Ice-Class Cruise Ships Will Feature Underwater Lounges

Published Apr 30, 2016 5:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Luxury cruise line Ponant has announced new details for its new class of four boutique polar cruise vessels. 

The 180-passenger expedition ships will be a fraction of the size of conventional Caribbean and Mediterranean cruise ships, and even smaller than the line's existing 260-guest vessels. Ponant says that the design was selected in order to give access to unusual destinations off the beaten track. 

Their smaller passenger count does not mean that they will lack for creature comforts. All 92 staterooms will have private balconies. Four larger suites will feature their own terraces. Cuisine will be designed in consultation with Ducasse Conseil. An infinity pool on the fantail will give swimmers a glass-sided view of the ship's wake. There will be a crewmember for every 1.7 passengers, a relatively favorable ratio for attentive service. 
And, in a unique and unprecedented flourish, the ice-classed hulls will feature below-the-waterline observation lounges with transparent viewports.

Ponant says that construction of the first of the 10,000 gt "Explorer Class" vessels is set to begin at Fincantieri subsidiary VARD, which has primarily built offshore and specialty vessels in the past – markets which are now in decline. The ships, based on a previous Fincantieri design, will be delivered beginning in 2018. 

Fincantieri, the “reference builder” for cruise ships worldwide, owns a 55 percent stake in VARD, and VARD CEO and executive director Roy Reite said that the contract would allow his firm a chance to utilize the expertise of its majority shareholder.

Ponant, a subsidiary of private luxury investment group Artemis, has most recently made headlines for the engine room fire on the Le Boreal off the Falklands, which required the evacuation of 350 people. A heavy lift vessel transported the Boreal back to Fincantieri's yard in Genoa, and Ponant has said that she will be back in service next month.