What do Christopher Columbus, James Cook and Vasco da Gama have in common? They are all great maritime explorers. And now, you can join this league of extraordinary men – but with a touch of luxury, that is.
French luxury cruise line Ponant has partnered with National Geographic Expeditions to create an extensive range of expedition cruises.
Core destinations are the Antarctic and Arctic, which will be complemented by a range of global expeditions covering all continents.
As part of the experience, travellers will be able to embark on unique itineraries to some of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet. Part of this is possible thanks to the small – albeit capable – ships in Ponant’s fleet.
Ponant business development manager (emerging markets) Julie Rogers said the company also employs innovation and green technology.
“What makes us unique is that all our ships are young. But in the cruising world, it’s more important to be young, modern, technologically advanced and to deliver the latest innovation.
“It’s also very important to be environmentally-friendly to appeal to the ecotourism aspect. All of our ships have the ‘clean ship’ certification because we take our guests to some very pure and pristine parts of our planet,” she said during a recent showcase in Kuala Lumpur.
For the Malaysian market, Sedunia Travel Services has been appointed as the preferred wholesaler in the country.
All about nature
Apart from the “clean ship” certification, the fleet has a number of technologies and practices to protect the environment. These include recycling and reuse programmes, reduced exhaust emissions and sustainable purchasing practices.
The environmentally responsible approach also includes zero-landing protocol, the use of an electric propulsion system and dynamic positioning to protect the seabed.
The luxury ships will offer an intimate experience with total passengers ranging from 180 to 240 per cruise and 130 itineraries have been designed.
“We want to attract curious people – people who want to be educated about the environment.
“Our goal is to showcase the destinations and then our guests become ambassadors of the place,” Rogers said.
But what makes the cruise really special is that National Geographic Expeditions will provide a range of expedition resources onboard.
These include leading experts and National Geographic photographers to travel and engage with all guests to create an immersive and quality experience.
These experts will enrich the expedition with fascinating presentations and informal discussions. Meanwhile, the National Geographic photographer is on hand to advise and teach guests techniques along the way.
“Basically when you get off the ship for an expedition, you will have no more questions about the destination. Why? It’s because we have on board naturalists who are historians, ice experts and marine mammal experts,” said Ponant global sales ambassador Frederic Jansen.
“All of these people have their own field of expertise and they are passionate about what they do,” he added.
When it comes to the experience onboard, Ponant is pulling out all the stops to provide exceptional comfort. The state-of-the-art ships, each with up to 132 staterooms and suites, offer unique atmosphere.
All of the rooms offer sea views and 95% of them have balconies. Guests would be able to enjoy breath-taking views of the horizon with the large windows and exterior decks.
And true to the company’s heritage, passengers will be treated to a number of French flair: Wonderful food, fine wines, high quality materials and elegant interior design.
The highlight, though, would be the Blue Eye lounge. It’s the world’s first multi-sensory underwater lounge. Located below sea level, the facility is available to all guests. Underwater cameras are in place to enable live observation of the seabed beneath the boat. The images captured are then projected onto immersive digital screens. Another unique experience to Ponant is its convivial environment.
The captain may at his discretion, and in accordance with international marine law, invite guests to join him at the ship of the bridge to experience what it’s like to navigate the seas.
But Jansen phrased it best when it comes to expedition cruises with Ponant.
“The destination is not the ship, the destination is the destination. Whatever happens between point A and B on the cruise, we will stop and enjoy the moment.
“For example, if whales are sighted at 1pm during a full lunch session, the captain will not hesitate to make the announcement. This is only something that you can do on small ships,” he said.