A Review of Silversea’s New Galápagos Vessel “Silver Origin”
AFAR’s Special Cruise Correspondent reviews the recently launched 100-passenger Silver Origin, which takes passengers to paradise in style.
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AApparently I have a thing for sea lions. I learned this on my first trip to the Galapagos ten years ago when I was snorkeling and a young sea lion came to swimming to watch over me, like curious animals do in remote Ecuadorian islands. During my last visit in early March, I encountered a teenage sea lion, emerging from the water right next to my double kayak to show off her catch of the day, an octopus.
I owe the most recent encounter in large part to the fact that I was visiting the Galapagos National Park, which protects the mostly uninhabited islands in the Pacific, on the 100-passenger Origin of money. Since my travel companion doesn’t kayak, the ship’s owner, ultra-luxury line Silversea Cruises, provided me with my own local naturalist guide, and it was just us exploring the mangroves when we stumbled across the lake. ‘sea lion.
On Origin of moneySilversea’s premier destination-focused expedition vessel, for approximately $12,000 per person per week, passengers upgrade to a suite and have the privilege of visiting natural wonders from a luxury vessel.
Experiences like seeing a sea lion eat an octopus, however, are what make the cruise priceless.
What you will see on a Galapagos cruise
Galapagos National Park is one of those unique places where the only way to explore is by water. Come here and you have to overcome any notions you have that you’re not a cruise ship. In fact, many of the passengers I met on Origin of money had never sailed before.
Several well-respected cruise lines sail the Galápagos, including soft adventure ships operated by Lindblad Expeditions and Hurtigruten (in partnership with Metropolitan Touring) and the 20-passenger Relais & Châteaux ships (with French-trained chef) from the Ecuadorian line Ecoventura. This summer, a 16-passenger superyacht operated by Ecuadorian company Aqua Expeditions, known for its riverboats on the Amazon, will make its debut.
Several people I spoke with Origin of money said they chose this slightly larger ship because there was room to spread out and they were worried about getting seasick on a smaller ship. Celebrity Cruises, Silversea’s sister company, owns a 100-passenger luxury ship, celebrity floraat the market too, without butlers.
The park limits vessels to 100 passengers, and visitors can only go ashore, snorkel, or kayak with a park-certified naturalist guide, with the allowed ratio being one guide for every 16 travelers. . By comparing, Origin of money has a ratio of 1:10. The fact that the ship has eight inflatable zodiacs for exploration is also a bonus – you never land ashore, or set off on snorkeling or kayaking adventures, or in search of wildlife along the shore with more than 12 people sharing your boat.
To control crowds and ensure wildlife is not disturbed as much as possible, ship destinations are determined by the park each week, so itineraries are subject to change. When you book a week you go loosely east or west. Cruise lines list itineraries, but they are subject to change.
There are some differences in the routes. The east, in my experience, offers more opportunities to see birds, including the famous blue-footed boobies. My western itinerary on Origin of money brought some very exciting snorkeling – on one outing I swam with sea lions, sea turtles, schools of colorful fish and five white tip reef sharks. On both routes you will see many sea lions, iguanas and giant tortoises in a nature reserve. (In the case of Silversea itineraries, passengers see turtles at Montemar, a private reserve and coffee plantation on Santa Cruz Island.)
Origin of moneyemphasis on locally sourced products and reduced emissions
When sailing in the sensitive and protected areas of Galapagos, cruise lines are increasingly concerned about their impact and are making at least some progress in reducing it. Unfortunately, the Galápagos has yet to see advancements such as vessels that can run entirely on liquefied natural gas or battery power. But with Origin of moneySilversea Cruises was able to reduce fuel consumption by 15% compared to Silver Galapagosthe ship the line had previously on the market, making modifications that include specially developed diesel engines and a new hull configuration.
Another welcome development is the dynamic positioning system which allows Origin of money to fly over delicate sea beds without having to drop anchor and disturb marine life.
Care has been taken to stock the cabins with locally made beauty products, including reef-safe SPF 50 sunscreen. On board, passengers snack on fair trade organic chocolate from the Andes, drink organic coffee grown in the Galápagos, eat pork raised by a local farmer who would sing for his pigs, and eat fish like the Galápagos scorpion fish, caught by local fishermen.
What is life on board the Origin of money
Luxury hotel designer Hirsch Bedner Associates is behind the soothing stone and cream interiors of the Origin of money, a defining element of which are large windows so that passengers never miss views of the sea and the volcanic islands. There’s also comfy, plush furniture inside and out to take in the passing scenery or admire the collection of Ecuadorian-themed art and trinkets curated by a London-based art conservancy.
The attention to detail is impressive. Everyone gathers for a cocktail and daily briefing in a windowed Explorer Lounge set up with conversation seating and video screens throughout the room. The idea is that if a naturalist is giving a presentation on, say, botany, you never have to strain your neck to look at the photos from wherever you are seated.
In the glass-enclosed observation lounge and library, as you sink into a club chair, you may find yourself dozing rather than reading the book on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution you have on your lap – the chairs are also comfortable and inviting. At night, head to the stargazing deck to spot the Southern Cross constellation or swap stories around the ship’s outdoor fire pit.
An exciting innovation can be found in the Basecamp lounge just off the marina on the lower deck. You might feel like Captain Kirk in star trek as you stand in front of a touchscreen podium that controls an entire interactive digital wall where you can zoom in on photos and videos of Galapagos wildlife and facts.
For meals, passengers are dispersed between the main restaurant and an outdoor covered grill so they never feel crowded. An enthusiastic chef speaks poetically of his creations with international and Ecuadorian influences. A passenger favorite is the daily selection of soup-like Ecuadorian ceviche served with plantain chips and popcorn, in flavors including tuna, fish stock and peanut paste. The chef hosts a cooking class with take-out recipes. In addition to fresh fish, vegetarian dishes, such as grilled cabbage on celeriac, are among the must-haves.
The smallest suite is 325 square feet and the largest is the size of an apartment. Two superior suites can be combined for nearly 2,000 square feet of space for families or groups. All have an open-air feature, ranging from a real balcony to a balcony effect that you can create by pressing a button to open the top half of a floor-to-ceiling window.
Silversea includes almost everything in the cruise fare – you can spend more on a massage or a blowout if you want. A personal butler is on hand to answer requests if you want to clean a bottle of Belvedere vodka or clean your hiking boots.
Although the wildlife is what you will remember most from your Galapagos cruise aboard the Origin of money, the fact that the nature explorations are complemented by as much care as you can imagine on board does not detract from the experience. After a day spent watching sea lions, you’ll disembark your Zodiac at the ship’s marina and remove your wetsuit, then head to your suite in a designer bathrobe provided by the waiting crew. Ask your butler to bring you a cappuccino or cocktail while you relax in the ship’s hot tub watching the sun go down. Finally, you will snuggle up in your bed under beautiful European sheets. Not a bad way to end the day.
>> Next: What I learned from the famous fearless creatures of the Galápagos Islands