Ponant Orders Two Option Three Ships for Paul Gauguin – Other Cruise News: New For The Adriatic: The Picasso – Luxury Helicopters At Sea

by Kevin Griffin

In an interesting twist this week, Ponant has announced an order for two expedition cruise ships from its newly-acquired Paul Gauguin Cruises brand, with an option for a third. Elsewhere, a 159-berth Adriatic cruise ship that has been five years being built, may be about to enter service with a new brand called DIV Cruises. And we have a brief look at the 6- and 8-passenger helicopters that are now being added to the Scenic Eclipse and Crystal Endeavor and planned sister ships. Each ship will have two helicopters.


Ponant Orders Two Option Three Ships for Paul Gauguin

Fincantieri has signed a memorandum of agreement worth about €300 million for the design and construction of a pair of new-generation luxury expedition cruise vessels for the French cruise company Ponant.

Le Lyrial (Courtesy Philip Plisson, Ponant)

Le Lyrial (Courtesy Philip Plisson, Ponant)

The agreement also contains an option for a third sister ship.

Fincantieri has already built four 264-berth ships for Ponant in Ancona: Le Boréal, L’Austral, Le Soléal and Le Lyrial, delivered between 2010 and 2015. In addition, Vard, Fincantieri’s Norwegian subsidiary, has in 2018 and 2019 delivered four 184-berth units of Ponant’s “Explorer” class and will deliver the last two of the series in 2020. Vard will also deliver icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot, the first hybrid electric polar exploration vessel, to be powered with LNG, to Ponant in 2021.

The new units, both for delivery in 2022, will be an evolution of the “Explorer” class. They will be operated in the South Pacific for the Paul Gauguin Cruises brand together with the 320-berth Paul Gauguin, built in 1997 and acquired recently by Ponant.

Le Dumont d'Urville (Courtesy Studio PONANT - Frédéric Michel)

Le Dumont d’Urville (Courtesy Studio PONANT – Frédéric Michel)

This will bring the number of Paul Gauguin ships to three, or possibly four if the option is exercised. They will be about 11,000 gross tons with a capacity for about 230 passengers each.

They will be equipped with the most extensive battery package application in the market, allowing smokeless operation at anchor, in port and in environmentally sensitive areas.

Jean Emmanuel Sauvée, ceo of Ponant, commented, “We are delighted to continue our historic collaboration with Fincantieri. This agreement for two additional ships allows us to develop the Paul Gauguin Cruises brand acquired a few weeks ago and consolidates our position as the world leader of luxury expedition cruise.

Paul Gauguin - PG Cruises

Paul Gauguin – PG Cruises

For the first time in the world of cruising, these two new vessels will cut their engines and cease all emissions each day during each stop, for nearly ten hours per day. Small-capacity ships at the cutting edge of technology and environmental preservation: this project fully matches our philosophy of sustainable tourism”.

Fincantieri ceo Giuseppe Bono stated, “We cannot but welcome with great pleasure the acknowledgement of the partnership with a ship owner like Ponant for this new-generation project, strongly inspired by environmental protection, which takes us to thirteen units for Ponant”.


New For The Adriatic: The Picasso

The 159-berth 4,998-ton Picasso is a new ship for Adriatic and Mediterranean waters. Built for DIV Cruises, by the vessel’s owners, sister company Brodosplit Plovidba.

The Picasso (Artist impression, courtesy DIV Cruises)

The Picasso (Artist impression, courtesy DIV Cruises)

Completed this year on a hull launched five years ago, the new vessel is a coastal cruiser that takes many cues from similar-sized river craft.

The Picasso is 348 feet long and has four passenger decks. She is appointed for cruise travel and conferences.

The new vessel will accommodate guests in eighty double or twin-bedded cabins and suites. The suites and junior suites have a balcony. Many other comfortable and well-appointed cabins also offer a balcony. Free Wi-Fi internet connection is also available.

The Picasso has a dining room with panoramic windows, piano bar and lounge, gym, library, gift shop and a beauty salon. The Sun Deck offers the comfort of beautiful lounge chairs and plenty of open space, while the end of the Sun Deck has a swimming pool.

Kotor & The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro (Credit Expeditioncruising.com)

Kotor & The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro (Credit Expeditioncruising.com)

The new vessel is expected to cruise between Venice and Kotor by summer and cruise between Venice and Athens in the low season.

Brodosplit Plovidba also operates the 60-berth Monet and same smaller vessels engaged in the Adriatic cruise trades. People have been waiting for five years for the Picasso and there seems to be no announcement yet of an imminent start-up.

Luxury Helicopters At Sea

A new adaptation of aircraft to passenger ships seems to be helicopters to ultra-luxury expedition ships. The new Crystal expedition ships will also be equipped with a Helicopter Lounge. We know that costs will start at about $400 for a 20-minute flight but we don’t know yet whether it might annoy the other passengers on board.

Scenic Eclipse Helicopter Trial

The original adaptations of aircraft to passenger ships was seaplanes that were fitted to ocean liners in the 1930s so that as they approached shore they could deliver the First Class mails ahead of the ship’s own arrival. But never were they used for sightseeing.

The Scenic Eclipse, which has already entered service, can offer guests unparalleled access to some of nature’s most beautiful and least visited destinations, on board its two state-of-the-art Airbus EC-130-T2 helicopters.

The Crystal Endeavor (Artist concept, courtesy Crystal Cruises, March 2018)

The Crystal Endeavor (Artist concept, courtesy Crystal Cruises, March 2018)

These helicopter excursions let the passenger hover high above the Ross Sea Ice Shelf in Antarctica, vibrant coral structures in the Caribbean, a birds-eye view of the lush jungle coastline that separates Panama and Colombia from the oceans, and sights such as the sparkling Norwegian fjords.

The new Crystal Endeavor and possibly two more sister ships will also be equipped with a pair of eight-passenger helicopters for its own excursions, for example, Crystal Endeavor enters service in August 2020.

And Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot will also carry two helicopters for sightseeing, bringing the number of twin helicopter ships to at least half a dozen by 2022.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of The Cruise People Ltd and a director of specialist cruise operator Culture Cruises Ltd, both of London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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