Lindblad Expeditions partners with National Geographic to immerse guests in cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage. Read on about the adventures on National Geographic Venture.
Just the mention of Alaska raises my pulse and perks my ears. No matter how often I have explored the Last Frontier, I am ready to return. What could be more interesting than exploring the Inside Passage of Alaska and British Columbia with Lindblad Expeditions? Lindblad partners with National Geographic to immerse guests in this wondrous area.
Joining National Geographic Venture in Seattle
In my broken record voice, I emphasize the importance of traveling to an embarkation port at least one day before departure. I followed my advice, knowing we had very few ports of call and that catching up to National Geographic Venture would be near impossible.
While waiting for the buses to arrive to carry the 63 passengers to the pier, we signed forms, tried on our official jackets, and intermingled with fellow passengers. Many expedition cruise companies include a jacket for all passengers. We selected ours, blue in this case, adding another color to my collection. I am certain that these jackets are mainly used to find guests who accidentally go astray in the wilderness.
Unlike joining a large ship where guests usually pass through a terminal, my husband and I headed to a hotel hospitality room where we waited for a bus to transport us to the ship. I had hoped that we would use Pier 66 in Seattle, the closest to downtown. Well, we boarded just a short way from there, but directly from the pier to the ship.
National Geographic Venture
Boarding via a stairway, we immediately headed to our stateroom. Noticeably absent from the cabin, what looked like the ideal space for a television was a piece of wall art. Who needs television when most of the entertainment is outside the stateroom?
We unpacked and found adequate storage space and several USB ports. Our view was through a slanted window, which bumped me several times as I gazed to see wildlife. Our bathroom had a small shower with an interesting mix of toiletries. All were of a different essence. Would they conflict and result in a poor showering experience?
One exciting fixture in the stateroom was a speaker with volume control but not an on-off switch. Had a hammer been in the room, I may have fixed that. Every morning at 7 am, the expedition leader served as an alarm clock. “Good Morning on the National Geographic Venture!”
Dining on National Geographic Venture
Unsurprisingly, an expedition cruise focuses on nature and activities. Meal times on this expedition cruise offered one seating at each meal. Breakfast came as a buffet with a special dish usually offered each morning. A cooked-to-order grill featured eggs served in a variety of ways. At breakfast, we received a rundown of the activities for the day.
Lunch was from a menu; like dinner, there was meat, seafood, and a vegetarian option. I found that the chef used my cooking philosophy—making various dishes from the same ingredient. For example, if we had couscous in one dish, it would appear in another variation at another meal.
Tables were not assigned, and there were no formal nights. At the daily cocktail hour, we did have an option for hors d’œuvres. During the day, a beverage station was set up in the lounge, which usually offered cookies or other snacks in addition to hot and cold drinks.
Public Spaces on National Geographic Venture
Being a small ship, NatGeo Venture contains few public spaces besides the dining room, a lounge, and an outdoor deck. The lounge became the gathering place for socializing and the classroom for lectures. In one corner was a bar with various beverages, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic choices. In the other corner, a small library with games, books, and computers drew guests to relax in this intimate space.
The lounge functioned as a window on wildlife, with glass enclosing much of the space. From the lounge, guests could head out to the bow to get an unobstructed view of the surroundings, whether on land or sea.
Although sometimes chilly, the observation deck didn’t deter me from enjoying it. It seemed an unexplored, often unoccupied, space with seating, blankets, and awnings for protection from inclement weather.
Lindblad Expedition Basics
First on the list for a good experience is following the recommended packing list! Layering is essential to keep you warm or cool and dry. Knee-high wading boots topped the mandatory items list. Those function to keep feet dry when the zodiacs make wet landings.
On our sailing with 63 guests, we were divided into four groups: Otters, Humpbacks, Puffins, and Sea Lions. This kept the flow moving efficiently when we headed down to the Mud Room to get ready to launch into a zodiac, kayak, or SUP. Our expedition PFDs were stored there.
Leaving Seattle, we headed to the San Juan Islands, a popular spot for orcas. As morning approached, we watched the waters for signs of this most widely distributed mammal in the world. Scanning for black and white colors on the surface, we eventually caught a glimpse of the Dall’s porpoises who like to bow ride. Those porpoises also have black-and-white coloring.
We had signed up for kayaking that day near Sucia Island. When I heard the speed of the winds during our morning weather report, I declared that I would not be participating as I am a fair-weather kayaker.
Later, kayaking was canceled due to the winds, but we took out on the zodiacs to explore the area. Our competent guide and birder pointed out different types of birds and spotted an eagle high in a tree. We learned about the area’s geology before returning to the ship for lunch.
The seas became rougher, and the captain moved the ship to a more protected area. We later set out again in the zodiacs and hiked around another part of Sucia with our octopus expert guide, explaining the local nature along the way.
Sharing Wisdom While Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage
For me the high points of the cruise with Lindblad Expeditions happened most evenings after dinner. The experts presented lectures on their areas of expertise. We were fortunate to have Fathoms author, Rebecca Giggs, on board, and she shared her knowledge about whales.
Other speakers included natural historians and a variety of experts in their fields—birding, whales, photography, culture, and even a young man who found a previously unknown octopus colony in Puget Sound. One point made by this young man stuck with me—he claims that octopi is not a word. The experts shared their tales with aplomb, whether out in the zodiacs or in the lounge. Nothing ever got boring, especially with the clever and sometimes cringeworthy jokes sprinkled in for good measure.
Lindblad Expeditions has a photography expert and some Olympus cameras and lenses onboard for guests to try out. Thanks to one of the lectures I attended, I learned a few things about my iPhone that I didn’t know.
The Star of Lindblad Expeditions While Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage
I knew that big shows and splashy entertainment would be absent from my cruise on National Geographic Venture. But was it?
Nature along the Inside Passage presents the best show of them all. Lindblad knows Alaska. This anniversary cruise celebrated 40 years of exploring the great state of Alaska.
We ventured into inlets, searched for sea life, and hoped for calving glaciers. We saw bears, moose, whales, sea lions, porpoises, puffins, and a variety of birds.
We walked through old-growth forests dwarfed by stately trees and met locals in places like Victoria, Alert Bay, Petersburg, and Sitka. We navigated difficult passages like the Wrangell and Seymour Narrows and mingled at meals with the lecturers who delved into their research and experiences.
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Final Thoughts on Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage
Expedition cruising brings us up close and personal to nature. On NatGeo Venture, just a few of us were new to the Lindblad family. A typical conversation starter asked how many Lindblad cruises we had been on. Guests on this brand are loyal, often apologizing as if they had cheated on their spouse if they mentioned sailing with another cruise line.
Having sailed on other expeditions cruises sans apologies, I knew what to expect. I found the experts extremely knowledgeable and trustworthy while at the same time entertaining. Their shared experiences added to my enjoyment of this cruise.
While not seeing as much wildlife as I had expected, I saw a good sampling of the inhabitants of the Inside Passage. I especially appreciated that we weren’t just taking advantage of the calmer waters of the Inside Passage to steam to a popular port. (I do like that cruising as well.) On such a small ship, we could get into small coves, navigate narrow passages and let serendipity guide us.
Flexibility allows for a tentative schedule. Venture would stop or change course to allow further exploration of a natural phenomenon or in search of certain wildlife.
My cruise ended fulfilling its purpose for me. Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage reminded me that nature humbles and inspires. I can’t wait to get back!