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




Radar: Mariner of the Seas offers mini-cruise breaks and lots of fun

Mariner of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas takes to the water on June 25th following a $120 million refurbishment. Embarking on a series of 3 and 4 night mini-breaks from Miami to the Bahamas, this thrill-packed cruise ship hopes to entice Millennials on board with the promise of fun and adventure.


By offering short holidays to tropical destinations, Royal Caribbean intends to lure the younger cruising generation away from traditional road trips and beach holidays. In 2019 Mariner of the Seas will sail to the new Perfect Day at CocoCay – the first destination in Royal Caribbean’s recently announced collection of private island experiences around the world. 

Sky Pad

The re-imagined Mariner of the Seas has a wealth of new ways to play:

  • Sky Pad – Thegravity-defying bungee trampoline experience amped up with virtual reality
  • The Perfect Storm – A thrilling pair of three-floor-high racer waterslides called Cyclone and Typhoon
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z – An epic glow-in-the-dark battle for the last planet in the galaxy
  • Escape Room: The Observatorium – Royal Caribbean’s newest escape room challenge
  • FlowRider – The cruise line’s signature 40-foot-long surf simulator
Playmaker Sports Bar & Arcade

There are also new restaurants and bars introduced to take guests effortlessly from day-to-night:

  • The Bamboo Room – A laidback Polynesian watering hole with a throwback vibe and kitschy-cool craft cocktails like the Island Old Fashioned and Tiki Tea – the first in Royal Caribbean’s fleet
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade – For fans watching their home team on one of more than 25 TV screens, making their own legendary plays at the arcade, or refueling on game-day favourites
  • Jamie’s Italian – Serving fresh, handmade and rustic Italian fare by British Chef Jamie Oliver
  • IzumiHibachi and Sushi – Asian-inspired dining featuring hibachi, sushi and sashimi and more – made to order with authentic flavors, the freshest ingredients and impeccable presentation



5 Reasons to Cruise the Baltic

Stockholm archipelago
Stockholm archipelago © 2017 Louise Farquhar

I am delighted to be featured today on Helm – the Cruise Cotterill blog. Click over and discover my 5 Reasons to Cruise the Baltic.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood
Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood © 2017 Louise Farquhar

Last summer I enjoyed a fabulous 14-day tour of this fantastic region with Celebrity Cruises on the superb Celebrity Eclipse. Read my full review here.

Celebrity Eclipse
Celebrity Eclipse

Monster or Marvel: Symphony of the Seas takes to the water

With a capacity for nearly 9000 passengers and crew, the largest cruise ship in the world has finally taken to the sea for its inaugural cruise. The colossal size of this floating city is difficult to contemplate; imagine roughly four Titanic ships in volume or, if put on its end, this giant would match the dizzy heights of the Shard or Eiffel Tower.

Symphony of the Seas Pool Deck
Pool Deck

Miami-based Royal Caribbean, who are widely responsible for shaking the cruise industry free from the “the newlywed and the nearly dead” image, have brought fun-loving cruise aficionados most of the mega-ships on the water today. Symphony of the Seas doesn’t disappoint on that scale. There are 22 restaurants, 24 pools, a Manhattan-esque park with 12,000 real trees, two West End-sized theatres, a climbing wall, nine-deck-high zip line, ice rink, surf simulator, fairground carousel, glow-in-the-dark laser tag, spa and other countless entertainment and shopping opportunities.

Symphony of the Seas Ultimate Abyss
Ultimate Abyss

Self-proclaimed as ‘The World’s Most Instagrammable Ship’, chances to take that perfect wow-factor snap are everywhere; from the Flow Rider surf simulator and 10-storey Ultimate Abyss slide to the lush Central Park and Robotic bar.

Symphony of the Seas Central Park
Central Park

In response to the launch of Symphony of the Seas, some critics are using words like ‘brash’ and ‘gimmicky’ … and they don’t need to try hard to make their point. It’s easy to see this behemoth as a gargantuan amusement park, which certainly won’t appeal to everyone. However, regardless of such negative feedback, the reality of Symphony of the Seas lies with the fact that Royal Caribbean listened to their customers. They created exactly what these thrill-seeking, happy people want – to the tune of $1 billion. Its true purpose, as well as being the largest cruise ship in the world, is to be the best cruise ship for families. In this respect, Symphony of the Seas is an undisputed success.

Symphony of the Seas Suite Deck
Suite Deck

The bias towards families is epitomised by the Ultimate Family Suite. This two-tier laugh-a-minute paradise, in eye-popping colours, comes compete with a slide between the two floors and full size Lego Wall. Although only in reach of the lucky few with too many dollars in their pocket – one family have booked Christmas for $65,000 – the experience is enhanced by a Royal Genie to meet ‘every wish’ (within reason) as well as an ‘Instagrammer-in-Chief’ to assist with those perfect pics … and, not being too cynical, to also ensure Royal Caribbean get maximum coverage across the social media network … they are clever.

Symphony of the Seas Ultimate Family Suite
Ultimate Family Suite

But the real triumph of Symphony of the Seas lies beyond the smiley faces and the multitude of dollars flowing into the bank account of Royal Caribbean. Elevated above the brash lights, bright colours and unending noise is a masterpiece of design and engineering. This 228,000 ton ship floats; and it does so safely, in style and embracing the very latest technology. Created by Harri Kulovaara, a Finnish naval architect, Symphony is built to withstand Russian winters, Caribbean summers and North Atlantic storms. It generates energy and cleans water. Flow of movement is optimised both above and below deck to ensure passengers and crew efficiently move around the ship. From a guest perspective, the 18-decks are dividend into 7 neighbourhoods, naturally segregating personality-types and giving the feel of a smaller, more intimate experience despite the scale of the vessel.

Symphony of the Seas Innovation

After a summer season in the Mediterranean, Symphony of the Seas will head to Miami to set up home. Royal Caribbean International can surely expect lots and lots of happy customers as the company moves forward with plans for the next ‘largest cruise ship in the world’.

Symphony of the Seas Master Rob Hempstead, Captain
Master Rob Hempstead, Captain

Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean 


Radar: EUR 300 available for greening the cruise industry

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Dutch financial institution ING are supporting green innovation in European shipping with a new EUR 300 million fund. 

Sustainability is a key factor in the future of the cruise industry as consumer awareness of green issues grows and stricter regulation compliance increases. This, combined with impressive advances in technology and a genuine understanding amongst cruise operators of the importance of environmental sensitivity, brings a welcome injection of funding for sustainability measures.

Over the next three years, clients incorporating green elements in either the construction of new vessels or the retrofitting of existing vessels can apply for support. The programme applies to both inland shipping and seagoing operators. With both the ocean and river cruise industry in a state of unprecedented growth, the financial support to incentivise greener fleet renewal and incorporate more sustainable technology intends to project the industry on an environmentally harmonious trajectory.

According to the programme founders, “This agreement forms part of ING’s wider sustainability strategy, which aims to facilitate and finance society’s shift to sustainability – environmental, economic, and social. To this end, we are helping to develop and promote sustainable business models and explore how sustainable financing can help support energy transition and combat climate change.”

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.


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



Ultimate Guide: Expedition Cruising

Expedition cruising is making a big splash. As the fastest growing segment of the cruise market, the opportunities for adventurous travellers are exciting, unique and unexpected. From barren ice-covered landscapes to tropical jungles, modern day cruisers can choose to explore in luxury or skim the waves in hardy research vessels.

Galapagos Penguins with Lindblad
Galapagos Penguins with Lindblad

Typically, expedition cruising involves smaller ships sailing intrepid itineraries to the world’s least visited places. These hidden gems, once discovered by courageous explorers, are home to pristine environments and lesser-known cultures. From the white vistas of Antarctica to the abundant wildlife of the Galapagos Islands or the tropical paradise of Papua New Guinea – these cruises are ALL about the experience.

Attracting sophisticated travellers seeking enrichment and engagement, exploration voyages place great emphasis on destination immersion. Expedition teams are abundant in their knowledge and skills; tailoring excursions to suit the interests of guests and ensuring a well-rounded, authentic experience. Expedition cruisers tend to be physically fit, curious, intelligent and brave with a love of nature and an open-mind to unfamiliar cultures. Although expedition cruising very much appeals to the established cruise traveller, the younger demographic is also showing strong interest along with first-time cruisers who previously shunned the large party-boat cruises on offer.

Endeavour II
National Geographic Endeavour II

Vessels are specially adapted to the environments they visit, in particular polar vessels have ice-strengthened hulls. Shipyards can barely keep up with the number of new expedition ships on order. Leading cruise lines are embracing the demand for exploration cruises and the investment needed to provide first-class, environment-adapted and high-technology vessels.

Hurtigruten in Orne Harbor Antarctica
Hurtigruten in Orne Harbor Antarctica

Some lines still follow the time-honoured style of expedition cruises with clean and comfortable ships focused more on the destination than fine-dining and champagne. Others, on the other hand, are meeting a very real demand from discerning clients who expect to enjoy their home comforts as they sail to the furthest reaches of the globe. Luxury is most certainly an integral part of the design for the newest ships expected to launch over the next few years. Notably Ponant, Scenic and Crystal have ships due with all the embellishments and accoutrements of the six-star cruise experience.

Artist Impression of Crystal Endeavour
Artist Impression of Crystal Endeavour

Sustainability is obviously a major issue tied to the growth of expedition cruising. The very nature of the places featured on such itineraries is their untouched habitats, small communities and unsullied environments. Advances in technology, along with strict environmental controls, hope to preserve these places for the future, allowing naturally curious humans to visit without leaving damage literally in their wake. Many leading experts will keep a watchful eye over this growing area of tourism, ensuring the highest standards are maintained. Visitor numbers are to be kept low and new technology aims to reduce any impact from the ship. Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen will be the first pure hybrid commercial cruise ship to enter service when it is introduced later this year.

Solomon Islands with Silversea
Solomon Islands with Silversea

Countering the undeniable environmental and cultural concerns raised by a growth in exploration cruising, it is important to identify that such travellers often come away from their trip with an enhanced perspective on the natural world and indigenous cultures. Most return home with a determination to protect these important places and raise awareness of the issues threatening their importance to our world.

Galapagos Orcas with Lindblad
Galapagos Orcas with Lindblad

Images courtesy of Hurtigruten, Lindblad, Silversea and Crystal

Radar: Positive move towards protecting Arctic marine environment

In response to a sharp rise in Arctic shipping traffic, Russia and the US are collaborating on a new two-way shipping route in the Bering Strait and Bering Sea. Increased commercial shipping traffic in the area, which notably includes a growth in the number of expedition cruise ships sailing off the Alaskan islands and coast, poses a significant risk to the sensitive Arctic marine environment.

Although only intended as voluntary at the moment, precautionary sustainable practices of this type go towards protecting these precious areas; whose pristine environments form the very basis for expedition cruising in the first place. The International Maritime Organisation will discuss the proposal in February.

Radar: Specialist Yards attract Expedition Vessel Builds

Roald Amundsen
Roald Amundsen

Consumer demand to explore the world’s remote locations by cruise ship is growing at an exciting pace. Exploration cruise vessel construction is booming as cruise lines seek to meet this need with technologically advanced, environmentally sensitive and highly customised ships for polar and tropical itineraries.

Specialist shipbuilders, feeling the effects of a declining oil and gas industry, are moving quickly to fill this niche. European yards are dominating the market just now, with Norway clearly the strongest contributor. Other global players are showing an interest in this sector, in particular the Chinese.

VARD, a Norwegian subsidiary of cruise ship construction giant Fincantieri, has orders from French luxury cruise company Ponant and TUI/Hapag- Lloyd Cruises for polar-class vessels. Australian Coral Expeditions have also instructed VARD to build their new expedition vessel intended to tackle the Great Barrier Reef, Kimberley region, Cape York and Arnhem Land, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, South Pacific Islands, Tasmania and south east Asia.

Ulstein Yard

Again in Norway, Ulstein won the new Lindblad contracts and the Kleven shipyard has the latest Hurtigruten vessels underway. Other European yards are enjoying success securing new builds too, such as the Netherlands-based De Hoop – who won the contract to build Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Flora despite never having built an ocean cruise liner before. This vessel is destined for the popular Galapagos Islands.

Some features of these new vessels include zero-speed stabilisers to allow the ship to remain in a stationary position without dropping anchor on a sensitive sea bed, LNG and Hydrogen fuel cell ready systems, expanded fuel and water tanks to provide for longer endurance ranges in remote areas, helicopter landing platforms, submarine vehicles and Zodiac launches.


Luxury expedition yachts for small groups are also part of this growth trend, with the Dutch Damen yard and yacht builder AMELS collaborating on an IMO Polar Code compliant SeaXplorer designed for only 12 guests and 25 crew.

Photos courtesy of Hurtigruten, Ulstein, Damen and Ponant

Cruise Crush: Seabourn Ovation’s Art Collection

Cruise ships are becoming important art venues in their own right, with curated collections good enough to satisfy even the most discerning art connoisseurs. Seabourn Ovation, launching in May this year, will display 1600 museum-quality pieces from 120 global artists. The actual pieces have yet to be unveiled.

Luciano Vistosi
A Luciano Vistosi Sculpture

Brought together by designer Adam D. Tihany and a team from ArtLink, the collection includes a Murano glass piece by Luciano Vistosi, named “Warrior The Second”. Thought to be of polished and hammered lagoon green crystal, it will be featured on Deck 4 at the base of The Atrium.

Frank Stella
A Frank Stella Lithograph

1960’s black and white photographs taken by American icons Eve Arnold, William Helburn and Alexander Liberman will decorate The Grill by Thomas Keller. Two original lithographs by American abstract expressionist Frank Stella represents a practice where the picture-is-object rather than a representation of a larger theme or idea. Similarly, the candid nature of the photographs produced by Arnold, Helburn and Liberman depict instances that are quite literally exactly as they seem.

Yoo Eui Jeong
A Yoo Eui Jeong Vase

Other notable pieces include Valeria Nascimento’s “Black Coral”, made from black pigmented porcelain with a form that is reminiscent of a living organism indigenous to the depths of the ocean. Also, Korean ceramic artist Yoo Eui Jeong, who uses timeless Korean vase making techniques in order to highlight the influence of contemporary culture on traditional art forms, brings a one-of-a-kind vase to the elevator lobby. Yoo Eui Jeong’s hand-made vases are part of a series that have been displayed at London’s V&A Museum. The Club Lounge will feature a highly impressive mixed media photography by Jose Romussi. The black and white photograph of a woman features lush hues of wild flowers that Romussi hand-embroidered onto the photograph. The woman’s features are masked by flowers while their stems seem to be growing from beneath. Romussi’s limited edition photograph examines the spectrum of beauty standards found throughout various cultures in the world.

Seabourn Ovation

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.


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