Five Things to Know About Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Explorer Cruise Ship
World's Best 2016 Awards Rank: #10 Small Ocean Ship
Best for: High-end cruisers who want to live out their National Geographic fantasies
Sails: Antarctica, the Arctic, the British Isles, New England and Canada, Northern Europe, South America
At a Glance: A Travel + Leisure World’s Best 2016 winner, placing tenth in the Small Ocean Ship category. One of two Lindblad ships that cruise to the polar regions, the fleet’s flagship features suites with balconies, a team of wildlife and destination experts, and expert-led itineraries with an emphasis on culture and conservation.
Related: Explore 100+ ships with the T+L Cruise Finder
It Travels To the Poles
Originally a Hurtigruten ship operating in Norway, National Geographic Explorer joined Lindblad in 2008 after a stem-to-stern overhaul. Its ice-strengthened hull means it can navigate through polar waters; in fact, the vessel spends much of the year in Antarctica or the Arctic. (Arctic itineraries take place in Svalbard, Norway, Greenland, or Canada.)
The Excursions Are Bucket-List-Level
Led by a team of naturalists and destination experts, outings are designed with an eye on conservation and culture. (Bonus: Every cruise on the ship has a National Geographic photographer onboard to give you tips on capturing the perfect shot.) In Antarctica, for example, passengers kayak past glaciers and search for leopard seals and penguins, while in the Arctic, guests look out for walruses and polar bears and explore old trappers’ huts. Recently, Lindblad received permission to land at Argentina’s Isla de los Estados—one of the few expedition companies allowed to do so. The island is home to penguins, fur seals, sea lions, and a replica of the lighthouse that inspired Jules Verne’s Lighthouse at the End of the World.
There Are Lots of Gadgets
National Geographic Explorer has a fleet of Zodiacs to transport passengers to hard-to-reach places, as well as tip-proof inflatable kayaks, which can be launched directly from the ship’s floating platform. But the ship also carries a variety of high-tech gear to help guests explore even more far-flung places—like deep below the sea. There’s a remotely operated vehicle that dives 1,000 feet and films in the depths. There’s also a video microscope that magnifies tiny creatures like krill, as well as hydrophones, used to capture the sounds made by whales and other marine mammals.
The Cabins Are Comfortable
National Geographic Explorer has 13 suites with private balconies—a rarity on expedition ships. Cabins are earth-toned and comfortable, ranging from 126 square feet for a single cabin to 388 square feet for the largest suite. Expect little luxuries like a fluffy duvet, a flat-screen TV, and plenty of room to stash all your gear—though passengers can put their boots and other outdoor items in the ship’s mud room.
The Food Is Sustainable
Lindblad’s conservation-focused philosophy translates to the cuisine, as well. Though the ship travels in a few remote locations where it’s difficult to source fresh food, the dining room emphasizes sustainability and uses local ingredients whenever possible. In Canada, for example, dinner might be cod fish filet or forest-mushroom risotto, while in Antarctica, it could be spiced pumpkin soup and Argentinian strip steak. Expect to see regional beers and wines at the bar, as well.