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Your top options for a Galapagos cruise are about to change

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Two of the best-known names in Galapagos Islands cruising, Lindblad Expeditions and Celebrity Cruises, are about to shake up their offerings in the destination in the wake of a deal.

Lindblad Expeditions on Wednesday announced that two of Celebrity’s three vessels in the Galapagos will shift to the Lindblad fleet in January.

The two vessels — 48-passenger Celebrity Xpedition and 16-passenger Celebrity Xploration — will be extensively refurbished after the transfer before beginning operations under the Lindblad banner, the company said.

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Lindblad also said the vessels would be renamed.

The addition of the two new vessels, which Lindblad is purchasing for an undisclosed sum, will double the size of the Lindblad fleet in the Galapagos from two to four vessels, making it one of the largest players in Galapagos cruises.

For years, Lindblad has operated two ships in the region: 96-passenger National Geographic Endeavour II and 48-passenger National Geographic Islander II.

The brand offers six different itineraries around the Galapagos, with more than 100 departures a year.

An artist's drawing of Celebrity Xpedition as it'll look when sailing for Lindblad Expeditions
A rendering of Celebrity Xpedition as it’ll look after it begins sailing for Lindblad Expeditions. LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS

“We recognize and appreciate the immense privilege our company has to operate and grow our expedition cruise offerings in the Galápagos Islands,” said Sven-Olof Lindblad, founder and CEO of Lindblad Expeditions. “By sourcing well-appointed vessels and onboarding the most experienced crew and staff who meet our exacting standards of responsible exploration, we’re able to transport guests from around the world to the iconic archipelago and help them understand the importance of protecting and preserving its wonders and wildlife, as a consequence of their personal experience.”

Related: Is this the ultimate Antarctica cruise ship? Our take on one of Lindblad’s newest vessels

Lindblad was one of the pioneers of expedition cruising in the Galapagos more than half a century ago. Notably, it operated the first nonscientific international civilian expedition to the destination in 1967.

The company has also long been a leader in expedition cruising in other parts of the world, sailing to some of the most remote and hard-to-reach destinations, including the Arctic, Antarctica and Australia’s Kimberley region.

With the addition of the two Celebrity vessels, Lindblad’s worldwide fleet of owned, leased and chartered ships will grow to 19 vessels.

Related: Expedition cruises: The ultimate guide to cruising to remote, hard-to-reach places

Lindblad said on Wednesday that customers would be able to make bookings for the two new vessels starting later this month. Lindblad didn’t say when the first sailings for the ships under the Lindblad banner would be.

With the transfer of two of its three Galapagos ships to the Lindblad fleet, Celebrity’s footprint in the Galapagos will decline significantly. The line’s sole remaining ship in the region will be 100-passenger Celebrity Flora.

Unveiled in 2019, Celebrity Flora is one of the newest, biggest and most elegant vessels in the Galapagos.

A rendering of Celebrity Xploration as it'll look after it begins sailing for Lindblad Expeditions.
A rendering of Celebrity Xploration as it’ll look after it begins sailing for Lindblad Expeditions. LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS

Celebrity’s expedition-style Galapagos sailings, which have taken place on very small vessels, have been a bit of an outlier for the brand. Celebrity is better known for more traditional cruises operated by much larger vessels.

Celebrity and its sister brand, Silversea Cruises, have been leaders in Galapagos voyages for many years. Silversea currently operates one large ship, the 100-passenger Silver Origin, in the Galapagos. It is considered the most upscale vessel in the destination.

Built on a similar platform, Celebrity Flora and Silver Origin are two of the biggest ships in the Galapagos. The destination limits the number of people who can sail on a Galapagos cruise to 100 per voyage.

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