TORONTO — Ponant, a company specializing in luxury expedition cruises that is aiming to increase its profile among Canadian travellers, announced its 2016 program and incentives for booking early during a travel agents event in Toronto Wednesday.
“It’s (Ponant) not as well known as it could be and that’s why we partnered with Cruise Strategies,” explained Kathy Johns, Ponant Director of Sales, North America. “We’re here to develop brand recognition in the agent community and educate everyone about why we are different and where we fit in the marketplace.”
The company, founded by a dozen merchant navy officers in 1988, has five new ships flying under the French flag, offering a wide range of voyages to every corner of the globe with over 200 departures to 81 countries touching all seven continents.
“We have the youngest fleet out there and with a maximum of 264 guests, that’s a really small ship to give you access to ports larger ships can’t get to but all in a luxury package,” said Johns, who believes Ponant is filling a void.
“There are amazing ships focused solely on expedition and amazing ships focusing solely on luxury and because we focus on both we deliver an experience different from everybody else.”
The all-inclusive small ships are quiet and feature accommodations with 95% balconies, butler service in suites and French-inspired cuisine. Passengers come from around the world, so there’s an international vibe onboard – 35% are English speaking. Staff speak English and French and the cruises are popular with Quebecers. The atmosphere is casual elegant (no dress up nights), with open seating so guests can mix.
New and notable is Ponant’s new Voyages of Discovery & Learning brochure for 2016. “We took some off the shelf itineraries that existed and added luminaries and guest speakers, authors, musicians to enhance that itinerary and then custom built the shore excursions around that guest,” explained Johns. For example, Simon Winchester, former correspondent for The Guardian and the Sunday Times and author of 30 books, is the onboard expert on the 13-day South China Sea voyage, while Eric Steig, professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Washington and an expert on glaciers and climate is the onboard guest on the Alaska & British Columbia voyage.
“It gives you this unique perspective that is a conversation throughout the trip.
“We have a 97% recommend rate and a high repeat rate…85% repeat within three years,” said Johns. Four of the ships are the same which she says helps with the repeat rate, because travellers know what to expect.
As a special incentive to sail with Ponant, couples save $1,000 ($500 for solo travellers) when they book any of the cruises in Ponant’s Summer 2016 brochure. Must book by Sept. 4, 2015. Check ponant.com or call 1-888-400-1082.
Ponant’s ship L’Austral will be in Vancouver on Saturday July 11 and agents may register for a ship tour and lunch (which is almost sold out) at http://moltclient.net/ponant/LP0013/form.html?inf_contact_key=e853194a12e572d32ee0bf433e51897bc9aa57cce94ce7b1bcd4519a5c7168e1.