"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard Silversea Cruises' Silver Galapagos. On behalf of our expedition team, we're delighted to have you with us for the next seven days. We look forward to sharing with you this incredible destination known as a 'world unto itself.’"
My traveling companion, Dorothy Trevino, and I were among the 100 guests onboard attending the mandatory welcome briefing, during which we met highly trained naturalists/expedition teams made up of Ecuadorians and who resided in the Galapagos region. We learned the wildlife in the Galapagos National Park has no fear of humans and we got a stern warning: do not touch the wildlife; do not feed the animals, and no photos could be taken using a flash.
And we learned about all the creatures we hoped to see: Frigatebirds; red-footed, blue-footed and Nazca boobies; fur seals; Galapagos sea lions; land iguanas, marine iguanas; swallow-tailed gulls; Darwin finches; giant tortoises; lava lizards; waved albatross; and the rare Galapagos penguin.
Our team detailed activities planned, including daily nature hikes, boat snorkeling and beach snorkeling, kayaking expeditions, leisure time on several beautiful beaches, as well as sightseeing and free time in two of the ports. Our ship would anchor in open water and we would be transported to and from the island in sturdy rubber boats with a capacity of 12 to 16 adults.
We learned the archipelago is a living museum of evolutionary changes inhabited by free and fearless animals different from any others found elsewhere. Most importantly we learned that in the early 1830s, Charles Darwin — a British geologist and "enthusiastic amateur naturalist" joined the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle as an "unpaid companion" and geologist. This experience and his detailed study of specimens over the next 20 years led to his theory of the Origin of Species — the Theory of Evolution.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared Galapagos a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978; a World Biosphere Reserve in 1985. The archipelago consists of 13 large islands, six minor ones and more than 40 islets that lie about 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador. They appeared from lava eruptions from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and rise as much as 2,600 feet. Lava from more than 2,000 craters has continuously altered the terrain in this region.
Our adventures began promptly at 7 a.m. every day. Life jackets and backpacks on; sunscreen on our faces; dressed in long-sleeved shirts and safari shorts, with wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses; camera and water bottle in hand we were ready for the day!
We would be out until about 11 a.m., then out again from about 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. Over the course of the next six days, we would venture to different islands — each distinguished by wildlife, marine life and spectacular topography. Our treks ranged from easy walks over small rocks and ground cover, to hikes of varying steep inclines and declines covered with large lava rocks where walking sticks were definitely needed. What was so amazing is that these fearless creatures were truly right next to you as you walked. We were eye level with the giant tortoise,
We didn't spend much time aboard the ship except for meals, either in the restaurant, the grill or through room service. The most fun every day was lunch at the grill, where would be entertained with live music.
My companion and I absolutely recommend this itinerary. Silversea offers the seven-day cruises all year. Since the islands are on the equator, the air temperatures don’t vary much. Most of the guests on our itinerary were early 40s to mid 60s, with several multi-generational family groups. A few travelers older than us and everyone made the hikes and excursions. Personally, we would have enjoyed the adventure more if we had booked this itinerary a decade earlier. It was physically challenging.
The price: $7,800 a person "all inclusive"
Trip details: Silversea cruises' “all-inclusive” means just that. The price covers roundtrip economy air fare, transfers, ground transportation to and from the ship, all alcoholic beverages onboard, specialty coffees, onboard gratuities, port charges and entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park. Even a two-day, pre-cruise hotel stay in Quito, Ecuador, was included in our air/sea fare. We stayed at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown Quito.
What to pack: what to wear: On excursions: safari shorts or long pants; tank tops with a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, sun glasses, sunscreen and sturdy hiking shoes. Walking sticks recommended and the ship provides them. The weather was hot in the sun and you can burn quickly. We bought inexpensive "water shoes" and wore those for wet landings and then changed to our hiking shoes once we were on shore.
Neither Dorothy nor I had checked luggage, which was best decision. There are complimentary onboard laundry facilities, as well as onboard dry-cleaning services, so numerous changes of clothing is not needed. In the evenings, we wore nice slacks and a top. No one really dressed up. All day, during the day — it was shorts and/or casual wear.
About the ship: As mentioned previously, the 100-guest Silver Galapagos is small — 6 decks (and the top deck has just four suites, along with the small fitness center, massage room and beauty salon. The ship was last refurbished in 2014. Our stateroom with two twin beds was an acceptable size. We had a private balcony — albeit small — and enjoyed sitting outside.
Booking: We booked through Fox Travel in The Woodlands, Texas. For ground transportation, we again used Perry Corbo, Parkway Transportation, The Woodlands, Texas.