Guest post by editor of expeditioncruising.com, Roderick Eime, who sailed National Geographic Quest in 2018.
It’s always with some excitement that I get to sail aboard a brand new ship and especially when that ship is the first newbuild in Lindblad’s history and the only purpose-built expedition ship designed and built from scratch in the USA thus far. I say “thus far,” because Quest will be joined by a sister vessel, Venture, in June 2018. The pair will supplement the stalwart and much-loved vessels, Sea Bird and Sea Lion operating Alaska, Sea of Cortez and Latin America itineraries. (Editor’s Note: I had previously understood the Sea Lion and Sea Bird would be retired, but have since been advised they will stay on fleet.)
My first impression is that of a ship built expressly to purpose. Lindblad’s 50 years of expedition cruising experience has certainly provided plenty of insight into what’s needed in an expedition ship.
NG Quest is unpretentious and sturdy, even utilitarian in design and appearance. Forget gleaming, mirrored salons, chandeliers and abstract canvas art. Instead, we have a relaxing and versatile lounge designed for the dual purpose of lectures and AV screenings as well as refreshments, bar and library. Walls throughout are decorated with giant National Geographic images of stunning wildlife and vistas.
The 50 twin cabins are easily spacious enough for two and come in five categories across three decks, one of which includes private balconies. There are no TVs or minibars, but every category has a writing desk and ample storage. Help-yourself beverages, tea, coffee and snacks are always available in the lounge.
Dining is in the single-sitting, bistro-style area at the stern (just below the sundeck) and serves both buffet and plated menus depending on the occasion. Food is healthy, fresh and nutritious served in modest portions. Lots of fruits and vegetables, baked and grilled lean meats with plenty of color in the salad bar. Sorry, but I haven’t found the all-you-can-eat pizza bar and hamburger stand yet – and I hope I don’t.
Great effort has gone into making this ship comfortable and practical for expedition itineraries. The transom or ‘fantail’ is located at the stern just above the water line and makes for hassle-free access to the Zodiacs, something many ships in today’s global fleet still have trouble with.
Also aboard are double and single kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and snorkeling kit for all. At time of writing, there is no provision for scuba diving, but I will keep asking. For healthy types there is a small gym and LEXspa treatment salon. A small ‘Global Gallery’ boutique/gift shop also stocks quality clothing and souvenirs.
Lindblad-National Geographic has always taken seriously the concept of ‘low impact’ travel. It pleases me to see every opportunity to minimize waste has been taken. Obvious things many cruise lines only pay lip service to like refillable bathroom gels, no drinking straws and tough stainless water bottles filled (and refilled) from double-filtered taps and very minimal use of plastics. Hand-wash and sanitisation stations are in all public spaces.
It’s an exciting time generally for expedition and adventure cruising around the world and it’s great to see a pioneering brand like Lindblad preparing for the onslaught by strengthening their core values and not succumbing to flashy distractions.
For more information about travel on any Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic vessel, see www.expeditions.com