Ponant’s Le Jacques Cartier
By Anne Kalosh.
French line Ponant, one of the first to restart cruising, has accomplished another feat: six expedition new builds in just over two years.
The final in the series, Ponant’s Le Jacques Cartier, was just delivered by Fincantieri’s Vard shipyard in Norway.
It is now scheduled to join sister Le Champlain on French coastal cruises from Saint-Malo. The pair will explore the Ponant Islands that inspired the company’s name at its founding 30 years ago.
Le Jacques Cartier has the sleek lines of a super-yacht and 92 light and airy cabins and suites, all with balconies or terraces.
Blue Eye lounge
Like the other Explorer ships, Le Jacques Cartier features the unusual Blue Eye underwater multisensory lounge. Blue Eye has two giant windows resembling the eyes of a whale. Non-intrusive underwater spotlights reveal the views while hydrophones built into the keel capture the natural symphony of the sea and “body listening” sofas vibrate in unison with the sounds.
Hidden artwork by Shuck One
Distinct to Ponant’s Le Jacques Cartier is a hidden work by the acclaimed French graffiti artist Shuck One.
During the ship’s construction, he masterminded an allegorical diptych showcasing the oceans and nature on the raw steel.
Shuck One’s creation was covered up as the building was finished and is now available for viewing via a porthole.
Its production can be seen below.
A dozen ships
Le Jaques Cartier expands Ponant’s fleet to 12 ships. Still to come, in 2021, is the one-of-a-kind Le Commandant Charcot, touted as the world’s first luxury hybrid electric polar exploration vessel.
A few months ago, Le Commandant Charcot rendezvoused off Gibraltar with Ponant’s L’Austral, Le Boréal and Le Lyrial as they headed to Marseille, France, for layup during the suspension of cruise operations.
Le Commandant Charcot was under tow in a monthlong odyssey from Vard’s Tulcea shipyard in Romania, where the hull was built, to Vard Søviknes in Norway, where it will be finished.
Preceding Le Jacques Cartier in the Explorer series were Le Bellot (March 2020), Le Dumont-d’Urville (June 2019), Le Bougainville (April 2019), Le Champlain (September 2018) and Le Lapérouse (June 2018).
The small size of Ponant’s ships — each Explorer holds up to 184 passengers and 112 crew, while its earlier expedition vessels carry up to 264 passengers and 140 crew — were a factor in
enabling the line to resume service from France this month.
During the COVID-19 era, avoiding crowds and social distancing are critical, so smaller ships initially have the edge with health authorities — and, likely, travelers, too.
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