Cruise Ships Can’t Go Down This Canadian River in Winter. This Luxury Ice-Breaker Is Changing That

Cruise Ships Can’t Go Down This Canadian River in Winter. This Luxury Ice-Breaker Is Changing That

Ponant’s “Le Commandant Charcot” will be the first liner to explore the St. Lawrence River during the boreal winter.

Ponant may have been in the game for 35 years, but it’s continuing to break new ice-covered ground.

The French cruise line, which has a fleet of 13 small expedition vessels, will offer four voyages through Canada’s St. Lawrence River during the boreal winter in 2025. Ponant says Le Commandant Charcot will be the first cruise ship to traverse this part of the far north in wintertime.

The St. Lawrence River is typically off-limits to conventional ships at this time of year, but Charcot was purposefully built to withstand the challenging conditions. (We actually voyaged to the North Pole aboard the luxury liner earlier this year.) The massive 492-footer, which is the world’s only Polar Class 2–rated cruise ship, sports an ice-breaking hull that can reportedly shatter ice floes up to eight feet thick. As a result, Charcot can reach places inaccessible to any other liner. The hybrid does so relatively cleanly, too, running on a mix of liquefied natural gas and low-sulfur diesel or batteries in full electric mode.

The 13-day expeditions will be jam-packed with thrilling activities, such as kayaking, ice fishing, dog sledding, and skijoring. The trips will also include visits to indigenous communities, wildlife watching, and star gazing. The elusive Northern Lights might even make an appearance.

Each itinerary differs slightly, but some of the highlights include snowshoe walking in the Forillon National Park, meeting the Innu people and learning about their traditions, and reveling at Quebec City’s Winter Carnival. Guests also have the chance to explore the Magdalen Islands, which is the only place in the world where you can observe newborn harp seal pups. To top it off, award-winning British photographers Sue Flood and Ian Dawson will be on hand during each expedition to ensure you snap perfect photos of the wildlife and landscapes.

Then, there’s the ship itself. The floating hotel comprises 123 balconied staterooms and suites, a spa with a sauna, a gym, a heated indoor pool, an observation lounge with Swarovski binoculars, a multimedia theater, and a number of bars and restaurants. The main restaurant, Nuna, happens to be helmed by French chef Alain Ducasse who holds no less than 21 Michelin stars.

Want to be part of a cruising first? The four departure dates include January 17, January 29, February 10, and February 22, 2025. Rates start at $24,210 per person based on double occupancy.

For more information on the voyages, you can visit Ponant’s website.