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New French cruise line CFC to revive long sea voyages

Compagnie Française de Croisières (CFC), officially launched today in Paris, will cater to lovers of long sea voyages.

Its first ship, Renaissance — built as Maasdam for Holland America Line and reflagged to France — is scheduled for an inaugural cruise in February.

CFC envisions a modern version of the traditional croisières à la française, sailing exclusively from Le Havre and Marseille on long, varied itineraries catering to travelers seeking discovery, culture and time to enjoy the ship.

With a combined experience of 50 years in the cruise industry, Marseille-based Clément Mousset and Cédric Rivoire-Perrochat, CFC president and GM respectively, are realizing their dream of operating a smaller, 100% francophone ship on cruises that reinterpret the long sea voyages of yesteryear.

Backing by Cheyne Capital

This concept, announced in 2019 for Jules Verne of the now defunct Cruise & Maritime Voyages, attracted the interest of US/British investment fund Cheyne Capital, which was looking to enter the cruise sector.

10m upgrade planned

While Renaissance is 30 years old, it underwent a refit in 2018-19 'is in excellent shape,' according to Mousset, and equipped for shore power, which will be available in Le Havre in 2023 and Marseille in 2025,

'We are, however, going to put it up to our standards and add our touch,' Mousset said, with an investment of some 10m. Capacity will be reduced from 1,258 passengers to 1,100 passengers, served by 560 crew. And the ship meets demanding environmental requirements as it had been planned to sail in Alaska.

Some 80% of the cabins have ocean views. A standard inside cabin measures 16 square meters/172 square feet and the largest suite is 90 square meters/969 square feet.

100 solo cabins

In a new twist, some 100 cabins across inside, ocean-view and balcony categories are going to be dedicated to solo travelers year-round, without any supplement.

Gastronomy and entertainment

To live up to the French gastronomic reputation, a former Michelin-star chef will create menus supervised by a maritime executive chef. Two specialty restaurants – one dedicated to meat (64 seats) and the other to Asian fusion food (68 seats) supplement the main restaurant (710 seats) and the buffet (375 seats). The Table du Chef (12 seats) will reinterpret some of the great gourmet recipes found aboard such legendary ships as Mermoz, France, Normandie and the former Renaissance of Paquet French Cruises.

Also planned are 10 production shows per cruise, live bands, a DJ and more. Announcements will be limited to security briefings and a daily update at noon from the captain. The daily logbook will be mainly digital.   

From Le Havre or Marseille, never the same itinerary

Built as a long-haul ship, Renaissance is promised to offer very varied, bold and new routes.

'Our concept is that 100% of our cruises are flight-free, each of them departing and returning to the two ports we selected,' Rivoire-Perrochat said. 'Some 31 different cruises are planned from Feb. 10 until January 2024, with an average length of 11 nights, even if we have a few seven- or three-/four-day departures.'

Extended port calls

Port calls will range from 13 hours to 72 hours. In 2023, CFC will visit 157 destinations in 54 countries. 

From Le Havre, in February, the first two cruises will head to Norway and have an aurora borealis theme. In March, the ship will follow the sun with a Canary Islands and Madeira itinerary that's a wink to the inaugural cruise of France in 1962. Subsequent cruises will visit Germany, the Channel Islands, Ireland, the Baltic, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

Once repositioned to its homeport Marseille in September 2023, Renaissance will sail to Greece, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Corsica, Sicily and the Adriatic coasts. On Jan. 4, it will begin a 120-day grand voyage around Africa, through the Suez Canal and around the Cape of Good Hope, featuring some 50 calls at 28 countries with access to 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Renaissance will be marketed in Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Québec, with reservations opening this month. An average daily rate of 240 per person including gratuities is planned, with special discounts at 105. CFC targets 34,000 passengers for its inaugural season.   

More ships?

Renaissance is to be christened Feb. 5 in Le Havre. Another ceremony will be held when the ship arrives in Marseille.

If this first year is successful, a second and third ship would be considered.