Champagne At The North Pole, Mais Oui!

with Martha Chapman

Ponant’s Edie Rodriguez, Americas Brand Chairman & Corporate Special Advisor (left) and Theresa Gatta, Vice-President, Sales/North America (right) with Vanessa Lee of Cruise Strategies

The as-yet unnamed Ponant icebreaker

It’s no secret that the French have a flair for the good life – and that’s clearly evident on board Ponant ships. Founded by French sailing enthusiast Jean Emmanuel Sauvée 30 years ago, Ponant is positioning itself as the perfect choice for the client who wants the best of French style, cuisine, service and décor while exploring many of the world’s corners, some of them extremely remote.

“We specialize in exquisite itineraries, many of which are combinable for a stunning 30 day vacation,” Edie Rodriguez of Ponant (pronounced the French way) said on a recent visit to Toronto. “Alain Ducasse is our culinary advisor, and we are an all-inclusive experience. We’re owned by the same parent company that owns Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci: We are really luxury.

Offering a “global palette of itineraries,” Ponant has grown from just one 62-passenger sailing ship in 1988 to five ships today, four of which welcome 260 guests (along with 140 crew). And that’s just the beginning: Ponant has ambitious plans for growth. Two Explorer-class ships are being added next year (each with 92 staterooms), with more on order.

Also new for 2019 will be Pontant’s Quintessential Collection, themed cruises with itineraries including a Sicilian Food and Wine Experience; a Gardening Cruise incorporating Britain, Belgium and Norway; a Polar Expedition where pax get to go ashore in Antarctica, not just see it; a Multi-Gen Med cruise; and a World Affairs Cruise in the Mediterranean featuring CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

Other new itineraries for next year include Greenland, The Great Lakes (yes, our Great Lakes), and the Bissagos Islands off West Africa.

Despite all the luxury trimmings, Rodriguez was careful to point out that the ships attract well-heeled but curious and engaged people and who enjoy the country-club suggested dress code. 70% of passengers come from Europe – the majority being French - and 30% from North America, though there is definitely a growing mix including Australians, says Vanessa Lee of Cruise Strategies Ltd., who reps Ponant in Canada.

By 2021 the company plans to have a fleet of 12 ships including the world’s first luxury icebreaker which will sail to never-explored polar destinations such as the true geographic North Pole.  No Godmother has been announced yet, but, as Rodriguez said with a wink, “We hear Mrs. Claus is standing by.” And already looking for something chic to wear, we are sure!

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.

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