Cruise of a Lifetime
This evening, I’m beginning my long journey to an utterly fascinating part of the world: The Galapagos Islands and Silversea’s Silver Galapagos, which I will embark in San Cristobal, Ecuador on Saturday. She’s fresh from a month-long drydock, and I can’t wait to experience both the ship and the destination for the very first time.
Silver Galapagos is an important ship in Silversea’s history. When she entered service last September, she became the line’s second luxury expedition cruise ship, after the highly-successful Silver Explorer. Just months later, Silversea announced their third luxury expedition ship – Silver Discoverer. Between the three, Silversea is able to offer luxury expeditions to nearly every corner of the globe to complement their existing “classic” fleet: Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper and the elegant Silver Spirit.
Before we even set foot aboard the Silver Galapagos, it’s worth mentioning a few of the challenges that face both guests – and Silversea – in the Galapagos Islands.
To start with, getting to the Galapagos – even from North America – can be a bit challenging. My own routing will take me from Vancouver to Seattle, Miami, and finally, Quito, Ecuador, where I will overnight at the J.W. Marriott Quito.
As with any destination, a successful trip is all about knowing what to expect – so here’s what you can expect of Quito: in February of last year, the new Mariscal Sucre Airport opened about 32 kilometres (25 miles) outside of the heart of Quito. Confusingly, it replaced the old airport – also named Mariscal Sucre – which was located smack in the center of the city.
Conversely, many websites and older guide books still state that the airport is a convenient fifteen minutes away from practically everywhere. Guess what? It isn’t. It’s a mammoth two-hour drive from the city, and local officials didn’t see fit to build any airport hotels.
The stay in Quito is necessary for most guests as an “operational overnight”, which roughly means there’s no way you could fly directly to Baltra or San Cristobal in a single day. The next morning, around eight, my flight leaves Quito Mariscal Sucre for San Cristobal and the Silver Galapagos, with an intermediary stop in Guayaquil. So! If my LAN Ecuador flight takes off at eight, and you have to be there two hours early – that’s six in the morning – and it takes two hours to get there – that’s four in the morning – I assume my wakeup call will be somewhere in the neighbourhood of three in the morning. But, I am expecting it – so it’s not a surprise.
It will also be well worth it to visit the Galapagos Islands and Silver Galapagos.
One of the most heavily protected and regulated regions in the entire world, setting up shop in the Galapagos isn’t as simple as purchasing a ship and refitting her to your exacting standards. Everything is regulated almost to the point of being farcical. Ships can carry no more than 100 guests, and they cannot call on the same port twice in 14 days; hence the Western Route and the North Central Route itineraries.
If you’ve peeked at Silversea’s beautiful Silver Galapagos b