French cruise operator Ponant is upending Arctic exploration with a new ship. Set to launch in Spring 2021, its vessel Le Commandant Charcot will be the first truly luxury icebreaker to forge its way to the true North Pole, located at latitude 90 degrees North.
While some icebreakers have offered tourists the opportunity to explore the Arctic in recent years, these ships have traditionally been industrial in character—most having been used for shipping cargo or scientific research, and utilizing diesel power. In contrast, Ponant’s icebreaker—named after French polar explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot—is a new build customized with upscale amenities that have been rare in the Arctic until now. It also will employ hybrid electric propulsion designed to minimize its environmental impact.
“The hybrid polar exploration ship will enable us to explore unchartered territory which has been inaccessible until now,” has said Nicolas Dubreuil, Ponant’s director of expedition cruises. “The North Pole will no longer be merely an unreachable dream. Ponant will soon be operating the first passenger ship able to reach this iconic location.”
The icebreaker will be able to traverse through ice fractures in frozen seas that are relatively unnavigable for conventional ships. But the biggest difference between Le Commandant Charcot and its older icebreaking counterparts, aside from its appearance, is its propulsion system powered by liquified natural gas. Because burning natural gas results in fewer air pollutants than fossil fuels, the ship will claim reductions of up to 85 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions and 95 percent in fine particle emissions over traditional ships. And when using hybrid electric mode, it will produce zero emissions.
Luxury at 90 Degrees North
Unlike existing icebreaker ships, Le Commandant Charcot is designed for maximum comfort—even pampering—during polar explorations. The 492-foot ship will have 135 cabins, including 68 suites with private balconies and patio doors. It even includes one duplex suite in the stern.
Another feature never seen before on an icebreaker is an outdoor deck with heated swimming pool and open-air bar. Should passengers prefer swim while avoiding the elements, the ship also will have an indoor swimming pool inside its wellness spa.
Other features include two restaurants, a sports hall, an outdoor winter garden and an observatory bar overlooking the bow of the ship.
Le Commandant Charcot’s icebreaking capabilities opens new itineraries for cruise explorers. While the ship’s official itinerary has yet to be determined, Ponant’s Nicolas Dubreuil has mentioned that Nunavut and Greenland will be among the destinations offered. Though several cruise lines, including Ponant, currently bring guests to these areas, voyages remain difficult to reach and are subject to ice and weather conditions. Le Commandant Charcot will largely do away with the uncertainty of reaching these regions, providing surer access to, say, Inuit camps.
Ticket sales for Spring/Summer 2021 voyages begin April 11, 2019. Pre-booking is available and strongly recommended. 888.400.1082, us.ponant.com/ponant-icebreaker