Lindblad’s Orion will ramp up focus on exploration

Issues & Trends – June 2013

Lindblad’s Orion will ramp up focus on exploration

By Caroline Gladstone

Lindblad ExpeditionsLINDBLAD Expeditions will ramp up Orion’s exploration offerings, adding a full fleet of Zodiacs and more scuba diving, following its purchase of the Australian company last month.

The US expedition company, which works in alliance with National Geographic, moved quickly to pro-duce a new brochure in time for the Australian visit of founder Sven Lindblad and his expedition and sales team last month.

His team and the former Orion sales executives, who will all be staying with the company along with all the North Sydney-based Australian staff, met with agents, media and a select group of 100 Orion past passengers to talk about his approach to the company.

While Lindblad said little would be changed to the ship’s service and product delivery (saying it was by far the most luxurious vessel in the 10-ship fleet his company operates) he will enhance and “augment” the exploration and expedition side.

Other enhancements to the vessel, which will be re-christened National Geographic Orion in March 2014 following a refurbishment in dry dock, include a remotely operated under water camera providing vision to onboard passengers. Expedition staff will also be doubled.

Lindblad said today was the “most exhilarating time in exploration” with the availability of new technology and the existence of entrepreneurial adventurers such as film-maker James Cameron (who has recently made news exploring the Mariana Trench).

Lindblad said his company was almost crippled following the fall-out after the September 11 terrorist
attacks, however it was saved by its campaign to drive home the exploration message.

A charismatic speaker, and man who clearly loves Australia, he said Lindblad Expeditions used the simple line “We need the tonic of wilderness” (a quote from Henry David Thoreau) in a huge marketing campaign post-2001.

“That simple message saved our business,” Lindblad said, “and pro-pelled us ahead of our competition. (Our experiences) are not just travel experiences, they are life experiences.”

And with that in mind National Geographic Orion will explore new areas on longer itineraries and give its passengers more of the equipment to do so.

In his brochure message, Lindblad says: “Our goal is to offer the most in-depth and immersive expedition experience possible.”

Orion will be fitted with a full fleet of Zodiacs and 24 double kayaks, complete snorkel gear for every guest, scuba gear for 24 divers and a dive master on selected itineraries.

The ship will also have a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) operated by an undersea specialist capable of reaching depths of 300 metres. This vehicle will relay the ocean depths to passengers via vivid high-definition video.

As to pricing, Lindblad said he would adopt the same method used by the company in the US.
“We won’t discount; we have to make it enticing for people. We have learned how to do this in the US and we will be able to translate that concept effectively in Australia,” he said.

He said while the company does not promote itself as “elitist”, it cannot operate its voyages for anything less than $1000 to $1500 a day.

“We take 18,000 (passengers) a year, not big numbers, but they are 18,000 influential people. And at those prices, we are elitist by definition,” he said.

He claimed all the National Geographic Orion sailings will depart “100 per cent full”, without any dis-counting. The vessel’s first itineraries under its new name will be longer than normal and explore more areas of the Pacific, including Easter Island. Orion will continue its exploration of Antarctica however the trips will depart from South America rather than Australia/New Zealand as it is more “reliable” and there are “less limitations from the icebergs”.

The Kimberley program will continue and more time will be spent around Indonesia, especially for the divers, he said.

The first new itinerary, a 21-night “Papua New Guinea & The Islands of Vanuatu” journey will depart on March 21 (from Auckland), followed by a 19-night “Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea and Micronesia” arrangement departing April 11 from Cairns.

The third new itinerary is a 14-night “Spice Islands & the Coral Triangle”. The 21-night trip leads in at $24,045 per person (twin share).



Subscribe To travelBulletin