EMBARKATION: best one we have ever experienced. Checked in with group. Person at Quito with luggage marked for Silversea. We did not have to deal withh our luggage again until it arrived at our cabins. Fantastic people and very organized at the airport. When we arrived in Baltra they had a awaiting area for us with juice and a couple of light snacks. Within 10 minutes the zodiacs came and transported us to the ship.. I give them an A+ In this category.
CABINS: As has been reported before, the cabins are dark wood - no pictures or decoration. Layout of storage could be better, as drawer spaces are limited. Our first cabin was clean but had an odd closet set up in one of the closet.
There is not much room to store luggage as the bed is on a platform. Our butler finally moved the couch and put our luggage behind it. Before that it was sitting in front of the couch. In some cabins that is not possible due to the room configuration. However, there is plenty of space to move around.
The cabin was very serviceable until we started. When the ship rolled we began to have constant rattles and creaks that lasted all night. We ended up moving to another a cabin that was available after an attempt was made to correct the problem. Thank goodness for that. Natalia was excellent to work with in trying to resolve the issue and checked after to make sure everything was okay. Her service was excellent.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: I know this is a very subjective subject. First I will state a fact or two.. The bars do not have a number of labels that my DH and I would expect from a luxury line. Our first night I requested an Irish Whiskey - don't have it. Next I asked for Glenlivet scotch - same answer. So I settled for a Manhattan. And they made it with Jack Daniels- only whiskey they had. Not my preference, but I survived. Others commented on the limited bar, so I am not alone. Shouldn't a luxury line have a better stocked bar?
The main DR serves all 3 meals and is only option for breakfast ,unless you do room service( which is risky) It is buffet style for breakfast and lunch and sit down for dinner. Breakfast is the same everyday and you can order eggs any way you want. Dinner menu has 4 entrees in the evening. Always fish and vegetarian plus a meat and usually a pasta or similar. Sometimes not cooked, and sometimes overlooked.
On 5th floor is the Grill (outside) that serves lunch with rotating menu and dinner with hot rocks cooking at your table. However, the dinner menu does not change, nor do the vegetables served with your entree. We enjoyed going up for lunch. As far as bread is concerned, in both venues there are only 2 bread choices, dark or white rolls for lunch and dinner; I should consider this a positive since it eliminates calories I don't need! At breakfast there were a number of bread options. We found the food in the main dining room very inconsistent.
SERVICE: This is the area where Silversea really falls down. I know there are strict requirements as to hiring and length of service for staff. From talking to some senior staff, they are constantly dealing with turnover and language barriers. However, considering Silversea promotes themselves as luxury and prices the product accordingly, something needs to be done.
We had calibrated our expectations based on previous reviews. I did not calibrate mine low enough, as I had expected some of the earlier problems from last year to have been corrected. When our "butler" introduced himself he told us it was his first day on the job; it became very evident. We asked for ice and a wash cloth (We learned they do NOT put washcloths in the bathroom unless you ask. That is not the markings of a luxury cruise line!) That evening we still did not have either and had to ask again. We continued to get a wash cloth, but had to ask for ice every day.. This was repeated when we moved to our new cabin. Our mini bar did not get restocked, and in fact, things would dissappear from it! We had to ask if we wanted a beverage replaced.
Another example, and illustrative of the language issue: In the dining room I asked to order a drink and received a deer in the headlights look. I said a cocktail and got a more perplexed look so I made a drinking motion and got a nod. Then I asked for a Chivas Regal, which is what I had in the 4th floor lounge. The gentleman repeated what I said and left the table. He then disappeared and never returned! After what was over 5 minutes another waiter approached our table and we made a request for drinks, with a similar look and he disappeared to the back to talk to someone. After at least another 5 minutes the 4 of us were fustrated and just left and went up to The Grill to eat.
I could list other examples, but I think the point is made. We also had issues with orders not being delivered, i.e. salads and the the entree coming. All the staff was very friendly and you could tell they were trying and I am sure just as frustrated as we were.
Outstanding! The Zodiac pilots were great and very concerned about our safety and helpful in getting us on and off. The naturalists are outstanding and have a broad backgrounds. We were fortunate to experience a number of them. They each brought their own unique way of sharing the islands and love of nature. They enrich what you are seeing. Words and even pictures can't do the Gallapagos justice.
There was a morning excursion and an afternoon one each day. If there was an area that was very rugged, there was usually a less rugged alternate excursion for those who could not do a lot of big boulder climbing. Unfortunately, I could not snorkel, but those who did (often both morning and afternoon) had a fantastic time. Everything was well planned and we were briefed at 7pm every day as to what to expect the next day.
Except for a piano player in the lounge, there really isn't any (well, some passengers were pretty entertaining). But, after such a busy day I wasn't ready to stay up for a late show!
OVERALL: I rate the Galapagos Islands a 10. We did the eastern and northern islands and have talked about going back some day to experience the western islands. We can't speak highly enough of the excursions staff and the naturalists. Where signficant improve is needed is with Silversea. If they want to charge for and advertise this as a luxury experience, then it needs to be. Yes, drydock can take care of cosmetic issues with cabins, carpets etc., but those are minor compared to service issues.
We do not regret taking the trip as the memories we have of the islands overshadow any problems we had. But, we do feel for the cost, Silversea needs to find a way to fix the service issue or lower the cost and not advertise this particular cruise as luxury.