Just Back from Lindblad Expeditions: Is a Short Expedition Cruise for You?

December 22, 2016
 National Geographic Sea Bird

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic is an expedition cruise line known for its immersive trips to bucket list destinations like the Galapagos and Antarctica. For most of these voyages, time -- from one week to one month -- is key to fully experiencing and appreciating the region you are exploring. But what if you could squeeze an expedition cruise into a long weekend? Would you want to?

Lindblad is testing new, shorter itineraries in the Sea of Cortez (Baja California Sur region of Mexico) to offer just that -- two or three nights truly escaping it all in the Sonoran desert. National Geographic Sea Bird, the vessel that primarily serves this itinerary, also sails Alaska in the summer season and will be offering five-night cruises in that area, as well.

Short expedition itineraries roll out shortly, slated for Lindblad's 2017 season. We offer six reasons that a few nights among the elements might be the right vacation for you.

You're short on time, but not on money.

If you are low on vacation days or find it too difficult to break away from the office or family for too long, spending a few nights in the Sea of Cortez can condense a spectacular experience into three nights. The flipside is that the price is only slightly condensed: Most Lindblad trips average $1,000 per person, per night and while these short sailings are less per diem, they still carry a hefty price tag at $750 per person, per night. (that's the equivalent of a few Carnival cruises for the whole family.) However, you are gaining access to National Geographic's staff of expert naturalists, photographers, undersea specialists and expedition leaders, on a 62-passenger vessel and an itinerary not traveled by larger cruise ships.

You're sick of the same old Cabo vacation.

The destination for this first batch of short sailings was thoughtfully considered. Active travelers -- couples, solos or families -- who are familiar with the stunning resorts of Cabo San Lucas but get bored after a few days, can jaunt north about two hours to La Paz, where the cruise departs. Make a road trip out of it, stopping at Todos Santos and other vibrant but more off-the-beaten-path towns along the way. La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is charming with a gorgeous malecon (seaside esplanade), notable cathedral, whale museum and world-renowned ice cream parlor; consider it for a pre- or post-cruise stay. Once you're sailing out into the islands of the Sea of Cortez, you'll begin to question if you're even on the same planet as Cabo.

 Hikers heading out on a longer exercise hike on Isla Partida

You're looking for a wellness retreat.

Lindblad Expeditions' natural focus is on activity, education and immersion, but its newer short journeys will also have a wellness bent. The cuisine, which is already fresh and pretty healthy, will be given a facelift with the help of a wellness company yet to be determined by the cruise line (we're told they're currently in talks with a few). In place of paddling around a bay at your leisure, these sailings will offer point-to-point kayaking, which will provide more of a challenge and give it the feel of an excursion rather than a pastime. In addition to the short, medium and longer hikes with commentary from a naturalist, exercise hikes will be available for passengers looking to explore the island with a stronger focus on fitness. A wellness specialist will be onboard offering morning stretches and options for yoga on the beach, Qigong (similar to Tai Chi) along the shoreline and more.

You don't mind motion.

You're constantly moving on a short Lindblad itinerary. A half-hour stretch session is offered first thing in the mornings, and soon after breakfast you're getting all your gear ready to head ashore for a hike and then maybe a kayak, snorkel or some standup paddleboarding. It's busy, and for a cruise spanning three or four short days, the pace won't let up. Once you're back on the ship to head to another island, the sea is typically choppy and the ship is relatively small -- you're going to be rocking and rolling. Even those sensitive to seasickness should survive just fine with a patch or a regular dose of medicine. It's worth nothing that quarters are tight and especially if you're sharing them with someone, you might do a fair share of bumping. Pack light, bring a desire for active adventure and plenty of sensible footwear.

Getting up close with the local wildlife

You prefer wildlife over nightlife.

Speaking of long days, you are going to be remarkably tired at night -- and that's the norm. There is one bar in one lounge, which is the main public and gathering space on Sea Bird. Grabbing a beer from the fridge or having a crew member mix you a cocktail and then playing a game of chess or chatting about the day's experiences is about as raucous as it ever gets. Expedition recaps are held every evening over snacks and drinks, and the focus before and after dinner is directed toward lectures about endemic species, photo reviews, footage captured by staff and maybe even examining plankton or other samples under a microscope. (Many consider this region of the world to be "Galapagos Lite" so you're in for a treat.)

Most passengers on a Lindblad ship skew highly educated and enduringly curious -- you're going to want to hold up your end of the conversation by learning everything you can about the area you're in and asking plenty of questions. Having experts at your disposal is perhaps the cruise's greatest amenity.

You're on the West Coast.

Ultimately anyone can decide that snorkeling with whale sharks and sea lions or petting gray whale calves is well worth the trek to B.C.S. Mexico. But with restricted time, it's a lot easier to plan the trip from the West Coast of the United States. From Los Angeles, the flight to San Jose del Cabo, the region's main airport, is two-and-a-half hours. Hopping over to Alaska for less than a week is also a task better served by residents of Seattle or another -- relatively -- nearby population.

--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor