Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic will begin a new chapter in exploration that opens up the vast new geography of the South Pacific when the 102-guest National Geographic Orion is officially launched in March 2014. An inaugural series of three remarkable voyages have been created that will explore unusual cultures, beautiful islands and some of the world’s finest diving and snorkeling.

The newest addition to the Lindblad fleet, National Geographic Orion will be newly equipped with a full roster of exploration tools including kayaks, a state-of the-art ROV (remote operated vehicle reaching depths up to 1,000 feet), full snorkeling gear for all, and a SCUBA program that can accommodate up to 24 divers at a time. The expedition team will resemble the National Geographic Explorer, and will feature a National Geographic photographer on most departures.

The three special inaugural sailings include:

  • Exploring Papua New Guinea & the Islands of Vanuatu & the Solomons: Embark in Auckland, New Zealand and set off on an epic voyage in the wake of Captain Cook. Delve into a fascinating history of intrepid explorers, convicts, headhunters, and traders as we explore Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, and the Torres Strait. In Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, don your scuba and snorkel gear to discover incredible coral reefs and lagoons, revisit World War II history, and get to know vibrant island cultures. Cap off the journey snorkeling or diving Australia’s crown jewel: the Great Barrier Reef. The voyage departs March 19, 2014 for 25 days/22 nights. Rates begin at $25,390 per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin.

Expedition highlights include:

  • Experience the rich cultures of Melanesia—Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands & Papua New Guinea—in one comprehensive voyage.
  • World-class beaches, snorkeling and diving experiences, including three days exploring the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Discover remote islands such as Norfolk Island, a UNESCO site commemorating Australian convict settlements, and Kennedy Island, site of JFK’s PT-109 rescue.
  • Witness an impressive diversity of cultures, see traditional communities and some of the best places in the world to collect “tribal” or “primitive” art.
  • Travel with National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing, known for her intimate essays about the lives of ordinary people close to home and on the other side of the globe - including the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea and the Australian outback.
  • The Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea & Micronesia: Immerse yourself in some of the most pristine marine habitats on the planet. Experience the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef and snorkel among hundreds of surreal, stingless jellyfish in Palau. Encounter the vestiges of World War II battles in Papua New Guinea and Micronesia, and get acquainted with the rich and diverse cultures of the South Pacific. The voyage departs April 9, 2014 for 22 days/19 nights. Rates begin at $19,990 per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin.

Expedition highlights include:

  • Snorkel or dive amid an astonishing world of corals and marine life off Lizard Island National Park on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Witness a swirl of flowers, feathers, and colorful woven grasses at a festive traditional dance performance on the island of Kitava, Papua New Guinea.
  • Discover World War II cave systems, torpedoes, and shipwrecks in the tropical paradise of Chuuk, Micronesia.
  • Experience age-old traditions untainted by time as we explore the intriguing islands of Micronesia’s Yap State.
  • Voyage with National Geographic photographer David Doubilet, acclaimed for his award-winning underwater photography.
  • Voyage to the Spice Islands & the Coral Triangle: Scattered across the tropical seas like gems, the islands of eastern Indonesia are fringed with white-sand beaches, karst pinnacles, and some of the most pristine coral reef systems in the world. Sail south from Palau to the Moluccas archipelago—once known as the Spice Islands. Witness the world’s richest marine biodiversity in Raja Ampat, discover the legacy of the Dutch East India Company in the Banda Islands, and experience island cultures from West Papua to Timor. The expedition departs April 27, 2014 for 17 days/14 nights. Rates begin at $14,730 per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin.

Expedition highlights include:

  • Glide a Zodiac among the emerald-tufted Rock Islands of Palau, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and kayak beneath the stunning karst formations of Bird’s Head Peninsula.
  • Immerse yourself in a dazzling world of coral and tropical fish while snorkeling or diving Raja Ampat, whose rich marine biodiversity is unparalleled.
  • Examine ancient rock art and encounter a fascinating patchwork of cultures on these remote islands.
  • Explore the turbulent history of the spice trade in Dutch East Indies, and see vestiges of World War II.
  • Travel with National Geographic photographer David Doubilet, whose personal challenge is to create a visual voice for the world’s oceans and to connect people to the incredible beauty and silent devastation happening within the invisible world below.