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It was the night Australian pride met American expertise. It was also a night when world-leader Lindblad Expeditions learned they bought more than a ship when they acquired the Orion.

Agents, media and the industry gathered at Sydney’s Taronga events centre to hear Sven Lindblad and son Jeremy talk about their plans for incorporating the new vessel into their 10-strong fleet.

An all-star cast, including expedition and dive leaders, were on hand to help launch a new 110 page Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic catalogue, highlighting their itineraries into 2014.

It was a mark of how seriously the company, which has been boosting its brand with an advertising blitz, is taking its assault on the Australian cruising market.

Lindblad can now visit all 7 continents and offer over 40 unique itineraries ranging from seven to twenty-four nights.

But the Orion doesn’t officially become the National Geographic Orion until March, 2014. And among its loyal cruisers, there are concerns about what might happen to its unique mix of adventure and luxury.

One asked about the crew – currently still Orion sailors.  And while an Australian crewman was, indeed, present on the night, no-one could say what will happen to the rest once the vessel completes her last journey as the Orion in March.

Another former passenger asked whether the theatre was being removed to make way for more cabins.  Sven denied any such plans.

“We won’t be adding things if they don’t add value, and if our guests aren’t going to love them.”

The good news for Lindblad is that they have bought a ship and brand that still commands astonishing loyalty among its past clients, which is considered something of an Australian icon in the sector of adventure cruising.

The bad news is that there is some work to do to convince those loyalists they should love the addition of the Lindblad expertise and style.

There can be little doubt about Lindblad’s credentials. Their association with National Geographic and long history in expedition cruising makes them a real world beater.

In an upbeat message to the industry, Sven told the brochure launch the company was excited to be joining with Australia in riding the wave of industry expansion.

He later said he was “optimistic as hell” that Australians would appreciate the experiences on offer.

One insider told Cruise Passenger that Orion was unique in offering the best of both worlds.  “It has a foot in both the luxury and expedition camps. And the concern is that there are elements of the Orion that may not be transferred.”

Australian business development director Jeremy Lindblad was optimistic that Australians would embrace the Lindblad brand, adding he had received a lot of positive feedback.

Brochure highlights include Arctic Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Antarctica, Kimberley Coast, Panama & Costa Rica, Galapagos, Northwest Passage, Borneo, Alaska, the upper reaches of the Amazon River, Tahiti and Easter Island.

Get a copy of Explorations by calling Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) / 0800 444 462 (New Zealand) or see your travel agent. Email: [email protected]

An electronic version of Explorations can be downloaded at www.orionexpeditions.com/explorations