Ponant Newbuilds on Schedule; More Deployment Details Revealed

Compagnie du Ponant’s two new ships are “on schedule” and expected to be delivered in April and July 2010, the line’s Director of Marketing Eric Lustman told Cruise Industry News.

Lustman said that the steel cutting for both ships began this past December at Fincantieri’s Ancona yard, and the keel laying for the first vessel, Le Boreal, will take place in April, and the second ship, L’Austral, in September. The 264-passenger sister ships are both10,600-tons, and are being built for $150 million apiece.

Le Boreal will sail in the Mediterranean through June 2010, and the Baltic and Northern Europe during the summer months; in the fall, she will sail the Great Lakes and Canada (making calls in Montreal and Quebec City); in the winter, the Caribbean and South America; and from December through February 2011, the ship will be in Antarctica, calling at Ushuaia, South Georgia and the Falklands.

The second vessel, L’Austral, will sail in the Mediterranean through October 2010, “mostly on the eastern side, in the Greek islands and Black Sea,” Lustman said. In November and December she will be in the Persian Gulf; from January through April 2011, Southeast Asia, calling in Singapore, Vietnam, and Hong Kong; and in May and June, Japan (Kobe, Nigata, and Hokaido).

The ship was originally slated to sail in French Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand during the winter months, and Alaska in the summer of 2011.

As for fleet additions beyond 2010, Lustman would only say that the line “has strong ambitions to become a leader in our niche market,” which he described as “premium and boutique.”

And while the world economic climate never prompted plans to cancel the line’s newbuilds, Lustman did say that the economy is having an impact on the company in terms of its charters (which make up 60 percent of its business). “There’s definitely a slowdown in the commitment of charterers. People are very unsure,” he said. Lustman also added that cruises to individual passengers are a bit behind compared to last year as well.

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