Imagine National Geographic hosted a cruise, and rather than reading an article about it, instead you’d experienced the wonder of the story through excursions where experts explained a region’s natural, cultural and historical significance. The world-renowned society actually does this in its partnership with Lindblad Expeditions cruises, where knowledge is the principal luxury. Cruise Specialists consultants Dan Twomey and Joe Lucero discovered this last November during their “Wild California Escape” cruise with Lindblad.
The five-day cruise began aboard the National Geographic Venture, with a departure from San Francisco. Travelers sailed along the California coast to Angel Island, a National Historic Landmark and the largest natural island in San Francisco Bay. The Venture then sailed to Monterey Bay, an epicenter for biodiversity; then Vallejo, located at the southern tip of California wine country; and, finally a return to San Francisco.
Zodiacs and Port Talks
For Dan and Joe, each with 20 years of travel industry experience, several features about the trip piqued their interest. “The size of the ship was a plus, in reference to proximity to everything,” Joe said. “Also, they don’t have traditional tenders on this ship. Instead you take Zodiacs, the rubber boats with the wooden bottoms; it was easy to load on and off. I really enjoyed that aspect of the trip because it brought you closer to nature,” Joe said. “Across the ocean, we saw a pod of dolphins along the way to Angel Island — very nice!”
Dan noted the intimacy of a smaller number of passengers aboard the ship. “It was more a learning experience, rather than a simple cruise vacation. It seemed much more like a class sometimes as far as the size goes.”
During the evenings, there were Recaps after dinner — when the daily activities were discussed and plans were made for the following day. After 8:30pm, the rest of the evening was spent on one’s own, as the Venture sailed to the next destination.
“Lindblad brings a team of experts,” Joe said. “They had a marine biologist, plus other naturalists so there was someone to talk about anything that took place.”
Dan stayed in a suite with a small balcony and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, while Joe had a cabin with a standard ocean view. The bathrooms were stocked with botanically inspired hair products, soap and shower gels.
In the spirit of eco-friendliness, rather than having plastic water bottles on the vessel, metal ones were available for use throughout the voyage. The meals served aboard were fresh, local and sourced from suppliers who share Lindblad’s values of sustainability. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, while dinner was a plated meal.
“The expedition is not about the ship,” Dan said. “It’s about the experience with nature. What the experts can teach you about the outside world. Where you are going and what you were doing.”
“Multiple times we were out on the ocean, and they saw a whale some place, and the captain literally turned the ship around to see what that whale or pod of whales were doing,” Dan said. “That part was amazing.”
Ports and Excursions
Of the three ports visited, Monterey was the one Dan considered a favorite. “It’s a beautiful town: the sea life and everything down there — the aquarium; it’s great. There’s a trolley that takes you around in Monterey. Very quick and easy to use.”
Among their favorite excursions was visiting the Culinary Institute of America, at Copia. Their group had two winery stops, participated in a cooking demonstration and enjoyed a lunch, with wine pairings, prepared at the Culinary Institute. Though not all excursions were leisurely.
“Passengers should be mobile and active,” Joe said. “You’ll have to be able to keep up with the various activities going on. For instance, on Angel Island, they have any number of different levels of hikes. Even the non-strenuous ones were pretty vigorous for some.”
Who Enjoys Expedition Cruises?
Overall, Dan and Joe had an enjoyable time during the “Wild California Escape.”
“Come in with a level of expectations,” Joe said. “The kind of people who are on Lindblad are intelligent and curious, and want to be educated on different aspects of nature. Expedition passengers are active and are less interested in onboard services, formal wear and pampering.”
“They have to be that type of explorer who likes the educational part of it,” Dan said. “This type of travel is perfect for the adventurer, or family of adventurers.”
To learn more about Lindblad Expeditions cruises, contact Cruise Specialists.