Cruise Line: Ponant
Entered service: 2013
Onboard currency: Euro
Passengers (lower berth): 224
Length: 142 metres
Beam: 18 metres
Draft: 4.8 metres
Le Soleal is the third in a series of four 264-passenger, 10,600-ton cruising yachts commissioned by Compagnie du Ponant. Le Soleal was launched on the 6 December 2012, and christened by Kiki Tauck Mahar. Her identical sisters, Le Boreal, debuted in 2010, and the second sibling, L’Austral debuted in 2011. Le Lyrial, the fourth identical ship will debut in 2015.
Originally French-owned, the company was acquired by cargo giant CMA CGM in 2006 and then sold on to pan-European private equity investor Bridgepoint Capital in 2012. Over the last few years, and particularly with the launch of these three new ships, the line has been targeting a much more international market with considerable success. The essence of the product, however, remains unchanged with a family-run feel and a strong French influence throughout the ships.
Le Soleal, like its sisters is, a stunning vessel, with sleek lines and an unusual dark-grey hull that makes it stand out in port. The interiors are like those of a minimalist boutique hotel. The whole package is unashamedly French and the passengers are a well-heeled, savvy crowd of experienced travellers.
What distinguishes these ships from other luxury vessels is their adventurous itineraries. Le Soleal and its sisters are all ice-strengthened, so they can sail to Antarctica and the Arctic, destinations that are mixed up with off-the-beaten-track European itineraries, as well as Asia and South America. As an example, Le Soleal became the first French commercial shipping vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage. Each ship also carries a fleet of Zodiac landing crafts for getting ashore and for sightseeing in remote locations. There’s a strong emphasis on coastal cruising, with long days in port, overnights and late departures.
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