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CRUISE_Herve_Bellaiche_Photo_by_Francois_Lefebvre.jpg PHOTO: ©FRANÇOIS LEFEBVRE
'The small size of our yachts, which can welcome up to 190 passengers, allows us to react very quickly in case of a suspected COVID case,' Hervé Bellaiche said

Eight Ponant ships have sailed, a very promising start

One of the first cruise lines to resume sailing over the summer, Ponant is quite satisfied with the results, Hervé Bellaiche, chief sales and marketing officer, told Seatrade Cruise News.

50 cruises carrying 3,000 passengers

The line began sailing July 11 and has operated 50 cruises and carried 3,000 mainly French but also international passengers.

'Our clients wanted to travel. That comforted us and motivated us even more to set up an ultra-strict sanitary protocol, which offers a controlled and rational way to cruise,' Bellaiche said. During the summer, this was put to the test and proven to work.

'Moreover, the small size of our yachts, which can welcome up to 190 passengers, allows us to react very quickly in case of a suspected COVID case, as we can test people in 20 minutes and also surfaces. This was absolutely fundamental to reassure our clients, as well as the tour operators and travel agencies searching for a luxury product.'

Eight ships sailed

Eight Ponant ships sailed during the last two months, which was very satisfactory for the company.

Apart from the Le Havre cruises, which were suspended for lack of demand, the programs from Marseille, Bordeaux and St. Malo operated, along with Iceland and Arctic sailings but those were interrupted due to local regulations and borders closing. The line also sailed in Croatia.

And the Kuril Islands cruise, which will end in Korsakov, Russia, and not Japan because of national regulations, is to sail soon, but carrying only Russian passengers.

The ships were filled up to 40% to 50% occupancy, with mostly French travelers but also some from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

New Mediterranean routes

Boosted by the very positive comments of its customers and the ability to operate and adjust to a difficult context, Ponant now plans eight Mediterranean itineraries, including five new ones, provided international regulations allow. Until November and on board Le Champlain and Le Jacques Cartier, the cruises will head to the Dalmatian coast, Greece, Malta, Turkey and the Red Sea.

'We restart sparingly,' Bellaiche said.

Still hoping for Antarctica, Seychelles, Caribbean

As for the winter/austral summer, 'It is a bit too early to give a precise answer. We are working hard to get the necessary authorizations. We're concentrating on the Antarctic, Seychelles and Caribbean. For the Antarctic, we'll put there as many ships as necessary, according to the requests we have.'

Mass tourism in question

In any case, 'We'll keep up with our values,' which include protecting the environment and local heritage, Bellaiche said. 'I think this sanitary crisis questions mass tourism. Future cruises will probably be concerned with more sustainable and sensible choices.'

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