Compagnie du Ponant (CDP, aka Ponant Cruises) is a French passenger shipping company founded in 1988 by former French Merchant Navy officers. All Ponant ships are megayacht-class and France-flagged. The company specializes in premium adventure cruise travel, targeting the French-speaking source market with all-inclusive deals.
Most of CDP's fleet is based in Antarctica (December through March). All these mega-yachts offer modern amenities, premium service by highly-trained staff and crew, 5-star hotel amenities onboard. Exotic, offbeat itineraries visit popular travel destinations worldwide, including Caribbean, Baltic, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, South America, Australia. On the American cruise market, Ponant works in partnership with the US travel companies Abercrombie+Kent (Illinois) and Tauck (Connecticut).
Compagnie du Ponant's first ship - Le Ponant, is a 3-masted barque (a sailing vessel built in 1991) is still in the CDP fleet. In 1999, the company acquired the yacht Le Levant (currently MV Clio). In 2012, Le Levant was purchased by Paul Gauguin Cruises and renamed "Tere Moana". In 2004, the company purchased the luxury liner Le Diamant (currently Ocean Diamond), which was transferred to Quark Expeditions in 2012 and renamed "Ocean Diamond".
Ponant Cruises gained international attention on April 4, 2008, when in the Gulf of Aden Le Ponant yacht was seized by Somali pirates. The ship carried no passengers but all 30 crew were taken a hostage and released on April 12 without incident. Following the release, the pirates were tracked to Jariban (village) by French helicopters. When the pirates tried to flee in the desert, French marine commandos and GIGN (gendarmerie) deployed from the frigate ship Jean Bart and Jeanne d'Arc moved in. The commandos captured 6 men. Local officials claimed that 3 people had died in the raid, with a further 8 wounded, which France officially denied. French troops recovered some of the ransom money paid by the shipowner. The 6 captured pirates were flown to Paris to face trial.
In 2010, CDP put into service Le Boreal, the first of 4 identical luxury ships. Followed the sister-vessels L'Austral(2011), Le Soleal (2013) and the newest (last) from this series - Le Lyrial (2015).
Initially, CDP Ponant was based in Nantes France. After 18 years, following its acquisition by CMA CGM (container shipping company), in 2006 CDP's headquarters were moved to Marseille France. In 2012, Ponant was sold to Bridgepoint Capital (European private equity investor).
In July 2015, CDP was sold to Groupe Artemis (Financiere Pinault) - a holding company owned by Francois Pinault. The French entrepreneur is also a majority shareholder of Kering - French luxury goods retail company that includes the premium retail brands Gucci, Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga. Statistics for 2015 showed that CDP transported over 30,000 cruise ship tourists, and predominantly to polar region destinations.
Under Bridgepoint ownership, CDP doubled its sales (up to EUR 140 million). Profits were tripled thanks to a combination of an enlarged and upgraded fleet (increased capacity by 11%), opening new sales offices (in Australia and China) and the acquisition of another sales distribution channel (TDI) in the North American market.
In July 2017, CDP confirmed its title sponsorship of the CYCA's (abbrev "Cruising Yacht Club of Australia") PSNYR event (abbrev "Ponant Sydney Noumea Yacht Race"), due to take place in 2018. The 1064 nautical mile (1225 ml / 1970 km) long Category 1 yacht race was scheduled to start in Sydney Harbour on June 2, 2018.
In August 2018, Ponant Cruises and National Geographic (NatGeo) signed a 4-year partnership deal (until 2022) for over 130 NatGeo-themed expedition itineraries. NatGeo partners with Lindblad since 2004. All NatGeo-themed Ponant expedition voyages include experts and photographers engaging with passengers and presenting lectures on the itinerary's destinations and wildlife.
In late-November 2018, Ponant contracted Global Eagle Entertainment Inc (Los Angeles-based, Nasdaq-listed US company specializing in media technologies, content, and connectivity) to provide new technology, entertainment programming and TV for Ponant's fleet, including the 6 newbuilds under construction. Ponant ships will receive the latest smart TV choices as all vessels will have 3,6-meter TVRO (television receive-only) antennas. Global Eagle's annual media content traffic is over 10,000 terabytes, delivered to 1000+ vessels (cruise ships, ferries, commercial ships, and airplanes) and 1+ billion passengers. Among company's clients are NCL Norwegian, Disney Cruises, Pullmantur, P&O Ferries.
Since January 2019, all Ponant cruise passengers (regardless of cabin category and itinerary) enjoy free WIFI access. The complimentary service is available shipwide and during the full length of the voyage.