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They say cruising and sustainability is like oil and water. PONANT’s latest addition to the fleet, Le Commandant Charcot – the very first luxury hybrid electric polar exploration ship powered by liquified natural gas, is the epitome of a more responsible and sustainable sailing.
The ship focuses on safe and low-impact polar navigation, taking advantage of the latest innovations and even developing new, market-leading technologies and solutions making Le Commandant Charcot one of the most advanced polar vessels at sea today.
PONANT sent Helen Lim, Head of Sales and Distribution for SEDUNIA Travel, the PONANT preferred sales agency for Malaysia, on a Le Commandant Charcot educational trip.
Helen, you recently travelled on the world’s only Luxury Ice Breaker, Le Commandant Charcot, where did you travel to?
I had an opportunity to embark onboard Le Commandant Charcot on 11 days exploration voyage from Reyjkjavik to east Greenland in the Ammassalik Region. We were the first group of outsiders who arrived into the area after a long winter. During our trip, the coast is still covered with a thick coat of ice and only accessible by an icebreaker ship. We had the opportunity to meet with the local native known as Inuits in Tassilaq. In fact, Le Commandant delivered a pallet of fresh fruits and vegetables one month earlier than expected because of being able to cut through the ice.
Was cutting through the ice a smooth experience?
Yes, it was a smooth experience cutting through the thick packed ice some as thick as 6 metres. The cruise Captain, Patrick Marchesseau and his team were so skilful in navigating the dense ice pack.
On the 13th day, we entered the deep polar and our ship was surrounded by a thick block of ice. It took almost 8 hours for the ship just to inch forward 2.8 nautical miles. At this moment, this is where the skills of the crew and the technology of the icebreaker were put to full use. The entire experience was surreal as we felt we were on a different and isolated planet. The bridge is open to onboard guests, and it was really interesting to witness The Captain and The Crew navigate through the Ice.
What was it like visiting the remote Polar townships of Greenland?
Greenland is one of the destinations I always felt is so remote. On this expedition, we visited the Inuit settlement named Tassilaq that is home to less than 3,000 inhabitants. Before the trip, I was so curious to know how these native people survive on this isolated island with extreme weather and harsh landscape. There is no direct road access to their village.
When I finally got the chance to visit their settlement, I was amazed. I did not expect the local Inuits to have Asian features from skin colour to eye shapes and similar in appearance. Interestingly, most of the Inuits are Christians.
They shared their way of life with us : hunting, cooking and preserving food throughout the winter. The children are well educated and funnily enough are very savvy on social media!
How often did you go ashore or onto the Ice?
It really depends on the conditions of the sea, ice and weather for safety reasons.
Conditions permitting, the expedition team and the captain will work closely to scout for a safe landing for the zodiac outings, polar hiking and other activities such as dog sledding, polar plunge and visiting the Inuit settlement. When we get a chance to stand on a frozen sea where the ship literally dock in the middle of the sea.
As a summary, what was the highlight of travelling onboard Le Commandant Charcot?
Being onboard Le Commandant Charcot feels like being a pampered explorer. The life onboard seems like living on a private yacht on a larger scale. The services rendered to us were excellent. Being able to explore some of the most remote regions in the world while enjoying high-quality French cuisine and wine is an adventure very few have had the privilege of experiencing. This is an experience I would highly recommend for any traveller.
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