Ponant expedition ships to feature ‘underwater lounge’

Ponant expedition ships to feature 'underwater lounge'

NEW YORK —The four expedition ships that
Ponant ordered last month will feature the first “underwater lounge,” a bar
with windows looking into the water, according to Navin Sawhney, the French small-ship
line’s CEO for the Americas. 

Speaking at the Explorers Club here, Sawhney said that all
92 cabins on each vessel would have balconies, and that the ships would have an
infinity pool. 

The back of the vessels
will have a “modular marina” that operates as a sundeck while the ship is
sailing, a disembarkation level for zodiacs, and a launch deck for water sports
such as kayaking and water skiing.

The first of the Ponant expedition ships is due for delivery
in 2018.

Sawhney said there is
increasing interest from travel agents for Ponant, citing commissions that
start at about $1,500 per cabin for a seven-night cruise. 

“Our commission is
often the price of other cruises,” he said. 

He acknowledged that
it takes time to become educated about Ponant’s product and to then find and
qualify the right clients. But once that happens, he said, agents will find
“huge equity” in it. 

“Ninety-seven percent
of Ponant guests recommend the experience to a friend,” he said. “So, of course,
they will send their friends to their trusted adviser.”

About 30% of Ponant’s
passengers come from North America, Sawhney said, many of whom sail under ship
charters with brands like Abercrombie & Kent and Tauck.

He said Ponant has
not experienced any dip in Europe demand in recent months, and attributed that
in part to catering to more experienced travelers. Sawhney himself will be
cruising in Europe next week, on a voyage from Venice to Athens.

“I see no reason not to,” he said.

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