Lindblad Expeditions is preparing to launch its new cruise ship acquired last year from Genting Hong Kong and Crystal Cruises as the financially troubled organization begins to downsize. The ship was rebuilt and renamed National Geographic Islander II Prior to the start of operations in the Galapagos Islands on August 19. It is also part of a trend by tour operators to boost the luxury offerings of this unique cruise destination.
The new cruise ship arrived in Ecuador late in the day and was blessed and visited by government officials on July 29 before it sailed to the Galapagos Islands. Attendees at the festivities included Ecuador’s Minister of Tourism, Nils Olsen, and Minister of Environment, Water and Environmental Transition Gustavo Manrique, as well as industry colleagues, local partners, and Lindblad crew members.
The cruise ship was built along with its sister ship over 30 years ago and has a diverse career. Originally ordered by a startup that planned to call itself the Windsor Line and sail this ship as Mrs. Diana with her sister ship Mrs. Sarah, but the company was unable to receive. They briefly saw the service as Aurora I and Aurora II Before it was acquired by Star Cruises in 1994 and renamed Megastar Aries And the Megastar Taurus.
Crystal got Megastar Taurus In 2015 and refurbished into a luxury high cruise yacht renamed Crystal Esprit. She continued the cruise until 2020 but was laid off due to engine problems. Genting Hong Kong offered it for sale but had to agree to complete engine repairs before handing the ship over to Lindblad, who paid $13 million for the ship.
Lindblad has now completed an extensive renovation of the ship with additions to match the Galapagos market, including the addition of a science lab and an expanded outdoor café. The cruise ship with a gross weight of 3,370 tons provides full-suite accommodation for 48 passengers in 26 suites. According to Lindblad, the ship is a perfect fit for the Galapagos Islands and features amenities including a marina that will be used with the ship’s fleet of kayaks, stand-up towers and paddleboards as well as a private glass-bottomed tower.
“Lindblad Expeditions is a great example of how tourism is used as a vehicle for conservation and development – how they buy supplies from local communities, hire people from Ecuador to connect local cultures, and introduce their guests to our wonderful cuisine,” Minister Olsen said.
The National Geographic Islander II It joins other luxury cruise ships dedicated to the Galapagos Islands. Celebrity Cruises introduced in June 2019 its 100-passenger car celebrity flora which were the first luxury cruise ships in the Galapagos. Silversea launched a 100-passenger rival cruise ship, Silver Originafter a pandemic stop in sailing that also provides the luxury amenities of Galapagos cruises.
In a strange twist of fate, while the sister ship would offer luxury cruises, the liquidators in Genting Hong Kong sold the other sister ship, which operated as a casino, luxury yacht, and private charter ship. known as Taipan It was acquired by a Christian charitable organization, OM, which plans to relaunch in 2023 as Hope Doulosa missionary ship Expand the group’s work with poor and developing countries.