Today’s luxury travelers may venture out into the world with more comforts, conveniences, and access than ever before, but the best trips should still feel like an adventure—and walk the fine line between providing plush amenities and making you feel like you’re discovering new ground. As a top name in expedition cruising (Antarctica included), Ponant understands that explorer’s spirit—and is celebrating it with a sleek and stylish new ship.
Officially launched on October 25 with a maiden sailing out of northern France, Le Champlain is the newest vessel in the brand’s Ponant Explorers series, which will ultimately include six ships. In addition to each being named for a noted French explorer (this one pays homage to 17th-century navigator and cartographer, Samuel de Champlain), the ships in this dedicated collection have been designed and reinforced to withstand polar-level elements, drawing from advice from award-winning sailing expert Olivier de Kersauson, who consulted on the project.
Past this extra-tough exterior, though, is a ship that feels more like a private yacht than your typical big-box cruise. Guests settle in to one of just 92 staterooms and suites, each featuring its own balcony or terrace, satellite direct-line phones, videos on-demand, and French-made bath products; Grand Deluxe Suites come complete with upgrades like bathtubs and butler service, while guests of the Owner’s Suite enjoy luxe extras like an outdoor Jacuzzi and complimentary airport transfers. When guests do want a bit of the social action, they can mingle with fellow passengers over books and board games in the library or relax on the pool deck, which houses an outdoor bar/lounge, a solarium, and a pool with counter-current swimming system. If swimming isn’t enough, they can head to the wellbeing center for fitness classes and Sothys spa treatments, and come dinner time they can choose from two relaxed (but still decidedly gourmet) dining spaces. And when it comes to adventure, a state-of-the-art new adjustable-height hydraulic platform makes it easier to board the ship, take off on Zodiac excursions, and access the sea for water sports like kayaking and paddle-boarding.
Though all of the above adds up to a world-class cruising experience, the crown jewel of Le Champlain (and the Explorers series more generally) is the Blue Eye: a first-of-its-kind underwater lounge where rounded furniture all faces two oversized portholes framing the aquatic world. Three specially-designed underwater cameras project more seabed images onto the lounge’s digital screens so guests can it a more in-depth view, and sound design expert Michel Redolfi developed hydrophones that transmit the sounds of the sea into the lounge—which guests can hear while lounging on one of the Body Listening Sofas. Blue Eye architect Jacques Rougerie describes the lounge’s multi-sensory experience as a way to “let guests become modern-day explorers, following in the wake of Jules Verne, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and the great adventurers.”
Le Champlain will sail year-round through the Caribbean, South America, Northern Europe, and North America, offering unique itineraries like a pro-led Golf and Pro-Am trip through the Caribbean, and a Mayan-focused trip along the Yucatan Peninsula.