As the cruise line gears itself up for the launch of the sixth ship in its fleet, Le Soléal, I’ve taken a look at the history of the renowned French company, Compagnie du Ponant, and their luxurious yacht cruises.
The company was formed in 1988 as the first cruise line to be based in France. The cruise line was formed by several officers in the French Merchant Navy including Philippe Videau and Jean-Emmanuel Suavé, and was based in Nantes for an initial 18 years.
In 2006, the cruise line was bought by CMA CGM, and relocated to the popular port city of Marseille. Six years later Bridgepoint Capital then bought the cruise line and remain the current owners.
There are currently three ships in the fleet, not counting the newest ship Le Soléal. The eldest of these is Le Ponant, which was built in 1991. She’s also the smallest ship in the fleet, catering to just 64 passengers for a truly intimate experience.
Le Boréal is a much newer addition, added in 2010, with 132 cabins and suites meaning up to 264 passengers can enjoy the same standards of cruising. Her sister ship, L’Austral, launched in 2011 and Le Soléal will be the third ship in the class.
Former ships include Le Levant and Le Diamant, both of which were sold in 2012 to Paul Gauguin Cruises and Quark Expeditions respectively.
Le Soléal was originally marked down to launch in June but this moved to July. Despite the fact it hasn’t yet launched, it was christened in a ceremony back in December 2012 when Kiki Tauck Mahar, who has worked with Compagnie du Ponant for many years, broke the traditional bottle of champagne against the hull. She is also the wife of Dan Mahar, the CEO of river cruise operator Tauck Voyages.
By Ian Lewis