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PONANT PROFILE GETS BOOST IN CANADA

Ponant may not be the most well-known cruise company in Canada, but it’s a brand that is increasingly gaining profile with both consumers and the trade, says the French company’s global sales ambassador.

In Canada for two trade events last week (Toronto and Montreal), Frederic Janson, admits that until around 2015 (after its rebranding from Compagnie du Ponant and expansion began to take hold), the 34-year-old cruise company was largely known for its Gallic origins and catered to a French clientele. But with the addition of new ships (giving greater capacity), the cruise line’s demographic rapidly expanded.

And that includes Canada, with Janson noting, “that’s why we’re here doing the road show. The Canadian market for cruising is blooming and with the pandemic people have a bit more money save, and they’re ready to do some nice trips. And at Ponant, we feel we have the right product for the Canadian, and North American, market.”

Comprised of 13 vessels, the Ponant fleet is one of the most modern and recent in the world, fully Cleanship certified by Bureau Veritas, attesting to a reduced environmental impact. It’s stated mission is “Explore to Inspire,” centred around exploration to “better understand, learn, share and protect.”

Founded in 1988 by some officers in the French merchant navy, Ponant began with a single sailing yacht, followed by four small capacity ships “with character” sailing in the luxury space, and later added a new series of six sistership yachts dubbed the Ponant Explorers. Following the acquisition of Paul Gauguin Cruises, the m/s Paul Gauguin joined the fleet in 2019 and 2021 saw the arrival of the first high polar exploration vessel, Le Commandant Charcot.

Ships sail to the Arctic and the Antarctic as well as in the Atlantic and North Europe, Mediterranean, Middle East, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Asia, Oceania and South Pacific, the Caribbean, North, Central and South America.

The fleet

The fully renovated sailing yacht Le Ponant

The Ponant Explorers (Le Lapérouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville, Le Dumont-d’Urville, Le Bellot and Le Jacques-Cartier): A new generation of ships flying under the French flag, fitted with the latest technologies, the Ponant Explorers comply with the most recent environmental regulations and have been awarded the “Cleanship” label. The ships offer 92 staterooms, including four suites; all cabins include a private balcony. With limited capacity, the ships are designed for landing in the most inaccessible locations, where others do not go.

The four Sisterships (Le Boréal, L’Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial) – These four sisterships, elegant yachts with 122 to 132 cabins and suites, perpetuate Ponant’s philosophy: limited capacity, unique atmosphere, a subtle combination of luxury, privacy, and well-being.

Le Commandant Charcot: Hybrid electric polar exploration vessel powered by Liquefied Natural Gas, Le Commandant Charcot is a pioneer in terms of environmental protection. With her 123 staterooms and luxury service, this innovative polar vessel will take passengers to rarely explored polar destinations, such as the geographic North Pole (90 degrees North Latitude), and places where fewer people have been than the moon, such as the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea and Peter I Island.

The m/s Paul Gauguin: This 166-stateroom vessel was specially designed for sailing in Polynesian waters. Her draft allows her to get as close as possible to shallow lagoons and isolated islands.

Le Ponant: This latest-generation sailing yacht has been completely redesigned and will incorporate new luxury features (jacuzzi, gym, hair salon). The uniquely designed three-masted yacht will be able to sail only and be connected to the electricity network in certain ports to limit her ecological impact

Besides becoming more international in both style, staff, and guests demographics (all presentations on board are conducted in both French and English), Jansen says the company has diversity significantly beyond its polar program, though it still comprises about a quarter of sailings – especially with the introduction of its spectacular new icebreaker vessel.

Across the fleet, he notes, “We offer so many different voyages, we work with The Smithsonian… there is something for everyone.”

Altogether, he adds, Ponant’s style – small, intimate, adventurous, and cosmopolitan – delivers a unique sailing experience will tick the all the boxes for most for Canadians, he says, noting that, for example, guests get to meet the captain and officers. “They’re not just bus drivers,” he laughs.

And, he adds, “Now is the right time for us to come to Canada because we are becoming more and more known. And a lot of people like our product.”

At the same time, while Ponant’s ships are certainly beautiful and luxurious, with great food and service, Jansen says the real star are the destinations, many of which are unique due to the nature of small ship explorations, and even further via zodiac.

Excursions are free, as are other onboard amenities, such as wi-fi, room service, open bar, and 24-hour champagne.

“But,” he adds, “you also have the destinations and everything we do at the destination. Yes, it’s comfortable on board, but what you’re going to learn from the expeditions and the naturalist leader on board, and the captain, this is what is important.

“Luxury is where we take you,” he says. “It is not only onboard.”

Smithsonian Journeys

Special among Ponant’s more than 400 itineraries are Smithsonian Journeys, a series of co-branded sailings for 2023. Each of the sailings (and 21 itineraries) will be led by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts – whether an art historian, a solar astrophysicist, or an international relations expert – whose expertise and knowledge will shed new light on a destination and deepen travellers’ immersion in place.

Among the new sailings is the “Symphony on the St. Lawrence,” a 15-day journey starting in Toronto with calls in Quebec and the Maritimes and Maine aboard Le Bellot, featuring the Conductor of the Boston Pops, Keith Lockhart, and performances by internationally renowned musicians including pianist Jihye Chang, cellist Alistair MacRae, soprano Allison Pohl, violist Scott Rawls, and violinists Wendy Rawls and Benjamin Sung. Maritime historian Eric Roorda will also be on board to lead discussions about the scenic St. Lawrence waterway and UNESCO-recognized landmarks like Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.

And while Jansen says Ponant doesn’t really cater to kids, they are welcome (minimum ages differ according to the ship classifications) and select Med cruises in summer do have kids clubs.

He says a growing demographic is multi-generational with grandparents often joining their children and grandchildren, or simply bringing the grandkids alone.

Travel trade

With Ponant’s growing presence in Canada, Jansen says the company is eager to engage with the trade, through road shows, such as the ones held last week, and ship visits where possible. He notes that the cruise line is represented in English Canada year-round by Cruises Strategies in Toronto, headed by well-known cruise industry figure Vanessa Lee.

Meanwhile, in November, agents making a deposit for a new booking will earn an extra $500 gift card while clients receive a 5% discount.

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

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