Over the last few years, many passengers have asked us when will we return to Arabia and the Indian Ocean. Our response has always been, "when we find the right ship." I am excited to announce that we have done just that—the wonderful sailing vessel Le Ponant.
Standing on an overlook on the island of Corsica this last year, I caught my first glimpse of Le Ponant as she emerged from the fog into the narrow harbor of Bonifacio. She appeared as if by magic—a bright gem materializing from the mist. From my vantage, I could see her expansive deck space where a small, jovial group of passengers were gathered. I immediately sensed Le Ponant was the perfect vessel for Zegrahm.
Once I boarded the ship for my inspection cruise, my instincts were confirmed. At 290 feet in length, Le Ponant is the most spacious expedition vessel I have ever encountered. While most vessels her size accommodate 100 passengers, she carries an exclusive group of 55. With a friendly crew of 30, her ratio of passenger-to-crew is unmatched, assuring every comfort throughout our stay. Le Ponant's operational capabilities are no less impressive with 16,140 square feet of brilliant white sails, a fleet of Zodiacs, diving and snorkeling gear, and the latest in navigation and safety equipment. Le Ponant is the ideal combination of luxury, comfort, and true expeditionary spirit.
We've planned an ambitious series of programs—15 voyages in all—exploring the sun-drenched regions of Arabia, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean. We begin with a series of four pioneering Arabian Nights itineraries, followed by two extensive Indian Ocean programs, then a return north to the Mediterranean.
Our Arabian Nights programs will sail a historic pathway crisscrossed by seafarers since prehistory, visiting some of the most legendary cultural and natural sites gracing this "crossroads of empires"—the rose-colored city of Petra in Jordan; Egypt's underwater wonderland at Sharm El Sheikh and the Monastery of St. Catherine; the old town of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; the birding mecca of Eritrea's Dahlak Peninsula; and the magnificent soaring mud-brick buildings of Yemen's Shibam.
Continuing along the coast of Oman, Le Ponant will call at Salalah, Kuria Muria Island, Masirah Island, Muscat, Sohar, as well as the exotic cliffs of the fjord-like Musandam Peninsula. Sailing through the Strait of Hormoz, we enter the United Arab Emirates for an exploration of four of the seven sheikdoms—Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujaira. We then cross the strait to Iran—a country recently opened to Westerners—stopping at the fascinating port city of Bandar-e Abbas and Gheshm Island for hiking and snorkeling.
At the end of January 2003, Le Ponant will sail south to the idyllic shores of the Seychelles Islands. Refreshing tropical winds will carry Le Ponant from Mahe to such islands as Aride, Cousin, Desroches, La Digue, Praslin, and Bird for encounters with rare giant tortoises, colorful chameleons, elegant tropicbirds, a kaleidoscope of fish and coral, and friendly Seychellois locals.
Our second Indian Ocean program includes eight days in the Seychelles highlighted by stops at Aldabra, the largest raised atoll in the world, and Assumption Island, one of only two islands populated by the Abbot's booby. We sail on to Mayotte in the Comoros Islands before ending the program with three days in Madagascar.
By March 2003, Le Ponant returns to the Red Sea for a final Arabian Nights program. Then, her sails carry her north through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, where we have two expeditions planned: Aqaba to Crete, and onwards from Crete to Nice.
Although relatively short (trips range from nine to sixteen days), these voyages offer great versatility. They can be taken singly or combined, accommodating those of you with less time or those who wish to couple their voyages with a variety of optional extensions.
If you are looking for a unique sailing experience combining the best of three worlds- vessel, destination, and Zegrahm's expeditionary style-please join us for a winter get-away to warm retreats in Arabia, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean under the billowing white sails of the spacious Le Ponant.