“New ships mean an increase in the consistency of our Ponant product,” said Hervé Bellaiche, executive vice president of sales. The company’s older tonnage has been shed over the last two years with the exception of Le Ponant.
“We have three sister ships and Le Ponant, the flagship vessel. The new vessels have increased our brand positioning as a high-end luxury product with unique destinations, excursions and outstanding service aboard.”
Terri Haas, chief commercial officer in North America, noted a push to find new places to sail to from company founder Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, adding that the company “is growing.”
The latest ship will bring an assumed end to Ponant’s three-ship newbuild cycle, but a fourth ship is said to be in the works – at press time awaiting financing, according to a source familiar with the matter, for a 2015 delivery.
A varied passenger sourcing strategy has shielded Ponant from the Euro-zone crisis, said Bellaiche. In the U.S. the company has recently expanded its Miami office to 12 people, adding a MICE-dedicated employee.
A bit further east, in early May, Ponant opened an office in Shanghai.
The company has a significant amount of capacity dedicated to the polar regions, but still has a traditional cruise program with a new ship, every summer, in the Mediterranean.
“The main driving factor for planning itineraries are demands from our passengers and what we expect them to ask for not now, but in a couple of years,” said Bellaiche.
Added Haas: “More ships will continue to open up the globe.”
The pricing point is that of a five-star experience, and North American passengers see all alcoholic beverages included in the ticket price, where international passengers can purchase a bar package.
Sailings are fully bilingual in English and French, with Bellaiche noting most of the hotel managers speak better English than French.
“We are about French elegance and French service for an international clientele,” Bellaiche added.
>> Also in this section: in-depth profiles on every European cruise line.