National Geographic Expeditions and French luxury brand Ponant have joined forces to market small ship adventure cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic in Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific.
Ponant, which will soon be the world’s largest operator of expedition ships, will create over 130 unique expedition itineraries over the next four years, including 18 cruises which go on sale from today.
Sarina Bratton, Ponant Asia Pacific chair, described the partnership as an enormous opportunity for the French expedition line as National Geographic is such a “powerhouse distribution channel” with its media assets and social media platforms.
Ponant’s fleet will consist of seven small, ice-class vessels which will increase to 12 by 2021. Le Laperouse will sail itineraries from Australia this coming wave season.
In 2021, when Ponant takes delivery of its first luxury icebreaker – a hybrid electric ship propelled by liquefied natural gas (LPG) – it will be possible to reach the Geographic North Pole, to cross the Arctic Ocean and cruise to the extreme north-east of Greenland.
“Our icebreaker ship will take us further to the North Pole and way south to the Antarctic where other ships cannot go,” Ms Bratton said.
A 20-night Antarctic Odyssey which departs Montevideo on 19 November 2019 on board Le Lyrial will cost $21,860 and a 16-night expedition, Beyond the Polar Circle which departs Ushuaia on 15 January 2020 will cost $21,950.
Ponant will create unique itineraries to some of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet.
Drawing on National Geographic’s 130 years of exploration experience, expedition experts and photographers from National Geographic will now be on board Ponant’s ships to engage with guests and create “an immersive and quality experience,” said a joint statement from both lines.
Ponant’s ships can accommodate between 180 and 240 passengers, will have new innovative features including a multi-sensory underwater lounge called Blue Eye.
Tim Jones, National Geographic’s vice president travel Asia Pacific said: “In Ponant, we have a luxury and ethically minded partner with European flair, experience in travelling to ambitious locations, along with an expansive travel agent network. We will be working together to offer premium expedition experiences, creating unique itineraries that speak to the explorer in all of us.”
Meanwhile, Lindblad Expeditions, which has had a similar marketing deal with National Geographic for 14 years, put out a statement last night saying it, too, had expanded its relationship to include “all of the Americas”.