Polar Explorer with Ponant
One local travel agent was lucky to be onboard the ground-breaking Le Commandant Charcot’s latest cruise. Helen Flanagan has the exclusive.
Uncompromising design has successfully combined an ultra-luxurious hotel with a hardcore expedition, culminating in polar capabilities closer to a nuclear-powered ice explorer than a conventional expedition cruise ship.
The excited Noosa Cruise and Travel’s Natalie Cherry was the first Australian lucky enough to join the Le Commandant Charcot for a cruise to Antarctica, where every day she was overwhelmed by beauty and emotive soul-stirring experiences.
“The environment, the wildlife… such a pristine part of the world,” enthuses Natalie, onboard the world’s first luxury ice explorer. “Ponant’s newest vessel is sexy and sleek, there’s no shortage of onboard luxury or comfort, plus the blend of amazing onshore expeditions is beyond the realms of incredible.”
The very first hybrid electric exploration ship also delivers sustainable and responsible voyages.
“The notorious Drake Crossing was a breeze as we were rocked gently to sleep,” she said. “Every day there’s an intriguing and exhilarating expedition, guided by natural polar conditions, the Captain and his expedition team; such as something unexpected when at 73° south, the English research vessel, David Attenborough requested assistance. Le Commandant Charcot showed off her technological prowess and a path was carved in awe-inspiring minutes as opposed to days.
“Antarctica’s natural sanctuary affords an abundance of wildlife encounters such as gentoo penguins, adele penguins, elephant seals, crab eater seals, humpback whales, fin whales and the elusive emperor penguin. Gliding silently on top and through the ice is certainly emotional. From my private balcony all I could hear were the sounds of ice crackling and water swirling underneath. I cried,” she said.
Expedition Zodiacs are a vital part of any small-ship experience, transporting passengers through icy waters, watching seals on icebergs, penguins splashing, swimming and jumping, being dwarfed by glaciers and icebergs the size of buildings, and landing on the Antarctic continent to wander amongst the icebergs.
“Personal highlights in the 11 landings were kayaking amongst the ice floe, polar hiking, and being brave enough to take the polar plunge,” Natalie said.
“Another favourite was Sims Island. It was snowing, and stepping foot onto land surrounded by thousands of adele penguins running around with their happy feet, was like being immersed in a scene from a movie. It was magical.”
Back onboard, Natalie recommends calming the adrenaline-fuelled body in the Wellness area, preferring the warm cocoon of the sauna and a swim in one of the two heated pools. Oh, and afterwards the free-flowing Veuve Clicquot and lobster, which is included in menus created by the famous Alain Ducasse, replenished the mind and soul.
The ultimate and exclusive cruise of a lifetime to this remote and very special corner of our earth, is with Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot, which carries up to 200 passengers and 200 crew. Call Natalie at Noosa Cruise and Travel on 5449 8866 for a chat about her life changing experience to Antarctica.