Last updated: 03:31 PM ET, Fri March 25 2016

Adventures Aboard The Silver Galapagos

The ship brings a touch of luxury not often found on Galapagos cruises

Vacation Agent | Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Theresa Norton

Adventures Aboard The Silver Galapagos

At first glance, the Galapagos Islands look like scrubby, desolate bumps of land in the middle of the ocean.  But when you actually set foot on the beach, you immediately see an amazing abundance of wildlife.

You’ll see birds called boobies with red feet and blue beaks, napping sea lions, giant tortoises, iguanas and, if you’re lucky, Galapagos penguins. There are also magnificent frigate birds with chests that puff up like red balloons, sea turtles that pop their heads out of the water to look at passing kayakers, finches, bright red crabs, herons and even owls.

Many of these species are found only here in the Galapagos, located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of Ecuador.  And what’s fascinating and almost disconcerting is that the birds and animals look directly into your eyes and don’t fly or scurry off.  They have no natural predators and are therefore fearless.

Silversea Expeditions, the adventure division of luxury operator Silversea Cruises, operates year-round weekly departures on two Galapagos Islands itineraries aboard the 100-guest Silver Galapagos. While the cruise itself is seven nights, the trips are 10 days long since they are packaged with two nights at the JW Marriott in Quito, Ecuador’s capital.

As a member of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, Silversea complies with strict regulations to protect the environment. This means the onboard experience is different from that enjoyed on Silversea’s traditional luxury fleet.  The Silver Galapagos serves locally sourced food and drinks, is staffed by an Ecuadoran crew, stocks local bath amenities instead of Bulgari, and uses biodegradable cleaning products.

Travelers are fine with these changes as they embrace the opportunity to protect the environment and sample Ecuadoran cuisine and South American wines.  Here’s an overview of a trip on the Silver Galapagos.

Most Standard Accommodations:  The 24 Explorer Suites measure 210 to 250 square feet and feature three portholes on Deck 2 or larger view windows on Decks 3 and 4.  Six of these suites on Deck 3 can accommodate a third person on a convertible sofa.  Suites feature twin/queen-size beds and a sitting area, marbled bathroom, a desk, stocked mini-bar, television with on-demand movies and satellite news, and backpack and stainless steel   refillable water bottles, eliminating the need for disposable plastic bottles.  All suites receive butler service.  Twenty-two larger suites in three categories are equipped with private or shared verandas.

Fanciest Suites: At 361 square feet, the four Silver Suites are the largest on board, although not as spacious as the Silver Suites on the classic luxury fleet.  Situated atop the ship on Deck 6, the suites feature floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading to a veranda.

What’s Included:  Like all Silversea trips, virtually everything is included – meals, soft and alcoholic drinks, guided excursions, gratuities, Wi-Fi, room service and butler service.

Best Entertainment:  Mother Nature provides the best entertainment.  You can’t beat bluefooted boobies gazing into your eyes or sea lions sprawled across your hiking path. On board, entertainment is low-key and includes lectures on the Galapagos and music played by a crewmember on an electronic keyboard.

Favorite Excursion:  The first hike on Darwin Bay was a favorite, simply because it opens your eyes to the varied and fascinating wildlife.  Outings, which are guided by a Galapagos National Park Service-certified expedition team, range from easy walks on the beach to uphill hikes on paths strewn with rocks and boulders.

Travelers quickly learn to don safety vests and waterproof footwear before stepping from the ship onto Zodiacs.  In no time they learn how to slide off into the water or step onto a beach or dock.

What’s for Dinner?  Menus emphasize local seafood – grilled Ecuadoran prawns, mahimahi or octopus – although such cuts of beef as filet mignon or rib eye are often featured as well.  The Restaurant is open from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Theme dinners include a Venetian night with penne alla Genovese, Galapagos lobster and red snapper.  At the al fresco Grill guests can cook their own steaks and seafood on heated volcanic rocks.

Who Goes on This Ship?  Like traditional Silversea cruises, the Galapagos itineraries attract wellheeled, experienced travelers.  They are curious, adventurous and (mostly) able to negotiate the rocky paths, Zodiac rides and early-morning departures.  It’s not unusual to see grandparents bring along teenagers who can join in excursions and conversations with the older crowd.  The Silver Galapagos also attracts a good number of first-timers, people who don’t consider themselves cruisers but find it the best way to explore this bucket-list destination. The passenger age-range starts younger, in the 40s and 50s.

Key Selling Points:  While billed as a luxury expedition ship, make sure clients understand that it is indeed an adventure voyage.  Some things commonly found on Silversea’s classic fleet – certain berries or brands of top-shelf liquors, for example – aren’t allowed into Ecuador.  But the Pratesi sheets, butler service and private verandas are touches of luxury not found on many other adventure vessels.

Visit  or call 888-978-4070.


   Cruise line: Silversea Expeditions, a division of Silversea Cruises

   Ship: Silver Galapagos  

   Size: 100 passengers, 4,770 gross registered tons  

   Entered Service:  1990 as Renaissance III, sold and renamed Galapagos Explorer II in 1998, acquired by    Silversea in 2012,  two-phase renovation in 2013 and 2014. 

  Itinerary:  Seven-day voyages departing Saturdays through the Galapagos Islands, following either a western or  north central route.

  Price:   Starting price of $6,950 includes roundtrip air between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, a two-night pre-cruise stay with a tour in Quito, post-cruise day room in Guayaquil for guests with late flights, transfers and park fees.

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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the March 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


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