Two more expedition ships for rapidly expanding Ponant

Ponant has now ordered six Explorer-class ships. The first two arrive this year.FORT LAUDERDALE — Ponant plans to build two more Explorer-class ships for delivery in 2020.

The two ships will be called Le Bellot and Le Surville. They will be the fifth and sixth in a class that starts with two ships arriving in 2018 (Le Laperouse in June and Le Champlain in September), followed by two (Le Bougainville and Le Kerguelen) in 2019.

Like the other Explorer ships, Le Bellot and Le Surville are named for French navigators (Joseph Rene Bellot and Jean-François-Marie de Surville).

Together with Ponant’s current five-ship fleet and an icebreaker due in 2021, the French luxury expedition line expects to have 12 ships in service by 2021.

The seven new ships represent a $2 billion investment, said Herve Bellaiche, Ponant’s chief sales and marketing officer. “No other company has invested that kind of amount in small ships,” he said.

Ponant announced the new ships at a press conference at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference. The event was attended by founder Jean Emmanuel Sauvee, who created the company 30 years ago to revive the French cruising tradition embodied by the steamships Normandie and France.

However, the idea was adapted to modern times, with Ponant becoming a small-ship line while still holding to the French ocean heritage of luxury interiors and fine cuisine. “Small is best. Destination is key,” Sauvee said in summarizing the line’s philosophy.

Sauvee said Ponant expects to have 460 departures in 2021. Edie Rodriguez, hired last fall as Ponant’s Americas brand chair and corporate special advisor, said the growth makes marketing in North America imperative. “As we grow from five ships to 12, clearly, we need to conquer the U.S. market,” Rodriguez said.

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Exciting new ships are on the horizon

Crystal Endeavour - Crystal Cruises
Crystal Endeavor will be the line’s latest megayacht

Scenic Eclipse, Crystal Endeavor, and Seabourn Ovation join the luxury set, while Ponant will offer its passengers underwater lounges on four additions to its fleet.

New ships, new ports of call and a voyage around the world in 180 days are on the horizon over the next two years.

Megayachts Scenic Eclipse and Crystal Endeavor will be among the newcomers, while Seabourn is launching Ovation.

Ponant is gearing up for four new ships, all with an underwater lounge.

Scenic is hailing Eclipse as ‘the world’s first discovery yacht’. It will launch in August next year to carry 228 guests – down to 200 while in the Arctic and Antarctic. Each of the 114 suites will have a private veranda, lounge and butler service.

While guests will have the choice of nine dining options, the smallness of Eclipse – at only 16,500 tons – means it will be able to dock in more remote ports. But it’s big enough to boast two helicopters and a submarine.

Seabourn Ovation - Seabourn
Seabourn Ovation will be joining the fleet in May 2018

Ponant is set for a busy couple of years with the arrival of Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain in 2018 and Le Bougainville and Le Dumont d’Urville in 2019. All will have 88 cabins and four suites, each one with a balcony. The ships will also be the first in the world to have an underwater lounge, the Blue Eye.The 25,000-ton Crystal Endeavor will launch in 2019, cruising polar regions during the summer and autumn and following the route of migrating whales to Antarctica during the winter. A remote-operated vehicle will allow passengers to see sunken galleons, warships and liners such as Titanic.

Seabourn is introducing its latest ship – Ovation – in May 2018. Like Encore, launched this year, it will carry 600 guests, all with a private veranda, and measure 40,350 tons. “Seabourn Ovation will carry on the standard of ultra-luxury cruising that can only be found on Seabourn. We can’t wait to welcome our guests on board,” said company president Richard Meadows.

After some delay in construction, Star Clippers will finally say hello to Flying Clipper, the largest sailing ship in the world, with five masts and room for 300 guests, next year.

Many luxury lines are adding new destinations and overnight stays in the next two years. But the ultimate cruise for 2019 must be the 180-day world voyage on Oceania Cruises ship Insignia. It will travel 45,000 nautical miles across two oceans and 16 seas while visiting 90 destinations in 36 countries.

Le Laperouse - Le Champlain - Ponant
Two of Ponant’s new ships, Le Lapérouse and Le Champlain, will be launched next year

Bob Binder, the president and CEO of Oceania, said: “Our exciting 2019 Around the World journey offers guests an expertly crafted route spanning the four corners of the globe, touching on nearly 100 captivating destinations and dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is truly the journey of a lifetime.”

For the first time in the history of Crystal Cruises, both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will embark on world cruises next year, offering travellers four separate global itineraries.

With the ships meeting in Sydney on February 17, 2018, guests can switch vessels for a new route. Ranging from 97 to 129 nights, the voyages will travel to a combined 111 destinations in 45 countries with 50 overnights.

Silversea is sailing a 132-day world cruise in 2019, with Silver Whisper calling at 52 ports in 31 countries across five continents.

Nine writers, including Paul Theroux and Pico Iyer, will be invited on board to create short stories inspired by the destinations.

Cunard has launched its Oceans of Discovery programme for January to May 2019, including the cruise line’s first return to Alaska in more than 20 years with Queen Elizabeth. Queen Victoria will do a full 107-night western circumnavigation of the globe.

Regent Seven Seas is offering world cruises next year and in 2019 on Seven Seas Navigator. Looking even further ahead, it has announced a 131-night world cruise on Seven Seas Mariner, departing from San Francisco on January 24, 2020

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L’Boreal expedition ship evacuated after fire

The French luxury expedition ship L’Boreal was evacuated after an engine room fire, but there were no casualties or injuries, according to its operator, Ponant.

The incident took place around 2 a.m. on Nov. 18 as the ship was sailing near the Falkland Islands as part of a cruise to Antarctica. The line said a fire “of a technical nature” broke out in a compartment of the engine room. As a precaution, guests were evacuated to another Ponant ship, L’Austral, which happened to be positioned nearby.

The two ships are similar: each has a capacity of 264 passengers.

Ponant said the balance of the cruise has been canceled and passengers are en route to Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, from where they will be “directly repatriated.”