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5 Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Islander Cruise Reviews

...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
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 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
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

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