This was our first cruise and first Lindblad expedition. Our Alaska Inside Passage trip was from Sitka to Juno and was overall an amazing experience. The staff are very accommodating and extremely well-trained. I can't imagine getting better service. They make you feel like you are at home on the Venture. The naturalists are all amazing people, extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. You will leave the cruise missing their company.
The incredible Lindblad customer service literally starts a your booking and continues on throughout the trip. We were met at the Seattle Airport by a very personable Lindblad representative who let us know what would be happening. It was fairly easy to spot our fellow passengers - nearly all of whom were wearing Columbia or Patagonia outdoor clothing. Yes, this is the sort of trip you will be taking - comfortable, relaxing and adventurous.
The Venture itself is a wonderful ship. I totally fell in love with her. She and her sister ship, The Quest, are brand new (maiden voyages in November 2018), purpose-built just for National Geographic Linblad Expeditions.The public areas are extremely comfortable and the bow was specially built for wildlife viewing. The dinning room features wrap around windows for breathtaking views during meals.
The food is excellent on the Venture. There were a couple of misses, i.e. pancakes that were cooked on too hot a griddle, but it's a new ship and I am sure the staff are just getting used to the equipment. Breakfast and lunch are buffets with plenty of choices. Dinners are plated, you choose from a set menu before the meal, but there is no problem if you change your mind at the last minute. Diet restrictions are accommodated beautifully, so be sure to let Lindblad know if you have any when you book. Each afternoon snacks are available and appetizers are offered during the happy hour. Drink prices are not extraordinarily high and the mixologists on our trip were delightful.
Nearly every day of the trip featured some off boat activity, Zodiac tours, kayaking, hiking, or biking. Nothing too strenuous, though. If you want to see birds, I recommend the Zodiac rides over hiking. The guides make far too much noise because of bears for a good birding experience. Hikes are offered as aerobic, moderate and slow. Only the aerobic hikes seemed to go anywhere, so take that if you don't want to stay in one place. Off boat activities were generally 90 minutes to 2 hours.
A printed daily program was placed outside our cabin each night which described the following day in detail. Our expedition leader, Annie Fiske, would let us know after each meal what to expect and what to wear to ensure an enjoyable experience.
Each evening we had a recap of the days experience and some kind of educational entertainment. One of the highlights of a National Geographic Lindblad expedition are the trained naturalists and photographers who are on board. Our National Geographic certified photographer, Michael Nolan, gave an excellent class on iPhone photography, or as he described it, your camera that also makes phone calls. There was really never a dull moment - always something exciting to experience. During the times when we were cruising, if wildlife were spotted, the captain would turn the ship so that we could get a better look, even if it was in the opposite direction of our travel. It was truly one of the most extraordinary trips we have ever taken.
The only downside of our trip was completely missing out on the Day 1 activities because we took the recommended flight into Sitka. That flight got us in too late to participate in anything that was scheduled. It was the only time that Lindblad completely fell down for us. Had we understood that would happen, we would have made other arrangements.
As for Value for the Money - Lindblad trips are very expensive. It is a very intimate, first class experience and very worthwhile. I wish they were not quite so expensive as I would like to be able to travel with them more often.
Clothing - bring comfortable clothes and shoes. The temperature on the ship is comfortable, but it can get cold outside. A comfortable pair of slip on shoes is great for on board the ship. Tennis shoes and knee high rubber boots are all you need for off ship. Rubber boots (Alaskan Tennis Shoes) are actually very comfortable and a must as most landings are wet. Temperatures for us were highs were in the 50's to 40's. Outdoor clothing made of synthetic fibers that dries quickly and wicks away sweat are ideal. A polar fleece vest over a base layer shirt is perfect for inside the ship. You will probably wear it every day. A lightweight nano-type puff jacket is plenty warm with a layer or two underneath. Bring silk or synthetic long underwear/base layers 3 - 4 pairs. Wool or synthetic ski socks 4 - 5 pairs. Regular winter gloves are plenty warm, along with a knit cap and a neck gaiter. Rain pants and a rain coat are another must. Wear the pants with a comfortable warm layer underneath for hiking, kayaking and Zodiac trips. Avoid cotton clothing because when it gets wet, it stays that way for a long time.
WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
Though these items were recommended by Lindblad, we found they were not necessary:
glove liners, trekking poles, kayak gloves and ski gloves. We did not need any special covers or protection for our camera or iPhones. If you need a hiking stick for balance they have wooden ones on board, but for the most part no hike is long enough to need them.
As mentioned above, Lindblad really let us down by scheduling us on a flight that arrived too late to experience the Day 1 activities. Before getting on the flight they recommend, consider whether or not it seems to YOU to arrive in time to do what is scheduled. We trusted that them there and they let us down, so we recommend that you don't.
The IV Class cabin on the Venture are well laid out and very comfortable. This cabin has a large window.sliding glass door leading to a small balcony with a table and two chairs. The room can be made up as a queen or two twin beds. There is a small writing desk and chair, a small closet/drawer unit and wall of shelving. Even large suitcases will fit under the bed, so storage is adequate. The private bathroom has a shower and soap, shampoo and conditioner are supplied. The bedding is very comfortable. Temperature control for the cabin is individual, so it can be as warm or cool as you like. The window coverings will keep out the light and allow you to get a good night's rest.
One nice plus about Cabin 211 is that there is no cabin to the right, giving you a bit more privacy than cabins with balconies on both sides.
We certainly enjoyed the balcony, but truly, you will spend most of your time in the lounge or on the bow because that is where all the action is.If money is a little tight, you won't miss much if you book one of the less expensive cabins.
The only bad part of our trip was taking the Lindblad recommended flight into Sitka put us in too late to participate in any of the day 1 activities in Sitka. We really should have been warned that this would be the case as we were cheated out of a day of our trip.
We thoroughly enjoyed our sea plane tour of the nearby glacier. The pilot was great and gave us a wonderful tour. After the flight we use the provided Lindblad bicycles to ride around Petersburg to visit shops and the local history museum. Everyone in Petersburg was so nice, always yielding to us even when we didn't have the right of way.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Only complaint here is the short amount of time we had to visit Juneau before having to catch our return flight home. I wish we had looked at spending the night there and flying out the next day as there was a lot to see and do. Even so, we managed a visit to the museum, organized by Lindblad, had about an hour to shop and were taken by bus to a couple of scenic stops before we had to depart for the airport.
Skip the first few touristy shops on the main street in Juneau. There is not much there except junk made in China with Alaska printed on it. You'll find better shopping further down the street away from the docks.