Cruise holidays: A captain’s favourite place to set sail

Passengers exploring the icy continent aboard the Ponant expedition ship Le Commandant Charcot. Photography / Ponant Studio, Morgane Monneret

Captain Pierre-Marie Ducournau has been traveling the world on Ponant cruise ships for over ten years. Here she talks about her favorite places and her endless love for the ocean.

When you sail on a cruise ship, no two days are the same. You deal with different conditions at sea and you have different experiences every day. You must always react and adapt; sometimes it’s plan B and other times you go to plan C. That’s what makes it interesting. You are never bored.

I especially love cruising on the ice on our Antarctic cruise ships. The ice is quite difficult as it can be very restrictive and when dealing with the elements passengers can never have a precise schedule and plans can change very abruptly. Most of the time, we schedule activities that morning and afternoon.

Ponant's Le Commandant Charcot, the world's only luxury icebreaker cruise ship, is on an expedition to Antarctica.  Photography / Ponant Studio, Olivier Braud
Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s only luxury icebreaker cruise ship, is on an expedition to Antarctica. Photography / Ponant Studio, Olivier Braud

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I have been with Ponant for 15 years, I started as a cadet and worked my way up to captain. I think the friendly atmosphere on board is part of what makes it special, the people have a good mood and that goes for the crew as well. We have a saying “Happy crew, happy travels”, it’s about making sure everyone is well taken care of.

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Expeditions have become really popular as people want to go somewhere different and learn new things. Travelers love Zodiacs (inflatable boats for shore excursions) and they give you more freedom to explore remote areas. Our expeditions are kept small so that we can get the most out of these incredible places. With more than 300 guests on board, an expedition would be nearly impossible.

One of the highlights of an expedition is the chance to see the sights up close aboard an inflatable Zodiac boat.  Photography / Studio Ponant, Olivier Blaud
One of the highlights of an expedition is the chance to see the sights up close aboard an inflatable Zodiac boat. Photography / Studio Ponant, Olivier Blaud

Smaller ships mean we get to know the passengers better too. Many take a cruise and come back for more, some on board for three months and others going with us from the Arctic to Antarctica. As a French company, we always have French travelers on board, sometimes the numbers are half for French and English, sometimes more English or vice versa.

Captain Pierre-Marie Ducournau says no day at sea is the same.  Photo / Ponant
Captain Pierre-Marie Ducournau says no day at sea is the same. Photo / Ponant

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For me home is in France near Bordeaux. Of course, people always think of wine, but another reputation is that we have the highest sand dune in Europe. Besides France, my favorite place is Antarctica. There are glaciers, incredible color contrast, wildlife – it’s really cool.

Ponant organizes cruises and voyages around the world. For more information about the 2023 calendar, see the 2023 calendar. ponant.com

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