A true expedition, a journey of discovery with a mission to educate and inspire exploration, makes a powerful family vacation. Expeditions are more immersive than just observing a place as a tourist without context. They endeavor to understand the soul of a place with a holistic approach that includes a deep information dive into the past, present and future through a team of experts in their field.
We just finished an epic expedition to Antarctica with the company that pioneered this kind of travel: Lindblad Expeditions. Lindblad specializes in taking guests on experiential journeys to far corners of the world; although their trips follow a predefined course, their information-centric approach explores a destination from variety of expert perspectives. Even if the itinerary within a destination is fixed, there is always something new to learn and experience when you look at a place through the eyes of passionate experts.
Taking kids on an expedition is the ultimate educational adventure for families. It takes the idea that travel is the best education we can give our children to a whole new extraordinary level. Here are the things that distinguish family expedition travel from family vacation travel:
Every expedition includes a variety of destination experts and/or naturalists who provide both onboard presentations and real-time information to guests on excursions. The dynamic education sessions are thorough and cover historical context, current political issues, and, of course, a deep naturalist perspective on plant, animal and geologic elements. The education isn’t a Cliff Notes version, but a true dissemination of relevant, current details that go well beyond a static guidebook.
This was the 92nd trip to Antarctica for our expedition leader, Peter Carey. Our expedition team working under Peter included an environmental educator with extensive academic experience in the landscapes of all seven continents, two undersea specialists providing information about the Antarctic Ocean through presentations and daily dives, another naturalist who spent a decade studying the ecology of Antarctica, and three photographers, including a National Geographic photographer, to help guests capture their mind-blowing experience on film. This team has experienced Antarctica in different ways over the years; when guests have the opportunity to interact with and learn from each and every one of them over the course of an intensive trip, they get a well-rounded and diverse view of the destination.
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Our sailing also had an award-winning filmmaker on board, Anthony Powell, who showed and discussed his film Antarctica: A Year on Ice. Anthony has spent 100 months in Antarctica, including 10 winters, and offers a whole different perspective on life on our most inhospitable continent. Every one of Lindblad’s expedition trips brings together a team of diverse experts in this fashion.
Every Lindblad Expeditions trip has an expedition leader at the helm of the trip. Guests are part of the expedition team and learn about their destination together in the “classroom” (the ship) and in the field. This focused educational approach connects them to the staff and other guests, as the group participates in daily multimedia presentations and discussions together. In Antarctica, guests are provided with special Lindblad-branded jackets; this simple action of having guests wear the same brightly colored expedition attire accentuates the feeling that they are part of a common initiative.
On an adventurous trip like the one we just took to Antarctica, weather and conditions aren’t predictable and subsequently, they drive daily activity decisions. As a consequence, the staff has to be very flexible in adapting excursions to real-time conditions. The beauty of this approach is that nothing is scripted and to that end, guests experience destinations in an organic way that feels very real, not crafted just for tourist pleasure.
Although we lived on a ship for the majority of our trip, on a true expedition, the ship is just the means of transportation. Don’t get me wrong, our ship, the National Geographic Orion, is very comfortable, with beautiful cabins and guest areas paired with exceptional food and service. The attraction to the ship, however, is the onboard education and the excursions, not the ship as a destination itself. There are no waterslides or swimming pools, although amenities include a hot tub, a small gym and a spa for onboard treatments.
An expedition undertakes activities that are active and immersive. Highlights from our trip to Antarctica included kayaking next to dramatic icy coastlines, cross-country skiing on sea ice and hiking among nesting penguin colonies. Such adventures engage all of the senses and are just risky enough to feel exciting, but in reality they are undertaken under Lindblad’s meticulous eye for safety. These immersive activities create lasting memories and are an integral part of the hands-on education.
Expeditions have a higher purpose behind them. Case in point: Conservation is part of Lindblad Expeditions’ DNA. From CEO Sven Lindblad down, there is a recognition that both preserving and enjoying our planet must be inextricably linked. From Patagonia to the Amazon River to the Arctic, Lindblad takes guests to the world’s most magnificent places, which also happen to be our most fragile places. On our cruise we had a presentation around the Pristine Seas program, which works to define and nurture marine sanctuaries and to rebuild our oceans to the way they once were.
Lindblad’s guests love this approach to exploring our planet, as evident by their huge return rate of people who know they can count on the company to deliver the best of expedition travel. Our trip to Antarctica was a true trip of a lifetime. Stay tuned for a full review of our spectacular expedition to the white continent.
Editor’s Note: Amie was a provided a media package to experience Lindblad Expeditions with children. As always, our opinions are our own. All photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy unless otherwise noted.
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