Ponant’s first voyages in New Zealand waters were back in 2014. Although we are still waiting for ports to be officially opened to cruise ships, after many successful seasons of soft expedition style cruises, Ponant is planning for a return to New Zealand and Australian waters with new Covid-19 protocols in place.
Ponant is a luxury French cruise line that also operates the Paul Gauguin cruise line in French Polynesia. When we first wrote about the style of the Ponant ships in 2014, we were impressed by the sleak, super yacht type feel of these smaller cruise ships. Since then Ponant has launched a range of “soft-expedition” style ships with the idea of striking a balance between onboard comfort, and expedition cruising (which had a reputation of being a bit more rugged). The smaller ships allow greater access to ports that the mega-ships cannot reach.
Ponant’s Covid Policy
Although we are still in the early stages of the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, Ponant has surveyed its past clients and over 94% of the guests surveyed told them that they would come back to sea with Ponant if everyone onboard was vaccinated. In response to this feedback, Ponant has announced:
As soon as our voyages resume, guests will need to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 before gaining approval to embark the ship.
For New Zealand and Australian guests the following concession to our elimination strategy applies:
This protocol is activated for all our cruises and expeditions, except for Australia and New Zealand at present. As these voyages are intended for the Australian and New Zealand population only, this new protocol will be applied in accordance with the vaccination schedule for these countries. In the meantime, for these countries only, and in accordance with the local authorities, PONANT’s health protocol requires a negative PCR test at the latest 48 hours before boarding.
Thorough cleaning, social distancing and other policies that have become a standard part of travel also apply (such pre-departure testing and health questionnaires). The following Ponant clip on Tomorrow’s cruise provides an insight into the new onboard experience.
What About Shore Excursions?
Once onboard, and in particular for itineraries that are only open to New Zealand and Australian guests, a Bubble is, in theory, formed. The main (and potentially only) avenue for bursting the Bubble would be shore excursions when guests mix with local populations. To allow for this, Ponant has put the following policy in place:
Landing craft will be disinfected and passengers will be required to comply with a range of more stringent health protection instructions: social distancing, mask wearing (subject to local administrative decisions), barrier procedures, temperature checks and hands disinfection before returning onboard.
In the short-term, it is likely that New Zealand and Australian itineraries, with shore excursions to our Covid free ports will be more popular.
Can I Get a Refund if I Need to Cancel?
Ponant has introduced a “Serenity Policy” that provides softened booking conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The timing of the cancellation, and the reason for it, will determine whether you are entitled to a refund or a future cruise credit. As these policies change as time passes, it is best to confirm the cancellation terms and conditions with your Fine Travel Consultant when paying your deposit.
Ponant’s Earlybird Offers
One aspect of Ponant’s approach that we have always liked is its approach to Earlybird pricing. Ponant rewards those who commit early with the largest discount (30%) and as the ship fills, the discount decreases in 5% increments. This gives Fine Travel clients confidence that they are getting the best price available at the time, and the hesitation of “I really want that suite, but should I wait in-case there is a special offer” is removed.
For Fine Travel’s New Zealand clients looking ahead to joining a Ponant voyage, the New Zealand and Australian itineraries are likely to appeal first. With destinations like the Sub-Antarctic Islands, and the Australian Kimberley Region, there is a wide variety of itineraries available.