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North Sea Voyage: Meet the Experts

Our Expedition Development Managers craft unforgettable journeys, handpicking best-in-their-field experts who connect guests to a region’s history and culture. That holds especially true for our North Sea Voyage, which features an exceptional roster of leading authorities. 
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“This voyage covers a lot of ground, from Denmark to Belgium, over to Northern France and up to England,” says Laura Macfarlane, Expedition Development Manager. “While I recognize that guests will be looking forward to the World War II sites in Normandy and Dover, there is so much more to be excited about.” 

Early in the voyage, we will transit the Keil Canal, which is busier than the Panama and Suez Canals combined. “People often get excited about the idea of transiting these more famous canals,” says Macfarlane, “but the Keil Canal definitely shouldn’t be overlooked—it’s the world’s busiest artificial waterway.” Guests will also enjoy live musical performances specially curated by our onboard ethnomusicologist, witness hydraulic engineering feats as they approach the Netherlands by sea, taste local beers like Belgian-style tripel, gain access to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, and of course, “keep an eye out for a special chocolate dessert,” Macfarlane teases.  Along the way, our team of experts will paint a vivid picture of how the North Sea has influenced bordering countries over the centuries, from the Hanseatic League to the E.U. today. 

Koen Kleijn, Cultural Expert

"Half of the Netherlands is below sea level. More than half of its population of 17 million is directly affected by climate change. But then, that's something the Dutch have been tackling for millennia. We're now busy exporting our engineering expertise to other nations facing similar problems, the sinking cities of Djakarta and Bangkok, the coast of Bangladesh, the Mississippi estuary in Louisiana or the complicated coastal defenses of New York and New Jersey. Traveling through the Netherlands will give you unique insight into this fascinating tradition, and the engineering innovation necessary to keep our country safe, while keeping biodiversity intact."


Koen Kleijn is an art historian, working as a journalist, documentary film director and writer. He is the author of several books on history and culture in the Netherlands, the resident art critic of De Groene Amsterdammer, editor of 609 Culture and Media, and editor-in-chief of RCO Editions, the iPad app of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

David Cothran, Certified Photo Instructor & Naturalist

"Many centuries ago the monks and merchants of Belgium and Germany began a tradition of brewing wonderfully varied and flavorful beers. Today those traditions are still very much alive; Northern Europe in general and Belgium in particular are ground zero for globetrotting beer lovers, so we'll offer a number of opportunities to experience ales, lagers, lambics, and other styles. We'll sample a number of famous standards, little-known rarities, and the best examples of the new craft brewing revolution. Along the way we will also learn about brewing, experience the growing culinary art of pairing beers with food, and visit a historic pub or two, to immerse in this convivial part of Northern European life."


David Cothran has worked for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1993 on six continents and in over 65 countries. He is an avid wildlife and landscape photographer and particularly focuses on photography of wildlife in habitat, macro images of insects and abstracts images of patterns and textures. David is also a longtime aficionado of beer and cuisine.

Mark Bielski, Historian

“Nazi Germany overran the low countries of Holland and Belgium before defeating France in June 1940. For four years, these countries were subject to Hitler’s oppression until the Allied invasion on D-Day, June 6, 1944. We will visit key historic sites that witnessed the bravery of American and Allied liberators as they fought their way through Normandy that summer. We will walk the sands of Omaha Beach, envision the airborne miracle at Pegasus Bridge, and see where the Army Rangers scaled the cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc. History will come alive as we stand where heroes fought.”

The Monument of Fallen Soldiers at the American Cemetery


Mark Bielski is an historian, author, and the director of Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. As the host of the “History with Mark Bielski” podcast, he discusses history from ancient to modern times with experts in their field, with special attention to the Civil War and WWII. He is also the author of Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation.

Kristy Leissle, Chocolate Expert

"This voyage takes us through some of the most renowned chocolate centers in the world. Over the 19th and 20th centuries, visionaries, chefs, and entrepreneurs in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France changed the course of culinary history. Not only did their technological advancements and trade help build a global chocolate industry, they also helped to define chocolate as a unique and 'more-ish' luxury, whose taste and texture is unlike any other food. We'll journey through this culinary history, tasting our way through the national 'chocolate palates' of several countries, and becoming chocolate connoisseurs along the way."


Dr. Kristy Leissle is a scholar of cocoa and chocolate. Her book Cocoa explores cocoa geopolitics and personal politics. She is Affiliate Faculty in African Studies at the University of Washington; Research Associate for the development through trade organization Twin & Twin Trading; and Cultural Specialist for National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions. She lives in Accra.

Jacob Edgar, Ethnomusicologist

"There is no better way to experience a destination than through its music. A new generation of musicians are drawing on ancient traditions to create new and exciting sounds that connect the past with the future. From innovative approaches to British sea chanties and bohemian French chanson, to the inspiring young guns of the Dutch and Flemish folk revival, you'll be amazed by the variety of musical talents you will enjoy on this voyage. I've curated a special selection of my favorite artists from the region just for this trip, and their presentations will not only entertain and enchant you, they will also enlighten you by providing a deeper connection to the history, languages, and cultures of this unique part of the world."


Jacob Edgar is an ethnomusicologist, world music tastemaker, and global explorer with an insatiable curiosity for the diverse ways in which people express themselves through music. Since 1998, Jacob has been the main music researcher for the world music compilations label Putumayo World Music. He founded the record label Cumbancha in 2006. He also hosted the TV series Music Voyager and the radio program “Uncompass” on the San Francisco radio station KALW.


Main image: Michael S. Nolan

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