The occasion was a closed ceremony exclusively for Lindblad passengers.
Sven Lindblad, founder and co-chair of Lindblad Expeditions, and Dolf Berle, CEO, presided over the event, joined by the ship’s captain, Aaron Wood. A video highlighted the construction of National Geographic Endurance — named to honor polar explorer Ernest Shackleton — and the polar environments the ship will explore.
National Geographic Endurance was delivered by Ulstein Verft in March 2020 but has not carried passengers until now because of the pandemic.
Built to explore
'The energy, the enthusiasm, the dedication that has been put in to the making of this ship was for one purpose only — to make it possible for you folks to go out and explore the world, and to appreciate the world and all its wonders and then to face together some of the challenges that we inevitably must as it relates to the natural world,' Lindblad told the attendees.
'I have not seen the ship since January of 2020, and arriving today and walking through, it just took my breath away. I really hope you like this ship,' he added.
Family feeling, importance to environmental research
Berle said it was wonderful to see passengers meeting staff from previous trips, some more than 10 years ago, 'and so there is a family feeling already, and that is a big part of who we are.' He continued: 'The environmental aspect of what we are doing, and the importance of this ship to promote research, raise funds for [National Geographic's] Pristine Seas, and for the people in the communities we explore, carries on the great Lindblad tradition.'
For his part, Capt. Wood said the ideas that went into making National Geographic Endurance 'have been coming for decades, for whole careers. And this vessel is the pinnacle of all of that.'
Lindblad's Jen Martin, director of field staff and expedition development, and Ana Esteves, director, hotel operations, sent the Champagne bottle smashing against the hull.
Passengers were served Champagne and canapes dockside while listening to Icelandic musicians before embarking on National Geographic Endurance's 19-day inaugural cruise exploring Iceland and Greenland.
The voyage also marks the opening of CHANGE, a permanent installation of drawings, paintings, video, photography and sculpture curated by artist Zaria Forman. The exhibit features a wide range of artists dedicated to examining and expressing responses to vulnerable polar geographies.
Polar Class 5
National Geographic Endurance is built to Polar Class 5/Category A, the highest ice-class rating of the recent crop of purpose-built passenger expedition newbuilds (apart from Ponant's upcoming Le Commandant-Charcot, Polar Class 2; Swan Hellenic's upcoming SH Minerva will also be Polar Class 5).
Polar Class 5 enables operation year-round in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions.
The 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance is fully stabilized and has Ulstein's patented X-BOW hull form for a smoother, quieter ride.