Enrichment is TDI's calling card, and lectures -- sometimes more than one -- are scheduled every day. Our Central America cruise featured two visiting professors, a microbiologist from the American Museum of Natural History and an archaeologist from Wake Forest University. These experts took the tours and ate dinner with the rest of us, which led to a high degree of interaction (and they never lost patience during the barrage of questions that inevitably came their way).
The Observation Lounge, located toward the bow, is the ship's social hub, with armchairs, banquettes and a Steinway piano where the ship's musician played standards during Happy Hour and after dinner. While one could feasibly use the small space at the front of the lounge for dancing (no one did), the area, which also features a drop-down screen and podium, is mainly used for the PowerPoint lectures given by ship staff and visiting onboard experts. On our trip, these talks ranged in topic from the collapse of the Mayan empire and Caribbean seabirds to an overview of a scientific program that tracks jaguar genomes. (The latter, given by Susan Perkins of the American Museum of Natural History, turned out to be the most interesting.)
As is the case on most expedition or small ships, Yorktown includes shore excursions in its price. Passengers who decide not to take the provided tours -- which occasionally involve multiple hours on a bus -- don't tend to have options other than staying on the ship (though that may change depending on destination and itinerary). On the hikes, the tour director asked passengers to divide into groups based on fitness level and experience; that being said, the overall activity level seemed lower than you'd expect for an expedition cruise.
Back onboard, passengers kept to their books and Kindles; the line does not attract a late-night, partying crowd. The cabins do not have television, although the ship occasionally shows movies in the lounge. A piano player provides music during cocktail hour and after dinner.
Travel Dynamics International invested $3 million in Yorktown when it took it over from Cruise West and put another $750,000 into the vessel in early 2013. Upgrades include new linens and upholstery in the dining room, new furniture and cushions in the lounge and new carpet in the cabins. The hallways are wider than those found on many expedition ships, though those by the cabins lack adornment. Reflecting an emphasis on U.S. itineraries, etchings of American destinations like Thousand Lakes and Charleston hang on the walls in other areas. (The artwork was created by the spouse of one of the line's program directors.)
Yorktown has four public decks: Main, Lounge, Promenade and Sun, with the lower deck reserved for the crew. Boarding takes place on the Main, Lounge or Promenade deck, depending on the port. There is no "hotel-style" front desk; instead, the tour director takes questions at his desk in the lounge, and a bulletin board in the Lounge Deck hallway outlines the day's activities. There's no gift shop, but a few shelves of games and books are available for passenger perusal.
Yorktown does not have accommodations for the disabled or those in wheelchairs, and there is no elevator. Wi-Fi through a satellite phone network is sold via 60-minute prepaid Internet cards for $20, and it worked reliably throughout the ship. Laptops are available for rental.
The aft areas of the Lounge and Promenade Decks have small outside sections with tables and chairs for passengers to use. On our cruise, Promenade Deck passengers monopolized these seats as their own outdoor reading spots -- likely because the area was out of the way for passengers residing on other decks.
Sun Deck has a large covered area where shade is available, as well as a bar (which didn't open on my Caribbean cruise). Loungers, tables and chairs are set up for individual and small group relaxation, and smoking is allowed there.
There are no spa or fitness facilities onboard. There is a swimming platform off the back. Oddly it wasn't utilized during our Caribbean cruise. Beach towels are distributed during water-based excursions.
Young children would be out of place on a regular Yorktown voyage, as there are no special activities, facilities or cabin configurations to handle families with small kids. The company will be offering two family programs on its domestic routes in 2013, both on the Great Lakes.