Compagnie du Ponant

Ponant (officially, Compagnie du Ponant (CDP); "Ponant Company") is a French cruise ship operator. It was founded in April 1988 by Philippe Videau, Jean-Emmanuel Sauvé, and other officers of the French Merchant Navy and launched the first French cruise ship.[1] The company operates five ships, all of which operate under the French flag.

IndustryMaritime transport
ProductsCruise line
WebsiteEnglish Website


Ponant started out with one ship, Le Ponant, a three masted Barque built in 1991. Le Ponant still operates with the company today. Eight years later in 1999, the company acquired Le Levant, a yacht. After 13 years in service with Ponant, Le Levant was purchased by Paul Gauguin Cruises in 2012 and became Tere Moana.[2] In 2004, Ponant purchased Le Diamant, a luxury liner. Le Diamant transferred to Quark Expeditions in 2012 to become Ocean Diamond.[3]

Later, in 2010, Ponant put into service the first of a series of four identical luxury sister ships, Le Boreal. A year later, the company began operating the second ship of the class, L'Austral and in 2013 the third ship of the class was added to the fleet, Le Soléal.[4][5] The fourth ship of the class, Le Lyrial, has been delivered in 2015.

Initially based in Nantes for 18 years, in 2006 the company headquarters was moved to Marseille following its acquisition by CMA CGM. In 2012, CMA CGM sold Ponant to Bridgepoint Capital.[6]

On April 4 2008, Le Ponant was seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden while en route from the Seychelles to the Mediterranean. The ship carried no passengers at the time of its capture, but all 30 crewmembers were taken hostage.[7] The hostages were released without incident on April 12. Following the release, French helicopters tracked the pirates to the village of Jariban. French commando marine and GIGN operating from the frigate Jean Bart and the Jeanne d'Arc moved in when the pirates attempted to flee in the desert. A sniper disabled the get-away vehicle, and the commandos were able to capture six men. Local officials claimed that three people died in the raid, with a further eight wounded, but France denied this. Troops also recovered some of the ransom money paid by the owner of the yacht for the release of its crew.[8] The six captured pirates have since been flown to Paris, where they shall face trial.[9]

In 2012, the owner of Compagnie du Ponant, CMA CGM, sold the company to Bridgepoint Capital.[10]

In 2013, one of Ponant's ships, Le Soleal, became the first French commercial shipping vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage. The vessel left Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on August 26 2013 and arrived in Anadyr, in Russia on September 16 2013.[11]

In 2015, Groupe Artémis bought Compagnie du Ponant from Bridgepoint.[12]

In March 2016 Ponant ordered four new ships with about 10.000 GT at VARD, a subcompany of Fincantieri.[13] They will get delivered in 2018 and 2019. The ships will get named Le Lapérouse, Le Champlain, Le Bougainville and Le Kerguelen.[14]

In December 2017, Le Lapérouse left VARD Tulcea in Romania and was heading to final outfitting at VARD facility in Norway. [15] She arrived in mid of January.[16]

In December 2017, Ponant announced that it had ordered an icebreaking expedition cruise ship from VARD. The NOK 2.7 billion (about 274 million euro) vessel will be built to the second-highest IACS ice class, Polar Class 2, and will be capable of taking tourists to the North Pole. The vessel, named Le Commandant Charcot, is scheduled for delivery in 2021.[17]

In March 2018, Ponant announced the order of two additional 180-passenger expedition ships, Le Bellot and Le Surville, that will join the company in 2020.[18]

In 2019 Ponant purchased Paul Gauguin Cruises.[19]


The company operates seven ships:

ShipBuiltEntered service
for Ponant
Gross tonnageFlagNotesShip image
Le Ponant199119911,489 GT FranceA barque built in 1991, 32 cabins for 64 passengers and 32 crew members.

Boreal class

ShipBuiltEntered service
for Ponant
Gross tonnageFlagNotesShip image
Le Boréal2010201010,700 GT WLFBuilt in 2010, 132 cabins and suites for 264 passengers and 140 crew members. The Le Boréal won the award for "Best Newcomer of the Year - GOLD from the European Cruiser Association (EUCRAS).[20]
L'Austral2011201110,944 GT WLFSister vessel of Le Boréal, built in 2011, 132 cabins and suites for 264 passengers and 140 crew members. L'Austral was put into service on April 20, 2011.
Le Soléal2012201210,944 GT WLFSister vessel of Le Boréal and L'Austral. Like her sisters, she has 132 cabins and suites for 264 passengers and 140 crew members.
Le Lyrial[21]2015201510,944 GT WLFOn 16 July 2013, Fincantieri and Ponant announced that they had signed a contract for a new super luxury cruise ship to be delivered in 2015.[22] The ship will be the sister ship of Le Soléal and like her sister, she will be built in Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard.[23]

Explorer class

ShipBuiltEntered service
for Ponant
Gross tonnageFlagNotesShip image
Le Lapérouse201820189,900 GT WLFFirst ship in the Explorer class. Built at VARD in Ålesund, Norway and in Tulcea in Romania.
Le Champlain201820189,900 GT WLFSecond ship in the Explorer class. Also built at VARD in Ålesund, Norway and in Tulcea in Romania.

Former Fleet

ShipBuiltIn service
for Ponant
Gross tonnageFlagNotesShip image
Le Levant19981998-20123,500 GT FranceA yacht built in 1998, 45 cabins for 90 passengers and 55 crew members. Sold to Paul Gauguin Cruises to become Tere Moana. Delivered in 2012.
Le Diamant1974, rebuilt in 19862004-20118,282 GRT FranceA luxury liner bought in 2004, 113 cabins for 226 passengers and 120 crew. Transferred to Quark expeditions in 2013.[24]

Future Fleet

ShipDeliveryGross tonnage
Le Bougainville20199,900 GT
Le Dumont-D'Urville20199,900 GT
Le Surville20209,900 GT
Le Bellot20209,900 GT
Le Commandant Charcot202130,000 GT


Ponant offers all-season cruises, in places inaccessible to larger cruise liners.

In February 2018, the company announced it had added new theme sailing for the 2019 season: Green and Gentle Lands, Sicilian Food and Wine Experience, Treasures of the Mediterranean World, World War II History – From Hong Kong to Japan’s Inland Sea, and others.[25]


  1. "L'historique de Compagnie du Ponant". SixStarCruises. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  2. "Paul Gauguin buys Le Levant, to branch out from South Pacific". September 30, 2011. Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  3. Griffin, Kevin (12 December 2011). "Ocean Diamond Joins Quark Expeditions". Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  4. "L'Austral". Cruise Line. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  5. "Ponant's Le Soléal Enters Service with Godmother Kiki Tauck Mahar as Guest of Honor". Travel Pulse. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  6. Bridgepoint Acquires Ponant
  7. "Somali pirates seize French yacht". BBC News. 4 April 2008.
  8. "France raid ship after crew freed". BBC News. 12 April 2008.
  9. "France charges Somali 'pirates'". BBC News. 18 April 2008.
  10. Charles Gautier (3 July 2012). "L'armateur CMA CGM cède la Compagnie du Ponant". (in French). Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  11. "Ponant ship makes history". SixStarCruises. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  12. "La compagnie du Ponant embarque chez Artémis". 27 July 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2019.
  13. "VARD: 4 NAVI DA CROCIERA PER PONANT". 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  14. "4 NOUVEAUX NAVIRES POUR PONANT". Retrieved 2016-09-15.
  15. Staff, CIN (2017-12-28). "Le Lapérouse Heading to Norway from Tulcea". Retrieved 2018-01-12.
  17. Next destination North Pole. The Independent Barents Observer, 18 December 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-25.
  18. Staff, CIN (2018-03-06). "Ponant Orders Two More Expedition Vessels". Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  20. "Le Boréal: Small ship cruising, French-style". All Things Cruise. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  22. "Fincantieri to build fourth cruise ship for France's Ponant". Ship Technology. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  23. "16/07/2013". Fincantieri. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  25. Staff, CIN (2018-02-09). "Ponant Adds New Themed Sailings, Part of Quintessential Collection". Retrieved 2018-02-12.

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