Explore California with exciting new expedition cruise ship – National Geographic Venture

Lindblad National Geographic
Lindblad National Geographic

Lindblad Expeditions introduce the exciting new National Geographic Venture with two new and unique itineraries to California. These inaugural voyages explore the Pacific coast, before Venture begins her season in Baja, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Cannery Row, Monterey, CA.
Cannery Row, Monterey, CA.

The first inaugural voyage, COASTAL CALIFORNIA BY SEA, departs from San Francisco on December 2nd 2018. Joined by Sven Lindblad, CEO and Founder of Lindblad Expeditions, this is a five-night tour stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Catalina Islands.

Highlights include:

  • A stunning sunset cocktail cruise through San Francisco’s picturesque harbour
  • Behind-the-scenes access to Northern CA’s acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium and Southern CA’s architecturally stellar Catalina Casino
  • Exploring key coastal sites and islands including Angel Island, Sausalito, Monterey and Point Lobos, Avila Beach and Catalina Island.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery and Inn, Baja California's Valle de Guadalupe.
Adobe Guadalupe Winery and Inn, Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe.

The second trip, FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TO BAJA: SAILING THE PACIFIC COASTdeparts from San Francisco on December 7th 2018. This 12-night cruise travels from Los Angeles to La Paz in Mexico bringing together fine food and wine, snorkelling in Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, visiting the Vizcaino Biosphere and the residents of Isla Natividad. Migrating whales and nesting birds are commonly sighted in the area and National Geographic naturalists are on hand throughout the voyage.

Blue Whale
Blue Whale

Highlights include:

  • Snorkel in Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, the only hard coral reef in North America; featuring over 220 species of fish
  • Learn about the region’s culture with exclusive visits to the world’s largest salt mine in Guerrero Negro; and tour the small fish processing plant of Isla Natividad’s fishing coop
  • Explore the ever-shifting sand dunes of Isla Magdalena and count the 40 species of birds inhabit this area
  • See why everyone is talking about the vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe
  • Watch the sunrise illuminate El Arco de Cabo San Lucas
National Geographic Quest
National Geographic Quest

National Geographic Venturesister ship of National Geographic Quest is designed as a 50-cabin coastal expedition vessel. Sweeping views from the lounge and deck encourage wildlife and shoreline viewing at close range. Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructors accompany passengers on the voyage, offering advice and experience for the ultimate photo captures.  Zodiacs take guests on specialist trips to explore coastal areas and marine mammals; the ship will also change course to follow wildlife sightings  when possible. Kayaks, snorkelling and hiking allow guests to explore the fascinating marine and remote landscapes while the onboard facilities offer respite in the form of a well-stocked library, spa and a wealth of enrichment lectures and activities.

Sunset of Anacapa Island
Sunset of Anacapa Island

www.expeditions.com

 

 

Melting Away: Kimberley is the Hot Choice for Cool Expedition Cruising

Saltwater crocodile

Good news for sun-loving adventure junkies … expedition cruising doesn’t have to be cold! Despite the growing popularity of cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica, the stunning north-west of Australia is emerging as a hot spot in more ways than one. As well as the reliable sunshine and high temperatures, Kimberley is also a remote wilderness, threaded with winding rivers and framed by a rocky coastline, home to thumping waterfalls, deep gorges, dangerous crocodiles, scorching desert and rocky mountains burning red in the fiery light.

Small ship cruising is a fantastic way to explore this fascinating wilderness. Ponant, Silversea and Lindblad all offering stunning itineraries. Generally Kimberley cruises are bookended by tropical Darwin, a lively outpost surrounded by the turquoise water of the Timor Sea, and the cosmopolitan beach town of Broome, famous for a stunning beach and friendly atmosphere. This part of Australia follows a tropical monsoon climate with distinct dry (May to October) and wet (November to April) seasons. The best time to cruise is immediately following the wet season when waterfalls and rivers are at their most exciting, although cruises do depart all through the dry season until May.

Broome
Broome

Here are our top highlights for an expedition cruise to Kimberley.

Bungle Bungle Mountain Range
Bungle Bungle Mountain Range

Wyndham is the gateway to the Bungle Bungle mountain range in Purnululu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rich in Aboriginal culture, the area is known for the strange orange and black geological formations found across the landscape.  Scenic flights are offered here, as are trips along the Ord river where freshwater crocodiles, fruit-bats, short-eared rock wallabies, mangrove herons and mangrove gerygones are sure to be spotted.

Zodiac Visits King George Falls
Zodiac Visits King George Falls

The breathtaking King George Falls are twin cascading waterfalls with drops of 80 metres, making them the highest in north-western Australia.  Zodiac tours travel to the base of the waterfall, past towering ancient Warton sandstone cliffs.

Mitchell Falls
Mitchell Falls

Hunter River is an immense network of narrow mangrove channels, home to the notoriously dangerous saltwater crocodile. Many cruise lines offer helicopter flightseeing excursions to the famous Mitchell Falls Plateau and Mitchell Falls, where four tiers of waterfalls plunge into deep pools that flow out into the Mitchell River.

Aboriginal Artwork at Raft Point
Aboriginal Artwork at Raft Point

Raft Point is the is the site of the incredible outdoor Aboriginal Wandjina art gallery. Guided hikes take guests to the top of Raft Point to enjoy far-reaching views of the bay in the shade of the overhanging cliff, which is home to the Wandjina Spirit.

Montgomery Reef
Montgomery Reef

Montgomery Reef  is one of Kimberley’s iconic wonders. This famous tidal movement is massive; at just under 400km2 it is Australia’s largest inshore reef, containing large areas of shallow lagoon, seagrass beds and corals. As the tide drops a raging torrent of water cascades off the top of the reef and the entire reef appears to rise from the ocean. Zodiac tours take guest close the the myriad of waterfalls appearing along the reef.

Horizontal Falls

Talbot Bay, described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world” is also known as the ‘Horizontal Waterfalls’. This pair of stunning breaks in the McLarty Range are approximately 300m apart with massive tidal differences of up to 10.8m on a spring tide. As seawater builds up faster on one side of the gaps than the other, a waterfall appears up to 4m high.

Silver Discoverer
Silver Discoverer

Images courtesy of Silversea

Kimberley Waterfall
Kimberley Waterfall

 

 

Wave Season 2018 – the best cruise deals

Crystal Serenity at Geiranger Fjord
Crystal Serenity at Geiranger Fjord

Wave Season – the time of year when most cruises are booked and cruise lines offer tempting incentives, runs traditionally from January to March. Although not necessarily the cheapest time to buy a cruise, the combination of enticing perks and plenty of choice appeals to many people dreaming of their next holiday.

Silversea
Silversea 

The key to a good deal is …. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Research air fares, weigh-up the real benefit of onboard credit and drinks packages, compare like-with-like and run your ideas past a travel agent as they can sometimes source better discounts and benefits.

Rib Safari
Hurtigruten’s RIB safari at Wilhelmina Bay

Most cruise lines highlight offers on their websites with digital brochures available for download.

Here are our favourites:

Holland America – early booking offers, signature cruises and package deals

Windstar – 7 for 7 deals and Tahiti packages

Silversea – some flights included, early booking offers and Antarctica all-inclusive

Seabourn – Signature Savings Event including Air Credit, Shipboard Credit and upgrades

Crystal – Clear Choices offers including Air Credit, Shipboard Credit and fare reductions

Azamara – 50% off second guest fare, free wi-fi and featured Book, Pay & Save voyages

Regent Seven Seas – up to 50% off fares and reduced deposit

Lindblad – offers on air fares, crew tips and bar tabs

Scenic Ocean – Early Bird fares and free city stays

Hurtigruten – air fare offers, cruise fare reductions and single supplements waived

Galapagos Sea Lion
Galapagos Sea Lion with Lindblad

Images courtesy of Hurtigruten, Silversea, Crystal and Lindblad

 

Radar: Lindblad adds more Antarctic value

Lindblad South Georgia
South Georgia King Penguins

Lindblad Expeditions are offering flights direct to or from The Falkland Islands on two select voyages on National Geographic’s Explorer later this year, removing a full day at sea. Guests can enjoy the extra time either on the life-changing Antarctic Peninsula or in South Georgia, depending on which trip they have chosen. 

Lindblad South Georgia
Southern Elephant Seals in South Georgia

A one way direct flight from the Falklands to Santiago on the 18-day South Georgia and the Falklands trip on October 23, 2017 results in a day more to enjoy the insights of Global Perspectives Guest Speaker Greg Marshall, wildlife expert and National Geographic filmmaker – not to mention the 100,000+ penguin colonies of South Georgia.

Lindblad Antarctica Landing
National Geographic Explorer Parks on the Ice

Alternatively, on the 24-day Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland’s departure on November 6, 2017, guests can choose to fly from Santiago to the Falklands to give extra time on the stunning Antarctic peninsula.  U.S. Arctic Research Chair Frances Ulmer and former astronaut and oceanographer, Kathy Sullivan join the trip.

Photos courtesy of Lindblad

 

Best Cruises: Iceland

Following on from our feature on Iceland we pick our top cruises to the Land of Fire and Ice.

Windstar: Around Iceland Reykjavik to Reykjavik

Windstar Iceland Cruise
Iceland with Windstar

Windstar, the niche provider of yacht-style ultra-luxurious cruises, takes the graceful Star Legend to Iceland on a circumnavigational tour of this magical place. With the cruise line’s ethos firmly rooted in traditional sailing Windstar offer a unique perspective on Iceland; finding secluded bays and rarely seen wildlife, able to stay longer in special places, giving guests an authentic experience and real sense of the true Iceland. Although the Star Legend is a motorised vessel, with no masts or sails, it still has the intimacy of the original Windstar brand, offering a small-scale private-yacht experience. Equalling any exploration cruise in terms of accessing remote places, the Star Legend also carries passengers in total style and comfort.

Iceland Cruise Godafoss Waterfall
Godafoss

The trip, starting and finishing in Reykjavik, visits many geological wonders as well as the iconic Icelandic waterfalls, thermal waters and national parks. Highlights include Surtsey Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which rose from the sea in the 1960s making it one of the world’s youngest places and the Viking Sushi Experience where pristine seafood is caught and instantly prepared for guests onboard a small local fishing trawler as whales and sea-eagles glide and soar nearby. Departures in July and August 2017. www.windstarcruises.com

Lindblad Expeditions: A Circumnavigation of Iceland

Hurtigruten Iceland Cruise
Jokulsarlon glacier

This professional and well-rounded itinerary truly captures the drama, intrigue and history of Iceland as it takes guests on a ten-day voyage around the whole island. Visits to Reykjavik and the established (and busy) tourist sites on the famous Golden Circle tick obvious boxes but Lindblad, in keeping with their strong expedition focus, then seeks out the rugged western frontier and remote north-east coastline.

Lindblad Iceland Cruise
Blue Lagoon

Sailing on either the National Geographic Orion or the National Geographic Explorer, the curious and adventurous traveller experiences world-class field geology, expert-led hiking and kayaking, Zodiac tours of hidden places and surreal scenery. Iceland is a first-rate photography destination after all. Of course itineraries can change, sometimes due to the weather, but with Lindblad this is more often to take advantage of rare wildlife sightings or to linger over exceptional light. Expeditions are scheduled for July 2017 and June/July 2018. www.expeditions.com

Azamara: Fjords and Iceland Voyage

Azamara Iceland cruise
The Colours of Iceland

Azamara Journey embarks on a summer voyage to Iceland with stops in Denmark, Norway, The Faroe Islands, Scotland and England – it’s common for an Iceland cruise to incorporate visits to other Northern European destinations.  Three days are spent in Iceland, out of a total of twelve, with two of these docked in the lively and cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavik. This vibrant city is an excellent base to explore the waterfalls, geysers, lava fields and thermal waters of The Golden Circle; Iceland’s famous tourist trail.

Azamara Iceland cruise Akureyri
Akureyri

A further day is spent in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city, where the unexpected botanical gardens are located. Two thousand species of native and foreign plants grow here, surprisingly without greenhouse cover despite the Arctic location. Departure date is July 2017. www.azamaraclubcruises.co.uk

Hurtigruten: The Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes of Iceland

Hurtigruten Cruise Iceland
Heimaey

With a heritage dating back to 1893 and widely regarded as a leader in Arctic exploration cruises, Hurtigruten is a popular choice for an Icelandic cruise. The Grand Arctic Traverse is a stunning nineteen-day voyage starting in the picturesque Lofoten Islands then travelling to the isolated island of Jan Mayen, followed by Iceland and finishing in Greenland. However, with only three days spent in Iceland, the alternative Elves, Sagas and Volcanoes of Iceland circumnavigates the island and is ideal for travellers seeking a comprehensive and exciting Icelandic experience.

Hurtigruten Iceland Cruise
Hornbjerg Cliff

MS Spitsbergen, a polar-class vessel, takes a full twelve days to sail around the coast. Itineraries are suggested only, with the final journey being determined en-route according to weather and opportunities – this is a true expedition cruise. As well as visits to the established thermal bathing sites and waterfalls, the captain usually stops at remote islands such as Siglufjörður and Grimsby, where guests can access wildlife and geological sites by Polarcirkel boats, and the Westman Islands which are famous for their volcanic activity and whale-spotting. Exploration cruises sail in June and July 2017. www.hurtigruten.co.uk

Images courtesy of Windstar, Lindblad, Azamara, Hurtigruten

Best Cruises: Alaska

 

Cruise Kayaking Alaska Tongass

The 49th state is the largest in the U.S. and one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations.

Alaska Cruise Brown Bears fishing

Alaska is a true wilderness; vast, isolated, rugged and ‘it will change your life forever’ beautiful. The scale is beyond epic with towering mountains, expansive glaciers, wide flowing rivers, abundant wildlife, lush rainforest and active volcanos. For such a frontier region, where people can seem rarer than wolves and bears, it is uniquely and wonderfully accessible by cruise ship.

Cruise Alaska Map Vancouver Seward

Most cruises follow the Inside Passage – generally setting off from San Fransisco, Seattle or Vancouver to traverse this famous waterway of deep fjords lined with forest. Some venture further to the Gulf of Alaska and expedition lines access even more remote areas in smaller ships. Anchorage, Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau are common port stops and excellent gateway towns for exploring the Alaskan landscape. Helicopter tours, dog-sledding, salmon fishing, hiking glaciers, kayaking, scenic rail trips and zip-line rides are exciting add-ons to any cruise.

Siversea Silver Shadow in Alaska

Silversea sets sail from Vancouver in 2017 on the small but perfectly formed and ultra-luxurious Silver Shadow. Bound for Seward, the quaint Anchorage rail-road town, this all-suite ship is ideal for viewing the scenery and wildlife as well as engaging in a diverse and well-curated enrichment programme. The seven-day trip offers a range of interesting and exciting shore excursions.

Crystal Symphony Cruise

Crystal’s Northern Wonders trip, on the world-leading Crystal Serenity, reaches Anchorage from Vancouver in seven days including scenic cruising of Glacier Bay and the Hubbard Glacier. Passengers can opt for sea-plane tours of Tongass National Forest, expert-led halibut fishing and a visit to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary.

Alaska Cruise Denali National Park

Seabourn offer extended cruises to Alaska, in particular the twenty five-day Exploration of the Last Frontier on the lovely Seabourn Sojourn which comprehensively visits all the ‘bucket-list’ Alaska sights as well as more secluded, quieter places. The Denali Experience is a four-day fully escorted trip of this majestic national park offered as an extension to any Alaska cruise.

Alaska Cruise Zodiac Glacier

Alaska is a ‘ready-made’ expedition cruise destination and Lindblad, which leaves from Seattle, has a wealth of experience in this field. Voyages tend to be on the active side, reaching further into the surrounding areas of British Columbia and magical Haida Gwaii. Three ships tour Alaska; the brand new National Geographic Quest and the sister ships National Geographic Sea Lion or Sea Bird. A a six-person team accompanies each voyage including a highly qualified expedition leader, expert naturalists, an undersea specialist, certified photo instructor and wellness specialist.

Crystal Symphony Cruise

The Alaska cruise season is short, with sailings running from May to September, and the weather is sometimes unreliable, even in summer. Passengers should prepare for rain and occasional choppy seas – excursions are sometimes a casualty of inclement conditions and can be cancelled – and take plenty of layers to keep out the glacial cold. Alaska also has thirty five species of mosquito! But don’t be put off by rough seas and bugs, a cruise of Alaska will change your life – for the better. It is an enriching and expansive experience and millions of people who describe it as ‘the best cruise of their life’ can’t be wrong.

Photos courtesy of Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn and Lindblad

Lindblad – French Polynesia and South Pacific

Lindblad National Geographic cruise

In March 2018, Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Orion sets sail for French Polynesia and the South Pacific on exciting new itineraries.

Lindblad Cruise Tahiti South Pacific

The purpose built expedition vessel plans visits to Fiji, the Cook Islands and Easter Island – amongst other exciting destinations.

Highlights include:

Lindblad Cruise National Geographic

the Pitcairn Islands, identified as one of most unspoiled reef systems in the world and home to the fairy tern,

Lindblad Cruise South Pacific diving

snorkelling the stunning reefs of Fakarava, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve,

Lindblad Cruise South Pacific

exploring the Marquesas, one of the most remote and culturally unique island groups on Earth,

Lindblad National Geographic Cruise

and experiencing genuine Polynesian welcomes throughout Samoa as guests are welcomed into Fijian villages with traditional kava ceremonies.

Lindblad Cruise National Geographic

Part research vessel, part grand hotel, the 102-guest National Geographic Orion is outfitted with a roster of exploration tools including snorkeling gear for all guests, a SCUBA program that can accommodate up to 24 divers at a time with two dive masters, a glass bottom boat, kayaks, paddleboards, a state of the art remote operated vehicle (ROV) that reaches depths of up to 1,000 feet, and a fleet of Zodiacs.

Lindblad Cruise South Pacific

Photos courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Cruise Turtle South Pacific

www.expeditions.com

Lindblad – National Geographic Endeavour II

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Lindblad, the award-winning expedition cruise line, bring their masterfully re-designed, compact, expertly equipped and staffed, adventure-focused, mind-expanding National Geographic Endeavour II to the Galápagos this season.

Interiors

The newly refurbished ship cuts a confident path through these Pacific waters, mixing the grit of true exploration with comfort and class. The maiden voyage, a 17-Day Epic Galápagos Photography Expedition, is now underway, kick-starting the 2017 island trips which include an option to visit the historical and modern Inca culture of Peru on some tours.

Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki)

There’s something seductive about the Endeavour II … it’s rugged, approachable, keen to get up close and personal and is not without a little risk. The name of this vessel, which unfolds from a floating mission control into a well-designed layout of cabins and public space, alludes to both a clear aim and the effort required achieving it. A trip like this is an undertaking, a commitment to embrace the world outside and all it offers.

Guest snorkeling with sea turtle in Galapagos. DER from 2005

The voyage with Endeavour II is excellent in itself and excellent for you; get on board and experience the therapeutic benefits of enrichment and exploits. Prepare to follow in the footsteps of Darwin, observe giant Galápagos tortoises with a leading naturalist guide, snorkel with sea lions, brush up on your wildlife snaps with the resident National Geographic photographer, watch sea green turtles from a glass-bottomed Zodiac, kayak beside penguins, stand on the bridge as you cross the Equator and spot the Southern Cross in the starry skies above.

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Elsewhere cabins induce restful sleep, the library encourages lingering over interesting books and maps, an informal ambience generates engaging conversation and the camaraderie of adventure creates life-long friendships.

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The Endeavour II nourishes the soul.

www.expeditions.com

Photos courtesy of Lindblad

Lindblad – The Facts

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Lindblad, in partnership with National Geographic, is the leading provider of experience-adventure cruising. Specially designed small ships venture to destinations other lines can only dream of, edging their way into remote locations to access outstanding wildlife and wilderness. Founded by Sven-Olof Lindblad in 1979, the cruise line attracts the best naturalists and environmental experts in the world to lecture, lead shore excursions and generally enhance the voyage. National Geographic photographers regularly join the sailings, along with underwater specialists, a video chronicler and historian. A multitude of technical equipment on board adds to the experience; ships feature Zodiacs, underwater cameras, diving gear and hydrophones. Cosy cabins and tasty sustainable-sourced food suit the well-heeled, educated guests who seek spontaneous stargazing over bingo.

Fleet: 

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Small-scale ships carry less than 150 passengers, created or re-built to cope with the rigours of inaccessible and sometimes hostile environments. All carry the National Geographic moniker. Polar-expedition vessels have ice-strengthened hulls and every vessel is equipped with a vast array of apparatus and toys to enhance each destination. A further selection of chartered ships completes the fleet.

Destinations

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Itineraries include Arctic, Antarctica, Alaska, Baja California, Amazon, Galapagos, Vietnam & Cambodia and Europe, including Scotland.

Staterooms

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Cabins are comfortable and functional with picture window or balcony, climate control, television, environmentally sensitive toiletries and National Geographic Atlas.

Food and Drink

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Fresh, local, sustainable food is served in an open-seating arrangement with guests, staff and invited experts dining together. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed.

Facilities

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Ships carry all the best technology and equipment to ensure the maximum experience factor during the voyage. Facilities are geared towards adventure and exploration with a vast range onboard including Zodiacs, snorkelling gear, diving equipment and kayaks.

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A holistic approach to wellness is encouraged amongst guests with a fully integrated programme of exercise, fitness and spa therapies. The Bridge is open for visits and many guests choose to spend hours sitting here, enjoying the view and chatting to officers. The library and chart room are also always popular.

Social Responsibility

The Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund supports projects to preserve and protect wilderness locations, local communities, conservation, research and development. These initiatives are carried out on a regional level, targeting areas the cruise line explores, as well globally.

Photos courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

www.expeditions.com