In the 2024/2025 winter season, PONANT will introduce yet another “first” to the cruising and expedition world. We’re counting down to the date when Le Commandant Charcot will become the first ship to sail St. Lawrence River in Canada’s Far North during the winter season. The world’s only luxury icebreaker, she is the only ship that can make this voyage – and it’s only the beginning as PONANT continues to change the face of polar exploration.

At the height of winter, the waters of Quebec’s St. Lawrence River go still to the human eye, hidden by sheets of ice. During this most serene of seasons, the typical cruise ship cannot venture here. And typical travelers cannot bear witness to the seldom seen ways that forests, waterways, and indigenous communities thrive here in the cold.

But PONANT’s Le Commandant Charcot is not a typical cruise ship. And PONANT guests are not typical travelers. Our flagship expedition ship is the world’s only luxury icebreaker, making her uniquely equipped to usher our adventurous, curious guests into this wintry wonderland of sylvan splendor.

How PONANT Planned the First Expedition of Its Kind

When you’re the first to captain a luxury expedition ship along a Far North river in the wintertime off-season, some details must be tended to.

There are the purely logistical ones, of course. That’s why, last winter, PONANT Expedition Cruises Director José Sarica and First Lieutenant of Le Commandant Charcot Emerick le Mouel met with the port staff that oversees docking facilities along the St. Lawrence River. Together, they ensured the piers, water depth, and ice patterns could safely and conveniently accommodate Le Commandant Charcot.

Equally important, you must curate an exclusive and diverse array of activities that educate, enlighten, and enrich. All while making sure that locals are ready and eager to welcome you at a time when no other ships ply these waters. José and Emerick received quick answers to this. In the next few days, they were crossing the magnificent boreal forest by snowmobile, sitting in a tent amidst a snowy landscape chatting with a caribou hunter from the Innu community, taking a heli-flight into Monts-Valin National Park for an overnight in a cozy chalet at 3,000 feet, mushing a dogsled team across a frozen lake, and learning the meditative art of ice fishing in an ice-filled bay, surrounded by a makeshift village of colorful Saguenay cottages.

There Is So Much Warmth Here Amidst the Cold

We can’t wait to share the first-ever winter expedition along the scenic waters of the St. Lawrence River with you. We think it’s best summed up by an old Saguenay proverb that José and Emerick heard during their journey: “There are few places in the world where you can experience the cold with so much warmth.”

Of course, PONANT helps you experience this warmth in the most literal way. Nestled among the warm comforts of our ship, you’ll dine on elegantly presented meals, sip stellar wines, socialize with old and new friends, learn about this breathtaking land of the Quebecois, Innu, and Micmac people during onboard lectures, and even soak in the outdoor “blue lagoon” pool, kept warm by recycled energy from the ship’s operation.

The true warmth you’ll experience will come from the local people who will welcome you into their lives. Indeed, José envisions future itineraries that, like this one, are co-created with community leaders, making PONANT the only cruise line to shine a spotlight on the Innu, Micmac, and other communities you’ll meet. Not only will doing so improve their economic outlook and showcase their rich traditions; it will also highlight the deep and abiding respect for nature that resides within them – and inspire PONANT guests to become ambassadors for the spectacular wilderness and the people that co-exist with it.

Witness an Untamed Wilderness that Few Travelers See

In winter, an entirely different kind of majesty and grandeur falls over the unspoiled wilderness of Canada’s Far North. The landscapes take on lunar-like contours under thick blankets of snow that glitter like a sea of diamonds. Untold acres of snow-draped forest rise and fall with the hills. A sense of peace and stillness wafts through the crisp air and the slightest breeze can launch gentle wisps of granular snow into spellbinding flight.

Caribou, elk, foxes, and the elusive white wolf roam this white wilderness. Smaller creatures take advantage of the ice pack to migrate back and forth between the shore and the river’s islands. As you cruise and explore, keep your eyes open, too, for some 400 bird species such as bald eagle, osprey, and black tern. Beaver, mink, and muskrat – once hunted near extinction for their fur – thrive once more.

Follow this link to learn more about José Sarica’s scouting trip to the St. Lawrence River that played such an integral role in shaping this revolutionary itinerary. José, you’ll learn, discovered a wealth of cultural and wilderness experiences that he’s eager to share with PONANT guests – experiences that ignited his passion for a river that he only thought he knew.

Be among the first travelers to sail the St. Lawrence River in winter aboard our luxury icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot. Read more details and select your departure date here, and we look forward to welcoming you!