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2017 will be a big year for Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic. The line will introduce the first of two newbuilds in its history; add a vessel in the Galapagos with special features for families; and launch sailings in Cuba starting this December, along with offering an exceptionally active program in Alaska and product in Northern Europe, the Arctic and the Amazon.
The company’s first newbuild — the 100-guest National Geographic Quest, which will be constructed by the Nichols Brothers shipyard near Seattle — is scheduled to launch June 26. The vessel will be outfitted with sea kayaks, paddleboards, snorkeling equipment and Zodiacs, as well as a remotely operated vehicle, a video microscope and a hydrophone and bow camera, which will allow passengers to hear and see the life around them — from humpback whale vocalizations to bow-riding dolphins. The line’s second newbuild, a sister ship to National Geographic Quest, will debut in the second quarter of 2018.
National Geographic Quest will launch with the 13-day Treasures of the Inside Passage: Alaska & British Columbia expedition, which will spend a day in the San Juan Islands in Washington and one in the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver Island, before heading north through British Columbia and Alaska to sail the eight-day British Columbia & The San Juan Islands itinerary between Seattle and Vancouver, with four departures.
Additionally, Lindblad has completely transformed Via Australis —renamed National Geographic Endeavour II — which will begin service in the Galapagos in January. Its 52 outside accommodations will hold 96 passengers, and the family-oriented ship features seven sets of staterooms with connecting doors, as well as six triples. There are also nine single staterooms.
During its extensive refurbishment, National Geographic Endeavour II’s accommodations, forward lounge and bar and restaurant were all redesigned. It now has a large library with Mac computer kiosks, along with an open-air observation deck, an underwater gear area and a dual Zodiac boarding platform. The ship is equipped with nine Zodiacs, one with a glass bottom; kayaks and paddleboards; snorkel gear; and wetsuits for both adults and children. There are also a video microscope and an underwater video camera for interpretation of the rich marine life, in addition to a new LEXSpa and fitness center, exercise classes and a wellness specialist.
Starting Dec. 7, Lindblad will launch an 11-day people-to-people program in Cuba onboard the chartered 44-passenger Panorama II, with 16 departures through March. Guests will begin with a three-night stay at the historic Hotel Nacional in Havana, which has seen the likes of guests such as Walt Disney, Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill. A seven-day cruise along Cuba’s southern coast will take guests to the diving mecca of Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) Marine Park, which offers some of the world's finest coral reefs (pending Cuban approval). Passengers will also visit the Bay of Pigs (pending approval) and the colonial cities of Trinidad and Cienfuegos.
For its Alaska product, Lindblad has put together its most active experience with the six-day Wild Alaska Escape onboard the 62-passenger National Geographic Sea Bird. The itinerary includes kayaking and hiking in Tongass National Forest, a call at the Chilkat Tlingit village of Klukwan and bicycling trips in the area around Haines. The most challenging activity is a trek up Mount Riley, the highest point on the Chilkat Peninsula, which has fantastic views of the surrounding dramatic mountain ranges. Twelve departures are offered from May 27 through Aug. 30, 2017. National Geographic Sea Bird also operates four departures of an 11-day Alaska voyage that traces the entire north-south waters of the Inside Passage, with a special focus on photography.
In Europe, the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer will depart April 29 on a 19-day circumnavigation of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The ship will visit wild, rugged and seldom-seen islands of the west, as well as Edinburgh, Scotland; Portsmouth, England; Lindisfarne, an island off the coast of northeast England; and the Scottish islands of Iona and Staffa. The focus will be on the culture and history of the areas, which have been continuously inhabited since the Stone Age and have many archaeological sites and charming communities.
Additionally, the 102-passenger National Geographic Orion will sail two Baltic Sea circumnavigations between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, with calls in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Russia and two days in St. Petersburg, Russia. The 14-day sailings will depart April 19 and May 2.
Arctic programs include the nine-day Hot Springs and Icebergs: Iceland to West Greenland onboard National Geographic Explorer and the 14-day Nordic Passages: Shetlands, Orkney, Faroes and Iceland — focused on Norse mythology and Viking history — onboard National Geographic Orion. The ship also operates the 10-day Iceland's Wild West Coast and East Greenland expedition.
Rounding out Lindblad's program is a 10-day photo expedition on the upper Amazon River onboard the 28-passenger Delphin II. Guests will be accompanied by “National Geographic” photographer Jonathan Irish and Lindblad Expedition-National Geographic certified photo instructors.