|An adventurer from the National Geographic Sea Lion explores southeast Alaska by kayak.|
To celebrate a 30-year milestone of sailings in Alaska, Lindblad Expeditions is adding underwater cameras so guests sailing to the Great Land—starting in May—can enjoy the views of the undersea world. A Lindblad undersea specialist will dive to depths of 40‐80 feet and then use strong lights and an HD camera to capture the underwater world—just beneath where passengers are sailing.
“In general, we believe worldwide, the undersea world is really a big new frontier that people know relatively little about,” says Sven-Olof Lindblad, president and founder of Lindblad Expeditions. “We tested it [the undersea camera work] last year and we’re now fully into it.”
Two dive experiences will be shared with guests weekly, one is live, another videotaped. Guests might spot octopi, sea lions or even whales in these presentations. With a hydrophone deployed in the water, passengers might even hear the vocalizing of whales over the ship’s PA system. Visit expeditions.com/undersea for more information.
“Anything we can add to the experience to make it more interesting, we’re going to do that,” says Lindblad, whose father, adventurer Lars-Eric Lindblad, led some of the first nonscientific groups of travelers to Antarctica in 1966 and to Galapagos in 1967.
“Clients and agents book Lindblad trips when they are looking for a first-class authentic expedition travel experience,” says Lori Gifford, program manager, ExpeditionTrips.com, Seattle.
Having recently sailed with Lindblad in Alaska, “I can’t imagine having the same experience onboard any of the mega-ships that ply the waters there,” says Susie Gavlik, senior program manager, South America, Frontiers International Travel in Wexford, PA. She notes that Lindblad’s smaller ships can get into the nooks and crannies that big ships can’t.
Alaska voyages operate from May through September on National Geographic Sea Bird and National Geographic Sea Lion, both 62-passenger vessels. Voyages range from eight‐day “Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” cruises to 12‐day Alaska, British Columbia and San Juan Islands itineraries.
All of Lindblad Expeditions’ Alaska voyages have an undersea specialist, three naturalists, an expedition leader and a photography instructor onboard. Highlights include Zodiac excursions, special privileges to visit Tongass National Forest under a Forest Service Special Use Permit, and commentary by a Tlingit interpreter during a visit to Glacier Bay National Park.
As for Alaska’s appeal, “It’s our greatest wilderness, and it’s part of the U.S.,” Lindblad emphasizes. “I think people are very proud of the fact that Alaska exists and is a great representation of wildness. Combine that interest, nature and a certain nationalistic sense, and it’s a pretty potent combination.”
Clients who book the “Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” itinerary by March 31 will receive free roundtrip air between Seattle and Alaska on select May and June departures; rates begin at $5,990 per person double for a category 1 cabin. For those booking an Alaska, British Columbia and San Juan Islands itinerary, fares start at $7,690 per person double.
Now in its eighth year of a National Geographic partnership, Lindblad owns and operates three other vessels: the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer, 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavor and 48-passenger National Geographic Islander, the latter two sailing on Galapagos itineraries. Voyages include talks and activities created by expedition leaders, historians, naturalists, cultural authorities and marine biologists.
The company also charters other vessels, including Delfin II, which plies the Peruvian Amazon; Sea Cloud, a four-masted sailing vessel that sails a new Greek Isles and Turkey itinerary this year; and Lord of the Glens, which cruises Scotland’s interior waterways.
|Sven-Olof Lindblad and Eric Lindblad enjoy a family outing in the Galapagos.|
Other new programs this year include 14-day Mekong River voyages in Vietnam and Cambodia on the 48-passenger Jahan. During the new 16-day Papua New Guinea sailings on the 68-passenger Oceanic Discoverer, passengers will view the Tavurvur volcano, Trobriands village homes and yam huts, and Sepik River art. They’ll also swim and snorkel along coral reefs. Rates begin at $14,790 per person double.
Previously, most passengers were couples or widows/widowers. “Nowadays, it’s so much more diverse, such as a mother traveling with her adult daughter, groups of friends, and a huge number of families,” Lindblad says.
He also says the Galapagos is very good for families; voyages have swimming, nature walks and lots of physical activity on a daily basis. Frontiers International’s Gavlik says all but a few of the 65 clients she’s sent to the Galapagos have traveled with Lindblad. “I can say from a personal experience of sharing several Lindblad trips with my son that they have a special knack with children,” she said. “They bring the information down to a child’s level without compromising the adult experience.”
Also, “once upon a time, we wouldn’t have thought we’d possibly get [big-ship cruisers],” Lindblad says, but surveys have shown many guests have sailed on big vessels. “I call them ‘cruise ship refugees’ who have that experience, didn’t like it all that much, but like the idea of going on a ship,” he says.
Charters also may create a sales hook. “Several years back, I had a multigenerational family charter their 48-passenger National Geographic Islander in the Galapagos, and Lindblad was able to accommodate all of their requests including coordinating private charter flights, specific wine or alcohol preferences, dietary and medical conditions,” says Gavlik. “The clients could not have been happier.”
To learn more, agents may participate in monthly webinars, which typically have speakers who are naturalists, expedition leaders or National Geographic photographers. Lindblad also participates in several luxury travel consortia’s activities and training programs.
Lindblad describes his firm’s voyages as “very comfortable, a very high level of service, and a focus on food that’s interesting and relative to a geographic area, as opposed to ‘gourmet in insolation.’ ” Launching in September, a new onboard dining program will roll out on Columbia and Snake River voyages in the Pacific Northwest; new menus will feature local and sustainable foods as well as regional wines and craft beers.
To help coax clients to book new Galapagos voyages, Lindblad Expeditions will provide complimentary air roundtrip on select departures through June from either New York or Miami. Alternatively, clients may upgrade to business class on the New York to Guayaquil flights for $500 roundtrip. The offer applies to new bookings only, which must be made prior to March 31.