We have traveled with NatGeo/Lindblad on several occasions, Galapagos, Iceland, Africa (NatGeo solely), Alaska and now Wrangel Island. I had looked forward to this trip for almost 2 years. My expeditions were not met however.
Food: Plentiful and good as always.
Alcohol: Free flowing (I'm not a drinker, but it appeared it was free flowing).
Excursions: Not so great. Our first stop was Provideniya. This town is ominous. There is nothing to see (building that have been deteriorating since WWII perhaps) and nothing to do. There are no shops or souvenirs to be had. We had some local townspeople put on a dance show, but that was it. The streets are dirty and it is depressing place to be.
Uelen: Ditto. VERY ominous and dirty. The ivory museum was interesting. However, despite promoting the ivory on their website and in their handouts as well as the pre-trip briefing for this town visit, you cannot LEGALLY purchase these wares because the individuals who carve these brilliant pieces do not abide by the parameters set by CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species C.I.T.E.S.) which regulates same. Walrus, Mammoth and other ivory wares are BANNED. Basically, you are perusing carvings that are illegal in their derivation. Villagers put on another dance for us.
Lorino: Ditto. Ominous, poverty stricken town. Under Russian law, they are allowed to hunt whales and fox. Thankfully, while we were there. . . . all of the 1500 fox cages were empty. And the only remainders of a whale were there blood/blubber covered bones that their dozens of dogs were eating (yes . . . gross). Nothing to see. Nothing to buy, except for one villager had ivory and pelts for sale, which again . . . are illegal to purchase. We did have a tug of war with the local villagers, which was interesting. Several men from our cruise volunteered and went against several men from the village who haul whales from the ocean for a living. When our guys won . . . the villagers were angry and stormed off.
Wrangel island: Saw 80+ polar bears at about 3/4 mile to a mile away from the ship. We only did 4 zodiac runs the entire trip. Once to Wrangel Island to walk the tundra for 2 hours (looking at plants). No wildlife. Some geese. Old broken down buildings. LOTS of mud.
Saw 1 polar bear from a zodiac run, but with 10 other people in the boat, the waves and the driver instructing us to sit down, don't move, don't get up and don't switch places . . . was nearly impossible to get a picture.
When I came home from my Africa trip . . . I had over 8,000 pictures. Iceland and Galapagos over 5,000 pictures each. I have 7 pictures of "wildlife" from this trip. Geese flying overhead. 1 of a polar bear from 1/4 mile away. 1 of 2 polar bears 3/4 mile away and some other birds. That's the extent of my photos. I got tired of taking photo of ominous places. And plants just aren't my thing.
NatGeo's photogs (as usual) were allowed to head out in zodiacs on their own to hunt down subjects for their photos, while passengers were boarded into a single zodiac 10-12 at a time. They do whatever it takes to get their shot. Sometimes I feel like I am paying for them to get their shots . . . shouldn't the passenger be the one able to take advantage of getting great photography and not the NatGeo photog who is there because you are paying for him to be there?
The age demographic for our particular trip was much older than most NatGeo trips. We are 60 and 61 years of age . . . and we were the youngest by several years. It appears that NatGeo is moving towards Viking type trips . . . where there are less adventurers and more travelers who are completely satisfied with eating, drinking, napping and being entertained by a singing / dancing crew than head out in search of wildlife. A good portion of the passengers could not even get into a zodiac without the help of 4 people. At one point it became dangerous because passengers were either not listening, unable to listen or didn't care to listen to zodiac disembarking instructions . . . and 2 people in the back got hammered by the sea. And . . . many of them slowed us down during the 2 (yes . . only 2) outings that took place. So . . . is NatGeo becoming an extensive, expensive, dinner cruise? Is money the bottom line for them and the adventuring spirit has taken a back seat to wining and dining the older demographic?
So . . .
Waitstaff go out of their way to please you; ditto for housekeeping. Despite the brochure indicating that tips are NOT necessary or expected . . . a huge tip box is visible in the reception area on the last day.
Photographers - you are paying for their adventure . . . so they get their shots . . . and as such try to be as personable as possible during the trips. What continues to happen though on these trips is that the photographers have their "help" session the very last day . . . so basically they are saying "if you photographed landscape in the dim light we had last Tuesday, then your settings should have been 'x'". What they don't do is help you PRIOR to encountering such conditions. So - basically, they are helping you after the fact, but they still get THEIR shots.
Landry service - we used them 3 times and clothes came back in great order.
Mud room - on our cruise the mud room was turned into a staff lounge and thus unusable by passengers. After excursions to the disgustingly and questionably dirty villages and the like, your boots go back into your rooms with you. There is a brief opportunity to wash them off after disembarking the zodiac, but there is usually a line to do so. When we arrived back home . . . I hot water soaked and disinfected all of our shoes.
Wellness - I had a massage every other day with Allison. I love deep tissue massage . . . and she was very well trained and wonderful. Note: the small exercise room is just outside of the massage room door . . . so if someone is working out . . . you will hear them.
A few sites claim that there is room service 24/7 on this cruise . . . that is absolutely not the case.
The cruise never used the:
crow's next camera
The staff divers were not allowed to diver purportedly due to military restrictions set by the Russians, but we heard that it was because the administrative staff forgot to file the necessary paperwork.
Panoramic views from the lounge.
Dining room is oddly situated on only the port side of the ship . . . almost like an afterthought.
If you want a trip where you can eat as much as you like and socialize - this is the trip for you.
If you want to drink as much as alcohol as you like and socialize - this is the trip for you.
If you enjoy viewing plants - this is the trip for you.
If you are in search of wildlife - do not take this trip.
If I had known what this trip would be like . . . I would not have taken it . . . because the cost vs the experience was absolutely not worth it.
What NatGeo and Lindblad are advertising is not what you get. We did not see hundreds of polar bears (at least within viewing range - maybe with a binoculars - 3/4 mile to a mile away), we did not visit the whale bone alley and despite Wrangel Island being touted as the most bio diverse island full of a plethora of wildlife (their words not mine), we saw nothing but birds. . . . and very few of them at that.
For the cost . . . absolutely not worth it . . . and we could have gone to Africa 3 times for what it cost to go to Wrangel Island. Such a disappointment.
- bathroom is 5'x3' - smaller than cabin of this category on other ships
- large soaking tub with window
- shower is 30"x32" with movable shower head
- one sink is smaller than usual, with little to no counter space
- small amount of shelving behind bathroom mirror in corner
- shallow shelving under the sink area
- robes provided
- despite advertising "110 volt sockets are also available in each bathroom" . . . that is not true. There is ONE 220 socket on the left hand side of the sink under the mirror.
- 4 separate 12" wide hanging "closets"
- about 6 hangers per person (I usually bring my own travel hangers)
- fixed safe in far right closet takes up shoe space
- ice bucket and glasses on fixed shelves in far left closet takes up shoe space
- very little counter space in cabin . . . top of desk and 2nd cabinet, i.e., if you have camera equipment to lay out, etc. Otherwise probably enough for someone without camera equipment, charges and the like.
- balcony is 14" deep; we like being about to open same for fresh cool breeze
- Picture of room is accurate; HOWEVER, area on right side of bed (as you are looking at picture) is a FIRE EXIT. There is a fire door that will close automatically separating your bathroom from your bedroom. So . . . if there is a fire and the door shuts and your important items are in the closet or bathroom . . . you will be cut off from them when the door closes. There is a door exit "force open" switch in the room, but who knows how that will really works when the doors close. That in itself concerned me. There is also a fire door that closes over the cabin entry door (yes . . . the entry door from the hall). This cabin is the ONLY room that has that. The entry door to this cabin is set back several inches to make room for this fire door. I was so concerned . . . that I actually asked the hotel staff about what happens if both the cabin fire door and the hall fire door close simultaneously (which I assume they would do) and I am therefore trapped by these automatic doors in the bathroom? I was assured that wouldn't happen. But. . . these doors are automatic. When we were in less than calm seas, you can hear these very heavy, thick fire doors thumping in the walls . . . back and forth.
IF these doors close automatically and IF you are not trapped in the bathroom . . . you must therefore exit through the very small EXIT door that you see in the far right of the picture next to the bed (hence no side table or outlets). This door leads directly outside to the deck (which also provides a source of noise if people are on the deck).
- the right side of the bed has no side table because of the FIRE EXIT.
- area on left side of the bed has a small side table, BUT it is taken up by the box and TV which are IMMOVABLE. In order to watch TV or view the cruise information on the TV . . . you must be in the couch opposite the bed.
- there is one European outlet behind the TV.
- because there are no side tables, there is no room for reading materials, glasses, phone, water or anything else you are used to putting on your bedside table at home.
- the only phone in the room is on the wall opposite of the bed. All other cabins have the phones on the center bedside table (which this cabin does not have). My daughter was not feeling well on a couple of days . . . and if someone tried to call us . . . or I tried to call her to check on her . . . you have to get out of the bed (which, during rough seas would be a challenge) to answer the phone. So . . . to receive your wake up call . . . you must get out of bed to answer the phone.
- more than 75% of the wall space is OUTLET FREE. There are no outlets behind the bed, next to the right side of the bed, along the balcony wall or along the opposite wall by the "desk". Therefore, plugging in electronics or chargers is next to impossible and annoyingly frustrating. There are 2 strips (one 110 and one 220) over the desk as compensation, but it's a bad place for them. And - those strips cannot be moved. And the only other outlet is the European one behind the immovable TV.
- wifi is practically non-existent and we went for days without connections. $100 for a day of wifi (you pay but connection not guaranteed or $200 for the entire trip).
I can only assume the tub was installed to compensate for the lack of outlets, lack of bedside tables, the myriad of fire doors and alternative "exit".
In the attached pictures of Cabin 502, which I located on the internet, the "X" designates the exit door location (you cannot see it, but it is on the wall to the right of the bed) and fixed TV. Other pictures are self explanatory. Definitely taken with a wide angle lens.
I was excited about this cabin prior to the trip . . . but I would not book this cabin in the future.