Five Things to Know About Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Orion Cruise Ship
Best for: High-end cruisers who like a casual atmosphere and want to live out their National Geographic fantasies
Sails: Antarctica, the Arctic, the British Isles, Northern Europe, South America, the South Pacific
At a Glance: One of two ice-class Lindblad ships that cruises to the polar regions, National Geographic Orion is slightly smaller than National Geographic Explorer, but still features suites with balconies, a team of wildlife and destination experts, and expert-led itineraries with an emphasis on culture and conservation.
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It Travels To the Poles
Built in 2003, this ship’s ice-strengthened hull allows it to navigate through polar waters; in fact, the vessel spends a good portion of the year cruising in Antarctica or the Arctic. You’ll kayak among glaciers, hike up snow-covered hills, and depending on where you’re sailing, spot polar bears, walruses, penguins, or whales from the deck.
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 search for leopard seals, while in French Polynesia, passengers dive the reefs of the Tuamotu Archipelago and visit tikis and villages in the Marquesas. 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 Orion has a fleet of Zodiacs to transport passengers to hard-to-reach places, as well as a number of 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 places that are even more far-flung—like deep below the sea. Non-divers can ride in a glass-bottomed Zodiac and take a peek at the reefs in destinations like French Polynesia. 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 Orion has a number of suites with French balconies—a window onto the outside world that is especially appreciated on its European and South Pacific itineraries. Cabins have a nautical feel, with lots of deep blues and framed images of ships hanging on the wall. Expect little luxuries like a fluffy duvet, a flat-screen TV, and plenty of space and hooks where you can stash your gear.
The Food Is Sustainable
Lindblad’s focus on conservation translates to the cuisine, as well. Though it’s difficult to source fresh food during some of the ship’s more remote itineraries, the dining room emphasizes sustainability and uses local ingredients whenever possible. The inventive degustation menu is the mastermind of Serge Dansereau of Sydney’s Bathers’ Pavilion. In Antarctica, for example, you might see red grouper with octopus on the menu, while in Europe, it could be roasted king scallops with basil butter cured bacon, lemon, and spring onions. Expect to see regional beers and wines at the bar, as well. In warmer weather, passengers gravitate to the deck for an alfresco breakfast or lunch.