Ponant’s new Le Commandant Charcot polar explorer cruise ship was officially launched in a memorable inauguration ceremony in Le Havre.
Ponant’s reputation for being at the top tier of luxury expedition cruises was further enhanced with the official launch of its brand-new Polar class expedition ship Le Commandant Charcot.
Named after legendary French Polar explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot, the ship has been designed from the ground up using cutting edge, gold-standard environmental technology that sends a powerful message to the cruise industry that sustainable shipbuilding is the only way forward.
The ship uses a combination of electric and natural gas for its power, the greenest fuel available right now, and a host of waste, water and plastic management systems to further reduce its cruising footprint. It also has bespoke routing software to determine the most ice-friendly and fuel-efficient pathways for its voyages.
The ship became a record-breaker even before its official maiden cruise by becoming the first cruise ship to reach the geographic North Pole during a recent testing voyage.
Fortunately for me, I was invited to the inauguration and spent a couple of days aboard Le Commandant Charcot to get to know her a lot more intimately. Comparing my previous polar experience on Ponant’s expedition cruise to Antarctica aboard Le Soléal, this ship is in another league altogether.
It is bigger, although the guest count is more or less the same – 240 passengers in 123 staterooms. The extra space allows for bigger staterooms (some are split-level equipped with private terraces and Jacuzzis), additional facilities such as the 450 square metre wellness area which includes an indoor pool (a first for the Ponant fleet), winter garden relaxation area, detox bar, treatment rooms and a hair and nail salon.
One deck offers the chance to walk laps around the entire ship, and the outside decks are heated using recycled heat from the engines. Talking of heated decks, the exterior lounge furniture also has heated seating. Imagine that. Sitting out on the deck watching a polar landscape feeling all warm and cosy.
Being a French fleet, food is naturally a very serious matter. Ponant has secured the services of Michelin starred chef Alain Ducasse to oversee the gourmet food onboard delivered by chefs trained in the Ducasse school. Over 100 recipes have been created specifically for the Le Commandant Charcot.
The thrill of an expedition cruise is the opportunity to experience remote areas of the world first-hand and nowhere in the world is quite like a polar landscape. With the capabilities of the ship to navigate through densely packed ice, another first for a cruise ship, the opportunities for immersive off-ship activities are staggeringly exciting. Guided snowshoeing, trekking, kayaking, dog sledging, ice fishing, even polar diving is possible. All the while accompanied by trained guides and natural experts who bring a deeper meaning to everything you’re experiencing.
There is even an onboard helicopter to monitor the constantly changing ice flow. You’re also close up and personal with the natural world. I spoke with Captain Etienne Garcia, a veteran of polar voyages, who admitted to me how emotional it was for him to navigate to the North Pole for the first time during testing and be so close to the natural world. They all watched in stunned silence as a family of curious polar bears wandered up to the ship to hang out with them.
I also got the chance to visit the onboard wet and dry laboratories that will provide vital continuous research data to the scientific community. The opportunities offered by the ship’s unique remote navigation abilities will allow scientists to monitor any changes to the polar biodiversity in real-time, a resource that has sparked serious interest from acclaimed research institutions including NASA
.There is no doubt Le Commandant Charcot raises the bar on expedition cruising and sets a new standard for greener shipbuilding. This is the future, but unbelievably, it is here now.
I think Le Commandant Charcot is a remarkable achievement for Ponant, and I can’t wait to see those polar bears for myself.
Tell me more about polar cruising with Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot
Visit here for more information on Ponant’s cruises on Le Commandant Charcot Cruises now bookable for late 2021 and 2022 from £11,660