1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Lindblad Expeditions
  4. National Geographic Islander Review
  5. National Geographic Islander Cruise Reviews

19 Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Islander Cruise Reviews

We boarded the National Geographic Islander as the final part of our two week long trip to Lima, Machu Picchu and parts of Ecuador. This was not our first Lindblad expedition - we had previously done one in the Sea of Cortez to see the ... Read More
We boarded the National Geographic Islander as the final part of our two week long trip to Lima, Machu Picchu and parts of Ecuador. This was not our first Lindblad expedition - we had previously done one in the Sea of Cortez to see the great whale migration - so we knew what to expect. In summary: CABIN: We booked this expedition almost a year in advance and we picked the cheapest cabin. It was on the main deck. Yes, it was small but we had enough room for our clothes and toiletries. We had a window but since we spent very little daylight hours in our room, except to change shoes or clothes, we sometimes forgot it was there. The twin beds were pushed together to make one bed and the entire bed was pushed against the wall. The desk was on one side of the bed so only one person had a nightstand. Each side of the bed had a reading light and above the bed was a ledge that you could put your phone or glasses. There were enough outlets in the room to charge our devices. We didn’t need to bring adapters from the US. Closet was large and had shelves and hangers. This is also where the safe is located. We put our electronics there when we left the room, even if it was just to sit in the lounge. You cannot lock your room from the outside. We already knew this from past experience but it was a bone of contention with other tour members who had rather expensive and hefty cameras and lenses. Bathroom was a shower, sink and toilet in one room and that was rather tight so quick showers were the norm for us as we didn’t like being in there long. DINING: Large dining room with beautiful views. Breakfast and lunch were buffet, dinner was served except for the Ecuadorian buffet meal. A signup sheet was at the dining entrance every morning where we had to sign up for 1 of 3 choices - fish. beef/chicken, or pasta/vegetarian so the chef knew how much to cook. There was more than enough food and the vegetarians, vegans and anyone with food allergies never had a problem finding something good to eat. Most tables were 6-tops and 8-tops to encourage socializing. I saw only one 2-top that would be ideal for a couple except it was right by the door. The last night, we had a big cookout buffet meal on the sun deck that was lively and festive. Meals were always announced and around two hours were allotted for each meal. Otherwise the dining room was closed and many of us hung out around the lounge. LOUNGE: The lounge had a bar that Octavio presided over. There was a 24 hr coffee machine that made regular coffee as well as espresso, cappuccinos and lattes and other coffee mixes. Tea was always available as well. All of us learned how to use the coffee machine rather quickly which is mainly a matter of pushing buttons. At certain times of the day, fruit, crackers, cookies and small snacks are left out. Sodas and juice are also available all the time. The lounge was an all-purpose meeting space for emergency drills and when the guides wanted to make announcements about the next day’s events. It’s where most of use gathered for drinks and snacks before the 7pm dinner announcement. SERVICE: Service was absolutely first rate. Our room was cleaned when we were out hiking or snorkeling or swimming. Our carafe was always refilled with cold water. Little bars of Ecuadorian chocolate were left on our nightstand every night. Towels were replaced even tho we expected to use the same one everyday. We also had laundry done on the ship. There is no do-it-yourself laundry. Turn around was 24 hrs and it was like the laundry service you’d get at a 5-star resort. We spent about $40 on laundry. OTHER: The free WiFi on the ship was often slow and occasionally not available. You can buy faster internet. Details are in the cabin. I used the gym a couple times. There was a bike, treadmill and elliptical, as well as a few weights. The captain was sometimes in there on the elliptical, as well as some of the crew. The bridge was open and husband stopped by one night where the 2nd mate gave him a tour. The crew is Ecuadorian and the majority of them speak English quite well. This was a fantastic expedition and we plan to go on many more. The ship was first class, the crew was so professional and personable and we felt very well cared for. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
We took the 1 week Galapagos trip on the Islander (48 psgr capacity) as a family of 4. This is a relatively new tour for Nat Geo/Lindblad, 2 days shorter than their standard trip to accommodate people with limited vacation schedules, and ... Read More
We took the 1 week Galapagos trip on the Islander (48 psgr capacity) as a family of 4. This is a relatively new tour for Nat Geo/Lindblad, 2 days shorter than their standard trip to accommodate people with limited vacation schedules, and we chose it primarily because it worked for the younger generation in our group (Millennials with limited vacation time). We came in with high expectations, due to the Nat Geo name, but had only mixed results. The itinerary included San Cristobal, Espanola, and Floreana, the Eastern portion of the archipelago. We were in a Main level cabin, which seemed to get much less movement than those two floors up. Loved being able to go straight from panga to room hot shower after snorkeling. The Galapagos are indeed amazing, and our overall memories of the experience are fond. Our single biggest complaint? With only 4 full days on the water, every day counts. Nat Geo is famous for not publishing their itineraries in advance, so imagine our surprise to only be visiting 3 islands in that 4 days. Two days were dedicated to San Cristobal - with the second day being a total bust (a 45 minute walk in an interpretive center, a 3 hour round trip to see 30 small turtles at a breeding center, and a high school student presentation). Ridiculous, and a rip-off. The 4 days you will get are totally the luck of the draw, and the shorter format increases the risk that you will get a crummy hand. We had other concerns (lack of quality onboard programming, food was average), but could have powered through those. It would be remiss of me to not recognize some of the extraordinary highs we also had on this trip - amazing snorkeling and kayaking on the last two days (with great visits to Espanola and Floreana), stargazing one night from the bow of the ship, and outstanding opportunities to view all kinds of birdlife. Loved the open bridge policy, and the Ecuadorian staff exuded pride and commitment to protection of the Galapagos. The ground staff was exemplary. This shorter trip has a lot of potential - it attracts a younger population and, from our perspective, is a very efficient use of time - but NG can not approach the itinerary in such a sloppy way if it expects it to be successful. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
This was a family cruise with 6 of us going. Very interested in seeing the ecology of the Islands. Lindblad/National Geographic did not disappoint. In fact, it was so incredible we will never forget! We saw so much and learned so much. ... Read More
This was a family cruise with 6 of us going. Very interested in seeing the ecology of the Islands. Lindblad/National Geographic did not disappoint. In fact, it was so incredible we will never forget! We saw so much and learned so much. A wonderful immersive experience. Thanks to the best crew EVER! They were so caring and informative. The small ship meant everyone received the same amazing treatment and experience. We saw almost ever Animal we hoped and not from a mile away, but right there. We swam, snorkeled, hiked our way around 6 do the Islands and each one was an experience. Each one was absolutely stunning inits landscape and animal life. On board, the ship was beautiful and the food incredible. Locally sourced and delicious. The information talks were great. Keep in mind our expedition leader has been doing this for 40 years. You can understand how good they are! Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We booked a cruise to the Galapagos on the National Geographic Endeavor through Lindblad Travel for myself, my wife and three adult children/partners. We paid a small fortune for the trip, and yes, we had a wonderful trip to and around ... Read More
We booked a cruise to the Galapagos on the National Geographic Endeavor through Lindblad Travel for myself, my wife and three adult children/partners. We paid a small fortune for the trip, and yes, we had a wonderful trip to and around the Galapagos. That said, however, I would never book another cruise through Lindblad/National Geographic. The cruise is listed as 10 days, but it is actually a short 7 days. The count one day to get to Guayaquil, one day in Guayaquil, and one day back at Guayaquil as part of the "10 days". The last day was the worst, in that we were forced to get up at 6 AM (through a mandatory announcement), have our baggage out the door by 6:15, and at breakfast at the same time. This was so they could clean the cabins for the next cruise. We then sat around in the lounge (we were not allowed to return to our rooms) for two hours watching advertising videos in the lounge before being ferried/bussed to the airport, where we again waited for two hours for our short flight back to Guayaquil. For the last day of the "cruise" in Guayaquil, we were offered a tour of a sad local zoo and historic park. The personnel on the trip were highly variable. The cruise "leader" was an absolute disaster. We got so we hated his smarmy voice coming out of the PA system every morning. At the end of each day he told us what a great time we had and then pushed for contributions to their various charities in the islands. We were told that $500 per person was the "average" contributed by passengers and we wanted to be sure to meet that average. The naturalists were also variable. They were obviously bored by the trip, having made it so many times in the past. When we asked about a bird or animal, we were given pat answers without them even looking at the critter. One of them had training in biology (iguanas were his speciality) and the other were simply "certified guides" who had "guide" training. They were not particularly knowledgeable about the local flora, fauna or geology, and not very interested in engaging in conversation about it. Food on the ship was at best average, with most of the main dishes overcooked and most of the sides the same thing meal after meal. We were told on multiple occasions that we were expected to tip $180 per passenger for the crew collectively. On a cruise this pricey, why don't they pay their personnel a decent living wage? On the plus side, most of the dining room personnel were terrific. The ship cruised to several islands that are not accessible by way of the land tours or the smaller ships. The availability of good snorkeling gear, wet suits, paddle boards, and kayaks was very welcome and allowed us to do some terrific snorkeling interspersed with interesting walks and hikes. We swam with sea turtles, sea lions, penguins and beautiful fish, walked among land tortoises, nesting frigate birds, dancing boobies, and more iguanas than you could count. The Galapagos Islands are a fantastic world resource and we feel lucky to have visited, but we would not recommend the over-priced National Geographic/Lindblad expedition. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
If you are like me, you imagine a cruise is about the closest thing to hell one could imagine for a vacation. But I must say that this trip was anything but hell. It was an amazing experience. First, the Islander only carries 48 ... Read More
If you are like me, you imagine a cruise is about the closest thing to hell one could imagine for a vacation. But I must say that this trip was anything but hell. It was an amazing experience. First, the Islander only carries 48 passengers, so everything was intimate and manageable. It was more like staying in a boutique hotel that just happens to move locations overnight. Second, the "house" staff on the ship were amazing. They care deeply about the passengers and enabling them to take advantage of their time on the islands. I could ask anyone a question about anything and they would go out of their way to help me so that I never had a worry and could concentrate on why we were there. The hotel manager, Daniel, ran an incredible operation and he, and everyone else, seemed to take great pride in their jobs. Third, the cabin was like a boutique European hotel room. There were three of us in Cabin 305 (one of two that can be configured as triples) and despite bringing way too much, we found a space for everything so our room was comfortable and very livable. Fourth, the meals were excellent and they took great care of their passengers with dietary restrictions. I am a vegetarian and Jose, the head waiter, sought me out every single day to ensure that I had something delicious to eat and was never hungry. After the second day, I had to avoid eating too much because there was so much good food to choose from. Fifth, and the reason you go to the Galapagos, is that it is an amazing opportunity to learn about a truly unique ecosystem. The Naturalists who are onboard are incredibly well educated, well informed, excellent ambassadors for the islands and their wildlife, and passionate about the environment and preserving the unique resources that are represented there. Every morning, we would wake to Daniel's voice on the PA announcing, "Ladies and Gentlemen, breakfast is ready in the dining room. Please join us." We'd eat and set out on our morning snorkel/kayak/zodiac ride/hike, returning a few hours later for lunch. After lunch, there would be a "siesta" time during which there was a children's program in which they would learn more and do something interesting. Then we'd head out for an afternoon adventure on that day's island. We'd return, have a "cocktail hour" lecture and briefing (which were excellent). Then we'd have our dinner (which were often theme dinners that let the staff show off "local" cuisine from various regions in Equador. And then people would retire while the boat traveled to the next island. We talked to a lot of people who arranged their own Galapagos explorations, but those require staying in one of the two inhabited towns and taking long daily excursions, often a few hours out and then a few hours back, limiting what you can see and explore. We also talked to people who went with other cruise lines--some much more luxurious. But nothing compared to what we experienced in traveling with a group that appreciates and promotes education. We were also deeply impressed with Lindblad's commitment to the people and the ecosystem. Prior to traveling, they provided informed us that they were supporting a school on Santa Cruz Island and provided us with their Amazon wish list. My son picked out a set of his favorite books (including Spanish translations) and we brought them with us. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the school and allowing him to present the books to a few of his middle-school peers. This trip moved me from being a cruise skeptic to recognizing that there is a place for journeys like this. If you want to visit an ecosystem like Galapagos, or Antartica, or the Arctic, and come away with a deeper understanding of the place you are visiting, then it is worth exploring a Lindlad/National Geographic cruise. I know we'll be on another one sooner rather than later. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We were looking for an exploration trip toGalapagos which was on my bucket list. National Geographic has an excellent reputation. A friend had gone on the Endeavor several years ago and described it as the trip of a lifetime. We choose ... Read More
We were looking for an exploration trip toGalapagos which was on my bucket list. National Geographic has an excellent reputation. A friend had gone on the Endeavor several years ago and described it as the trip of a lifetime. We choose the Islander for its size, thinking we would receive indiviualized attention. We choose the date knowing there would be less children. We elected to take the extention to Mashpi which greatly exceeded my expectations. There were 6 in our group and we had 2 guides who made sure we were safe and saw everything! We hiked, rode the Dragonfly, climbed the observation tower, rode the Skybike, hiked to the Life Center, and did a night hike. Very active. Ana, the manager, did a great job with her young staff. They were there to assure that everyone had an unforgettable time. Metro Touring also exceeded expectations. They answered questions, gave instructions, were punctual. They had a knowledge of their country and a pride that they wanted to share. We were met in Baltra by a naturalist whose reason for being a naturalist was to travel to Galapagos. He even acknowledged that this tour group met his requirement for the year. He was more interested in getting everyone on the bus then assuring everyone was present. This set the tone for the trip. The first stop was North Seymour and we quickly learned there was no time to lag as the naturalist would continue on. No problem, I am a fast learner and knew what to expect. The Naturalists were very knowledgeable about the islands, vegetation, wildlife. They appeared to have a passion for the islands and wanted to share their passion. However, I was disappointed in some attitudes. For example, several years ago I broke an anke causing me to have some balance issues, and being slower. But that doesn't mean I can't do something, it justs takes longer. Unfortunately, that wasn't tolerated. My friend doesn't swim and wasn't comfortable snorkeling in deep water. I would not snorkel without a buddy, something that goes with my diving training. We had a brief intro to shallow water snorkeling. Time was not spent with individuals who were uncomfortable. In fact, I was assisting another indiviual who had never snorkeled, trying to get her comfortable. I kayaked twice in my life and enjoyed it. Once in the Tasman Sea and once in Prince William Sound. Both time we received instructions on kayaking and what to do if the kayak tips over. Here we transferred from the Zodiac to the kayak, no refresher, no safety instructions. As we struggled to get to the shore, the naturalist kayaked by, went to the head of the group, and ignored the rest of us. There were times that if you didn't snorkel in the deep water or take a challenging hike, you were left on the boat. Why couldn't there be less challenging trips or a slower paced trip, why couldn't there be more zodiac trips around the islands? The 'hotel staff' were great. The waiters, bartenders, and Alexa did a nice job. The wait staff went out of their way to make meals enjoyable, remembering I was a tea drinker, my friend green tea. I feel the Natualists are contracted for the trips and not truly a team. I have worked with teams, customer service and recognize teams that work together. I feel thenaturalists were assigned or contracted for this trip. As I stated, in Mashpi, there were 2 naturalists for our small group who assured each of us enjoyed the experience. In Galapagos the Naturalists did not assure everyone was ok, they shared their wealth of knowledge but did not go the extra step. Activity level listed as light or moderate. I had a massage that exceeded my expectations! Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
We thought we would be on the trip of a lifetime with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The ship and staff onboard were wonderful. The naturalists were a disappointment. They were very knowledgeable and full of ... Read More
We thought we would be on the trip of a lifetime with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The ship and staff onboard were wonderful. The naturalists were a disappointment. They were very knowledgeable and full of information but their concern for the passengers left a bit to be desired. On our Kayak expedition no effort was made to make sure everyone was familiar with how to kayak - just told to get in the kayak and head towards shore. When my friend and I couldn't get the hang of it right away and were going in circles, our naturalist went ahead with the other kayaks and left us on our own - we had to wave to the zodiac and have him pick us up. There were long walks for those who thought they were in excellent condition and could do a quick hike up in challenging terrain. There should have been opportunities for those who didn't think they could make the "challenging" hike to do a shorter hike instead of just sitting on the ship. Some times there were zodiac rides which were great but there could have been an option. There were several opportunities for experienced snorkelers to snorkel. But if you were inexperienced there was really only one time for snorkeling from the beach. And if you had never snorkeled before there was no one to work with you on the basics. We had cabin 403 on the Upper Deck. We were under the impression that it was the same size as the other cabins since we paid the same price - but once we got onboard and saw one of the other cabins we felt we were in a much smaller cabin. We knew the terrace was going to be smaller but the other cabins were significantly larger terraces than ours. Some information about ways to communicate from the ship would have been useful. Passengers who had What's App loaded on their phones were able to text back home. It would have been nice to know this ahead of time. Also, I only knew about the camera shelf to get your camera adjusted to the outside air after I heard a naturalist talking to another passenger about it - I don't remember an announcement being made about it - should have been done the first day onboard. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
...chose NG/Lindblad due to excursion options each day No question that there were different options for all three of us for virtually all outings. The various choices were well distributed throughout the week. Guides were ... Read More
...chose NG/Lindblad due to excursion options each day No question that there were different options for all three of us for virtually all outings. The various choices were well distributed throughout the week. Guides were knowledgeable and generally enthusiastic about the islands. However, I did expect more venturing off the coast, especially on Isabella, where there were other things to see and experience. Most guide books summarize quite a few different points of interest; most of these were not offered. I realize that this is a live aboard experience and the coast is the focus, but a blend would have been an advantage. As noted, guides were very educated and informed on the science and natural aspects. Some of the people skills were lacking. Back and forth from kayak to zodiac, asking a spouse if she knew here right leg from her left was not part of the personal ambiance, nor was using the term "gringo" when most of your passenger manifest is American. Way too much food. Could have very easily gone with breakfast and dinner, skipped the mid-day meal in favor of more time out and about. Ordering a very athletic young man--a fish in the water--to "snorkel buddy" with a senior who was not at all comfortable in deep water was not at all appropriate. Did not pay a large sum for the vacation to be a lifeguard, and some naturalists forced the buddy system while others did not. Good trip, saw things and enjoyed experiences that were one-time only--a true gem. These areas noted are worth some improvement. Read Less
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
Sail Date May 2018
This is our second cruise to the Galapagos with National Geographic in 10 years. The first time it was just my husband and I. This time we brought our six year old daughter. Both times were absolutely perfect in every way. The food was ... Read More
This is our second cruise to the Galapagos with National Geographic in 10 years. The first time it was just my husband and I. This time we brought our six year old daughter. Both times were absolutely perfect in every way. The food was excellent and bountiful. Meals were mainly on the ship. There was a massage therapist on board but I didn’t want to miss a single excursion to use her services! There is an on board gift shop that was opened several times and had quite a varied number of exquisite items for sale - carvings, clothing, jewelry, children’s books, art. There was a small gym and an upper deck on which to lay in a hammock or watch the stars. The naturalists were outstanding. The lectures were fascinating. Each day typically had two excursions out on the zodiac to an island. Sometimes three outings. We had one day with tortoises, one half day on a gorgeous beach snorkeling with sea lions, an excursion to see sea birds nesting and caring for eggs and chicks. Every day was amazing. I can not recommend this trip highly enough. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
For anyone who loves watching birds and animals in their natural habitat this was certainly the cruise to take thanks to Lindblad and National Geographic. The night before boarding our ship we were met by helpful Lindblad staff at the ... Read More
For anyone who loves watching birds and animals in their natural habitat this was certainly the cruise to take thanks to Lindblad and National Geographic. The night before boarding our ship we were met by helpful Lindblad staff at the Guayaquil Airport and taken to The Hotel Del Parque, a beautiful 19th century retreat close to the airport, not that you'd ever know because of its lush tropical surroundings. The hotel staff was very welcoming and friendly as well. The next morning after a beautifully set up breakfast buffet on the hotel's patio we were taken back to the airport where we flew to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands to board our ship. Right from that point on we saw all kinds of sea lions, colorful crabs, pelicans, and iguanas and we would be seeing many more in the coming days. It had begun to rain as we took the Zodiac from the dock to the Islander anchored off shore but the minute we boarded the ship we were greeted and welcomed like family. I cannot say enough about the friendly staff/crew of the Islander, even those on the ships bridge. Our cabin was very comfortable and the additional glassed in terrace off our cabin consisting of a lounger, two chairs and a table made our accommodations seem much larger. Dining on the ship was very good with a selection of food that should have pleased anyone. In the morning a nice breakfast buffet was served and a menu of three entrees posted to select from for that evenings dinner. All sounded very good which made my choice hard. The waiters and bartenders learned our names by the very next day and quickly learned our certain preferences for various beverages and food items. The naturalists, Greg and Jose as well as our expedition leader Vanessa, who guided us all over the islands were a pleasure to be around. They were knowledgeable but never boring and it was easy to see that they really enjoyed their job. On Isla Santa Cruz we saw the giant tortoises, visited a place where we sampled and watched moonshine being made and had a very nice buffet lunch at a farm where afterwards we were able to walk among the numerous wild giant tortoises. I believe it was that night during which local entertainment was brought on board the Islander to dance and play the native instruments which I thoroughly enjoyed. Our last day of the cruise was spent on Genovesa Island where we were able to walk by numerous frigates and boobies with their little babies so close that you could have touched them. This was a perfect opportunity to get some good up close pictures. The planned activities for the passengers were also very appealing. I can now say I have jumped off ship into the ocean and have snorkeled among sharks and sea lions. Another nice on board feature was the assortment of good quality gift items offered for sale as well as T-shirts located by the reception desk. As we disembarked the ship on our last day it was really hard to say good bye to all the friendly staff and crew who at that point seemed more like friends and family. I would most certainly love to take another cruise on board the Islander. After returning to the Hotel Del Parque we were offered a tour of hotel grounds which were very impressive. There is an excellent restaurant, Casa Julian on the grounds which offers local cuisine and outdoor dining with a view of the Rio Daule River. My traveling companions and I chose to spend an extra two days in Guayaquil. There is so much to see that I strongly recommend doing so. The hotel may be a drive from downtown Guayaquil but the taxi ride was very inexpensive compared to what we would pay in the US. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We have traveled with Lindblad before and have always found them excellent and this trip to the Galapagos was no exception. We flew from Miami to Guayaquil, then out to the Galapagos and Lindblad staff members were guiding us the entire ... Read More
We have traveled with Lindblad before and have always found them excellent and this trip to the Galapagos was no exception. We flew from Miami to Guayaquil, then out to the Galapagos and Lindblad staff members were guiding us the entire way. Once on the ship, the service continued at a high level. Days were filled with varied activities including hikes and snorkeling. There were occasional options for kayaking and paddleboarding, One day was spent on land visiting the Darwin Center and the Galapgos Tortoises. Lindblad calls their cruises excursions as the emphasis is not on visits to towns or shopping but on seeing nature and wildlife and understanding the history and ecology and geology of the areas visited. You do need to be capable of getting in and out of Zodiac (a small rubber motorized craft) to get on and off the ship, but the staff was extremely helpful in making sure everyone got on and off safely. Staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful in increasing your understanding of the areas visited. We kept informed with different lectures, and a nightly recap, outlining the next day's activities. Excellent food and a well provisioned ship, all made for an enduring memory. I especially appreciate Lindblad's commitment to the countries where they travel and to environmental issues. We traveled as a group with 8 adults (7 seniors) with varied interests and abilities and each was accommodated. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We just returned from the trip of a lifetime on the National Geographic Islander (Lindblad), and since there aren’t too many recent reviews of this ship I thought I’d post a detailed one. So please excuse the length. If you don’t ... Read More
We just returned from the trip of a lifetime on the National Geographic Islander (Lindblad), and since there aren’t too many recent reviews of this ship I thought I’d post a detailed one. So please excuse the length. If you don’t want to read it all, the short version is: UTTERLY FANTASTIC! A bit of background as to why we chose the Islander. My husband is an academic, and is quite knowledgeable about evolution and biology. He wanted to be sure that the quality of the naturalists and the information provided would be as strong as possible, and we had heard rave reviews about this aspect of the NG tours (this proved correct). We are not “cruise people”, and wanted something very low-key and not fancy. We also wanted a mid-sized boat. The Islander fit the bill. Admittedly it was more expensive than other ships, but we felt it would be worth it, and we were not disappointed. We didn’t much care which itinerary we went on, since we didn’t have anything specific we felt we had to see (other than what we knew we’d see anywhere) so we were fine with their wait-and-see policy. Since my husband is not a strong swimmer, we also wanted something that would give us options for each outing in case he didn’t want to snorkel. Long before the trip we were sent lots of information about what to pack, and about the ship and the Galapagos. Shortly before we were to leave we received a packet with luggage tags, description of the process for meeting and getting to the ship, the final itinerary, and other details. The organization of everything was impeccable from start to finish. Everything was included except our transatlantic plane fare and alcoholic drinks, sundries on board, and gratuities. Lindblad had arranged for a van to meet us at the airport and take us to the Guayaquil Hilton Colon where a Lindblad rep met us and gave us details about meeting the next morning to get to the ship. Baggage was to be left outside the room quite early, and was transported to the airport. The passengers met in the lobby and took a bus to the airport, were ushered through check-in, and boarded an hour and a half flight to San Cristobal, where we then took another short bus ride to the dock. We then took the first of our many panga (or zodiac) rides on a short trip to the Islander, where we were met with warmth and enthusiasm by the staff. Our luggage was waiting for us in our rooms, and we had a brief time to dump our hand luggage and go to the lounge for our first orientation. Disembarkation was equally smooth. We were very lucky to have chosen a room on the top deck (406) with its own little glassed in “porch” area with a lounge chair, a small table, and two chairs, as well as numerous hooks on the wall for hanging our snorkeling gear, etc. The room itself was small but incredibly well designed, with a great deal of storage space, more than we needed. There was a ledge along one wall, with a small lip so nothing could fall off, a pitcher of water, two water bottles, two glasses, an outlet (we brought a surge protector with 3 outlets and two USB ports, which came in handy). Inside the closet was a built-in box with a lock, where we kept our passports and cash. There are no locks on the room doors, which was never a problem. The bathroom was extremely small but also very well-designed, with ledges and wire baskets for holding toiletries, and hooks for hanging toiletry bags. Towels were replaced several times a day. There were dispensers on the wall with shampoo, shower gel, and body lotion, and a large bottle of hair conditioner - and they were good products. I’m fussy, so had brought my own, but ended up using theirs. There was also a wall-mounted hair dryer which worked beautifully. I think the only room on the ship which was larger and had a larger bathroom was the suite at the front of the top level; the rooms on the lower levels were the same size, just without the porch area. I think there were one or two triples, which were also larger. We really enjoyed having the outside area both for lounging and for the extra space, but would have done fine without it. Everyone said you don’t spend much time in your room, and that was pretty true. You can find good pictures, including panoramic ones, on the Cruise Critic website. We had them make up the two singles as a queen; there was enough room to walk around the bed, and it was extremely comfortable. Orientations were in the lounge, a lovely large room with big windows, couches and chairs. Cocktail hour was here as well, and there were usually snacks available. Also a soda machine, espresso machine, and a small fridge for beer (honor system sign-up). Vanessa, the expedition leader, gave us our daily recaps, next day orientations, and other information here. Vanessa was amazing – cheerful, warm, funny, responsive, and especially wonderful with the children on board. We had about 6 kids under 12 and about 6 teens, all of whom were delightful and a joy to be around. They really added to the fun of the trip with their excitement, their questions, and their energy. I won’t go into detail here about all the amazing things we saw – wildlife, sea life, geological formations, etc. – but do want to add a word about the 3 naturalists on board: Enrique, Gianna, and Jonathan. All are natives of the Galapagos, and their love of the islands shines. They were incredibly well-informed – there was never a question they couldn’t answer – but more importantly they were fun to be with. They each had their own unique senses of humor, were unfailingly cheerful and responsive, and never made anyone feel silly or stupid for asking a question. How they do this so well week after week amazes me – their excitement felt like it was brand new, and it was contagious. They were patient with my husband who wasn’t that confident a swimmer; they encouraged him to keep trying the snorkeling and never made him feel bad when he wanted to quit. Most days we had at least 3 different outings, one of which was usually snorkeling. Often there was a choice of snorkeling from the panga in deep water or off of the beach. Several days there was an option to either kayak or paddle-board instead of snorkeling or instead of a panga ride. There was always at least one hike, sometimes with wet landings and sometimes with dry ones (which usually meant getting out onto rocks). Everything was perfectly organized and ran like a clock. I should say that the snorkel gear they provided was in great shape – like new, and in every conceivable size. No one had a problem with it. I brought my own full length skin to wear under the shorty wet suit, since I tend to get cold. The water ranged from about 65 to 72 degrees, and with the wet suit didn’t feel cold at all. They provide a mesh bag with your room number on it for all the gear, and there are hangers on either side of the ship to store them – one side for even numbered rooms, one for odd. There are hoses to rinse things off, and even a small electric wringer for bathing suits, which helped the drying. Food. There was a lot of it! I have to say, though, that the food was the least good thing about the trip, though it was perfectly fine and often excellent. It’s just that everything else was A+, and I’d give the food a B+, with the occasional A. Breakfast and lunch were buffet, most dinners were sit-down served meals, with choices made that morning (usually a fish, meat, or vegetarian option at each meal). Wine or beer were extra, and they had good options. Desserts were quite good – one, the passionfruit mousse, was fabulous. There were a few buffet dinners – the Ecuadorian feast, and the sky deck barbecue (that was my favorite). Meals were in the lovely dining room, all at large tables of 6 or 8, with open seating, which encouraged everyone to get to know each other and the staff. Weather. It was surprisingly cool. I had expected, and prepared for, blistering heat, but we had many overcast days which were nevertheless quite bright, but comfortable. I was glad I had thrown a few long sleeved shirts into my pack at the last minute. Also, the air conditioning on the ship was very strong – several times we asked them to turn it up to make it a bit warmer in the public areas. The bedrooms all had their own individual controls. We kept it off during the day, turned it on before we went to bed, and it was cool in seconds. Although the forecast I had checked before we left called for rain each day, as per people’s comments on this forum, that was totally inaccurate, and it never rained. Vanessa gave us advice about what to wear for each outing in the pre-dinner briefings. Packing. The one thing I would have liked to have brought is a small plug-in night light. Once the sun sets around 6pm it’s pitch black, and when the ship lights are turned off it’s very dark in the room. It would have been nice to have something dim to light the way to the bathroom without having to turn on the full bathroom light. We did laundry several times during the trip – they provided a bag, and if you left it on your door in the morning it was back before night (we spent a total of about $130 for the trip, a lot, and we could have managed without it). Most people, including us, wore quick-dry pants or shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, and a hoodie, fleece or light jacket over that. We were extremely diligent about using SPF50 sunscreen and had no sunburn problems. Binoculars were useful, sunglasses were a must. I never wore the hat I brought, and my husband only wore a baseball cap. We didn’t bring a whole lot, and could have done with less. I brought one sun dress, wore it a few evenings just for a change, but was the only one who did. As far as shoes go, we were surprised that the rule we had read about of taking off shoes after leaving the panga wasn’t even mentioned. I brought sneakers, tevas, and flipflops, and that was perfect. The sneakers for dry landings, the tevas for wet landings, and the flipflops for walking around the ship. My husband kept his shoes on in the ship. Photography. One of the naturalists, Jonathan, was also a photography specialist, and for those who were into it, he offered one–on-one help and advice as well as having a few group sessions. Unfortunately we’re not camera pros, but I know we would have appreciated his expertise if we were. We did buy an inexpensive underwater camera that was fun for using while snorkeling. Otherwise we used our iPhones. There was a videographer on board, Ashley, who chronicled our entire voyage and provided a DVD at the end. A note about seasickness. We had none. I put on a patch before we got on board just in case, but found the side effects (dry mouth and sore throat) too bothersome. I took it off and was just fine. We could definitely feel the ship rock, but found it soothing. I slept better on board than I have in a long time. It has taken a few days of being off the ship to get back my land legs; for a while if I closed my eyes I still felt as if I was rocking. Not a bad feeling though. As far as I could tell, no one on board had a problem. So a quick note about what we saw: sea lions galore and of all sizes, fur seals, iguanas (land and sea and one very rare hybrid), lava lizards, sea turtles, every conceivable kind of fish, rays, sharks, starfish, all 3 kinds of boobies (nazca, red-footed and blue footed) including red-footed boobies nesting with eggs and in a few cases with just-born chicks, pelicans, galapagos penguins, flamingoes, galapagos owls (rare), hawks, giant tortoises, finches, galapagos mockingbirds, galapagos doves, frigate birds, swallowtail gulls, albatrosses, herons, scorpions, and the skeleton of a sperm whale. All up close and personal – these animals and birds have no fear of people. And that doesn’t even mention the giant cacti, the incense trees, the lava tunnels and lava-covered island we hiked, or the post office barrel (one of the most charming customs I’ve encountered). All in all, the best trip I’ve ever taken! If you are undecided, go! You won’t regret it. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
We chose this particular trip because of the educational value and Lindblad Expeditions because we had such a wonderful experience on a previous cruise. The embarkation/ disembarkation went very smoothly. Someone met us at the airport and ... Read More
We chose this particular trip because of the educational value and Lindblad Expeditions because we had such a wonderful experience on a previous cruise. The embarkation/ disembarkation went very smoothly. Someone met us at the airport and guided us to the hotel. All the tours, entrance fees and transfers were provided for us. Luggage tags, name tags and travel documents were mailed to us about 3 weeks prior to departure. We did have a little frustration with this as one person in our group had moved a few months earlier and although his address was changed with Lindblad, his documents still got sent to the old address. Fortunately, everything did finally arrive the week before departure. After this, the trip went as we had planned. This ship is very intimate with only maximum 47 guests. With 6 people in our group, we had 2 cabins with 3 single beds each. Most cabins sleep 2, so we didn't have any sitting area as the couch was the third bed but the main lounge area more than made up for that. The bathroom was very tight but sized for the small ship. The crew and service was very good. They bent over backwards to see that we were comfortable and had everything we needed. We made many new friends, some of whom actually live close enough that we may see them again. Open seating at meals made it really easy to visit with the other passengers, although we did not do this at meals as we had our 4 grandchildren with us. The Young Explorer program brought the kids together as a group to talk about their experiences and discuss the diversity of the wildlife. This cruise has lots of walking/hiking and enough water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding planned. Some of the guests even swam off the side of the ship! The wildlife was amazing...Blue footed Boobies, Sea Lions, Iguanas, and even a Galapagos Penguin. Learning about the other side of the world from a book is one thing but actually experiencing it is something altogether amazing. Due to the pristine nature and uniqueness of this area, tourist travel to the islands is very strictly regulated. There are actually 2 itineraries that Lindblad offers, so you would need to visit twice to see all the islands have to offer. All in all, we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
Crew and naturalists were excellent. I was proud of being a woman as Cindy did a great job as the team leader. She Fabian Patricio, Christina and all others were very knowledgeable and answered all my questions with ease and grace. One ... Read More
Crew and naturalists were excellent. I was proud of being a woman as Cindy did a great job as the team leader. She Fabian Patricio, Christina and all others were very knowledgeable and answered all my questions with ease and grace. One of the biggest thrills was snorkeling with a Ga. penguin, many sea lions and marine turtles, colorful fish, hammerhead sharks, stingrays, and seeing sand dollars and starfish, red crabs with graceful, flowing plants. Going to Darwin Research Center was another highlight with my first view of the Giant Tortoises including the preserved Lonely George and learning his story. There many baby tortoises for use in research at the Center. The food was delicious and the chefs and the staff get an A+ for being friendly and very efficient on the ship. Going to the Galapagos has been a dream of mine while I was teaching high school biology. Finally, after 30 years, this dream came true. I was greatly impressed with Captain Carlos and his crew as he piloted us through several storms with great ease and skill. I would highly recommend this trip to others. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
Our trip to the Galapagos began with a one night stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We stayed in the Hilton Colon a few days prior to the beginning of our trip and that worked out fine. We followed the advice of Linblad and only took taxis from ... Read More
Our trip to the Galapagos began with a one night stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We stayed in the Hilton Colon a few days prior to the beginning of our trip and that worked out fine. We followed the advice of Linblad and only took taxis from the hotel and not from the street. It is a nice little city to explore for a day or two. Our trip began with a flight to Baltra where we boarded our ship. Transfers were seamless and calm. All details were taken care of and there was a high level of communication. We immediately set sail during lunch to our first destination of North Seymour Island for our "introduction" to the Galapagos. During the trip we visited North Seymour Island, Bartolome Island, Rabida Island, Isabela Island, Fernandina Island, Santiago Island, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. Each island was unique and amazing. We snorkeled with sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, marine iguanas, penguins and many types of fish. We had opportunities to hike, kayak and paddle board. We went to the highlands and were able to interact with the giant tortoises. The naturalists on board (there were three) shared a wealth of information about the geology, animal life, marine life and bird life. They were very approachable and always were willing to share their expertise. Certain days there were different activities according to ability and fitness level. All excursions to the islands were via Zodiacs. Some were wet landings and others dry landings. We had a briefing every evening to share what the next days activities would be and how we would need to prepare and dress. The food was great. There was always a meat, fish or vegetarian option at dinner. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style and there were always great choices. Many passengers had special dietary needs and the staff made sure all details were taken care of. The servers were great and a lot of fun. There was no stuffiness or formality on the ship. Dress for dinner was casual and relaxed. We stayed in cabin 402 that was a suite so it had some extra room and it was in the front of the ship. The room was very nice with beautiful wood and it was always clean and tidy. There was a daily laundry service on board but we did not use it. This is not a ship for nightlife. We were all so exhausted from our daily activities it was early to bed for the majority. If you are looking for an educational type of trip that is fairly active definitely consider this trip. Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic run a wonderful program. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
My wife and I took the one week Galapogos excursion on the Linblad National Geographic on the ship Islander in mid-February. It was a fantastic experience, exceeded our admittedly high expectations and a trip we can recommend highly. ... Read More
My wife and I took the one week Galapogos excursion on the Linblad National Geographic on the ship Islander in mid-February. It was a fantastic experience, exceeded our admittedly high expectations and a trip we can recommend highly. Here are some further thoughts on the subject. NATURALISTS MATTER. A critical feature of the experience were the three naturalists that guided every hike, boat ride and snorkel. The ability to make a 1 mile hike into an interesting and engaging two hour nature experience is dependent wholly on the naturalists. The three on our trip were extraordinary and well versed in the smallest detail of the geology, history, flora, fauna and culture of every stop. We had been told by others who did the Galapagos (with other providers) that most naturalists who work in the islands aspire to get hired by Linblad/Nat Geo, and therefore, they get the best. While we have nothing to compare it to, our experience was excellent. I would pick Linblad/Nat Geo for that reason alone. ACTIVITY LEVEL. The pace was significantly more active than we imagined, and to our liking. The ship accommodations matter, but we didn’t have as much lounging time as I had thought. We kayaked twice (regulations limit the number of kayaks they can send out), and we took every boat ride, snorkel and hike offered. While that pace was by no means exhausting, some guests opted-out on occasion. The pace of the hikes was leisurely and the terrain well handled by all except a few of the more frail passengers. Even on the more rocky trails, a pair of sturdy hiking sticks for less active folk (supplied by the boat) were all that were needed. Typically, we started before or just after breakfast, got in one or two events before returning to the ship by noon for lunch, lounged or napped, and then resumed excursions at 3:00 to avoid the mid-day heat. SHIP CONDITION. Despite being a slightly older ship and not having been renovated recently, the ship was in excellent condition with beautiful teak accents, shiny brass hardware, nice carpets, and always impeccably clean with three room services per day! There was nothing worn or old about it. CLOTHING. The dress was quite casual, and what I would call “resort casual.” Shorts, t-shirts, polo shirts, bathing suits and casual sun dresses predominated. During mid-February it was quite hot mid-day so wicking active gear, loose shirts and sun protection clothing was key. Air conditioning kept the interior of the ship pleasantly cool. Next day laundry services (at hotel prices) are available. FOOD. The food was really good. It was not fine dining in the metropolitan sense, but it was tasty, varied and plentiful. Alcohol was reasonably priced from $4 for a local (and good) beer to $8 for a glass of decent wine. Tellingly, most passengers felt like they were gaining lots of weight on the trip! GYM. For fitness buffs, there was a small gym with two high quality treadmills, an elliptical and a good spinning class-styled exercise bike. It had some dumbbells up to 25 pounds. The gym has large windows with great views. It was rarely used with most succumbing to a nap or a book in the shade during the siesta break, and therefore getting a machine was never an issue. WATER. Water temps for swimming and snorkeling were in the 70’s on our itinerary (which can vary) in mid-February. The shortie wet suits provided were buoyant and kept us warm enough to be the last out of the water on most snorkel outings. Some guests also wore rash guards or SPF clothing, either in place of, or underneath wetsuits. Some guests and the guides did fine without the wetsuits. The snorkeling gear was good. I have my own gear but left it at home, and was glad I did. Some put an underwater camera or GoPro to good use, but Linblad provided us with a great DVD filmed by a photographer that accompanied us on all our excursions so we all got some great footage to take home! SERVICE. The service was excellent. I think there are 42 crew or so for 46 guests. The entire staff was professional, efficient, accommodating and helpful. It was our first Linblad experience but likely not our last. STATEROOMS. As to which stateroom to pick (level 2-4) there are some considerations. All have excellent cabin level air conditioning, so you could make your stateroom as cold as you pleased. The level 2 and 3 rooms do not have a window or portal directly to the outside, but rather have a small window that looks through an exterior hallway (either the library on side 302-304-306 with less traffic) or the computer lab (301-303-305 with slightly more traffic) which also serves as the entry to the lounge. Those walkways are floor to ceiling glass so lots of light shines through, but we mostly kept the curtain pulled on our porthole for privacy. As to the level 2 staterooms, we were told by guests in 210 and 208 that they were closest to the engines and may have had a bit more engine noise at night. The area between 205 and 208 is where the guests gather to disembark, which is not a problem if you are disembarking with them, but if you are looking to sleep through it, it might have been loud. We thought the best value were staterooms 306 and 305, as those are sized to accommodate three passengers, and if they will give you one of those as a double, the extra room in the form of a day bed/couch is nice. The remaining level 3 staterooms, and the level 4 staterooms (but for 401 and 402, see below) are all about the same size. The difference is that the 4 level rooms have a small enclosed “porch” that some guests used as a place to hang wet clothing, but does have enough room for two people to sit with a book or a drink (it is slightly bigger than it looks in pictures.) The level 4 rooms are more private than the level 3 rooms (no exterior traffic), and had more light due to the window on the door to the deck. Staterooms 401 and 402 (on an older brochure I think those were labeled 501 and 502) were really spectacular with large dramatic windows overlooking the bow and sides of the boat, with the same small but functional enclosed decks like the other level 4 rooms. By comparison to any other staterooms, the light in those rooms was extraordinary. The bathrooms too were larger in those suites. The exterior walkways (rather than internal) offer the great benefit of providing many air conditioned places to lounge on either side of the ship with fantastic exterior views. Of course the lounge to the stern and two upper decks (open but shaded) also provide lots of space. The public spaces are sufficiently varied for socializing, or napping, reading or sunning in relative privacy. Therefore, we used our stateroom mostly to sleep, nap, shower and change, and lounged elsewhere on the boat. So overall, as you consider the class of accommodations, we thought 1) a level 2 stateroom offered a great overall experience because the you spend so little time in your room and this trip is about the outdoors; 2) if you are on level 2, rooms 201-204 might be quieter, but noise was never really an issue; 3) the premium for the extra space of 303-306 was worth it to us; 4) if you want to splurge and the stateroom matters to you the most, splurge on 401 or 402; you won’t be disappointed with the premium space. But regardless of which accommodations you pick, make sure you pick one and go. It is a unique travel experience like none other on the planet. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We boarded the ship direct from the airport at Baltra. The embarkation went on without any problem, it was done well. The ship ( more like a big catamaran ) is a fit for purpose vessel. Any one joining this voyage must not expect ... Read More
We boarded the ship direct from the airport at Baltra. The embarkation went on without any problem, it was done well. The ship ( more like a big catamaran ) is a fit for purpose vessel. Any one joining this voyage must not expect the luxuries of huge cruise liners, the purpose is adventure and fascinating activities. The cabins are self contained, neat, clean and well maintained - everything worked in the cabin. Food is of good quality and more than sufficient, being a diabetic I had informed them earlier, they did cater for it. The activities were par excellence - hiking in the Galapagos mountains, snorkelling, kayaking, teaching photography and zodiac boat rides. The service was more than sufficient, cabins were cleaned at least twice on a daily basis, all the staff were very helpful and courteous. There were a lot of shore excursions everyday, twice daily. There was only one chance to go ashore in a port. We had a nine year old boy with us, parents have to take care of their children during all activities. He had a fascinating voyage, it was a new experience for him, he took part in all the activities. I have travelled many times with Lindblad and will positively go again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
We chose this cruise to get up close and personal with the wildlife in the company of National Geographic guides and were not disappointed in that regard. Since no one has written a review of this ship before, I felt obligated to make ... Read More
We chose this cruise to get up close and personal with the wildlife in the company of National Geographic guides and were not disappointed in that regard. Since no one has written a review of this ship before, I felt obligated to make this one very detailed to answer as many questions as possible. Read on… The Ship When we boarded the ship at the end of October, it had just come out of its annual dry dock 4 weeks earlier, and it was in good shape. On Deck 2 was the front desk, gift shop, infirmary, spa, and dining room. This was the deck where we boarded the panga boats, and either side of the lobby had outdoor racks for hanging wetsuits to dry, even numbered cabins on one side and odd on the other. We also hung our skinsuits here to dry after making a drippy mess trying to hang them on the clothesline in the bathroom. There was a Sparkletts-type water dispenser in the lobby and a table where they would have a big glass dispenser of a different juice every day when we returned from outings along with some kind of sweet treat like brownies. Up a steep and narrow staircase to Deck 3 led you to the only public restroom, a computer center with 2 computers you could use when you bought Internet minutes plus a Mac computer designated for downloading photos and videos to transfer onto jump drives or other storage media. The computer center was in the hallway between the stairs and the lounge. In that same hallway in front of the windows were 2 small round low tables with 2 leather high-backed chairs each. The lounge had a bar, enough chairs and couches for all the passengers, a flat screen on both sides of the room for the daily briefings, and a drink station. Coffee, decaf, and numerous kinds of tea bags with hot water were available. The water station had 3 buttons: 1 for pellet ice, 1 for water, and 1 for a combination of ice and water. A bar-type soda handheld dispenser had options of coke, diet coke, sprite, orange, and strawberry soda. Rounding out the drink options was a small fridge with bottled beer on the honor system where you could write your cabin number on a paper along with how many beers you were buying. There were usually tins with Oreos and store bought chocolate chip cookies next to the drink station and sometimes fruit. Before the daily briefings in the evenings they would set out snacks like cheese and nuts plus a basket of really good buttered popcorn on each table in the lounge. The Cabin We had chosen cabin 207 specifically because it was midship lowest level to reduce the rocking motion since I am somewhat susceptible to seasickness, and we loved the convenience of the location being so close to where we were constantly getting on and off the ship and on the same level as the dining room. It was especially great being able to quickly duck into a hot shower when we were all wet from snorkeling. It was also nice having our own bathroom to use since there were no public bathrooms on this level. The cabin was cozy but serviceable. The queen bed was quite comfortable, with 4 soft pillows, soft sheets, and a light down comforter. One downside was that it was flush against the left cabin wall, so the person who slept on that side had to crawl in and out from the bottom of the bed. On the other side of the bed was a desk that became our nightstand and general dumping ground since it was the only usable surface in the cabin. The desktop did lift up to a storage area, but we only put things in there that we didn't really need since we had to clear everything off the desktop to open it. There was a high shelf in the corner with a US electrical outlet above it, and that became our charging station. We had brought a surge protector with 3 outlets and 2 USB ports, so we plugged that into the outlet and then plugged in the charging cords for 2 iPads and the underwater video camera and dangled them over the side of the shelf where we could reach them. The shelf was over our heads at 5.5 feet, so we had to drag the desk chair over to the shelf if we needed to plug something else in. The only other outlet in the room was behind the bed pillows, which wasn't very practical (note there were no outlets in the bathroom). There were 2 sets of double hooks under the shelf, one of which we used to hang the life jackets we had to wear in the panga boats, and the other for the camera bags. Unlike most ships, the cabin walls were not magnetic, but there was a metal strip running down the wall between the shelf and the bathroom door, and we put a strong magnet there to hang the daily programs. Two more big hooks near the door held our hats and jackets. The bathroom was tiny, even by ship standards, and the shower curtain billowed in and stuck to you as you were showering. The shower had a dispenser for shampoo and one for body wash as well as a soap dish. There was a dispenser for liquid hand soap and lotion by the sink, 2 cup holders, a kleenex dispenser, a hairdryer, and a small shelf above the sink plus 2 hooks on the back of the bathroom door where we hung our toiletry kits. They provided a little mesh bag with a small bar of soap, conditioner, loofah, and lip gloss. The rack for hand towels was inexplicably up near the ceiling, so you had to raise your arms over your head to dry your hands. A clothesline ran in front of the shower and over the toilet. It was hard enough to get a pair of underwear to dry in there, so we didn't attempt to reuse towels and just threw them on the floor to be replaced in one of the 3 times a day refreshing of the cabin (1 during breakfast or morning activities, 1 during afternoon activities, and a turndown service during dinner where the next day's program and delicious chocolate truffles were left on the bed). One person took care of all the even cabins and another took care of the odd cabins. They seemed to start on Deck 2 and work their way up, so our cabin got cleaned very quickly. Surprising given that the ship just came out of dry dock, but the shower curtain was very mildewy. Midway through the week we saw the cabin across the hall getting theirs replaced, so we asked, and they replaced ours right away. The closet had plenty of space for hanging clothes along with 3 drawers, 2 low shelves, a large drawer with key lock, and a high shelf spanning the length of the closet. Since there were no cabin keys, the locked drawer was the only place to secure things. Part of the high closet shelf was used for storage of our life jackets (these are the ones for abandoning ship, not to be confused with the ones worn in the panga boats). The closet doors had full length mirrors though the overhead lighting was not great there. Above the bed were 2 cupboards with a blanket and thicker down comforter as well as 2 reading lights. Air conditioning worked great and would get the cabin down to frigid temperatures if you wanted that. Between the closet and the door was a lower cupboard with 2 shelves and then 3 upper shelves, one of which held a covered water pitcher, 2 glasses, and 2 metal water bottles. We did take the water bottles on hikes filled with ice, and the ice melted in no time, so next time I would bring an insulated water bottle from home. Or maybe not, since the fear of not being able to go to the bathroom on the islands pretty much kept me from drinking at all on the excursions. I'm sure this would be different in the hot season, but it was pretty much cloudy and high 60s to low 70s all the time, and I'm fine going an hour or two not drinking anything in that kind of weather. The Food I know that food is subjective, but the consensus was that the food was overall mediocre. Breakfast, lunch, and 3 of the dinners were buffet, where the only thing that was piping hot was the soup (generally quite tasty). Even if we arrived right when breakfast started, the eggs, pancakes, and everything else was cold. This was not an eggs cooked to order station like on large cruise ships. Each day it was a different preparation (scrambled, sunny side up or over easy, Benedict, frittata), but the frittata was the only warm one. Towards the end of the week someone came up with the idea of putting the pancakes and french toast into the toasters to heat them up. Every day there was a different fresh made juice (particularly loved the coconut juice!) and pitchers of pourable yogurt. The milk did not taste good, so I only had it the first day, but they did have whole, nonfat, and lactose-free milk. The oatmeal looked really gluey so did not even attempt it. There were jars of breakfast cereals and some not very good breakfast pastries. Surprising that these were not good given that the same pastry chef made cinnamon palm fronds for the treats table that rivaled the best I've ever had from French bakeries. These only show up once during the week, so grab a bunch! The best meals were a couple of lunches that focused on Ecuadorean or Mexican food. Absolute worst was dinner the last night, which was basically inedible. Luckily, we had filled up at the Mexican lunch that day so just ended up pushing the food around on our plates at dinner. All of the dinner options were tried at our table of 8, and no one ended up eating their dinner that night. Clothes and Shoes I had heavily researched what to bring for clothes and shoes, and here's how it turned out. The closest thing I brought to a true shoe was a pair of Teva clogs that had a mesh covering over the front part of the foot and a lightweight plastic sole. These were surprisingly warm to wear on the plane and a comfortable thing to slip on and wear around the ship. The true workhorses were a light, rugged sandal that I wore on all of the walking excursions. I brought a pair of Teva water sandals with a closed toe since there seemed to be so much written about needing closed-toe shoes, and I wore them on the very first day for a wet landing. As I got out of the panga boat, sand got stuck inside the toe area. I tried rinsing them out and using a towel to get the sand off my feet but this was not entirely successful, and the sand was chafing, so I ended up just going barefoot on the beach. Those sandals remained in the closet untouched for the rest of the week. My Teva water socks did see some wear on beach days when my feet needed some protection, but for most water landings I went barefoot, then dried my feet with the towels the guides brought to shore, and then put my sandals on. Rounding out the shoe collection was a pair of Teva flip flops, which were great for wearing around the ship or in the panga boats when we were not landing. For snorkeling trips I didn't wear any shoes at all since we were just heading out to the snorkeling spot where we put our fins on. Given that the weather was mostly in the 60s to low 70s, the shorts and short-sleeved tops mostly stayed in the drawer. What I ended up wearing every day was a Royal Robbins, Columbia, or Magellan’s shirt with long sleeves that could be buttoned up to three-quarter sleeves. The shirts were made of lightweight polyester and had ventilation slits. To go with the shirts I wore Royal Robbins or Columbia polyester capris or pants that could be rolled up to capris for water landings. In the evenings I would often put on some comfy terry cloth capris or pants with a cotton three-quarter sleeve shirt. My research had showed that I needed a hat with a chinstrap to prevent blowing off in the wind and a flap at the back to prevent sunburn on the neck, so I found a hat like that at Costco and brought it. It was the right hat for several of the excursions, but on other excursions I would have been happier with a basic baseball cap, so I wish I had brought both. I had read that the shortie wetsuits provided by the ship did not keep people warm enough, so I got a long-sleeved swim shirt at Costco to wear underneath. As the trip got closer, I worried that would not be enough and went online to Amazon to get a full-length Lycra skinsuit. It definitely helped keep me warm in the 70 degree water and also helped slide the wetsuit on and off. I did not get a skinsuit that covered the head because it looked uncomfortable, and I found myself coveting the neoprene dive caps that a couple of people were wearing. I actually tried to find one the day we were in Santa Cruz with no success, and if I had it to do over I would definitely bring one of these. The other find at Amazon was a pair of pink Lycra snorkeling socks, which helped keep my feet warm and slide the fins on, and also made me easier to pick out of a crowd in the water. I brought 2 bathing suits, but since I was wearing the skinsuit and swim shirt for snorkeling every day, I never used the swim suits except for our afternoon at the hotel pool in Guayaquil the day the cruise ended. Equipment We took our old Canon SX210 point-and-shoot camera that had 14x zoom. It worked fine for most of the photos we were snapping since the animals let us get up close and personal. It didn’t quite cut it on the action shots of birds flying from a distance or for the flamingos around the lagoon since they were a ways off. Since everyone on board was generously sharing their photos, we snagged some good ones of these too. Where we splurged was on the just-released Sony HDR-GW77 waterproof video camera with 17x extended zoom. This took amazing footage on the snorkeling trips and was much easier to point where we wanted it than the GoPro that a fellow passenger had. After learning more than I ever wanted to know about binoculars, I settled on the Carson 8x26 waterproof/fogproof binoculars that Lindblad had on their gear website. They seemed to provide a good balance between being able to see what we wanted to see without having to lug a really heavy pair of binoculars or worry about getting them wet or irrevocably fog-damaged as we had happen to an earlier pair on an Amazon cruise. Ports One tip is to get your whole group together for the panga rides to wherever you are going. Each panga has 1 naturalist aboard, and you stay with that same group for the duration of the excursion (boat ride, snorkeling, or hike). San Cristobal: All of the ship passengers flew from Guayaquil Ecuador to San Cristobal on Aerogal airlines. Once there the passports were reviewed. They won’t automatically stamp your passport since you are still in the same country, but if you ask you can get a cool turtle stamp saying Galapagos National Park. In hindsight this was the least impressive port, but the afternoon wet landing was our first chance to see some of the birds (including my favorite brightly colored yellow warbler), lizards, and sea lions that would become old hat by the end of the week, so our little beach walk with the naturalists was exciting nonetheless. Espanola: A high point was not the morning snorkeling and beach time watching the sea lions but the dolphins spotted during lunch. I’m from Southern California, and I’ve certainly seen my share of dolphins, but after the first spotting the captain angled the boat to follow them, and we found ourselves in the midst of a pod of around 200 dolphins leaping in and out of the water. Magnificent! The afternoon hike featured blue-footed and Nazca boobies as well as waved albatrosses doing mating dances and 2 males beak clacking to win the heart of the fair maiden plus some very young albatrosses still covered in fluff, so it was a pretty awesome day all the way around. Floreana: Here is where it paid off to do the early morning wet landing (and especially to be on the first panga boat!). On the boat ride we saw 2 penguins and a sea turtle swimming, but when we got to the lagoon we found 22 flamingos (much more than usual, we were told) and just stood watching them for a long time. Then a dozen of them took off in flight, and we watched them circle and soar (you don’t get that in a zoo!). Lunchtime was a viewing bonanza that day too. Three blue whales repeatedly spouted, breached, and dove while we looked on, everyone trying to capture the perfect photo of the tail disappearing into the water. Santa Cruz: This was the one day back in civilization. Dry landing and a short walk to the tortoise breeding center, where we saw tortoises of all sizes. Even better was seeing them in the wild that afternoon. We spotted dozens on the bus ride to the farm where they roamed freely and then saw them up close as we walked around (they will pull their heads in and hiss if you get too close). If you aren’t wearing closed shoes, definitely bring a pair of socks with you and borrow some rubber boots from their stack. Even if you are wearing closed shoes, you are better off using the boots because your shoes will get all muddy. Before catching the panga back to the ship there is just enough time to grab a couple of T-shirts and visit the grocery store for a very limited selection of alcohol. South Plaza and Santa Fe: Morning was a dry landing for a rocky walk where we saw land iguanas galore, a just-born sea lion, and a Galapagos shark. Snorkeling in the afternoon we saw a ray and 2 sea turtles (1 of which I swam with, matching it stroke for stroke). Sombrero Chino and Santiago: By far the best snorkeling was this morning, with a cove of 3 white-tipped reef sharks, penguins swimming, a sea cucumber, ray, starfish, and octopus. Afternoon walk was a dry landing for a walk over the sharp lava flows (very desolate looking). Genovesa: This morning we did the short walk and were really glad we did because we got to stay and watch a swallowtail gull hatching in a nest on the ground. It was also our first glimpse of red-footed boobies after seeing the blue-footed boobies all week. In the afternoon there was a choice between a rigorous walk up Prince Philip’s Steps or a panga ride to see the sites. We opted for the panga and got to see fur seals, sea turtles, tropic birds, and frigate birds. Baltra: Nothing exciting here, just disembarking the ship for a short bus ride to the airport. Be warned, though, that there is a 1-hour difference between ship time and island time. We almost missed our flight since we were meandering around the airport T-shirt shops thinking we had plenty of time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
National Geographic Islander Ratings
Category Editor Member

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click