On a cruise over the weekend in the Norwegian fjords aboard its latest ship Le Champlain, Ponant has outlined plans to lift its fleet of boutique-size ultra-luxury ships from the current seven vessels to 12 in 2021.

Ponant, the only French-flagged ocean cruise line, is showing the world’s travel media, including Australian writers, the delights of its new ultra-luxury ship Le Champlain. This ship operated a three-night cruise in Norway. A similar cruise earlier showed the new ship to agents, including a contingent from Australia.

As a luxury line with the world’s youngest fleet, Ponant takes travellers in high style to the polar regions, both Arctic and Antarctic, and to tropical regions including those in and around Australia.

By 2022, Ponant’s fleet will expand with the addition of six 180-guest Explorer-class ships and an LNG-powered icebreaker. The line prides itself on innovative “green” features, including highly efficient waste and sewage treatment.

Cabins on Le Champlain resemble stylish, upmarket hotel rooms, each with a generously sized private balcony. “Luxury and comfort” is the aim. There are 92 staterooms and suites, with butler service for suites.

Le Champlain

Ponant’s owner is Groupe Artemis, the family company of French billionaire Francois Pinault. It owns auction house Christie’s and controls the company behind such fashion brands as Gucci and Saint-Laurent. A Christies-themed cruise was held on another Ponant ship recently. Artemis also owns Hermes, Chateau Latour, Ducosse… the list goes on.

Ponant vice president sales and marketing, Hervé Bellaiche, said yesterday Ponant would move from 30,000 passengers in 2017 to 60,000 in 2021; and from operating 200 cruises in 2017 to offering 460 in 2021.

Ships in the Ponant fleet differ mainly just in décor. This gives Ponant the ability to move crew, engineers and other staff between ships without their having to spend time learning differences.

Kayakers from Le Champlain in fjord near Olden, Norway, on Monday

Features of the new Explorer-class ships include a fully equipped sundeck and an innovative three-position marina platform perfectly suited to activities like kayaking and swimming.

Another feature is the amazing Blue Eye, the world’s first multi-sensory underwater lounge, located within the hull about three-to-four metres beneath the water line.

Blue Eye’s designer, architect Jacques Rougerie – a man with a deep passion for the sea – was aboard this week’s Le Champlain sailing. More about Blue Eye in a coming article!

Written by Peter Needham