Discovering the Galapagos Islands with Silversea

The ex-Renaissance Three seems perfectly suited to her new role as Silversea's adventurous Silver Galapagos. Photo courtesy of SIlversea

Silver Galapagos will have just emerged from a refit when we sail her this October. Photo courtesy of Silversea

Twenty years ago, Silversea began offering luxury cruises with just a single ship. Now, they have a fleet of eight, comprised of five classic luxury cruise ships and three dedicated luxury expedition vessels.

So far, I’ve sailed aboard two of their expedition vessels – once in the British Isles aboard Silver Explorer, and this past May aboard Silver Discoverer in Australia’s remote region known as The Kimberley.

On each voyage, I have been struck by the depth of Silversea’s expedition itineraries and the sheer number of experiences that can be rolled into just a few short days; things like hiking on deserted islands, flying over mountain ranges or enjoying sunset cocktails on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. These are journeys where guests were up before dawn on certain days and turned in well after midnight. They’re busy, active voyages – but when the hard work ashore is done, Silversea’s signature luxury kicks in. There’s nothing like coming back to the ship after a long day of exploration to a cold towel and a fresh cocktail waiting for you, all complimentary.

Now, I’m ready to tackle another Live Voyage Report adventure: The Galapagos Islands aboard Silversea’s second luxury expedition ship, Silver Galapagos!

Silver Galapagos sails both Western (pictured) and Northern Itineraries. Did you know that, due to Galapagos regulations, ships cannot call on the same port twice in 14 days, hence the two itineraries? Illustration courtesy of Silversea.

Silver Galapagos sails both Western (pictured) and Northern Itineraries. Did you know that, due to Galapagos regulations, ships cannot call on the same port twice in 14 days, hence the two itineraries? Illustration courtesy of Silversea.

On October 3, 2014, I’ll travel to Quito, Ecuador for an overnight stay before flying to San Cristobal to embark Silver Galapagos on a special modified version of her Western Darwin Discoveries Itinerary, Voyage 8436. The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

DAYPORT ACTIVITIES
Friday, October 3, 2014Quito, EcuadorArrive Quito; overnight stay at the JW Marriott Quito
Saturday, October 4San Cristobal, EcuadorFly from Quito to San Cristobal; embark Silver Galapagos
Sunday, October 5Bartolome / Playa Espumilla, Santiago
Monday, October 6Punta Vincente Roca, Isabela / Punta Espinoza, Fernandina
Tuesday, October 7Caleta Tagus, Isabela / Bahia Elizabeth, Isabela
Wednesday, October 8Post Office Bay, Floreana / Punta Cormorant or Corona del Diablo or Champion, Florena
Thursday, October 9Galapaguera Cerro Colorado, San Cristobal / Cerro Brujo Hill, San Cristobal
Friday, October 10Los Gemelos, Santa Cruz / Puerto Ayora and Estacion Charles Darwin, Santa Cruz
Saturday, October 11, 2014Baltra / Guayaquil, EcuadorDisembark Silver Galapagos in Baltra; fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador & return journey.

Normally, both Northern and Western Silver Galapagos itineraries operate roundtrip from Baltra, but our special voyage begins in San Cristobal – for good reason. For the month of September, Silver Galapagos will undergo a month-long refurbishment that will better align her with her luxury expedition sisters, Silver Explorer and Silver Discoverer. Areas scheduled to be refitted include all suites, passenger corridors, and the Explorer Lounge.

Silver Galapagos underwent a massive refit prior to entering service with Silversea. Pictured here is the ship's Main Lounge. Photo courtesy of Silversea.

Silver Galapagos was refitted prior to entering service with Silversea last year, and will be refitted again this September to better align her with her luxury expedition fleetmates. Pictured here is the ship’s Main Lounge, prior to her refit. Photo courtesy of Silversea.

Just in time for her first anniversary, Silver Galapagos will feature a new elegant blue-and-beige colour scheme that was developed for the Silver Discoverer. The new colour palette also helps to act as a differentiator from Silversea’s classic fleet of ultra-luxury cruise ships, many of which feature hues of red accented with Art Deco shades of green, brown and beige.

Once the refit is complete, Silver Galapagos will sail for San Cristobal, where her guests will embark on Saturday, October 4.

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Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Silversea’s Silver Galapagos runs from October 3 to October 11, 2014! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

Recapping Our Journey Through Gwaii Haanas with Outer Shores Expeditions

It's been quite an adventure sailing aboard Outer Shores Expeditions' Passing Cloud through Gwaii Haanas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

It’s been quite an adventure sailing aboard Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud through Gwaii Haanas. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I have been back from my trip aboard Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud through Haida Gwaii’s Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Sitefor over a week now. I’ve had friends and family call me up and ask how it was. I’ve had people emailing in. Yet when I explain the trip to them in detail, I feel as though I am still left hanging for words.

On August 11, we arrived in Moresby Camp and officially concluded our journey aboard the Passing Cloud. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

On August 11, we arrived in Moresby Camp and officially concluded our journey aboard the Passing Cloud. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

On Monday, August 11, I disembarked Passing Cloud along with my fellow guests. We enjoyed a morning of scenic cruising up to Moresby Camp, just south of Sandspit. When we’d dropped anchor, each of us took some time to say what the trip had meant to each of us. No one was bawling, but there was a substantial amount emotional tension in the air as each person – guest and crew alike – said there bit. The truth is, it’s impossible to take a cruise that’s this intimate and not form a bond with the destination, the ship, and the people.

Before I knew it, we were in the back of our taxi van – all of us – driving down a dirt logging road that would last for the next 90 minutes until we hit Aliford Bay where our journey began exactly one week prior. Captain Russ took us on one last hike before we did this, walking us to a place where we had seen bears on a previous journey.

We didn’t find bears. We found CAT’s.

Spotting a new - and disturbing - kind of animal near Moresby Camp. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Spotting a new – and disturbing – kind of animal near Moresby Camp. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Two enormous Caterpillar excavators were making their way across a narrow bridge perhaps 500 feet from us, heading up a narrow logging road to clear-cut more trees. A week ago, this sight wouldn’t have phased me at all. After being in the pristine, untouched and protected wilderness of Gwaii Haanas, it was horrifying. If there were birds, we didn’t hear them. If there was wildlife, it cowered deep in the shadows. Only the growl of the powerful diesel engines and the squealing of the metal tacks on each vehicle as they dug into the earth could be heard. It was loud, oppressive, and horrible.

In the van, more shocking sights: entire swaths of forest, much like we’d been exploring all week, entirely knocked down. This forest was not alive; this forest was dead and decaying, waiting to be turned into paper and cardboard coffee cups.

I didn’t realize it when I was on the Passing Cloud; it took driving down that dirt road to see that the week I’d spent with Russ and the Outer Shores crew had changed the entire way I view the world.

This morning, we enjoyed a few hours of scenic cruising before having to step off Passing Cloud for the last time. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This morning, we enjoyed a few hours of scenic cruising before having to step off Passing Cloud for the last time. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In Sandspit, I re-integrated with society with an overnight stay at the Inn at Sandspit. It has a website, but it no longer works, even though the hotel is open. That’s just the quirky way things work here. The town enjoys a large tourist influx of kayakers and backpackers during the summer months, but the local industry here – traditionally, forestry – has been decimated. Therein lies the great balance: we want to protect the environment, but stay employed. In Haida Gwaii, it’s tough to have your cake and eat it, too.

Back to "civilization" in Sandspit. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Back to “civilization” in Sandspit. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I have to say that I loved Sandspit for its friendliness and outright quirks. For example, I joined two of my fellow Passing Cloud guests for dinner at the second-best rated restaurant in all of Sandspit: a Chinese food establishment called –I am not kidding – Dick’s Wok Inn. How was it? The most expensive Chinese food I’ve had in my life. But hey, you’re in a small town on an island – where are you going to go?

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Outer Shores’ Passing Cloudhas sadly come to a close, but you can follow along with our next Live Reports by joining in on twitter @deckchairblog or by using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport. You can learn more about Haida Gwaii and British Columbia by visiting the Hello BC website.

 

Bears, Tanu, and One Last Day onboard Outer Shores Passing Cloud

Exploring Tanu in Gwaii Haanas this afternoon. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Exploring Tanu in Gwaii Haanas this afternoon. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I could hear it from my bunk even before I rolled out of it: the sound of torrents of raindrops pounding on the wooden decking above my head. In a way, it made me want to sleep even more: there’s nothing cozier than rain falling when your warm, inside and not wet.

It's still wet out! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

It’s still wet out! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

With a busy day ahead, I somehow managed to extricate myself from my surprisingly-comfortable berth and dress for breakfast and the morning ahead. With almost a week spent onboard Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud as we sail through Haida Gwaii’s Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site, everyone onboard is well into their adventure expedition shipboard routines.

With a few exceptions, breakfast is served most mornings at 8:00, and I am usually up and on-deck by 7:30. Getting ready for breakfast takes mere minutes: without having to shave, shower (this is done every other day onboard Passing Cloud, usually in the afternoons), or even worry about how my hair looks, I just have to pull on some clothes and head topside.

Tracking our position on our maps. Every guest aboard Passing Cloud received one gratis. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Tracking our position on our maps. Every guest aboard Passing Cloud received one gratis. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Dressing for the kind of rain we experienced this morning, however, is another matter. It’s a true production, with rain coats and rain pants being pulled out of the engine room hatch where they’ve been set to air-dry from the heat emanating from Passing Cloud’s Volvo Penta engine.

Because it was nearly raining sideways this morning, I made the call to not bring my Nikon DSLR with me. It had still not fully dried out from our outings yesterday, and I felt bringing it would have practically destroyed it. It turned out to be a good decision, as the rain barely let up during our morning explorations ashore.

It was also a terrible decision, in that it means I have no photographs of our only bear sighting thus far.

In the early afternoon, the sun actually began to make an appearance. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In the early afternoon, the sun actually began to make an appearance. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We had just come ashore from our anchorage at Echo Point and had anchored the Zodiac as far up the beach as we could when we saw it: a huge Haida Gwaii Black Bear lumbering slowly from right to left in the mist ahead. We were about a mile or so from it, and it didn’t see us. Instead, it just strolled off into the fog and out of sight.

Buoyed by our first bear sighting, we figured out how to relocate our small group further upstream by slowly sailing and paddling our zodiac raft. We were at low tide, and maneuvering the large raft closer to where we thought the bear (and presumably, the salmon) were was no easy feat.

Once we’d successfully reached the clearing, we once again hauled the raft up as far as we could, and set out over the grassy field – and promptly fell down.

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

You see, the grass had covered up a series of knee-deep holes in the ground that were just big enough to allow your foot to slip in to. I saw Russ do a header in front of me, and just as I wondered what was going on, I also went down hard on the grass. In a hole up past my kneecap, I stood there until the rest of the guests had successfully walked past me, but not before a few took tumbles of their own.

I know you’re never supposed to try to outrun or run from a bear if you see one, but it was nice to have increased confirmation that that would be impossible here.

Every guest aboard Passing Cloud is issued with their own coffee/tea mug - conveniently labeled, of course. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Every guest aboard Passing Cloud is issued with their own coffee/tea mug – conveniently labeled, of course. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Outer Shores’ Passing Cloudcontinues tomorrow! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport. You can learn more about Haida Gwaii and British Columbia by visiting the Hello BC website.

 

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