They say anticipation is everything, and the Brittons certainly had plenty of time to look forward to their Galapagos cruise, paid for as it was three years ago… Then came Covid, everything was delayed, so when the trip of a lifetime eventually came around in December 2021, it had a lot to live up to.
The Galapagos itself is an extraordinary and breathtaking destination - add to that a large private yacht, designed for purpose and expertly operated by Silversea, and you have a double delight, with hugely well organised expeditions from the ship, backed by a slick, professional and also charming operation on board.
Anyone who has considered a trip to the Galapagos will know that this is an adventure like no other, and to get the most out of it you will probably want to sign up to everything: zodiac rides, deep sea snorkelling, kayaking, hikes and more. Not to say that a more contemplative approach wouldn't be a great experience in itself, but for Keith and Teresa Britton, embracing every single opportunity was part of the fun. Keith told me that it was the small touches that made everything a little bit more special: for example after a busy hour or two snorkelling, to return to the ship, strip off your wetsuit and immediately grab a cosy bath robe from the hot cabinet was an extra touch of luxury he wouldn't have predicted would make all the difference to his trip.
On 'Tagus triathlon day' they were up at 5.30, and power walking up a volcano by 7, so as not to miss out on the amazing views from the top, before returning to the ship for a quick change, and kayaking with the penguins and flightless cormorants. A couple of hours later, snorkelling was under way, and by lunch they had completed their mammoth morning. 'You do need to be fit and able', said Mr Britton in a masterpiece of understatement.
So, what were the fellow guests like? Well, a real mix of ages, from 20 to 80, and of nationalities with a whole range of Europeans and Americans, both North and South. Of course the poor Australians are missing out at present.
The highlight of a great Galapagos cruise is the expert naturalists and Ecuadorian staff, who enhance your experience with their expertise and local knowledge. Coming from similar backgrounds, many had known each other for a lifetime, creating a family atmosphere that draws in the passengers. Common interests and common purpose are great for bonding.
Clearly for those who follow the Britton style of Galapagos cruising, this is going to be something of an early night ship. Early evening features a lecture during cocktail hour, a quick session with the Expedition Manager laying out the plan for the next day, then a leisurely dinner around 7.30 - most people are off to bed by about 10pm, although some stalwarts with a slightly less active disposition will stay up later and aim for more leisurely days - and if that is you, rest assured you will be well looked after on this lovely ship.
Mr Britton had one last thing to tell me - arguably the highlight of the whole trip. On the final day, when they expected to go ashore to see land iguanas, the captain announced in the early morning that he had changed the itinerary during the night, and whilst they would not be visiting the land iguanas after all, if they would like to come up on deck he hoped that what they had laid on instead might make up for it. They poured outside for the amazing spectacle of an erupting Wolf Volcano, the tallest mountain in the Galapagos, one of numerous live volcanoes in the area and key to the islands' long history.