We have just returned from the Silver Galapagos North Central itinerary. Here is our review:
Overall experience: The overall experience of these islands was outstanding! Definitely one of our top 5 trips. It is a rare experience to visit islands where the wildlife is completely unafraid and even inquisitive of you as you embark onto their land. I am not really a cruise person either (I don't like to feel "stuck" or "cooped up"), but I don't see how we could have done this trip any other way. It was very convenient to be on a ship as we visited two islands per day most days. The naturalists are very knowledgeable. We saw all kinds of wildlife closer than I ever thought we could get to them. We could have touched them, but of course that is not allowed. We saw giant tortoises, sealions, iguanas, lizards, boobies, frigates, finches, mocking birds, a penguin, sea turtles, sharks, rays, ..all kinds of fish.
The SIlver Galapagos:
Atmosphere: The ship is older and definitely needs some repairs, but still has a luxurious flare. We have not been on many cruise lines so I am not able to compare except to Oceania Regatta. The rooms/suites were definitely suites...big and spacious for a ship with vanity, lots of counter space, sofa, flat screen tv. The bathroom was bigger than what we've experienced with a big enough shower...twice as big as Oceania. All this space and we had a basic room. However, I heard some people complaining about their room...that it was smaller than they were expecting after being on Silver Spirit. They were in an upgraded room as well. The décor is contemporary and clean. There is no pool, just a hot tub, but you will have no time for swimming except at the destination sites. The spa is very small and so is the fitness centre.
Naturalists: The naturalists, for the most part are very friendly and knowledgeable. We really enjoyed Xavier Suarez and Carlos Gonzales. Xavier was a good story teller and very entertaining, which is very refreshing after 5 days of trekking and early morning wake up calls. We also really enjoyed Carlos. He is very easy going and knowledgeable as well. We did not feel rushed at any of the sites we saw with him and felt that he made sure we got the most out of the island visit. Gaby Espinoza was very organized and made sure we were aware of the itinerary and plans for the day. She gave us 15 minutes notice before each excursion which was enough time to throw on some clothes, shoes and hat after your afternoon nap.
Food: The staff/chef here tried their very best. They went out of their way to get you what you wanted. They were very good about my dietary restrictions and made special dishes for me each meal. The Maitre D' Marcos made sure to talk to me before we sailed about the meals and where to find food I could eat. Marcos the chef, was always aware of my restrictions and went out of his way to accommodate me. After being on Oceania Regatta, it is hard for me to review the food. It was very basic compared to Oceania, but you could get lobster every day if you wanted to at the grill upstairs which is outdoors. I really enjoyed sitting upstairs, but the food downstairs at "The Restaurant" was a lot better and with more variety. The grill menu never changed. This is something I would want them to fix for next time. We need variety in the menu. Also dinner is not til late 7:30pm but you can get room service if you are hungry before that. The menu is limited but the butler, Natalia will go out of her way to get you what you want.
Service on the ship could be better. Although, the staff really tries their very best. They just need the training in order to get to that luxury 5 star level. You can tell at dinner that they really want to make you happy, but not sure how to do that. Natalia the butler is very good. She is fast, professional and goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Ok, so I was expecting luxury service as we have travelled with A&K before and my itinerary said that this was the company to be handling our transfers. When we arrived at the Quito airport, there was no one holding a sign with our names. Luckily, I had spotted a lady with a silversea tag on her bag and I followed her to the group. When we got to the group, the agent said "Are you with us?" I said "yes" ..already getting aggravated as we had a very long trip and I was tired and hungry (not a good combination). She said, "you're supposed to be on the flight 2 hours later"....I said "no, we're here now"...."she said well, I have you down here......." I cut her off and said "It doesn't matter what the mistake is, I'm here now and I'm ready to go to the hotel. I'm very tired". She said I would have to wait two hours for the next group. I said, "Absolutely not. I am not waiting. Put me in a cab and send me to the hotel" She said she couldn't do that. My husband told me to calm down. I think I was about to explode and maybe she saw it in my face...she said ok, let me see what I can do....20 min later, she found another guide and sent us on our way. The problem was resolved in a reasonable amount of time, but could have been handled better.
Getting through customs and waiting in the airport was a big mess. We were used to being whisked through the gates and customs and being guided every step of the way with A&K, but our guide a the airport, Antonio was nowhere to be seen. If I had questions, there would have been no one to ask because the gate agents did not speak English, and sadly, I do not speak Spanish.
I had gone online and preordered a therapeutic pillow and a double down around medium pillow for my cervical issues. When I got to the room, they weren't there. Natalia got them right away. But, for 5 star luxury, I think it should have been there when I got to the room. We got two twin beds, Natalia had to come in again and push the beds together to make it a king. There was a half empty bottle of diet coke in my fridge...that is disgusting...that tells me the fridge was not cleaned out before we got there. The room was muggy and hot when we arrived. The air should have been turned on and the room cooled down to a comfortable temperature before boarding. The chocolates delivered to the room as turn down service were old..they had a white film over them. I love seafood, but stopped eating fish at the grill upstairs because I ordered sole one day and it did not look very appetizing...it was brown around the edges and tasted like it was in the freezer for years. It was very fishy. I sent it back. I was afraid to eat fish after that. But downstairs at the restaurant, the fish was very fresh. The Maitre D' had almond milk ready for me at all the bars ...I ordered a cappuccino with almond milk every day....I think 50% of the time it was actually almond milk. It tasted like cow's milk half of the time.
Despite all these negatives, I would still use Silversea for the Galapagos as the ship was very comfortable and I think that in time, the staff will improve. Silversea is a good brand of cruise line and I'm sure they will fix these minor issues on board the silver Galapagos.