Ponant Delays Two New Cruise Ships from Vard
In what may be the first instance of a cruise company postponing new cruise ships on order since the onset of the pandemic, Ponant confirmed reports that it is delaying two new builds ordered from Fincantieri’s Vard subsidiary. The French cruise company ordered the ships at the end of 2019 as part of a plan to expand the operations of the newly acquired Paul Gauguin Cruises.
Responding to an inquiry, Ponant’s Chief Sales, Marketing and Communications Officer, Hervé Bellaïche said, "In this period of uncertainty, with additional capacity arriving in the market, we decided to postpone this project. Our focus is the very promising commercial success of Le Commandant Charcot and the two ships delivered since 2020, Le Bellot and Le Jacques-Cartier.’’
Ponant entered into a contract with Fincantieri valued at approximately $338 million for two new-generation luxury expedition cruise ships signed in December 2019. The vessels, which were to be an evolution of the previous Explorer class that Vard built for Ponant, were due for delivery in 2022 and Ponant had an option for a third ship. Each of the cruise ships was to be 11,000 gross tons with a capacity of approximately 230 passengers.
Fincantieri said the new ships would be advanced hybrid vessels with cutting-edge technology. They were planning the most extensive battery package in the market giving the vessels the ability to operate from battery power at anchor, in ports, and environmentally sensitive areas. Plans also called for further optimization of the hull, more energy-efficient equipment, and new applications for energy recovery, improving waste treatment, and reducing underwater noise.
Paul Gauguin cruises began in 1998 operating a single, 19,200 gross ton vessel sailing year-round in French Polynesia. The cruise line was acquired by Ponant in the summer of 2019. Since then, the cruise ship Paul Gauguin has undergone several renovations, including being upgraded to operate of marine gas oil and in 2021 extensive renovations to her passenger accommodations as well as additional technical upgrades.
Ponant recently took delivery of the first LNG-fueled expedition icebreaker cruise ship, Le Commandant Charcot, which it is currently operating in the Antarctic. The French company also completed delivery of the last of its six Explorer class cruise ships shortly before operations were suspended during the pandemic.
The Polynesian cruises resumed sailing in the summer of 2020, while operations resumed for the French brand first domestically in 2020 and now expanding to additional operations. The company has resumed additional cruises, including the recent reopening of the Seychelles, although other popular destinations including Australia and New Zealand remain closed.
Fincantieri, like other major shipyards, was successful in 2020 rescheduling the delivery of the cruise ships on order to help the lines adjust operations to the pandemic. In the last week, Fincantieri’s shipyards delivered a new cruise ship, the Silver Dawn, to Silversea Cruises and yesterday floated out the MSC Seascape, the next large cruise ship for MSC. As of the end of the third quarter of 2021, Fincantieri had orders for 31 cruise ships due for delivery through 2025 and beyond. The yards are scheduled to deliver seven cruise ships a year in both 2022 and 2023.