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National Geographic Explorer
Antarctica Expedition Review
November 2009

by P Modo

In November 2009, we went on a Lindblad-National Geographic Cruise in Antarctica on the National Geographic Explorer. The expedition operations (site selection, Zodiacing, hiking, kayaking, etc.) were spectacular. We never felt rushed and everything was professionally run. There were usually 2 landings a day, weather permitting. One day the Captain drove up onto the ice so we could take a walk on ice. He also made a stop so we could swim along a thermally heated shoreline. Regardless of where we were, the mountains, ice flows, and sunsets were always incredible. We saw tens of thousands of penguins, many other types of birds, seals, and whales. Oftentimes the penguins would walk to within a foot or so of us. The enormity of it all has to be experienced, it can’t be described.

We had equally high hopes for the educational activities, given National Geographic’s preeminence in nature education and the alliance formed in 2004 between National Geographic and Lindblad. We were surprised there was no use of National Geographic materials in presentations. The one short film we were shown appeared to be a BBC production. Our official National Geographic photographer gave two presentations. One was about shooting a small wedding service in Alaska?! There was no channel on the in-room TV with National Geographic films and no DVD players to play any Nat Geo DVDs bought in a gift shop.

Most days there were one or two talks, each given by one of the many naturalists. The individual talks were interesting, but they paled in comparison to the quality of the presentations Regent Seven Seas Cruises gave on our Alaska cruise. It seemed we had a collection of talented, knowledgeable, motivated naturalists with no one in charge. Note this was not the presenters’ fault – it’s a management problem. The presenters and naturalists were as enthusiastic, helpful, and fired up as any group of workers we’ve ever seen. They just need direction, access to Nat Geo materials, and help with presentations.

The dining experience was mediocre. Among menu selection, food quality, food preparation, buffet replenishment, and service, two of the five were usually bad, two OK, and one good to very good. Ordering off menu was “tolerated.” Language barriers appeared out of nowhere when we tried to order things as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich. It seemed odd there wasn't a lobster or crab night. Fresh crab seemed the local specialty at Ushuaia, our departure point. On the plus side, the selection of moderately priced wines was quite good and many were available by the glass. (Note our food experience may be a fluke. One of the guests had been on many Lindblad expeditions before and said the food operation on this one was “just bad.”)

We were also surprised to find there were basically no organized social activities at all beyond morning stretches and a recap of the day’s events before dinner. After dinner one could work out, visit the lounge, or watch the one movie that ran repeatedly (but was changed each day). Some attempt to break up the sameness over the 10 days at sea would have been much appreciated, especially after dinner.

Our cabin was nicely laid out and reasonable for the price. We always had lots of hot water, but heard from numerous folks on the 3rd deck they had problems throughout the cruise.

In summary – a premium priced expedition that was not a good value and our last Lindblad National Geographic Cruise. If expedition operations are far more important than everything else to you, this trip may be worth considering.


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