Land-based excursions might involve visiting museums, historical sites or scenic areas like waterfalls. Each itinerary has a mix of active and educational options; some of the active options, like hikes, are available in various difficulties and lengths. Even better, all of these activities are included in your fare. They're well chosen, and the biggest complaint is not having enough time to do each activity. Be warned that because of the wealth of options and Lindblad's desire to give passengers an in-depth exploration of a destination, daytime schedules are jam-packed with not much downtime. If you want a rest, you might have to skip an activity -- something many Lindblad travelers are loathe to do. That is, after all, what you're paying for.
* May require additional fees
For itineraries in Alaska and Baja Mexico, wildlife viewing is key. Anything from a school of rays to a breaching whale can be seen from the decks of the small ship, and announcements will be made to point these out (if you don't hear the yells from your fellow passengers first).
Snorkeling and other activities that bring animals up close are part of the reason people book cruises with the line. Lindblad's primary focus is on conservation, so all activities follow careful guidelines so as not to disturb the sea lions, whale sharks or other mammals and marine life you'll encounter.
To aid your sightseeing, Sea Bird has several sets of binoculars for passengers to borrow, as well as high-tech gadgets like underwater cameras and hydrophones to eavesdrop on marine mammals. They even send divers out to come back with photos and video.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Entertainment onboard is limited to all the outdoor activities and excursions, as well as talking to other passengers about the activities and excursions. If you're taking some time to yourself, borrow a book from the library or play a round of Monopoly. That's about as much diversion as you'll find.
At night, the evening is filled with drinks, snacks, dinner and a few short lectures. Don't expect much in the way of song and dance. Playing cards over a cocktail will keep you busy into the evening if you can't get to sleep.
Scheduled onboard entertainment is limited to presentations by the expedition staff on the history, geology and wildlife of the cruise region. The photography specialist will give talks on taking better photos, and the hotel director might chime in with a briefing on local food. Flat-screen TVs and video microscopes add interesting visuals to the presentations. The expedition staff are passionate about their subjects and want their audience to learn and have fun. From tongue-in-cheek poems regaling the coot bird to historical lectures peppered with trip-specific insider jokes and gentle ribbing between staff members, the expedition team manages to impart tons of information without boring anyone.
The hub of the ship is the lounge on Deck 3. Passengers gather there to socialize, listen to lectures and presentations, and even muster, as it's the only indoor gathering spot on the ship (other than the dining room). Groups cluster around wooden tables with swiveling chairs, and bench seating lines both sides of the windowed space. Watch out, as the ship's floor is slanted, so many of the chairs and tables are at an angle.
The lounge is also home to the ship's only bar, which serves complimentary specialty coffees and alcoholic beverages for an extra fee. Mixed drinks range in price from $6 to $8; beers are $3 or $3.50, and wine $5.50 to $7.50 a glass. Beer and wine are complimentary during the happy hour and recap and at dinner. The bar is generally open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. (It might be open longer hours on cruising days.) A self-service area features free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, apple cider, soda and fruit. When a bartender is not on duty, beers can be taken on an honor system from the fridge that houses the cream and milk for hot beverages.
The expedition staff run the daytime programming on and off the ship. Depending on the itinerary, activities might focus on exploring remote landing sites, hiking, kayaking, standup paddleboarding and dib trips to see wildlife.
A sun deck on Deck 3 offers a few loungers, table and chairs. This is also where morning stretch is located, and yoga mats and exercise equipment like free weights are always available for passengers use.
There's a bin with blankets for spending some time on deck in brisk weather.
On a three-deck ship, it's pretty easy to get around. The topmost Bridge Deck (Deck 1) features the open bridge (stop by and have a chat with the captain), as well as the outdoor lounging and exercise area (also the site of alfresco barbecues). The Upper Deck (Deck 2) is mainly a cabin deck, with an open area at the bow (front) and the boat's status board located at the back. The status board is the crew's low-tech way of keeping track of passenger whereabouts. When leaving the ship, passengers move a magnet from the "Onboard" to "Off" column, then move it back upon their return. The Main Deck (Deck 3) houses the lounge and dining room, with the dib landing area outside. Both inside and outside stairways allow access between decks; there's no elevator. Smoking is only allowed in one designated area on Deck 2, aft.
A small library, really just a few bookshelves, is next to the bar in the lounge. It contains a small selection of novels, games, puzzles and reference books related to the itinerary. Lindblad's "Global Market" is the line's version of a gift shop; items can be found above the coffee and tea station in glass cases. The line seeks out local artisans in the areas it visits (e.g., Alaska or Baja) and purchases craft items to sell onboard, while also supporting the artists by providing equipment and materials when necessary. Lindblad logo items and expedition gear (camera lens cleaners, fleece vests or wicking under layers, for example) are also for sale. Several times per cruise, the full collection of gift selections is put out in the lounge for perusal and purchase. At any time, items can be purchased from the purser, hotel director or bartender.
On the other side of the bar are two Mac computers for downloading and post-processing photos and for accessing the internet. Wi-Fi is also available shipwide, but expect slower speeds than on land. A package with 120 minutes is $50; unlimited access for a one-week sailing is $200. File-sharing sites such as Dropbox, Flickr and iCloud are blocked.
Yes, there is a spa onboard, called the LEXSpa. It's just one room with a massage table, but it does the trick. You can get a half-hour ($55) or hourlong ($100) massage, and no one will try to give you the hard sell afterward because there's nothing to buy. The signup system is a bit haphazard: You sign up on a sheet with your preferred massage length, and the wellness instructor finds you when she's available, which could be at any time or -- if many people want massages -- possibly never at all. If the massage and/or activity schedule is light, the wellness instructor might offer free five- to 10-minute chair massages on deck.
The wellness instructor also leads morning stretching and yoga classes outside on the top deck, and classes are held even if it's a chilly 40 degrees. We were surprised at how popular the classes were, even in frigid temps. In one corner of the top deck are three cardio machines (an elliptical machine, a spinning bike and an exercise bike with movable arms) and an exercise ball. You can borrow yoga mats, free weights and resistance bands from a box. Children younger than 14 may not use the fitness equipment without parental supervision.
Otherwise, Sea Bird passengers get their workouts off the ship with hiking, biking, snorkeling and kayaking. The ship carries single and double kayaks onboard, as well as several inflatable boats for less-athletic boating. Walking sticks are kept in an umbrella stand by the status board. In Baja, the ship carries fins, masks, shorty wetsuits and snorkels for passenger use. Standup paddleboards are also available in Baja and in Alaska.
You won't find a pool or hot tub onboard, but there are some outdoor lounge chairs with padded cushions and wooden tables with chairs on the top deck.
Sea Bird might not have facilities especially for kids or an official program, but kids are welcome onboard and catered to when possible. Children younger than 18 receive $500 off their fares. Summer trips see an especially high number of families, as the Alaska and Baja expeditions make great multigenerational trips. On sailings with at least five kids onboard, Lindblad staff will arrange for kid-friendly events, such as pizza-and-movie nights where the kids dine on pizza and watch films in the lounge while their parents enjoy adult conversation in the main dining room. The crew will also offer kids-only dib trips and make sure the kids are in the first boat out when whales are sighted.
Lindblad has no minimum age to sail and does have a portable crib for infants and toddlers to sleep in onboard (or use as a playpen on the beach). Pregnant women should consult with their doctors before sailing.