“It’s not really a place you can experience from a hotel,” says Jason Liberty, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group. We are in the Galapagos Islands, the highly protected volcanic archipelago some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador where 26-year-old Charles Darwin found inspiration for his theories of evolution. And, instead of a hotel, Liberty and I are sitting on Silversea Cruises’ new luxury expedition ship, Origin of moneymoments before he leads the ship’s naming ceremony.
Royal Caribbean bought Silvesea in 2018 and, after an initial investment in the product (which Liberty says doubled Silversea’s reputation for luxury and service), its first major project was Silver origin. Launched in late February, she is the brand’s first vessel to be purpose-built for a specific location, meaning that for her expected lifespan of around 40 years, Origin of money will only bring buckets to these remote islands for wildlife adventures, so every aspect of the vessel has taken into account the destination’s size, personnel and stringent environmental requirements.
Silversea CEO Roberto Martinoli is particularly proud of Silver Origin’s dynamic positioning, which allows the vessel, with engines off, to maintain its orientation and angle so as not to disturb the delicate marine life below. Even the lighting on board is done, he says, so as not to disturb wildlife at night. Not that you need light at all when, as we did, you approach within a few hundred meters of the erupting Wolf Volcano, with bright red, almost fluorescent magma illuminating the equatorial sky around midnight and both The Southern Cross and the Northern Star watch your journey.
With a maximum capacity of 101 passengers (making it one of the largest in the Galapagos) and higher zodiac-to-guest and guide-to-guest ratios than most other vessels in the region, the vessel is able to Comfortably help passengers explore land and sea sights along the route. Landings are conducted according to National Park Service rules and, given the larger size of the vessel, almost always respect the maximum human capacity of the sites, which means that the team Origin of money will often have complete privacy on an excursion. You won’t notice other expeditions exist when swimming with sea lions and whitetip reef sharks off Guy Fawkes or walking with serene green sea turtles off San Vincente Roca, spotting the famous blue-footed booby en masse.
Afterwards, you’ll be welcomed aboard the ship by friendly staff who will offer you cold towels, Ecuadorian hot chocolate, and iced teas. And during and between walks among the groves of Palo Santo on Isabela Island and visits to Dunes-scape of Bartolomé Island, guests will be under the tutelage on board of Silversea Expedition Guides, many of whom are Galapagos natives and have both a scholarly naturalist style ability to answer any arcane questions imaginable and a personal way of relating the anecdotal history of the islands and their experience of them.
Life on board, swaddled in what Barbara Muckermann, CCO of Silversea, calls “whispered luxury,” also helps set Origin apart. From the elegant marina/embarkation point at the rear of the ship, one enters a kind of floating clubhouse adorned with prints, portraits and maps of the Royal Geographical Society (which sent the Darwin’s Beagle expedition on a mission to map the region in 1831) and an art collection overseen by Peter Millard & Partners. The low-slung club furniture here, surrounded by glass curio cabinets, has a country-style feel, much like that one would find in a luxury safari tent (although here in shades of taupe rather than savannah beige).
Up two floors, after massive prints by Silversea partner photographer Steve McCurry, the Origin’The s version of a lounge (where the team receives briefings, lectures and aperitifs) could be mistaken for the lobby of an Armani hotel in Milan – all blouse curtains and vignettes of white leather seats with TVs flat screen. The 51 suites, which range from slightly larger than my Manhattan apartment to over 1,200 sprawling square feet, also feel more like floating Milanese hotel rooms than shipping barracks, with wooden floors clear, bronze-edged marble accents and Saarinen-style swoopy styling. furniture. Each also comes with butler service, which inspired me to do the full Poirot, have my suitcase full of crumpled suits and shirts pressed for dinner, request an in-room Negroni-making station, and clarify which of the local organic chocolate bars I would be happy to see replenished each day.
As with the ship’s design, Executive Chef Carlo Bermudez’s menu focuses on a sense of place and offers an almost entirely Ecuadorian menu with produce largely sourced from the islands themselves (supplemented with meat, produce dairy products and some continental products). “If it grows here, we buy it here,” says Martinoli. Chef Bermudez, who roams the world’s star restaurants in his spare time, is particularly fond of the lightly cooked protein Ecuadorian ceviches served in sauces a little richer than the Peruvian kind – think avocado or peanut-based – and he is intensely proud of the products they have been able to purchase locally. For passengers, tasty cuisine is yet another way Origin of money keeps you grounded in the Galapagos, while providing you with cozy comfort.
Silver Origin offers alternating one-week itineraries in the Galapagos; fares for a seven-day trip start at around $11,500 per person.