When Silver Origin debuted in 2021, cruising the Galapagos Islands instantly became a more luxurious experience. After all, a Silversea Galapagos cruise takes place on one of the newest vessels sailing around the islands Charles Darwin made famous. And that ship is something to behold, blending expedition adventure cruising with gourmet cuisine, gorgeous suites and public rooms that are both beautiful and beautifully functional.
Thinking of taking a Silversea Galapagos cruise? Here are five reasons you will love it.
When it comes to expedition cruising, your naturalists and guides make or break your experience. After all, these are the people who are with you virtually all day, every day.
On a Silversea Galapagos cruise, most have been working in the Galapagos for years, and nearly all of them are Ecuadorian. They know the area better than pretty much anyone, from San Cristobal Island to the tiniest of islets that dot this amazing archipelago. They'll tell you how each island was formed, point out the distinctions that create interesting geological features and know the difference between every tree, plant and shrub.
In the Galapagos, it's all about the wildlife, and your guides have you covered here, too. On our Silver Origin sailing, we were impressed by how the guides knew which species spend time in which areas, and they could explain (and warn) about behaviors we might see. For example, ahead of a snorkel, they warned that the seals can get friendly and occasionally a little aggressive -- and explained how to differentiate between playful and dominant behavior. In the water, when those seals approached us and blew bubbles in our faces, we knew to make bubbles with our own flippers to keep playing the game.
We didn't have a "dud" of a guide the whole trip -- something that often happens on expeditions ships where so many guides are part of the experience. (They even brilliantly handled tours with a group that included a particularly rambunctious and curious preteen, answering all his questions and trying to make sure the rest of the group wasn't affected by his behavior.) This is a testament to Silversea's long dedication to sailing and hiring in the area.
If you are a fan of Silversea, the line's excellent approach to dining (including its S.A.L.T. program) might be one of the things you most look forward to when sailing. Rest assured, you will not be disappointed by the food on Silver Origin.
The ship is right in line with Silversea's reputation; it serves dishes that rely heavily on local ingredients and leans into regional specialties. In Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, that means you can expect lots of seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, and pork. (It's worth noting that import restrictions can play heavily into the menu, so beef, for example, might not come with a cut you are used to in other parts of the world.)
The onboard chef for our sailing was Ecuadorian, and she made it her mission to educate guests as much as please their palates. To that end, she held a cooking demonstration in which she spoke about why ceviche is so ingrained in Ecuador's culture and showed the gathered throngs how to make it. Ceviche was a highlight on our sailing, with a different type served every day, with a side of popcorn and plantain chips, as is the tradition. Also not to miss: fried scorpionfish, a local delicacy.
Ships in the Galapagos are small, as a 100-passenger limit is imposed on ships sailing the region. By that standard, Silver Origin is one of the largest ships sailing the Galapagos, though it's the smallest in the Silversea fleet.
Even though Silver Origin is big by Galapagos standards, it truly isn't. Perhaps that's helped by a very generous passenger-to-space ratio: 58. (Passenger-to-space ratio is a rough calculation that divides the ship's gross tonnage by number of passengers. Many of the megaships sailing have a ratio in the range of the low- to mid-30s. Luxury brands tend to range from about 50 to 75.)
The point is, on a sailing on Silver Origin, you will surely see other guests, but you'll never struggle to find a spot for getting away from it all, reading a book or watching the sun set.
And while reservations for the ship's al fresco restaurant, The Grill, are encouraged for dinner, we found we didn't really need them. We also never waited long to board our Zodiacs, which took us to the various islands or on sightseeing tours.
The spaces themselves are gorgeous: modern, comfortable and well-conceived to the tiniest detail. Our favorite spot was the Marina and adjacent Basecamp, which served as a comfortable yet beautiful spot to check out art and artifacts or to learn more about the region.
Silversea didn't scrimp on the suites, and on Silver Origin, everyone gets one. The smallest suites onboard measure 325 square feet (big by cruise industry standards), while the largest are more than 1,700 square feet and include massive balconies. All rooms are appointed with modern amenities, including bedside plugs, fine linens and even water-bottle filling stations.
All suites come with butlers, who perform a wide range of exceptional services, from drawing a bath (if your room features a tub) to serving a meal en suite, course by course.
One of the perks about booking with Silversea is that cruises are all-inclusive. This is especially important in a region like the Galapagos, where getting there from places like North America, Europe or Australia can be tricky.
A Silversea Galapagos cruise includes perks like hotel stays, airport transfers and flights. It also comes with a fair amount of hand-holding, so you can make sure you have the appropriate visas and paperwork filled out and ready to go so you don't hit Ecuador unprepared.
Still, the best-laid plans can sometimes fall apart when events pop up that are beyond anyone's control. On our sailing, for example, a series of strikes in Quito had the cruise line scrambling to rebook all its travelers directly to Guayaquil instead so as to avoid the shutdowns and potential violence that had been ongoing in the country's capital. We had some hiccups, but the company's 24/7 emergency line helped us out, as did a bit of our own ingenuity. Even seasoned travelers will appreciate a little hands-on help every once in a while.
Once we made it to our five-star hotel in Guayaquil, it was smooth sailing, as from this point forward, Silversea was able to control each part of our journey. Our transfer to the airport, then onward to the islands was easy and uneventful, and the cruise was a dream. When our return flight was canceled, Silversea took on the booking: We were rebooked on a new flight before we even found our first flight had been canceled.
Updated December 19, 2022