On just about any Lindblad expedition, the primary entertainment is the destination itself, and you will remain busy with multiple landings and lectures. Wake-up calls are broadcast throughout the entire ship by the Expedition Leader starting as early as 6:30 a.m. (or earlier, if need be), and usually you'll be on the go until dinner. Happily, Lindblad usually works in a few hours of downtime during the day for a nap around lunch or before pre-dinner info sessions.
Landings on shore are the main activities, and these can vary tremendously by the region you are sailing in. In Antarctica, passengers are given fairly wide boundaries to explore on the landing site, allowing everyone the opportunity to interact with penguins on a more personal level; while in the Arctic, excursions ashore are more of the tightly controlled "follow the leader" type due to the threat of polar bears. On Mediterranean itineraries, you'll expect more of an emphasis on the culture and history of lesser-known ports, with walking tours, some Zodiac rides and kayaking trips likely, while the British Isles offer a mix of nature and culture.
Before dinner is the Lindblad tradition of Recap. Just about everyone gathers in the lounge for pre-dinner drinks and hot hors d'oeuvres, and several of the naturalists will give short presentations regarding what you've seen that day. There might be video shot by the undersea specialist on his or her dive that morning or a discussion on the feeding pattern of whales. At the end of Recap, the Expedition Leader will announce, as best as possible, the next day's plans and intended landings.
By the time dinner is done, most everyone heads to bed, although a few hardy souls enjoy some friendly camaraderie with the naturalists in the bar for a few hours. During longer ocean crossings or less intense voyages away from the polar regions, more evening activities or lectures might be scheduled.
For many, photography is a key activity, and there are few better laboratories than the N.G. Endeavour to hone your skills. A National Geographic photographer (in addition to a Lindblad professional photographer) accompanies every sailing and helps you get the perfect shot. There are usually seminars and presentations, which may include showing sample photos taken by passengers during the week in an effort to illustrate what they did right and wrong. Even better are the one-on-one moments on deck or on shore when you can simply walk right up to them and say, "You know, I'm shooting with an ISO of 200 and an F-Stop of 11. What about you?" Many passengers come with serious, professional grade cameras and equipment, and if you want to learn to improve your skills, whether beginner or advanced, you'll find plenty of time to ask questions.
With only two public rooms on the ship, most activity takes place in the lounge. Big enough to seat all passengers at once, it is flanked by large windows looking out onto the narrow promenade deck and the sea (or glaciers and mountains) beyond. Here, passengers gather for the many lectures or nightly Recap, and a small bar (with a friendly bartender who has been with the ship for around two decades) keeps the room buzzing during cocktail hours and after dinner. A large plasma screen placed on the bulkhead supplements the presentations with videos or images from the video microscope. Chairs are fixed in location around small cocktail tables, but the actual seat of the chair does swivel. The swiveling chairs enable a fair degree of flexibility if you want to expand your group or talk to the table next to yours.
A small section forward of the bar feels somewhat separate from the rest of the room, which is convenient for those that may not want to be as active participants as others but can make it slightly difficult to include the whole room in discussions. Settees run along the side of the room.
One deck above is the ski-lodge-cozy library, where plush leather chairs (secured to the deck in case of adverse ship movement) are situated near floor to ceiling windows. There is a large selection of books and reference material for the many regions the ship sails, along with a National Geographic globe and a screen showing the ship's position on an electronic chart. Tins of cookies and hot water and coffee are always available, and passengers are asked to treat the library as a "quiet area" and carry on any conversations in the lounge.
The bridge is always open to passengers, and it essentially becomes another public room. It isn't uncommon to find up to 20 people crowded in the little bridge when navigating through the ice or approaching a berth. Happily, the officers are extremely patient and friendly while still maintaining their concentration.
Internet is available through a wireless network in the public rooms, through a network connection in each cabin and through an internet kiosk with three stations. As on any ship, access is, of course, subject to geographic conditions such as mountain ranges blocking the signal, but we found service was limited only for short periods of times and that it was generally reliable -- pretty impressive considering we were in Antarctica! At the gift shop, you can purchase prepaid access debit cards, with three plans offering 30 minutes for $22.50 ($0.75 per minute), 100 minutes for $55 ($0.55 per minute) and 250 minutes for $100 ($0.40 per minute.) Once purchased, the cards are valid onboard any Lindblad owned ship for a period of one year.
Fitness facilities are fairly limited, although there is a gym on the top deck with large windows facing aft and two stationary bikes, two treadmills, two stair climbers, one elliptical trainer, a sit up bench and a regular bench. A small sauna open until midnight is adjoining the gym, with set times for men only, women only and mixed sex use.
There is also a masseuse onboard and a "Wellness Program" where you can get treatments such as a "Salt Iguana Body Rub" or "Humpback Whale Deep Tissue Massage." A small pool is located on the open deck for use in warm climates, and stretching classes are offered in the morning.
Wherever you go, though, you'll enjoy a fleet of 24 double person kayaks that allow even first time paddlers to get out on the water. (Thanks to Lindblad's invention of a floating, mobile launching platform, this might even be possible in the middle of the Atlantic!)
Many will get plenty of exercise on shore on walks, and the crew will offer various activity levels (longer walks, shorter walks, etc) depending on fitness ability where appropriate.
A heads up: During voyages to the polar regions, the ship will not tie up at a dock. Instead, everyone goes ashore using the Zodiacs. While crew are on hand to help you in and out, you have to be at least somewhat agile, and some landings on shore are "wet," which means you'll have to wade for a few feet in the surf.
There is no elevator onboard.
Unlike other expedition companies, Lindblad has seen strong growth in family travel and welcomes children on any of its expeditions. The company realizes that expeditions should be fun, and what kid wouldn't enjoy sitting with penguins or going for a Zodiac ride through the ice?
While a majority comes during the holidays and summers, of course, families are welcome year round. There are neither special facilities for children nor official organized activities, but we found early teenage kids having a grand time in Antarctica with the wildlife, the kayaks and the naturalists. The staff is very supportive of children that take an interest in what they're seeing, and an expedition can be a great learning opportunity (as well as great family bonding.) As long as they don't have to be glued to their iPods every minute and can appreciate their surroundings, they'll have a great time.
Editor's note: Children under 18 get $500 off their fare.