Luxury French line, Ponant has restarted operations with eight ships sailing in France, Iceland and Tahiti for local cruisers as travel restrictions ease.

“By Thursday this week, we will have eight ships resuming cruising in France including Le Lyrial sailing seven nights itinerary from Nice, L’Austral departing from Marseille, Le Bougainville departing Bordeaux and Le Dumont D’Urville in Normandy departing from Le Havre.

“Then there’s Le Bellot cruising in Iceland, Le Boreal in Spitsbergen and Le Paul Gauguin in Tahiti departing Papette on a seven-night round trip,” said Deb Corbett, commercial director Asia Pacific.

The line has also parked two other ships, Le Soleal in Tahiti and Le Laperouse in New Caledonia, waiting for the greenlight from Australian and New Zealand authorities to cruise in the South Pacific again.

Ponant will also restart its Kimberley cruises on board Le Laperouse once state borders in NT and WA are lifted.

“We have not released the itineraries for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific until we know when the authorities lift restrictions on cruising.

“The two ships, Le Soleal and Le Laperouse, are fully manned and for the last four months, they have been waiting to cruise once borders reopen. The peak Kimberley season is between April and September but we may extend the cruise season. Our Kimberley cruises are led by local expedition leaders from Australia,” Ms Corbett said.

To ensure that its ships are COVID-safe, the line has introduced a string of stringent health and safety protocols before embarkation, while on-board including social distancing with daily tracking and monitoring of the “sanitary bubble”.

Crew on Ponant with face shields

It is also compulsory that guests wear face masks in public areas and on Zodiacs. Restaurants will no longer serve buffets offering only contactless table service.

There will also be reduced capacity at the ship’s theatre and entertainment venues.

If necessary, Ponant will cut back on numbers but most of its ships can only accommodate up to 260 passengers each.

“It’s a moveable feast where we review each voyage with a view to managing any increased numbers,” Ms Corbett said.

Ponant’s latest hybrid-electric polar exploration ships, Le Commandant-Charcot will launch in April next year when she debuts her Arctic season.

With 270 guests, the ship will take passengers to far flung polar destinations in “absolute luxury,” many accessible for the first time.

Itineraries include voyages to the Geographic North Pole and the far reaches of the Antarctic down south, many of which remain unexplored.

Le Commandant-Charcot will offer unprecedented experiences and activities such as viewing these icy panoramas from a hot air balloon, exploring by electric hovercraft, assisting scientists or, for the qualified, diving beneath the ice as well as dog-sled excursions,” she said.

The ship uses a powerful combination of technology such as Liquified Natural Gas-powered engines, advanced waste water treatment systems, minimised fine particle emissions and fuel consumption.