National Geographic Explorer Entertainment & Activities
On expedition cruises, you won't find typical cruise ship-style entertainment or a casino. The focus on Explorer is enrichment.
The daytime lectures are dependent on the day's itinerary and are specifically geared to the cruising region. In Europe, lectures focus on culture and sometimes nature. Topics will typically be advertised in advance. In the Polar regions, lecture topics will cover wildlife, historic expeditions, undersea exploration and climate change, and presentations will vary based on that day's wildlife sightings and landings. Frequently, National Geographic photographers are aboard to host seminars, often dividing the novices from the more advanced photographers with perhaps further separation according to types of cameras. If wildlife is sighted, the naturalists will be out on deck describing the animals and birds and their likely behavior. When animals are close, everyone on deck will fall silent.
In the evening before dinner, naturalists give a recap of the day's events, sometimes including film footage, perhaps taken from an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), which can dive down to 1,000 feet. They'll also outline the next day's possibilities. Passengers can ask questions and share experiences. After dinner, a film may be shown with live narration to introduce it and a Q&A afterwards.
All of the presentations take place in the main lounge, which comfortably seats all passengers. The speakers hold forth from a central podium, and a half dozen plasma screens are set against the surrounding walls, so passengers may be facing every which way yet still be able to see. The lounge has a bar, as well as table service.
On shore excursions in cultural regions -- such as the Baltic or the Mediterranean, where the selection of ports includes both large cities and smaller, less-visited locations -- the transport may be by bus, Zodiac or on foot. Excursions range from a drive from St. Malo to the Normandy beaches where a historian describes the WWII landings to a walk atop the ramparts of Dubrovnik's medieval walls.
In Polar regions, trips ashore are rated according to how much walking there is, as well as the type of terrain. Often, there will be three levels of difficulty and, perhaps, a fourth that is geared to photography. In areas where there are dangerous animals like polar bears, a sighting will mean no going ashore. If the coast is clear, one naturalist in every group will carry a gun, which rarely gets used.
Wildlife sightings are accomplished in multiple ways. Often, the ship itself can get very close to the wildlife, while at other times, passengers, along with a naturalist, ride out in one of the dozen Zodiacs or set off in double kayaks to get a better view. The organization of these outings is tops, and passengers experience little wait time when boarding Zodiacs and kayaks. Passengers are called to the Mud Room in small groups with 15 minutes to spare before disembarking. Time permitting, a walking trip ashore may be combined with an additional kayaking or Zodiac excursion.