Dispatch, Le Laperouse: Cozy like a river ship

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The main dining room on Le Laperouse.
The main dining room on Le Laperouse. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

ABOARD LE LAPEROUSE -- As we boarded this stylish ship for the first time after its christening, one of my fellow journalists whispered, "It looks like a river ship."

I could see her point. Le Laperouse is intimate and manageable, and has a light, appealing look that makes passengers feel relaxed.

"It's very homey," said Jennifer Tombaugh, president of Tauck, which had chartered the Le Laparouse for its inaugural cruise, a circumnavigation of Iceland. "It's just sort of, sigh," she said.

The ship is the first of six in Ponant's Explorer class, and the first to be delivered since Ponant was acquired by the French luxury goods conglomerate Artemis Group in 2015. Among the company's brands are Gucci, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga, and while the ship isn't as high style as some of those names suggest, there's obviously a heritage of good French design at work in its interior spaces.

The cabin numbers on Le Laperouse are mounted on leather strips.
The cabin numbers on Le Laperouse are mounted on leather strips. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Particularly noticeable is the use of white leather, not only for chairs but for bureau coverings in the staterooms, and in decorative accents in the corridors. The lighting fixtures are contemporary, different and tasteful. The Grand Salon, a central gathering spot on the 184-passenger ship, is at once chic and comfortable.

As an expedition ship, Le Laperouse is equipped with all manner of water sports toys, such as kayaks and paddleboards, which can be deployed off an expansive marina in the aft. There's a highly inviting sauna with an oval window and sensuously curved benches that looks out over the passing ocean.

And below the water line is the unique atmosphere of the Blue Eye, an underwater lounge illuminated by cobalt blue lighting and featuring two oval shaped glass eyes through which guests can observe marine life or other aquatic phenomena.

Our post-christening cruise through the harbor in Reykjavik included a salute from Ponant's Le Soleal, which circled the newer, smaller Le Laperouse several times. On its last pass, it drew within 100 yards, and crew from Le Soleal appeared on the top deck from bow to stern with lighted red flares to make a dramatic image for Le Laperouse guests.

The older Ponant ship Le Soleal deployed crew carrying red flares in a sail-by salute to Le Laperouse.
The older Ponant ship Le Soleal deployed crew carrying red flares in a sail-by salute to Le Laperouse. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

Although the parallels to a river cruise ship are evident, the differences are, too. At 9,900 gross tons, Le Laperouse is three times as spacious as a typical river ship. It has four passenger decks, a theater, an infinity-style pool, a photo/video gallery and comes equipped with 10 onboard expedition Zodiacs.

"Small is big," is how Tombaugh summarized the ship. She said that from the perspective of exploring destinations, which is what Tauck primarily sells to its ocean-going guests, the 184-passenger capacity is a perfect size for the job.

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