Isabella II, named after the largest of the Galapagos islands, has just 16 two-person guest cabins plus two four-person family cabins, all of them located on the second deck of the ship. The bottom deck has a reception desk, a bar for lectures and of course drinks, and the dining room. The top deck features tables and lounge chairs to enjoy the sea air, a hot tub, and areas for snorkel gear and wet-suit storage. She carries three inflatable zodiacs boats plus a glass- bottom boat for underwater wildlife viewing by those who prefer to stay dry and out of the sun. Our trip had only about 25 guests on board, a very international group with passengers from the U.S., Ecuador, Colombia, France, Mexico, Germany, England and Malaysia. Ages and groupings included two families with a pair of teenage kids each, a mother and daughter, and couples ranging from their 30’s to late 60’s. Groups divided for tours and lectures into Spanish and English, though most of the Spanish-speaking passengers spoke a significant amount of English as well. The crew all appeared to be at least bilingual with solid though accented English. The first night on board featured the obligatory life-boat drill, some welcome information, excursion information for the next day, and a buffet dinner which was excellent. For subsequent dinners and most lunches a menu was provided at breakfast so passengers could make their selections in advance. We also collected scuba gear and wet suits for the week and signed up the next day’s activities.

The steady chop in the harbor made the transfer from Zodiac to ship a little bit dicey, but crew members stood by to offer forearm grips and balance to get everyone safely on board. We opted to take the proffered Dramine pills right away even though it's a strong soporific. The problem with Dramamine is if you wait until you really need it, it's too late. A few other passengers did not take it early and were in for a rough night of sea sickness. But even with the pills sleeping was difficult with the somewhat erratic movements of the ship as we sailed through the night to Bartholomew Island. This was the only time we experienced rough waters on the whole trip, and we had calm seas for the rest of the journey. The Isabella II has a physician onboard at all times during the cruise, and it was good to know she was there in case we needed her.

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