Inmarsat is to provide satellite communications through Fleet Xpress for Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic’s new adventure cruise ship, ‘National Geographic Venture’.
The expedition ship completed its first cruise around the Galapagos Islands in December, 2018 before moving to Baja California. It is also destined for the Pacific Northwest coast and Alaska in the next few months.
Built by US shipyard Nichols Brothers, the 73 m long by 14 m beam ‘Venture’ is one of a growing list of ice-strengthened expedition ships catering for more remote destinations.
With a capacity for 100 guests supported by 50 crew, ship-to-shore connectivity is core to adventure cruising delivering comfort, safety and continuity of lifestyle, as well as get close-up to nature.
“Fleet Xpress is the right fit for our fleet of smaller expedition vessels, due to the requirement of a smaller VSAT terminal and the ability to provide hi-speed, reliable, global coverage as these vessels sail to remote parts the globe where connectivity is limited and our guest expectation is always to be connected,” said Arthur Theodorou, Lindblad Expeditions IT Director.
“Expedition cruising is creating a significant new market for Fleet Xpress,” said Christian Cordoba, Inmarsat Maritime Channel Manager for Yachting and Passenger. “Combining the high data speed of Ka-band and continuous L-band back-up with purpose-designed and easy to install 1 m terminals allows Fleet Xpress achieves 24/7 coverage, stability and reliability, including high-speed IoT connectivity, whether the ship is in the Arctic or miles up an inland channel.”
Cordoba also claimed that the new generation of expedition cruisers have especially high expectations for connectivity, which they consider a lifestyle entitlement. “For adventure cruisers today, connectivity is part of the package they are paying for; this is an audience, which expects a highly educational vacation, but also to share experiences online instantaneously,” he said.
Service reliability and speed become hotel management issues that affect brand reputation, ratings and repeat business, he explained.
“From the owner’s perspective, Fleet Xpress is also the answer because these compact ships don’t have the real estate for the sizeable terminals larger cruise ships use to connect via C-band. Meanwhile, L-band alone falls short on data speeds and Ku-band services may work with compact shipboard terminals, but they can’t offer the benefit of a seamless global coverage the itineraries demand,” he added.
Fleet Xpress is now installed on board six Lindblad Expeditions ships, including ‘Venture’s’ sister ship ‘National Geographic Quest’, delivered in 2017, with retrofits undertaken on ‘Sea Bird’, ‘Sea Lion’, ‘Endeavour II’ and ‘Islander’. The system is fully integrated with the ship phone systems (PABX), and the internal communications platforms and local area networks used to optimise vessel operations.
Fleet Xpress’ reliability in service, and the robust and established I-5 and I-4 satellites supporting Ka-band and L-band, respectively, are also attracting new types of vessels, such as adventure cruise ships like ‘National Geographic Venture’ to the high-speed data network, Cordoba claimed.