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National Geographic Sea Lion Review

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National Geographic Sea Lion
4.0 / 5.0
17 reviews

Nat Geo-certified photo experts and naturalists are always on hand
The ship is small, and as such, there are very few public spaces
Bottom Line
A casual ambiance and flexible itineraries give the true feeling of an expedition




Passenger to Crew


Shore Excursions
Sails To
Alaska, Mexican Riviera
Lindblad Expeditions Cruise Deals
Sarah Schlichter
Cruise Critic Contributor

National Geographic Sea Lion Overview

If your dream vacation includes quiet coves instead of crowded ports and up-close animal encounters instead of onboard bells and whistles, you might be a good candidate for an expedition cruise aboard National Geographic Sea Lion. The 62-passenger ship, one of six vessels in the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet, spends its summers in Alaska and its winters in Costa Rica and Panama, with a few fall sailings on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest.

Lindblad sailings cost significantly more than most big-ship cruises, but you're not paying for traditional luxury -- at least not in the form of butler service or haute cuisine. What sets a Lindblad expedition apart is the intimate experience of each destination. The small size of National Geographic Sea Lion allows for visits to spots like Petersburg, Alaska or Playas del Coco in Costa Rica -- a tiny fishing villages that are inaccessible to larger vessels. On some days the ship won't visit any ports at all. Instead, it anchors in remote coves where passengers could kayak in calm waters, view wildlife from a Zodiac landing craft or go snorkeling or hiking ashore.

Leading both the excursions and the onboard enrichment program aboard Sea Lion is a team of friendly and knowledgeable naturalists. In addition to running Zodiacs and guiding passengers through the woods, they can often be found on deck answering questions about whales or helping passengers use the ship's viewing telescope to get better views of a far-off bald eagle. In the evenings, they mingle with passengers over dinner and give short talks in the lounge on everything from local geology to the migratory patterns of humpback whales. They're joined by a complement of other staff, many unique to Lindblad, including a photography instructor and an undersea specialist who makes regular dives with a camera to bring back footage of the colorful creatures living in the waters below.

The ship's route is flexible, subject to the whims of the weather, the tides and even the wildlife. The ship will veer off at a moment's notice to check out a mother bear and her cubs on shore or to follow a pod of orca whales. When one potential anchorage was made inaccessible by weather, we spent the morning looking for humpbacks instead. Such last-minute changes are accommodated smoothly and efficiently by the expedition staff.

The ship is small enough that everyone soon learns each other's names (helped by the Lindblad-supplied name tags) and keeps to more or less the same schedule. There's a single dining room with a single seating for each meal, and the naturalist lectures are the only show in town when it comes to evening entertainment. The relatively limited options don't bother this easygoing crowd. Of the morning wake-up call, which comes promptly at 7 a.m. over the shipwide PA system, one passenger said with a smile, "It reminds me of summer camp!"

Of course, Sea Lion won't be right for everyone. There's no elevator, so this isn't an appropriate choice for passengers in wheelchairs. For that matter, the motion on itineraries in the Pacific also means that it's not recommended for passengers with mobility issues of any kind. It may also not be ideal for a honeymoon or romantic anniversary trip either, unless you snag one of just four cabins on the ship with beds that can be converted to doubles; most cabins only have twins.

That said, it's hard to care much where you're sleeping at night when you spend your days hiking, kayaking and exploring by Zodiac. Travelers cruise Lindblad for the in-depth destination experience, and Sea Lion is set up to deliver every time.

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Included with your cruise fare:

  • Three meals per day (plus snacks) in the dining room
  • All nonalcoholic drinks onboard, including coffee and tea, soda, juice and water
  • Select alcoholic drinks during social hour each evening (about 6 to 7 p.m.)
  • Daily outings and excursions including the use of kayaks, paddleboards and snorkel equipment
  • All enrichment lectures
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Use of onboard dryers
  • Morning stretch/yoga

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Alcoholic drinks (on most itineraries; Columbia and Snake Rivers is an exception)
  • Recommended gratuities of $12 to $14 per person, per day
  • Wi-Fi
  • Spa services
  • Gear or souvenirs from the onboard shop
  • The voyage DVD (about $50)

Top National Geographic Sea Lion Itineraries

View All Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion Itineraries (5)

Fellow Passengers

Sea Lion passengers tend to be retired, well educated, committed to the environment and loyal to Lindblad. On average, 40 percent of the cruisers on each expedition are repeat Lindblad travelers. The youngest passenger on our expedition was a 7-year-old who enjoyed splashing through the mud on our hikes; the eldest was coming up on his 90th birthday. Summer expeditions in Alaska tend to attract more families with children.

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion Dress Code

The ship is extremely casual, with an emphasis on practicality.

Daytime: The suggested packing list varies by itinerary, and you’ll want to study yours carefully. The locations where Sea Lion goes may require specific gear -- knee-high rubber boots and rainproof pants and jacket in Alaska, for example, or sweat-wicking clothing in humid Costa Rica. Note that the ship provides binoculars for onboard use only so you’ll want to bring your own. Also don't feel like you need to buy the expensive National Geographic rain gear that's recommended – cheaper alternatives are just fine.

Evening: There are no formal nights onboard, although some passengers upgraded their wardrobe to smart casual for the captain's dinner on the final night of our sailing. Jeans, khakis and other casual clothing were common at meals throughout the week.

Not permitted: Bare feet on deck, for safety reasons.

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National Geographic Sea Lion Ratings

Public Rooms3.03.9
Fitness Recreation2.03.6
Value For Money4.03.8

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More about Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion

Where does Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion sail from?

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion departs from Portland, Oregon, Juneau and Seattle

Where does Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion sail to?

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion cruises to Portland (Oregon), Astoria, Oregon, Juneau, Petersburg, Icy Strait, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Seattle, Haines, Wrangell and Ketchikan

How much does it cost to go on Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion?

Cruises on Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion start from null per person.

Awards and Recognition

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion Member Reviews

National Geographic Sea Lion
Sail Date: Aug 2019
National Geographic/Lindblad put together an amazing cruise of the Inside Passage of Alaska from Sitka to Juneau.... Read More
National Geographic Sea Lion
muddy mutt
Sail Date: Jul 2018
We heard nothing but great reviews from people we know who have cruised with Linblad National Geographic. Now we will add to them!... Read More
National Geographic Sea Lion
Susan Y
Sail Date: Aug 2018
Lindblad/Nat Geo provided a delightful tour of Sitka prior to the time we boarded the Sea Lion.... Read More
National Geographic Sea Lion
Sail Date: Feb 2020
The whale watching was amazing but we only went out 2 hours a day? We came to see whales, I expected to go out morning and afternoon. We were on a boat which was brought back 30 minutes earlier than the others. Why?... Read More

Lindblad Expeditions Fleet

National Geographic Sea Bird
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

17 reviews

Basic expedition-style cruising; carries naturalists and a photography expert; active and cultural excursions include hiking, snorkeling and museum visits; carries 62 passengers.

View All Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Bird Cruises
National Geographic Sea Lion
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

The 62-passenger ship spends its summers in Alaska and its winters in Costa Rica and Panama, getting up close and personal with wildlife.

Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion Cruises to Alaska Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion Cruises to the Mexican Riviera View All Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion Cruises
National Geographic Explorer
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Basic expedition-style cruising mostly in polar regions with ice-strengthened hull and underwater cameras; active excursions including hiking, kayaking and Zodiac sightseeing.

Jahan (Lindblad)

The 48-passenger, Colonial-style Jahan spends its time on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia; a National Geographic-Lindblad-certified photography instructor accompanies every sailing.

National Geographic Orion
5.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Small, upscale expedition ship with hot tub and massage room; emphasis is on active excursions like biking, hiking and Zodiac trips; ice-strengthened hull for polar cruising.

National Geographic Quest
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic welcomed its first-ever new-build in June 2017. Quest is about a third larger than existing Lindblad ships.

National Geographic Venture

Larger than existing Lindblad ships, with an additional fourth deck, Lindblad’s new 100-passenger Venture accommodates families. Almost half the cabins will have balconies.

Panorama II (Lindblad)

Panorama II is an intimate two-masted sailing vessel designed for adventure. Lindblad Expeditions has chartered the ship from Variety Cruises to offer Cuba voyages.

National Geographic Endeavour II
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Expedition-style Galapagos Island cruising; carries nine Zodiacs (including one with glass bottom), kayaks, paddleboards and snorkel gear; has connecting cabins as well as solo rooms.

National Geographic Islander

A true expedition vessel, National Geographic Islander has been sailing in the Galapagos for more than a decade.

National Geographic Resolution

Lindblad Expeditions' second purpose-built polar vessel sets sail for the world's most remote regions in 2021.

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