swims, and climbs, returning for lunch and dinner.

The recently renovated Santa Cruz holds 90 passengers in snug but comfortable two-bed cabins.

Dinner conversations were always spirited as guests played a game of one-upsmanship on what the day revealed.

"You didn't see those huge land iguanas? We saw three," one guest brayed.

"Those boobies looked like someone snuck up behind them and sprayed their feet blue, just as a joke," another quipped.

"I was snorkeling and this penguin came right up to me and stared into my mask. I think he was just curious because it was pink," a woman in our group exclaimed.

Naturalists on board were also our guides and gave lectures each evening on the following day's activities. They were always available to patiently answer our barrage of questions.

A small library stocked with research books, well-worn novels, and a writing desk was in constant use.

Meals were excellent, and open seating kept the atmosphere friendly and informal. Breakfast and lunch were buffet-style; dinners were served by waiters. An Ecuadorean banquet with suckling pig in the dual role as centerpiece and main course was the most memorable meal.

A small dance floor was provided for the Fred-and-Ginger set. There's even a hot tub on deck where you can soak under the stars.

Early-morning risers were often treated to a dolphin show as the athletic mammals raced in front of the bow.

A word of advice to those traveling solo: It's a good idea to check if there's a major snorer aboard, or you're apt to get stuck sharing a cabin with him.

"Like a Maine moose," a prospective cabin mate bellowed in response to my diplomatically placed query. I was able to quickly book a cabin with a nonsnorer, and our snoring friend ended up by himself. (Or, did he just say he snored in order to get his own room?)

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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