Norwegian offshore shipbuilders VARD have announced a deal with French luxury cruise ship operator Ponant for the construction of four luxury expedition cruise vessels, for delivery in 2018 and 2019.
The vessels will be developed by Vard, Ponant, and Fincantieri. The ice-class expedition cruise vessels will be approximately 10,000 gross tons, about 128 metres long, 18 metres wide and will have a cruise speed of 15 knots.
Each vessel can accommodate 180 passengers (92 cabins) and a crew of 110. The vessels will be arranged with luxury facilities on board, fulfilling the highest demands for environmentally friendly and safe operations.
Vard said the partners have a common intention to enter into contracts in the second quarter of this year, subject to several conditions being met, including satisfactory financing.
Said Vard CEO and executive director Roy Reite: "This project is fully in line with our diversification strategy to enter the expedition cruise market, realizing synergies and increased cooperation with our majority owner Fincantieri."
"Through our long shipbuilding history we have built a broad range of specialized vessels, and we are delighted to be part of developing the new series of luxury expedition cruise vessels for Ponant," he added.
Fincantieri, the “reference builder” for cruise ships worldwide, owns a 55 percent stake in VARD, and VARD CEO and executive director Roy Reite said that the contract would allow his firm a chance to utilize the expertise of its majority shareholder.
Ponant, a subsidiary of the Artemis Group and headquartered in Marseille, France
, was founded in 1988 by Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée and a dozen Merchant Navy officers
. Currently it operates a fleet of five vessels and is the only French-flag cruise line, and world number one for polar cruises, said Vard.