Ponant (officially, Compagnie du Ponant (CDP); "Ponant Company") is a French cruise ship operator. It was founded in April 1988 by Philippe Videau, Jean-Emmanuel Sauvé, and other officers of the French Merchant Navy and launched the first French cruise ship. The company operates five ships, all of which operate under the French flag.
Ponant started out with one ship, Le Ponant, a three masted Barque built in 1991. Le Ponant still operates with the company today. Eight years later in 1999, the company acquired Le Levant, a yacht. After 13 years in service with Ponant, Le Levant was purchased by Paul Gauguin Cruises in 2012 and became Tere Moana. In 2004, Ponant purchased Le Diamant, a luxury liner. Le Diamant transferred to Quark Expeditions in 2012 to become Ocean Diamond.
Later, in 2010, Ponant put into service the first of a series of four identical luxury sister ships, Le Boreal. A year later, the company began operating the second ship of the class, L'Austral and in 2013 the third ship of the class was added to the fleet, Le Soléal. The fourth ship of the class, Le Lyrial, has been delivered in 2015.
On April 4 2008, Le Ponant was seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden while en route from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean. The ship carried no passengers at the time of its capture, but all 30 crewmembers were taken hostage. The hostages were released without incident on April 12. Following the release, French helicopters tracked the pirates to the village of Jariban. French commando marine and GIGN operating from the frigate Jean Bart and the Jeanne d'Arc moved in when the pirates attempted to flee in the desert. A sniper disabled the get-away vehicle, and the commandos were able to capture six men. Local officials claimed that three people died in the raid, with a further eight wounded, but France denied this. Troops also recovered some of the ransom money paid by the owner of the yacht for the release of its crew. The six captured pirates have since been flown to Paris, where they shall face trial.
In 2013, one of Ponant's ships, Le Soleal, became the first French commercial shipping vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage. The vessel left Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on August 26 2013 and arrived in Anadyr, in Russia on September 16 2013.
In March 2016 Ponant ordered four new ships with about 10.000 GT at VARD, a subcompany of Fincantieri. They will get delivered in 2018 and 2019. The ships will get named Le Lapérouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville and Le Kerguelen.
In December 2017, Ponant announced that it had ordered an icebreaking expedition cruise ship from VARD. The NOK 2.7 billion (about 274 million euro) vessel will be built to the second-highest Polar Class, PC 2, and will be capable of taking tourists to the North Pole. The vessel, dubbed Ponant Icebreaker, is scheduled for delivery in 2021.
In March 2018, Ponant announced the order of two additional 180-passenger expedition ships, Le Bellot and Le Surville, that will join the company in 2020.
The company operates five ships:
|Gross Tonnage||Flag||Notes||Ship image|
|Le Ponant||1991||1991||1,489 GT||France||A barque built in 1991, 32 cabins for 64 passengers and 32 crew members.|
|Le Boréal||2010||2010||10,700 GT||France||Built in 2010, 132 cabins and suites for 264 passengers and 140 crew members. The Le Boréal won the award for "Best Newcomer of the Year - GOLD from the European Cruiser Association (EUCRAS).|
|L'Austral||2011||2011||10,944 GT||France||Sister vessel of Le Boréal, built in 2011, 132 cabins and suites for 264 passengers and 140 crew members. L'Austral was put into service on April 20, 2011.|
|Le Soléal||2012||2012||10,944 GT||France||Sister vessel of Le Boréal and L'Austral. Like her sisters, she has 132 cabins and suites for 264 passengers and 140 crew members.|
|Le Lyrial||2015||2015||10,944 GT||France||On 16 July 2013, Fincantieri and Ponant announced that they had signed a contract for a new super luxury cruise ship to be delivered in 2015. The ship will be the sister ship of Le Soléal and like her sister, she will be built in Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard.|
|Gross Tonnage||Flag||Notes||Ship image|
|Le Levant||1998||1998-2012||3,500 GT||France||A yacht built in 1998, 45 cabins for 90 passengers and 55 crew members. Sold to Paul Gauguin Cruises to become Tere Moana. Delivered in 2012.|
|Le Diamant||1974, rebuilt in 1986||2004-2011||8,282 GRT||France||A luxury liner bought in 2004, 113 cabins for 226 passengers and 120 crew. Transferred to Quark expeditions in 2013.|
Ponant offers all-season cruises, in places inaccessible to larger cruise liners. The company offers cruises to the following destinations:
In February 2018, the company announced it had added new theme sailing for the 2019 season: Green and Gentle Lands, Sicilian Food and Wine Experience, Treasures of the Mediterranean World, World War II History - From Hong Kong to Japan's Inland Sea, and others.
Media related to Compagnie du Ponant at Wikimedia Commons