The majesty of the new luxury electric vessel Le Commandant Charcot

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Contributor Jonathan Russo recently set sail on the ship for his christening. Here’s what travelers can expect.


Commander Charcot in the ice. Photo courtesy of Studio PONANT / Nath Michel

There may not be official recognition for the nautical wonders of the world, but if there was, Ponant’s new flagship Commander Charcot would be one of them.

Voyagers’ growing desire for adventure has redefined the yachting and cruise industry, which has responded by building bigger and better expedition ships every year. private yachts like Octopus, Solaris, Odysseus and Andromeda are huge in the 300 foot range. These constructions take design, engineering and self-sufficiency to new heights. More down to earth boats like those made by Nordhavn are also selling. As one yachting observer put it, “How many times can you anchor in Portofino or sail from Newport to Nantucket?” People want to discover new, more distant coasts. They want to brag about having visited the east coast of Greenland.

View current Rolex announcements. The endorsers of famous brands are all explorers. Think YOLO for HNW individuals. The desire for experiences changed the travel goals. The rich already have all the material goods they need, so rewarding experiences are paramount. Bucket lists are the new pilgrimages. Ted Sykes, CEO of Gohagan trip, one of the largest ship charter operators, told us that “these expeditions are for people who are lifelong learners.”

As a free book in our cabin explained, Commander Charcot is named in honor of the French polar explorer and scientist, Jean-Baptiste Charcot. He was to France’s ice-cream quests what Shackleton was to England or Peary to America. Charcot named his robust ships why not? French translation: “Why not?”

It is not hard to imagine Francois Pinault—One of the richest men in the world, whose family owns dozens of luxury brands, including Gucci, auction house Christie’s, wineries like Chateau Latour and Ponant (a 13-ship luxury cruise line) – echoing Charcot’s words in asking, why not build the world’s most advanced exploration vessel with all the usual amenities like a spa, indoor pool and even a snow room? Why not make it green by using liquid natural gas when possible, as well as battery power for quiet operation and energy saving? Why not use Azipods for propulsion allowing infinite directional flexibility as well as ice clearance? Why not recycle the wastewater? Why not have research bays and invite scientists to accompany the ship on each trip? Why not get the best leaders in exploration to take passengers to arctic ice and Antarctic islands and ice shelves? Why not propose speakers who inform about the importance and the characteristics of these regions? Why not ask Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most respected chefs, to oversee the dining experience?

He and his family had to answer: “there is no reason not to do it”. So, they did all of the above and more. For example, even the outside decks are heated so guests can use their balconies or walk around without losing their footing in the frozen north.

Charcot restaurant. Photo of Alain Ducasse and Mike Louagie

On board the 245 guests, crew of 215 people, flying the French flag, 492 feet Commander Charcot for his baptism in Le Havre France, Captain Etienne Garcia explained to Value, “This vessel is 50 percent more sophisticated than any of our exploration vessels. We trained for months on ice simulators. Our chief engineer is still surprised every day by The Charcot capabilities. “

After learning the ship requires 22 engineers, including several computer experts because The Charcot is fully electronic in all its command and control systems, we believed. The deck, with its port to starboard computer stations, reminds Garcia of the spacecraft Business. The speed, when not in the ice, is 15 knots, which is fast for a cruise ship.

According to The Charcot director of new construction, research and development, Mathieu Petiteau, “We had to imagine, design and build this ship to reach the true North Pole (90 degrees latitude) safely. Among other things, this meant a reinforced hull – which is isolated from the decks to reduce vibration – redundancies in all critical components of the propulsion systems, as well as the ability to be self-sufficient for a long time, as there is no will not have one to save us for days. We invented a ‘survival camp ”, deployable on water or on land equipped with sufficient shelter, fleecesuits, food, water and medical supplies for all passengers.

Commander Charcot-Suite Shipowner. Photo by Mike Louagie

“All of this and more has earned us the highest rating of Polar Expedition Ship, Polar Class 2″, said Petiteau. “No other cruise ship has this rating. We are extremely proud of this accomplishment.

Construction was another innovation. The steel hull was built by one of the most respected shipyards, Fincantieri Romanian division. She was then towed to another Fincantieri shipyard, Vard in Norway. It is recognized that the Norwegians are the pinnacle of ice class builders.

From planning to sea trials, The Charcot was six years in the making. While so many design and engineering envelopes have been pushed back, there has been a constant back and forth with regulators. At the end, The Charcot executed exactly as planned. Her shakedown cruise to the True North Pole was a resounding success. While no passengers were allowed on board, film crews and scientists documented the event.

In order to find the tracks (breaks in the ice), The Charcot uses a variety of ice detection meters, including digital ground radar and satellite imagery. This useful information is relayed to polar scientists around the world. On board, these sensors save time, energy and wear and tear on the ship.

So what off-boat experiences will this ice-class exploration vessel offer? Shipping Director Florence kuyper, who has loved penguins since childhood, said Value, “Our goal is to reach areas inaccessible to other ships. Going to remote places does something for people. Passengers often tell me that this experience changed their lives, humiliated them, in part by showing them how fragile our world is. She added, “Like the light, the weather conditions are constantly changing, so we can’t have a set route. Kayaking around an island or hiking will happen when possible.

From Ushuaia, Argentina, the Charcot heads south to the Bellingshausen, Weddell and Ross Seas, the Larsen Ice Shelf, South Sandwich, Charcot Island and Peter Island. Trips to the north include the Northwest Passage via the uncrowded northern route and trips to the North Pole.

After living on board Commander Charcot, the question why not? will be answered.

Additional content and editing by Deborah Grayson.


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