The world’s newest mega yacht will sail in Antarctica this winter on ten- and 15-night voyages exploring the mythical White Continent, its dramatic scenery and the world’s largest concentration of marine wildlife.  Guests aboard Compagnie du Ponant’s luxurious Le Boréal will have a front-row seat to view hundreds of thousands of penguins, towering icebergs and monumental glaciers during four Antarctic cruises from November 24, 2010 to February 8, 2011

The 264-guest Le Boréal combines chic French design with cutting-edge technology. Sleek and elegant, the 466-foot mega yacht was designed by Jean-Philippe Nuel with luxurious materials and the latest state-of-the-art equipment.  Ponant guests will enjoy the best France has to offer: delicious cuisine, tasteful accommodations and a chic, yet informal atmosphere.  The intimate size of Le Boréal and a staff-to-guest ratio of 1:2 mean guests will enjoy very personalized service.  During the Antarctica voyages, the yacht’s fleet of zodiacs will provide guests an up-close-and-personal view of the continent’s rich marine life and stunning natural beauty, as naturalists provide in-depth understanding of these memorable sights.

Le Boréal is a certified “green ship” and a member of IAATO, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.  New regulations proposed for cruise ships sailing in Antarctic waters would limit the size of the ships and number of passengers.  More importantly for some large and small cruise ships, a new prohibition of using and storing heavy fuels would cause some lines to pull out of Antarctica altogether. 

The first sailing, “South Georgia & Antarctica: The Penguin Kingdom,” embarks on November 24 from Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The 15-night voyage calls at Montevideo, the charming colonial capital of Uruguay and then on to South Georgia, an island that is part of the Scotia Arc, a submarine mountain range stretching from the Andes to the Antarctic Peninsula.  Disembarking at Gold Harbour or Fortuna amongst penguins and seals, an impressive sight awaits guests at Salisbury Plain.  On this glacial expanse surrounded by tall mountains, more than 250,000 King Penguins gather. The port boasts the region’s first whaling station and the tomb of famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton.  The expedition continues on to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula where guests will encounter orcas, whales, albatrosses, giant petrel, four species of penguins and five species of seals.  Next on the itinerary, a visit to Deception Island, home to the largest colony of chinstrap penguins (more than 120,000 couples) and a live volcano.  The volcano generates summery micro-climates both on the island and in its waters and guests can even take a dip at Pendulum Cove.  Le Boréal sails through the Drake Passage, heading to its last port, the scenic city Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

The second itinerary “Antarctica: Land of Extremes” is a ten-night round-trip voyage from Ushuaia (January 19, 29 and February 8.)  After crossing the Drake Passage, Le Boréal will call at Neko Bay and guests will get their first glimpse of the Antarctic’s breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife.  Continuing south, between Booth Island and Cape Renard, Le Boréal will enter the stunning Lemaire Channel, where Booth Island’s tall cliffs are reflected in lake-still waters dotted with icebergs.  The next calls are Cuverville Island, home to a large population of gentoo penguins (the third largest of the species) and Deception Island.  Returning northward, the last port-of-call on the Antarctic continent is at Brown Bluff, home to a tuya, a rare kind of flat-topped volcano formed when a volcano erupts through a glacier.  Brown Bluff also boasts a colony of 20,000 couples of Adelie Penguins.

Spacious and airy, Le Boréal has an abundance of public spaces: a theatre for performances and lectures, the Main Lounge with a dance floor and live music, the Panoramic Lounge for live entertainment and an area for Internet access, a Library, two open-air bars and two restaurants. La Licorne offers three meals a day in an elegant setting, while at the more casual La Boussole, guests can dine on lighter meals for breakfast, buffet lunch and themed dinners.  The yacht also provides 24-hour room service.  The Carita spa has a range of therapies and beauty treatments including a hammam and a hydrotherapy room.  The Fitness Center comes with the latest treadmills, bicycles and kinesis equipment. 

All but eight of Le Boréal‘s 132 suites and staterooms have verandas. Measuring between 484 to 200 square feet, the suites and staterooms are spacious and designed in a comfortable, contemporary style with king or twin beds, bathtubs or showers with L’Occitane amenities, flat screen satellite TV, DVD, CD and Ipod™ players, satellite direct-dial telephone and Wi-Fi. Le Boréal has the flexibility to reconfigure 40 staterooms into 20 suites making a total of 24 suites and 88 staterooms.  For its Antarctic sailings, Companies du Ponant will restrict the number of guests to 200.

Compagnie du Ponant is committed to reducing its impact on the environment.  Le Boréal has advanced waste water treatment, reduced fuel consumption and lower exhaust emissions.  The electric propulsion system is quiet and economic and the diesel engines use marine gas oil, a lighter cleaner-burning bio fuel.  The mega yacht’s dynamic positioning means no anchor will destroy sea beds and its optimal underwater detection system avoids collision with whales and ice floes. 

Given the exceptional nature of voyages to Antarctica and its icy waters, ports of call are subject to modification and the definitive route will be confirmed by the captain in consultation with local authorities and Antarctic specialists on board. 

Prices for the “Antarctic: Land of Extremes” sailings start at $4,700 per person, double occupancy and include all wine, beer, mineral water, soft drinks and specialty coffees served with meals. For the “South Georgia & Antarctica” itinerary, rates begin at $5,440.  Compagnie du Ponant offers travel agent commissions ranging between 10 and 15 percent.