Virtuoso Global March 2019 5 Ways to Get the Most from Your Polar Expedition

5 Ways to Get the Most from Your Polar Expedition

Just another day in Antarctica: Watching penguins dive off the ice.
Just another day in Antarctica: Watching penguins dive off the ice.
Ponant cruises bring sustainability to remote and precious environments.

Once the exclusive domain of intrepid explorers and scientists willing to endure a variety of tribulations, the polar regions are now accessible to leisure travelers keen on a once-in-a-lifetime conquest. And no cruise line has done more to explore these enigmatic and primeval horizons in style and comfort than Ponant. Here are five reasons to let the world’s only French-flagged cruise line navigate your journey into these stunning landscapes.

The 264-passenger <em>Le Bor</em><em>éal </em>brings the yacht experience to Arctic and Antarctic discovery.
The 264-passenger Le Boréal brings the yacht experience to Arctic and Antarctic discovery.

1. Surround yourself with seasoned pros.

When it comes to visiting the poles, you need more than a guidebook. Ponant’s 25 years of experience, and its teams of knowledgeable expedition leaders, have you covered. Each itinerary is carefully researched by polar experts, many of whom have spent more than a decade exploring the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Expedition leader Nicolas Dubreuil, for example, spends more than eight months per year near the poles, which he has traversed via kayak, skis, and even sleigh. More than guides, these expedition leaders are teachers and storytellers who bring color, texture, and a pioneering spirit to each thoughtfully prepared journey. “I spent 14 days aboard L’Austral in Patagonia and Chilean fjords, and our captain, Erwann Le Rouzic, had done the cruise 12 times before,” says Virtuoso advisor Ashley Newhaller. “He provided detailed information, and twice he changed things up on the itinerary to be able to show passengers something unexpected.”
Expedition leaders on Ponant polar cruises boast years of experience, a passion for extremes, and knowledge about leopard seals.
Expedition leaders on Ponant polar cruises boast years of experience, a passion for extremes, and knowledge about leopard seals.

2. Sail in ships built for the job.

Ponant is famous for its yachts – where modern design, sophisticated service, and state-of-the-art equipment and technology blend perfectly for safe, five-star adventures. With between 122 and 132 staterooms and suites (95 percent with balconies), Le Lyrial, Le Soléal, L’Austral, and Le Boréal are small enough to foster interaction with the crew and sail close to shore while still offering spacious public lounges and outdoor decks. In 2021, a new polar adventurer joins the mix when Ponant debuts Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s first electric hybrid polar exploration vessel powered by liquefied natural gas.

In all they do, Ponant Cruises strives to protect the flora and fauna of some of the world’s most breathtaking ecosystems.
In all they do, Ponant Cruises strives to protect the flora and fauna of some of the world’s most breathtaking ecosystems.

3. Travel with a team dedicated to protecting the sensitive environments you visit.

Every day, on every ship, on every cruise, Ponant is committed to preserving and protecting oceans and marine life as well as the biodiversity encountered on land. But more than just saying the words, the company leads by example. The fleet carries the international “Clean Ship” label, which certifies minimal environmental disruption, a rare distinction among ocean vessels. As a global leader in expeditions in extreme lands, Ponant ensures a rigorous protocol is in place for any landing in a new area. This innovative approach, involving a special team, has an ambitious aim: to ensure there is no impact whatsoever on the ecosystem of the chosen destination, thereby preserving the fauna, flora, and population. Thanks to this groundbreaking initiative, the company was nominated for the 2017 Palmes du Tourisme Durable awards.
 
Ponant also actively supports Le Cercle Polaire, a think tank focused on preserving polar lands, and partners with Upernavik FabLab, an organization that trains local craftsmen in Inuit communities, giving them means to maintain their cultural heritage and earn a living. These proactive initiatives earned Ponant the Blue Charter Trophy from the French Shipowners’ Association in 2016, in recognition of the company’s exemplary efforts to conserve the environment and encourage social and economic development.
 
“Staff present these programs in an eloquent and educational way that does not ever feel self-serving,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Rene Schneeberger. “I wish more companies and travelers paid attention to our natural resources and oceans. It’s a pressing endeavor we all carry responsibility for.”

Zodiac excursions bring you close to the action.
Zodiac excursions bring you close to the action.

4. Go where few have gone before.

“Far-flung” and “off the beaten path” are descriptions that get tossed around a lot in travel, but Ponant lives them. Boasting the broadest portfolio of expeditions in the polar regions, Ponant has more than 40 Antarctica departures scheduled for 2020, and a variety of high-Arctic itineraries spanning 7 to 22 nights, including the legendary Northwest Passage and Ultima Thule. It’s been said that more people have stood on the summit of Mount Everest than have visited the North Pole, so for those who appreciate the out-of-the-ordinary, Ponant has added visits to the geographical North Pole in 2021. Regular off-ship excursions on all itineraries are via a fleet of Zodiac landing craft. “Venturing out as explorers with our expedition leaders to see the extraordinary wildlife and normally inaccessible landscapes added a once-in-a-lifetime feel to the trip,” Newhaller says.
 
Ponant is steeped in French tradition.
Ponant is steeped in French tradition.

5. Say Oui to Ponant’s Frenchness.

Ponant might be the world’s only French cruise line, however, there’s no reason to worry if you can’t speak a word beyond bonjour and merci. Ponant is French where it needs to be, and international everywhere else. Lectures are delivered in English and French, as are shipboard announcements, and the highly trained crewmembers also speak English. But who can argue with a French touch when it comes to gastronomic excellence? Guests are treated to Ladurée macarons at afternoon tea, Lenôtre pastries and bread, fine wines and Champagne (including Veuve Clicquot and Maison Taillevent), and four-course dinners each night, prepared by passionate professionals. In 2016, Ponant joined forces with Ducasse Conseil, whose namesake, Alain Ducasse, is one of the world’s most decorated chefs. The partnership brings exacting standards to Ponant’s galleys, from the best and freshest ingredients to innovative and diverse recipes to presentation that gives new meaning to the phrase “the art of the table.” Even staterooms have a French flair, with Hermès bath products and gorgeous fabrics by Pierre Frey.

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