We boarded the National Geographic Islander as the final part of our two week long trip to Lima, Machu Picchu and parts of Ecuador. This was not our first Lindblad expedition - we had previously done one in the Sea of Cortez to see the great whale migration - so we knew what to expect. In summary:
CABIN: We booked this expedition almost a year in advance and we picked the cheapest cabin. It was on the main deck. Yes, it was small but we had enough room for our clothes and toiletries. We had a window but since we spent very little daylight hours in our room, except to change shoes or clothes, we sometimes forgot it was there. The twin beds were pushed together to make one bed and the entire bed was pushed against the wall. The desk was on one side of the bed so only one person had a nightstand. Each side of the bed had a reading light and above the bed was a ledge that you could put your phone or glasses. There were enough outlets in the room to charge our devices. We didn’t need to bring adapters from the US. Closet was large and had shelves and hangers. This is also where the safe is located. We put our electronics there when we left the room, even if it was just to sit in the lounge. You cannot lock your room from the outside. We already knew this from past experience but it was a bone of contention with other tour members who had rather expensive and hefty cameras and lenses. Bathroom was a shower, sink and toilet in one room and that was rather tight so quick showers were the norm for us as we didn’t like being in there long.
DINING: Large dining room with beautiful views. Breakfast and lunch were buffet, dinner was served except for the Ecuadorian buffet meal. A signup sheet was at the dining entrance every morning where we had to sign up for 1 of 3 choices - fish. beef/chicken, or pasta/vegetarian so the chef knew how much to cook. There was more than enough food and the vegetarians, vegans and anyone with food allergies never had a problem finding something good to eat. Most tables were 6-tops and 8-tops to encourage socializing. I saw only one 2-top that would be ideal for a couple except it was right by the door. The last night, we had a big cookout buffet meal on the sun deck that was lively and festive. Meals were always announced and around two hours were allotted for each meal. Otherwise the dining room was closed and many of us hung out around the lounge.
LOUNGE: The lounge had a bar that Octavio presided over. There was a 24 hr coffee machine that made regular coffee as well as espresso, cappuccinos and lattes and other coffee mixes. Tea was always available as well. All of us learned how to use the coffee machine rather quickly which is mainly a matter of pushing buttons. At certain times of the day, fruit, crackers, cookies and small snacks are left out. Sodas and juice are also available all the time. The lounge was an all-purpose meeting space for emergency drills and when the guides wanted to make announcements about the next day’s events. It’s where most of use gathered for drinks and snacks before the 7pm dinner announcement.
SERVICE: Service was absolutely first rate. Our room was cleaned when we were out hiking or snorkeling or swimming. Our carafe was always refilled with cold water. Little bars of Ecuadorian chocolate were left on our nightstand every night. Towels were replaced even tho we expected to use the same one everyday. We also had laundry done on the ship. There is no do-it-yourself laundry. Turn around was 24 hrs and it was like the laundry service you’d get at a 5-star resort. We spent about $40 on laundry.
OTHER: The free WiFi on the ship was often slow and occasionally not available. You can buy faster internet. Details are in the cabin. I used the gym a couple times. There was a bike, treadmill and elliptical, as well as a few weights. The captain was sometimes in there on the elliptical, as well as some of the crew. The bridge was open and husband stopped by one night where the 2nd mate gave him a tour. The crew is Ecuadorian and the majority of them speak English quite well.
This was a fantastic expedition and we plan to go on many more. The ship was first class, the crew was so professional and personable and we felt very well cared for.
We picked the cheapest cabin category. We truly didn’t stay in the room except to sleep and we were often exhausted by then so we slept well. Since we traveled between islands at night, being on the main deck was very stable. We felt gentle rolling, like being rocked to sleep. Walls are thin. Room 202 shared a wall with the spa and if she had a client in there getting a treatment which usually happened at night after long hikes, we could hear their voices. The massage therapist also liked to sing along to her music when she was alone. It was beautiful music so we didn’t mind that at all. We also heard a quiet argument between the couple in the room next to us. Even tho they were talking in low tones, we could still hear. So remember, walls are very thin. We slept really well in this cabin, although we were sometimes awakened when the anchor was dropped in the early morning.