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bridge from the

French indulgence

Classy sailing with Compagnie du Ponant

On the watch

Return to traditional cruising on Black Watch

Meet our new ship

Introducing the new Cruiseco Explorer in Burma

vive la French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant is raising the bar in expedition cruising with its fleet of four ships, plus a fifth launching in 2015. WORDS: RODERICK EIME 8 AUTUMN 2014

Cruise Line Profile | FROM THE BRIDGE

Sleek French design is apparent across all grades of accommodation


ompagnie du Ponant was born in 1988 in a revival of the famous French cruising heritage—a glamorous and glorious tradition that almost ended with the demise of SS Normandie, followed by SS France. The scale of this new French operation, however, is more modest. Instead of Herculean liners, Ponant delights with a fleet of boutique adventure vessels aimed at an elite market. Many avid cruise passengers will be familiar with at least one of the current ships—the 64-passenger Le Ponant (1991) and the 264-passenger Le Boreal (2010), L’Austral

(2011) and Le Soleal (2013). From experience, the style of cruising could be described as surprisingly decadent, a style rarely associated with expedition vessels. Much to the excitement of fans of luxury adventure, a fifth state-of-the-art ship, Le Lyrial, will be launched in April 2015, flaunting some enhancements on her predecessors. Importantly, Le Lyrial will have 122 staterooms and suites, which is slightly fewer than her predecessors. This should give her an even more intimate, small-ship ambience. What’s more, the entire Deck 6 has been

redesigned to accommodate larger suites, of which the premier Owner’s Suite is set to be a spacious 55 square metres. Across the fleet, guests will find staterooms and suites fitted with a range of creature comforts. Flat screen televisions are synched to an in-cruise entertainment system; Le Boreal’s bathrooms boast bathtubs, while other vessels have showers with quality L’Occitane products. Dining is a simple and relaxed occasion: Each ship has two restaurants, both offering single-sitting meal times and delicious cuisine. > At the larger venue, seating is flexible and AUTUMN 2014 9

Guests return to luxurious comfort after a day of exploring

you order from an à la carte menu, while at the smaller venue on Deck 6 you need to book, but there is outdoor seating to complement the casual buffet service. As with the best luxury lines, house wine is included at meal times. A typical day might begin with a lavish buffet breakfast, then a muster in the saloon prior to disembarking on a Zodiac for the daily shore excursion. Later in the afternoon you might return to the ship and head to the bar for a glass of bubbles and a catch-up with other guests before dinner. After a sumptuous four-course degustation served by waistcoated stewards, many head up to the theatre and flop into a plush seat for a show-stopping Parisian showgirl song and dance. Sea days can be spent listening to presentations, reading books in the library, taking in the deep blue from the sundeck or having a pamper treatment in the Sothysstocked spa. And if your conscience is getting the better of you, there is a well-equipped fitness centre with the latest exercise machines.

Relaxed outdoor settings give guests a chance to take in the destinations

L’Austral will be sailing to Australia and New Zealand in early 2015

will sail from Hong Kong to Singapore and Bali en route to Australia and New Zealand for seven consecutive local voyages. A highlight of the sailing schedule is a Christmas cruise departing Bali on December 12, 2014. The 15-night voyage explores the Indonesian archipelago in depth, calling at Sumba, Komodo, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara,

A typical day might begin with a lavish buffet breakfast prior to disembarking on a Zodiac for the daily shore excursion. With a soon-to-be quintet of ships, there is an extensive choice of itineraries. From the Mediterranean to the Americas, Asia and the Indian Ocean, no ocean is left unexplored. Keen adventure cruisers will note that itineraries embrace rarely visited ports and regions. One of the most exciting developments for local guests is the introduction of dedicated Oceania itineraries aboard L’Austral. Between December 2014 and February 2015, the ship 10 AUTUMN 2014

Moluccas, Triton Bay, Bitsyari Bay and Agats. L’Austral will then cruise south to call at Cape York, Creech Reef on Christmas Day, Lizard Island and Cairns. Fares start from AU$7365 per person, twin share. She’ll then continue to Hobart and across to the multi-hued mosaic that is New Zealand. In April the ship will sail two cruises in Japan, between Osaka and Maizuru. The first of these 8-night cruises departs Osaka on April

6 for calls at Tamano, Hiroshima, Uwajima, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Pusan and Sakaiminato. The reverse voyage departs April 14. Fares start from AU$3220 per person, twin share. Le Boreal will spend the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 exploring South America, Central America and the Caribbean before repositioning to Europe in April. Meanwhile, Le Ponant will spend the same period in the Caribbean before cruising to Africa in April; and Le Soleal will head north around Asia towards India, the Middle East and Europe, where she will operate a series of roundtrip voyages from Venice. Ponant has positioned itself as a desirable option with such a capable, versatile and superbly appointed fleet of youthful vessels that can capitalise on our planet’s most sought after destinations. Today’s modern adventurer is truly spoiled for choice. Your hardest decision will be: “Where to next?” n

Guests congregate in the lounge for social pre-dinner drinks

FTB39: Vive La France  

clipping from Cruiseco custom publication From The Bridge. Ponant preview