On May 4 2019 I had the opportunity to do a site inspection cruise for a client aboard the Silver Galapagos. Being a unique destination and an Expedition cruise, it was very different from your typical Silversea classic cruise.
First off, I would HIGHLY recommend purchasing this with the land package from Silversea. Your journey starts with being picked up at the airport in Quito by a very experienced and polished DMC, and transferred to the JW Marriott in town. Being somewhat late at night one quickly retires to bed. The next day was at leisure but the DMC had a hospitality desk in the foyer to assist with putting together whatever custom tour you wanted. Their guidance and expertise in recommendations was excellent. We personally got a driver and guide for 5 hours and drove out to see Cotopaxi (an active volcano) and the National Park. Again the DMC excelled and was of the same high standards of Silversea. That evening everyone in the group was taken on a panoramic city tour – which was a great way to meet some of your fellow cruisers and see the highlights of this beautiful city. Next morning it was up bright and early for your transfer to the airport and flight to the Galapagos. Upon arrival in the Galapagos you are greeted by the ships Expedition Team who whisk you away on buses to the pier where you board the large inflatable zodiacs that take you out to the Silver Galapagos. Again everything from park entrance visas to baggage inspection and transfer to the ship is all handled with ease and efficiency…..you don’t have to do a thing.
The Silver Galapagos has 50 cabins and carries a maximum of 100 guests per the laws of the Galapagos National Park, which is a UNESCO site. Everyone who works on the ship is Ecuadorian, including the Expedition Team who are also primarily from the Galapagos Islands. They are very proud of their islands and very passionate about their conservation. Not only does the Expedition Team take the guests out on all the excursions and have a wealth of knowledge that they share with you as you are walking around, but they all individually give a lecture each evening about the topic that they specialize in.
As with all Silversea ships, every cabin has a butler. The suites are well appointed with your typical Silversea amenities. Although an Expedition ship, the Silver Galapagos has all the same high standards as the rest of the fleet. There is The Piano Bar that is open throughout the day and evening that serves coffee, tea, and a full bar. It opens out onto a deck area where there are a few lounge beds, a comfy spot after lunch for a little relaxing time. On the second night you will get to meet the captain and his officers for cocktails here. Then there is the Explorers Lounge where you meet every evening for a presentation by the Expedition team; a recap of the day, then a lecture on a topic relating to the Galapagos and a description of the tours for tomorrow. This is also where you meet every day to disembark the ship. There are two restaurants, the main Dining Room and The Grill. Main dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Grill serves lunch and dinner for about 48 guests. Here you find things like whole grilled fish or maybe a whole BBQ’d pig. Being an outdoor venue, The Grill was a very popular spot. All food is sourced locally and preparations are from the region. I personally thought the food was very good and very interesting. There is a small gym and spa up on deck 6. Here you can also find the outdoor Jacuzzi.
On your first day you will get fitted with snorkel, fins and a wetsuit. These are put in a mesh bag and hung on a hanger and marked with your cabin number, and placed on the aft deck for easy access. They are yours for the week. And yes the ship carries plenty of different sizes so trust me they will find a set that fits you. You will also be divided into 2 groups for the daily excursions and this will be your group for the week. It makes for a nice and easy way to meet fellow guests and strike up friendships.
Each day is filled with new adventures. The morning tours usually depart at 7am or 730am depending if you are group 1 or 2. Tours are early for two reasons….the wild life are awake, and it avoids the midday heat. It is also controlled by the National Park service, so that no two ships are in the same location at the same time. Tours are usually about 2 hours and they all involve disembarking and embarking via zodiac. Some are dry landing i.e. directly onto rocky coastline, or wet landing which is typically a beach landing. Good water shoes are a necessity. Mid-morning usually offers snorkeling or kayaking along the coast. Then it’s back to the ship for lunch. The ship will reposition to another bay or another island during this time which also serves as a little time for relaxing. Then around 3pm you go out on your afternoon tour. Again most tours are only about 2 hours. All tours are rated easy, moderate, or strenuous. Walking poles/sticks are available at reception for those who need a little balance assistance as most terrains are rocky and uneven. The day wraps up with the presentations by the Expedition Team followed by dinner at 745pm. There is a pianist who plays on a keyboard for evening entertainment in the Piano Bar, but to be honest after dinner you are pretty exhausted having had a physical day full of activities.
The experience of coming up this close to the wildlife is like no other! The diversity of animals is amazing – the Galapagos is home to eleven species of giant tortoises, three species of large lizards, and more than 85 different species of birds including the Galapagos Penguin. The seals have no fear of humans and you can walk amongst them easily. The lizards bask in the sun and pose for photos. The giant tortoises are probably the most wary of humans and they are being protected and bred in special farms. Every animal you see appears different to the one before…..I lost count of how many photos I took, but it was over 100 per day!!! The Expedition Team are very careful about asking that you keep your distance from the animals… please stay 6 feet away and never touch. That is the creed of this amazing part of the world and is something you quickly learn to respect.
Sadly the experience has to come to an end and you fly back to Guayaquil on the mainland. Here Silverseas takes everyone to a nice hotel where you are given a day room. Later that evening you are transferred to the airport where you bid farewell to people who you have become friends with.
Guests are usually around the average age if 50/60 although we had quite a few younger couples in their early 30’s. Everyone is well traveled and has a bucket list of exotic and different places in the world that they want to see and experience. Strangely enough to me, many had never been on a cruise before. They are what I term “the adventure traveler.”
I would highly recommend this trip and although there may be other ships to do this on, I would highly recommend going on Silversea and having the luxury touch to your experience.
Watch for the arrival of the new Silver Origin debuting next summer.