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Tuesday,  June 18, 2024 8:47 PM 

Ponant breaking ice with world’s first multi-sensory underwater lounge

Ponant breaking ice with world’s first multi-sensory underwater lounge
Ponant Cruises CEO Navin Sawhney, and Theresa Gatta, vice president of sales, North America.
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

Five-star luxury French cruise line, Ponant Cruises, has confirmed four new vessels, including the first-ever electric-hybrid cruise icebreaker, propelled by liquified natural gas, the Ponant Icebreaker.

Set to debut in 2021, the Icebreaker will feature 135 state rooms with unparalleled luxury service, featuring key French elements like Hermes bath and beauty products, Bruce Clicquot champagne, and French macarons.

DSC_0005.JPGNavin Sawhney, CEO, Ponant Cruises, Vanessa Lee, president, Cruise Strategies, and Theresa Gatta, vice president, sales, North America.

Formed in 1988 by a group of sailors, Ponant Cruises has quickly gained worldwide recognition for its carefully-crafted itineraries available in polar, tropical, or subtropical destinations across all seven continents, with the exception of the Galapagos Islands. “A decade ago, nobody ever really thought about luxury exhibitions in this sort of detail with the type of consumer that was emerging at that time,” said Navin Sahwney, CEO Ponant Cruises. “On small ships, they were being carried out either on very old vessels that had been repurposed from other uses like the military, or ones that were very outdated by contemporary guest standards.”

image004 (002).jpgA rendering of the Ponant Icebreaker, coming 2021.

Ponant Cruises launched the Boreal in 2010 as an offering that lived up to the expectations of the contemporary consumer. “The Boreal took care of the needs of a lot of people,” Sahwney explained. “The first, is that if you’re in an environment like the Arctic or Antarctic, you’re going to want a balcony so you can enjoy the scenery as it goes by. The second, was, that if you don’t want food that is ‘glampy’ or ‘campy’; Boomers are by far the largest consumers of travel, and they want simple, important luxurious items. Third, you can now use technology to traverse through sensitive environments in a very sustainable way, and our fleet is all Clean Ship Certified.”

Ponant Cruises has a team in Marseille that undergo significant training, prior to leading the exhibitions, in order to truly recreate that sense of travelling with a purpose, which is what much of today’s travellers are after.

©PONANT - Cabin.jpgThe standard cabin of any of Ponant's four new expedition vessels, coming 2019.

“The vast majority of travellers onboard Ponant are married couples; they are very well-educated and generally off the coasts of North American companies,” said Navin Sawhney, CEO Ponant USA. “Most importantly psychographically, their behaviour is very interesting. These are people who are incredibly well-read, incredibly well-travelled; they’ve moved well beyond, in the last 30 years, from sight-seeing, to sight-doing, to now, sight-being--they want immersion in the destination and they want it to transform them, they don’t want to transform the environment itself, and this is a very important reason as to why they choose small ships. It’s very hard to get 5,000 like-minded people together, but it’s a lot easier to get 100 couples together.”

Ponant Cruises are all bilingual in French and English, with 40 per cent of guests coming from France, Belgium, and Quebec, 30 per cent from North America, 15 per cent from Australia, five per cent from the U.K., and the remainder from continental Asia, Central America, and Africa.

Expanding expeditions for 2019

The newest expedition ship by Ponant will be powered by electric and liquified natural gas, which is extremely important going forward. Due to the fragile ecosystems and environment of destinations like the Arctic and Antarctic, and the inevitable onset of climate change, many cruise lines are looking to technology to mitigate their carbon footprint, which is why the Ponant Icebreaker will be a game-changer. “The Ponant Icebreaker will allow us to partner with scientific communities to allow us to conduct experiments in the high Arctic in the Poles,” Sawhney explained. “Innovation means thought leadership, and we’ve done a significant amount of that, because once you’ve dominated the Poles, people want to travel to other places and for that reason alone, we’ve decided to build four more expedition ships to the four we currently have.”

©PONANT - Infinity Pool.jpgThe pool deck of Ponant's new expedition vessels.

The four new vessels will be slightly smaller in size, but they will all have a balcony, and mimic the same signature design as Ponant’s existing ships. “They will feature 92 staterooms, so therefore the theoretical capacity of 184 double beds, and they will have the first underwater lounge below the waterline called the Blue Eye, which will allow you to experience the sights and sounds which will be transmitted into the lounge and even through your body in certain locations,” Sawhney said.

The Blue Eye

All of Ponant’s four new ships, the Le Laperouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville, and Le Dumont-d’Urville will feature the Blue Eye lounge, starting with the Le Laperouse.

The Le Laperouse and the Le Champlain will debut in 2018, and the Le Dumont-d'Urville and Le Bougainville will come by 2019, prior to the launch of the Ponant Icebreaker in 2021.

©PONANT - Underwater Lounge.jpgThe Blue Eye will feature acoustic underwater ocean sounds, and the chance for guests to see aquatic life up close.

Below the water’s edge, guests can have a drink while taking in underwater worlds. Designed by Jacques Rougerie, the Blue Eye is a sensory and acoustic experience, and the best part is “we don’t have to have another submersible in the water, and more importantly from a guest experience, it has a bar,” Sawhney said. “The Blue Eye is not just another gimmick to have onboard; it’s really been designed to awaken that sense of wonder and to make a modern-day explorer out of every guest, because today’s traveller wants to be able to do that.”

Leaders in Expedition

Ponant Cruises has been leading expeditions around the world since 1999 with a team of highly-experienced expedition leaders. “We’ve done over 400 expeditions just in the Polar regions alone, and there are 22 new expedition class vessels being built, and five of those are Ponant,” Sawhney said. “We truly will remain leaders in luxury expedition globally as we go forward.”

laperlouse.jpgLe Laperouse will be the first of four new expedition vessels by Ponant Cruises, to debut in 2018.

Experiential cruising is gaining popularity worldwide, and Ponant’s Quintessential Collection speaks to the market, which, on average, represents couples 61 years of age or older. Each cruise in the Quintessential Collection pairs guests with a subject matter expert, ranging in topics from the arts, to literature, to food, to history and beyond.

The Quintessential Collection by Ponant launches May 2019, the company currently has seven themed sailings planned with special guest speakers and performances that represent the local culture and themes of the destination at sea.

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