Cruise Ships 2012, The Year In Review: Compagnie du Ponant / Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Continuing Shawn J. Dake’s
Cruise Ships 2012, The Year In Review
Compagnie du Ponant which until 2012 was a division of the giant French container company CMA-CGM Group, has been sold to Bridgepoint Capital Ltd., a British private equity firm with no previous background in the cruise industry. The deal was finalized in July. The company has recently been adding a trio of new ships and operates in the luxury and expedition niches of the industry. This had been the only remaining company to be French owned and operated.

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

Their next ship under construction will be named LE SOLEAL. It was launched December 6th at the Ancona yard of Fincantieri. In July of 2013, the newest ship will join her 264-passenger, five-star sisters L’AUSTRAL and LE BOREAL and the 64-passenger sailing ship LE PONANT. With the trio of new 10,700 gross ton ships the company sold two of their older ships in November. 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 went to Quark Expeditions and has been renamed OCEAN DIAMOND. Also sold was the 1998-built, 3,504 gross ton LE LEVANT which went to Paul Gauguin Cruises becoming the TERE MOANA.

COLUMBUS 2 published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
COLUMBUS 2 published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises began their two year charter of Oceania Cruises INSIGNIA (ex R ONE) in April, renaming the ship COLUMBUS 2. As that vessel joined the fleet, the previous ship C. COLUMBUS, was withdrawn from service at least under the Hapag-Lloyd flag. The keel for the new EUROPA 2 was laid on March 1st in the dry dock at the STX Europe Shipyard in St. Nazaire, France. The first block of the ship weighed 881,840 pounds. At the same time the suites, the smallest of which are 301 square feet with veranda, are being manufactured at the shipyard’s cabin factory. By July 6th the dry dock was flooded and the ship took to the water for the first time. When the new ship is delivered in May of 2013, it will join the existing EUROPA as the most spacious ships in cruising.

The EUROPA continues to be the only ship in the world rated 5-Stars-Plus out of 284 cruise ships analyzed by the Berlitz Complete Guide To Cruising & Cruise Ships. The 184-passenger expedition ship HANSEATIC (ex SOCIETY ADVENTURER once again made a full 25-day transit of the Northwest Passage departing from Nome, Alaska on August 14th, ending in Reykjavik, Iceland. In 2013, the company will attempt a two-ship transit with the addition of the 164-passenger BREMEN (ex FRONTIER SPIRIT) joining the HANSEATIC, with one ship sailing in each direction. Sebastian Ahrens, Managing Director of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises left the company at the end of 2012.


Shawn Dake is a freelance photo-journalist and regular contributor to For more than a decade he has written his annual “Cruise Ships, The Year In Review” which has now grown to a nearly 15,000 word essay recalling all of the events that have taken place within the cruise industry the previous year.

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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