Wednesday, December 14, 2016

CRUISING TO ATACAMA & GALAPAGOS - BLUE FOOTED BOOBIES & BANANAS

From Guayaquil, Ecuador to Valparaiso, Chile – 14 days of cruising onboard Silver Explorer. A perfectly comfortable adventure, learning about the Galapagos and its animals, with good food and high quality expeditions.

Laila Ånestad writes:

Silver Explorer is a different kind of cruise. It is all about adventure, nature and animal life with many excursions and a chance to learn a great deal about our world.  In addition our cruise had a theme of food and photography.



Common sight: Blue-footed Booby


About to spot whales on Silver Explorer

As you can see from the picture above, Silver Explorer is about to change direction. Big whales were spotted and the captain, Mrs Maggi Ettlin, definitely knew how to satisfy the guests! She turned the ship completely, to get closer to the big animals.

To meet our food and banana theme, Executive Chef Marcelino and corporate chef of the Oro Verde Hotels in Ecuador Antonio Perez gave several cooking demonstrations on how to use bananas and chocolate in different dishes.  Bananas and cacao from Ecuador are exported to all over the world. Some bananas are red.  

                   

SUITES


Our Suite – Expedition Suite – was located mid ship on Deck 3. 


It was very spacious – and double the size of the Vista/Veranda Suites. The bathroom with bath and separate shower had good water  pressure, Etro bath-robes and Bvlgari amenities. Plenty of towels which they changed 2-3 times per day. Big walk-in closet, 4-5 sqm. The ship is quite old, so the furniture were in typical brown, purple and orange – but fashion was not the focus on this Expedition trip.

LIFE ONBOARD      

        
What kind of people can you expect on Silver Explorer?

We were in total 107 guests and 110 crew members from more than 25 different nations worldwide.
Most people we spoke to were retired, some of them quite early. At all meals we were asked if we would prefer a table for only two – or if we would like to join some of the other guests. In most cases, we joined others – as mingling is a part of the life on board.

I quickly understood that the guests were frequent luxury travelers – and many of them had already been in Antarctica 2 and 3 times. These were very nice people with a lot of experience and knowledge and nobody was there to “show off” where they had been before and which expensive hotels they had stayed in. Most of the guests were also members of the Venetian Society, a special family of travelers who enjoy seeing the world in luxurious fashion.


There was no swimming pool onboard, but 2 heated jacuzzis - one in each corner at the rear of the ship. They were only used by us and another couple! 


CROSSING BORDERS


Crossing the borders between countries was very efficient – organized by the reception at the ship. As they collected all passports the first day, Silversea was in contact with the Port Authorities. We just had to fill in customs form, which was placed on our bed a couple of days before entering a new country.  We were always reminded to bring our passport on shore excursions, if necessary.

EXCURSIONS


Silversea always provided us with the very best local guides and buses, in addition to the ship`s own professional biologist, geologist, archeologist, expert on birds etc.  VERY interesting.

Going ashore

We had so many excursions to so many different places, both transfers on land and to islands by zodiac boats.  Some days when the trips were a little bit challenging, there were two different options to sign up for. It could be the altitude or the length of the bus trip that could be difficult (the longest one lasted for 18 hours) so for those who did not want to join, there was an alternative.

A few snapshots taken during excursions:
                   



Lauca National Park. Altitude 4500 meters


In the driest place on earth


The Atacama desert in Chile; no rain here since the year 1570!


Visit to Santa Catalina Monastry. A nice place to be!

Valle de Luna, with unique rock formations jutting out of the sand, eroded by wind into incredible shapes. Below – an indigenous ritual.

Ritual to Mother Earth

Below: Peruvian Paso Horse. The characteristic gait was utilized for the purpose of covering long distances over a short period of time without tiring the horse or the rider. Horses arrived in South America during the Spanish Conquest, beginning the arrival of Pizarro in 1531.



Our Silver Explorer journey even included excursions over the Nazca Lines with small aircraft.


Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Determining how they were made has been easier than figuring why they were made. 40 minutes to fly there – then 30 minutes circling over the different figures. No air conditioning on board. Be prepared to get sick as the aircraft turns in a 45 degree angle on both sides, for the best view of the geoglyphs. Not very easy to see all of them.
              
There was very little time for shopping on the different tours – places visited were mostly museums, ruins or National parks. Many of us missed having local products in the ship shop.

Below: Some real ones - Vicunas. Some of the world’s most expensive wool. Could be USD 500-1000 for a scarf!



   

CONCLUSION


The standard and knowledge of the Expedition team is VERY high – and everything is VERY well organized. The food is good and the staff try their very best. They greet everybody with names after one day.

 It was rather sad to leave the ship – because after 2 weeks you start to know different people and their personalities. 

There were many repeaters who like to learn about places that are  challenging to visit by yourself. And  – they get new friends who they can travel with on their next Silver Explorer Cruise!

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