The Ultimate Polar Adventure

Find yourself at the end of the world while draped in refined French luxury – PONANT’s latest vessel and the world’s first electric hybrid icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot, is an opportunity to truly explore, engage and indulge.

By Robb Report Team 16/12/2021

If there was one positive to come of the past two years, it is the acute concentration of focus to matters and moments of desire.

And it is within this potent and alluring framework that the want to chase adventure sits central – a yearning to pursue an emotive and tangible sense of unique otherness; a heightened want to engage and experience well beyond what has gone before or eyed from afar.

Enter luxury French adventure seekers and small ship operators PONANT, its new Le Commandant Charcot vessel and the provision of moments that prove meaningful.

Taking its name from the esteemed explorer, scientist, humanist, indeed, a man known to many as the ‘gentleman of the poles’ – Jean-Baptiste Charcot – Le Commandant Charcot wanders in the same gentle footsteps as its namesake, treading lightly as the world’s first electric hybrid icebreaker cruise ship, one powered by liquefied natural gas.

Equally, the driving concept that would come to influence the ship – as first sketched out in discussion six years ago – was a firm want to adhere to the philosophy of those early pioneers in exploring still largely uncharted polar regions, and for those fortunate to experience a given voyage to return enriched by the intense experience and to share that newfound knowledge of these formidable, if fragile, environments.

Le Commandant Charcot is the first passenger ship in the world to achieve a PC2 polar class hull rating – making it a true polar ‘explorer’ and allowing it an ability to venture further into landscapes that defy description and along channels inaccessible to other ships, all achieved via an overarching eco-friendly approach (beyond hydrogen propulsion the vessel utilises recycled energy, adheres to the recycling and traceability of waste, boasts LED bulbs on board for reduced energy consumption and more).

This is thoughtful sailing of renowned luxury – a further nod to the delivery of heightened pleasure synonymous with the PONANT name.

The overarching and guiding design principles of Le Commandant Charcot were to ‘invite the polar environment on board’. The results are interior spaces – as created by internationally acclaimed architects Jean-Philippe Nuel and Jean-Michel Wilmotte – that are luxurious, warm and open to the outside world. Many of Le Commandant Charcot’s spaces are, again, not only class-leading but completely new to luxury polar sailing. A focus on wellness and relaxation means the presence of a treatment spa and massage cabins, as well as sauna and unique snow cabin, detox bar, alongside yoga, pilates, active walking, meditation, personalised sports coaches as well as a relaxing winter garden and heated outdoor lagoon pool.

The outdoors and the associated solitude are further enhanced by open decks and what is a rare ability to walk a complete tour of Le Commandant Charcot.

Life on board is further enhanced by a cuisine bought to life by famed French chef Alain Ducasse (he currently holds 17 Michelin stars) and the Nuna By Alain Ducasse Restaurant – heralding the adaptation of Ducasse signature dishes across services that includes a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a gastronomique offering supported by Sila restaurant and an open-air bar as well as cigar lounge.

Indulgent luxury and the delivery of space in which to unfurl and truly repose comes in the various 123 staterooms and suites – each a designer driven cocoon of warmth and comfort, the elevated notion of what’s offered neatly surmised and highlighted by the impeccable 115sqm Owner’s Suite. Boasting terrace inclusive of outdoor spa, voluminous main dining and lounge area as well as generous and appealing bedroom, dressing room, bathroom, private butler service as well as 24-hour room service – it is a standout among the set, so too the new Duplex Suite offering, which, split over two levels, means 118sqm and includes a secluded terrace and private spa. Note all accommodations offer private balconies as well as attractive inclusions.

To sail on Le Commandant Charcot is to meld both the sumptuousness and sensitivity of the vessel to the immersive experiences that come beyond its frame. To call these, simply, activities is to not fully appreciate the tailored and layered approach central to each opportunity – each aimed at more than simply capturing a moment by delivering knowledge and insight, ultimately, a sense of personal growth, understanding and appreciation.

Such journeys see guests venturing to shore to engage with local Innuit communities, to embrace culture and ice fishing, to partake in anticipated outings via Zodiac to better explore remote environments and secure unique vantage points on which to reflect on the power and majesty of the poles.

Sit back as part of a sled ride led by a local musher and dogs, gaze upon wildlife inclusive of whales, penguins and seals, hike, snowshoe, kayak or even brave the waters with a polar swim in a drysuit. Back on board and discuss, at length, these impressive discoveries with field experts and leading scientists and even assist with their ongoing research.

Test voyages completed, Le Commandant Charcot’s spirituous calendar is now set – an arrangement of unique excursions divided to the extreme north and south and which set sail from this December through to March 2023.

Expeditions range from 9 days to 29 days – from a dramatic Ross Sea excursion departing Argentina, to discovering northeast Greenland and a journey to the so-called ‘Roof of the World’ (geographic North Pole) to many notable others, including Antarctic and South Pole adventures where the names of legendary explorers – Bellingshausen, Dean, Fisher, Ross, Amundsen, Mawson – resonate at every turn.

This is small ship sailing unlike any other – a unique opportunity that wraps indulgence and luxury with a firm want for guests to explore, experience, to feel and to learn.

Learn more about Le Commandant Charcot and its various itineraries via; 1300 737 178 (AU) or 0800 767 018 (NZ) or email

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