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Le Commandant Charcot

Former name: Ponant Icebreaker

Le Commandant Charcot cruise ship

Cruise line
Compagnie du Ponant

Ponant Cruises Coronavirus update

Le Commandant Charcot Review and Specifications

Specifications of Le Commandant Charcot

Year built2021 new ship
BuilderVARD shipyards (Tulcea Romania and Soviknes-Alesund Norway)
Classice-strengthened cruise ship
Building costUSD 324 million (EUR 274 million)
OwnerGroupe Artemis (Financiere Pinault)
OperatorCompagnie du Ponant Cruises
Speed15 kn / 28 kph / 17 mph
Length (LOA)150 m / 492 ft
Beam (width)28 m / 92 ft
Gross Tonnage30000 gt
Former namesPonant Icebreaker
Christened bytba

Review of Le Commandant Charcot

MS Le Commandant Charcot cruise ship (initially named "Ponant Icebreaker") is a newbuild constructed at two VARD shipyards - Tulcea Romania (hull and superstructure) and Alesund Norway (outfitting). Vessel's delivery is scheduled for April 2021. At the following link, you can check CruiseMapper's fleet of world's largest icebreaking ships.

History - construction and ownership

Compagnie du Ponant (CDP) is a French cruise shipping company founded in April 1988 by former French Merchant Navy officers. All Ponant ships are France-flagged. The company specializes in premium adventure cruise travel targeting the French-speaking source market with all-inclusive deals. Most of CDP's fleet is based in Antarctica (December through March).

Le Commandant Charcot cruise ship (Ponant Icebreaker)

Ship's building cost is USD 324 million (EUR 274 million). In December 2017, Ponant Cruises contracted the VARD company (Norwegian subsidiary of Fincantieri Italy) to build the world's first ice-breaking cruises ship.

Ponant's new mega-yachts offer modern amenities, premium service by highly-trained staff and crew, 5-star hotel amenities, offbeat itineraries visiting popular travel destinations worldwide, including Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, South America, Australia.

The vessel was named after Jean-Baptiste Charcot (1867-1936) - French scientist and medical doctor, who was the leader of the French Antarctic Expedition (1904-1907) to Graham Land (Antarctic Peninsula). He also participated in the following 1908-1910 expedition to the Bellingshausen Sea and the Amundsen Sea, that discovered Charcot Island (named after his father).

Le Commandant Charcot cruise ship (Ponant Icebreaker)

The cruise ship has GT tonnage 30,000, length 150 m (490 ft), crew 180, max capacity 270 passengers, a total of 135 cabins (of which 68 with private patio balconies), 3 restaurants (including 1 grill), spa and fitness, wraparound Promenade (outdoor deck), aft-located Sun Deck with swimming pool, 16 Zodiacs (large inflatable boats), fore-located helipad (2 onboard helicopters).

The hull is ice-classed PC2. The propulsion is diesel-electric (hybrid). The onboard LNG Fuel storage is by GTT. The Azipod propulsion units are by ABB.

The yacht is LNG-powered (Wartsila Dual Fuel engines, with alternative battery power) and operated on polar cruise itineraries (Arctic and Antarctica). Ponant will be able to explore new polar destinations, including true geographic North Pole (90 degrees North Latitude) and remote spots like Peter Island, Ross Sea, and the Weddell Sea.

The vessel took 3 years of planning and an additional 3 years of building. Its battery system guarantees endurance of around 100 days of continuous operation on that power alone.


Ponant's bookings for Le Commandant Charcot cruises were opened on June 13, 2019. Winter season 2021-2022 Antarctica cruise bookings will open on December 5. Itineraries include cruising to North Pole, along Greenland's eastern coast, Northwest Passage (Canadian Arctic), Antarctic Ocean (Ross Sea, Charcot Island, Peter I Island / Norway Antarctica).

The 15-day inaugural cruise is from Le Havre France to Reykjavik Iceland and visits destinations in Greenland and Iceland, including Jan Mayen Island (Norway) and scenic cruising through Scoresby Sund (Greenland) - world’s largest fjord system. Maiden voyage's prices started from USD 18,150 pp (double occupancy cabin rates).

The 11-day "At the Genesis of the French Polar Expeditions" themed voyage offers scenic cruising along Greenland's eastern coastline (protected area) north from Ammassalik Fjord (Sermersooq, southeastern Greenland) to Blosseville Coast (King Christian IX Land, eastern Greenland).

In August 2021, Le Commandant Charcot to the North Pole from Spitsbergen Island (Norway). The 16-day itinerary is priced from USD 29,100 pp.

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Vessel's propulsion system consists of two ABB Azipod VI units (azimuth thrusters). This marked ABB's 100th cruise ship Azipod order since 1995 when this patented technology was first implemented (on the Carnival Cruise Line ships Elation and Paradise). Next order was in 1997 (from Royal Caribbean) - 3 units for the then the world's biggest cruise liner Voyager of the Seas.

ABB's Azipod VI series features 6-m / 10-ft propellers and combined power output of 34 MW, resulting in greater maneuverability, fuel savings and efficiency gain (10-15% in comparison to the conventional shaft line systems). By using Azipod propulsion, the  Ponant icebreaker ship saves around 700,000 tons of fuel per year.

ABB Azipods as power output varies between 1,5 and 22 MW per unit. ABB land-based experts monitor all units' operational parameters, remotely coordinate equipment analysis, run diagnostics, and predict maintenances. Due to technology's lowered noise and vibrations, the Azipod propulsion also improves passengers' comfort.

On July 3, 2018, was signed a contract between VARD and GTT (French company specializing in marine LNG shipping) for constructing the ship's LNG tanks. The tanks are equipped with GTT’s "Mark III" membrane system (cryogenic liner directly supported by vessel's inner hull). The patented technology optimizes the payload in very restrained hull spaces. GTT was also responsible for selecting and coordinating subcontractors and installing the equipment. Ponant Icebreaker's fuel tanks have total LNG capacity 4500 m3, which makes it capable to run the entire cruise route using LNG.

In August 2018 was contracted Wartsila (Finnish corporation specializing in marine manufacturing and services) to provide vessel's dual-fuel engines (model 31DF). The cruise ship operates primarily on LNG,(liquefied natural gas). Its powerplant consists of all six 31DF engines (4x 14-cylinder plus 2x 10-cylinder). Wartsila also will manufacture and install its gas fuel supply system and navigation equipment (Wartsila Nacos Platinum package). All Ponant ships are fitted with Wartsila-made engines.

Vessel's construction officially started on November 14, 2018, with the traditional steel-cutting ceremony held at VARD Tulcea shipyard (Romania). On December 14 was held vessel's keel-laying ceremony. Ponant Le Commandant Charcot vessel's hull number is 887.

On March 18, 2020, the vessel left the left VARD Tulcea and headed for VARD Soviknes Shipyard (Alesund Norway) for outfitting.

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