French luxury expedition cruise line Ponant has ordered two more ‘Explorer’ class ships, bringing the total to six.
To be named Le Bellot and Le Surville, the two new sisterships are scheduled for delivery in the first and second quarters of 2020. Similar to the four previous vessels, the company has ordered the new ships from Norwegian shipyard VARD, part of Fincantieri Group.
The hulls will be built at VARD Tulcea in Romania, with outfitting undertaken by VARD Søviknes in Norway. They will be designed by Nantes-based Stirling Design.
The Ice Class expedition ships will be about 10,000 gt, around 131 m in length and 18 m wide. The vessels will have 92 staterooms and suites, to accommodate 190 pax, each with a balcony and will comply with class society’s Bureau Veritas’ CLEANSHIP notation.
All six of the ‘Explorer’ class vessels will be fitted with a ‘Blue Eye,’ an underwater lounge that will allow passengers to experience the underwater world via two portholes designed as a cetaceous eye looking out over the sea bed.
This area will feature non-intrusive underwater lighting, and hydrophones integrated into the keel that transmit the natural sounds of the deep water, as well as ‘Body Listening’ sofas that offer a unique sensorial listening experience by corporal resonance, VARD said.
Nicolas Dubreuil, Ponant’s head of expedition, said: “With this extraordinary tool for exploration we are going to have available, we are working with a brand new concept in travel. The Ponant icebreaker is going to enable us to visit places previously unexplored until now due to their extreme remoteness. I’ve already imagined winter expedition cruises across the Nunavut ice field, and to Greenland, to get within close proximity of the Inuit camps.
“Our passengers will be able to leave the ship and go out onto the ice for an immersive experience of this hunting people’s way of life. Similarly, we will also be able to get up close to the emperor penguins that inhabit the ice shelves in the Antarctic. As for the Geographic North Pole, it will no longer be an inaccessible dream. Ponant will soon have at its disposal the very first passenger ship capable of reaching this mythical destination,” he claimed.
Vard won contracts for the construction of the first four expedition cruise vessels in 2016.
The first of the six vessels will be delivered in 2Q18, followed by the next three vessels from autumn 2018 to summer 2019, and the delivery of the recently ordered vessels in 2020.
In addition, in 2021 VARD will deliver first electric hybrid cruise icebreaker powered by LNG in a dual fuel propulsion installation to Ponant.
Roy Reite, VARD CEO and executive director, commented “We deeply appreciate the strong collaboration we have established with the Ponant team, resulting in seven luxury expedition cruise vessels under construction for operations on the world’s seas. We are honoured to once again be chosen as the trusted partner for Ponant.”
Ponant, a subsidiary of Artemis Group and headquartered in Marseille, France, was founded in 1988 by Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée and a dozen French merchant navy officers. Currently the company operates a fleet of five vessels, but by 2021, the fleet will consist of 12 luxury expedition cruise vessels.