We arrived back today and I thought I would put something together as I know there are folks doing the Galapagos fairly soon. I will put a formal review in on the Member Reviews section, but here is some useful information.
Arrival Quito: We arrived late at night and there is a Silversea hospitality desk at the JW Marriott. We were told to report the next morning between 8 and 10am for a covid test provided by Silversea in the business center at the hotel. Let me just say that for the four of us travelling together and many other guests, the whole covid testing was the most stressful part of the trip. Rules kept changing before we left and although Quito only required a vaccination certificate, we knew the Galapagos required a negative pcr test. Some information said 72 hours and some said 96 hours. We got ours done at CVS on Wednesday before we left on Thursday and were very worried we wouldn’t get the results in time. We did but were disappointed when we were never asked for them! After all that angst! The JW Marriott is a lovely hotel and breakfast was provided by Silversea. We walked around a little and went to the Carolina Park nearby to get some fresh air. Masks are required everywhere in Ecuador – both inside and outside. I was the only one who had trouble with the altitude in our little group of four, but other people I chatted with did have some trouble with it too. I had a headache and some nausea and dizziness. I took Tylenol and it helped some. We did the Quito by night tour and as the weather was good, it was mostly a walking tour. As the hotel is in the new part of Quito and the tour is in the old town it is worth doing. Be sure to check with the tour guide what you can and cannot buy along the way as the Galapagos has strict rules about when can be brought in. Example – there was a street vendor selling cute paintings but they were done on sheep skin so that was a no no. Same for colored pencils as they are deemed to be organice. The next morning we were taken to the airport to fly to the Galapagos. There is a stop in Guayaquil en route and you stay on the plane. On arrival in San Christobel we were met by the Silver Origin guides and taken directly to the pier where we boarded the zodiacs to get to the ship. They take your suitcases directly to the ship and you take your hand luggage with you on the zodiac to the ship. We went directly to lunch and then afterwards to our cabins. We were in a Horizon Balcony superior cabin and our friends were in the Classic Verandah. We loved the openness of the cabin and there is plenty of storage and hanging space. The crew all wore masks, and for the guests they were optional. As there were only 58 of us on board, I think we all felt comfortable enough not wearing them having had vaccinations and covid tests. We did have to wear them if we went into a town where there were other locals. The guests were almost all American.
There is a complimentary backpack and water bottle provided, along with ponchos (which we only discovered in the top of the closet on the second to last day!). You will also be given the snorkel and mask you used all week as a gift. They provide wet suits and flippers and a bag which is hung up on Deck 3 when you come back from snorkeling. As I am not a great swimmer, they gave me a lovely little inflatable vest I could wear and I loved not being able to worry about staying afloat and trying to look at things!
First and foremost, this is an expedition not a cruise. We have never done anything like this before and we embraced it fully. We chose to have breakfast in our room almost every morning as the first expeditions usually left at 7.30. I have every single daily chronicle and would be happy to scan them into my PC here and email them to you or post them in this thread. If you are going on this trip, it will be challenging and exhausting but oh so worth it! The naturalists are passionate and their knowledge extensive. There are lectures during the day and before dinner and I encourage you to go to them. They are only 30 minutes and well worth it. We learned so much. There is also a briefing on the next day’s activities with a slide show showing the terrain so you know exactly what to expect and what to wear. It isn’t that the hikes and nature walks are long, but the terrain is sometimes very challenging. They key is to look carefully where to plant your feet and take small steps. The temperatures were lovely – warmer than we thought it was going to be. Lower 70’s. The water the first day for snorkeling was rough and a bit cold and then we moved closer to shore and it was better. When I first jumped in it took my breath away but then we live in Florida and the water is very warm! Having snorkeled in French Polynesia which is magical, this is a little different. We did see lots of things though and I am glad I participated.
The meals. The cuisine is focused on Ecuadorian specialties. We very much enjoyed all different options. The portions for lunch and dinner are small but the upside to that is one can try several courses and not be stuffed to the gills by the end of the meal. There is ceviche at lunch and dinner and I had it many times. Always refreshing and delicious. There are not a lot of meat options during the cruise like steak, roast beef etc. Pork is plentiful, as is fish. The chef is very creative and the waiters are eager to please and share their country’s special dishes. You need to remember the crew is almost entirely from Ecuador. They are not the seasoned waiters from around the world you may be used to on other Silversea cruises. That being said they are gentle and kind and fun. We did eat one night upstairs on the deck at the Hot Rocks. It was fun and you can opt to cook a couple of main course items on the hot lava rocks. We ate in the dining room the rest of the time. We did go down for breakfast which opens at 6.30 a couple of times but with having to leave the boat so early, I preferred to eat in the room. Sometimes things got mixed up on our orders but upon reflection, I realized that it must be hard to serve almost an entire ship room service breakfast! The dress code is casual but no shorts or jeans in the evenings for dinner. My hubby wore long pants and either golf shirts or dress shirts. I wore slacks and blouses or maxi dresses.
Clothing/things to pack. I went on a website about what to take to the Galapagos and got some great hints. I took two pairs of very light hiking pants. I also took some capris. I had planned to wash them out as I thought there was a self service laundry. If you look at the deck plans it shows a laundry but there is in fact not a self service one. I don’t wear shorts but many did. I took my Brooks running shoes as they afford good traction and support. I did get some water shoes that have laces as my other ones I had had for a long time tended to slip off. My friend wore her Tevas for all the wet landings. The Galapagos is strict about sun tan lotions that are “reef friendly”. I found some Coppertone that was but Silversea had a large tube of suntan lotion in the bathroom that was 50 so that is available. The shampoos and soaps are all eco friendly too. I took a small container of Off but we never seemed to need it. Take a hat or baseball cap. I took a panama hat I found on Amazon and a baseball cap. Some people wore the floppy material hats. I recommend a swimsuit that doesn’t have a skirt if you are going to snorkel. I took two swimsuits – one with a skirt and one regular and I never wore the skirt one as it would have been too hard to put into a wet suit!
Disembarkation. Be prepared – this is a long day! We had to be out of our cabins by 7 and we disembarked at 7.45. As almost all the flights from San Christobel are in the evening, we were taken on a morning tour of a tortoise conservation place, and were given a boxed lunch (ham and cheese sanwhich). From there we went to the airport to fly back to Guayquil (and some went on the same plane to Quito to take their flights). Ours was from Guayaqil at 1.35am today. Silversea took us to a hotel and provided a day room and covid testing on arrival with a certificate that was ready in a couple of hours. They also provided dinner. It was nice to be able to shower and change clothes for the flight. We were exhausted by the time we got on the plane and didn’t sleep so by the time we got home today at lunchtime, we were and still are dog tired.
So all in all, this was a trip of a lifetime and we saw many wonderful birds and animals. Silversea was five star all the way and we loved every single day. Please feel free to contact me if I have left anything out. I have probably forgotten a few things! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org