We recently sailed on the 12/30/17 voyage on Silver Galapagos. Our itinerary started in Baltra and ended in San Cristobal. What an amazing trip we had! This was our first Silversea experience and third cruise. I will never again go on a ... Read More
We recently sailed on the 12/30/17 voyage on Silver Galapagos. Our itinerary started in Baltra and ended in San Cristobal. What an amazing trip we had! This was our first Silversea experience and third cruise. I will never again go on a mega-ship and we are already trying to figure out how we can sail on Silversea again. This is absolutely the best way to see the Galapagos. We were a multi-generational family traveling together... my 72 yr old father, husband and myself (mid 40's) and two teen daughters ages 14 and 16. I was worried that the ship would be a mostly older crowd but I was very surprised with how young the group was. They said the Christmas and New Years sailings often have younger guests and this was definitely true. Out of the 100 guests, I would say 25 of them were under the age of 20 yrs old. There were many families with multi-generations like ourselves that were traveling together. If you are even considering this ship with parents, grandparents, kids, this is the place to do it! So much to do for everyone of all ages. We really got to know almost all the guests and became great friends at the end of the week.
I will try to review as much information as possible because if you are like I was, I was scouring the internet for any information I could find on this cruise and Galapagos in general.
Transfers: We flew 4 days early to spend time in Quito and it's surroundings. Glad we did this. We were able to see the city and also make a few excursions. There's tons to do in Quito and beyond if you have the time. We stayed at the JW Marriott all 4 nights. It was a very nice, large hotel, no complaints whatsoever. Breakfast was included which was appreciated. They also have a nice fitness area and gorgeous pool. A Silversea rep was at the airport to take us to the hotel and again at the hotel on the day of embarkation, to take us back to the airport. Once at the airport, it was a LAN flight for all guests. We touched down in Guayaguil for 30 mins to refuel and then onto Baltra. Altogether, the flight was around 2-2.5 hrs. Transfers were just fine, don't let the other reviews scare you. By the way, on LAN, you have to press the Call button to request anything to eat or drink and you do have to pay for it. Just a heads up on that. On the way home, we flew from San Cristobal to Guayaguil where we had a day room at Hotel Oros Verde. This was a 5 star hotel, wish we could've stayed the night here but only used the room for a nap and shower before our midnight flight back to Miami. As you can imagine, that was no fun at all.
Embarkation: Once we were through customs (quick process), we were loaded onto buses to take us to a pier and then onto zodiacs from there to the boat. We were quickly shown to our cabins, it was a very easy process. From there, we were able to enjoy lunch while we waited for our luggage to be delivered. It was all very easy.
Cabin: We had Explorer Suites on the second floor, Suites 248 and 250. The rooms were very nice and I felt quite large, especially considering our kids were in their own cabin (unlike other cruises we've done where we are crammed into one suite). They aren't overly luxurious but very well appointed. The bathroom had a nice rainfall shower. TV had tons of movies and even live TV if you have time for that. Mini bar was fully stocked and was always replenished by the butler. Although I was fine with this category of cabin, I felt being on the Deck 2 was quite loud. You could hear much of the ships mechanics and this did disturb our sleep almost nightly, especially, when ship was anchoring. I'm not sure what all the noises were but it was loud. Also, it would be nice to have a balcony if just for the sake of drying all your wet things. Our bathing suits never dried, neither did our water shoes. If you can afford it, I would upgrade to something nicer. This did not detract from our cruise experience as we are not fussy people but just want to put the information out there.
Ship: The ship was beautifully appointed. They just had a dry dock in Sept 2017 so everything was refreshed and looked new. The piano bar is a nice spot to hang out in the afternoon or before dinner and play some cards with the family or your new friends. There is a nice fitness center which I only used once. I never used the spa but I heard from other guests that their massage was wonderful. I do wish they had more outdoor sun loungers. There's only a few sun beds to relax... on Deck 6 by the jacuzzi and on deck 4 outside of the piano lounge. These were almost always full. Since we didn't have a balcony we would often seek out these sun beds in the afternoon but rarely had luck in scoring one.
Restaurants: There are two restaurants to eat at for both lunch and dinner: The Grill and The Restaurant (yes, that is the creative name they gave it). We would always eat lunch at the Grill which was outside so you could enjoy the lovely sea breeze and views. The piano player also would entertain here every lunch. Mostly we would eat dinner at the Restaurant which was fine dining and 5 courses. A couple of nights we ate al fresco at the Grill. In the evening, this has a different menu and features meat served to you raw that you cook on a hot stone. It's pretty cool and the kids loved it. Seafood was also served here as well. It gets a little cool, so bring a sweater but they do provide blankets as well. Quality of food at both restaurants is excellent. We only heard other people saying the same thing. There's tons of variety and I never felt it got competitive. If you like alcohol, you will also be happy on this ship! The bartenders were amazing and served the best drinks. They had quite an extensive cocktail menu that we enjoyed sampling from. They also had great coffee/tea service available 24 hours in the piano lounge. You will not be wanting for anything. I think I gained 5 pounds but it was so worth it.
Entertainment: The only real form of entertainment is the piano player in the piano bar every evening. He was amazing and he would get out a microphone and keyboard if you ask and you can do Karaoke. We did this several nights and we had a blast. We celebrated New Years Eve on the ship and Silverseas put on a great party! The piano lounge was decorated with party hats, noisemakers, confetti, balloons, etc. Drinks were flowing all night and of course, a champagne toast at midnight. As tired as we were, we never thought we would make it to midnight. Some people went to bed but quite a few people stayed up and it was quite the party! So much fun.
Excursions: As you now know, this is an Expedition Cruise which = BUSY. There is not much time for downtime. I was worried about my teenagers and the early morning excursions. This was a little brutal on them but they survived just fine. Just know that you can be flexible and not go on every single excursion offered. Every night at 7pm, everyone convenes in the Explorer room for a rundown on the next day's itinerary and offerings. There are things to pick and choose from. For instance, you can choose to go on a nature hike or a zodiac tour of the coastline. Or you could sign up for kayaking or deep sea snorkeling. Every day is different but most days, the first excursion was at 7:30am. They gave us a reprieve on New Years Day and started at 8:30am but a lot of people chose to sleep in that day. After the first excursion, you come back for the boat and sometimes there's a second excursion around 10:30am. Lunch is after that and usually, there's a couple hours after lunch that you can take a nap, read a book, or just relax until a third excursion around 3:30 or 4pm. Again, you can pick and choose what you want to do. I think we only skipped one morning and one afternoon excursion. We were pretty full-on but I heard many other guests choose to skip much more than that. It's totally up to you. One thing about the activity level, yes this is a busy ship but I would say you are NOT expending much energy. For instance, most of the nature hikes were LONG but SLOOOWW. We would go 2 miles but it would take us 2.5 hours to do this. That's because the Naturalist Guides would stop every 10 feet to explain something about a bird or animal. It's all interesting but after a while, there's only so much you can learn about birds. One day, they offered a speed hike and tons of people including my family jumped on that because we were actually able to get in a little exercise and not go at the pace of a snail. I think older folks may like this slow pace but it seemed to drive younger folks a little nuts. I'm not complaining as I still enjoyed the entire experience but I'm just putting it out there for you to be aware. Every day, they offer a snorkeling activity of some kind. Please, always snorkel if you have the chance!!! We always had the best time and saw the most amazing things under water. The water is COLD! Be ware of this. Shortie wetsuit, mask and fins are provided. You will want to wear the wetsuit every time, it does help. I would always wear my long sleeved rashguard underneath and that helped too. No need to bring your own wetsuit, mask/snorkel. I read others did this but it's one more thing to pack. A few times, I would almost chicken out to snorkel because of the cold, but once I jumped in, it wasn't so bad. It was really worth it. By the end of the day, no matter what you choose to do, you will be exhausted. We would still head to the piano lounge after dinner for drinks and karaoke but we would try to be in bed by 10:30pm. I think we were the exception as most people would go to bed around 9pm.
Staff/Service: We had the best service by everyone on board. You get to know the staff members and they anticipate your needs/requests. Service in all the restaurants and bar were excellent. Our butler was the best! Our daughter celebrated her 16th birthday onboard. We asked if he could do something special for her so as a surprise, when we got back from our morning excursion, her cabin was decorated with balloons galore, confetti, and a delicious cake. She absolutely loved it and it truly made her birthday special. There are around 6-8 Naturalist Guides that live onboard and take you on excursions... these folks were all wonderfully knowledgeable and patient. You could tell their passion for the Galapagos is genuine.
What to pack: If you are like me, you cannot figure out what to pack! I am here to help you, folks. Keep in mind, I sailed in December which is the start of the warm season but it was in no way "hot". If the sun is out (we only had full sun for probably 3 days, other days were cloudy), it can be warm and shorts and t-shirt are good for daytime walks. If it's a cloudy day, light capris/pants would suffice with a t-shirt. Bring a light long sleeve just in case but it really was very temperate at around 78 degrees every day. Rain coat is necessary. We had two days where we encountered a little rain. On boat, have a light jacket for eating lunch or dinner at the the outdoor Grill. Also, it gets cool in the evenings so again, long pants or sweater are appropriate. You do not need to bring anything fancy. Sundresses, skirts for the ladies or even pants/blouse. Men, pants and button down dress shirt. No sport coat needed. My teens wore jeans the two nights we ate at the outdoor Grill but jeans are not allowed in the Restaurant. I brought 3 pairs of shoes (so proud of myself): water shoes (Keens), athletic shoes, and sandals for evening. For water shoes, any kind of water shoe is fine. I read you needed closed toed but that's not really necessary. The only time you wear water shoes is for wet landings, and honestly, you can even go barefoot. My kids would do this several times. My keens were fine (honestly, I'm not a fan as rocks get inside them) but the rest of my family had water-type sneakers bought on Amazon for $19. Hiking shoes are not necessary!! Remember, how I mentioned a 2 mile hike took around 2.5 hours? Yup, hiking shoes not needed for that. Most of the trails are a little rocky but flat. Sometimes, you have to climb a bit to get to the flat trail but hiking shoes would be overkill. My kids wore their Nike sneakers and I had my Merrill running shoes. Pack two bathing suits as one will be wet (ours were always wet). Rashguards come in handy to keep you warm and protect from sun. My husband and I each bought those wide-brimmed dorky hats with the chin strap ($8.99 on Amazon) and I was glad to have it. We wore baseball hats sometimes, but those big hats on more sun exposed days. We didn't even go through one full bottle of sunscreen so I don't know what we did wrong. We didn't get burned either but still, be careful with that sun. Another thing I just remembered, backpacks and water bottles are given to you for you to use throughout the cruise as well as bring home with you. Most everyone used these on their daily excursions.
Photography/Videography: One thing to know is that there is an onboard Photographer/Videographer. Ours was Jorge and he was amazing! He would be out on every excursion, photographing wildlife and also people. At the end of the cruise, you get to see the video he's put together and you would be nuts not to buy it. At $150 it wasn't cheap but there was no way, we were passing it up. It's so professionally done, it's like watching a National Geographic documentary but you are the star. Absolutely, amazing quality and much better than any photos you will take (at least I'm speaking for my own photography skills).
Overall, although this was an incredibly expensive trip for us, it was truly once in a lifetime and so worth every penny. I cannot stop thinking about it since our return home. I'm sure we will be reminiscing for years to come about our amazing Galapagos adventure and dreaming about when we can return to Silverseas. Read Less