On July 29, Lindblad Expeditions' new 100-passenger cruise ship National Geographic Quest headed out for her inaugural voyage. The Quest, built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Whidbey Island, Washington, is the line's first American-made ship in many years. The Quest is the first in a new series of two, with sister ship National Geographic Venture set to follow in 2018.
Nichols Brothers built Lindblad's 62-passenger Sea Lion and Sea Bird in the early 1980s. The new ships are larger, but Lindblad says that they have the same shallow draft as their predecessors, allowing them to visit out-of-the-way destinations that other cruise ships can't access. Marc Cappelletti, director of expedition development, told the Juneau Empire that Lindblad views the Quest as a “platform" for adventures off the ship. She carries eight Zodiacs, plus kayaks and other equipment for passengers to explore their surroundings.
Quest's first voyage is an eight-day expedition cruise through Southeast Alaska, visiting Tracy Arm, Petersburg, Saginaw Bay, Chichagof Island, Glacier Bay, Sitkoh Bay and Sitka. She will stay in Alaska through the middle of next month, then head south for wintertime destinations in Central America.
Quest was set to head out for her inaugural cruise in late June, but her launch was delayed due to technical difficulties, forcing Lindblad to cancel several trips. "During our launch, the shipyard team encountered circumstances in which the vessel began moving out of alignment, forcing the operation to halt," said Sven-Olf Lindblad, President and CEO, in a letter to passengers. "The ship remains poised to launch, but the nature of tide cycles, and the need to realign her entry in the water caused delays that will affect the yard's ability to deliver the vessel to us in a timely manner." Lindblad offered a generous compensation package for affected passengers.
The company held its earnings call for the second quarter on Thursday, and Sven-Olf Lindblad said that reservations have risen almost 40 percent year-on-year – including a new company record for forward bookings in a single day. He added that the firm is looking forward to ordering a blue-water cruise ship soon, with an expected delivery in 2019.