French expedition cruise line Ponant is growing its presence with an expanded fleet of ships, new itineraries and a fresh focus on sustainable sailing. Kerry Gallagher joined the team onboard Le Champlain to find out more.
Explore to inspire. This is the essence of luxury expedition cruise line Ponant, and it resonates throughout everything they do. Founded 34 years ago by a group of French merchant marine officers it’s evident that exploration, adventure, navigation and a passion for discovery are still paramount to this day.
I came to this conclusion during a three-day sailing from Dover to Bergen onboard one of Ponant’s Explorer-Class ships – Le Champlain. It was an introduction to a brand that many may not be too familiar with in the UK, but one which is making waves thanks to a programme of expansion. A portfolio of 13 ships include an iconic yacht, Le Ponant; four sisterships built for expeditions; six new-generations ships, called the Ponant Explorer series; an elegant luxury vessel, Le Paul Gauguin; and finally the world’s first luxury icebreaker – Le Commandant Charcot.
This latest addition is one of the most advanced polar vessels at sea, a hybrid electric ship powered by liquified natural gas, making it a cleaner and more sustainable way to explore the polar regions. And Ponant’s commitment to the environment doesn’t stop there, in fact the 14th vessel which is currently in the planning stages, aims to have zero impact on the environment when sailing. It’s an impressive mission, allowing travelling explorers to explore while preserving the fragile environment they discover.
Aside from absorbing so much about Ponant during my time aboard Le Champlain, there was of course also time to enjoy the ship and all her facilities. With just 92 staterooms, she is small in size and big in style, sophistication and service. The interiors are elegant and ooze a cosy, intimate atmosphere. Staterooms, all of which boast a balcony, are incredibly well-appointed and comfortable.
But perhaps the highlight of the ship lies below the surface on deck zero. The Blue Eye is a truly ‘see-it-to-believe-it’ lounge, with huge viewing windows which bring the outside in. There are even microphones placed on the ship’s exterior so not only can you see the underwater world around you, but you can hear it too. An experience not to be missed.
image (c) Ponant Jacques-Rougere
What struck me most during my time on Le Champlain was the balance between luxury and laid-back. There’s no doubt this is a luxury cruise line, the ship is exceptionally beautiful, the food is exquisite, and the service is outstanding. But there’s a relaxed ambience which turns its back on formalities and encourages guests to relax, unwind and soak up the immersive experience. I know I certainly did.
To find out more about Ponant’s cruises, call our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678