Le Champlain visited Amsterdam at the 27th of april in 2022 and she is seen here passing the village of Velsen Noord during her Northsea Canal passage towards the sea.
In 2006, the big French shippingcompany CGM-CMA bought the small-ship operator Compagnie des Iles du Ponant that had formed in 1988. With this financial injection, the then three-ship fleet could be extended and modernized to keep in competition within the now far more compatible luxury expeditioncruise market. Under the supervision of the new owners, the company was able to order a class of four 10.000-ton ships that became the Boreal-class, named after the first of the ships to enter service. They were Le Boreal (2010), L'Austral (2011), Le Soleal (2012) and Le Lyrial (2015). These new ships perfected the style of Ponant, that was the shortened name of the company now, which concentrated on a more luxury approach to traditional expedition-cruising, without becoming too posh either. During the introduction of these four new ships, the company was sold a few times and they are now owned by a Paris-based investmentcompany named Groupe Artémis. They are quite well known, owning many French wineries like for example Chateau Latour and also the auctionhouse Christie's since 1998. Under their ownership, another class of ships was ordered, slightly smaller then their fore-runners. Named the explorer-class because of the naming after famous French explorers, the first of the ships to enter service was named Le Láperouse in 2018, followed by our subject here Le Champlain in the same year. Le Bougainville and Le Dumont D'urville followed in 2019 and then in 2020 Le Bellot and Le Jaques Cartier completed the set. With these six extra ships, Ponant became the fastest growing and one of the largest operators within the market niche of semi-luxury small-ship cruising.
Construction and general statistics
At the 20th of april in 2017, the keel of the ship was laid down at the Tulcea Yards of VARD in Tulcea, Romania where her hull was going to be constructed. The ship was going to get a lenght of 127 meters, a width of 18 meters and a draft of 4,4 meters. Her capacity ia 184 passengers and 110 crewmembers on six decks. The ship can sail at a speed of 18 knots although her normal sailing speed will be just around 11 knots and she flies the French flag, homeported at Mata Utu at the Wallis and Fortuna Islands. At the 29th of march of 2018, the ship was launched and then towed all the way from Romania to Norway, where she was finished at the VARD yards in Alesund. Here, the ship was finished and delivered to Ponant at the 27th of september of 2018.
Sailing in more pristine conditions, environmentfriendly design was very important for this class of ships. Only LED-lighting is used to save up to 75% on energy, passengers are provided with multi-use stainless steel water-bottles, 60% of onboard waste can be recycled, detectors for shell and seacreatures are installed and the ship uses an electronic positioning system so it is not needed to anchor. The cabins all have a very homey feel to them and a 24hr room service. The interiours of the ship were designed by Jean-Phillipe Nuel and the Agence Jacques Rougerie, both French-based firms.
The ships have an ice-strengthened hull, an aft sundeck and infinity swimmingpool, a retractable marina with available sports equipment and its own fleet of zodiac inflatable speedboats. Most notable feature aboard is the Blue Eye lounge, located underneath the waterline giving a view of the life below the surface through two big eye-shaped glass windows. Three underwater camera's and underwater hydrophones further enhance the experience.
As said, Le Champlain was delivered to her company at the 27th of september of 2018, after which she undertook her first voyage from the French charming port of Honfleur in Normandie to Lisbon, Portugal departing the floolowing 25th of october. After that, she settled in for mostly a series of Mediterranean and Indian ocean cruises, combined with world voyages.