Lindblad Expeditions took delivery of the 1982-built, 6,100-ton Lyngen from Hurtigruten in Bergen today.

Refurbished in 1995, the Lyngen accommodated 323 passengers in cabins, plus other passengers traveling between ports, as well as 50 cars and cargo, in her Norwegian coastal service. She also has an ice strengthened hull.

The ship will be renamed the National Geographic Explorer, will be extensively refurbished, and the passenger capacity will be brought down to about 150.

The cargo space will be used to hold zodiacs and other equipment as well provide a mud room for passengers' boots, etc.

All told, Lindblad said he expects that the acquisition and the conversion will cost from $25 million to $30 million.

The conversion work will be done in a shipyard in Gotenburg. Lindblad noted that the ship has been well maintained technically.

"Our strategy," he said, "is to have the smallest ships humanly possible and still be economically viable.

"We have to face the realities of increasing costs.

"We have a very loyal customer base, and I do not expect that their first reaction will be positive (to the size). So that forces us to come up with some innovations."

Lindblad presently operates six smaller vessels on expedition programs, including two ships in the Galapagos, with a total of 426 berths and an estimated annual passenger capacity of 15,769.

Based on Lindblad's current deployment, the new ship could add another 3,750 passengers a year or an increase in the line's total capacity of about 24 percent