Jump to content
  • Deals
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • News
  • Cruise Tips

NatGeo/Lindblad Endeavour II Galápagos – Notes from a First-Timer

Recommended Posts

We took part in the 10-day Galápagos expedition in early December 2021.  Here are some notes from the perspective of a first-timer (both with the company and to Ecuador) in hopes of helping others planning a trip.  The notes include some general impressions as well as things we wished we’d known before the trip.  Overall, a wonderful trip with a great, informative staff to a location on our bucket list.


Booking:  If you have a TA you like and he/she/they books Lindblad trips, you pay the same price as booking directly with National Geographic or Lindblad.  And you may get some money back from the TA or some onboard credit to use in the small spa, on upgraded wine or liquor, or in the gift shop.  We heard of $100 per person OBC from those who went the TA route (we booked via NatGeo).  NatGeo/Lindblad also seem to run various promotions at different times.  Our trip included all internal flights as well as alcoholic beverages onboard as a promo.


Pre-departure Communications:  This was the one area of the trip where we were a bit disappointed.  There was no communication except reminding us about final payment.  But…if we’d known about…


Voyagedocuments.com:  This is the portal for Lindblad Expeditions.  We could have gone to the site and created an account as soon as we booked (need booking number).  But somehow, we did not receive information on the website until after we made our final payment 90 days before our cruise.  There is lots of useful information there, including the recommended flights to and from Guayaquil, as well as a gear list, reading recommendations, etc.


Gear:  There is a photo webinar on the voyagedocuments site, but it is somewhat of an advertisement for their photo-equipment supplier.  The gear lists are helpful.  We used our hiking shoes for dry landings and closed-toe water sandals for wet landings—or just went barefooted when landing on a sandy beach.  Lindblad supplied towels on shore for all the wet landings, so you could dry off your feet and put on your socks and hiking shoes for walks.  Daywear was a long-sleeved expedition shirt (SPF-50) and tee-shirt or rash guard plus shorts or pants.  Some people bought something slightly nicer (a tunic and pants or a casual skirt or dress for women, a casual collared shirt for men) to wear for cocktail/recap hour and dinner, but many wore tee-shirts and shorts—no issue at all.  For snorkeling—at least in the cooler months—take a dive skin and/or rash guards.  At one of our stops the water temperature was only in the low 60s!  And for a place on the equator, it was really cold on deck—we wished we’d brought a sweatshirt or light fleece jacket.  Lindblad made a big deal about the weight limits for luggage, but we did not see the airline weighing either checked or carry-on luggage on the internal flights—but, of course, they could.  A dry bag for cameras or other electronics is a necessity as all transfers to and from the ship are via the Zodiacs as are all excursions.  If you don’t use your smart phone as an alarm clock, pack a travel one—the expedition leader would do a wake-up call every day but it was only 15 minutes before breakfast was served, so if you need more time to get ready pack an alarm.  Again, the packing list on the voyagedocuments site is very comprehensive as is the list of the snorkeling gear they provide (including note on investing in a prescription mask if you are very near-sighted).


Final documents:  Hard copies arrived about 10 days prior to our trip in a nice Lindblad logo fabric folder to hold small electronics, etc.  (The Lindblad logo ball cap is no longer provided.)  They included bios on the expedition leader and naturalists (also on voyagedocuments.com), a final itinerary, final notes on COVID testing, and contact information (two copies so you could take one and leave one with someone at home).  There were also luggage tags and a name tag for each passenger.


International flights:  The flights are not included in the cruise fare.  At the time we booked, American Airlines had three flights a day from Miami to Guayaquil, then dropped to two but increased to three again by the time we flew.  We found award availability good, but we booked as early as we could.  The flight is about four hours and is comparable to a flight in the United States.  The new flight AA added (on a 787-7 aircraft) did have lie-flat seats in business class.  You cannot use the Verifly app for the entry into Ecuador, but we downloaded it and set it up prior to our trip and then used it for the return to Miami.  American had separate check-in counters for those who had used Verifly.  Lindblad changed the recommended flight at some point after people had made the group flight arrangements—which caused problems with connections.  American also cancelled the last flight of the day into Guayaquil on the day we traveled.  They rebooked some Lindblad passengers onto an earlier flight, but multiple passengers did not receive their luggage for several days.  (Lindblad did give them carte blanche for purchases in the gift shop—including expedition shirts, tee-shirts, and pants--and complimentary laundry as compensation although the flight cancellation was not their fault.)  We heard ten passengers did not make it to Miami in time for the new last flight out and they missed the trip.  So keep an eye on the recommended flights on voyagedocuments and you might want to consider an early arrival into Miami—just in case the last flight of the day is cancelled and you need to try to get on an earlier one.  Of course, keep a close eye on entry requirements—Ecuador changed the requirements to add a PCR test 72-hours before the first leg of your flight to the country just before we traveled.  Luckily, we had one booked prior to the change in rules.   We had also signed up for the U.S. Department of State’s STEP program and registered our travel to Ecuador—and received an email from the Consulate in Guayaquil on the change to requirements.  Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, so you don’t have to look for an ATM before leaving the airport to exchange.  


Transfers:  If you book your flights independently, Lindblad (who takes care of all ground arrangements as well as operating the cruise) does not arrange your transfers to or from the hotel stay, which is one night prior to flying to the Galápagos and one night afterward.  We had to send an email to the hotel to arrange for a shuttle pick-up.  Others on the trip were on our flight and, therefore, a Lindblad representative met our small group at the airport and rode to the hotel with us on the shuttle.  Both the shuttle driver and the representative met us outside international arrivals at Guayaquil airport (code:  GYE)—meaning completely outside the airport buildings.  There is a bridge over a water feature at the airport entrance/exit and they were waiting at the end of the bridge by the road—you really could not miss them.  Lindblad did collect our flight information when we had our initial meeting at the hotel (although they had all that info from the voyagedocuments.com portal) and did arrange for the return shuttle, but no one accompanied us (not a problem).


Hotel:  When we first booked the trip, Lindblad was using the Oro Verde hotel for the stay prior to the cruise and the Hilton afterwards.  We learned in our final documents they had changed to using the Oro Verde on both sides.  It is a very nice hotel but hosts a lot of weddings and parties so noise can be an issue.  Rooms do not follow a pattern of odd numbers on one side of the hotel and even on the other, so best bet would be to send an email to the hotel and request a quiet room:   reservas_gye@hotelesoroverde.com.  Lindblad gets all the room assignments from the hotel and passes them out, trying to limit personal contact during this time of COVID.  You do, however, need to register a credit card with the hotel front desk if you want to charge anything (meals, drinks at bar, items in shop) on your room account.  Otherwise, you’ll need to pay in cash or with a credit card for each individual purchase.  Our final documents included notes about not leaving your room at the hotel, but the on-site Lindblad representatives said nothing about this.  One of the amenities of the hotel is a welcome drink (beer, wine, or a special cocktail) in their bar.  The front desk normally gives new guests a coupon for this, but we did not receive one in our packet from Lindblad.  The bar staff, however, did not charge us once they verified we were new guests.


Orientation:  The Lindblad rep who met us at the airport had everyone gather in the business center where she handed out room assignments and keys and the schedule for the evening and the next morning.  The only evening activity was our COVID test at 1900 hours (different from the time for the Lindblad recommended group flights).  The test was straight forward—you just need to bring your passport, identify yourself, sit down, are swabbed, verify identity on the sample tube, and that’s it.  They had someone checking people in and two people swabbing, so it went quickly.  Lindblad paid for the test.  Other than that, we were free to have dinner, go to the pool, whatever in the hotel.  The morning agenda consisted of a wake-up call at 0700 hours, checked luggage placed outside your room with the Lindblad-supplied tags on them by 0730 for collection and transport to the airport, breakfast starting at 0730 hours in a private room (really good!), and a 0840 hours reporting time for transfer to the airport.  Masks are required in the hotel and in public areas on Endeavour II, including the Zodiacs.  Bring all your own personal protection gear—the kit promised on the NatGeo/Lindblad website was not provided.  But staff told us they have not had a single case of COVID on board since they restarted in June 2021, so they must be doing something right.


Internal Flights:  Lindblad did not provide any information on the timing for our internal flights—we expected this with the final documents, but nothing.  The flights used on our trip—and it appears to be the norm—were Avianca (AV) flight 1636; departing at 1040 hours, and AV 1637, departing at 1230 hours for the return.  Both flights were on Airbus A320 aircraft, but they were pretty tight in pitch and offered no amenities on the 1 ½ hour flight.  Lindblad gave us metal water bottles at the hotel, however, which we could fill from the hotel and carry onto the flight.  Lindblad took care of the transfer from the hotel for all, the check-in, and provided boarding passes to all.  Avianca is a Star Alliance member, but we did not have an opportunity to provide our frequent flyer numbers for credit.  (We have applied for and received credit on the United website.  If you wish to do so, take a photo of your boarding pass—the ticket number, which you need for requesting credit, is only on part of the boarding pass--which the airline staff tore off in SCY on boarding.  Luckily, they did not do so in GYE, so we had a whole boarding pass with the number.)  A Lindblad rep travels with the group on the internal flights in both directions.  Clocks move BACK one hour to Galápagos Time (GALT—same as CST) en route.  Both airports—GYE and in San Cristobal (SCY)—are fairly new and quite nice.  If you have Priority Pass, there are lounges in both airports (called VIP in GYE and Magma in SCY).  They give you a bag with snacks to carry on the aircraft if you wish.


Entry:  Entry to Ecuador at GYE was uneventful.  Entry to the Galapagos is a little more complicated.  Lindblad provides an entry card, which you show to an officer at SCY.  Then you go to a second officer where you are supposed to pay the entry fee ($120 per person) for the Galapagos.  (Lindblad has included this in your fare and paid it, so not sure why this second stop.)  There was a third stop that asked if you were carrying any plants or animals.  It was a bit chaotic and unclear where you went next—but only ended up taking about 10-15 minutes.  Afterwards you identified your bags and Endeavour II staff whisked them away.  They arrived at your cabin after lunch.  You can also give them your larger carry-on bags to avoid carrying them to and onto the Zodiacs.


Endeavour II:  The CruiseCritic review is very helpful.  The cabins are small, but well designed—we loved the hooks on the back of the cabin door for our life jackets and two sets of four more hooks on the back (cabin side) of the bathroom door and on the wall opposite—more than enough room to hang our dive skins and rash guards to dry plus to hang water bottles, binoculars, etc.  (They have two swimsuit spinner/dryers in the area on the deck three where everyone stores their wetsuits and snorkel gear—very helpful.)  There is a decent-sized nightstand with two drawers on either side of the bed (in queen configuration), four larger drawers at the bottom of the closet, and a large but shallow locking drawer for the desk.  (As noted in the CC.com review, cabins do not lock from the outside—you can lock the cabin door when you are inside as well as the bathroom door.)  There were about a dozen hangers in the closet, half regular and half with pant/skirt hangers.  Laundry prices were reasonable—a tee-shirt cost $4, underwear or socks $1.50, etc.  There is also a clothesline in the shower so you could wash out small things in the bathroom sink if desired.  There is a small club chair as well as the desk chair.  The bed was very comfortable and had high-quality sheets and a duvet.  The towels were nice quality as well.  Both were changed halfway through the voyage although you could sign up to skip changing the sheets.  The bathroom was functional with good storage space.  The shelves on the sides of the mirror had open sides and slots in the bottom of the shelves—things constantly fell out the sides or down the slots.  Lining them with a washcloth or a spare wildlife sighting sheet from Reception does the trick.  All power is 220 volts with the exception of a single 110-voltage plug in the bathroom by the hair dryer.  All of the plugs were universal—accepting U.S. flat plugs, grounded three-prongs, and European round pin plugs.  If your device runs on 110-220, 50-60 cycles you’ll be good.  There is a wall panel with two sockets plus two USB ports at the desk.  There is a second single socket on the wall near the club chair.  And a third, semi-hidden one on the panel behind the bed.  If you have lots of equipment that needs charging you might consider bringing a power strip (without a surge protector).  The reception desk has extension cords you can borrow but not converters—if you have something that only runs on 110, bring your own converter.  The spa wellness specialist led a stretching class on deck every morning and you could book treatments—she had a sign-up book on a pedestal in the reception area.  Hint:  The book covered the whole week and included tentative schedules for each day with a note on what times would be good to book treatments.  This also, of course, gives you a preview of the whole cruise!  (This is especially useful on the two days they offer kayaking—they are allowed a limited number and places go fast.  The sign-up sheets are usually out before the kayaking is announced so you could put your name down.  Some people also jumped-up during recap to go down and sign up—spaces were all gone by the end of the recap session.)  Suggested gratuities are $200 per person for the seven nights on board.  If you want to pay for those or make any other charges to your cabin, you’ll need to register a credit card with Reception.  They also have extra postcards there (some are in your folio on the ship), a map of the voyage, and a list tracking wildlife sightings compiled by the naturalists—you can also pick up sheets to track your own mammal, birds, invertebrate, reptile, and fish sightings by day.  Seven hours of internet are included in the trip price.  The internet service is slow or nonexistent at times.  There are instructions at the reception desk on how to connect to the network and the sign-in.  Hint:  If you receive a “no internet connection” message after connecting to the network, go to the Lindblad connection website and try to log in anyway.  Several times we received this message but could sign on to our account and the internet despite it.  There is an open bridge policy—knock and they’ll let you in if operating conditions permit.


Food and Drink:  There is a self-service coffeemaker (coffee, espresso, lattes, etc.) in both the lounge on deck 3 and the library on deck 4 as well as a hot-water dispenser and nice selection of local teas.  They set out a light breakfast snack—fruit and a pastry—about 0600, which generally worked out to 45 minutes before full breakfast.  At the latter, you had a choice of hot beverages (coffee and hot milk from carafes or you could ask for an espresso drink or tea), juices (orange and a local fruit of the day), fresh fruit, yoghurt parfaits, omelets or eggs your way, a daily breakfast special (frittata, French toast with pumpkin filling, others), pastries, and a daily Ecuadorian treat that was served by the waiters.  Lunch was a soup, salad (including a daily local choice), and choice of entrée—fish, meat or poultry, and a vegetarian one all with the same sides.  (You could also order a meal-sized salad instead—a great option when you hit food overload, which is easy on this ship!)  Plus a daily dessert including four homemade ice cream options.  Some lunches were themed—Mexican (with margaritas), Ecuadorian (with beer and terrific ceviche)—generally when the afternoon activities were a little lighter.  The lounge had a small refrigerator stocked with sodas (including Coke zero) and beer—try the coffee porter from Edemica, the first craft brewery in the islands.  You could bring sodas or beers down from the lounge to the dining room or order iced tea or other beverages.  The waiters learn your preferences quickly—after we ordered iced tea at lunch, one waiter reserved two seats for us at his table and set out tea every meal.  The ship’s staff also put out fresh fruit, local chips (plantains and others), and graham crackers during the day.  Passengers were met coming into the recap by a waiter who offered an appetizer—one day caprese skewers, another an empanada, etc.  A daily cocktail special—named for the island visited—was offered as was draft beer, wine, and spirits from the bar; the dining room waiters doubled as bar staff during the recap time.  Lindblad poured sparkling wine for the welcome and farewell toasts.  Dinner followed the same pattern as lunch—soup, salad, entrée, dessert.  Passengers signed up for entrees at breakfast or lunch from the menu posted outside the dining room—you can also order a half-portion of two of the three choices (again, fish, meat/poultry, or veg).  They offer a red and a white wine at dinner, but there is also an included wine list, and you can ask for an alternative.  Midway through the voyage, they did a BBQ on the observation deck—fish, chicken, sausages, burgers, and sides.  There was also a wine tasting along with a small ceremony to mark crossing the equator.  The final night of the cruise is lobster and tenderloin, and you can order surf and turf.  The final lunch also offered the best dessert of the cruise—chocolate crinkle and volcano cookies.  The latter consisted of chunks of chocolate and nuts miraculously held together—we were told they were gluten- and dairy-free.  The breads at all three meals were also very good.  The Endeavour chefs cater very well to any food allergies or preferences and the head waiter came around the first lunch to confirm any dietary restrictions.  If you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other occasion, let the Hotel Manager (at the reception desk) know and the kitchen will arrange a cake.  After dinner, they showed documentaries on the islands in the lounge or had stargazing on the observation deck (weather permitting).  There is a pitcher with ice water and glasses in the cabin for drinking and water filling stations (and an ice machine in the lounge) to fill the metal bottles provided by Lindblad.


Itinerary:  For the restart in 2021, Endeavour II is making a round-trip out of San Cristobal.  (In the past they alternated between San Cristobal and Baltra.)  You need to walk a couple of blocks from where the buses from and to the airport can drop you and then you board Zodiacs for the ride to the ship.  You can leave any large carry-ons to be transported to the ship along with your checked bags.  We visited North Seymour Island and Rabida Island (second day—really the first full day of the voyage), Fernandina (westernmost) and Isabella (morning and afternoon, respectively, third day), two other areas of Isabella (fourth day), Santiago (fifth day—island Lindblad has “adopted”), Santa Cruz (sixth day), San Cristobal (seventh day plus a morning trip the next day to a tortoise hatching area and then a restaurant en route to the airport for return to Guayaquil).  The idea is to limit contact with people during COVID times.  I’ll scan and post the daily programs when time permits.


Excursions:  As noted elsewhere, there are always options—a strenuous hike up a hill (slippery rocks and some large boulders to climb over), a walk (usually 1 to 1.5 miles with frequent stops for explanations from the naturalists), a shorter walk (always the last group to depart), or Zodiac (and one time, a glass-bottomed boat) rides.  They call by decks to limit crowds at the disembarkation area, but sometimes we heard final call before our deck was called—once they start calling they move out quickly so be ready with all your gear (including life vests every time you get in the Zodiacs).  “Dry landings” include those stepping from the Zodiac onto a lava field and then climbing up a few feet—over rocks that had recently been covered by the tide.  The ship’s crew put down some towels to increase traction on these landings, but they were still slippery.  If the expedition leader recommends taking a walking stick, do so—it can provide an extra point of traction on these slippery areas.  


Photography:  Each voyage has at least one NatGeo-certified photo instructor.  (Ours had authored a beautiful coffee-table photo book you could buy on Amazon—have him sign one of the postcards available on the ship for free and then use it as a bookmark.)  He presented some lectures on photography and also led some photo walks.  They also have someone taking footage on land and below the sea.  They show a preview of the video on the penultimate night of the voyage, and you can then sign up at Reception to buy a copy—the first is $50 and the second $25.  (Or you can go in with a fellow passenger and each pay $37.50 by having one person sign up for two copies and then passing the second one along.)  Keep track of your best photos—on the afternoon of the last day, the photo instructor will collect them (Apple airdrop or memory card transfers) and create a slide show presented at the final night’s recap.  The slideshow is provided as part of the post-cruise wrap-up sent to passengers a few weeks after the voyage. 


Fellow Guests:  Lindblad has a program that brings local Ecuadorians onboard.  Some are civil servants or involved with education or conservation.  Family members of the naturalists also join some voyages—we had a lovely time with the parents of the photo instructor and the daughter of one of the naturalists.  Gives a great opportunity to learn more about Ecuador, its culture, and people!


Disembarkation and return to Guayaquil and onward:  Pretty much the reverse of the trip to the islands.  Lindblad transferred the checked baggage and did the check-in, passengers just had to handle their carry-ons and go through security.  They never collected our transit cards although we were told to hang on to them for this purpose.  The airport waiting area is pretty bare bones although there are clean restrooms and a little deli for drinks and snacks.  Again, a Lindblad rep traveled with the group and shepherded passengers to the buses after we collected our checked bags.  On arrival at the hotel, we immediately went for our COVID-19 tests, then picked up our room keys, and schedule for the rest of the day and the next morning.  We also made our selections for the final group dinner, held in a private room at the hotel.  Regular or vegetarian ceviche to start, fish or meat entrée, and dessert.  Choice of red or white wine.  Dinner was at 1800 hours as some passengers left for flights leaving just after midnight.  (The final dinner is an addition to maintain the bubble during COVID times.  Not sure how long it will be included after 2021.)  Lindblad arranged transfer to the airport--those on the group flight had a Lindblad rep accompanying, while those of us on other arrangements did not.


  • Like 3
  • Thanks 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
On 1/25/2022 at 1:15 PM, DebsteveTravel said:

Thanks for the detailed information.  My wife and I are going on the same cruise in a couple weeks.  Was the cruise full?  How many passengers were on your cruise?

We had 65 passengers and there were 63 crew members.  Uncrowded IMO.  We were onboard in November 2021 so I don't know if capacity has gone up.  Hope that helps.  BTW, it is a wonderful trip and you will not be disappointed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 1/25/2022 at 3:15 PM, DebsteveTravel said:

Thanks for the detailed information.  My wife and I are going on the same cruise in a couple weeks.  Was the cruise full?  How many passengers were on your cruise?


In early December, there were more passengers--I counted 75 on the passenger list Lindblad provides.  I'm not sure if the count is completely accurate--I think you can ask to have your name not included, for example.  I did not count two passengers who left the ship on the first day.  Also heard a good-sized number missed the flight into Guayaquil when American Airlines cancelled it.  (Try not to book the last flight of the day into GYE.)  There were not many empty seats in the lounge for the daily review/previews nor at meals.  Capacity for all ships are limited to 100 passengers by the Government of Ecuador, so in theory we were at 75-percent capacity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Thank you for your review.   Our trip is in June, fully paid,  and the pre-cruise communication has been difficult  with very long wait times on the phone.  I don't attempt to call them anymore, so your review was very welcome. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/29/2022 at 9:32 AM, CruiserN1 said:

Were there snorkeling opportunities daily? Thinking about booking Lindblad after having done Celebrity a year ago. We snorkeled 1-2 times/day and those were my favorite excursions.


There were snorkeling opportunities most days.  There might have been one or two where we did not have a chance to snorkel.


One thing to remember--the Galapagos Islands are surrounded by ocean currents that originate in or near Antarctica.  At least in December, the water was COLD--lower 60s.  We brought our own dive skins  that we wore in addition to the shortie, 3mm wetsuits provided by Lindblad and it was still difficult to take.  At least for us, who are used to Florida water temperatures.  Some had no problem with it, however.  Depends on your individual tolerances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, loriva said:


There were snorkeling opportunities most days.  There might have been one or two where we did not have a chance to snorkel.


One thing to remember--the Galapagos Islands are surrounded by ocean currents that originate in or near Antarctica.  At least in December, the water was COLD--lower 60s.  We brought our own dive skins  that we wore in addition to the shortie, 3mm wetsuits provided by Lindblad and it was still difficult to take.  At least for us, who are used to Florida water temperatures.  Some had no problem with it, however.  Depends on your individual tolerances.


Thanks for the info. I was there late Nov 2021. The water was definitely COLD but I managed OK in the shortie wetsuit that Celebrity provided. The worst was when the cold water hit my ears!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...
  • 6 months later...

Loriva, Thanks for taking the time to cover the details. This type of information is priceless.  We're on the ship in April '23, a few weeks away, and I was trying to figure out how to get current info on this site from cruisers since the recent hurricane and earthquake when I found your robust article. 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Welcome to Cruise Critic
      • Write a Review
      • Hurricane Zone
      • ANNOUNCEMENT: Savor Special AmaWaterways Itineraries ~ sponsored by AmaWaterways
      • Q&A with Cruise Circle - River Cruising 101
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Cruise Critic News & Features
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • Canadian Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations


  • Create New...