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Luxury Expedition Cruise Line Completes Legendary Northwest Passage Sailing








MARSEILLE -- (October 6, 2014) – The only French cruise line and world leader in Polar cruising,PONANT has just completed its second crossing of the mythical Northwest Passage. The 22-day five-star expedition cruise, which started from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 26 and ended in Anadyr, Russia on September 16, delighted guests with more than 20 polar bear sightings, magnificent ice floes, great site landings, visits to remote Inuit villages and amazing sunny weather.


The 206 passengers enjoyed a unique experience, one rich in emotions and encounters, on a cruise rated one of the “50 Tours of a Lifetime” by the prestigious National Geographic Travelermagazine in 2014.
Like her sistership Le Soléal last year, L’Austral, which has 132 staterooms and suites and is designed for expeditions to extreme regions, retraced the historic route taken by Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer who was the first to open the passage in 1905 after three years of exploration.
In 2013, Le Soléal was the first French commercial vessel to follow this legendary maritime route, which links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via Arctic islands in the great Canadian North. This latest achievement is the culmination of 15 years’ experience navigating in the Arctic and Antarctic.
Aboard luxury yachts designed for extreme regions, whose small size allows them to venture into areas not accessible to other ships, PONANT’s five-star expeditions offer an opportunity to explore the most remote regions in luxurious comfort: a unique concept where flexibility at all times is the approach with a constant respect for the environment.
From sharing in the day-to-day activities of the crew and expedition teams, comprising experts who are passionate about their subject, to having access to the Bridge and regular outings in Zodiacs® in small groups, everything is designed to offer a polar experience that is as close to nature as possible.
3 September 2014
“Nicolas Dubreuil, Expedition Leader, schedules a stop at the Inuit Qariaragiuk site of the Thule civilization where we discover dozens of stone circles in which whale bones are visible. A mother and baby bear sleep on the ice a few meters from the bank. In the early afternoon, we drop anchor at the eastern entrance to the Bellot Strait and explore Fort Ross, a former trading post of the Hudson Bay Company.”
4 September 2014
“We slip in behind the Canadian ice-breaker Pierre Radisson to transit the narrow Bellot passage, she will escort us through the bottlenecks of ice on the other side of the channel to navigate through the Victoria Strait to the exit of this legendary passage on the Northwest route.”
5 September 2014
“Around 04.00 this morning muffled rumblings followed by even more muffled cracking sounds woke passengers. This time it is L’Austral’s turn to break the ice! Within minutes the decks and observation points are full of people, they absolutely have to experience this! My attention and that of our Ice Pilot remain totally focused, my instructions must be clear and brief, the spectacle really lives up to the conditions. At 23.00, the western horizon is glowing red again, to the east the moon fills the whole sky: L’Austral falls asleep, motionless, in the middle of the sea ice.”
6 September 2014
“L’Austral overcame the difficulties brilliantly with the help of the Pierre Radisson ice-breaker. Our passengers had a truly unique experience.”
7 September 2014
“A nature stop at Edinburg where we built a cairn in which we buried a sealed tube with lists of the crew and passengers as well as two photos to mark our passage in the tradition of the great explorers.”
8 September 2014
“Today we are calling into Ulukhaktok village, an Inuit community we have not made contact with before, so it will be a surprise for everyone, them and us!”
9 September 2014
“We have entered the Beaufort Sea. On route early this morning, a spectacular stop at the Smoking Hills! This site offers an amazing spectacle: hills of shale rock, consisting of sulphur-rich lignite deposits, ignite the hydrocarbons they contain and appear to be on fire, as they have done probably for thousands of years. The sea is so calm we could approach and disembark. Yellow, ochre and sometimes green cliffs magically appeared in the bright sunlight. Such a beautiful place and what a force emanates from this little known landscape, like being on another planet!”
Guests who want to experience this exceptional trip themselves can book PONANT’S 2015 Northwest Passage cruise aboard Le Soléal, departing from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on August 24, 2015.
Founded in 1988 by Jean-Emmanuel SAUVÉE and a dozen merchant navy officers PONANT has four intimate cruise ships, flying the French flag and embodying the essence of a private luxury yacht. Every year more than 20,000 guests sail with PONANT and in 2013 revenue topped €100 M.
Berthing in ports only accessible to small capacity ships, Le Ponant (32 staterooms), Le Boréal, L’Austral and Le Soléal (132 staterooms and suites) explore the Poles, North Europe, Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Asia and Oceania on cruises ranging from three to 21 nights. From five-star Expeditions to themed cruises (music, gastronomy, golf
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