FORT LAUDERDALE -- Ponant plans to build two more Explorer-class
ships for delivery in 2020.
The two ships will be called Le Bellot and Le Surville. They
will be the fifth and sixth in a class that starts with two ships arriving in
2018 (Le Laperouse in June and Le Champlain in September), followed by two (Le Bougainville and Le Dumont D'Urville) in 2019.
Like the other Explorer ships, Le Bellot and Le Surville are named for French navigators (Joseph Rene Bellot and Jean-François-Marie de Surville).
Together with Ponant's current five-ship fleet and an
icebreaker due in 2021, the French luxury expedition line expects to have 12
ships in service by 2021.
The seven new ships represent a $2 billion investment, said
Herve Bellaiche, Ponant's chief sales and marketing officer. "No other
company has invested that kind of amount in small ships," he said.
Ponant announced the new ships at a press conference at the
Seatrade Cruise Global conference. The event was attended by founder Jean
Emmanuel Sauvee, who created the company 30 years ago to revive the French
cruising tradition embodied by the steamships Normandie and France.
However, the idea was adapted to modern times, with Ponant
becoming a small-ship line while still holding to the French ocean heritage of
luxury interiors and fine cuisine. "Small is best. Destination is key,"
Sauvee said in summarizing the line's philosophy.
Sauvee said Ponant expects to have 460 departures in 2021.
Edie Rodriguez, hired last fall as Ponant's Americas brand chair and corporate
special advisor, said the growth makes marketing in North America imperative. "As
we grow from five ships to 12, clearly, we need to conquer the U.S. market,"