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9 Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Islander Family Cruise Reviews

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
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 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 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
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
National Geographic Islander Ratings
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