The majority of the cruise ships that make Juneau a port of call carry thousands of passengers.
The National Geographic Quest will host just 100.
On Saturday, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic launched the Quest, its first ever new build, from Juneau. The ship left from Anacortes, Washington, for a shake-out cruise to Alaska, arriving in Juneau Friday. Its first passengers boarded at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and the Quest was then set to start an eight-day expedition exploring Southeast Alaska.
“We had to overcome some obstacles,” admitted Marc Cappelletti, the ship’s director of expedition development.
The vessel originally was expected to debut June 26. But the line scrubbed that cruise, citing problems with a launch attempt. Then a little over a month ago, the vessel was damaged as she slid from the launch ramp.
Late Saturday afternoon, crew members were putting a shine on the brand new boat, washing down decks, vacuuming the salon and setting tables in the dining room.
The Quest was set to leave Juneau at about 11:30 p.m., Cappelletti said during a tour of the ship Saturday.
From here, it will head to Tracy Arm on Sunday, then on to Petersburg, said Sue Penn, who coordinates all the off-ship activities.
“I get to plan the itinerary for the whole trip,” Penn said. “I work with the captain to decide where we’re going and what we’re going to do.”
Other stops include Saginaw Bay, the north end of Chichagof Island, Glacier Bay and Sitkoh Bay before the Quest ends the trip in Sitka, she said.
The Quest will operate expeditions in Alaska through mid-September; the ship will also sail in Costa Rica, Panama and through the Canal to Belize.
According to Lindblad, the Quest is larger than its 62-guest Sea Bird and Sea Lion ships, but has the same shallow draft depth, allowing it to navigate the same inner reaches. Her twin expedition craft landing platforms allow passengers to rapidly get on and off the ship to take advantage of wildlife sightings and maximize their time off the ship exploring.
The Quest is outfitted with kayaks, paddle boards and eight Zodiac-style landing craft for outdoorsy adventures during voyages and for exploring. It features its own mudroom with rows of lockers where passengers can store boots, snorkeling equipment and other gear, making excursion preparation more efficient.
Scientific gadgets designed to pique the passengers’ interest include a remotely operated vehicle, a video microscope designed to display microorganisms from polar waters, and a hydrophone and bow-cam designed for immediate bow deployment to hear and film marine mammals.
“We’re of the mindset that the ship is a platform,” Cappelletti said, noting that sailing aboard the Quest is more about getting off the ship and exploring.
For more information on the Quest, go to www.expeditions.com.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.