Ponant is launching four new identical 184-guest ships in 2018-2019.
French expedition line Ponant has signed a letter of intent to build four 184-guest expedition ships that will debut between summer 2018 and summer 2019. The ships will be built in the Vard, the Norwegian subsidiary for Fincantieri group.
The new project is being billed as the first step to expand Ponant since Artemis, the holding company for the Pinault family, purchased the line in 2015. Ponant currently has five ships, including the original Le Ponant sailing vessel and four nearly identical vessels—Le Boreal, L'Austral, Le Soleal, and Le Lyrial—that each carry 264 guests.
The four new ships, which will be equipped with the latest environment preservation technology, will be 128 meters in length with 92 staterooms and a crew of 110. The ice-class-ranked vessels will be able to reach ports and destinations that larger vessels cannot.
Ponant said it is focused on the expedition niche for future growth, bringing all its expertise into developing the concept. Blue Expeditions will focus on exploring Oceania while Green Expeditions will take guests to South America, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, and the Indian Ocean. All ships will have a fleet of Zodiacs with naturalists on board.
Ponant's news comes a day after Crystal debuted plans for Crystal Endeavor, a 200-guess luxury expedition mega-yacht. Celebrity Cruises also announced it is buying Galápagos Islands tour operator Ocean Adventures and its two ships, the 48-guest Eclipse and the 16-guest catamaran Athala II, to add to its existing expedition ship Celebrity Xpedition.