Belgian maritime photographer and writer Mike Louagie is on board Ponant’s first cruise since coronavirus sidelined ships this past spring. Today, Mike reports to us from Le Dumont d’Urville from the English Channel. Yesterday, the ship sent guests ashore on an expedition to the Landing Beaches of France. Join us for a discussion with Mike when he disembarks in Le Havre on Saturday. Sign up for the discussion here.
Ponant is among the first cruise ocean companies to welcome guests during the global pandemic. Being French, the company has created new itineraries out of French ports, to only French destinations.
From my social media interactions, I see that the cruise industry is watching with huge interest with regard to what Ponant is doing. No wonder. I’m on board what is arguably the most creative homeland expedition cruise ever: from Le Havre, France, with the coasts of Normandie and Bretagne (Brittany) as destinations.
On Sunday, for example. we did a morning cruise on the river Seine, followed by an afternoon Zodiac landing at Omaha Beach, where we learned about the D-Day campaign and why so many soldiers died. We walked all the way uphill to the war memorial and the impressive Normandy American Cemetery.
That feeling of landing on the very place where thousands lost their lives …
Later this week we do kayak trips to the famous cliff of Etretat (Zodiac excursions are possible too) and to natural parks in Bretagne (where cruise ships normally don’t go).
It is truly an expedition cruise, with landings, lectures by the expedition team, etc … but with all the proper precautions in place.
Ponant has worked hard on making the experience Covid-safe. Strict protocols are in place, protocols that will be useful for the entire cruise industry
The philosophy is to create a “bubble.” Passengers do not mingle with people ashore. To mitigate any chances of passengers co-mingling with those ashore, the ship does not go alongside in port of Boulogne-sur-Mer but rather holds its position at anchor. While ashore, we will visit the biggest aquarium of Europe, but with a private visit.
During our Saturday discussion with Mike, we’ll strive to answer two main questions:
- What safety measures did Ponant use?
- Was his cruise with all the stringent measures still enjoyable?