The 62-passenger, 99-ton National Geographic Sea Lion suffered damage to its hull and one propeller and canceled the remainder of a 7-night cruise after striking the uncharted rock in the Las Perlas island chain. The small expedition ship was departing an anchorage about 70 nautical miles from Panama City, Panama, on March 4 when the collision occurred. The line said there were no injuries to any of the 55 guests or 35 crewmembers onboard.
After clearance from the United States Coast Guard, the ship returned to port in Panama City under its own power, arriving at 5:00 a.m. local time on March 5, the fourth day of the cruise.
According to its statement, Lindblad Expeditions gave passengers the option of continuing their trip to Costa Rica -- by plane and bus -- or to return home. Passengers who returned home will receive a full refund, including airfare, and those who carry on will receive $2,500. All but 16 passengers chose to continue the trip.
National Geographic Sea Lion will go into dry dock in Panama City today, and the line has canceled its next scheduled sailing, a 7-night cruise, that was set to depart March 9. In its statement, Lindblad confirmed that the following cruise, scheduled to depart Colon, Panama, on March 16, will take place.
Another ship, Hurtigruten's Kong Harald, ran aground and took on water overnight on March 4 in a remote Norwegian fjord north of the Arctic Circle. No injuries were reported in that incident, either. Hurtigruten canceled the remainder of the 8-night Stokmarknes to Kirkenes to Bergen cruise, and the ship is in dry-dock in Fiskarstrand to repair its breached hull.
Lindblad Expeditions also announced March 5 that it is buying Australia-based Orion Expedition Cruises. Orion owns just one ship, the 106-passenger Orion, which it sails on expedition cruises to Papua New Guinea and Antarctica. Australia's Travel Weekly reported that Orion will begin sailing itineraries for Lindblad in March 2014.
Lindblad Expeditions currently operates expedition cruises for National Geographic on its five small ships. The company also charters five other ships.
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor