This Week in Cruise: National Geographic Orion Inaugurated in Auckland; MSC Cruises Signs LOI for Two New Ships

The National Geographic Orion, the newest ship in the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic fleet, was formally inaugurated last week in Auckland, New Zealand. The ceremony marked the culmination of a year-long transition from Orion Expedition Cruises to Lindblad Expeditions, and was held alongside the dock at Queens Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand. Jeremy Lindblad, business development manager Australia for Lindblad Expeditions, captain Mike Taylor and diver and underwater filmmaking legend Valerie Taylor shared a few words during the event.

Immediately following the ceremony, the 102-guest National Geographic Orion embarked on her inaugural voyage to the South Pacific following in the wake of Captain Cook from New Zealand’s North Island to the Solomon Sea. Valerie Taylor joined the expedition as the Global Perspectives guest speaker.

MSC Cruises signed a letter of intent (LOI) with STX France for the construction of two new cruise ships with an option for two more. The two ships will join MSC Cruises’ fleet, currently counting 12 ships, all built in the Saint-Nazaire yards. The signature took place at the Hôtel de L’Industrie in Paris in the presence of Gianluigi Aponte, president of MSC group, Laurent Castaing, GM of STX France, and Pierre Moscovici, French minister of economy and finance.

The first two cruise ships are due for delivery respectively in 2017 and 2019. The ships will be 1033 feet long and 141 feet wide, with a gross tonnage of about 167,600 tons, including 2,250 cabins for guests, nearly 820 crew cabins and accommodating 5,700 passengers and 1,536 crew members.

The contract signed is worth 16 million working hours for STX France and its subcontractors, 9 million for the prototype and 7 million for the second unit. Building is due to start in spring 2015.

Celebrity Cruises revealed its Caribbean sailings for 2015-16, ranging from four to fourteen nights. Guests will have the opportunity to combine itineraries, including a vacation of 28 nights. Captain’s Club loyalty members have exclusive 'Priority Access' for booking their Caribbean sailings beginning today - five days before the official on-sale date, March 25.

The Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Reflection. Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Infinity will be sailing to the Caribbean beginning October 2015, and guests are able to select the islands, beaches and cultures they will encounter during the itineraries.

Suggested Articles:

Royal Caribbean Group is extending its “Cruise with Confidence” cancellation policy for its four brands through September 1, 2020. Learn more here.

Polar Latitudes' new MS Seaventure will have the highest ice class awarded to passenger vessels. Here's what travelers can expect.

Curious travelers can learn about coral research in the Cayman Islands through a new “Reefs Go Live” program. Here's what you need to know.