Land-based excursions might involve visiting museums, historical sites or scenic areas like waterfalls. Each itinerary has a mix of active and educational options; some of the active options, like hikes, are available in various difficulties and lengths. Even better, all of these activities are included in your fare. They're well chosen, and the biggest complaint is not having enough time to do each activity. Be warned that because of the wealth of options and Lindblad's desire to give passengers an in-depth exploration of a destination, daytime schedules are jam-packed with not much downtime. If you want a rest, you might have to skip an activity -- something many Lindblad travelers are loathe to do. That is, after all, what you're paying for.
For itineraries in Alaska and Baja Mexico, wildlife viewing is key. Anything from a school of rays to a breaching whale can be seen from the decks of the small ship, and announcements will be made to point these out (if you don't hear the yells from your fellow passengers first).
Snorkeling and other activities that bring animals up close are part of the reason people book cruises with the line. Lindblad's primary focus is on conservation, so all activities follow careful guidelines so as not to disturb the sea lions, whale sharks or other mammals and marine life you'll encounter.
To aid your sightseeing, Sea Bird has several sets of binoculars for passengers to borrow, as well as high-tech gadgets like underwater cameras and hydrophones to eavesdrop on marine mammals. They even send divers out to come back with photos and video.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Entertainment onboard is limited to all the outdoor activities and excursions, as well as talking to other passengers about the activities and excursions. If you're taking some time to yourself, borrow a book from the library or play a round of Monopoly. That's about as much diversion as you'll find.
At night, the evening is filled with drinks, snacks, dinner and a few short lectures. Don't expect much in the way of song and dance. Playing cards over a cocktail will keep you busy into the evening if you can't get to sleep.
Scheduled onboard entertainment is limited to presentations by the expedition staff on the history, geology and wildlife of the cruise region. The photography specialist will give talks on taking better photos, and the hotel director might chime in with a briefing on local food. Flat-screen TVs and video microscopes add interesting visuals to the presentations. The expedition staff are passionate about their subjects and want their audience to learn and have fun. From tongue-in-cheek poems regaling the coot bird to historical lectures peppered with trip-specific insider jokes and gentle ribbing between staff members, the expedition team manages to impart tons of information without boring anyone.
National Geographic Sea Bird Bars and Lounges
The hub of the ship is the lounge on Deck 3. Passengers gather there to socialize, listen to lectures and presentations, and even muster, as it's the only indoor gathering spot on the ship (other than the dining room). Groups cluster around wooden tables with swiveling chairs, and bench seating lines both sides of the windowed space. Watch out, as the ship's floor is slanted, so many of the chairs and tables are at an angle.
The lounge is also home to the ship's only bar, which serves complimentary specialty coffees and alcoholic beverages for an extra fee. Mixed drinks range in price from $6 to $8; beers are $3 or $3.50, and wine $5.50 to $7.50 a glass. Beer and wine are complimentary during the happy hour and recap and at dinner. The bar is generally open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. (It might be open longer hours on cruising days.) A self-service area features free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, apple cider, soda and fruit. When a bartender is not on duty, beers can be taken on an honor system from the fridge that houses the cream and milk for hot beverages.
National Geographic Sea Bird Outside Recreation
The expedition staff run the daytime programming on and off the ship. Depending on the itinerary, activities might focus on exploring remote landing sites, hiking, kayaking, standup paddleboarding and dib trips to see wildlife.
A sun deck on Deck 3 offers a few loungers, table and chairs. This is also where morning stretch is located, and yoga mats and exercise equipment like free weights are always available for passengers use.
There's a bin with blankets for spending some time on deck in brisk weather.
National Geographic Sea Bird Services
On a three-deck ship, it's pretty easy to get around. The topmost Bridge Deck (Deck 1) features the open bridge (stop by and have a chat with the captain), as well as the outdoor lounging and exercise area (also the site of alfresco barbecues). The Upper Deck (Deck 2) is mainly a cabin deck, with an open area at the bow (front) and the boat's status board located at the back. The status board is the crew's low-tech way of keeping track of passenger whereabouts. When leaving the ship, passengers move a magnet from the "Onboard" to "Off" column, then move it back upon their return. The Main Deck (Deck 3) houses the lounge and dining room, with the dib landing area outside. Both inside and outside stairways allow access between decks; there's no elevator. Smoking is only allowed in one designated area on Deck 2, aft.
A small library, really just a few bookshelves, is next to the bar in the lounge. It contains a small selection of novels, games, puzzles and reference books related to the itinerary. Lindblad's "Global Market" is the line's version of a gift shop; items can be found above the coffee and tea station in glass cases. The line seeks out local artisans in the areas it visits (e.g., Alaska or Baja) and purchases craft items to sell onboard, while also supporting the artists by providing equipment and materials when necessary. Lindblad logo items and expedition gear (camera lens cleaners, fleece vests or wicking under layers, for example) are also for sale. Several times per cruise, the full collection of gift selections is put out in the lounge for perusal and purchase. At any time, items can be purchased from the purser, hotel director or bartender.
On the other side of the bar are two Mac computers for downloading and post-processing photos and for accessing the internet. Wi-Fi is also available shipwide, but expect slower speeds than on land. A package with 120 minutes is $50; unlimited access for a one-week sailing is $200. File-sharing sites such as Dropbox, Flickr and iCloud are blocked.