Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

Lindblad's Second 100-Passenger Cruise Ship Enters Service

 

December 1, 2018

The recently-delivered National Geographic Venture was designed to provide adventure cruising for 100 pampered passengers. Photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.

In the summer of 2017, the first of two new 100-passenger vessels, the 238-foot (72.5 m) National Geographic Quest, joined the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet, and has successfully completed its first full year of service. The second, National Geographic Venture, is joining the fleet in the near future. They are the first expedition ships of this size ever designed and built in the US, and have received considerable attention from the national media and cruise ship travel agents.

Jensen Maritime of Seattle was chosen to design the new vessel; the brief was for a design to comfortably accommodate 100 guests in 50 spacious outside cabins with a deck plan that provides maximum visibility in all public spaces and integrates the latest communications and information systems. After considerable discussion and many preliminary drawings, the dimensions of the ships were set as 238.5 feet long and 44 feet wide. They are engineered from the keel up to meet the needs of modern expedition travel from the engine room to the multi-media lecture hall and are classed by Bureau Veritas.

The Lindblad family has been providing unique travel experiences since 1966, when Swedish adventure travel pioneer Lars-Eric Lindblad made history with the first "citizen explorers" cruise to Antarctica, followed in 1967 with the first voyage to Galapagos. This introduced concept of "eco-tourism" to a new market and in 1969, Lars-Eric launched the 239-foot (73 m) Lindblad Explorer, the first purpose-built privately-owned expedition ship. In 1980, Lars-Eric's son, Sven-Olof, began offering small ship expeditions from Seattle to the magnificent fjords and glaciers of Alaska and British Columbia.

This route was sufficiently popular that by 1990, he had acquired two 150-foot sister ships, Sea Lion and Sea Bird built by Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders of Whidbey Island, Washington that are able to safely venture into shallow water and land their guests on remote and often uninhabited shores. With nearly 30 years service, these two boats continue to travel the West Coast, cruising the Pacific Northwest in the summer and Baja California/Central America in the winter.

Fifty years after the first Lindblad adventure cruise, Sven-Olof – CEO and President of Lindblad Expeditions – began an ambitious project to launch a new class of expedition ships 50 percent larger than the Sea Bird and Sea Lion, but still small enough to maneuver in shallow depths and small harbors. So it was not a surprise when Lindblad announced that Nichols would build the new Jensen design. Nichols has an outstanding record of passenger vessels launched over the past 30 years, including numerous catamaran ferries and several large sternwheel riverboats. The contract for both ships is around $95 million.

Lindblad also continued their relationship with another Washington company, Pacific Power Group, to supply and maintain the MTU propulsion engines and Volvo generators, the two brands that they support from their headquarters at the south end of Seattle in Kent, Washington. This connection began in 2001 with the re-powering of Lindblad's 150-foot (46 m) Sea Bird and Sea Lion, with twin 800-HP MTU Series 2000s.

The new ships are equipped with the Tier 3 version of the MTU 12V 4000 M54 engines turning Reintjes WAF 332 marine gear, with 5.571:1 reduction ratios, rated at 1,600 HP for continuous service at 1,800 RPM. Pacific Power Group's engineers collaborated in the design process to ensure the propulsion system would drive the Wärtsilä 70- by 80-inch, 5-bladed Nibral propellers efficiently.

Jensen's naval architects used the latest software to model the engine's output and the best hull shape to reduce fuel consumption at a cruising speed of 12 knots. A Schottel 170 bow thruster is fitted to improve maneuverability.

A New Ship for the Digital Era

The modern process of "production engineering" integrates all the structural, electrical, mechanical and HVAC systems into one comprehensive, full-size computer model. The result is a "virtual vessel" that can be inspected early on to verify the layout, maintenance envelopes and access. "With our 3D capabilities, the customer will have virtually walked every deck and inspected every system, giving them further confidence that this ship will be exactly the high quality passenger vessel they intended," said John "Jay" Edgar, vice president engineering services at Jensen.

Modern shipyards also make extensive use of new technology to speed production. This begins with the naval architects sending the digital information for every single piece of steel to a CNC (computer numerical control) workshop, where industrial waterjets cut and label all the parts. The builders can pre-fabricate these parts into complete hull modules well before the keel is laid.

Once the lower hull modules were assembled up to the waterline, the MTU engines were lowered into the engine room, which was then decked over to create the lower deck. The complete engine package for each ship consisted of MTU's latest control and monitoring system, with a resilient-mount system that reduces vibration and noise levels. Deep in the ship, the fuel tanks hold more than 53,000 gallons of diesel, and water capacity is 22,000 gallons. The boats carry a crew of 49 to serve 100 passengers.

A visit to the National Geographic Venture in the Nichols shipyard demonstrated the need for all this advance planning. We followed project supervisor Captain George Capacci through the ship from the engine room up through three decks to the bridge as around 200 specialists worked to install the accommodation. All the 50 cabins on three decks are constructed around a "wet" module – a pre-fabricated unit that contains a complete bathroom and shower that has to be in place before the interior work can begin, Capacci explained.

Only then can the plumbing be connected, walls erected, ducts installed, and an incredible number of wires run on hangers above the ceiling of the corridor. This activity is carefully planned in advance to eliminate delays, "It's more like a small, self-sufficient town than a boat," says Capacci, who joined the shipyard after retiring from the post of operations director at Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry system in the nation.

The ship's entire electric system deserves special mention: the raw 480-volt electric power is delivered via a bank of regulators and switchboards in the engine room before it is run through miles of wiring into 32 distribution panels all over the ship. They supply everything from the GPS and radar on the bridge down to the internet/Wi-Fi in every cabin. Once the essential systems are all in place and functioning properly, the interior fitters and installers take over, turning the basic framework into the environment created by Tillberg Design International.

The two upper decks of the second ship were built in aluminum to lower the displacement to 1,700 tons and reduce the draft. Passengers are allowed to visit the bridge where the electronics are from Furuno and Sperry, engine controls are MTU Blue Vision. Steering is Jastram's independent electric-over-hydraulic. Most noticeable on the top decks is the incredible visibility from the full-height windows that surround all the beautifully-furnished public spaces – from the lounge adjoining the ship's bridge and control center to the dining room, lounge and fitness room with floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows. For better views on deck, there is a walkway around the entire sun deck, and a unique tiered viewing platform on the bow, with the anchor winches located on the lower deck.

Also, stairways on either side of the bow lead to an expansive observation deck one level up, for a higher viewpoint. On the third deck, 22 of the cabins feature small balconies with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that bring in the spectacular views and ample natural light, while cabins on the second deck have a large window, and those on the lower deck have two portholes.

Shipyard project supervisor Captain George Capacci stands beside the National Geographic Venture under construction at Nichols Bros.' covered construction space at Freeland, Washington. Photo by Peter Marsh.

All cabins include features like full bathroom with shower, Wi-Fi and web access, temperature controls, and USB outlets for charging camera gear or phones. The internal systems aboard the ships are the best available in the market today: the G&O advanced waste management and treatment systems exceed international standards and the fire-fighting system is a Marioff Hi-Fog watermist. The ships are outfitted with a fleet of 24 sea kayaks and eight Zodiac inflatables stowed on the top deck, to carry all guests on excursions, plus paddleboards and snorkeling equipment. The stern is configured with Toimil 12500 excursion boat cranes, Vestdavit TSB-2500 rescue boat davits, with boarding platforms to allow easy use of all these watercraft.

The new mudroom holds rows of lockers that enable guests to store boots, snorkeling equipment and other gear, leaving cabins cleaner and more comfortable. The wild marine environment can also be enjoyed onboard through state-of-the-art technology, including a remotely operated vehicle, video microscope, a hydrophone and underwater cameras that enable passengers to see and hear what is happening beneath the waves.

 
 

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