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Small Ships, Exceptional Journeys, and Expeditions

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If you know PONANT, you know that we operate one of the most technically advanced and environmentally friendly fleets of luxury small ships and yachts there is. But what exactly is a small ship? How does it differ from a large ship? And what can a small ship provide that a larger ship cannot? 

Within the industry, opinions differ about what makes a small ship. Some say vessels carrying less than 1,000 passengers are categorized as “small.” If that’s the gauge, then PONANT ships are very small indeed – and we’re quite proud of that! In fact, the diminutive size of our luxury ships and yachts lies at the heart of who we are. Here’s what we mean:


PONANT Luxury Small Ship Guests
Our iconic sailing yacht Le Ponant 32

Our Expedition Ships

Le Boréal
Le Lyrial
Le Soléal

244 to 264

Our New-Generation Explorers

Le Bellot
Le Bougainville
Le Champlain
Le Dumont-d’Urville
Le Jacques-Cartier
Le Lapérouse

The World’s Only Luxury Icebreaker
Le Commandant Charcot

We Enjoy Up Close Access to Remote Reaches

Our luxurious small ships are nimble, able to maneuver their way into small ports inaccessible to larger ships. From a tiny Inuit village on the coast of Greenland to an intimate upscale pier on the French Riviera, PONANT delivers you to unique and privileged destinations you could never visit with other cruise lines. 

As for our expeditions, the size of our ships allows us deeper access to marine environments. For instance, Le Commandant Charcot has gone to the most remote reaches of Antarctica than any ship before her. This allowed our onboard scientists to observe reaches of the Southern Ocean never before seen. In more tropical environs such as the Seychelles, Le Dumont-d’Urville has maneuvered into secluded, intimate coves so that our guests can not only enjoy a private swim or snorkel but also help our naturalists gather coral samples so they can monitor the health of reefs in the Indian Ocean.


We Leave a Lighter Footprint

Literally by design, all our small ships are committed to sustainable travel. Their size lets us manage our overall impact on the environment with more precision. That means – compared to all the larger ships plying the world’s oceans – we can leave a minimal footprint in our wake. 

Across our entire fleet, we minimize nitrogen, sulfur oxide, and carbon dioxide emissions, eliminate single-use plastics from our everyday use, reuse and trace all our waste, and much more. Our minimal impact can also be measured on land. Naturally, small ships carry fewer travelers. Fewer travelers in turn have a lighter impact on ports. More than this, PONANT works with the local community leaders who call our ports home to ensure that our small groups of guests visit them in a way that respects their cultures and benefits their economies in culturally sensitive ways.

We Explore on an Intimate Scale

From the moment you step on board, you’ll appreciate the pleasures of our small size. We’ve designed our elegant spaces to human scale – small enough to convey an intimate atmosphere yet large enough that you’ll never feel crowded. Luxurious touches enhance your experience – a serene spa, fine dining, a sophisticated ambiance – and exude a sense of tranquility and wellness. We know that you’re here to relax, explore, and learn. To help you do so, we keep the distractions to a minimum. No casinos. No climbing walls. No Broadway-style shows. Just a refined setting perfect for discovery and contemplation. 

We Tend to the Most Intricate Detail for You

Our small ships allow for a generous guest-to-crew ratio and more personalized service. In fact, that ratio is almost 1:1 on most of our vessels. That means once we get to know you, your coffee or tea will be waiting for you in the morning just as you like it. We’ll intuitively know which bottle to pour your wine from. And in our Alain-Ducasse-trained kitchen, we’ll delight in serving you succulent French-inspired dishes. Our chefs tend to each plate meticulously, using superior ingredients and presenting them beautifully. Throughout the ship, we strive to provide a bespoke cruise, where world-class, intuitive service elevates your every moment. Such close attention to detail would be impossible on large ships. 


Whether you join us on a polar expedition or a Mediterranean journey, our luxury small ships and yachts open the world to you in ways you could never imagine. We do hope you’ll join us soon.

Tourisme : Nouvelle-Calédonie, vue rapprochée sur le lagon turquoise avec l'île du pin en arrière plan

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