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Rebuffed by New Zealand, Ponant launches Aussie program

February 12, 2021 Headline News No Comments

Luxury expedition cruise line Ponant has quickly rebounded from a New Zealand red-tape debacle – which killed a New Zealand cruise season and brought into question New Zealand’s commitment to any quick tourism revival. Ponant’s focus is now very much on Australia.

The line is bringing Le Lapérouse and another of its small ships to cruise in Australian waters later this year.Le Lapérouse will be joined by Le Soléal for the Aussie cruise season.

Le Lapérouse was the ship recently due to launch a New Zealand cruise season for New Zealanders. The plug was pulled after New Zealand insisted that many of the crew obtain New Zealand work visas, a highly unusual demand and something Ponant could not arrange at short notice. (See: Ponant’s battle with Kiwi red tape raises questions for tourism)

Le Lapérouse will now take part in an Australian cruise season for Australians.

Recent statements by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have cast doubt on whether a “travel bubble” can be established with New Zealand in the shorter term. At the moment there’s a “one-way bubble” – which lopsidedly lets New Zealanders come to Australia without enduring two weeks quarantine, but does not grant Australians the same privilege when visiting New Zealand. This is unsatisfactory for Australians – (those Australians allowed out of the country by the Australian government, that is!)

On both sides of the Tasman, politicians have worked out that their constituents like to be kept safe from Covid-19 and will punish MPs at the polls if any blunders are made handling the virus.

Aboard Le Soléal . Photo: ©PONANT: François Lefebvre

Speaking about trans-Tasman travel, Ardern said a few days ago: “We have to ask the question whether or not the airlines will want to operate in an environment where within three hours, they can have cancellations for multiple days”.

She was referring to last month’s snap Australian border closure.

Ardern said she “absolutely feels the weight of New Zealanders’ preference sits heavily on the side of ‘whatever you do, do it carefully'”.

“I do not apologise for a moment for being cautious about this. You cannot unscramble the egg,” she said. “It will be damaging economically if we open, close, open, close and then permanently shut … no one wants that.”

LOOKING AHEAD, PONANT HAS ANNOUNCED DETAILS OF EIGHT NEW AUSTRALIAN COASTAL ITINERARIES for the end of 2021: small ship luxury expeditions to reveal fascinating facets of Australia’s coast and environs.

Near Broome. Photo: ©PONANT Nick Rains

The itineraries explore the coasts of Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland, and each offers tempting back-to-back voyages.

From early maritime encounters along the west coast (aptly exampled by visits to Dirk Hartog Island, Shark Bay and the Abrolhos Islands) to ancient cultures stretching back much further in time, some 40,000 years or more, the petroglyphs of Murujuga (Dampier archipelago) the largest, densest and most diverse collections of rock art in the world, these luxury expeditions reveal multiple facets of the Australian continent that will surprise.

Whether photographing rare Australian sea lion colonies, experiencing the emotive National Anzac Centre in Albany, exploring the penal colony at Maria Island or viewing Australia’s highest sea cliffs at Cape Huay, the range of seven-to-15 night itineraries, created by Ponant’s highly regarded Australian expedition leader and marine biologist Mick Fogg, showcases the coastline of his homeland.

Le Lapérouse in Sydney Harbour. Photo: Dara Munnis

Says Fogg: “Most people don’t realise that 45% of our birds, 83% of our mammals and more than 90% of our amphibians, reptiles and fish are only found in Australia, that makes us pretty unique. Add to that the age of the landscape, diversity of habitats and the world’s oldest continuing culture and you have the perfect recipe for creating remarkable immersive experiences as encapsulated in this collection of voyages.”

Deb Corbett, Ponant’s General Manager Sales & Marketing Asia Pacific, has advised anyone interested in taking one of the cruises to “contact their travel agents or Ponant as soon as possible to secure space as we have already received an extraordinary response from people earlier registering expressions of interest for ‘at home’ voyages.

“Acting promptly will secure access to the widest range of available accommodation on each of the eight differing itineraries as well as the highest Ponant Bonus advance purchase incentive – currently as much as 30% savings.”

Overview of the eight new itineraries:

Jewels of the West Coast – Broome to Fremantle / 22 September 2021 / 10 nights / Le Soléal / Highlights include Rowley Shoals, Montebello Islands, Ningaloo and Shark Bay. From $8,430 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Highlights of South Western Australia / Fremantle – Fremantle  2 October 2021 / 8 nights / Le Soléal / Highlights include Albany, Esperance, the Recherche Archipelago and Busselton. From $6,630 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Australia’s West Coast / Fremantle – Fremantle / 10 October 2021 / 7 nights / Le Soléal / Highlights include Shark Bay, Dirk Hartog Island, Abrolhos Islands and Jurien Bay. From $5,800 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Along Australia’s South Coast / Fremantle – Hobart / 17 October 2021 / 13 nights / Le Soléal / Highlights include Esperance, Recherche Archipelago, King Island and Port Lincoln. From $10,780 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Tasmania Circumnavigation / Hobart – Hobart / 30 October 2021 AND 8 November 21 / 9 nights / Le Soléal / Highlights include Port Davey, Maria Island, Tamar Valley and Albatross Island. From $7,480 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Queensland’s Islands & Reefs / Cairns – Brisbane / 8 December 2021 / 7 nights / Le Lapérouse / Highlights include Willis Island, Percy islands, Hardy Reef, Lady Musgrave Island. From $4,670 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Highlights of Australia’s East Coast / Brisbane – Hobart / 15 December 2021 / 15 nights / Le Lapérouse / Highlights include Hawkesbury River, Eden, Maria Island, Fortescue Bay. From $5,330 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Food, Wine & Yacht Race in Tasmania / Hobart – Hobart / 23 December 2021 / 10 nights / Le Lapérouse / Highlights include Maria Island, Ile des Phoques, the Tamar Valley, King Island, Hobart(Sydney to Hobart Race arrival + NYE celebrations). From $8,290 per person in a Deluxe Stateroom.

Written by Peter Needham

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