The Lindblad Difference: The expertise of its naturalists and speakers
Special to AllThingsCruise
In the lobby of the River Place Hotel on Portland’s waterfront, his dark eyes smiled as he approached to welcome me. Framing his tanned, weathered face was a long beard and mane of wiry, white hair. Jerry Igo would be the resident botanist aboard the MV Sea Lion for our week-long Columbia River expedition in the “Wake of Lewis and Clark.”
“The Sea Lion has encountered bad weather in the Pacific en route from its winter operation in Baja, California, causing our embarkation to be delayed,” Jerry explained. “Dinner will be at the hotel instead of aboard ship as scheduled.”
Some passengers appreciated having the entire afternoon to explore Portland.
At dinner that night Jerry reinforced his ancient mariner image. “I have lived on the Columbia River for 75 years, canoed and kayaked 400 miles of it,” he said. In the coming week, Jerry’s many other talents and professional achievements also surfaced.
Indeed, it is the expertise of all the cruise company’s naturalists, historians, and researchers that makes a Lindblad voyage unique.
The underlying philosophy of this Lindblad “difference” is stated most simply by its founder, Sven-Olof Lindblad: “Our mission is to enrich your lives through encounters with beauty, wildness, and the seldom seen.” Sven is the son of Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered expedition travel in the 1960’s.
Junius Rochester, the Sea Lion’s highly-qualified historian, believes that Lindblad passengers are also different. “The joy of experiential learning is their greatest entertainment,” he said. “They also tend to be slightly younger than other small ship cruise lines, probably because of the zodiacs, kayaks, short hikes, and other outdoor activities.”
The Daily Expedition Reports (DER’s) of each voyage’s flexible itinerary are posted on the Lindblad website. Highlights of the DER’s “In the Wake of Lewis and Clark” DER’s include: an imposing view of Mount Hood; a Snake River jet boat in Hell’s Canyon, one of the country’s deepest gorges; a Zodiak exploration of the Palouse River Mouth and dramatic Palouse Falls; natural and cultural history exhibits at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center; and in Astoria, Oregon – a visit to Fort Clapsop, where Lewis and Clark spent a dismal winter. The roundtrip also transits 16 locks, eight in each direction.
Aboard ship I noticed how prominently the familiar black-and-yellow National Geographic Society emblem was placed side by side with Lindblad ‘s own blue-and-white emblem. Expedition Leader Larry Prussin explained, “In 2004, Lindblad Expeditions entered into a partnership with the National Geographic Society to support a better understanding of the unique and pristine places around the world.”
“National Geographic researchers will soon be aboard all six Lindblad ships. We will have underwater technology equipment from snorkeling gear to high-tech imaging systems that can be lowered dozens of feet into the sea with fiber cables relaying pictures back to the ship.”
“Our partnership promotes many conservation solutions, including a ‘seafood for thought’ philosophy. We serve only species that are not overfished or caught by practices that have serious negative environmental impact. For example, shrimp are not served because they are not reproducing at a proper rate.
In keeping with Lindblad’s focus on education and responsible travel practices, all 31 outside cabins are utilitarian and small (95-110 square feet), but well-maintained with adequate storage and twin or double beds. Except for six cabins on the main deck, they all have a picture window and a door that opens onto a common exterior deck. In the tiny bathroom, the shower nozzle is opposite the toilet.
There is a no key policy, no cabin service, no safety deposit boxes (jewelry is discouraged), no ship’s doctor, and no laundry service. All the public areas on the 28-year old ship are basic, but improvements are made in dry dock every year and the diningroom has been totally remodeled.
One public restroom and one satellite internet computer kiosk are available. A library, full-service bar, and 24-hour self-service beverage station are located in the lounge/lecture room where guests gather for a recap of the day and what is coming tomorrow. It is a lively forum for questions and answers.
Early risers brave the chilly morning mist to attend Susan Weber’s popular stretching and exercise sessions on the Bridge Deck, part of the ship’s Wellness program. Later in the day, Susan’s appointment schedule fills up fast for those booking a “sea lion relaxation massage” or “a hummingbird body cream polish,” to name a few of the nature-inspired offerings.
Massages, tips to the shipboard staff, alcoholic drinks, and an occasional “free time” on the itinerary are extra, but all shore excursions are included in the cost.
For those who travel to seek a better appreciation of the culture and wildlife, a Lindblad voyage is a great value.
o www.expeditions.com or call 800-EXPEDITION
o Lindblad’s identical sister ship is the Sea Bird.