While we would agree with the vast majority of travelers who describe a visit to the Galapagos as a “trip of a lifetime” that should be on everyone’s bucket list given the incredible opportunities to discover what is essentially a ... Read More
While we would agree with the vast majority of travelers who describe a visit to the Galapagos as a “trip of a lifetime” that should be on everyone’s bucket list given the incredible opportunities to discover what is essentially a showcase for remarkable and unique examples of geology and evolutionary biology, our idea of a relaxing and recreational holiday from work has never included adjectives such as “rustic,” a characterization we came across too frequently while looking into the possibilities for this destination. Acknowledging that our camping days were firmly behind us, our research led us to consider the larger “luxury class” cruise offerings based on their available amenities and services, as well as the perceived stability and creature comforts of the larger vessels.
We chose Silversea not only because of their stellar reputation for quality and service, but most especially because of the simple, seamless, all-inclusive booking options they offered. Christian at Silversea efficiently arranged our reservations, including all the logistics of air travel, ground transportation, and hotel stays before and after the cruise, with just one stress-free call and one fee. With the exception of the elective purchase of the video DVD and photo CD ($150 and worth every penny) made to document our expedition by Jorge the onboard videographer, along with nominal laundry charges, all beverages (alcohol, specialty coffee, etc., and not just with meals), Wi-Fi (perfectly adequate for email and messaging apps), and gratuities were included.
Our flight from our home airport had one domestic stop, and from there we flew direct to Quito where we were met in the airport by a member of the Abercrombie and Kent team, the local travel representatives of Silversea. Once all our bags were retrieved, we boarded a shuttle bus to the Marriott hotel, about 45 minutes away. At the hotel, a separate express check-in table had been set up for us along with some welcome beverages. We were given our room keys and printed information about our stay in Quito (see images), all of which thankfully took only minutes since it was late and everyone was exhausted.
Although Silversea, through A&K, included a complimentary evening tour of Quito on our full day there, we opted for one of the additional and reasonably priced tours. Following the included breakfast buffet at the hotel, we met our guide, David, a clearly enthusiastic young man eager to proudly show off his city and share a bit of its culture. In fact, though we signed up for a three hour tour, he tailored our excursion to our interests (see this article for some of the ideas we suggested to him: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/why-you-should-visit-quito-ecuador) and actually spent 5 hours with us. Charmingly, he taught us some Kichwa-derived Ecuadorian slang (achachai, meaning cold as in “brrr”, and arrarrai, meaning burning hot), which we would later use to the bemusement of our naturalist guides while snorkeling and hiking. Finally, David dropped us off at one of his favorite local restaurants for authentic Ecuadorian cuisine.
The following morning required an extremely early start to catch our flight to the Galapagos (the plane made a brief stop in Guayaquil). A slightly more limited breakfast buffet was included prior to departing the hotel. Upon landing at the San Cristobal airport, we were met by our naturalist guides. They assisted us onto buses that took us to the pier while our main luggage was loaded separately for delivery directly to the staterooms. After allowing some time to roam the small port town, we then took Zodiacs from the pier to the Silver Galapagos along with our carry-on bags. We were greeted aboard with a glass of champagne and then shown to our staterooms.
For more detail about life aboard Silver Galapagos as well as the daily schedule, please see the images of the “Chronicles” delivered to our room each day. With regard to expectations for the Galapagos, I would highly recommend reading the book, Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World, by Paul D. Stewart and/or viewing the companion BBC-produced documentary narrated by Tilda Swinton (available on Netflix and on DVD/Blu-ray). A little advance working knowledge will go a long way toward an appreciation for what you may see while touring, and you will be better prepared to take advantage of all the experience and wisdom that the guides possess and are so willing to share. We met and had wonderful conversations with so many genuinely nice, friendly people aboard this cruise, and remain so grateful for the shared experience.
Dining: Our excellent servers, Eduardo, Jhon, Carlos, and Roberto, quickly got to know our names and preferences. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet in The Restaurant each morning, featuring a wide variety of choices. Lunch each day at The Grill was a highlight, offering a different grilled fish and other grilled meat (chicken, beef), as well as pasta and pizza choices. There was also a daily soup, ceviche, and Chef’s station, featuring an Ecuadorian specialty prepared by Chef David. Other than one evening when we enjoyed the Grill for a hot lava rocks meal, we ate all our other dinners at the Restaurant, where we were always surprised and pleased by the variety (see images of menus). Of the 94 guests aboard, from the US, Mexico, China, Germany, England, Scotland, France, Israel, Australia, and even Texas [ ; ) ], we encountered only one person disappointed with the Ecuadorian-centric menus, but he readily admitted he had not done his research before booking the trip and therefore had different expectations. For our part, we thought the food was terrific.
Miscellaneous tips: the advice on lightweight quick dying clothes and shoes should be heeded; full length rash-guards or thicker hydroskins beneath the provided 2. 5mm shorty wetsuits are a good idea especially if you may be sensitive to jellyfish stings, and may add a bit of additional warmth (the water temperature varied widely, but in any case we were saying “achachai” after about an hour). Alfredo, our pianist/keyboardist, was very entertaining during lunch at The Grill and in the evening at the piano bar. Ask him if he knows any Disney tunes.
A quick word about return travel: we left the Galapagos through the Baltra airport, a larger facility with more amenities than found in San Cristobal, but just as easy to pass through. We were met at the Guayaquil airport and taken to the Oro Verde hotel where again an express check-in process had been set up. We had full use of the room to shower, change, and/or nap, with time also for dinner on your own. At the appointed time, we were then shuttled back to the airport and expertly guided through the crowded and confusing baggage-checking process. Even after the trip was basically over, Silversea, through their A&K representatives, cared enough about their guests to make sure we all made a hassle-free departure from Ecuador. Thank you Silversea! Read Less