There is no theater, per se, and the only activity that even remotely resembles a cruise-like experience is the crew's once-a-voyage talent show. It's not to be missed. Otherwise, entertainment, both during the day and post-dinner, is centered on a rich variety of enrichment talks and photography workshops. These are all held in the lounge, which was remodeled when Lindblad acquired the ship.
Shore excursions and tours are a feature of any day in port or at anchor. In tropical climes, expect snorkeling and scuba diving, marine mammal and bird-watching, hikes and cultural encounters, while in colder (read: polar) latitudes, Zodiacs take passengers ashore to visit wildlife and historic sites. Sea days are typically fewer in number than port days, but during these times, expert lecturers provide engaging talks on natural and human history, geography, anthropology, zoology and any number of other topics relevant to the destination.
Kayaks and bicycles are carried onboard but their use is dependent on weather conditions.
Scuba diving is offered on selected voyages. A full kit is carried for up to 24 passengers.
A typical night aboard Orion involves a relaxing drink at the bar after a busy day exploring or swimming before a recap of the day's events. An hour or so in duration, a recap, held before or just after dinner, usually involves talks moderated by expedition staff with images and video taken during the day and a short lecture presentation on regional features or history. The Expedition Leader then outlines the following day's activities, as many details are often finalized just 24 to 48 hours prior to arrival.
The majority of passengers retire after dinner while a few stay up for nightcaps.
Main Saloon (Deck 4): The social hub of National Geographic Orion, this is where all the action -- afternoon tea, lectures, presentations and recaps -- takes place. Remodeled in 2014, it was expanded to allow more seating.
Observation Lounge (Deck 6): The library is in the Observation Lounge on Deck 6, along with board games, a chart table and public computers.
Wet Bar (Deck 6): This is an occasional-use bar used only for events like sail-away parties. (The Observation Lounge bar, which used to be on Deck 6, was replaced with a self-serve snack and beverage station.)
The only pool aboard Orion is the Jacuzzi tub on Deck 6, which has room for four to six people at most. The surrounding deck has nine sun loungers with several tables and chairs. There are typically one or two loungers free at any time.
A daily yoga and stretch session is offered at 6 a.m. before breakfast and the commencement of most activities, although occasionally groups may leave early for special purposes like bird-watching.
As with most expedition vessels, the prime sun deck space (Deck 6) is crowded with the storage of Zodiacs, bicycles and kayaks, but still, sun worshippers can find a nice area around the small whirlpool that's lined with chaise lounges.
National Geographic Orion has a 24-hour reception desk; shore excursions desk; self-serve coffee, tea and snacks; medical clinic and doctor; boutique with interesting artifacts crew picks up onshore along with necessities; conference rooms; art/photo gallery; free self-serve laundry; and satellite phones (additional charge). Complementary Wi-Fi is available in the Observation Lounge or Main Saloon, and in cabins via an Ethernet cable, which are available from the front desk.
For a ship that carries just 106 passengers, National Geographic Orion's onboard facilities are generous. Massage is offered, there's a small gym and there's a sauna. Daily fitness workouts are offered, usually once in the morning. The ship's complement of bicycles and kayaks means that off-the-vessel activity offers cruisers a way to stay fit -- and the shore excursion menu includes at least one, and often more, active tours.
The LEXspa comprises a single treatment room located in the fitness center on Deck 6. There is a single table for massages; a massage therapist travels with the ship and also doubles as the receptionist.
The ship's small gym comprises a treadmill, stepping machine, cycle and weights. A unisex dry sauna is also on the same deck.
While National Geographic Orion doesn't explicitly have designated kids clubs, children are catered for with on-demand programs tailored to their ages and the destination. Special activities and novelty meals can be arranged, like pizza and movie nights or "Junior Ranger" programs to introduce younger cruisers to the principles of nature conservation and the sciences.
Several cabins can comfortably accommodate three passengers.
* May require additional fees