31 July 2014

Plans Set for Second Phase of Silver Galapagos Refurbishment

This September, Silversea Expeditions' all-suite Silver Galapagos will undergo a second phase of refurbishment during a month-long dry dock in Panama.

The renovations will entail a complete refurbishment of all suites, corridors and the Explorer Lounge. An elegant blue and beige colour palette will create an interior décor echoing that of the recently refurbished Silver Discoverer.

These further enhancements will achieve a consistency of interior design within the expedition fleet. The 100-guest Silver Galapagos underwent an initial partial refurbishment last year, highlighted by the installation of new in-suite bathrooms featuring rich marble detailing, plus a new fitness centre, massage room, beauty salon, outdoor Jacuzzi, and Silversea's signature outdoor dining venue, The Grill.

Silver Galapagos sails Saturday to Saturday on seven-day voyages through the Galápagos Islands, following either a western or north central route. These expedition cruises offer adventurous travellers the life-enriching chance to discover a wild, pristine paradise that has long been regarded as a natural laboratory of evolution.


Red-footed booby adult and chick spotted 20 July on Genovesa Island (Read more in the
Voyage Journal.)


Sea lion swimming in the surrounding waters of Champion Islet, near Floreana Island, 16 July.
(Read more in the Voyage Journal.)

On complimentary expeditions ashore guided by an experienced expedition team (certified by the Galápagos National Park Service), Silversea's guests may experience up-close encounters with an abundance of wildlife that includes sun-basking land iguanas, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, colourful marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins and Darwin's famous finches.


Nature encounter at the Cerro Colorado tortoise sanctuary on San Cristóbal Island, 3 July.
(Details in the Voyage Journal.)

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09 July 2014

Close Encounters with Faraway Wonders


Brown bear on Zavyalov Island.

Imagine a realm of geothermal marvels and biologically rich seas where rare and remarkable animals make their home. That is the Russian Far East. Encompassing such extremely remote regions as Kamchatka, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Kuril Islands, and the Bering Sea, the Russian Far East may not be on every traveller's radar -- but it should be.

This isolated corner of the globe may be among the world's least explored, but an expedition cruise offers travellers the chance to conveniently experience its treasures first-hand, enjoying up-close encounters with its amazing landscapes, cultures, and wildlife.

It's currently summertime in the region, and the best time of year to plan a visit -- as illustrated in these photographs taken during Silver Discoverer's inaugural voyage to the Russian Far East last month.


Yakutsk fox on Talan Island


Spotted seal


Grey whale


Steller's sea eagle


Tufted puffin


Okhotsk village girl picking flowers.

Jason Leppert, the publisher of Popular Cruising, is currently sailing through the Russian Far East and posting live reports on his 18-day expedition. Have a look at this exciting video coverage of his first few days -- and you'll discover even more reasons why this remote corner of the world should be on every avid traveller's bucket list.

 

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22 April 2014

A First for Silversea and Bahía Solano


Juan Carlos Restrepo (inset) and the pristine beach of Playa Blanca in the Ensenada
de Utría National Park.

We're pleased to share this special report from guest blogger Juan Carlos Restrepo, the Expedition Leader aboard Silver Explorer. A native of Colombia, he shares his thoughts on Silver Explorer's inaugural visit earlier this month to Ensenada de Utría National Park and Bahía Solano, located on the Pacific coast of Colombia in the department of Chocó.

Since I was a kid I have been fascinated by the Pacific coast of Colombia. I used to travel there with my family and then independently when I became older. Perhaps it is the remoteness, the rugged beauty, and its 'mega-diverse' character that make the Chocó region so special. It is one of the most isolated and difficult-to-get-to places I can think of. There are no roads in or out.

When the idea of offering an expedition cruise to this area came up more than two years ago, I enthusiastically became part of the project. I did the scouting then and have since worked with local tour operators to finalise this dream.


A Silver Explorer Zodiac takes guests ashore. (Photo courtesy of Proexport Colombia.)

Ensenada de Utría National Park is managed by a co-operative of local inhabitants, a pilot project in Colombia. They were our guides at Playa Blanca, where guests snorkeled, swam, kayaked and enjoyed the beach, and again, in the afternoon, when they escorted us along a brand new mangrove forest boardwalk. This one-kilometre raised walkway gave us an opportunity to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of this ecologically important tidal forest without getting our feet wet.


Mangrove forest boardwalk.

The nature walk was followed by a cultural performance by the Cantadoras de Alabados, a ladies’ singing group. Their music and dances form part of a long-lived cultural tradition of the Afro-Pacific peoples of Colombia derived from ancestral African roots. The performances celebrate important lifetime events such as births and deaths. Local snacks and drinks accompanied the performance; a wonderful end to our day in Ensenada de Utría.


Cantadoras de Alabados. (Photo courtesy of Proexport Colombia.)

The next morning we called at Bahía Solano, a town of less than 10,000. The community had been anticipating and preparing for our arrival for months. It was a big event for the town, as well as us. It reminded me of Macondo, Gabriel García Marquez’s magical town where his book 100 Years of Solitude took place. We visited Bahía Solano’s school first, where we were greeted by hundreds of children singing and dancing. Local authorities and the media were also there. We presented the school principal with donations from our guests—mostly great quantities of school supplies and sports equipment. After that, we visited the church, the library, the fish market and finally a local handicraft market and fair especially arranged for our visit, where pretty much everyone in town showed up to meet us. We were treated to more Afro-Pacific singing and dancing and I was delighted to see the reactions of our guests at such a lovely display of warmth and kindness by my fellow Colombians. I have never been as proud of my motherland and my people as I was that day.


Bahía Solano extends a warm welcome to Silversea guests.


Guests go exploring. (Photo courtesy of Proexport Colombia.)


A picturesque church in Bahía Solano. (Photo courtesy of Proexport Colombia)

We made virtually every news broadcast and newspaper in the country. The first call of the Silver Explorer was a massive event for these communities in a region that needs and deserves the world’s attention and the benefits of ship-borne tourism.

We were the first cruise ship to ever visit Ensenada de Utría National Park, a park that many native Colombians couldn’t locate—it is that far off the beaten path. We were also first at Bahía Solano, a town which had never seen a cruise ship anchored off its shores before.

 

Silversea photography by Aliscia Young.

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02 April 2014

Silver Discoverer Embarks on Inaugural Voyage

Today Silver Discoverer welcomes her first guests, exactly 20 years to the day since Silversea launched its first ultra-luxury cruise ship.

Setting sail at 4:30 p.m. on her inaugural voyage from the port city of Broome, in northern Western Australia, the 120-guest, all-suite expedition ship will spend 10 days exploring the Kimberley Coast's jaw-dropping landscapes and ancient human history. A vast, rugged region, Kimberley is home to towering waterfalls, wildlife-rich wetlands, and fascinating Aboriginal rock art painted over 20,000 years ago. This remarkable maiden journey concludes in Darwin, following a visit to Indonesia's Leti Island.


King George Falls on north Kimberley Coast. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Western Australia.)

Silver Discoverer's inaugural season will encompass many of the Pacific Ocean's most isolated corners. In addition to several Kimberley Coast voyages, there will be visits to wild and rarely travelled lands in Southeast Asia, Micronesia, Melanesia, East Asia, the Russian Far East, New Zealand, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. And in 2015, Polynesia will join the schedule, plus a host of other exciting new Pacific destinations, such as the remote Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, which includes Nikumaroro, the island some believe to be the final resting place of famed aviator Amelia Earhart.


Palau, Micronesia

These exhilarating expedition cruises offer adventure travellers rare opportunities to discover unique cultures, such as the Māori people of New Zealand, with their rich history and timeless traditions; spot exotic wildlife in their natural habitat, such as the endangered orangutans, Asian elephants, and Sumatran rhinos of Borneo; or witness spectacular natural landscapes, including the massive volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula and the Philippines' Puerto Princesa Underground River, one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.


Orangutan mother and baby.


Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan, Philippines.

These are the kinds of places that most travellers can only dream about. Aboard Silver Discoverer, not only will our guests visit these places, but they will be enriched by an onboard programme of destination lectures, photo presentations and daily recaps. And, the exploratory Zodiac excursions and interactive walks ashore, led by experts in their field -- marine biologists, ornithologists, geologists, botanists, historians, and anthropologists, are complimentary.

Over the past 20 years, our company has developed a reputation for exploring exotic locales. It seems only fitting that this latest addition to our fleet will be sailing to what are arguably some of the world's most remote, most pristine, and least explored regions.

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26 March 2014

A Gala Christening for Silver Discoverer


Pictured from left are: Steve Odell, President, Europe & Asia Pacific, Silver Discoverer
Captain Luksa Plecas, Godmother Elda Turco Bulgherini & Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio.

Break open the champagne! Our third expedition ship, Silver Discoverer, officially joined the Silversea Expeditions fleet during a christening ceremony held today at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore.


Lion dance performance.


Bhangra folk dancers.

A traditional Chinese lion dance performance and bhangra folk dancers provided colourful local entertainment for the quayside event. Silversea's senior executive team and company chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio were on hand to welcome a guest list that included local dignitaries and members of the trade and media from around the world.

Following a blessing, honorary godmother Elda Turco Bulgherini, professor of navigation law at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, officially welcomed Silver Discoverer to the Silversea Expeditions fleet by cutting a ceremonial ribbon.


Silver Discoverer is showered with celebratory champagne.

Fresh from a major refurbishment, Silver Discoverer has been updated with elegant carpets, upholstery, and photography.


New decorative photography inspires a sense of adventure throughout the ship.

Up to 120 guests are accommodated in 62 all ocean-view suites, each featuring an in-suite bar set-up, refrigerator, and a totally renovated bathroom, enhanced with rich marble detailing. Besides a new walk-in rainforest shower, each bathroom features a new vanity, shelving, mirrors, lighting fixtures, and wood flooring. Plus, all suites have been redecorated and outfitted with reupholstered furniture, new flat screen TVs, and new mattresses topped with luxurious Pratesi bed linens. Select suites benefit from a small private balcony.


Medallion Suite

Public areas include a restaurant, main lounge (and lecture room), The Discoverer Lounge (with seating for breakfast and lunch), The Grill (for outdoor dining), an outside bar, and a small swimming pool. An all-new sun deck area has also been added, along with a fitness, beauty and massage room. All public areas have been refitted with either new or reupholstered furniture to provide Silversea's guests an expedition cruising experience in the comfortable and intimate Silversea atmosphere.


The Restaurant


Discoverer Lounge


Main Lounge


Main Lounge


Fitness Centre

With expedition cruise itineraries encompassing some of the most fascinating and remote regions of the Pacific, Silver Discoverer will take our guests to places where few people have ever set foot. She embarks on her maiden voyage from Broome to Darwin on 2 April, exploring Australia's spectacular Kimberley Coast.

 

Photos courtesy of Ralph Grizzle, The Avid Cruiser.

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12 March 2014

The Incredible Zodiac: Key to Authentic Expeditions

Consider an expedition cruise without the Zodiac. In Antarctica, for example, exploration ashore would be impossible. “Without them [the Zodiacs], we could only do a scenic cruise and go back to Ushuaia [in South America] without ever landing,” said Expedition Team Leader Kara Weller during a recent voyage in Antarctica on Silver Explorer.

Silver Explorer often deploys its Zodiac crafts to ferry guests ashore and to take them on scenic cruises through ice-strewn channels, past towering icebergs and along the rugged faces of glaciers, with their turquoise-hued crevices.

Elsewhere, during landings, the flat-bottomed boats push through the surf right up on to the shore.

In other regions, Zodiacs might also be used to journey up a river to meet a remote village community.

Or for exploring deep inside a glistening cave.

The indispensable Zodiac allows for up-close encounters with wildlife, exotic cultures, and amazing scenery. Those who cruise the Earth's most secluded regions on ships without these remarkable inflatable watercraft are both literally — and figuratively — missing the boat.

 

Top photo credit: Ralph Grizzle

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08 February 2014

Should you pack a bikini for Antarctica?


Deception Island, Antarctica

If you're heading to Antarctica and you're the kind of intrepid traveller who enjoys entertaining friends and family with amazing travel tales, then you might actually consider packing swimwear along with your thermal underwear. Unbeknownst to all but the savviest of travellers -- and maybe a few volcanologists -- there are very warm waters to be found in Antarctica, but you have to know where to look.

In the South Shetland archipelago just off the Antarctic Peninsula sits what is arguably the most incredible island on Earth. It is an active volcano known as Deception Island, and while most of it lies submerged under water, its collapsed caldera forms a horseshoe-shaped harbour called Whaler's Bay, which has been providing sheltered anchorage for mariners for centuries.

Silver Explorer's expedition team has recorded temperatures of around 53 degrees Celsius (127° F) below the surface of the beach. So if you like super-steamy beaches, the black lava sands of Deception Island will not disappoint.

And for the hardiest of souls, a plunge directly into the freezing waters of Antarctica is something to consider. On a recent voyage, Silver Explorer's staff secured a Zodiac at the gangway to function as a floating platform for plungers. Wearing nothing more than swimsuits, one at a time, the plungers jumped into the sea, which registered a teeth-chattering -1 degree Celsius (30° F), with air temperatures hovering at 4 degrees Celsius (24° F).

Nearly half of the more than 100 guests on Silver Explorer donned swimsuits and braved the cold air to plunge into the Antarctic waters. They received a certificate -- along with bragging rights -- for their baptism in the frigid water. Even a large complement of the crew plunged. Silver Explorer’s chef dove in -- and swam, taking his time getting out of the water as guests applauded.

“Horrifyingly cold!” said one plunger, as he emerged from the sea and wrapped himself in a towel. “Like a thousand tiny bee stings,” said another. One Asian couple could say nothing at all -- in English or in their native language -- they only giggled at one another while shivering and cinching their bathrobes.

Far from a nightmare, the Polar Plunge is one of the highlights on a voyage to Antarctica. It is a symbolic badge of honor, something few can claim having done in a region where only around 23,000 visitors step ashore annually.

Dare you do the Polar Plunge? Silver Explorer's future Antarctica expedition cruises offer ample opportunities for you to find out.

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16 December 2013

Antarctica: When Words Fail


Silver Explorer in Antarctica

World traveller Ralph Grizzle, publisher of Avid Cruiser, is in Antarctica this week, sailing on an expedition cruise aboard Silver Explorer.

And he has just discovered something we've long known about Antarctica: words fall short in trying to describe this amazing corner of the world. Here's how Mr Grizzle describes his experience on Day 3 of his Live Voyage Report:

"I have been writing for many years. I studied journalism, won a few awards for writing, have written a few books even. In short, I’ve committed myself to words and to telling stories. My mission has been to inform and inspire travelers, and yet, I am unable to relate in words, photos or video what we saw today."

To follow along on this remarkable journey, read Mr Grizzle's daily postings at Live Voyage Reports.

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21 November 2013

Silver Explorer landing in South Georgia

Silver Explorer is on her first Antarctic expedition of the 2013/2014 season and made her first landing in South Georgia this morning.

Those aboard were delighted to see penguins and seals while exploring Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.

 


Penguins in Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.


Conrad Combrink, Director of Expedition Planning & Strategic Development, in front of a sea of penguins.


Seal amongst penguins at Salisbury Plain.


Posing for a photo opp at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.


Our very own 'March of the Penguins' at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.


Penguin reflection.

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07 November 2013

Silversea Expeditions - Scouting Southeast Asia - Yogyakarta

By Daniil Elterman, Assistant Expedition Leader

Sitting at the airport of Surabaya and waiting for my flight to Yogyakarta, I scan through the photos of my last few days in East Java and still can not believe that only yesterday and the day before I stood on the edges of smoking craters of some of the most famous volcanoes in Indonesia – Ijen and Bromo. Looking down into the smoking pits, trying to spot a bottom through raising sulfur smoke….

Two days ago, after inspecting harbor of Banyuwangi – our access point to Ijen Volcano - my guide Kadek and I jumped into our Land Rover and set off for a ways up, towards the start of the trail that eventually will take us all the way to the crater that hosts the world’s largest acidic crater lake, known as Kawah Ijen.

The trail itself is not that long – only 3 kilometers - but it was a strenuous hike almost every step of the way, sloping at 20 and sometimes 40 degree angles and covered with loose volcanic sand that makes it rather slippery. The trail is winding it’s way up, hugging the slope like some endless gray snake… We forced our way up, and now and then (more and more often as we go) we stopped to catch our breath, scrambling for our cameras, so that it looked like we just stopped to take yet another snap of the breathtaking scenery around. Luckily, the photo opportunities are aplenty, as the view and angles change as the trail makes another bend.

 

We encountered local men rushing down with heavy loads of sulfur that they just excavated from the crater and then were carrying it back to the base where a local company buys the material. I am afraid to think of how many trips up und down the slope these men do every day and,about the slippery, treacherous trails they repeatedly have to take…

 

 

Ijen Volcano

 

Local man carrying sulfur to sell.

 

Stopping for a photo opp during the long hike.

But nothing could prepare me for the magnificence of the view that suddenly unfolded as I turned the last bend towards the crater. Only one turn of the trail, and I am on a different planet – a lifeless, steaming land of all shades of grey, brown, yellow, with deep cracks running on all sides or the crater threatening to swallow anyone who would dare to approach too close…

The wicked, otherworldly beauty has a hypnotic power that draws you closer and closer to the edge, inviting to take a glimpse into the poisonous green eye of the steaming lake deep below. It appears and disappears periodically as the density of the smoke constantly changes.

 

IT BLINKS…


Kawah Ijen Crater Lake

 

Kawah Ijen Crater Lake

 

Walking along the edge.

MOUNT BROMO

One of my worries was that hiking two volcanoes two days in a row will be “too much of the same,” but In fact, the experience couldn’t be any more different.

Mount Bromo is certainly not the highest volcano in Indonesia, but no other volcano will match the scenery of it’s setting and the magnificence of the surrounding views.

We had to wake up at 03:00 AM to make sure that we caught the sunrise over the volcano – a sight that attracts thousands of “photo-pilgrims” to this spot year round.  The rush for the best view spots in such an early hour was something totally unexpected – a huge mixed crowd of people on foot and motorbikes were flowing through the narrow street between the souvenir and breakfast stalls. After having slept only a few hours, desperately trying not to lose my guide and not to get killed by one of “sepeda motor” (local moped), I thought to myself – It better be worth it…

This thought persisted as I stood in the darkness, shivering from pre-dawn chill that you kind of don’t expect in a tropical region, and staring into the black, with only a glimpse of a white smoke there to entertain the eye. Until…

 

As the first sunrays arrived to scout the worthiness of this world, craters appeared one by one, and suddenly all you hear around is only “click, click, click”… My frozen fingers reach for the camera, and my first (out of a thousand and one) capture is taken.


Mount Bromo

 

Mount Bromo

 

Mount Bromo

The second part of Bromo experience was driving down into the valley for a hike to the crater. They call the valley “Sand Sea”, as from above it looks like flat water surface, with “islands” of craters rising up from it.


Mount Bromo

Down below we discovered that Sand Sea is an absolutely flat plateau, carpeted with volcanic sand and savanna-like grasses. And when I saw horse riders galloping through the grasses, it mentally transferred me to Mongolia, but only for a moment, as we had just arrived to the parking spot.

Immediately we were surrounded by local people offering us a horse ride towards the crater. For those who are not so fit, it is definitely an option, as it is a one kilometer walk upon volcanic sand, with increasing elevation as you go further. Sitting on the horse surrounded by the volcanic craters makes a great holiday photo.

 

But horses only can go so far – eventually you reach the steps that lead up, all the way to the ridge of the crater. Everyone can choose their own pace to climb, though during rush hour you may get a bit of an encouragement from the back.


Ride your way up while enjoying the scenery.

 

Or walk through the sands if you wish.

 

But you cannot escape the steps - all 240 of them. (I counted!)

And once on top – bask in the smell of sulfur, try to spot the bottom of the crater, pose for photos, or climb even higher along the ridge to become a photo opportunity for the others.


Tourist photographing the crater at Mount Bromo.

 

Looking out into the crater at Mount Bromo.

 

Daniil Elterman, Assistant Expedition Leader

 

Two days – two smoking volcanoes… As you are reading this blog, someone in Silversea Expeditions is already raking their brain, figuring out how to bring YOU there in a near future. And the good thing is – that EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

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