The former Crystal Esprit was renovated into a 26-suite/48-passenger vessel with a Science Hub and other features to replace the 48-passenger National Geographic Islander. Year-round Galápagos service begins Aug. 19.
Attendees at the Salinas festivities included Minister of Tourism Niels Olsen and Gustavo Manrique, minister of the environment, water and ecological transition, industry colleagues, local partners and Lindblad crew.
A local priest administered a blessing, followed by short speeches from the ministers and a toast offered by Lindblad's Ana Esteves, VP hotel operations, and Capt. Gonzalo Cifuentes.
Tourism for conservation and development
'Lindblad Expeditions is a great example of how to use tourism as a vehicle for conservation and development — how they are buying supplies from the local communities, employing people from Ecuador to connect with the local cultures, and introducing their guests to our amazing cuisine,' Olsen said.
Manrique applauded 'this kind of investment in Ecuador that is something between tourism, investigation, science and education' and thanked Lindblad for 'trusting in Ecuador.'
Attendees were invited to Ecuadorian cuisine and tours of the ship including its elegantly appointed suites, the bridge, the Science Hub, the Global Gallery, new marina, Observation Deck and other ship-wide enhancements.
Exuberant fishing boats' welcome
The event was followed the next day by a special reception for the ship’s crew and officers, capped by an exuberant welcome by dozens of small fishing boats for the local Santa Rosa festivities.
Esteves called National Geographic Islander II 'gracious like a private yacht,' offering 'space and comfort, a culinary program that highlights the regions of Ecuador with locally sourced ingredients, a spa and a 1:1 guest-to-crew ratio. But she is also a world class expedition vessel designed for active exploration, with a fleet of kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, a glass-bottom Zodiac, snorkel gear for all guests, and a flotilla of Zodiacs.
'We are so ready to head to the Galápagos Islands and could not be more excited.'