French small-ship cruise line Ponant signed a letter of intent to order four expedition ships, with the first one expected to be delivered in 2018.

Vard, the Norwegian subsidiary of Fincantieri, will build the ships.

The order is Ponant's first major expansion since Artemis, holding company of the Pinault family, bought Ponant in 2015.

Plans call for the ships to have 92 staterooms and 110 crew. French designer Jean-Philippe Nuel will design the interiors, as he has for previous Ponant ships.

Ponant already offers its polar White Expeditions, and with the new ships, it will launch Green and Blue variations. Blue Expeditions will focus on exploring Oceania and its lagoons and secret islands. Green Expeditions will take passengers to destin ations in South America such as the Orinoco River, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea and destinations in the Indian Ocean.

"The result will be a host of unusual itineraries to get as close as possible to local cultures and rare and exceptional flora and fauna, during excursions on a unique fleet of Zodiacs with naturalists onboard," Ponant said.

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