Whether the words “theme cruise” pique your interest or turn your stomach, you’re probably familiar with the concept. For decades cruise companies have filled ships by organizing departures around specific areas of interest: jazz, golf, motorcycles, and more recently, mid-90s alt-rock bands and Kid Rock, both featured in a New York Times profile. Part of the appeal is sharing the experience with like-minded people, and usually there are a couple of traveling celebrities thrown into the mix—people you might see walking around the 3,000-person cruise ship.
A Lindblad-National Geographic expedition is about as far as you can get from a theme cruise. Though, the argument could be made that all of their expeditions encompass certain themes: research, photography, history, and engagement with the wild world. And certainly every cruise aboard their 24- to 148-guest expedition ships attract like-minded guests.
In 2009, they took it a step further by adding their own type of onboard celebrities with the Global Perspectives guest speaker program aboard their flagship National Geographic Explorer. They began inviting individuals from the top tiers of science and journalism, or experts with rare experiences to add layers of interest to the already lively onboard expedition atmosphere. Travelers to the Baltics, steeped in the history surrounding the fall of communism got the added resonance of meeting Mikhail Gorbachev. Guests on a circumnavigation of the British and Irish Isles got a historical perspective from journalist Ted Koppel. And while exploring Antarctica, Buzz Aldrin has shared stories of exploring the moon with spellbound guests. Within a few years, the roster of past Global Perspectives guest speakers read like a list of adjunct professors at a top university.
While every National Geographic Explorer expedition includes guest speakers, one is nothing less than a complete debrief on a continent. This expedition would be the dream of biology lovers, filmmakers, photographers, and international music lovers. It is called Epic South America: an ambitious 38-day voyage along the east coast of the continent—from Trinidad along Brazil’s tropical and human history-rich eastern coast, to finish with a flourish in Buenos Aires. Along the way, the expedition will explore a trio of legendary rivers, visit seldom-seen wildness like Fernando de Noronha, multiple UNESCO World Heritage cities and vibrant colonial cities.
The list of Global Perspectives guest speakers for this expedition is so extensive that as long as you’re interested in something, you’ll find someone very interesting to talk to.
Cesar Gaviria, former Colombian president, will be aboard. He guided Colombia through turbulent years, and even saw Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror to an end. Some of his work was documented in the popular book, Killing Pablo.
Bio-nerds and anthro-geeks will be in ecstasy with some of their field’s historic leaders, including Thomas Lovejoy, the man who coined the term “biological diversity.” National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis will join a portion of the trip. An ethno-botanist and anthropologist, Davis wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow, among other books, and has been called “the explorer of the millennium” by National Geographic.
Students of the nature documentary will even have their own clique. National Geographic photographers and filmmakers Cotton Coulson and David Wright will be aboard, offering a video workshop to enable nature-film lovers to shoot and produce their own documentaries during the voyage. Photojournalist Tyrone Turner, whose Brazil portfolio appeared in National Geographic’s April 2012 issue, will offer field shooting tips and inspiration.
Given the importance of music to the region, music will be a theme, too. Jacob Edgar, an ethnomusicologist, researcher for Putumayo World Music, and record label owner will be aboard to arrange concerts and explain the diverse musical styles the voyage will encounter.
Also aboard: author of New York Times bestseller, How to Be a Carioca, Priscilla Ann Goslin; Suzana Machado D’Oliveira, an expedition pioneer and expert on the region; and Mark Curran, who taught Spanish and Portuguese at Arizona State University for 34 years and whose research has n Brazil’s folk-popular poetry and its relation to Brazilian erudite literature and history has resulted in 11 books published on the topic. And perhaps best of all, the guest speakers who’ve opted to join the expedition do so as fellow travelers, so among only 148 travelers, you’re ensured opportunities to share one-to-one conversation over dinner or drinks.
Get up to date on Brazil, a country and an economy on fire, and have the time of your life exploring a new destination. Some cabins are still available and there’s an enticing airfare offer too; Epic South America expedition sails September 18, 2013.