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Sail Date: July 2019
We were on the Circumnavigation of Iceland, July 23-August 3, 2019 and it was a great way to see Iceland, as promised by the Captain. The ship was very comfortable and functional. Our cabin, 305, only had one small porthole, that might ... Read More
We were on the Circumnavigation of Iceland, July 23-August 3, 2019 and it was a great way to see Iceland, as promised by the Captain. The ship was very comfortable and functional. Our cabin, 305, only had one small porthole, that might have been claustrophobic, but we spent little time there and the porthole made it easy to darken the cabin when it was still light at midnight. The cabin is also located near the anchor, so we knew when the ship was docking but it was never disturbing. The cabin was generously sized, especially the bathroom and shower - more so than other larger ships we have sailed. The exploration programs were accompanied with a naturalist, whether a hike on land, a ride in a zodiac right up to cliffs of nesting puffins or into a pod of whales or a bike ride on an abandoned road. There were always choices from strenuous to relaxed that allowed you to really see the geology and wildlife. The ship stopped at a different location every day. If we were traveling to a location over a morning or afternoon there were special presentations on Iceland and its politics and facets of the nature we would see. This voyage also included a National Geographic photographer who spoke several times - they even did a session on iPhone photography that appealed to me!! The trip was heavy on people with big cameras and big lenses but friendly and welcoming to all. It is a tradition on Lindblad cruises to meet every evening before dinner to recap the days adventures with a cocktail, photos, videos and short presentations from the naturalists and other experts on board. On this voyage, there were also music programs introducing traditional and current Icelandic music on board and on shore, including an on-board 'festival' one evening that offered the chance to listen to 3 different local performers. The presentations by the botanist on board were a big hit - who knew tiny plants could be so amusing. With the exception of an optional day trip to horseback ride, every excursion was included in the price. The hotel staff was friendly and efficient. The dining was excellent - lots of local dishes but a spectrum of choices for everyone. It was a buffet for breakfast and lunch and open seating for dinner. Smoked and pickled fish caught off the ship that morning, local lamb from the ubiquitous Iceland sheep; one day was Thai and Vietnamese, another day mostly Italian. My husband raved about the beef. I tried several of the vegetarian entrees offered each evening because they were so interesting. I know that Iceland struggles with vegetables but on this ship we had a bounty. A big plus was having the bar tab included - this is not a crowd that cruises to drink heavily, but how nice to have a pre-dinner cocktail, wine with dinner and sometimes an after dinner drink without fussing with invoices and deciding who was going to pay that evening. This voyage marked my first brush with sea-sickness - I can have trouble with cars and buses but usually not ships. Several days, the ship encountered rough water due to a storm system. The ship is proportionally smaller than the big ships (156 passengers) and it makes a difference. One afternoon it felt like being at the top of a roller coaster over and over - (that’s when I suffered:) I ended up taking Dramamine for several days. That managed the situation but for the future on a ship of this size I will be more pro-active. The ship’s captain did his best to steer the ship to avoid the worst of the weather and I know one day our location was chosen to get us into a fjord and out of the rougher seas. On the other hand, the weather on land was great and made many things much more enjoyable - very little rain, clouds and sun and moderately cool temps (45-62 degrees, but often windy). We didn't use our warmest clothes, but we were happy we had windproof/waterproof layers. If you are interested in really seeing and learning the culture, music, geography and nature and avoiding crowds at the most popular spots, this is a great choice. We went tiny places and privately owned places that are difficult to reach along with small cities that could not handle crowds. Getting to the ship was easy - we were met by Lindblad at the airport and transferred to a local hotel where a day room and lunch were available after our overnight flight. There was a city tour, museum visit and then we were transferred to board the ship late afternoon ( a very smooth process). We met a number of passengers who had arrived a day or two early and joined up with the group for lunch. Disembarkation was also easy - if you didn't have an early flight departure, there were final excursions that morning and lunch included. We stayed an extra night in Reykjavik and wish we had asked and known earlier which hotel was Lindblad's drop-off for those staying over (the info showed up in final documents we got a couple weeks before departure) - we would have stayed at that hotel rather than having to manage luggage transfer to a taxi and a trip to another hotel. Next time, we will know to ask about the departure hotel early. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose Lindblad/National Geographic because we have traveled with them several times in the past and we were quite certain that the adventure would be one we would be glad we had - and we were not disappointed. Lindblad Expeditions truly ... Read More
We chose Lindblad/National Geographic because we have traveled with them several times in the past and we were quite certain that the adventure would be one we would be glad we had - and we were not disappointed. Lindblad Expeditions truly provides travelers an opportunity to explore the world in the company of knowledgeable naturalists, experienced guides, professional photographers, and expedition leaders who strive to take the travelers where they want to go - safely and comfortably. We love the Explorer. The ship is beautiful, comfortable, fit for all seas and both poles. The cabins are all nicely appointed, comfortable and clean. Everyone on board the ship provides terrific customer service - starting with the captain, the hotel manager and the expedition leader. The chef does a great job of providing excelent meals all day long, which is quite a feat when there often is no re-provisioning for weeks at a time since the ship is busy exploring the Arctic, where towns with provisions are few and far between. There are plenty of opportunites to get off the ship - to do a bit of hiking, kayaking, or cruising the waters in a Zodiac. There are many lectures to attend, given by experts about the places you'll visit and the things you'll see. If you want casinos and floor shows, this is not the ship for you. If you want an adventure of a lifetime, I encourage you to sign up now! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
Why Iceland: We did a back-to-back circumnavigation of the Baltic Sea on the Orion and loved the experience so we decided the way to see Iceland was by circumnavigation. This trip was amazing and is at the top of my list of ... Read More
Why Iceland: We did a back-to-back circumnavigation of the Baltic Sea on the Orion and loved the experience so we decided the way to see Iceland was by circumnavigation. This trip was amazing and is at the top of my list of recommendations to friends. We did the heli-hiking extension and it was an "over-the-top" experience. I highly recommend this extension for anyone that wants to see Iceland from places many never venture to. You must be adventurous and able to hike on rough terrain. Our guide Gaddi Hrafn Sigurjonsson, from Asgard Beyond was fabulous. He took us on hikes and was there to encourage us to experience the wild beauty of Iceland. I will enclose a couple of photos from our lunch on the top of a mountain and hiking across the glacier. We talked to a number of guests on the ship about taking the extension, and the feedback was it was too expensive. I would say yes, expensive, but a once in a lifetime experience, well worth every penny. I think Nat Geo and Lindbland could do a better job of marketing this heli-hiking adventure. The Ship: The staff was amazing. We especially want to call out Peter Wilson, Expedition Leader, Karen Veles, Naturalist, Madalena Patacho, Naturlist, James Coleman, Naturalist and one staff member that has been with Lindblad for many years, Chris who was a server in the lounge and restaurant. His customer service and engagement with the guests was first class. We heard he started as a dishwasher and has been promoted to his current customer facing role. It is nice to know that Lindbland is a family and promotes from within. The first time we met Peter Wilson he was a Naturalist and now is leading expeditions. Our trip to Iceland on the Explorer is filled with fine memories that will be with us forever. We are even considering going back in the winter for a different experience. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose Lindblad/NatGeo expedition because of the destination and the onboard naturalists. We have done two otherLindblad/ NatGeo expeditions before this one and were very happy with the crew, food, onboard naturalists and destination. We ... Read More
We chose Lindblad/NatGeo expedition because of the destination and the onboard naturalists. We have done two otherLindblad/ NatGeo expeditions before this one and were very happy with the crew, food, onboard naturalists and destination. We thought the Orion was a bit better (it is newer and smaller than the Explorer) with better food. There should be more snacks out in the observation lounge...the Orion had granola bars, ginger tea and ginger candies (ginger tea is great for seasickness!), which were missing on the Explorer. As i mentioned is describing the cabin, a lighted makeup mirror is essential. Again, the Orion had these installed in each bathroom. The dining room service could have been better. It felt like they were a bit understaffed. However, service was very friendly and courteous. Food was good, but not a tasty or inventive as we had on the Orion. There was occasionally confusion about our daily offshore excursions and I think that can be attributed to the expeditions leaders. In spite of these minor criticisms, the trip was wonderful overall. Lindblad/NatGeo is highly recommended! Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
No doubt about it , this is a trip of a life time . The itinerary allows one to have a very in-depth exploration of Iceland----- its history , culture , wild-life and scenery . And the crew and the scientific resource persons on board ... Read More
No doubt about it , this is a trip of a life time . The itinerary allows one to have a very in-depth exploration of Iceland----- its history , culture , wild-life and scenery . And the crew and the scientific resource persons on board cannot be better. However , because of the rough open sea around Iceland and the fact that the ship often had to sail in rough water during dinner , I have to miss 4 dinners out of the 9 evenings. And I am not the only one--- half of the 8 people in my group vomited at least once or had to take motion-sickness medication at some stage. The ship even had to put up ropes in the corridor to allow people to hang on to as they walk to dinner/lunch. So ,if you are prone to sea-sickness , this is not a ship for you . Another thing that I never realize , nor was I able to obtain any information prior to booking is that the people in the lower cabins at the back ( stern) of the boat will suffer from terrible engine noise . We were in the 300 level ( one deck below the reception) , and the noise in our cabin was so terrible that I had to raise my voice just talking to my wife whenever she was more than 10 feet away. And it was simple not possible to turn on any quite music in the cabin. Mercifully , the noise was constant and after awhile , one sort of got used to it and every night, sleep would eventually come after a initial irritating phase. On the other hand , my friends who were at the same level but had cabins near the front( bow) of the boat , experienced very minimal engine noise throughout the day . If someone had reviewed that before , I would have chosen my cabin more wisely . I just could not understand why no one has even mention that in any past review. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
This was my second cruise with Lindblad. The first was to the Galapagos. We chose this trip because we thought it would give us an overall view of both Iceland and Greenland. It did just that. The Iceland portion was disappointing as ... Read More
This was my second cruise with Lindblad. The first was to the Galapagos. We chose this trip because we thought it would give us an overall view of both Iceland and Greenland. It did just that. The Iceland portion was disappointing as we spent way more time in a bus than we cared to and everything felt rushed. This is a new trip for Lindblad and they need to iron out the wrinkles. The hotels were less than I expect from Lindblad. The Radisson was under construction and not a good choice. The Greenland portion on the ship was great, though the weather could have been more cooperative. Being among the icebergs is an experience that will stay with me forever and Eternity Fjord was magnificent! The food was excellent everywhere. The cabin was very comfortable. If you are on a budget, I would recommend spending the extra to get a full window as opposed to a porthole. The views are worth it. The crew was very friendly and helpful. The hiking on this trip is rather vigorous and not for those disabled in any way by physical issues. Not the trip of a lifetime. If you have only one trip in your future, this is not the one to choose. I would not go on this trip again, but would choose the Svalblad trip which many of our fellow passengers recommended. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
Although we did complete the evaluation form given to us onboard the Explorer, when we got home from the Epic 80* trip, we wished we had said more. That expedition was absolutely one of the best trips we have ever taken. Russ Evans, ... Read More
Although we did complete the evaluation form given to us onboard the Explorer, when we got home from the Epic 80* trip, we wished we had said more. That expedition was absolutely one of the best trips we have ever taken. Russ Evans, the expedition leader, did everything he could to maximize our exposure to spectacular wildlife and landings. As promised, he woke us during the night when there were special sightings. He worked so hard all the time executing his role but we also saw him carrying out mundane tasks such as stuffing information sheets in our mailboxes while we were eating dinner. He clearly made this trip an extraordinary adventure. The efforts of many of the other staff members went beyond our expectations. Dan Odess came to “rescue” several of us who were stuck in knee-deep mud while climbing to the Greenland ice cap. We also noticed that in the Greenland airport, Dan was the Lindblad person standing in the security area and helping guests maneuver with their luggage. The naturalists were all excellent, but we want to give special kudos to two in particular who were our favorites. Karen Copeland was always approachable and reliable as a source of important information. Carl Erik Kilander was very special to us as a leader of long hikes, our guide to birds, and also as master of munitions in the event we needed that expertise. The waiters were excellent, and it was fun to see so many we had known on previous trips. Many thanks especially to Fausto, Rommel, and Renato, and also to Hector and Reynaldo. The housekeeping staff was outstanding, and Leizl, our housekeeper, always left our cabin in immaculate condition. She was also an expert at folding blankets into a variety of fun shapes; we loved seeing her creativity. Patrik, the hotel manager, is a pro, extremely well organized and so much fun. Likewise, Johanna, as Assistant EL, was a “breath of fresh air” when she spoke over the PA to direct us to the mudroom. Rita was so capable and approachable as ship physician. Captain Leif Skog was clearly an expert; he and his crew worked well with Russ to find new and exciting venues to explore and to spot wildlife. The Captain always made us feel welcome on the bridge. In all, the staff made our trip an extraordinary experience. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
For the money, my recent cruise to Greenland and Canadian Arctic was a bit of a let down. First, we were misdirected at the Reykjavík airport and the bus actually left without us! And did the same to at least one other person. The ground ... Read More
For the money, my recent cruise to Greenland and Canadian Arctic was a bit of a let down. First, we were misdirected at the Reykjavík airport and the bus actually left without us! And did the same to at least one other person. The ground tours were ok but very rushed, and they paraded us around Iceland for 6 hours or so after arriving at 6am from a 5-hour flight. The parting lunch was abysmal, and the restaurant was so crowded the food buffet was mostly inaccessible. I finally found a seat and a tour rep asked me to move so a couple could sit together! Then no one had any idea how the luggage would be retrieved by us at the airport going to Greenland, but clearly told us it was solely our own responsibility. Wow. The cruise itself was great, but again, there was a complete lack of organization by the expedition crew. And most, but not all, expedition crew were really very unfriendly and downright arrogant. The leader even rushed me along into the zodiac leaving an island, and I was one of the fast ones. Another one mocked me for not getting out of the way quick enough so he could photograph a site without people in it. Also, why does the staff get to sit in the first-class seats to and from Greenland/Iceland? And on the ship, while everyone occupied the bow area to photograph interesting animals, the best spots were taken by the Nat Geo photographers. They are PAID to be there, while the guests paid for the experience. Surely we should have access to the very front first. Back in Iceland, the same disorganization continued. Where are the bags?, no one knows, come down at 9am to ID your bag, then the story changes. The very high price is supposed to, in part, avoid these types of things. But apparently not. The ship itself was very clean and pleasant. Her crew was excellent. The food was not bad, but gets repetitive after a while. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We decided to take Lindblad/National Geographic to the arctic because we had gone on a Lindblad cruise to Baja two years ago and loved it - But this was even better. We had one of the least desirable cabins (we booked late) but it was ... Read More
We decided to take Lindblad/National Geographic to the arctic because we had gone on a Lindblad cruise to Baja two years ago and loved it - But this was even better. We had one of the least desirable cabins (we booked late) but it was still more than adequate. The ship's public spaces are surprisingly commodious; lots of empty places to sit if you wanted to be alone. Very attractively designed. The food was ridiculous it was so good. Actually, a bit "much" sometimes. Everything was brilliantly organized and worked like clockwork. And the entire staff was so good humored and helpful. The most amazing part of the trip was the quality of the programs. We wanted to learn about the animals, the geology, the effect of climate change, the plants, the towns...everything. My standards are pretty high (I am a university professor) but everything was professionally planned and presented, with both enough information for the serious as well as enough entertainment for the casual. The program staff was unbelievable both in terms of expertise and also approach-ability. We so much enjoyed getting to know the naturalists, geologists, photographers, etc. You will probably find this hard to believe (I did at first!) but they really make you feel like a welcome guest. I should add that I was quite worried before i went about the fact that i am mobility impaired. The accommodations that were made to help me out were really outstanding,even though I was not able to do much of the hiking and kayaking. Everyone made it possible for me to do as much as I could, and did so without stressing me out in any way. It was helpful that there was a good quality elevator that made most parts of the ship easily accessible. THANK YOU, LINDBLAD/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC!! Excellent service, Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
I chose this cruise because I wanted to see Iceland and the Faroe Islands. I'm quite interested in the characteristics of the polar regions of our planet, and this seemed to be a good way to do it. I was not disappointed. A few ... Read More
I chose this cruise because I wanted to see Iceland and the Faroe Islands. I'm quite interested in the characteristics of the polar regions of our planet, and this seemed to be a good way to do it. I was not disappointed. A few notes: The itinerary had to be changed because of storms in the North Sea. This worked out well for me, but may not have been so for others. Travelers should note that Lindblad specifically states in their contract that changes are possible. There was a wide variety of expertise among the staff, from ornithology to ethnomusicology to geology. We also had a native Icelander on board. This provided good breath of understanding of what we were seeing. This cruise had significantly more bus tours than other Lindblad cruises I have been on. This is not a negative comment as the tours were well done. It's just a note for expedition cruisers. Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly, but with only ~82 passengers there should have been no problems. The cuisine was excellent, but perhaps the presentation was overly fussy. Dining room and bar service was quick and efficient. My only real complaint is that the solo cabins (only 3 in the least expensive category) are poorly located. Mine was also had excessive engine noise. Because of this, I think the Orion is not the best Lindblad ship for solo travelers. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
This is my second time cruising with Lindblad Expeditions on the National Geographic Explorer. The first time was in Antarctica, and this time was in Svalbard. Overall, I would recommend taking these two cruises, as the shipboard ... Read More
This is my second time cruising with Lindblad Expeditions on the National Geographic Explorer. The first time was in Antarctica, and this time was in Svalbard. Overall, I would recommend taking these two cruises, as the shipboard experience is fantastic, and I reckon second to none. However, their weak customer service pre-cruise and post-cruise remains a material negative, which accounts for my 4 out of 5 stars rating. The reasons why I feel that the shipboard experience is fantastic include: (1) for a relatively small ship, it is very stable and comfortable; (2) the ship's crew is very diligent and caring, with great attention to details, and service is first class in every aspect; (3) the meals are delicious and there is sufficient variety, with different themes for lunch and dinner; (4) the wine list is decent, and on this latest cruise, complimentary as well; (5) the expedition staff are so passionate, knowledgeable, and capable that it is easy to forget that they are tourist industry professionals and instead mistake them for full-time scientists and explorers; (6) the itinerary is full of opportunities to get off the ship and explore the awesome surroundings; (7) the guest speakers, which includes one NatGeo photographer, deliver on making the overall experience even more memorable; and (8) even the gift shop is nice! On the other hand, my pre-cruise and post-cruise experience with them have been disappointing. Pre-cruise, their customer service team is inconsistent in responding to queries, choosing to address only what is convenient, and ignoring even the slightest complication in questions and requests. They sometimes even drop the ball, and have to be reminded to complete agreed upon tasks. For example, I had some credits which I wanted to apply to my latest cruise, but it took three reminders before they were reflected in the bill. Post-cruise, I dislike the absence of their staff at the final departure point. For example, on this latest cruise, they took on luggage from the ship, and loaded them directly on to trucks to be transported directly to the airport's departure hall, separately from the coaches we were on. When we reached the airport, their staff on the coaches gave us final instructions on collecting our luggage and boarding the flight, and went on their way. I then went to collect my luggage and discovered that it was damaged, but couldn't find any of their staff to report this problem, albeit a member of their expedition team who was on the same flight went out of her way to help us. When I returned home, I filed a claim against my travel insurance, who requested for proof that I was on this cruise. I sent an email to their customer service team requesting for the final receipt and a letter confirming that I was on this cruise. They only sent me a final receipt. They did not apologize for the inconvenience I suffered as a result of this problem; it is irritating that I had to ask them for a final receipt when it should have been sent to me after I made full payment; and they ignored my request for the letter confirming that I was on the cruise. Overall, the cruise experience was sufficiently positive to negate the frustrating pre-cruise and post-cruise customer service experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2017
Every aspect of this expedition exceeded expectations (even though we had travelled with Linblad before). This was a photo expedition and we had full access to a photo instructor and a professional Nat Geo photographer at all times ... Read More
Every aspect of this expedition exceeded expectations (even though we had travelled with Linblad before). This was a photo expedition and we had full access to a photo instructor and a professional Nat Geo photographer at all times throughout the voyage. The captain and crew went above and beyond to provide access to all types of wildlife and scenic landscapes. (Polar bears, walruses, etc. and Norway's fjords and fishing villages) The onboard facilities, service, food and camaraderie were outstanding. Every request was fulfilled quickly and with courtesy and friendliness. The expedition leaders and naturalists were extremely knowledgable and friendly and the photo experts were incredibly helpful with technical as well as artistic advice and support. Every detail from the moment of our arrival in Oslo, to the charter flight to Svalbard, embarkation in Longyearbyen through final disembarkation in Copenhagen was handled professionally and without any stress or problems. I look forward to our next trip with Linblad. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
National Geographic to Norway and the Arctic..It was the nicest ship with the most amazing crew ever to sail the seas... The food was outstanding and varied every day..The bar, hot tub, bridge, bow and observation room/library were top ... Read More
National Geographic to Norway and the Arctic..It was the nicest ship with the most amazing crew ever to sail the seas... The food was outstanding and varied every day..The bar, hot tub, bridge, bow and observation room/library were top notch. There is not a bad thing to say about the Orion and her crew. The National Geographic Naturalists and Leaders on the ship rated from fair to outstanding..Some seemed bored to be with us...some were so fresh, excited and fun to be around..Some of the time, we felt like we came second to the time they spent promoting the NG product, taking pictures and video with several naturalists while we had to wait our turn for shore and zodiac excursions because the guides were tied up with the "promo" stuff.. For the price we paid, we feel that we should have had more time in kayaks, zodiacs and on shore, instead of waiting for the other group to return...there were 87 passengers...and 8 naturalists..so I think we could have had more time off the ship if they were available to us. The Journey through the fjords and up to Svalbard and beyond was a dream...I cannot wait to do it again on the Orion. The ship and it's crew were amazing and our cabin was like a 5 star hotel.. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
This was our first cruise and we were not interested in boarding a huge vessel with multiple restaurants, cinemas etc. We were interested in being able to disembark and actually experience the landscape rather than just see it. This ship ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we were not interested in boarding a huge vessel with multiple restaurants, cinemas etc. We were interested in being able to disembark and actually experience the landscape rather than just see it. This ship takes a max of 148 passengers. We booked a category 5 cabin which had a verandah - we were lucky enough to stand there and photograph a polar bear walking along the near shoreline, as well as multiple opportunities for viewing the ice pack, glaciers, landscape etc. We were able to disembark most days. This process went very smoothly as we were generally divided into three groups - "long walks", "medium walks" and "short walks". Each walk was described in terms of length, elevation, terrain etc so that you could make an informed choice. "Long walkers" disembarked first via small zodiacs (approx 8-10 people on each), and there was very little waiting required. Those on short walks would have had to wait the longest, but each group was called 15 minutes before disembarkation so you could use your time in other ways, rather than having to hang around the disembarkation room. There was also a couple of opportunities for zodiac excursions for those less inclined to walk or to see specific wildlife (for us that meant a "haul out" of walruses which were sleeping on a beach) or glacier walls. On several days, there were both morning and afternoon "expeditions" (walks, kayaking, zodiac excursions), all optional of course. The ice conditions were such that we actually managed to circumnavigate Spitsbergen and visit some of the outlying islands in the archipelago. We were lucky enough to see 5 polar bears in relatively close proximity to the ship and a couple more at huge distance. Also saw seals, blue whales, narwhales, fin whales, walruses, arctic foxes and more birds than I can label. Although this was marketed as a "Land of the Ice bear" cruise, you are really in the lap of the gods when it comes to wildlife actually appearing. However, even if we had seen nothing but the marvellous birdlife, just the scenery and the sheer exhilaration of walking on one of the remotest spots on the planet would have been enough for me. The ship operates an "open bridge" policy 24 hours a day so you can go and check out the view from there. One night the captain allowed the ship to meander along a wall of cliffs, covered in nesting sea birds. Quite a few of us piled into the bridge to watch this, and were rewarded with the sight of four arctic foxes patrolling the lower reaches of the cliffs, looking for fallen eggs and fledglings. I wish I had used the bridge more often during our time - the atmosphere was great ! Other public spaces were the library - almost fully glassed walls so the views were spectacular, the lounge (for presentations, socialising etc), the bistro (a more casual dining area with the same food as the main restaurant) and the main restaurant. The food was excellent, with plenty of healthy choices. Buffet style for breakfast and lunch (although you could order eggs any way for breakfast), and a la carte for dinner. Table sizes ranged from 4 to 8, and you could choose your own table at any meal. The bistro area had more two seater tables, which appealed to the more introverted. The buffet had two sides to it, so any queues moved very quickly. Alcohol was free on the first night and last night, due to the Captain's welcome cocktail evening and farewell cocktail evening. Otherwise, it was reasonably priced and certainly much cheaper than Norway ! Service was top notch, with all the waiters learning your name within 24 hours. There were a number of presentations on subjects ranging from sustainability, wildlife, photography etc. And there was a daily "recap" in the lounge each evening before dinner, where the day's highlights were presented, together with a selection of photographs and videos. We didn't attend all of these - just according to whim/mood. Passengers were mainly American, with a small handful of international folk (like us !). Demographic mainly older/retired. No tour groups either, which is great as some groups can cause a bit of havoc due to differing cultural values/practices. We were accompanied by half a dozen naturalists, some of whom were also expert photographers. They joined us at mealtimes and were a very diverse but engaging and friendly group of people. Laundry was very reasonably priced, and there was also a retractable washing line in the ensuite bathrooms so you could wash out smalls etc, if you wanted to. The trip officially starts in Oslo and the day before embarkation there were bus trips to a couple of sights in Oslo - we chose to avoid those, not being big fans of escorted bus tours. Similarly, after disembarkation we had a day to kill in Longyearbyen, the port on Spitsbergen, whilst waiting for our charter flight to arrive with the next batch of passengers. The entertainment was a bus tour around the local sights (which are limited !), and a buffet lunch in a hotel which seems to deal mainly with large tour groups - that was a bit of a rugby scrum and something I would normally avoid like the plague. This is a trip I would do again in a heart beat and I think we have now become converts to the cult of Lindblad/national Geographic ! Truly fabulous voyage. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
This was an expedition cruise designed for people who wanted (1) to experience the solitary mid-summer cold and snow of endless Arctic mountains and pristine glaciers, (2) to see a polar bear, reindeer and perhaps a walrus, (3) to go where ... Read More
This was an expedition cruise designed for people who wanted (1) to experience the solitary mid-summer cold and snow of endless Arctic mountains and pristine glaciers, (2) to see a polar bear, reindeer and perhaps a walrus, (3) to go where the sun shines for four months without setting. Few of them expected to also (4) discover a puffin dog with an extra toe, (5) learn how to domesticate an eider duck for profit, and (6) get a whiff of thousands of cod hung out to dry. Indeed, most of the 148 people came on this two-week Lindblad-National Geographic cruise seeking experiences unique to the very far north – from the Norwegian fjords to Arctic Svalbard and Longyearbyen, the most northerly permanent settlement in the world. Norway’s Svalbard region, covered by the third largest icecap (after Antarctica and Greenland), shares the top of the world with the northern tip of Greenland and a few Canadian and Russian islands in the mostly frozen Arctic Ocean. When the National Geographic Explorer sailed across 80 degrees north latitude, she was a mere 560 nautical miles from the North Pole. Sea ice willing, another day and a half and we would have been at the pole. In any case, the sun, which rose here on April 19, had no plans to set again until Aug. 23. Hikes along the shore or up steep hills to waterfalls and viewpoints, depending on your stamina and inclination; Zodiac cruises to remote coves and caves; sightseeing from the ship – like watching a polar bear with rambunctious cub who fell behind and then had to scamper to keep up with mum, and a male bear eating a seal kill; daily knowledgeable illustrated briefings about Arctic inhabitants, culture, geography, history, exploration and nature from the naturalists/guides; fine dining on board with Executive Chef Jesper’s meals focused on sensible portion sizes (you could always have more than one) of healthy food (salads, soups, fish, meat, vegetables, fresh fruit) plus dessert, cheese and other indulgences; reasonably priced laundry services; an open bridge policy: this was truly the best of expedition cruising. The cruise started in the slightly milder climes of Bergen, a historic port on Norway’s coast at 60 degrees north latitude. As we sailed toward the Arctic, the temperatures started to go down – and it was time to test the layers of clothing the “to bring” list had suggested: t-shirt, shirt, fleece jacket, parka, rain jacket; cap with brim; waterproof gloves; long johns, jeans, waterproof pants; rubber boots. I felt – and looked like – the Michelin man. But I stayed 100 per cent dry and warm. “This is the best year ever for wild orchids,” said our guide as we hiked across the rocky ground just outside Nes, in the Vega Archipelago – careful not to step on the miniature purple blossoms. “The flowers here consider themselves alpine because of barren terrain, cold and wind.” Back in town we heard the story of how local inhabitants befriend eider ducks for mutual benefit, creating safe nesting places with dried seaweed for the ducks. The locals take half the eggs and when the ducks leave, remove the super-soft down which the female had plucked from her breast to line the nest. The tiny feathers, which have no “spine” like normal feathers, must be very carefully cleaned: buyers shake them thoroughly to see if there is any dirt before setting the price for this super light, super warm natural insulation. (Eiderdown duvets typically sell for up to $10,000.) After crossing the Arctic Circle we sailed into the Nordfjord arm of Melfjord. The scenery was truly awesome, with sheer snow-covered mountains rising sharply out of the water and waterfalls fed by melting snow cascading over glacially smoothed rocks. Super-buoyant two-person kayaks were lowered so people could get up close and personal with nature. We went ashore in Vaeroya where the remaining houses from an abandoned village at the base of a steep cliff had been turned into very remote holiday cottages. Still, we could easily imagine how life must have been in the past. “The villagers used to fish but in particular relied on the puffins so much that they bred the Mastad puffin dog,” our guide told us. “These fairly small dogs had an extra toe to help them extract the puffins from their nests in the ground.” That afternoon we also visited nearby Reine, where thousands of cod bodies plus their separated heads, which are prized for cod cheeks, had been hung on outside racks to dry. After several months, workers were cutting down the fish to be shipped to markets around the world. In the evening, Capt. Leif delicately turned the ship around in its own 367ft/112m length in very narrow Trollfjord – edging the bow so close to shore that 19-year-old merchant marine cadet, Nina, could excitedly reach out to pick an overhanging branch. In Tromso, our final mainland port, we learned about the nomadic indigenous Sami people of northern Scandinavia and also the harsh conditions overcome by Arctic explorers like Roald Amundsen. And so we ourselves headed toward the far northern reaches of Svalbard – stopping briefly for a Zodiac cruise along the shores of Bear Island to see both nesting birds on the cliffs above and the surprising wreck of a Russian supply ship on the beach below – surprising that any boat could have managed to run into this dot of land surrounded by thousands of miles/kilometres of open ocean (we were told vodka had been involved). After a lecture on polar bear safety – “stay with your armed guide whenever you are ashore” – we saw our first bear (of 11), a large male probably weighing about 1,100lbs/500kg, walking across an ice floe, pausing to occasionally look in our direction as the captain eased the ship slowly closer. Now the ship was scrunching through the sea ice, with the occasional thump as she hit a larger or thicker chunk. Off we went in the Zodiacs to see puffins swimming in the water, then walruses were spotted off the ship’s bow. And whales. And Brunnich’s guillemots which use open wings to “fly” as deep as 100m under water chasing their prey. All around the ship we marvelled at the endless jagged mountains and valleys covered with creamy or glistening white snow, plus the glaciers – some of them several miles/kilometres across – towering over us if we dared to approach their edges where they met the sometimes frozen ocean. We disembarked in Longyearbyen, that most northerly permanent settlement in the world, and caught a charter flight south to Oslo. We had one last look as we flew over the frozen Arctic land/seascape, secure in the knowledge our memories of that unique northern cruise and life were tucked away safely in our minds and cameras. Read Less
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