Fairly utilitarian expedition vessels, Sea Bird and Sea Lion are designed to get you out into the wilderness, with naturalists on board to teach you something about it, too.
Typical Per Diems: $805+
Sea Bird sails Alaska from Juneau and Sitka (summer); the Columbia & Snake Rivers from Portland, OR (fall); and Baja/Sea of Cortez from La Paz (winter).
Sea Lion sails the Alaska from Juneau and Sitka (summer); the Columbia & Snake Rivers from Portland, OR (fall); Baja/Sea of Cortez from La Paz (winter); and Central America from San Jose, Costa Rica, and Colon, Panama (winter).
The shallow-draft National Geographic Sea Lion and National Geographic Sea Bird are identical twins, right down to their decor schemes and furniture. Not fancy, with just two public rooms and utilitarian cabins, they're very similar to several other small ships in this chapter, including the ACCL ships and Cruise West's Spirit of Alaska. As a matter of fact, Spirit of Alaska and the two Lindblad ships all sailed at one time for the now-defunct Exploration Cruise Lines. Make no mistake: The enrichment program and the overall experience are the main draws here, and not the ships themselves.
Postage-stamp cabins running 95 to 110 square feet are tight and functional rather than fancy. Each has twin or double beds, an adequate closet and drawers under the bed for extra storage, and a sink and mirror in the main room (none have televisions or minifridges). Behind a folding door lies a tiny bathroom with a head-style shower (toilet opposite the shower nozzle). All cabins have picture windows, and most have doors that open directly onto the deck, thrusting you into nature from the moment you wake up. The lowest priced cabins are more traditionally arranged.
Cabins can only be locked from the inside; none have an outside lock. A few cabins can squeeze a third person, and none are wheelchair accessible.
Public space is limited to an observation lounge that serves as the nerve center for activities, plus open areas on the Sun Deck and in the bow. In the lounge, you'll find a bar and a library of atlases and books on the culture, geology, history, plants, and wildlife of the sailing region. The bridge is open to passengers, and effectively becomes another public room as passengers chat with the captain or his officers.
Pool Fitness & Spa Facilities
Each cruise involves frequent hikes in wilderness areas, accessed via Zodiac landing boats, and you'll get the opportunity to kayak whenever the weather is right. You can also walk around the Upper Deck for exercise, partake in morning stretch classes (picture yoga on deck with the Alaskan mountains as a backdrop), or use the two exercise bikes and one elliptical trainer on board. A tiny spa (a former cabin, actually) provides a wellness program and body treatments including massages.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.