We have travelled on Silversea ships on 5 previous cruises, and they have been just marvelous. So we chose that company again to visit the Galapagos, departing Baltra for 7 days in the West Islands. We were expecting that the same standards of excellence would apply to this Expedition ship, even if less luxe. And the marketing materials from the company confirmed the expectation.
We were mislead. Unforgivably.
THE GOOD: the locale and the excellent expedition leaders, filled with enthusiasm and knowledge, fluent in English, and all guiding for many years. The islands offer a variety of terrain and wildlife, and the hiking, snorkeling, and Zodiac tours are just SO GOOD. Even a little spelunking in a lava tube. Animals and birds with no fearful reaction to people are as approachable as legend has it. It's so amazing, and worthy of everyone's bucket list.
THE BAD: The ship. It's an older one, perhaps 25 years, but in poor repair. For example, the air conditioning is inadequate; the dining room was stifling, the bathrooms were a common source of passenger grumbling, and the engineering staff seems incapable of making repairs quickly, or even at all. But it does have nice layout for the Veranda suites, - although they are small, they are more attractive and efficient than the Owner's Suite, with two big faults: the shower produces so much humidity that every mirror in the cabin mists up, - even though the bathrooms were allegedly renovated, and there is so little storage that passengers were cautioned not to hang clothes from the overhead sprinklers. Really! Although they replaced the beds, they didn't include the under bed suitcase storage standard on the larger ships.
THE TRULY UGLY: the FOOD and the HOTEL MANAGEMENT. If I were to buy this company today, the Chef and the Hotel Manager would be looking for a new job tomorrow. The food varied from not bad to just inedible. Scrambled eggs that make hospital food look good, waiters that simply can't deliver a complete order at the same time. The cook hasn't even mastered the fried egg.
Although the restaurants (there are only two) advertised as 'open seating with no reservations required' the 5th deck grill, which offers food you cook at your table on hot rock slabs, has only enough of these it would seem to enable them to set up half the tables. The alternative, the overheated dining room. But although it's easier to find a table outdoors for lunch, the pizza is the only very good and reliable choice. I had a hamburger, - represented as ground filet, that was late, overcooked (MR is not dark grey), and stringy. Not one of the six at our table finished theirs.
You can walk into the bar, and find it, and all the others, closed, - or if open, you have to summon the waiter (they have not been trained to watch for and approach a new arrival) they are willing, but untrained and unresponsive. Breakfast was discontinued at 08:25, even though early expedition passengers were returning and looking for the breakfast they missed.
This is in such stark contrast to all the other voyages, where food and drink is excellent in preparation, presentation and service, and all but available 24 hours a day, - somewhere.
I don't think I met a satisfied passenger. Everyone was grumbling. We felt deceived by the misrepresentation of the cruise as 5 star luxe . The Silversea Line has done itself a huge disservice launching this expansion, which is certainly not ready for prime time, before they have renovated the ship and trained the staff to the standards their brand connotes. One of our fellow passengers, - a travel agent, is vowing that she will never again sell Sliversea, - and she had previously been a big supporter.
I am disappointed in the ship and food, and somewhat angry at the misrepresentation, and although we were among the most frequent travelers recognized at their Venetian Society reception, we have made our last trip with Silversea. So I am sad too.