And if you are wondering what that has to do with expedition cruising, well French cruise line Ponant really is in the process of serving everything at once, with two new ships this year, two next year, and an icebreaker to follow in 2021. And who knows what else - watch this space, there may be even more exciting news to come.
The first of Ponant's new Explorers, Le Lapérouse, was glimpsed the other day arriving in Norway where her construction will be completed. In an extraordinary operation she has been transferred from Romania, first by rail, then lowered into the water by synchrolift and towed through the Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel to reach Norway and the Vard shipyard.
This ship, and her three lovely sisters, are going to be something very special, with some amazing new features including a movable hydraulic marina platform at the back of the ship and the multi-sensorial underwater lounge, known as Blue Eye, which will allow passengers to see, hear and feel the underwater world. Journeying to the most remote and inaccessible locations, the Ponant Explorers will offer the perfect combination of comfort and adventure.
As for the icebreaker - well the world has never seen the like. There are very few passenger-carrying icebreakers currently in operation - you may have heard of one or two, such as the wonderfully named 50 Years of Victory, and noticed that these ships sacrifice something of your creature comforts to the excitement of crashing through the ice to the North Pole. Ponant's luxury icebreaker will have an electric hybrid system powered by liquefied natural gas, and will carry 270 privileged passengers, the first electric hybrid cruise vessel with icebreaker characteristics.
One of the concerns we often hear regarding Ponant is that our sociable clients will find it hard to strike up a conversation with other - maybe French-speaking - guests. I am pleased to say that in 2019, a number of dedicated English speaking cruises with fascinating themes are available and on sale in Australia, America and the UK. Our favourites include a Gardening Cruise from London to Bergen in May, a Sicilian Wine and Food Experience in June, a Musical Odyssey from Athens to Rome in September 2019 featuring private recitals by world class musicians, an amazing journey from Hong Kong to Japan in early October, and an Antarctica cruise in December - call us for more information on any of these.
Once on board you can expect comfortable accommodation, cuisine developed in collaboration with Ducasse Conseil, run by Alain Ducasse Entreprise (Alain Ducasse is the three Michelin starred chef at the Dorchester), an indulgent spa, and of course amazing itineraries to choose from.