A Lindblad Expedition is always unlike any other cruise, even calling it a cruise is blasphemy. There is no 24 hour room service, big shows after dinner, or waterslides and laser tag. Instead there are enrichment activities and a flexible itinerary which changes based on weather, animal sightings and coordination between the captain and expedition leader. My journey to the North Atlantic and Arctic ocean on the National Geographic Endurance was a truly special affair. Met with the likes of polar bears, several types of whales, and the opportunity to explore the world’s most northernmost settlement with expert guides and National Geographic staff.
The first bears we saw was mom and two cubs!I am so glad I went to the Arctic and honestly wish I would have done it before visiting Antarctica. The Arctic is rapidly melting and the effects of climate change are much more drastic in the Arctic than the Antarctic. If you are debating one or both, start with the Arctic.
National Geographic Endurance
The National Geographic Endurance ship, operated by Lindblad Expeditions in partnership with Nat Geo, embodies the relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding in the harshest and most remote corners of the Earth. From its cutting-edge technology to its remarkable comfort, the Endurance stands as a testament to human resilience and the quest for unlocking the secrets of the polar regions.
A fully-stabilized vessel of the highest ice class the National Geographic Endurance is a PC5 Category A icebreaker. As we headed north to 81 degrees, we cut through the ice as though it was nothing. It was truly remarkable to see how this ship could travel so far north through the ice. All well taking in the view from the hot tubs and yoga studio.
The ship boasts just 76 staterooms and room for 138 people. The ship is large, but small in comparison to many ocean going cruise liners. Despite this, the ship has everything needed for an expedition and more to really enjoy your life at sea.
My suite was a beautiful balcony stateroom on the 6th floor. The room felt HUGE for cruise ship standards at 210 square feet. It included a desk, a couch, a queen size bed and a decent size bathroom. Plus there was lots of storage for all my clothing and a mini fridge with soda, beer, and wine that was restocked daily!
My favorite part of the room though was the balcony. Not only did it allow for amazing views and spotting of animals, but the hammock provided was extremely comfortable.
The bathroom was small like most cruise staterooms, but did have a walk-in shower with earth safe soap that is biodegradable. Each room also has a provided hairdryer which also comes in handy.
My friend who was traveling with us was in a solo cabin with a balcony. This is a great feature that the ship has, offering solo travelers a slightly smaller room without requiring a solo supplement.
This room had an identical size bathroom and just as much storage as our room. Instead of having a queen size bed and a couch, the room has a table and a twin bed. As the rooms are in the bow of the ship, the room is smaller in size. Regardless, offering plenty of room for a solo traveler. The solo cabins also have balconies and hammocks!
Igloos at Sea
This ship has a unique feature and the only “igloos at sea”. These rooms allow guests to sleep under the stars or midnight sun with one of the best views on the ship. The igloos are free to rent and are awarded based on a lottery system. I did not opt to sleep in an igloo due to the midnight sun during the nonexistent polar nights, but eye masks are provided for added comfort. There are also additional blankets and heaters to keep guests warm.
The igloos are also a great place to hide from the elements of the polar regions on cold or windy days. See some animals off the back of the ship but want to enjoy the view without the wind. Step inside to a temperature control and wind free environment.
For a small ship, the public areas are impressive. There are multiple restaurants and bars plus a large library and a science lab. Lindbald invites travelers to take part in a science project at Sea. This is a great way to get involved and help see what is going on in the remote parts of the world. On the polar expedition after me, National Geographic was measuring microplastics in the water.
The ship also has a photo sharing center where guests share photos and National Geographic photographers also provide photos of the expedition and polar plunge. Don’t forget to pack a jumpdrive! Or transfer photos to your phone from the three Macs onboard.
The ship also has an impressive amount of space dedicated to self wellness including a large spa, a huge yoga room, a state of the art gym, and two saunas! Both a tropical sauna and nordic sauna. On the back of the ship there are also two Jacuzzis. A perfect place to relax and take in the scenery. I sat in the jacuzzi nightly until two or three in the morning and watched the world and whales go by under the midnight sun!
My Arctic Cruise Experience
My trip to the Arctic started in Oslo with Lindblad. The cost included a night in the Beautiful Hotel Bristol and a tour of Oslo. The next morning there was a charter flight to Tromsø and then a tour of the city while the Lindblad crew offloaded the current passengers and prepared her for our arrival. The tour provided some downtime in town to explore and a nice overview of the city and botanical gardens.
After our time in Tromsø we actually headed South before traveling to Svalbard. Our Journey included a few stops in on the west coast exploring Norwegian Fjords, Bear Island, and then a journey throughout the Svalbard Archipelago.
While still within mainland Norway we did enjoy a nice 4 mile hike and were able to take part in both Zodiac excursions and go kayaking in the beautiful Sørøya Norway. We saw Orcas and Fin Whales in large numbers and watched seals watch us with curiosity. The ship stopped and changed directions several times, following the animals and ensuring the best experience for all.
Lindblad keeps a naturalist on the bridge at all times, and works with the ship’s captain to make decisions on when to divert from the plan. On “sea days” the goal was to find animals and follow them. This is an expedition, where seeing animals and exploring the world is more important than proposed stops. This is not a typical cruise!
Guillemots on Bear IslandThis is exceptional while north of the largest island of Svalbard, Spitsbergen. When naturalists spotted the polar bears the ship slowed down and quietly approached the bears. Announcements were made only indoors and we sailed slowly and quietly towards the bears. After watching them for some time, the team decided to take the zodiacs out for a closer view. Unplanned, but absolutely the highlight of this adventure. It’s only on expeditions when bonus stops like this happen! The wildlife dictates the day and today was all about mom and cubs.
The entire time on the ship, we were above the Arctic Circle and sailed through the Barent Seas and explored Nordvest Spitsbergen National park and made it all the way to 81 degrees north. At that time, we were the most Northern passenger vessel in the world. Something cool to brag about and what makes expedition cruises more fun.
The journey to the high arctic was a week and did not feel long enough. We saw Polar bears, reindeer, walrus, puffins and other Arctic birds in the polar wilderness. Sadly no arctic foxes. The scenery was stunning! We cut through the ice and even had dinner interrupted by a pod of Orcas. This was an animal lover’s dream and unlike any other vacation!
And like all Lindblad Expeditions, every journey ends with an amazing guest slideshow of the adventure!
Visit the Arctic First
If you are interested in visiting either polar region, I would highly recommend visiting the Arctic before Antarctica. I will be the first to admit that I went to Antarctica first. Yet, I wish I would have done it in reverse. The changes in the ice floe and thickness of sea ice make arctic expeditions possible, but what’s truly scary is how fast the sea ice is melting. You can now go on Expedition cruises further north and take zodiac cruises where you never could before.
The polar bears we saw were on islands with no sea ice in the proximity. The bears were eating bird eggs and chasing arctic fowl instead of seals. It was disheartening. The changes to the Sea ice is no joke, drastically reducing since 2020. It will only be a few years until the North Pole is no longer covered with ice during the summer months. This is going to drastically change the Arctic and the wildlife. One change we’re already seeing is that Orcas are hunting further North. The Orcas are at the top of the food chain and are creating an ecological imbalance, feeding on the seals that polar bears drastically need to survive.
I advise that you vist the Arctic first if you want to visit either polar region. After visiting both poles I can say that the signs of climate change are drastically more apparent in the Arctic than the Antarctic.
I was able to take part on this Lindblad Expedition thanks to the amazing deals for the 2023 Arctic season. My travel agency, Scott & Thomas Travel had offers which included 20% off travel with free wifi, Kids under 22 travel free, and no solo supplements. All shared on Travelcodex and boardingarea.com to our readers in our Deals section.
Also know, Scott and Thomas customers on Lindblad Expeditions receive an exclusive $250 onboard credit which pays for more than a massage onboard. And don’t forget, for those who like to earn Hyatt Points, you can book Lindblad expeditions via Scott and Thomas and still earn earn 5 Base Points per eligible $1 USD spent and earn Qualifying nights toward World of Hyatt elite tier status.
For those looking for a last minute deal this year for the Northwest Passage or Arctic expeditions, check out the Swan Hellenic blow out sale that is ongoing and exclusive to my agency. There are at least 4 options August through October which are still on sale and upwards to 50% off + $150 onboard credit. Contact me for exclusive pricing that is so low, I cannot publish it.
Or go with National Geographic this summer. Book by August 31, 2023 and bring the “kid” under 22 free! Either get two cabins when two full-fare paying adults bring a guest aged 22 and under at 50% off and a second guest aged 22 and under for free. Or a solo full-paying adult can bring one guest aged 22 and under at 50% off and a second guest 22 and under for free. Just contact me for departure dates and deals or review this blog post.
My trip to the Arctic was truly special and I am beyond fortunate that I was able to experience everything that I did. Seeing polar bears in the wild and cutting through the sea ice to venture further north will go down in my memories of a spectacular trip. The sales and deals to the Arctic are great right now, and if you’ve been interested, now is the time to secure the best rates. I do not believe these deals will be around for the long term.
Lindblad expeditions with partner National Geographic on the National Geographic Endurance offers a luxurious ride with a pure focus on respect for the environment and animals. Never before have I been on a “Cruise” ship that stopped and changed directions to provide guests with an opportunity to see a pod of whales. They even interrupted dinner for Orca watching! Lindblad expeditions did nearly everything right and I am so glad to have been able to travel North with them. They might be slightly more costly, but the experience and expertise they bring is second to none and they cater to people of all ages from 6 to 96. Anyone can go on an expedition.