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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2019
My wife and I in our 70s, moderately fit, had a terrific time on this new ship. This adventure expedition fully met my expectations from advertising and reviews. Venture was nearly brand new and well designed for conveniently and safely ... Read More
My wife and I in our 70s, moderately fit, had a terrific time on this new ship. This adventure expedition fully met my expectations from advertising and reviews. Venture was nearly brand new and well designed for conveniently and safely getting us off the ship in zodiacs and small groups nearly every day. The food was tasty and plentiful, always with healthy options. Hotel service was excellent. The other 93 guests were all agreeable fellow adventurers. They included some grandparents, parents, and grandkids. The staff devoted lots of thought and attention to keeping-safe, educating, and amusing the kids, who bonded with new friends and eventually ate meals together. Expedition leader Sheri Bluestein and Captain Johnson did a great job. She announced her "Plan A" for the next day every evening, making the point that they would adapt plans as nature required and opportunities presented themselves. This happened several times and I had no complaints. We got to hike in near-wilderness conditions, to observe wildlife fairly closely. They turned the ship around and followed humpbacks backwards for an hour one evening to give us another look. Each excursion offered activities ranging from mild to strenuous. A team of some 10 Lindblad naturalists was always on deck spotting for wildlife, they led each zodiac cruise and hike, and were friendly and full of interesting information. I learned so much, they were easily available to me individually many times, and I miss Celso, Linda, and the others now. The emphasis on photography was a main draw for me. Five or so naturalists were certified by NatGeo. David Spiegel gave two briefings on board, one aimed more at DSLR users and one aimed at smartphone users. I learned useful stuff from both. On two photo hikes he gave us photographers an assignment to concentrate on. He loaned me an expensive zoom lens and set of binoculars, which I used the rest of the voyage. At the end of the cruise he showed a slide show of photos captured by guests, some of them stunning. Carlos Navarro is also a diver and one evening showed video he had shot underwater to show us what we were missing. James Biscardi produced a professional customized video chronicle of us on this particular voyage and we are glad I bought a copy. We saw humpback whales breaching, blowing, and even bubble-net feeding. A talk by the engaging Dr. Chris Szabo, who lives in the wilderness to study humpbacks and joined the ship for a day, was a fascinating major highlight for me. I also enjoyed author, storyteller, and folksinger Kim Heacox and Kari Ames, Tlingit cultural interpreter. She told me all the others are mispronouncing the tribal name as CLINK-IT. They say TH-LING-GIT. We got close to Stellar sea lions and sea otters by zodiac. They found brown bears feeding on a distant shore but I did not get a good look at any bears this time. Seabirds but not many land birds besides eagles. My top objective was to see tidewater Alaskan glaciers in person before they all melt. I'm glad we didn't wait another year. We saw several from a quarter-mile away. In Glacier Bay the National Park ranger pointed out that Margerie Glacier now ends on land on its right side, and that in a couple of years it might not be a tidewater glacier any more. The ranger and the entire team managed subtly to remind us what our carbon pollution is destroying without stirring up any arguments from climate change skeptics (if there were any). We were told that Lindblad is buying offsets to compensate for the ship's own emissions. On our last day, South Sawyer Glacier produced a dramatic large calving event for us, which was both exciting and a bit sad. Two guests with disabilities paid to come along with friends knowing they would not be able to board the zodiacs and participate in the most engaging parts of the voyage. Yet to their great credit, on the last day Sheri and her team noticed, reserved a zodiac just for these two, and went to extra trouble to help them get off the ship to visit South Sawyer Glacier from the water like everyone else. This year Alaska has been extremely dry and warm. We got drizzle on only one day in Petersburg. We did not need all the duplicate garments we brought in case of soaking, but we had followed their packing advice and would do so in the future. We used insect repellant and were never bothered by mosquitos. This expedition was expensive but fully worth the cost to me. I also admire Lindblad and NatGeo for respecting nature as they go. I'd love to go again with this warm, expert team. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
This was the first trip away from our young kids and wanted to do Alaska on a small ship. I found out how new this ship was and chased it down. Here are my notes. Quest Sunday - long day to buy time to get on ship at 5:30pm, they ... Read More
This was the first trip away from our young kids and wanted to do Alaska on a small ship. I found out how new this ship was and chased it down. Here are my notes. Quest Sunday - long day to buy time to get on ship at 5:30pm, they mean it and no-one got on before then. Juneau is boring and I wouldn't stay there. Tram was cool and worth it. When we did we got a person to take us to our cabin and desctibe all the features. There was more storage and room in our cabin than in hotel room. Don’t stay at recommended hotel - small rooms, noisy (loud) heaters (boilers) and it is just old. Our cabin on the ship was so much more spacious and has a crazy amount of storage, no way to use all of the drawers and other provided spaces. Pillows and blankets are amazing. Internet doesn’t work - too high latitudes for satellite to work.. I paid and got money back as we did get some cell service in small fishing villages but latency was so high that some applications wouldn’t work. Ship is a shield, so for any coverage you have to be on deck. Tracy Arm (Transit all night) Monday AM, I was pretty excited and woke up at 4am just to look around and saw icebergs out my window and I was on deck by 4:30am - and not only one. It was so crazy pretty that I stayed on deck pretty much to lunch. Food was very good all around. I’m not that picky and I give the food a B+ all around. Something for everyone and after meeting all the guests - no one had a bad thing to say. You get briefings before dinner and after breakfast every day. They over-communicate which seems annoying, but was rather useful. Staff is amazing all around. I can’t say enough good things and I look for those ‘cracks in the crew’ and found none. The respect for the naturalists was crazy high from fellow crew, not to speak of the guests. Monday was Tracy Arm and zodiac tours of the glacier. They take the entire guest list and chop into groups A, B, C and D. They use that to get rid of big lines for activities. We were in group C so they call on the PA to give us a 15 minute notice of when we should head to the mud room to put on Life jacket and board the zodiacs. Max wait was 10 minutes. They clearly have this figured out. Preso’s every day after lunch and dinner by very polished naturalists who know their stuff. I was crazy tired this night and crashed hard.. Speaking to other guests which I now had a chance to socialize with - was the same. Tuesday Morning - hit the zodiacs to go see icebergs that have calved off the glacier. Sounds boring? - look at the pictures and video. Amazing morning - water perfectly still and warm. We all got amazing photo’s - walk on fire trail, banana slugs and bear skat. Then kayaking that wasn’t so interesting but good exercise. Petersburg at lunch - great sleepy fishing village. Could arrange floatplane flights. Or walking (or van) into town or taking a free bicycle which we did. Very nice stay and we had dinner while the ship pulled out of port. This was a real treat. MIT alumni group on board and a professor gave a talk on climate. Very interesting and nice people. weather turned hawaii and we had upper 70’s, sun and heat. crazy. Wish I had more t-shirts. I wore shorts to dinner 4 nights in a row. Wednesday early morning hiking - no so interesting and then kayaking, was cool but not the best. Afternoon (Wednesday) was ok hiking morning, but ‘activity watching in afternoon cruise’ which started out pretty boring, everyone looking but some sea lions. Weather was hot in the sun. Then someone in bridge saw something on the port shore - ship turned too hard and some dishes went flying(turns out that was autopilot accident) - but we found a large group of humpbacks were bubble feeding on the shoreline. They split into 2 different groups and were amazing. We had that all day where I stopped counting at 25 ‘breaches’ of the bubble fishing. Most amazing day ever. Would check most folks bucket list to see 1 or 2, but 25+. You have never seen a more satisfied group of passengers and crew that dinner. Most of us knew that was a ‘1 in a lifetime’ afternoon. I hope I can post a few photo’s. Thursday (Icy Strait) - morning hiking in a great rainforest - like walking on sponges. lots of wild flowers and such. After that taken to ‘kayak beach’ where we kayaked ‘follow the leader’ around the Idaho inlet and it was awesome. Guest MIT lecture on Climate and then zodiac rides (A, B, C & D) with real alaskan weather and saw whales, sea lions, otters, eagles taking fish…. great lunch day (turkey) Afternoon zodiac tour of the Inian islands. Amazing - saw whales, sea lions, otters and a Bald Eagle took a 1/2 fish from a sea lion thirty feet in front of our zodiac. I have a picture of that that Tom caught - amazing. took it easy and let folks take naps and slow down a bit. Great dinner and lecture after about summer solstice, some video of diving around the kayak route and Chelsey talking about seals, sea lions and Otters - awesome. Got cold and folks went to sleep. Alaska part 2 Plan for the best - you have your cold weather gear, but you have crazy storage on the Quest - don’t forget t-shirts and shorts. On my trip I left our walk weather stuff in Florida and regretted it. We had 3 days in a row where it hit upper 70’s and I was hot in the sun. I had only 1 pair of shorts and wish I had more. We had *lots* of empty drawers we could have used. Suitcases fit under the bed (easily) Video and camera My wife brought her DSLR (Canon) and they have free lenses for you to use on the ship. She borrowed a few 600mm lens and got the best whale photo’s of the trip. There are at least 2 professional photographers on the trip who will spend as much 1:1 time as you want. Take advantage of it. Star of the show is my iPhone 10 using 4K 60fps video. You can zoom like crazy and will be able to post-process great video. My MacBook air wasn’t powerful enough to do that and iCloud is setup that I needed WiFi (that doesn’t work at those latitudes - so don’t pay for it) I would let the iPhone take video if the whales are around - if you get it, great. If not - delete and try again. Don’t wait till you see them - will be too late (for bubble fishing). Same for glacier calving - I would record for 3 minutes and delete if nothing happened, but if it does - you will get most or all of it in 4K video. Clothing 1st day was cold and clear. I had bought these wind pants with a thin layer of fleece on the inside and they were killer good. My go to pants when cruising or a colder zodiac ride. Too hot for hiking when in 60 or 70’s, so I used my hiking pants and was ok to be a little cold on zodiac ride (10 minutes) and very comfortable on the hike. Front or side pockets to keep iPhone kept if very handy when something unexpected happened, which seems to be all the time Saturday We signed up for the ‘strenuous hike’ and had a good workout though the rainforest to a lake where the guides were surprised had some salmon already. I used my polarized sunglasses to get some good video on my iPhone. After we hiked back down we put on the low profile life jackets and went kayaking in this amazingly clear water. Most of the folks all agreed this was the best of the Kayaking on the trip. Good workout - back to the ship and ate a good lunch. The rest of the afternoon was cruising and looking for wildlife - most folks were tired and slept or started packing. This part of the cruise there seemed to be otters everywhere and I got my otter photo’s here. Right before dinner I was on the bow with some other folks when we saw porpoises on the bow. They rode the bow for 25 minutes and I got my iPhone out there for 4 minutes until my fingers were too cold to hold the phone. Some amazing video I need to edit when I get home. That night after dinner we did the guest slideshow. Each guest could submit 10 of their best photo’s and it was amazing what people got. Anyone could download it from 2 iMacs they had in the lounge. Was very fun. Lots of folks exchanging email addresses and the like for the rest of the evening. Also having some drinks with the crew as you have gotten to know them pretty well at this point. Last day We anchored outside Sitka. Hit the dock at 6am. 6:30am wake-up call. 7am breakfast and they wanted all bags (tagged) and put outside cabin before 7am. Most of us were on same flight from Sitka to Seattle at 2pm. There were 97 passengers. 13 were under age 18. 3 groups of families Grandparents and kids. Bunch of retirees - good group of folks. I'm 53 with wife 46 and we had a great time. Never felt crowded, but we had insane weather. Ask for tour of engine room and kitchen - very cool. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We went on a Nat Geo Alaska cruise and the 6 of us just knew we had to do Galapagos with them again. It is just an over the top experience if you are looking for a very active and tons of info trip, with terrific staff, naturalist and ... Read More
We went on a Nat Geo Alaska cruise and the 6 of us just knew we had to do Galapagos with them again. It is just an over the top experience if you are looking for a very active and tons of info trip, with terrific staff, naturalist and crew..all exceptional. I needed a vacation after I got back! I gave our cabin excellent because it was so darn cute and I swear a few feet bigger than Alaska. Be forewarned though these are NOT your usual cruise cabins, very close quarters, but very efficient.. Breakfast and Lunch were very good.Dinner was fine. Just not overwhelming. They are small portions which we all liked and very elegantly done.. the bbq night was fun. Well the animals are the entertainment. other than that one night of local performers. The hikes, kayaking, snorkeling were all amazing.I now know everything possible about the blue footed boogie.. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
My travel is, for the most part, independent so read what I have written here with that in mind. On occasion, I’ve tried a cruise or a guided tour in the hope that traveling with experts would enrich the experience even if it means being ... Read More
My travel is, for the most part, independent so read what I have written here with that in mind. On occasion, I’ve tried a cruise or a guided tour in the hope that traveling with experts would enrich the experience even if it means being tied to a large group of travelers that may not share my interests. When I’ve done this, I’ve kept it short, understanding that if it is good, I can always go on a longer trip with the same company. In early January, my teen son and I traveled with Lindblad’s Base Camp Baja: Espiritu Santo trip. The cruise was a partnership with Exhale, a company focused on wellness via yoga, meditation, and exercise programs. Lindblad pitches their program as an education-driven experience that gives insight into the natural world you are sailing through and the challenges of conservation. National Geographic co-markets the cruises and provides onboard photographers to deepen the experience for the guests through ongoing photography advice. Personally, I was hoping it would be a photography seminar of sorts provided by a professional. Taken together, I couldn’t imagine a better combination of activities. The cruise left La Paz, on the National Geographic Sea Bird, a 62-guest ship with 31 cabins, and circled Espiritu Santo an island wildlife preserve in the Gulf of Mexico. Stops on the trip were made for snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, and paddle boarding as well as on-beach yoga. We learned from the staff that including Exhale in the program did attract a younger demographic to the trip than on their other cruises (which tend to be retirees and their families). The most memorable parts of our trip were: 1) Snorkeling with the sea lion pups. This encounter with the playful and acrobatic pups brought us close up to an iconic part of the ecosystem. The pups would dive, dart, and dodge around the snorkelers while also wrestling with one another and occasionally nibbling on a snorkel fin. Fortunately, there was no reward provide to the sea lions (in food) and our visit was not disrupting their lives except a long snooze that was ongoing during our time there. 2) Seeing the sea glow with bioluminescence as we returned from dinner on the beach. The zodiac pilot stopped, turned out the lights and shared with us what was happening to create the water to sparkle green in the wake of the boat. This was magical. 3) A chance encounter with a small pod of orca whales hunting rays. It was our first time seeing orcas and the boat was abuzz as they corralled the rays together. At one point, they swam alongside the boat and we could clearly see their distinctive white and black patterns. Apparently, this was a rare sighting with few of the staff or crew having seen orcas onboard. 4) Sunrise yoga on the aft deck. The instructor was excellent and the setting simply beautiful. The areas that Lindblad needs to improve: 1) Although the food onboard was good it fell short of expectations. The salads available for lunch and dinner and were excellent. Breakfast was also good. Fish entrees lacked flavor or adequate searing (tuna). The chicken also lacked flavor and was dry. The beef was excellent for one meal and poor the next. Accepting the challenge of cooking for the whole ship in a limited space, I am satisfied with the meals but did expect more. 2) Lindblad did not follow through on their partnership with Exhale and failed to provide the promised programming (as per their marketing materials). During the trip, the single Exhale employee onboard lead sunrise yoga classes (2), paddleboard yoga (2), and evening chill yoga classes (2). There was no Exhale core fusion boot camp, mindfulness hikes, post-hike stretching, or meditation sessions (all promised). In other words, lots of yoga and nothing else. There should have been two people from Exhale onboard and Lindblad should have taken their promises seriously. 3) Hire better photographers and naturalists. The lead photographer onboard was not a professional and had a basic knowledge of photography. Add to that she was not the friedliest person and we quickly learned to steer clear of her while onboard. The naturalist shared little beyond the obvious and the names of islands we didn’t really need to know. Pair that with him being out of shape and our hike became a tedious walk. Near the top, the naturalist told us we wouldn’t be going to the top for fear of disturbing the ecosystem even though a footpath was clearly visible curling up the hillside. If photography and observing the natural world are going to be Lindblad’s trademarks, they need better staff. 4) Staff that talked less about their experience working for Lindblad and more about nature, photography, and wellness. It’s only natural for people to talk about themselves but I lost interest eventually and was left asking why we weren’t talking more about sea life, etc. Training would give the staff the tools to turn the guests’ attention to what is truly meaningful on the trip. Unacceptable parts of the trip: 1) This trip was about nature but Lindblad insisted on having a videographer operating a drone again and again. In case you’ve not been around one, drones will drown out the sound of birds, disturb the wildlife, and make you wonder if there is a very large bee buzzing around your head. Understandably the videographers asked us just to ignore them as they captured footage for their marketing videos. Easier said than done. Lindblad sacrificed the guests’ experience for their own marketing needs and it sucked. 2) The captain set sail on the second morning midway through the sunrise yoga. I had the impression he hadn’t gotten the memo that this was a wellness cruise and that maybe it was best to wait half an hour so the 20 guests on the aft deck didn’t need to worry about toppling over as the ship swayed as it steamed north. As we disembarked the next day, I overheard the captain speaking with a crew member about how terrible “these short trips” were and I realized that he hadn’t given a thought to the yoga taking place. Lindblad needs to take seriously the core principles of their business (not just print them in their marketing materials) and hire staff that is dedicated to it. The trip leader needs to have an itinerary for each trip that actively pursues those principles and, if it is a wellness trip, make sure that is central. The company’s goal is to be the best in class and this will not happen without sustained attention to staffing and how that staff executed onboard. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We chose Linblad/National Geographic (Nov. 29th-Dec. 19th, 2017) because of the reputation of National Geographic. Touring Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island (the Serengeti of the Antarctic), South Shetland Islands, South Orkney ... Read More
We chose Linblad/National Geographic (Nov. 29th-Dec. 19th, 2017) because of the reputation of National Geographic. Touring Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island (the Serengeti of the Antarctic), South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, and ultimately Antarctica was truly a trip of a lifetime. Bit of a cliche perhaps but it truly was awe-inspiring and life changing to walk amongst hundreds of thousands of penguins, seals, and sea birds. The crew on the National Geographic Orion, at every level, were friendly, helpful, anticipatory, informative, and a lot of fun! This was a very active cruise on a smaller ship (about 100 passengers) that offered different levels of hikes plus zodiac tours all with a specialist, most of whom had PhDs in their respective fields. Who knew that a lecture on the cryosphere (all things ice) could be so interesting? We learned so much about the flora and fauna of the Antarctic zone and saw so many marine animals, birds, and interesting plants. The food on board was always fresh (how do they do it when at sea for 3 weeks?), every meal different, and the bar a lively spot after a day of hiking and photographing these wonderful Antarctic creatures. We saw both fin whales and humpbacks feeding so close to the ship and even on a zodiac tour! The captain and expedition leader both get a shout-out as they endeavored to find areas of discovery teaming with wildlife while taking advantage of excellent weather conditions. Those few days we transited at sea between the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica passengers availed themselves of yoga/stretch classes, stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical machines, and 40 laps on the 6th deck=2 miles! Additional lectures added, during transit days, to our growing knowledge of this unique part of the world. Ultimately seeing these creatures in the wild led us, personally, to a decision to be more proactive in our support both financially and in sending emails to our elected representatives about the importance of this fragile area of our planet. Read Less
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