The cruise industry has made a definite move toward more and more luxurious expedition experiences. As I stated in my article Lots of News Came Out of the 2022 Seatrade Cruise Global Conference, “[D]uring 2019-2022 27 new expedition ships will have been launched and, with 14 more under construction, the total expedition fleet will increase to 94. While some of the oldest (and least environmentally and passenger-friendly) will certainly be retired, most will not.” As a result, I am making a concentrated effort to truly become an expert in the “Expedition Experience” whether it be the more luxurious “soft expedition” or the more rigorous “active expedition”…whether luxury or not. (I know. I know. But trust me on this: I take my job seriously and those who rely upon my advice know that I truly explore every aspect of each ship so I can best assist you in finding the right experience for you!)
Ponant has had a history of operating more soft expeditions…until now. It has made a strong commitment to not only more active expeditions, but more environmentally friendly ones starting with its newest ship Le Commandant Charcot, a true polar – yet luxury – exploration ship, which I will be sailing on June 28, 2022, on the Polar Immersion in Svalbard expedition. More on that later in this article!
Le Commandant Charcot, named after the French explorer, Jean-Baptiste Charcot, has hybrid-electric LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) engines that reduce particulate emissions by 95%, NO2 by 85%, and CO2 by 25%. She can operate for two months on her own and up to two hours on just her batteries, all with the help of her sophisticated computerized systems, high-efficiency design almost everywhere plus waste heat recovery and advanced wastewater treatment systems.
But how does that affect her ability to take her 270 guests (200 in Antarctica) into remote areas?
Well, she has a PC2 Class ice-rated hull. That means she can operate year-round in multi-year ice conditions (thicker harder ice), as opposed to the PC6 rating (summer operations in light ice) the ice-hardened hulls of converted cruise ships (ex. Seabourn Venture, Seabourn Quest/Silversea Silver Cloud/Wind) and the PC5 ratings (year-round operations in light/moderate ice) of most newer expedition ships (ex. Lindblad Endurance/Scenic Eclipse). This means Le Commandant Charcot can venture to such places as the geographic North Pole while most other ships simply cannot. Just imagine venturing into those ice-filled fjords and bays where lesser expeditions ships simply cannot go! (Read more below…and, for me, it will become a reality!)
She, of course, has dynamic positioning which affords her the ability to stay in one place without anchors by way of her azipods and bow thrusters; something that is not only becoming an environmentally necessary ability (so as not to harm the ocean bottom environment), but functionally necessary to allow for efficient loading of guests into/off of zodiacs.
Here is a great virtual tour of Le Commandant Charcot: https://wordpress.ponant.com/wp-content/uploads/360/charcot/index.htm
Before I get further into her capabilities, let’s take a moment to discuss the “luxury” side of Le Commandant Charcot. She has two restaurants, Nuna Gastronomic – the more formal restaurant focused on French and International cuisine – and Sila – the more relaxed venue. There is also Inneq – the alfresco bar with light bites overlooking the Blue Lagoon pool (heated to 80-99 degrees F.) and stern of the ship. In addition, there are two lounges (Main and Observation). Of course, there is a dedicated Theatre and, of course, a full-service spa and fitness center. There is also a Cigar Lounge. (I will detail these once I am onboard.)
The All-Balcony Accommodations range from a comfortable Prestige Stateroom (215 square feet with a 53 square foot balcony), to Deluxe Suites (301 sq. ft./53 sq. ft. balcony), Prestige Suites – which combine two staterooms – at 430 sq. ft and a 107 sq. ft balcony, Grand Prestige Suite (452 sq. ft./53 sq. ft. balcony), Privilege Suite (516 sq ft./135 sq. ft. balcony) to the two huge Duplex Suite (1,011 sq. ft./279 sq. ft. balcony with hot tub) and the Owner’s Suite at 1,237 sq. ft. with a 2,002 sq. ft. terrace with private hot tub.
Now for the cool stuff! Le Commandant Charcot boasts two scientific laboratories onboard, complete with scientists and the ability for guests to participate in the ongoing research (so-called Citizen Science). I am especially interested in this with my marine biology background. While I am wondering how much is actually hard science, but regardless the ability for guests to engage the world in a more personal and analytical manner is fantastic. (More to come when I am onboard!)
You board the 16 zodiacs from two Expedition Rooms with the ability to experience (expedition dependent), more than zodiac tours and landings, but kayaking, snowshoeing, hiking, ice fishing, ice floating (in dry suits), and dog sledding (not on my expedition).
So now, where am I going and what am I doing on the Arctic Expedition? This is the perfect expedition to see what Le Commandant Charcot can do…and put her to the test!
As you can see below, we will be circumnavigating the Norwegian archipelago including exploring areas most ships cannot visit…and others don’t…such as Nordaustlandet and Kvitoya – the White Island only 62 km from Russia. And this, of course, opens up exploring the eastern shores of the archipelago that is rarely visited as well.
From polar bears to walrus to seabirds to whales and amazing vistas, this true luxury expedition is only possible with a ship that balances state-of-the-art technology, environmental responsibility, expedition capabilities, and, of course, comfort!
There are a few staterooms/suites left, so if you would like to join me, give me a call or email me!
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