Luxury expedition cruise company, Ponant, will build its fifth and sixth Explorers Series ships, along with a new hybrid icebreaker ship — growing its fleet to a total of 12 ships and 460 total departures, by 2021. The new projects represent a $12 billion investment from the company.
Ponant made the announcement during its first press conference at Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale this week. The announcement also came as Ponant is readying to celebrate the line’s 30th anniversary this April.
“After so many good ideas, we are able today to share this vision … mainly small is best, destination is key, enrichment and innovation are our motto,” said Founder Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée.
The Explorers Series ships will sail with 92 cabins each, including four suites featuring bay windows and terraces on each ship. Two will arrive this year (Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain), two more in 2019 (Le Bougainville and Le Dumont d’Urville), and then the last two in 2020 (Le Bellot and Le Surville).
All will feature Blue Eye lounges — underwater, multi-sensory, 800-square-foot spaces that hold about 40 guests, with standing room for another 10.
The ships will also comply with the international CLEANSHIP label, giving them recognition as environmentally responsible vessels.
Ponant’s new Icebreaker ship, which is set to come into service in April 2021, will be able to sail voyages to the Geographic North Pole and the Northeast Passage, making the brand the first true cruise line to reach the North Pole, according to Sauvée.
“For the first time, a real cruise ship will be in this roof of the world,” he said. “This ship will be very, very special, able to go where no one else can go.”
The Icebreaker, which took three years to plan and will now take an additional three years to build, will be powered by a hybrid LNG and battery system, being able to sail for about 100 days on that power alone. It will sail with 270 guests in 135 cabins.
Though Ponant represents itself as a French cruise line, Edie Rodriguez, the new Ponant brand chairman and special advisor, and former Crystal Cruises president and CEO, assured press at Seatrade that it is a bilingual experience onboard.
“I can tell you, I sailed in November as an American who only speaks English fluently and I was very, very comfortable,” Rodriguez said. “All the crew are bilingual. The international standard of luxury paints across every language. On the Ponant experience, if you’re not fluent in French, you will feel comfortable.”
More than that, Rodriguez said, the sailings on the new ships will appeal to guests who identify as “a wanderlust global traveler … it’s an active traveler who is young at heart but it is an international global guest who is really wanting to immerse.”