Update (9:56 a.m. EDT) -- Lindblad officially has canceled National Geographic Quest's first departure, scheduled for June 26. Compensation details (listed below) remain the same.
In a letter to affected passengers, Sven Lindblad, President and CEO, said "Everything was proceeding extremely well with the National Geographic Quest until the process of moving her from land to sea started -- an intricate and complex process with one simple aim. During our launch, the shipyard team encountered circumstances in which the vessel began moving out of alignment, forcing the operation to halt. The ship remains poised to launch, but the nature of tide cycles, and the need to realign her entry in the water caused delays that will affect the yard's ability to deliver the vessel to us in a timely manner. We are beyond sorry."
The July 8 "Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness" cruise is expected to depart, as planned.
(June 2, 2 p.m. EDT) -- The June 26 inaugural voyage of National Geographic Quest, Lindblad Expeditions' first newly built cruise ship, is likely to be delayed.
The decision came after Sven Lindblad, president and CEO of the line, visited the Nichols Bros. shipyard in Whidbey Island, Washington and had concerns.
"Based on some developments, it has been determined that the delivery of the ship may be delayed, which could cause the cancellation of the June 26 inaugural voyage to Alaska and British Columbia," the line said in a statement. A final decision on the cruise will be reached on June 12.
Lindblad did not specify the exact concerns. In a letter to passengers booked on a June 24 preview sailing, he noted the following: "As a ship nears completion there are all manner of items that need testing and time to adjust. That's no surprise and was built into the schedule. However, a variety of things have colluded to set us back enough to make this decision."
Passengers booked on the June 26 inaugural sailing have been notified, also in a personal letter from Mr. Lindblad.
"Canceling this voyage, if we must, would be a great disappointment I'm sure for you and for so many others, and I am extremely sorry, as are all of us, that this is even an issue."
As compensation, Lindblad Expeditions will cover all air penalties incurred, with a dedicated team of specialists to answer calls and questions about the change, and to discuss the best possible rebooking process.
Passengers have a choice to 1) Stay booked on the June 26 voyage with a decision no later than June 12 2) Switch to another ship and itinerary now, some within a few days of original departure at a 50 percent reduced price 3) Switch to the same itinerary at a later date in 2017 or 2018 at a 50 percent reduced price or 4) Cancel the voyage with a full refund and a $2,000 certificate, per person, toward any future voyage.
Any difference between the original cost of the Quest departure and any new departures will be refunded.
When it launches, National Geographic Quest will set sail for Alaska.
--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor