Ponant sees growth from non-cruisers seeking adventure

Expedition cruise line Ponant is attracting more non-cruisers to its brand who are seeking adventurous and experiental travel in destinations around the world.

It is also seeing more older, experienced cruisers who are switching to Ponant as they are looking to spend more time onboard with enrichment activities.

Belinda Hindmarsh, group deputy chief executive, told a Travel Weekly webcast that the growth in adventure and experiential travel was particularly notable in the UK market.

She joined the cruise line last year with a background in corporate and online travel – but little personal experience of cruising.

“I’ve travelled all my life. I thought I’d been everywhere but my map got bigger joining Ponant, because there are so many destinations that I hadn’t considered or hadn’t seen by sea, which is obviously very different,” she said.

“There’s a whole, huge non-cruise market out there for people like myself…who like that type of exploration – and the independence of being able to get on board and wake up somewhere beautiful every morning without having to lug around luggage.”

She added: “The non-cruise segment is definitely growing.

“That shift to cruise is interesting because it’s more about expedition than cruise…more about exploring and going out and having new experiences with local communities.”

Other new customers being increasingly attracted to Ponant are experienced cruisers looking for educational onboard experiences.

“They know cruise but as they become a little more senior and maybe have a little bit more time and funds to do so, they are spending more time on board and moving to that more enriched, educational experiential type of cruise,” said Hindmarsh.

“Once they come across they don’t go back.”

She pointed to enrichment offerings such as Ponant’s partnership with The Smithsonian Institution – the world’s largest museum, education and research complex – which means passengers can take part in Smithsonian-crafted experiences.

Hindmarsh said the cruise line is at “a pivotal point”, adding: “We are striving to continue to push further on the destination exploration.

“It is something that really differentiates us – we travel to every corner of the globe, including both poles.

“There’s a lot to do in terms of joining the end-to-end travel offering to the cruise segment itself, looking after door-to-door [travel], make it more seamless for our guests to travel.”

The fleet of 13 ships will expand this summer to 14 with the arrival of a catamaran called Spirit of Ponant.

It took delivery in 2021 of luxury icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot, which can reach the north pole and recently circumnavigated Antarctica.

The line also offers tropical expeditions in destinations such as Australia and Japan.

“If you look at the average cruise line, they’ll go to 100 ports very frequently. We actually visit more than 500 ports with our 14 ships,” noted Hindmarsh.

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