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5 National Geographic Endeavour Cruise Reviews

This is not a cruise for those who want to have all the standard facilities of large cruise ships. There are no elevators. No wide choice of dining. No theatre or entertainment. I loved it. The ship (which will be phased out next ... Read More
This is not a cruise for those who want to have all the standard facilities of large cruise ships. There are no elevators. No wide choice of dining. No theatre or entertainment. I loved it. The ship (which will be phased out next year) looks like a ship, not a tipped-over skyscrapper. It carries 95 passengers. The rooms are small, but one doesn't take such a cruise to get a suite. The dining is quite good, sometimes excellent. The ship is throughly comfortable, with a variety of places to relax, assuming one has time for it. What makes the cruise is the Galapagos. The guides (all are National Park employees) are outstanding. This was a photo cruise, and the photographers were simply excellent, with sound advice for beginners and experts alike. And wow, could they take photographs. The guides work on a variety of ships (their presence is required on every landing). They are understandably discreet about other ships, but various comments made it clear that the National Geographic Endeavor is a favorite ship to work on. Typically there are two stops a day, since the islands are close together. Here's a typical morning visit. We came in for a "wet landing" (we had to wade ashore from the Zodiacs. We promptly saw a Galapagos Hawk. They there were hundreds of marine iguanas. A Great Heron wandered past. We saw some Sally Lightfoot Crabs working there way down the skelton of a snake, There were some flightless comorants. Various pelicans, frigate birds, sea lions, and sea turtles. And that's only a partial list. Then back to the ship for a tasty lunch. The delight of the Galapagos is that the animals have no fear. Instructions are to stay six feet away from wildlife — unless the wildlife on its own decides to have a look at you. Those blue-footed boobies wandered close, although we were more curious about them than they were about us. The scuba diving is astounding. The disadvantage of a ship this size is that it can be overwhelmed by groups. On this sailing there was a large alumni group and 15 members of one family. They were all delightful people, but of course they tended to hang out together. However, the group as a whole was most interesting. There were an unusual number of children on this sailing, most well-behaved, but some were a tad rambunctious. A minor annoyance at times. The ship's doctor was excellent. Unlike larger cruise lines, there is no charge. I visited her for a back problem, and as a bonus she promptly diagnosed another medical issue which my regular physician confirmed on returning home. This is not a cruise for the mobility-impaired. Getting on and off the Zodiacs requires some flexibility. In short, this is an expensive cruise, not one I'd spring for often, but this exceeded expectations. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
First of all, I am giving the ship a rating of 3, not the entire Galapagos experience. So let me break it down. This ship is going into port now to be refurbished, and no-one is sure what it be like once that is done. So what ... Read More
First of all, I am giving the ship a rating of 3, not the entire Galapagos experience. So let me break it down. This ship is going into port now to be refurbished, and no-one is sure what it be like once that is done. So what I'm going to tell you will refer to the ship the way she is before the refurbishment. Frankly, I can't see them making too many changes, but you never know. The ship is old- but serviceable. She works very well for the purpose intended. This is a ' no-frills' ship. Nothing fancy. Cabins are very small. As I was travelling alone I had an upgraded ( I was told pretty much the largest) single and I found it to be fine for me , but the other singles I saw were virtually closets, and the people in them felt rather claustrophobic. The doubles I saw were not much larger than my single. The ship is air conditioned, so that is good, and cabins are equipped with a fan which helps move the air ( and is great for drying clothes too!). There are 2 driers on board but you have to wash your clothes in the sink in the bathroom as there are no tubs, just small showers. . Because almost everyone comes & goes at the same time there was frequently a shortage of hot water, and I ended up having a number of rather cool showers as a result. Meals are taken all together at one sitting- you can sit wherever you like, there are no assigned places.. The food was disappointing- there was enough of it, but it was very blah and repetitive. Breakfast and lunch were always buffet style, while dinner was a sit down. For dinner you had to make a choice in advance from 3 entrees every day, Everything was portioned out, you could not ask for seconds. There were supposed to be 24 hours snacks upstairs in the lounge but this was not the case- snacks ( which were very good BTW) were brought up for the seminars before dinner, and any leftovers ( of which there rarely were) were removed, so all you could get was some tea or coffee or very good hot chocolate. There was no room service. Rooms were cleaned three times a day, which was amazing. No complaints there. If you like better quality toiletries bring your own as everything on board was ecological to better fit in with the policy of the ship being environmentally friendly as much as possible. They had everything you needed though- a very nice oatmeal soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, some body lotion etc, There are no elevators, and the stairs are rather steep, and lots of them if you plan to go from the bottom cabins to the top. This is not a ship if you have any mobility issues. Getting from the ship to the Zodiacs required a step from a platform onto the zodiac, a bench and then onto the floor of the zodiac. The zodiacs were fine, a bit bouncy and sometimes wet if conditions were choppy. The zodiacs were always used for every excursion and also to board and disembark. There was a tiny gift shop that was surprisingly well stocked with items. You could buy NG branded clothing and a few books, souvenirs etc. Prices were not too unreasonable compared to what you would find on other ships. Again, it is best to bring your own supplies as much as possible. Because most of the islands are not densely populated there was only one stop where you could really go ' shopping' , and that was very limited. There is one Dr. on board ship- the one I saw was excellent. She had quite a stock of medications and could handle most common issues. Don't break anything though because there are no xray machines on board and there is only one bed in the Dr's office, which is very small. If there was a major emergency I don't think they would be able to handle it. I was told that if something did happen the ship would have to turn around and make for the closest port that had medical facilities. Medical care is free in Ecuador so that is bonus, though. Now about the cruise itinerary. Firstly, you can only see half the Galapagos in 7 days, but WOW! there is a lot to see and experience. You must be fit to do the excursions as they move along pretty well most of the time and the paths you follow are often rough. Snorkeling is great, but again, not for a weak swimmer as there are currents. The expedition staff are amazing!!!!! Excellent knowledge and sharp eyes to boot. You couldn't have any better. Every day was a fabulous experience, but be warned the days are very busy! You get up early and generally have two, sometimes 3 excursions. The only break is for lunch, and then you go out again and come back for a shower & the evening seminar/recap and dinner. You will be tired and probably go to sleep early. I never had a problem with the beds or falling asleep, and I am an insomniac, so that says something. If you like nature, geology and wildlife, you would love this trip. If you don't, it is not for you. Don't expect to be entertained, there is none, but you'll be too tired anyway. I would recommend the NG/Linblad connection for any real nature lovers, even though it is very pricey. You are really paying for the experience and quality of the guides on board, the organization of the excursions, not the ship or food. These are certainly the best guides I have ever encountered, by far, and I didn't paying the price for it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
If you are an independent traveler who likes to have some control of events, this is not the cruise for you. Unfortunately it is the only way to visit the Galapagos Islands and visit a substantial number of visitor sites. The Endeavour is ... Read More
If you are an independent traveler who likes to have some control of events, this is not the cruise for you. Unfortunately it is the only way to visit the Galapagos Islands and visit a substantial number of visitor sites. The Endeavour is an Ecuadorean flagged, German built fishing boat equipped for Antarctic conditions that carries 96 of your new best friends each week and a crew of 70 crammed into its hull. It is a slickly organized mass tourist market soft adventure cruise where you can do three or four activities: you can hike only with a naturalist in a group on either a designated “long” or “short” hike, you can snorkel with the group in a designated and patrolled area or you can kayak (three times per voyage and only with advance sign up for a spot on one of 7 kayaks) or you can, again with advance sign up, take a glass bottom boat ride. That is it. You cannot swim from ship to shore or around the ship or outside designated limits. You cannot up and go for a walk. Excersize will be in the small gym as the hikes tend to be short strolls with a lot of standing around rather than hikes. There are long lines in narrow corridors to board the Zodiacs for disembarkation and a plethora of rules to obey. To go ashore requires you to know first whether or not it is a wet (on the beach) or dry (on a jetty) landing, then to remember, amongst the usual backpack items (insect repellent, sunscreen, water bottles) to put on your life vest, slide a magnet to indicate that you are going ashore so that they have a passenger count, stretch out both arms to be helped on board the Zodiac and then cram one against the other for the journey ashore. The Zodiacs are loaded to the point of discomfort for all, up to 8 per side. That leaves passengers wedged close together and is uncomfortable. The trick is to await the final Zodiac which may have fewer people on board. I found these Zodiac rides dangerous as well as uncomfortable; I have been whacked in the eye by a metal buckle as one of the ubiquitous photographers swings his camera around to catch a shot, poked in the side and sat on by a large off balance individual. Once ashore, one discards life vests in the Zodiac and then the naturalist accompanying the Zodiac takes over, corralling her (or his) group of 16 close together for the hike. You cannot remain on the beach or stray from the group. The naturalists are all knowledgeable, some more so than others, and they lecture during the brief Zodiac ride ashore, going over the rules once again and then once on shore, the lectures do not stop; this is not a silent observation hike, nor a walk where one chooses one’s own speed. It is a forced march at the pace of the naturalist guide who will decide when and where to stop. People are herded like sheep and there is little space to enjoy a solitary moment of contemplation. Cabins are very adequate with comfortable bunks (the mattresses could use updating) and good bedding and bathrooms are spotless with all the necessities provided including shampoos and soaps that are biodegradable. Meals are ample, many served buffet style with 96 people once more dutifully standing in a long line but quality is only mediocre. The offerings are typically bland to fit the American palate: bacon and eggs, sweetened fruit yogurts, sweetened breads and cakes and the usual chicken or meat or a vegetarian offerings at lunch and dinner. For those who enjoy American coffee, there is plenty but those who prefer a European coffee will need to ask for expresso. Beers and wines are local. The bar seems to offer everything one would need but I am no expert so will leave that commentary to those better qualified to comment. The lounge is the place where everything occurs and if it is briefings (never brief) more lectures or National Geographic films that one wishes to see, you will be pleasantly surprised as there are 2 – 4 briefings per day. It is in this aspect that the crew is least skilled with little training in public speaking, thus lecturing rather than speaking without humour on their topics. Perhaps Lindblad might consider information given on ipads or similar placed in cabins. This would eliminate the vast quantities of paper wastage. The cruise line is environmentally conscious in every other aspect (biodegradable soaps, conservation of linens etc) but fails on the paper front. The daily bulletin is placed in cabins at night. The NYT bulletin in printed off and posted daily in the lounge and I would think that a system of people management whereby one signed up for a specific Zodiac in the cabin on the ipad or device for a specific boarding time, would be more effective and better save on paper waste. Much could be done to avoid the lengthy, repetitive and often boring lectures and briefings and the long lines in narrow corridors. One cannot beat the bird and animal sightings and the knowledge of the naturalists on board. Neither can one match the range of sites visited. In this the Endeavour succeeds beyond imagination. And it is for the bird and animal sightings that one visits the islands. However, the long lensed enthusiastic photographers can be irritating as they thoughtlessly insert themselves to get the best shots. Again a better system of organization of boarding might better separate the serious amateur photographers with their lenses and equipment from those who prefer peace and quiet. National Geographic / Lindblad cruises is probably the master of soft adventure mass tourist movers. Provided you do as you are told and show up on time for all activities to stand in line and wait and do not vary from the plan, you will have a wonderful time. Independent travelers, this cruise is not for you!   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
The Galapagos Islands are a special place. Located about 600 miles east of continental Ecuador, they contain many species and varieties of species of flora and fauna. The National Geographic/Linblad Expeditions (NG/Linblad) expedition ... Read More
The Galapagos Islands are a special place. Located about 600 miles east of continental Ecuador, they contain many species and varieties of species of flora and fauna. The National Geographic/Linblad Expeditions (NG/Linblad) expedition gives you the chance to visit several of the places that Charles Darwin visited on the (second) voyage of the HMS Beagle. The pluses: unique wildlife (blue-footed booby, magnificent frigatebird, giant tortoises) knowledgeable naturalist guides, Zodiac boats to land you on the shore, snorkeling in different marine environments, programs for kids, friendly staff, tasty food, excellent service in the handling of the delay departing Galapagos Islands, pre- and post-departure hotel in Guayaquil. The minuses: no advance warning about fumigation on one flight, incorrect checked and carry-on baggage allowance information, and inadequate wetsuits for dry season (my trip was in July). This trip has been at the top of my wife's bucket list for many years. Seeing the island by ship was an excellent way to visit the islands and experience the diversity of wildlife and marine life. She selected National Geographic (NG) based on the itinerary, relatively small passenger size (96), and recommendations from her sister (on other NG trips). For me, it was an OK selection; it fell short of my high expectations due to the minuses identified in this write-up. My family arrived one day early so that we could recover from jet lag and be rested for the start of the cruise. One night at the hotel (pre- and post-cruise) was already included in the price of the cruise. The pre-departure (and post-departure) hotel was the Hilton Colon Guayaquil (recommended). It is only a few miles from the airport, has a nice atmosphere, inexpensive spa treatments, and can arrange safe, inexpensive cab rides for visiting the city--which we did prior to the cruise ($10 US per hour). Go see the Iguana Park, the Boardwalk (Malecon) and walk up from the Boardwalk through the Barrio Las Peas to the lighthouse (faro) for a view of the city. If time permits, stop at the General Cemetery to see the above ground crypts (they are like those in New Orleans, USA). There are some emotionally moving sculptures on several of the crypts. At the hotel, we had a minor snafu with the number of breakfast vouchers and free drink coupons for our arrival, as well as with one charge in the Atrium Bar and lounge (the credit card info for our first night stay was not automatically carried over to the second night stay). Those problems were quickly fixed. All transfers were handled smoothly and efficiently between the hotel and airport in Guayaquil, between the airports in the Galapagos Islands and the marinas, and between the marinas and the ship--the NG Endeavour. Embarkation and debarkation was done by Zodiac boats. Most people from the USA flew American Airlines through Miami to Guayaquil. From Guayaquil, we flew AeroGal (Aerolneas Galapagos) to and from the Galapagos Islands. We flew into the airport at Baltra Island, and left by the airport on San Cristobal Island. Our luggage was delivered to our cabin in a timely manner. The Expedition Guide provided online, as well as the final itinerary provided by NG/Linblad with the travel documents before we left the USA, stated that checked luggage could not exceed 40 pounds per person and that carry-on luggage could not exceed 12 pounds. We should have been suspicious, because many international flights use a limit of 20 kilograms for checked luggage, which is 44 pounds, and 10 kilograms (22 pounds) for carry-on luggage. Believing the Expedition Guide, we removed clothing and other items from our suitcases before leaving home to meet the 40-pound limit. I was very disappointed when I learned that I could have brought 4 more pounds in each of our suitcases. It was helpful that the ship offers laundry service. So fewer clothes are needed. One unpleasant surprise occurred on our inbound flight to the Galapagos Islands. About 15 minutes before landing, the flight attendants opened all the overhead bins and started spraying cans of fumigation chemicals into the bins. My wife is very sensitive to chemicals, and I'm just thankful she didn't have a reaction to the fumes. It was a major, regrettable oversight for NG/Linblad not to have given us advance notice about this. Curiously, none of the backpacks, etc. stored under the seats in front of passengers were sprayed, so the attempts to kill any insects in carry-on luggage would not have been totally successful. You don't know your exact itinerary until you get the final travel documents about 30 days before the cruise begins. Ecuador controls which ships and tours visit where in the Galapagos Islands to minimize crowding and impacts to the native ecology. We visited the following islands and areas: Baltra Island, Las Bachas (Santa Cruz Island), North Seymour Island, Rabida Island, Fernandina Island, Isabela Island, Santiago Island, Santa Cruz Island (including the must-see fish market with pelicans and sea lions, and Charles Darwin Research Station), and Punta Pitt and "Kicker Rock" (San Cristobal Island). NG/Linblad wasted a valuable resource for the cruise. I was happy to see a webcast before the trip with tips for taking photographs on the island. The advance information on the expedition team noted that several were NG-certified photo instructors. While the photo instructors were around, not much was done to maximize their potential. There was only one scheduled photo session onboard the ship to learn how to use your camera. There were two photo themed hikes, but they did not occur until later in the cruise. I would recommend that there be scheduled sessions on typical photo challenges freezing wildlife in motion, using ISO to compensate for lighting, and using exposure compensation to compensate for backgrounds (wildlife on white sandy beaches, wildlife on gray volcanic rock, etc.). I brought my computer along on the cruise, so that I could download pictures to the computer and free up memory on my camera's memory cards. I noticed that many of my photos looked "blah", with either poor lighting or bland backgrounds. I looked for the photo instructors in the afternoon on the ship to ask about this, but they were difficult to find. So, on the excursions, I started asking the naturalist guides how to take better pictures and compensate for some of the environmental factors. That helped me to improve the quality of my pictures (though late in the cruise). I'm sure they are others who could also benefit from such information. We saw a variety of wildlife: blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies (supposedly rarer than their blue-footed cousins), magnificent and great frigatebirds, flamingos, pelicans, Sally Lightfoot crabs, a few finches, land and marine iguanas, giant tortoises, hawks, manta rays, sharks, sea turtles, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, a few fur seals, and a few whales. One of the highlights of the trip was the chance to go snorkeling on most days. It was a very cold experience for many. We traveled in July when the water temperatures can be 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (the actual temperatures were in the middle 60s). That is cold! The Expedition Guide noted that NG/Linblad provides 3-mm shorty wetsuits. I considered that inadequate, at least for me. I stopped by a local dive shop before the cruise, to see about getting a hood to keep my head from getting so cold. I was told that 60-degree water is cold, and that I should bring a full wetsuit (I have a 3-mm one), and wear booties, gloves and a hood. I purchased a 3-mm wetsuit vest and hood. That gave me 6 mm of insulation for my torso. Of course, this added weight to my suitcase, but it was a very smart decision. Onboard the NG Endeavour, I asked the staff member assisting people with the shorty wetsuits about why full wetsuits were not provided by NG/Linblad. He said he didn't know. Later, during an orientation session, the Expedition Leader brought up this issue, and said that full wetsuits are not provided, because guests do not ask for them. I was very surprised (and shocked) by that comment. I continually heard people complaining about how cold they were while snorkeling. Even my wife complained about her hands (she did bring booties). All my gear allowed me to be the last one back to the Zodiac whenever we went snorkeling. I was still a little chilled, but could easily stay in the water for 30-45 minutes. My wife and I mentioned to Sebastian, the Hotel Manager on the ship, that the onboard shop could make a nice profit if it sold snorkeling gloves and booties. In the long run, NG/Linblad should suggest that passengers bring gloves, booties, and hoods for snorkeling when the water temperature is in the 60s, and NG/Linblad should provide full wetsuits. Several passengers did bring full wetsuits and booties. The staff graciously allowed passengers to hang their gear on the upper deck so that it could dry out between trips. You could not use the bathroom in the cabin to dry out anything. Wet items never dry out in the bathroom. On the first day of snorkeling, I saw a manta ray with a wing span of more than 20 feet. I was in awe as I watched it move gracefully along the face of the cliff. On most days, I saw lots of colorful, tropical fish. Some areas had fire coral. I also saw sea turtles, sea lions, black-tipped reef sharks, and Galapagos sharks (no worries, they did not bother the snorkelers). My wife hoped we would be able to snorkel with penguins, but no such luck (we only saw them during Zodiac cruises). Snorkeling was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The onboard store, the Global Gallery/Market, was open several times each day. My wife and I bought some t-shirts made in Ecuador that featured a blue-footed booby. She also loved the quality of the Alpaca blankets and bought several as gifts for family and friends. One night after dinner we were looking into the store. The Hotel Manager Sebastian came by and graciously offered to open the store up for us. He did, and my wife and I bought several items. The Shop Manager Jessica came by and helped me find a polo shirt in my size. Other passengers stopped by, and Jessica kept the store open. This is the kind of customer service that makes me happy and willing to recommend the NG/Linblad cruise to others. My family had cabin 300 on the lowest desk of the ship. The cabin had 2 rooms and a bathroom. I think all bathrooms are small, and the shower is particularly small. There were two beds in one room and a pullout sofa in the other (for my family of three). The portholes in each room were a couple of feet above the sea surface. The rooms were smaller than some cruise ships we have been on, but we knew we were on an expedition and would have different, but suitable accommodations. We were missing a few things in the room when we arrived, but that was easily fixed. The beds were comfortable. They were two pillows per bed. There was adequate storage space in the closet (one per passenger in the rooms with beds). Suitcases easily fit under the bed. There is no safe for valuables. There is a small drawer in the desk that you can lock for a few valuables. We locked stuff in our suitcases under the beds. Note that passengers are NOT given keys for the cabins. You can lock the door from the inside, but not from the outside. Passengers are informed about this, prior to the expedition, in the Expedition Guide, and during the Orientation Session onboard the ship the first day. Not having a key for the cabin was not a problem. We enjoyed the afternoon "debrief" in the lounge by the expedition staff. We could enjoy beer, wine, cocktails, tea, and soft drinks while we socialized with other passengers, shared our adventures during the daily excursions, and showed photos we took during the day. Typically one of the expedition staff would give a short presentation on some topic of interest. Then the Expedition Leader would tell us about activities for the coming day, before we headed for dinner. All meals were served buffet style in the dining room, except that soups were delivered to your table. The soups were excellent. Overall, there were many positives about the trip, and a few negatives. It was exciting to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and wonder about the nature paradise that he experienced back in 1835 that led to his historic insight into the origin of species and natural selection. The Galapagos Islands are truly a special place.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
I cruised on this ship in November 2011 and am writing this review to give a heads up to anyone planning to use this ship. I believe this ship has Norovirus. Of approximately 70 passengers, at least 20 became ill over the course of the ... Read More
I cruised on this ship in November 2011 and am writing this review to give a heads up to anyone planning to use this ship. I believe this ship has Norovirus. Of approximately 70 passengers, at least 20 became ill over the course of the voyage with severe omiting and diarrhea. I believe 20 to be the minimum number as people were still getting sick on the trip home and some did not report to the doctor. This is my own personal opinion and not confirmed medically; what is completely certain is that approximately one third of passengers suffered violent illness over the course of the week. One young person became so ill that they had to get an IV. I am not a public health or medical person but I have many concerns about the sanitation practices on this ship. No acknowledge was made of this problem during the cruise. No instructions were given to us. No one was quarantined. Buffet serving continued with people going through the line handling serving utensils. There was hand sanitizer available at the entrance to the dining room but at only one meal at the end of the trip was someone standing by the door requesting people to use it. These are some of the things which I personally observed: 1. Passengers disembark at 8:30 am. The new passengers come on the ship at 10:30 am, same day. This is not adequate time to clean and disinfect this ship. 2. The sheets for the next passenger in my cabin were put into my cabin on a shelf over my bed the night before. This was not even a closed shelf with doors. 3. At the end of the cruise, the bar was putting out large bowls of popcorn and people were just reaching in to serve themselves with their hands. 4. There were little decorative pillows placed on the beds against the pillowcases. These were put back on the beds for the oncoming passengers without being washed, as were the gray blankets. 5. The doctor did not seem to have enough large bandages to cover up the wounds of one woman who fell down. 6. Another woman fell down and received very large scrapings on her fore arms. She left the doctors office with blood seeping through these bandages rendering them completely bloody, came to the lounge and rested her arms against the upholstered chair. 7. The serving temperature of the food seemed to me to be inadequate. Most things were served at room temperature. Hot dishes were not hot and cold dishes were not really cold. Some people suspected that food was showing up again in a different guise at a later meal. 8. There were unconfirmed rumors that one person became so ill on the previous voyage they had to be removed from the ship. I have reported this to Lindblad which has already had an incident in May of this year when they did not report an outbreak as required by CDC to CDC and this can be researched on the CDC website. These are not cheap cruises; the cheapest cabin for this cruise was over $5,000 and these are not the sanitation standards I expect when I am paying this kind of money. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
National Geographic Endeavour Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.4
Dining 3.0 3.0
Entertainment 3.0 2.5
Public Rooms 3.0 3.8
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.0
Family 3.0 3.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 4.8
Enrichment 5.0 4.6
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.4
Rates 5.0 3.5

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