By Gerry Barker
MIAMI BEACH_In line with the main theme here at Seatrade Cruise Global -- "Welcome Back to the Ship" -- PONANT Americas CEO Navin Sawhney told assembled media,"We are thrilled to have most of our ships back in the water."
Despite the effects of the pandemic, Sawhney said the only French-flagged cruise line "has surged forward over the last three years, nearly doubling the size of our fleet," which today is 13 ships. During that time, they bought and integrated Paul Gauguin Cruises, as well as taking delivery of three new expedition vessels.
Recently appointed CEO Herve Gastinel gave a overview of PONANT, founded in 1988 by a group of French Naval officers. Specializing in small-ship cruising, Gastinel said currently North Americans represent 50 percent of their clientele, while Europeans are 35 percent, with the other 15 percent coming from Asia/Pacific.
He touched on the cruise line's mission -- "inviting guests to explore remote areas and learn about the culture, history and biodiveristy from expert guides" while leaving behind "the smallest footprint." That creed is exemplified in the line's newest ship, the 245-passenger Le Commandant Charcot, the first hybrid electric polar vessel powered by LNG (liquified natural gas).
Gastinel said PONANT has doubled down on sustainability with six new commitments to eliminate the use of plastics and reduce carbon emissions over the next three years.
In response to questions, Gastinel said they plan to have all the ships back in operation this summer. noting they were the first international line back to Australia, and they are preparing to launch a 14th vessel later this year.
He summarized by saying PONANT believes "small ships are the future" and there are "exciting times ahead," something the entire cruise industry can get behind.
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