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Iceberg Lake

Jim's Le Commandant Charcot Trip Report

Calling all polar explorers! Jim has just returned from his trip on board the stunning Le Commandant Charcot with Ponant Cruises, and he is so excited to share all about his experience. Read below to hear all about his fantastic voyage to the Arctic region on board this groundbreaking polar ship!

"I just returned from what might be the most impressive ship that I have ever
seen. Truly, my words and pictures can not do this ship justice. The ship
has been sailing for just over a year and is honestly the only one of its kind.
It is first of all a luxury ice breaker. It presently has the world’s highest ice-
class rating, Polar Class 2. None of the world’s militaries have a ship
that can break through the ice like the Charcot. At the same time it is one of
the most beautiful and luxurious cruise ships afloat, as well as the most
technologically advanced."


Wow! Besides being the only Polar Class-2 icebreaker in existence, it is
also by far the largest polar expedition vessel at 31,757 Gross registered
tons. For reference, this is three times the size of Ponant’s other expedition
ships and about 50% larger than the Silversea Endeavour(ex Crystal) and
Seabourn Venture. But the really interesting fact here is that the ship
carries the same amount of passengers(200-245) as these other ships and,
indeed even smaller expedition ships. How can this make sense? Well,
Ponant figured that since this ship spends more of its time at sea, breaking
through ice getting to ports that no one else can get to, that more public
space is needed so passengers can enjoy this time aboard. So, more
public rooms, a big beautiful spa, a number of pools, including a beautiful
indoor pool, as well as “The Blue Lagoon”, which I will discuss later, a full
wrap around open promenade deck, with deck heating and heated
benches(no ice to slip on). Also, hall ways are extra wide and ceilings extra
high. In summary, one of the roomiest cruise ships of any kind afloat today.

The ship is powered by two of the largest(300 tons a piece) Azipod
thrusters ever constructed. The ship is powered by a hybrid LNG/Electric
propulsion system, which is the first of its kind, as well as the most
environmentally friendly ship propulsion system in existence. Exhaust

gases are recycled for outdoor heating. The ship has two bridges, one
forward and one aft. The ship carries a helicopter for ice spotting as well as
specialized Russian built tractors that can operate on the ice or in the
water, and can be utilized by the expedition team or in case emergency
camps have to be constructed.
There are two laboratories where scientists from around the world are
invited to join the Ponant team to aid their research, and there is even
an opening in the hull for taking sea water measurements no matter
the ice conditions on the surface. Because it's so difficult to reach, the
Arctic is an under-researched area, so Ponant's ability and willingness
to support the scientific community is a welcome aid to better
understanding the effects of climate change in the polar regions.

We were also shown the battery banks that power the electric Azipod
engines, the LNG generators and the numerous safety features and
various redundancies that allow this ship to go way beyond any other
vessel. Another first that was highlighted, was the huge stabilizers that
reduce movement when cruising at sea, something no other
icebreaker has.

I could go on and on. This is such an amazing ship.

Public Rooms

Restaurants, Food & Wine

Nuna, the 484 m² gastronomic restaurant at the rear of deck 5, can
seat all the ship's passengers at a single sitting. Elegant and
refinement are all part and parcel of the à la carte dining experience it
has to offer at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The ship's second bridge is
located at the back of the restaurant: behind its large windows, you
will have a front row seat to observe the crew during their operations.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated and serves predominately
French food. This gastronomic restaurant is in partnership with
Michelin Star chef Alain Ducasse. Ducasse works with Charcot’s sister
ships to train the chefs and design the menus, but Le Commandant
Charcot has the actual Alain Ducasse restaurant—essentially a
Michelin star experience. The butter, breads and desserts are truly
amazing. A fair selection of French wines are complimentary, and the
additional choices available from their collection are quite amazing for
a ship at sea, but then again the ship has the same owner as Chateau
La Tour. A really nice feature are the special wines sold by the glass
from their wine preservation system: examples being Dom Perignon
and Chateau D’Yquem for about 40 Euro a glass. The Sila Restaurant
also serves predominately French food buffet style in a very pretty
dining room on the top of the ship. Again, all passengers can be
seated at one time, so there is never a problem, reservation needed,
or a wait for a table. If you prefer to eat outside, you can enjoy a
varied and refined range of sweet and savory food throughout the day
(11:00-18:00) at the Blue Lagoon Bar. In addition to these established
restaurants and their defined operating times, there was a daily
display of themed teatime and happy hour snacks, with themes like
teppanyaki, ice cream, Culatello (Italian salumi from Parma), Belgian
waffles, Belotta (Spanish ham) or French Classic dishes.


The public rooms are some of the most stylish afloat. On Deck 5, there is a
beautiful theatre that seats considerably more people than the ship carries
with state of the art technology, including a LED stage background wall
enabling the projection of ultra-high resolution media. The main lounge, a
tea room and bar, with an entertainment area, and a cigar and cognac
lounge. The reception space and expedition desk, with open elevators,
surrounded by “Oscillations”: a digital artwork by Miguel Chevalier, which
changes continuously, making for continually changing environments. Also,
surrounding this deck is the outside promenade deck which is
uninterrupted. This means that, unlike most passenger ships, it is possible

to walk all the way around the ship and to the bow. It is also equipped with
decks and benches heated by energy recovery and two Swarovski Optik
telescopes. Here you'll get fantastic views as you look out over the uniquely
shaped bow, designed to mount the ice and then use the ship's weight to
break through it, and the second bridge at the aft, used when the ship turns
its engines 180 and uses the propellers to cut into the ice while reversing
into it.
The Pool Deck features a heated indoor swimming pool with a superb
skylight thanks to its large glass roof, a sunroom with large external-facing
windows, a detox bar with sofas and armchairs. The Blue Lagoon pools, an
outdoor heated lagoon with a temperature that ranges from 27 to 37° C
using recycled energy from the ship, adjoining a giant fire-pit (Inneq - le
feu), so you can enjoy the polar landscapes in complete comfort and an
outdoor bar (Blue Lagoon bar) where you can enjoy a varied and refined
range of sweet and savory food throughout the day (11:00-18:00). This use
of outdoor space in a cold weather environment is novel and genius. At the
front of the pool deck is the Observation Lounge with an entertainment area
which might be the prettiest of its kind afloat. The collection of books on the
polar regions is really amazing. Also on this deck is the Wellness
Lounge(Spa), which features a hair salon facing the boundless horizon,
massage cabins with large windows, a sauna with an unobstructed view of
the immense white polar expanse, and a snow room… The wellness areas
on board Le Commandant Charcot take on a new dimension. These
spaces, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, combine design and comfort,
and have been created with expert know-how using environmentally
responsible brands.
Last, but not least, are what many expedition ships call a mudroom, for
changing into and out of expedition gear. On Charcot, these spaces look
like beautifully done living areas.

The staterooms are all stylishly designed and come in a variety of

The Prestige Staterooms(215 sq ft) have ample space, the deluxe
suites(301 sq ft) offer a little more space with beautiful walk in closets,
while the Prestige Suites(430 sq ft) and Grand Prestige Suites are among
the largest and most stylish accommodations on any expedition ship. The
Duplex and Owners Suites are more than double the size of the highest
categories on most other luxury expedition ships. The Duplex Suites are
fantastic two level accommodations featuring a large iving room with
double sofa bed on the ground floor, as well as a huge outdoor deck with

private hot tub. The upper floor features a large bedroom, beautiful bath
and a view over the water or ice that is truly unbelievable. I can’t imagine a
nicer accommodation for a family trip to the polar regions.

Language Onboard

The Charcot operates on a bi-lingual French/English basis. On
some cruises, French speaking passengers may well outnumber
those speaking English. French is the default language,
but all staff is bilingual, and the French passengers and language
add a unique identity to the ship, which I really like. All activities
and expedition programs and lectures are in both languages.

Impressive Accomplishments

After only sailing for a year and a half, Le Commandant
Charcot has already achieved some impressive “Firsts”.
In September 2021 she was the first non Russian icebreaker, first
French-flagged ship, first hybrid-electric LNG ship and the first
purpose-built passenger cruise ship to reach the North Pole.

Le Commandant Charcot broke another record during her first
season cruising in Antarctica and reached the most southern
latitude ever reached by sea, cruising to a latitude farther south
than any other ship has been able to do so far.

Breaking a route for research vessels. Charcot assisted brand-
new, powerful research icebreakers while in Antarctica and the
North Pole. The British and Norwegian research vessels that
Charcot assisted were fully capable of making it to their
destinations, but both called upon Charcot to take advantage of
her ability to break through much thicker ice in a shorter period of

Charcot created a path for the research vessels to follow behind,
saving them both time and energy. This is just one more example
of how Le Commandant Charcot values scientific research in the

polar regions and is willing to veer off course to support the
scientific community.

The ship visited Eastern
Greenland in May of 2022. This was the first time a cruise ship
had visited in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Charcot was able to break through the thick ice and visit
this region two months earlier than any other ship. This was
important because the remote villages rely on ships to resupply
them after long winters, and Charcot was the first to assist.

The ship is now collaborating with the Inuit communities to benefit
them with resupplies and to offer guests aboard unique cultural
experiences such as dogsledding with the locals. This is not
possible on other cruise ships because they simply can’t break
through the ice in this area during the springtime

All in all, Le Commandant Charcot is a unique experience in every
way. It has no competition, as it is a bucket list destination in itself.
If you want to experience totally unique destinations on a totally
unique ship ice breaking ship, in utmost luxury, and can afford it,
there is really no other choice!

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