The Scoop: What to Know About Lindblad Expeditions

For more than 50 years, this expedition cruise specialist has brought travelers to Antarctica, the Galapagos, and beyond.

The ship National Geographic Orion in Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
(Photo: Lindblad Expeditions)

The expedition cruise company Lindblad Expeditions was started in the 1960s by explorer Lars-Eric Lindblad, who led expeditions for private citizens (rather than just for explorers and scientists) to wild places like Antarctica and the Galapagos. Considered to be an earlier pioneer in ecotourism, Lindblad wanted to connect people with the world “so that they might think differently about the planet and our role in protecting it.”

Lindblad continues to be a family-run company (led by Lars-Eric’s son Sven-Olof), and since 2004 has had a partnership with National Geographic that gives guests access to Nat Geo experts who join select voyages. 

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Lindblad Expeditions guests on the Baja California: Among the Whales cruise taking photos of whales from the bow of the ship
Guests taking photos of whales from the bow of the National Geographic Venture on Lindblad’s Baja California: Among the Great Whales itinerary (Photo: Christine Sarkis)
  • Destinations: 100 itineraries/seven continents
  • Tour Size Average: There are never more than 148 guests on a ship
  • Tour Type: Expedition ship

How to Book

To book a Lindblad expedition cruise, you have two primary options: to book directly through the company or book via a travel agent. Lindblad reports that direct bookings have increased in recent years, with people opting to either book via the website or by calling an agent in the company’s call center for professional guidance about how to get the exact bucket list experience they’re hoping to have.

Credibility Check

Lindblad has a Cruise Critic user ranking of 4.4 out of 5 and rates 4.7 out 5 on TravelStride. It has won dozens of awards over the years, including Best Expedition Ships from Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards in 2023. 

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Tour Destinations

Adult Galapagos penguin hunting fish underwater as a guest snorkels and photographs his activity in Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Lindblad’s Galapagos itineraries offer plenty of wildlife watching (Photo: Lindblad Expeditions)

Lindblad Expeditions is the world’s largest expedition cruise provider in terms of number of ships, with 170 unique itineraries and more than 550 annual departures across 120 countries on seven continents. Its best-known trips include Antarctica and the Galapagos. 

Tour Types

Lindblad Expeditions operates expedition cruises, with certain itineraries geared to particular areas of focus. For instance, a number of its departures have a National Geographic Photography Expert onboard who offers ongoing photo instruction and one-on-one teaching. There are also trips with a music focus and some trips (usually during school vacations) that offer specific programming for kids with the company’s National Geographic Global Explorers program. 

Tour Guides

naturalist leaning against a cactus in Baja California Sur on a Lindblad tour of Baja Cailfornia.
Lindblad’s staff includes naturalists who are experts in the regions focused on during tours (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

Each Lindblad expedition is led by an expedition leader and staffed by a mix of specialized researchers and local experts that may include naturalists, geologists, and glaciologists. In addition, the ship has crew plus hotel staff, stewards, and other staff whose job is guest comfort onboard. 

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What’s Included

  • Food: All meals, snacks, and drinks (except premium wines and spirits)
  • Activities and Excursions: Daily activities on and off the ship, plus educational sessions with onboard experts.
  • Gear to Borrow: Depending on location, gear might include wetsuits, parkas, snorkel gear, and camera equipment courtesy of the OM System Photo Gear Locker.
  • Basic Wi-Fi: Satellite internet that connects you to email and messaging (anything beyond that is a paid option). 
  • Transfers: Transfers as specified in the itinerary.

What’s Not Included

  • End-of-Trip Gratuities: This one is ship specific. On some ships, gratuities are built into the price of the cruise, while on others, guests have the option to leave a gratuity of around $25 per guest per day that’s split among the onboard staff.
  • Premium Spirits: While alcoholic drinks (at the bar in the lounge and in the dining room) are included in the base price, premium spirits are an additional cost.
  • Premium Wi-Fi: Since Lindblad ships tend to sail far off the beaten path, the company uses satellite internet across its fleet. The standard complimentary internet gives guests access to email and messaging, but faster internet (for web browsing, streaming, video calls, etc.) is an added cost that can be paid as a daily fee or on a per-sailing price.
  • Airfare: Except in a few cases in which airfare is built into the cost of the cruise, flights aren’t included in the up-front cost. Lindblad agents will work with you to book airfare though (and can accommodate award travel and flights booked in all classes), and if your flights are booked through the company, they manage any delays or flight issues. 

Typical Travelers

Staff giving a tour to a young guest on the ship National Geographic Endeavour II
Lindblad’s National Geographic Global Explorers program gives kids the chance to learn about nature and navigation (Photo: Lindblad Expeditions)

Like many tour companies, Lindblad’s core demographic is travelers ages 50 and older, though in recent years, the company has been skewing younger on certain itineraries. For instance, its Galapagos, Alaska, and Antarctica trips tend to attract a mix of younger and older travelers, and trips with National Geographic Global Explorers programs for kids see more families onboard. 

Communication

After booking, guests are invited into the Communications Portal, which has forms, the complete expedition guide, and other information about the trip. A few weeks before the departure date, guests receive additional documents, luggage tags, etc. in the mail. And during the expedition, guests can direct family and friends to check the daily expedition report filed by the expedition leader and available online,

Loyalty Program

While Lindblad doesn’t currently have a branded loyalty program, it does offer discounts on future sailings to guests who indicate interest in a future sailing while onboard a cruise (you don’t actually have to book, just indicate interest in a future sailing). 

The company also has an invitation-only “Friends for Life” program that offers specials and discounts. Occasionally Linblad offers membership into the program.  

Sustainability Efforts

Sustainability is at the foundation of Lindblad. The company was created to inspire stewardship of the earth, and while its ships definitely have an environmental impact (and guests flying from around the world to go on the expeditions have a carbon footprint), Lindblad is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint and preserving the cultures and nature it spotlights. 

Lindblad is a carbon neutral company (through reducing emissions and purchasing offsets). It does not use single use plastics, and gives passengers metal water bottles to use on trips and take home. It also has programs to source its food responsibly, support artisans and local communities, engage with citizen science, and supports global conservation projects. It also provides financial support to local communities as they pivot to more sustainable practices (for instance, subsidizing local fishermen as they switch from net fishing to line fishing). 

Health and Safety Practices

Lindblad goes to some very off-the-beaten path places while also making safety a top priority. In fact, “Maintain a balance between adventure and safety” is one of the company’s 10 guiding principles. It shares detailed safe exploration protocols on its website. 

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Lindblad has had a 20 year partnership (that has just been extended) with National Geographic. The two companies are closely aligned and work together to develop programming and onboard experiences that are specific to Lindblad’s itineraries.

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Christine Sarkis is the co-founder of Vacationist Media and editor-in-chief of TourScoop and FamilyVacationist.com. She is the former executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, a travel publication owned by Tripadvisor. Her work has been published in dozens of publications including Conde Nast Traveler and USAToday, and she has been quoted in print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also offered tips for travelers on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now.