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 will cluster around wooden tables with swiveling brown patterned chairs. Watch out, as the ship's floor is slanted up, so many of the chairs and tables are at an angle. Bench seating lines both sides of the windowed space.
The lounge is also home to the ship's bar, which serves alcoholic beverages and specialty coffees 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. On Columbia River itineraries, beer and wine are complimentary during 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, 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.
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 TV's and video microscopes add interesting visuals to the presentations. The expedition staff are passionate about their subjects and want their audience to both learn and have fun. From tongue-in-cheek poems regaling the coot bird to historical lectures peppered with trip-specific in-jokes and gentle ribbing between staff members, the expedition team manages to impart tons of information without boring anyone.
The expedition staff also run the daytime programming on and off the ship. Depending on the itinerary, activities might focus on exploring remote landings, hiking, kayaking and zodiac trips to see wildlife. Or they might be more land-based excursions that involve visiting museums, historical sites or scenic areas like waterfalls. Each itinerary has a mix of active and educational options. 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 truly 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.
To help you appreciate what you're experiencing, 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.