Expedition Line to Acquire Two Celebrity Cruises’ Ships

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Lindblad Expeditions, one of the world’s elite cruise lines specializing in the adventure market, is on track to double its ship deployments to the Galapagos Islands with the planned purchase of two expedition ships from Celebrity Cruises.

The cruise line, which operates Galapagos itineraries as part of a long-term partnership with National Geographic, announced on June 12, 2024 that it will acquire the 48-guest Celebrity Xpedition and the 16-guest Celebrity Xploration in a transaction slated to close in January 2025. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Following renovations of both vessels, they will join the 96-guest National Geographic Endeavour II and the 48-guest National Geographic Islander II, which currently operate in the Galapagos year-round.

New Linblad Vessel
New Linblad Vessel

Lindblad plans to open bookings for the two new ships by the end of June 2024 and also will reveal the vessels’ new names. 

The expedition line, founded by Sven-Olof Lindblad, is considered the pioneer of Galapagos cruising and was the first to offer itineraries to the destination in 1967. Before that time, cruising in the region, made famous by the wildlife observations of Charles Darwin in the mid-1800s, was mainly for scientific purposes.

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The island chain is located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and is known for its endemic animal species — wildlife not found anywhere else — including the giant Galapagos tortoise, the Galapagos penguin, the flightless cormorant, and the marine iguana.

When my father, Lars-Eric Lindblad, led the first international citizen expedition to the Galápagos nearly 60 years ago, I don’t think he ever could have dreamed it would serve as the foundation for ecotourism in the archipelago and would be the catalyst for meaningful, positively impactful connections,said Lindblad Expeditions founder and CEO Sven-Olof Lindblad

We look forward to not only bringing more Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests to the islands with the growth of our fleet, but also to having a greater positive social impact supporting conservation, education and the creation of livelihoods,Lindblad added.

New Linblad Vessel
New Linblad Vessel

The decision to sell two of its expedition ships leaves Celebrity Cruises with just one vessel offering Galapagos Islands itineraries, Celebrity Flora, a 100-guest ship that launched in 2019. Through 2024, the cruise line has all three ships, Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Xpedition, and Celebrity Xploration, scheduled to sail 7-day cruises in the region.

Ships Set to Join Fleet Are Both Luxury Level

Both of the ships Lindblad Expeditions is buying are luxury vessels. Celebrity Xpedition, which entered service in 2001, has two restaurants, 13 balcony cabins, and 24 outside cabins. Celebrity Xploration, launched in 2007, is much smaller. The 8-cabin catamaran is ideal for small groups and private charters.

Read Also: What is an Expedition Cruise?

Leading conservationists applauded the Lindblad Expeditions’ plans to expand operations in the Galapagos Islands.

Smallest Cruise Ships
Smallest Cruise Ship in the World (Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises)

Together with community leaders, farmers, scientists and researchers, as well as Ecuadorians from Galápagos and the continent, Lindblad Expeditions has helped to uplift local communities and safeguard the archipelago’s precious species and habitats,said Rakan Zahawi, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation.

While Celebrity Cruises has offered no reason for planning to sell the ships, it is possible the move could be tied to the civil strife that unfolded in Ecuador early this year. Celebrity Cruises issued an alert to booked guests in January 2024, when political unrest enveloped the country, and specifically the city of Guayaquil, the launch port for Galapagos cruising.

It was on January 9, 2024 when the Ecuadorian government declared a state of emergency in the country due to an “internal armed conflict.” Celebrity Cruises on January 10, 2024 cancelled all pre- and post-cruise land programs and offered refunds to all booked guests, but did not cancel any sailings.

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