In fact, Ponant is not new - it actually celebrates its 30th anniversary this year! But so much has changed in recent years that we think of it as a new company, with the added bonus of a long-standing senior management team, and roots reaching back to 1986 when Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, a young French Merchant Navy officer and travel enthusiast (who by the way is still leading the company today), decided to fulfil his dream by creating an innovative concept: showcasing the art of travelling by sea in the finest French tradition.
For some years, they operated a single ship: the 64-passenger sailing ship Le Ponant, which is still a much loved member of the fleet. Growth started in 1997, and at present, the company operates four chic new sister ships in addition to Le Ponant: Le Boréal, L'Austral, Le Lyrial and Le Soléal.
Under the new ownership of the deep-pocketed Artemis corporation, an order was placed for four more ships, specifically for the expedition market: Le Champlain, Le Lapérouse, Le Bougainville and Le Dumont d'Urville (all the names of French explorers by the way), imminently to start operation, not to mention an icebreaker. Then in March, a further two Explorer class ships were announced, which will bring the total fleet to twelve by the end of 2021 - quite an accomplishment.
The company has some interesting partnerships, covered before on this website, with a particular focus on sister companies, resulting in a Christies cruise in partnership with the world famous auctioneer, and a collaboration with Ducasse Conseil, led by triple Michelin star winner Alain Ducasse.
Later this month we will see the launch of a British Library exhibition sponsored by Ponant, named 'James Cook: the Voyages'. It is 250 years since Cook's Endeavour set sail from Plymouth, and the British Library exhibition tells the story of three world-changing voyages through original documents. Many of these were produced by the artists, scientists and sailors on board the ships, including Cook's handwritten journal detailing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle. Do let us know if you would like tickets for the exhibition.
Recently released is the 2019 programme, including two fascinating Japan voyages in October, which just happen to coincide with the Rugby World Cup. If you are a sports enthusiast, why not take the opportunity to combine the World Cup matches with an exploration of this fascinating country?
Also for 2019 we have a selection of themed English-speaking voyages to be promoted exclusively in the English-speaking markets (Ponant have offices in the USA and Australia), and a very intensive Antarctica season for 2019/2020 which has just been launched.
The company is particularly conscious of the fragility of the regions in which its ships sail, and is proud of its excellent green credentials, with huge technological investment in ensuring the ships have minimum impact on the environment. It has recently announced its support of Sea Plastics, a non-profit organisation created in 2016 with the aim of operating oceanographic expeditions to study the impact of plastics on the marine environment.
So watch this space to see how a thoroughly modern company combines stellar growth with rooted heritage to create a new travel experience.