LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS – NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
SHIP: National Geographic Quest
ROUTE: Costa Rica to Panama DECK: Main Deck, 303
By Roderick Eime
When you have more than half a century’s experience in expedition cruising, it’s fair to assume you know precisely what needs to go in a ship designed expressly for the purpose. That’s exactly what you have with Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic’s brand-new 100-passenger ship, National Geographic Quest. You won’t find Quest picking her way through the ice pack. Instead she is intended to work in balmy tropical waters and the sheltered waterways of Alaska’s Inside Passage.
I am aboard for a cruise through Costa Rica and Panama. In contrast to other Lindblad vessels, nearly half of the cabins have external balconies and afford just the right amount of space for a travelling couple and their gear. The ship carries 100 guests in 50 cabins over four decks. The topmost (bridge/observation) deck offers a bar/BBQ sundeck, with the lounge deck below cleverly designed to house a bar, lounge and theatre. There is a library and computer area, a gym and wellness centre and a single-sitting dining room in convenient bistro style. All this comfort and convenience is of little use if the expeditions are not up to snuff, and this is one aspect where Lindblad is industry-leading. National Geographic Quest’s marina is on the stern and designed for one-step boarding into the Zodiacs. This contrasts to some of the older vessels where you have to hang on down a wobbly stairway to a pitching boat. And finally, the quality and expertise of Lindblad staff and naturalist guides has always, in my experience, been top of the game. Also, their recognition of environmental values in such little things like straw-less drinks and refillable water bottles means they do more than pay lip service to protecting the oceans.