Compagnie du Ponant, the only French-flagged cruise line and a best-kept secret among cruise insiders, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the July launch of its newest ship, Le Soléal.
The 132-stateroom state-of-the-art vessel will be the fourth luxury cruise yacht in the five-star company's chic flotilla, joining similarly designed sister ships Le Boreal (2010) and L'Austral (2011) and the 32-stateroom, three-masted sailing yacht, Le Ponant.
Highly flexible and able to sail in waters not accessible to larger ships, these sleek Compagnie du Ponant yachts visit exotic ports not found on many itineraries, allowing their 64 to 264 guests to discover engaging new experiences aboard and ashore during 3 - to 21-night cruises throughout the Arctic, Antarctica, Russia, Asia, the U.S. and Canada, the Caribbean, South America, Northern Europe and the Baltic, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Greek Isles and Turkey. Options abound, from five-star polar expeditions, cultural cruises and ocean voyages to dive-, golf- and culinary-themed cruises.
For the past 10 years, the company has honed its abilities as a polar expedition cruise expert, offering specialty polar expeditions aboard the company's new generation of "clean ship" rated (by VERITAS) vessels with state-of-the-art technology designed specifically to safely navigate the extremes of the Arctic and Antarctic while also protecting fragile ecosystems.
Le Soléal's inaugural season will explore the "Secret Arctic" in the company of leading polar expedition guides, lecturers and naturalists, visiting adventurous destinations that include little-known spots in Iceland, Greenland and along the legendary Northwest Passage that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the Bering Strait, marking the first visit by French ships to the Northwest Passage since the French polar expeditions were launched by the Duke of Orleans from 1905 - 1909.
Five-Star Yacht Cruising
Since its founding in 1988 by two French Merchant Navy officers, Compagnie du Ponant has taken to the sea with intimate ships that offer the essence of private luxury yachting infused with inspired French sensibility. Guests enjoy elegantly appointed staterooms and suites, attentive service from a convivial bi-lingual crew fluent in English and French, refined culinary artistry and inventive itineraries that span the globe.
Like her "twin" sister cruise polar-designed yachts, Le Soléal offers superior comfort:
• Refined, contemporary interiors by Jean-Philippe Nuel feature a warm palette of rich materials and subtle yachting nuances throughout, including works by noted marine photographer Philip Plisson
• A choice of 132 luxurious staterooms or suites with sea views and private balconies, including the elite Deck 6 that is home to 13 spacious suites with 24-hour butler service
• A welcoming main foyer with a boutique, reception desk and excursion desk
• Two restaurants, offering dining from casual to fine complete with wine pairings and a fine wine cellar, a bar lounge and 24-hour in-room dining
• A full-service spa in association with the French salon SOTHYSTM, with signature treatments, hamman, hair salon, tea room and fitness center
• An outdoor pool with bar, panoramic terrace adjoining the indoor bar lounge, library with Internet stations, medical center, WiFi, in-room and on-board flat screen satellite TV with complimentary on-demand movies
• A 250-seat theatre for live entertainment, film screenings and presentations
• A fleet of expedition Zodiac boats outfitted with satellite tracking
Le Soléal's Secret Arctic
Beginning in July, after its inaugural cruise from Venice to Barcelona and then onward from Lisbon to Reykjavik, Le Soléal will sail from Iceland to Greenland, from Greenland to Baffin Bay and through the Yukon to the Northwest Passage, first conquered by Roald Amundsen in 1906, and then along the pristine coastlines of the Russian Far East. These new, uncommon itineraries will reveal hidden gems beyond the Arctic Circle. Guests will be able to follow in the footsteps of the great Arctic explorers, take in indigenous Inuit villages and view extraordinary wildlife, including polar bears, brown bears, wolves, puffins, walrus and beluga whales. Excursions in 12-person Zodiac inflatable boats, hiking and helicopter tours will also be available.
Le Soléal Captain Etienne Garcia and veteran polar expedition leader Nicolas Nubreuil, who speaks three Greenlandic dialects, will share their passion for the Arctic, its people and diverse wildlife with guests, who will have unmatched opportunities to explore unspoiled territory on these new itineraries, including:
• 21-night Northwest Passage Cruise: Beginning August 26, guests aboard Le Soléal will cross the melting ice floes (which happens only for a few weeks each summer) of the Northwest Passage, departing from Kangerlusuaq, on the west coast of Greenland and sailing north, via Sisimiut and the Ilulissat and Upernavik fjords, as far as Melville Bay, a nature reserve which is home to narwhals, bears, musk oxen and walruses. From Savissivik, the ship will cross Baffin Bay and reach Pond Inlet. From this outpost that monitors the entrance to the Northwest Passage, the ship will set sail for Beechey Island, the site of first wintering of the Franklin expedition in 1845-46, and then cross a number of straits to reach Fort Ross, a former trading post that is now used as a refuge by Inuit hunters, then Gjoa Haven on King William Island, the site where Roald Amundsen overwintered, and Cambridge Bay, home to a community of Inui ts. From Franklin Bay, guests will sail along the coast of the Yukon in Alaska to reach the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Strait. After a short period of sailing in the Bering Sea, they will reach the end of this sought-after Passage, at Anadyr in Russia.
• 9-night Anadyr - Anadyr Cruise in Far Northeastern Russia: Depart September 16 to venture beyond the Bering Strait to visit Chukotka, a province of striking scenery and home to the Chukchi people, who are hunters of marine mammals, salmon fishermen or reindeer farmers that live in the remotest villages, and are guardians of an oral tradition that dates back many thousands of years, then travel onto the volcanic peninsula of Kamchatka with its Uzon Caldera and Taiga Forest. After rounding Cape Dezhnev, the most easterly point of the Eurasian continent, the yacht will sail onto Cape Vankarem, where grey and bowhead whales live in abundance. They will then head towards Uelen and the Island of Big Diomede, located in the middle of the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska. Before returning to Anadyr, the ship will approach the unspoiled coastline of Yttigran Island, a spiritual center for Arctic culture. Discovered in 1976 by the French ethnographer Jean Malaurie, this most sacred of the Inuit's shamanic sites is known as “Whale Bone Alley.”
• Other Secret Arctic voyages: A remarkable Icelandic journey from Spitsbergen, the last island before the North Pole, through the fire and ice of Iceland along the west coast of to Heimaey in the Westman Islands and onto the tiny island of Grimesy, a noted nesting spot for Atlantic puffins, and to Snaefellsjokul, which was chosen by Jules Verne as the starting point for his "Journey to the Centre of the Earth"; a voyage along the little-known eastern and northern coast of Greenland with visits to remote Inuit villages.
To reserve or learn more, please call 1-888-400-1082 or visit www.ponantpoles.com or http://en.ponant.com.
For reservations and more information, please call: 1-305-398-9849 or toll free: 1-888-400-1082; email: USreservations@ponant.com, or visit http://en.ponant.com.
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