Cruise around Japan’s highlights, in total French luxury

Immerse yourself in Japan, says Edie Rodriguez, Ponant Americas Brand Chairman and Corporate Special Advisor for Ponant Cruises

Ponant’s 132-suite Le Soléal leaves 30 May 2020 for an eight nights’ cruise, from Osaka to Maizuru. You sail through the inland sea of Tamano, visiting Hiroshima, Miuajima, Uwajima and Nagasaki, then going to Busan in South Korea before back to Maizuru, Japan (one excellent point is that you visit Hiroshima on day three and Nagasaki on day seven, which gives time to relax between two sites that understandably can be quite draining). This is the official description:

An Immersion in Japanese Culture, May 30-June 7, 2020, Le Soléal

Explore the juxtaposition between the fast-forward modernity of Japan with its cherished offerings and traditions. Highlights of the itinerary include an exclusive, private meeting with the Abbot of Kofukuji Temple in Nagasaki, the oldest temple in the city and the birthplace of the Obaku school of Zen Buddhism, and a cooking class on how to cut and plate the deadly puffer fish. Three noted experts will join the cruise to add depth and insight to exploration both in port and on-board the ship: Timon Screech, Professor of the History of Art at the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London; Holly H. Shimizu, Former Executive Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden; and Osama Shimizu, an expert in both historic and contemporary Japanese gardens.

Ponant, what IS Ponant

Offering total seamless service, Ponant is the boutique cruise line – named for ‘look west’, opposite of Levant. Privately owned by the Pinault family,  Ponant is more like private yachting, in a ship with some stunning interiors by favoured designer Jean-Philippe Nuel. 

Seamless service with Ponant starts long before a voyage. You are sent a proper bound welcome booklet, personalised on the cover and inside. The booklet has welcomes, with photographs, from both Ponant CEO Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, and your ship’s captain (most cruise companies never tell you these names beforehand). Your trip starts the moment you fly into point of departure (you are met airside) and lasts until you are personally seen off at the airport, after disembarking.  Onboard, it is all-inclusive, which includes land excursions.

Here are some other 2020 sailings:

An Exploration in Nature in Costa Rica & The Panama CanalJanuary 6-16, 2020, Le Dumont-d’Urville

Embark on a new 10-night itinerary hosted by Edie Rodriguez, America’s Brand Chairman for PONANT with discussions and talks by ecologist Paul Donahue who has explored all of the sites on the itinerary during his nearly 50 years working with birds and mammals in Central America. Guests will travel to Corcovado National Park, described as one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, and UNESCO World Heritage site Darien Jungle for treks through the wilderness. Passengers who book now will receive a $2,000 flight credit per couple, while travel agents earn a $250 gift card and 5% bonus commission on all bookings made by November 30, 2019.

World Affairs in the Baltic SeaAugust 5-13, 2020, Le Dumont-d’Urville

Embark on a new sailing hosted by the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Admiral James Stavridis, the former ambassador to Russia and current President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace William Burns, and American foreign affairs analyst and journalist Robin Wright. The cruise will begin in Stockholm and end in Copenhagen, visiting the cities that edge the Baltic Sea including two days with hosted accommodations in St. Petersburg, Russia. Passengers will discover the comingling of cosmopolitan life with centuries of rich history dating back to the Vikings. Ports of call include Helsinki, internationally recognized for its striking modern architecture, and Tallinn, Estonia, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Europe. The ship will also stop in Szczecin, a city in Poland nearly destroyed during World War II that has since been completely rebuilt.

Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th Birthday in Northern Europe, September 8-17, 2020, Le Dumont-d’Urville

Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday and the rich cultural heritage of northern Europe aboard Le Dumont-d’Urville. Days at sea will be filled with music by world-class chamber musicians performing an all-Beethoven repertoire curated by Michael Parloff, former Principal Flutist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for over 30 years. There will be an exciting onboard concert during the transit of the Kiel Canal and a private performance in the historic 17th-century Westerkerk in Amsterdam. Along the way, passengers will also have access to some of the best museums in the world, including the acclaimed Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, featuring works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. 

Epicurean Delights of Southern Italy & Sicily, October 18-25, 2020, Le Jacques Cartier

Sail through Italy with two noted food and wine experts, Eric Asimov, chief wine critic at The New York Times andArthur Schwartz, author of Naples at Table: Cooking in Campania, largely considered the definitive book on Naples’ cuisine. Guests will immerse themselves in the bounty of Sicily and Southern Italy’s regional cuisines and the role food and wine plays in relation to physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. Some of the delights will include the pastas of Syracuse and the wines of Mt. Etna, the artisanal meats and cheese of Calabria, mozzarella from Agropoli and pizza from Naples.

Celebrate American Composers with Keith Lockhart, Conductor of the Boston Pops, October 19-27, 2020, Le Champlain

Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart will host the sailing along the waterways of eastern Canada and northern New England. A series of performances will take place onboard the ship, as well as in a private concert in Quebec’s Chapelle du Musée de l’Amérique française, the oldest museum in Canada. Passengers will also have the opportunity to mingle with the musicians during evening events on the ship and during excursions to the 18th century Fortress of Louisberg and to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lunenburg in Nova Scotia.


Created 30 years ago by a dozen officers from the French Merchant Navy, PONANT has made the bold move of proposing a new style of cruising, under the French flag, through a unique conception of sea travel. Accessing exceptional territories aboard yachts combining refined design with an intimate atmosphere, on which the art of living, discretion, attentive service and excellent cuisine take pride of place: such is the promise of a unique and authentic PONANT voyage. 

Not only does PONANT take its profession and its commitment to promoting sustainable tourism seriously, it also wanted to further its efforts by creating, in 2018, a Foundation to preserve oceans and polar regions and to encourage exchanges between peoples.

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