Cruise Ships 2011, The Year In Review: Compagnie du Ponant

Continuing Shawn J. Dake’s
Cruise Ships 2011, The Year In Review: Compagnie du Ponant

Identifyable by their ash-grey hulls and sleek lines, L'AUSTRAL and LE BOREAL. Photo courtesy of Compagnie du Ponant.

Compagnie du Ponant an offshoot of the giant French container company CMA-CGM Group, inaugurated their newest ship L’AUSTRAL on April 26th in Marseilles, headquarters for the line.  The 10,700 gross ton ship was joined by it’s sister, the 264-passenger LE BOREAL and the much smaller 90-passengers LE LEVANT for the gala ceremony which included music and fireworks at sea.  As noted by company co-founder Jean-Emanuelle Sauvee, “It has been decades since a French company counted five cruise ships in its fleet.”  Although the vessels are all relatively small, the company hopes to carry 20,000 passengers annually.  A third new sister ship will join the line in 2013.  On the other hand, the company will soon downsize as in December it sold both of its older ships.  The 8,282 gross ton LE DIAMANT (ex BEGONIA, EXPLORER STARSHIP, SONG OF FLOWER) was built in 1974 as a Ro-Ro ship and rebuilt as a cruise ship in 1986 before joining the current fleet in 2004.  It will be renamed OCEAN DIAMOND in November, 2012 sailing for Quark Expeditions.  Also sold was the 1998-built, 3,504 gross ton LE LEVANT which went to Paul Gauguin Cruises, to be renamed MOANA, also in November, 2012.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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