This was our first cruise and first Lindblad expedition. Our Alaska Inside Passage trip was from Sitka to Juno and was overall an amazing experience. The staff are very accommodating and extremely well-trained. I can't imagine getting ... Read More
This was our first cruise and first Lindblad expedition. Our Alaska Inside Passage trip was from Sitka to Juno and was overall an amazing experience. The staff are very accommodating and extremely well-trained. I can't imagine getting better service. They make you feel like you are at home on the Venture. The naturalists are all amazing people, extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. You will leave the cruise missing their company.
The incredible Lindblad customer service literally starts a your booking and continues on throughout the trip. We were met at the Seattle Airport by a very personable Lindblad representative who let us know what would be happening. It was fairly easy to spot our fellow passengers - nearly all of whom were wearing Columbia or Patagonia outdoor clothing. Yes, this is the sort of trip you will be taking - comfortable, relaxing and adventurous.
The Venture itself is a wonderful ship. I totally fell in love with her. She and her sister ship, The Quest, are brand new (maiden voyages in November 2018), purpose-built just for National Geographic Linblad Expeditions.The public areas are extremely comfortable and the bow was specially built for wildlife viewing. The dinning room features wrap around windows for breathtaking views during meals.
The food is excellent on the Venture. There were a couple of misses, i.e. pancakes that were cooked on too hot a griddle, but it's a new ship and I am sure the staff are just getting used to the equipment. Breakfast and lunch are buffets with plenty of choices. Dinners are plated, you choose from a set menu before the meal, but there is no problem if you change your mind at the last minute. Diet restrictions are accommodated beautifully, so be sure to let Lindblad know if you have any when you book. Each afternoon snacks are available and appetizers are offered during the happy hour. Drink prices are not extraordinarily high and the mixologists on our trip were delightful.
Nearly every day of the trip featured some off boat activity, Zodiac tours, kayaking, hiking, or biking. Nothing too strenuous, though. If you want to see birds, I recommend the Zodiac rides over hiking. The guides make far too much noise because of bears for a good birding experience. Hikes are offered as aerobic, moderate and slow. Only the aerobic hikes seemed to go anywhere, so take that if you don't want to stay in one place. Off boat activities were generally 90 minutes to 2 hours.
A printed daily program was placed outside our cabin each night which described the following day in detail. Our expedition leader, Annie Fiske, would let us know after each meal what to expect and what to wear to ensure an enjoyable experience.
Each evening we had a recap of the days experience and some kind of educational entertainment. One of the highlights of a National Geographic Lindblad expedition are the trained naturalists and photographers who are on board. Our National Geographic certified photographer, Michael Nolan, gave an excellent class on iPhone photography, or as he described it, your camera that also makes phone calls. There was really never a dull moment - always something exciting to experience. During the times when we were cruising, if wildlife were spotted, the captain would turn the ship so that we could get a better look, even if it was in the opposite direction of our travel. It was truly one of the most extraordinary trips we have ever taken.
The only downside of our trip was completely missing out on the Day 1 activities because we took the recommended flight into Sitka. That flight got us in too late to participate in anything that was scheduled. It was the only time that Lindblad completely fell down for us. Had we understood that would happen, we would have made other arrangements.
As for Value for the Money - Lindblad trips are very expensive. It is a very intimate, first class experience and very worthwhile. I wish they were not quite so expensive as I would like to be able to travel with them more often.
Clothing - bring comfortable clothes and shoes. The temperature on the ship is comfortable, but it can get cold outside. A comfortable pair of slip on shoes is great for on board the ship. Tennis shoes and knee high rubber boots are all you need for off ship. Rubber boots (Alaskan Tennis Shoes) are actually very comfortable and a must as most landings are wet. Temperatures for us were highs were in the 50's to 40's. Outdoor clothing made of synthetic fibers that dries quickly and wicks away sweat are ideal. A polar fleece vest over a base layer shirt is perfect for inside the ship. You will probably wear it every day. A lightweight nano-type puff jacket is plenty warm with a layer or two underneath. Bring silk or synthetic long underwear/base layers 3 - 4 pairs. Wool or synthetic ski socks 4 - 5 pairs. Regular winter gloves are plenty warm, along with a knit cap and a neck gaiter. Rain pants and a rain coat are another must. Wear the pants with a comfortable warm layer underneath for hiking, kayaking and Zodiac trips. Avoid cotton clothing because when it gets wet, it stays that way for a long time.
WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
Though these items were recommended by Lindblad, we found they were not necessary:
glove liners, trekking poles, kayak gloves and ski gloves. We did not need any special covers or protection for our camera or iPhones. If you need a hiking stick for balance they have wooden ones on board, but for the most part no hike is long enough to need them.
As mentioned above, Lindblad really let us down by scheduling us on a flight that arrived too late to experience the Day 1 activities. Before getting on the flight they recommend, consider whether or not it seems to YOU to arrive in time to do what is scheduled. We trusted that them there and they let us down, so we recommend that you don't. Read Less