Why Ponant’s new Le Commandant Charcot is in contrast to another cruise ship

I lastly acquired a take a look at Ponant Cruises’ new expedition cruise ship, Le Commandant Charcot, and it is making me rethink my loyalties.

As common readers know, I prefer to rave in regards to the two hardy new ships that Lindblad Expeditions not too long ago unveiled for polar cruising: Nationwide Geographic Decision and Nationwide Geographic Endurance.

I’ve referred to as them the final word vessels for expedition cruises to the best-known polar vacation spot, Antarctica.

However I’ll now have to separate my devotion to the Lindblad vessels with an equal love for Le Commandant Charcot, too.

After two weeks aboard the vessel, which was particularly constructed for polar cruising, I’m, fairly merely, in awe of it.

Le Commandant Charcot is an expedition vessel able to doing issues that no different expedition ship presently afloat can or will ever have the ability to do.

What’s extra, that’ll most likely be the case for years to return. No different firm will possible spend the large amount of cash it took to construct Le Commandant Charcot — reportedly $430 million for a ship with simply 123 rooms.

Certainly, the CEO of considered one of Ponant’s high rivals within the expedition cruise house not too long ago instructed me the corporate regarded into constructing a vessel like Le Commandant Charcot however concluded it might be so costly that it might by no means flip a revenue.

In different phrases, to the extent that Le Commandant Charcot is the brand new queen of the expedition cruise ship world, it could possibly be a protracted reign.

The world’s hardest expedition cruise ship

The designers of Le Commandant Charcot got a easy mandate: Construct a vessel able to taking vacationers to the North Pole.

That may appear to be a slender focus for a cruise vessel. However it was a mandate that was broader than it might need appeared at first. A ship powerful sufficient to succeed in the North Pole — a vacation spot far past the attain of another built-for-tourists vessel — can be powerful sufficient to go to simply about another spot on the planet.

It was, basically, a mandate to construct the final word expedition cruise vessel.

It additionally was a mandate that offered enormous hurdles. As I noticed not too long ago on considered one of Le Commandant Charcot’s first sailings to the North Pole, it might require the ship to be powerful on a degree that we’ve got by no means seen earlier than in an expedition ship.

To have the ability to journey to the North Pole, the 245-passenger vessel needed to be constructed as a real icebreaker of the type that solely governments have operated till now — a vessel able to slicing by the thick multiyear ice that’s discovered throughout components of the polar ice cap.

It additionally needed to be constructed with redundancies in working methods, emergency gear, meals storage and gas storage that might enable it to outlive lengthy intervals away from resupply and rescue.

To high all of it off, Ponant additionally wished Le Commandant Charcot to supply passengers a degree of consolation not often seen within the expedition cruise house. If the corporate was going to cost passengers tens of 1000’s of {dollars} to journey to probably the most distant components of the world on the vessel (and given the fee to construct it, that might be a should), it would as nicely make certain they’d get a luxurious expertise.

Right here, a take a look at what makes Le Commandant Charcot so particular.

Le Commandant Charcot is constructed for energy

Among the many sometimes-over-the-top necessities that Ponant demanded from Le Commandant Charcot’s designers was the power to interrupt by a ridge of floating sea ice 15 meters excessive. That is the equal of 49 toes — a peak that icebreakers not often encounter. (On my latest crusing to the North Pole on the ship, we largely encountered ice simply a few meters thick.)

The ship additionally had to have the ability to sail by 2.5-meter-thick ice at a relentless pace and in addition function in temperatures as little as minus 25 levels Celsius.

To perform that, Le Commandant Charcot needed to be constructed with an extremely thick hull. At its icebreaking bow, the metal measures 6 centimeters thick — about six instances the thickness of a typical cruise vessel. Even at its sides, the metal is 4.5 centimeters thick — greater than 4 instances the thickness of a typical cruise vessel.

As well as, the supporting beams for the ship’s hull had been positioned 40 centimeters aside — 5 instances nearer than is typical on some cruise vessels.

The ship additionally has an influence plant that may produce 34 megawatts of energy — seven instances the ability of different Ponant vessels that carry the same variety of passengers, such because the 264-passenger sister ships Le Boreal and L’Austral.

As Le Commandant Charcot captain Patrick Marchesseau famous throughout a chat with passengers on board, that is practically 3 times extra energy than another icebreakers operated by governments, together with a British icebreaker within the Arctic that Le Commandant Charcot aided quickly after its debut.

The British icebreaker may solely produce 11 megawatts of energy, which meant that it could not transfer by ice practically as quick as Le Commandant Charcot.

“She was succesful to proceed within the ice situation the place she was at half a nautical mile per 24 hours,” Marchesseau famous. “After which we went to open a fairway for them, [and] inside two hours we opened a fairway for them of three miles. So, we saved them every week of labor, roughly.”

For most individuals reserving cruises, such particulars a couple of ship’s engine energy or hull thickness do not actually matter. You do not decide a cruise ship based mostly on its engine energy. However such attributes are on the coronary heart of what units Le Commandant aside: its means to go to extra distant locations all over the world than another vessel.

It is constructed for security

When the tip of the world comes, you may wish to be on Le Commandant Charcot. As a result of Ponant deliberate to ship it to a number of the world’s most distant locations, the road constructed the ship with backup security options and self-sufficiency not often seen for ships that are not naval vessels.

For starters, the ship has huge gas tanks that enable it to function in distant places such because the Arctic for so long as 4 months with out a resupply — many instances longer than the standard cruise vessel. Its meals storage areas are enormous, too.

Outsized gas and meals storage areas are two of the attributes that outline probably the most succesful expedition ships, because it provides them a spread that ordinary vessels haven’t got.

For security, Le Commandant Charcot was additionally constructed with two engine rooms which can be utterly walled off from one another in a manner that ought to enable the vessel to outlive even a serious disaster with considered one of them. As well as, in a really uncommon twist, the self-contained motors in every of the ship’s two Azipod propellers, which dangle beneath the ship, have been cut up into two side-by-side half methods. Even when one of many half-motors blows, the Azipod ought to proceed to run.

Plus, the ship has a battery backup system that may run the whole vessel for a short while if, for some motive, its fundamental engines go down.

Maybe the ship’s most spectacular security characteristic is its intensive survival gear, sufficient to maintain the 400-plus passengers and crew on board alive and nicely for 5 days in the event that they needed to abandon ship, even in probably the most excessive Arctic or Antarctic ice circumstances.

The gear consists of a whole pop-up polar survival camp, together with inflatable polar shelters that may maintain tons of of individuals, survival fits that may preserve individuals alive in freezing water and double as sleeping luggage, and floatable meals and water depots.

As a part of the certification course of for the ship, Ponant did a real-life check of the survivability of such a camp on frozen Arctic ice with dozens of volunteers, which was noticed by coast guard officers from america, Canada and Norway.

It is constructed for consolation

Not like another vessel able to breaking by Arctic ice, Le Commandant Charcot has all the weather of probably the most upscale inns on land: spacious lodging, elegant lounges, fantastic eating and a spa.

The cabins and suites on Le Commandant Charcot are among the many most fashionable I’ve seen on an expedition ship, with a modern, modern really feel. In my cabin — a “deluxe stateroom” that was removed from the priciest lodging on the vessel — pretty mild fake wooden paneling enveloped the mattress space, overlaying not simply the wall behind the mattress however the ceiling above with a curvy transition between the 2.

Ultramodern built-in furnishings provided loads of cupboard space whereas additionally giving the room a hip look. The bogs had been horny with darkish granite counter tops, grey stone bathe partitions and fake wooden partitions.

Amongst luxurious touches, my room got here with a high-end Nespresso espresso machine, with pods replenished each day, and a minibar stocked with complimentary drinks, together with mini bottles of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Gray Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin and Bacardi rum.

As well as, my cabin additionally got here with a balcony, which is not one thing you all the time discover on comparable vessels. Certainly, each cabin on Le Commandant Charcot has a balcony — a rarity for expedition ships.

Amongst different standout options on Le Commandant Charcot is a fundamental restaurant (Nuna) with a menu designed by Alain Ducasse, the famed French chef. It is top-of-the-line eateries I’ve ever skilled at sea. Meals at Nuna are included within the cruise fare, and you’ll dine there as many nights as you want.

The ship’s spa and wellness space boasts an indoor saltwater pool with plush lounge chairs dealing with the ocean by floor-to-ceiling home windows, in addition to a sauna, snow room and salon. An onboard health room presents cardio machines dealing with the ocean. A brilliant-heated out of doors wading pool beckons in the back of the vessel.

Service on board is high-level. There are roughly the identical variety of crew members on the vessel (201 once I sailed) as passengers. That interprets into very attentive service.

Le Commandant Charcot’s fares should not low cost

As you would possibly anticipate for such a high-end, expensive-to-build vessel, sailings on Le Commandant Charcot are costly.

Ten-night sailings alongside the coast of Greenland on the vessel begin at $18,420 per particular person, based mostly on double occupancy (in different phrases, $36,840 or extra per couple for a cabin). The ship’s most unique itinerary, a 15-night crusing to the North Pole, begins at a sky-high $46,450 per particular person, based mostly on double occupancy.

Backside line

Le Commandant Charcot is, fairly merely, the hardest expedition cruise ship ever constructed. It could possibly attain locations on the planet that no different expedition cruise vessel can attain, such because the North Pole. It is also a stunning, upscale vessel with top-notch service. The mixture means it is an amazing selection in the event you’re in search of a cruise vessel that may give you an journey like no different. Simply be warned {that a} journey on Le Commandant Charcot will not come low cost.

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