Cruise Under Sail with Le Ponant
In August 2022, like a ghost from a bygone era, a sleek hull with three sails aloft emerged silently from the grand French seaport of Nantes. Le Ponant had been becalmed. Now, like a giant white butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, her canvas stretched with the wind as she moved off into the Atlantic.
If, like me, your nightmare cruise liner is a cliff face of hotel rooms perched atop a container ship for tourists, then Le Ponant is the answer to your prayers for peace and tranquility. There are just 32 pampered guests aboard — a one-to-one ratio with crew. The redesign was conducted under the watchful eye of Parisian architect Jean-Philippe Nuel, whose aesthetic is simply exquisite.
Shipshape and sustainable
Power comes from the wind or, very occasionally, small electric motors, cutting nitrogen oxide emissions by 90%. The onboard experience is decidedly refined over the three decks with the look and feel of a private yacht.
Le Ponant is an 88-metre celebration of slow travel. Where to begin? The sun lounge below the billowing white sails. Drinks in the sea air at the outdoor bar. Organic cuisine at the gastronomic French bistro, Le Diamant. Wellness by Biologique Recherche, and daily yoga on deck. Glass-bottomed kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, diving and snorkeling equipment, and saltwater pool. There’s no end to what can only be described as an immersive seafaring experience.
Islands and beaches, ahoy!
It seems almost unfathomable to leave this floating paradise for dry land. But it has to be done. And if it must be done, Le Ponant believes it should be done in the style to which voyagers have become accustomed.
In winter 2022–23, the vessel will traverse the tiny dots on a world map that constitute the Seychelles. From Mahé, with the Trade Winds, a new island emerges each day, including the Amirante Islands and Thérèse Island, uninhabited but for Le Ponant guests.
Summer 2023 will see Le Ponant on Australia’s Kimberley coast — the “Antarctica of the Tropics” — where remote white sandy beaches and mangrove forests are touched only by Zodiac inflatables. The largest population of migrating humpback whales on the planet are in these waters, and can be glimpsed from your chartered vintage Grumman Mallard flying boat.
Life aboard Le Ponant is both a journey back in history, to a life on the ocean wave when sail was king, and a leap into the future, where tourism leaves no trace. It’s nothing short of a privilege to be aboard a ship that can travel through time, as well as space, with such impeccable taste.
Photo credit: Tamar Sarkissian