Is Ponant the right luxury cruise line to explore the world with?
With the constant launches of mega cruise ships packed with resort features appealing to families and party animals, cruisers seeking a quieter, sophisticated and destination led experience should not fret that they are being ignored. There is a refined revolution taking place in cruising. Gently setting sail are cruise lines with small cruise ships designed to provide an intimate and luxurious alternative to those headline-grabbing resort-style giants.
The luxury cruise sector is also growing by offering travellers smaller ships, high levels of personalised service, extravagant dining choices and luxurious boutique hotel-style accommodation. However, in my view, their real appeal is that they actively focus on taking their passengers to out of the way and hard to reach regions, calling on small and unusual ports that bigger ships cannot get into, and curating more immersive and culturally connecting excursions and experiences once there.
One of these cruise lines is Ponant. Although a less well-known name to many cruisers in countries like United States and United Kingdom, they are worth taking a closer look at. There have a number of features and things they do that set them aside in the luxury segment.
Who are Ponant?
Ponant was founded over 30 years ago by a group of young Frenchmen, all of whom had been in the French Merchant Navy. Its name at inception was La Compagnie des îles du Ponant, a name the line retained until being simplified to Ponant in 2014. The founders’ mission was to create and offer travellers the chance to experience the art of travelling at sea with French tradition and flair, known as “The French Way of Sea”. The line still holds firmly to its Frenchness and imbues it into everything it does. It is based in the French port city of Marseille, the ships are registered in the country, have bi-lingual French-English crew and the design, dining and service draws on this culture.
The Ponant fleet currently consists of seven ships and is rapidly expanding to twelve as new ships come into service over the next three years. The first ship, which is still in service, is the Le Ponant. It is a three-masted yacht with just 32 staterooms that set sail in May 1991. Its maiden voyage was inspired by the explorations of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean archipelago. This cruise set the direction and tone for Ponant’s approach to cruising: exploration and expedition.
As Ponant brought more ships into service, such as the 132-stateroom Le Boréal, L’Austral and Le Soléal, the regions and itineraries expanded but they stayed focused on taking guests to the exotic, out of way and iconic regions of the world.
Expedition and Exploration Cruising
They are probably most well-known and respected in the industry for their flagship polar expedition cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica. Travellers are taken on luxurious tours of these far-flung places escorted by a multi-discipline Expedition Team. This is made up of experts in the geography, history, wildlife and bird life in the polar regions. Daily briefings and lectures guide, inform and educate guests on what they see and interact with.
Ponant ships also cover vast areas of the world, ideal for travellers eager to see and delve deeper into other continents. In every region they cruise to the line will not just call on the obvious and expected sights that other lines visit, but also explore places that larger ships cannot call on. You can explore the coast of Africa, including Senegal and South Africa, call at out of way places in Latin America, visit Alaska and visit beyond the standard stops, weave through exotic and mysterious parts of Russia or engage with the cultures through Asia, Pacific and Oceania.
Why Ponant Could Be For You
If you are a traveller looking for a luxurious and intimate way to explore the world, I suggest take a look at what Ponant offers. Their ships are small with around 132 staterooms, décor and comfort is akin to a smart up-market boutique hotel, there is a wide choice of quality French cuisine, attentive bilingual French-English crew and a choice of itineraries that take you to exotic and out of the way places.
Many of the luxury expedition cruise lines are American owned and have an on-board experience to reflect that. However, Ponant’s roots, attitude and ambience is steeped in its French heritage and philosophy. So, the moment you step on board you are transported into a different world to the other lines. And then you still get to see the most exciting places the world has to offer.