Ponant: Right Time for Small Ships

Le Commandant Charcot

“We were always going to build the fleet, however, the market unfolded in a certain way with certain preferences which play quite well and favorably for our portfolio of products,” said Navin Sawhney, CEO of Ponant Americas.

With the new Le Commandant Charcot, plus Paul Gauguin, the fleet stands at 13 ships.

“We cover every destination and offer the market something quite extraordinary with guests in a small environment, and a smaller group setting,” he said.

Expeditions in a luxury setting to far-flung corners of the globe are playing well to today’s demands, Sawhney explained, as guests are looking to invest in enrichening experiences and a deeper understanding of the places they visit, looking for that transformative experience on a small ship.

“People are also conscious of traveling responsibly,” Sawhney said. “Coming out of the pandemic what will matter is branded experiences.”

The company’s fleet of small ships fits that notion, and is now rounded out by Le Commandant Charcot, operating on LNG and batteries.

“It is a game changer and truly exemplary of what it can do in terms of traveling responsibly,” he said.


With wild itineraries on offer with Le Commandant Charcot, including long treks into Antarctica, visits to the North Pole and east Greenland, Ponant has a piece of hardware no one else can match.

Onboard, the ship has two science laboratories, both wet and dry.

““The idea is to involve the guest as a participant in what these scientists are learning and to participate in studies and experiments,” Sawhney said.

The vessel will be marketed around its hardware, luxury product and the fact that with it, the company can introduce destinations not frequently visited.

Across the fleet, the main strength is the deployment and destination mix, Sawhney said, combined with small luxury ships.


Looking back at 2019, the last year of full Ponant operations, the company has basically doubled in size with the delivery of Le Commandant Charcot and more Explorer ships.

“The biggest challenge will be to bring more new guests into the fold. The second challenge will be delivering the uncrowded experiences we promise with a small ship.”

Adapting to market needs, and staying close to customers and potential customers will be key to future growth, Sawhney said.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2022

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