Arctic Cruise Ship First for France

Ponant vessel

Published Sep 21, 2015 6:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

France’s Ponant cruise company has completed a first in the history of navigation, as two of its sister ships, Le Boréal and Le Soléal, have just crossed the Northwest Passage from Greenland in the east to Siberia in the west.

The two ships crossed the passage three days apart travelling via the Bellot Strait. The vessels’ captains were Etienne Garcia and Patrick Marchesseau on Le Boréal and Le Soléal respectively.

This latest achievement is the culmination of more than 15 years’ experience sailing in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, says the company. “It is with great pride that we announce this crossing under the French flag, unique in international maritime history,” says Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, Chief Executive Officer of Ponant.

In 2013, Le Soléal became the first French commercial shipping vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage. The vessel left Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on August 26 and arrived in Anadyr, in Russia on September 16.

Designed to sail in extreme regions, each vessel has 132 staterooms and suites and have obtained the international “CLEANSHIP” label (Bureau Veritas) for their innovative green equipment.

Along the voyage through the narrow channels and shifting glaciers of this little known region, passengers explored landmarks such as Canada’s Beechey Island of Franklin expedition fame, Gjoa Haven where Amundsen anchored his ship over a century ago and Cape Bathurst. 

They also saw hundreds of belugas, around 60 bears and nearly 500 narwhals. Another highlight for passengers was meeting French adventurer Charles Hedrich, the first man to cross the Northwest Passage solo in a rowing boat.