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Armchair Travelers: Take a look at the most luxurious ship ever to sail the Galapagos. Read the astonishing story of shipbuilding during a Pandemic.

Armchair Travelers: Take a look at the most luxurious ship ever to sail the Galapagos. Read the astonishing story of shipbuilding during a Pandemic.
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Above: Silver Origin as she will look in the Galapagos. Rendering Courtesy Silversea.

Silversea’s Silver Origin Is Launched, Defying All Odds.

Prominently displayed at a recent Webinar hosted by Barbara Muckermann, Chief Marketing Officer of Silversea Cruises, were the words of Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”  The irony of this statement was not lost on the audience of travel professionals. We had all gathered to hear the story of one of the most extraordinary new ship launches in the history of cruising.

The Lounge Terrace aboard Silver Origin. Note the ‘Fire Pit”. Rendering Courtesy Silversea.

Silver Origin will be the single-most luxurious vessel ever to sail the Galapagos.

The ship in question is Silver Origin. It is the first destination-specific design in Silversea history. It was purpose-built to serve Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, the background for Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”.  The ship itself is incomparable. True to Silversea is arguably the world’s most luxurious cruise line. Silver Origin continues that tradition. The ship boasts All-Suite accommodations for a mere 100 passengers. Its guests will be served by the highest crew-to-guest ratio and the highest guest-to-guide ratio in the Galapagos. 8 Zodiacs will ferry its guests on excursions led by expert Ecuadorian national guides.

Silver Origin’s Owners Suite, the largest in the Galapagos, with a spectacular 180-degree view. Rendering Courtesy Silversea.

Upon returning to the ship, where every Suite is assigned a Butler, guests will revel in pure Italian luxury. Sophisticated Interiors, designed by Giacomo Mortola and his firm GEM, feature innovations like bathtubs with ocean views, balcony showers, and lighting that transforms each suite at the touch of a button.  In The Restaurant, Ecuadorian-inspired cuisine will introduce Silver Origin’s guests to the food heritage of the country. A wide range of International specialties will also be served. And to the delight of past passengers, Silversea’s Grill, an open-air restaurant and bar, will feature the line’s signature lava stone cooking with an Ecuadorian twist.

Both The Dining Room and the Grill can accommodate all guests at full capacity. Rendering Courtesy of Silversea.

Silver Origin ushers in a new era of environmental consciousness.

Silver Origin is the most environmentally conscious ship Silversea has ever built.  It is a likely prototype for the ever-expanding audience for Expedition voyages. To preserve the environment in which she sails, Silver Origin was created to keep its carbon footprint well below industry standards. The ship features a “Dynamic Positioning” system. It hovers over the seabed, no anchor ever touching the delicate ecosystem there.  In lieu of any plastic aboard at all, guests will be gifted a metallic reusable water bottle. This will be filled by reverse osmosis where seawater is turned into drinking water. This will eliminate the need for at least 17,000 plastic bottles. But before its first voyage, scheduled for later this year, Silver Origin made a most extraordinary voyage to come into being.

Silver Origin, the most environmentally-friendly ship ever purpose-built for the Galapagos. Rendering Courtesy Silversea.

To build Silver Origin, Silversea selected a Dutch Shipyard 186 kilometers (115 miles) from the sea.

Silver Origin takes shape at De Hoop in Lobith, Netherlands on the Waal River. Photo Courtesy Silversea Cruises.

Shipyard De Hoop of the Netherlands has a 130-year history of building both inland and sea-going vessels.

It is best known in the cruise world as a builder of river cruise ships. Silversea chose it for the building of Silver Origin on the basis of its focus on designing, engineering, and craftsmanship in building custom vessels. But no one at De Hoop or Silversea could have ever imagined the incredible challenges the global pandemic posed to complete delivery of the ship.

Ingenuity, resilience, and determination prevailed despite our darkest hours in recent history.

Four days after the Covid 19 pandemic was proclaimed, the Netherlands went into lockdown.  The location of the shipyard in Lobith was a blessing. The town is the Waal River that forms the border between Northern Germany and the Netherlands. Over 250 people had been assigned to build Silver Origin.  De Hoop offered its craftsmen the option to stop working or to remain on the job. Many had no choice but to return to their home countries and their families before the borders shut down. But 200 skilled workers opted to continue. For safety’s sake, only 100 workers were kept on assignment.  Living in an on-site residential facility, De Hoop went even further than the rigorous protocol instituted by the Dutch Government. Daily temperature checks, enhanced cleaning procedures in the living quarters, the crew mess and throughout the ship itself were added to mandatory social distancing measures.

100 Craftsmen kept on building Silver Origin in the time of the Coronavirus. Photo Courtesy of Silversea.

Everything imaginable changed. And yet De Hoop persisted against all odds.

 No meetings could be held. Fewer people were allowed to work in each area of the ship. Video conferencing replaced face-to-face encounters. Flight cancellations meant contractors could not reach Lobith. The supply chain was cut off. Carpeting, furniture, the onboard Art Collection were all delayed. The complete shutdown of Italy meant the installation of the ship’s windows and its galley was stopped in its tracks. And yet they persevered. The world around them may have ground to a halt but De Hoop did not. Not one employee caught the virus and the team spirit never waned. If anything, it grew stronger.

Silver Origin’s Float Out was a month behind schedule due to low water levels on the Waal. Photo Courtesy of Silversea.

First drought, then a flood before Silver Origin could make her run to the sea.

Low levels on the Waal River delayed the float out of Silver Origin from November to the end of December. Then January and February’s heavy rains led to high water levels that made passage under the 12 bridges spanning the Waal impossible. Finally, on March 26th, a month later than originally planned, Silver Origin and Barge Rossini made the journey to Rotterdam for the long-awaited sea trials now four weeks away.

Silver Origin in Rotterdam at last. Photo Courtesy of Silversea.

Silver Origin passes with high marks in a completely unique way.

Off the coast in the North Sea, from April 27th to 29th, the sea trials gave the Captain his first opportunity to put the ship through its paces. While the De Hoop shipbuilders were able to demonstrate the proper operation of the mechanical systems, one element had to be done remotely. And it was performed by an expert 1800 kilometers (1100 miles) away. The test of the ship’s Dynamic Positioning system, the one that allows the ship to remain within 10 cm. (3.9 inches) from a fixed point on the ocean floor, was tuned and calibrated.  Using a fast internet connection, with the ship’s Captain as his lookout, there was near-instant communication between ship and shore. It was another first for De Hoop that amazingly took no longer than usual. In fact, it may now become an industry standard.

Silver Origin passed her Sea Trials with flying colors and an extraordinary collaboration. Photo Courtesy of Silversea.

The finishing touches are added before the ship sets sail to its final destination, Ecuador and the Galapagos.

            At its heart, Silversea embodies “Italian whispered luxury” favored by Silversea’s founder, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, now its Executive Chairman. Generations of his family have sailed the seas, just as his brainchild, Silversea does today. Its ultra-luxury ships will soon number 10 sailing in supreme comfort and as they explore 900 ports on all 7 continents.  For more information visit www.silversea.com




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