Lindblad will add its first polar newbuild to the fleet in 2020. // © 2017 Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic
Feature image (above): Celebrity Flora’s floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed Observatory // © 2017 Celebrity Cruises
As travelers gravitate toward the world’s most magical and remote destinations, cruise lines are responding to the increased demand with new ships geared specifically to particular regions. Here are the ways in which two operators are doing just that.
Interest in the Galapagos Islands has been growing for years. Its amazing wildlife is making the region one of the world’s hottest expedition destinations. Now, Celebrity Cruises is building Celebrity Flora, a 100-passenger all-suite ship dedicated to the area.
Flora is not just a newbuild placed in the Galapagos, but rather one designed specifically for the region: environmentally sensitive and providing sterling opportunities to see the unique animals that make up this evolutionary laboratory.
For starters, Flora will reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent, with the same reduction in air emissions. This is achieved through an advanced propulsion system, hull configuration and specially designed diesel engines. And its dynamic positioning system will allow Flora to stay in position without actually anchoring and damaging the sea floor, while zero-speed stabilizers will provide a smoother cruise.
The ship will additionally convert air-conditioning condensation and seawater to freshwater, and water filtration systems will be installed in staterooms. Celebrity will also cut the use of plastics onboard and manage any materials that can be recycled, donated or reused.
Onboard the ship, multiple vantage points will offer views both by day and by night. For instance, guests can rent a private cabana where they can sleep under the stars, or they can look out onto the Galapagos from the floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed Observatory.
Seaside Restaurant will serve three meals per day; the casual Ocean Grill will offer Dinner Under the Stars; or guests can choose in-room dining.
All-suite accommodations will have oversize bathrooms and use sustainable, natural and regionally inspired materials. The largest accommodations are two Penthouse Suites, which each measure 1,288 square feet, have 321-square-foot verandas and offer a telescope for checking out marine life or the spectacular night skies.
Celebrity has also designed considerable space for enrichment and interpretation — key for this area of the world. Darwin’s Cove and the Naturalist Center will provide passengers with information on the destination, wildlife and environmental initiatives in the Galapagos, and guests will be able to join a guided astronomy tour or watch the constellations on their own from the Stargazing Platform. Flora’s marina will have the capability to launch three Zodiac boats simultaneously, which gives clients more time to explore.
“Flora marks another example of our revolutionary ship design by allowing the destination and its environment to influence every decision we’ve made,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity. “From the luxurious all-suite accommodations to industry-first, eco-friendly innovations, we created a ship that brings a new level of luxury, sustainability and natural exploration to the region. Guests will feel as though they’re boarding a high-end yacht for a week of unparalleled adventures — and they are!”
Flora will sail from the Galapagos’ Baltra Island year-round, beginning May 26, 2019. Celebrity Xpedition, which currently operates this voyage, will move over to the itineraries now offered by the company’s two smaller ships , which will leave the fleet.
Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic
Meanwhile, Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic will add its first polar newbuild to its fleet in 2020.
Since 2015, when president and CEO Sven-Olof Lindblad took the company public as Lindblad Expeditions Holdings, Inc., the line has embarked on an extensive expansion. It recently announced an agreement with Norwegian shipbuilder and ship designer Ulstein to build a 126-guest expedition ship that will launch during the first quarter of 2020, with an option for two additional vessels in the future.
Lindblad’s first polar newbuild will introduce innovations that aim to reduce cruising’s environmental impact — one of the company’s core considerations from inception. A central feature of the vessel will be Ulstein’s signature X-Bow, a distinctive bow that provides fuel efficiency while significantly improving the ship’s ride in rough seas; it will have a high ice class for deep access into polar regions.
Expanded fuel and water tanks will allow for extended operations in remote areas, and zero-speed stabilizers will ensure ship stability at zero speed when it stops for wildlife observation, or as passengers embark and disembark.
“We are incredibly excited to be working with Ulstein and their brilliant team of engineers and designers on this state-of-the-art vessel as we continue expansion of our fleet,” Lindblad said. “It is the next step in the long-term growth of the company and will be the most extraordinary global expedition ship in the world on a multitude of levels. The launch of this ship will mark the 50th anniversary year of the first-ever purpose-built expedition ship, Lindblad Explorer, which was built by my father, Lars-Eric Lindblad, and will set another important milestone in the company’s commitment to deliver expedition travel at its best.”
In keeping with the mission of the Lindblad and National Geographic partnership to connect guests to a destination, the ship will be designed to give travelers maximum access to the outside environment throughout the cruise.
For example, 75 percent of accommodations will have balconies for private viewing, and there will be multiple onboard observation decks, both inside and outside. New specially designed viewing areas dubbed “observation wings” will extend over the water on both sides of the ship, providing guests with unobstructed views down to the sea as well as along the sides of the vessel.
An innovative Zodiac loading system will allow passengers to get onshore quickly, and a range of devices for exploration — including kayaks, cross-country skis, a remotely operated vehicle, hydrophones, a video microscope, underwater video cameras and a helicopter landing platform — will allow them to experience the destination in great detail.
The ship’s 69 cabins and suites will include 12 cabins for solo travelers. The spa and fitness area will feature treatment rooms, saunas, a fitness room, a relaxation area and a yoga room, and there will be two infinity Jacuzzis. The main dining room will have panoramic views of the surroundings, or diners can choose the outdoor barbecue and bistro area.
"Our expedition cruises, operated through our alliance with Lindblad Expeditions, have delivered remarkable experiences to our guests for the past 13 years," said Nancy Schumacher, head of travel and tour operations for National Geographic. "The expansion of the fleet is truly terrific news, as it allows us to offer these unforgettable trips to even more travelers in the future."