Category: Small Ship Cruising

National Geographic Venture

Posted By : Alka Subin/ 723 0

NEW YORK, NY, January 2017 — Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic has named its newest addition to their fleet, National Geographic Venture, which is currently being built in Seattle and will make her inaugural voyage in June 2018. Sister ship to the National Geographic Quest which is launching in June 2017, they are the first new builds in Lindblad’s history and the only purpose-built expedition ships designed and built from scratch in the USA.

The100-guest National Geographic Venture will launch in June 2018 and will feature 50 cabins, 22 with step-out balconies, and six sets of connecting cabins for families and groups; all category 5 cabins can accommodate a third guest. The ship will be outfitted with a fleet of 24 sea kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling equipment, and Zodiacs, all of which are geared to get guests out and into the wild, remote places being explored; state-of-the-art expedition technology, including a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), video microscope, a hydrophone and underwater cameras.

Her inaugural voyage will be on the June 24, 2018 departure of “Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska & British Columbia.” This 14-day expedition will give the ship a day in the San Juan Islands and a day in the Gulf Islands before heading north through BC and Alaska. She will then do the 8-day “Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” for 8 departures; another “Treasures of the Inside Passage” in September, followed by six 8-day “San Juan Islands & British Columbia” departures.

The design of the two new builds incorporates all that Lindblad has learned in 30+ years of operating between Alaska and Central America into every aspect of their construction. This includes larger cabins, many with balconies or the ability to connect, and beautiful public spaces. But it goes way beyond that. Here are a few improved aspects of the ships and enhanced expedition experience:

A Better View – A common constraint with wildlife viewing on a ship’s bow is that the anchoring gear takes up space and a single level allows only one row of guests to enjoy clean sightlines. To provide a superior viewing experience, the bow on the National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture have been designed with the anchoring gear separated from guest space by a tiered viewing system. This enables multiple rows of guests to line the bow with an unobstructed view. Also, two stairways on either side of the bow lead to an expansive observation deck one level up, for a unique perspective. All of these exterior viewing levels are accessible from the lounge, making for a seamless viewing experience.
Mark V Zodiacs – Inflatable expedition landing craft enable our naturalists to take guests to places otherwise inaccessible. To outfit the National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture, we have worked hand in hand with the team at Zodiac Milpro to deliver the first and only Mark V Zodiacs built entirely in the USA. These boats are superior, military grade construction, but customized with features like extra holds for passenger stability and topside treads to improve footing for stepping on and off. Both ships will be outfitted with 8 Mark V Zodiacs and guests will embark and disembark via custom-designed ladders to improve safety and ease of movement.
A Clearer View – Both ships feature a dining room with floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows and a lounge with wraparound windows as well. (Not to mention the many cabins with portholes, large view windows or sliding glass doors.) That’s a lot of glass. But what kind? We have painstakingly researched and tested many types of glass, ultimately selecting a premium glass with a straight tint. This will offer the clearest, most natural view possible.
A Better Bridge –The bridges on these vessels have been uniquely designed with the guest in mind, and feature designated forward standing areas with clear views and settees set around the room’s state of the art equipment to ensure a comfort for longer stays. All Lindblad Expeditions’ vessels have an open invitation to the bridge, so that guests can learn about navigation and enjoy the vantage point that a ship’s bridge provides.
Environmentally Friendlier – The internal systems aboard the National Geographic Quest and National Geographic Venture are the best available in the market today. Advanced waste management and treatment systems exceed international standards. To lessen the need for fuel, both ships feature a streamlined hull design, added a bulbous bow and have scoured the market for the most suitable propulsion systems available. Everything from the propellers to the engines have been specifically chosen to minimize vibration and improve fuel efficiency. Working in concert, these systems will enable the vessels to use less fuel than many ships far smaller.
The Mudroom Keeps Cabins Cleaner – Taking our cue from the globetrotting National Geographic Explorer and Orion, the new builds will be the only ships in their regions of exploration to feature a mudroom for the storage of guest expedition gear. The room and rows of lockers will enable guests to store boots, snorkeling equipment and other gear, making excursion preparation more efficient and leaving cabins cleaner and more comfortable.
A Shared Legacy of Innovation – When we wanted to build the perfect ships to explore from Alaska to Central America, we turned to Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island, Washington, the same company that built the very vessels we’ve used for the last 36 years. Nichols Brothers Boat Builders completed the National Geographic Sea Bird in 1981 (then known as the Majestic Alaska Explorer) and the National Geographic Sea Lion in 1982 (then known as the Great Rivers Explorer). Lindblad’s work with Nichols Brothers will result in the only expedition ships of their kind built entirely in the United States—an endeavor that both companies could not be more proud of.

Expedition Cruising in Polar Regions

Posted By : Alka Subin/ 950 0

Bears1 - CopyOK, this might be a tough sell. Talking about travel to the high Arctic when you are just about to dust off your snow shovels and winter boots.
But this is actually the time you should start thinking about planning any travel to the far north. That’s because the window is quite small, and as a result the infrastructure for tourism is limited.

Recent events around the discovery of one of the ships from the Franklin expedition have put the spotlight on the Canadian Arctic, making it more in demand than ever. If you’re thinking about this exotic corner, here are some travel tips:

I like to say there are four seasons in Arctic travel – all crammed into about 10 weeks.

At the end of June and the beginning of July you’ll be in peak iceberg season. These amazing monsters are remarkable to see and travellers are thrilled for sure. This time of year, polar bears are at their most active and happy, leaping from ice floe to ice floe. Also, of course, the midnight sun effect is at its peak with June 21 being the longest day of the year. But the ice will limit your activities on land and at sea.

In later July, you’ll see the mosses and diminutive Arctic flowers at bloom – really a peak time for scenic travel.

hiking high arcticCome the end of July at until about 10 August, it’s my favourite season, and the one that sells out the fastest. The weather is the best, still long daylight hours but the plants are in full bloom, there’s fantastic birdlife, and sea kayaking and hiking are at their best. But the ice floes are gone and there’s less opportunity to see polar bears.

At the end of August, beginning of September will be the last sailings of the expedition ships. It’s peak vegetation time and animals such as caribou and arctic hare are migrating. The sunsets are awesome and the weather is a bit cooler.

So, while you’re changing your tires and dusting off your furnace, here’s something to think about. A trip to the far north is, believe me, a life-changing experience and here at Vision we’d love to help you plan one.

Pat Rochon,

Senior Manager, Active Travel


River Cruises: Extraordinary Experiences, Unexpected Discoveries

Posted By : Alka Subin/ 820 0

With most ocean going cruise ships, you dock in an area which is far from any town or attractions (and often in a not-so-nice-area at all). The joy of Avalon is that they dock in the heart of things. Imagine getting off in Cologne and strolling to the famous Cathedral. Or stepping ashore in the charming town of Vollendam in Holland and within two minutes be seated at a charming waterfront café. It’s easily done.



And speaking of going ashore, with Avalon your shore excursions are included – a huge difference from the big ships where it’s easy to drop hundreds of dollars on shore excursions. And this year Avalon has also introduced more variety into their excursions. You can do the “traditional” route, which is usually a walking tour with a knowledgeable and interesting local guide (Avalon provides handy listening devices so you never miss a detail). Or you can choose “essential” where you get the main highlights, combined with free time on your own to shop or explore. Slow things down a bit by choosing a “leisurely” pace. And if you want a workout with your walk, Avalon supplies Nordic walking poles, free of charge!



The onboard experience also varies significantly to being on a big ship. Take Avalon Waterways’ sleek new European vessels – they have an average capacity of just 143 passengers, a far cry from the literally thousands who may board an ocean-going cruise ship. So it’s a more intimate experience. By the time your holiday is over, you get to know many of your fellow passengers and the friendly international crew.



Many travellers are also curious about accommodation on the European river cruises. Every single ship in Europe has to be the same width, as they all have to fit into the locks. So how spacious can you make a stateroom? Surprisingly so. Avalon has the newest ships on the rivers of Europe and this year feature five Panorama class vessels, which offer 200 square feet staterooms (30% larger than industry standard) featuring glorious 11 foot wide windows which open a full 7 feet so you can really experience the sights and sounds of Europe. Like having an open air balcony – without sacrificing the space!



Dining onboard is also an experience as you’ll enjoy the freshest ingredients from the country you are floating through. Breakfasts and lunches are generous and stylish buffets, while at dinner you have the choice of a four course dinner or a casual light bistro meal, both served with complimentary wine or beer. Every cruise features a dinner prepared by a local chef who comes on board to work his or her magic.



Nightlife? While you won’t find casinos, magicians or dancing girls, you will enjoy port talks that delve into the history and culture of your ports of call, and live music from a local group who’ll come on board to share a bit of their culture with you. Plus, you’ll enjoy food and beverage tastings with local hosts.



Let us give you more insight into Avalon and their amazing European experiences. With over 28 itineraries from 5 to 24 days, including theme cruises (music, wine, Christmas markets, history and more) you can explore Europe the way it was meant to be – up close!



Regent Seven Seas Explorer: The world’s most luxurious ship

Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 704 0

Anytime a new ship is launched it is very exciting for everyone involved: the lucky guests that are the first few to experience it; the CEO of the cruise line; the cruise line sales staff; the staff and crew on board; the travel agents that sell it.

There is an anticipation of what we will all find when it is finally revealed.

On Regent Seven Seas Explorer they thought of everything.

It is one of the reasons they can call it “The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built”.

A few of the other reasons: the table settings, the linens. the pool side grill, the theatre setup, the lighting throughout the ship, the magnificent foyer, the amenities in our suite, the new twist on the main dining room menu, tea time, the incredible artwork, the remarkable food in EVERY restaurant. Everything was clearly thought through and built to exceptional standards.

Our 5-day inaugural cruise on board the Explorer exceeded my expectations and cemented Regent as a leader in luxury cruising.

On the page ahead I hope a mix of words and photos can re-create my experience and help you decide if the Regent Seven Seas Explorer is going to be in your future travel plans.

The Anticipation of Embarkation

People say that the anticipation leading up to a cruise is almost as good as the cruise itself. While I completely agree with this I also believe that the day you board your ship sets the tone for the entire cruise.

Our cruise embarked from Barcelona. The cruise port in Barcelona is about 30 minutes from the airport. When we pulled in we were greeted by smiling faces eager to help with our bags in a very orderly manner. The embarkation process was smooth and we were on board in 30 minutes.

For anyone who cruises regularly you are aware that the majority of people head straight to the food when they get on board. It is typically around lunch time and your cabin is not ready – so food is clearly the obvious choice. It is also typically very crowded and a bit stressful as you have a carry on of some sort and you need to find a table.

On Regent Seven Seas Explorer, Le Veranda is located on the 11th deck at the aft of the ship and is was not crowded, the food was spectacular and there was a nice variety. The staff was ready to help and there were plenty of tables available – both inside and on the “veranda”. A refreshing and civilized way to begin a cruise.

The Suite

The first thing that struck me as I entered into my suite was the space. Nothing was cramped or tight, nothing was awkward because they had to figure out how to fit it in.

We were lucky enough to enjoy a one bedroom Seven Seas Suite onboard the Seven Seas Explorer. It has a foyer with a powder room (which was very useful when my wife was busy “getting ready”) and a living room area with a sofa and two chairs, a wet bar, a dining table and a desk (which overlooked the balcony – a very peaceful way to get a bit of work done).

The bedroom is perfect. It starts with the bed. Regent obviously believes every guest should get a perfect night’s sleep and their beds certainly achieved that for me. It is extremely comfortable and the linens are of the highest quality.

There is a vanity beside the bed with plenty of space and two bedside tables – each with storage in them. One of the best features of the suite is the bathroom. With a Jacuzzi tub, two sinks and a sizeable shower, the bathroom is as comfortable as my ensuite at home – maybe even more so.

The walk in closet provides plenty of space for outfits for 10 nights. Given that we were only on board for 5 nights, we actually had empty shelves and an empty drawer.

My experience in cruising is that a cabin is always well thought out from a storage perspective but not always convenient. Ship designers have a way to make every small space useful for good reason. The difference in our Regent suite was that every single piece of storage was convenient and it was plentiful. The impact this has on your everyday life on board the ship is remarkable. I never really felt like I was on a cruise ship – and I mean that in the most positive way.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible butler that accompanies the Seven Seas Suite. Our butler was incredibly attentive without being overbearing and his attention to detail was impressive. I expected a high level of service on board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer but a butler took it to a new level.
The Restaurants and overall food experience

I have dined on many cruise ships and for the most part the food experience has been outstanding. I was curious as to how Regent could elevate my food experience to be that much better than the premium cruise lines.

They did not disappoint.

The food was outstanding. I was not able to dine in each venue but here was my experience:

Compass Rose

Compass Rose is the main dining room and it was amazing. The décor was magnificent and was highlighted by a central lighting feature that was stunning. I would try and describe it in words but it would not do it justice – you will just have to go find out for yourself.

The highlight for me is the new menu concept. You can essentially build your own meal from a plethora of options. The possibilities are endless and any compromises are completely removed. They still have the chef features, which are typically off the charts in appearance and taste. I ate the lamb with a perfect wine pairing chosen by the sommelier and it was spectacular.

La Veranda

A buffet that does not feel like a buffet. Well laid out with a nice variety of food for breakfast and lunch and never a challenge to find a table that suited my mood (inside, outside, quiet, etc). The service was really a highlight at La Veranda, always attentive to drinks and clearing away dishes and engaging in conversation when appropriate. The staff on board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer really made you feel like you are at home.

Sette Mari

La Veranda by day turns into Sette Mari at night, a fine Italian restaurant with the option of eating outside. We started with a delightful compilation of anti pasto followed by our appetizer, a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, pasta, dessert and coffee – a true Italian feast.


A beautiful setting that made me feel like I was in the middle of Paris. Chartreuse is the French restaurant and it features a very traditional menu with Soufflé, rich foods and fantastic wines. While this is the least adventurous menu, the food was delicious.


Room Service

We ordered room service twice. Once for breakfast and once late at night. The breakfast came promptly at 7:30am and it was hot, fresh and our butler laid it out for us. This is when the extra space of a Regent Suite can be appreciated. We were able to sit and enjoy our breakfast before heading out on our 8:30am shore excursion. At night we ordered and simple sandwich and it came on time and was clearly made fresh upon ordering.


Pool Side Grill

I love a freshly made hamburger. The Pool Side Grill features a menu of 8 different burger options including basic, salmon, chicken, veggie and more. You find your table, order your burger at the grill and someone brings it to you. You can really order any variation of burger you want and they will make it. Fresh. Accompany it with an ice cold lager and you have yourself and fantastic lunch at sea!


The Café

The Café features all your typical coffees and teas but also a nice array of food, both fresh and sweet. The baristas are available throughout the day and you can use the self serve machine late at night


Public Spaces

One of the highlights of Regent Seven Seas Explorer is the public spaces and décor. I would describe it as a 1920’ s design with a modern twist. The public spaces are very open and welcoming. All of the lounges are spacious but intimate, the Casino is small but had a nice energy to it after dinner and into the night.

The theatre is outstanding – almost a cross between a 1920’s café and theatre. The seating is arranged is 2’s 4’s and 6’s with tables so that you can sit on your own or with a group of friends and have a drink and be comfortable as you enjoy the entertainment.

On the top deck they have a sports area with a sports court for tennis and basketball and a 9 hoe mini putt as well.  A great facility to spend an afternoon at sea.

One of the highlights was the puzzle table. It was in a very public space so that it drew attention and would not be missed but set back so that it was not in the way of those passing by. Very well done.

I found the ship very easy to navigate the first day as the layout is straight forward and logical. This may seem like a minor statement but I have been on many ships that take a few days to become familiar.


The Canyon Ranch Spa and The Gym

I could write a blog on the Canyon Ranch Spa alone. While I did not have a chance to experience one of their services, the spa and their water treatment rooms are open to all guests – you just need to book a time.

I had a tour of the spa and the treatment rooms are spacious and they even have a couples treatment room – a perfect way to start your cruise!

The water treatment rooms are spectacular. They have a sauna, a cold room, a steam room and a showering system with multiple stations – very cool. I personally enjoyed spending time in the steam room with aromatherapy followed by the cold room and back and forth.

After my hot and cold treatment, I laid down on the mosaic heat beds to read for a while before heading out to the infinity pool on the deck. A perfect way to spend the morning before my previously mentioned burger and lager at the Pool Side Grill.

The gym was enormous – I have never seen a gym like this on a cruise ship. The equipment was state of the art and view off the stern of the ship made you forget the workout you were putting yourself through. They have spinning classes and yoga classes all lead by professionals. They will also spend time curating a personal workout regime for you.

The thing that stands out the most about the spa and gym are the amount of space they have allocated – even the spa lobby is wide open and welcoming. Combined the two facilities take up almost a third of the ship on two decks.


Overall Atmosphere

When you think of a luxury ship you might think of it as being stuffy and lacking atmosphere. Quite the opposite is true of Regent Seven Seas Explorer. From Cruise Director Ray’s opera singing at tea time to the deck party on the last evening to live music in all of the lounges, there is always something to do or somewhere to go to be entertained or to unwind.

Regent Seven Seas Explorer absolutely lived up to “The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built” but it goes beyond the physical ship; the overall experience is one you will never forget and will be calling your travel advisor to plan your next cruise as soon as your return!