Director of Expedition Cruises and Corporate Expedition Leader,
Nicolas Dubreuil, Director of Expeditions at Ponant, has been guiding trips to the Polar areas for 27 years. Ski trips, kayak trips, diving trips, all kinds of sportive adventure expeditions are on his track record. Now he is busy planning the itineraries for the new icebreaking cruise vessel.
In 2001, Nicolas Dubreuil had a terrible accident in North of Greenland when he was leading a ski expedition. He fell through the ice and in those freezing temperatures nearly lost his fingers. "Luckily, with my body being used to the cold, I managed to preserve them in the end," Dubreuil says.
"Some wise person has said: 'You have two lives and the second only starts when the first one ends'."
At that time Dubreuil was a teacher of Computer Science at the university. "For me, the accident was a wake-up call and changed everything. I wanted to dedicate my life to expeditions and adventures, so I quit my teaching job and bought a house in the most remote settlement in Greenland."
He continued as a guide and started to work with Ponant as an expedition leader.
"This taught me how useful a cruise ship is as a tool to bring people to remote areas, people who could otherwise not have any chance of experiencing them, for instance my parents."
"I also learnt that Ponant is a very special company. At Ponant we care about the passengers, about the environment and how we do things. And we are prepared to go to wild places."
Today Dubreuil is the director of all the expedition cruises. His job is not only to plan routes and destinations, but also to recruit and train naturalists who are on board the ship to teach passengers about the polar areas.
"We take this matter very seriously and plan in detail how to minimize the impact on the environment. We also offer space for scientists on board so that they can have the opportunity to perform experiments, measure ice and find out how to preserve the polar areas," he says.
Building a story
Dubreuil personally does the scouting and visits the places when he is creating an itinerary in order to find interesting things such as wildlife, geology, people and settlements.
"It is like creating a movie, I need to find exciting moments and build a story for our passengers. To experience ice for real is fantastic, but there is so much more you can see and do during a two or three week cruise," Dubreuil adds.
"The new icebreaker will give us completely new possibilities. It is like a brand new space ship. We can actually bring people to places I have had to ski one month to see. The passengers can disembark in locations where there have been less people than on the moon."
Apart from the extraordinary experience, the new vessel is dedicated to educate passengers about the polar areas, the eco-systems and sustainability. The last pristine places on earth are extremely vulnerable and have to be threaded carefully in order to preserve them.
"As an example, we will not break ice in order to reach all areas as both settlements and animals need the uninterrupted ice cover, but instead use other transport to reach the most remote places. In Greenland the local residents will meet us with dog-sledges and in Antarctica we can use our two helicopters, snowmobiles, skis or zodiacs to disembark and watch e.g. the emperor penguins, as we don't want to disturb them," Dubreuil says.
The first cruise is intended to depart in May 2021 and will follow the east coast of Greenland. There will be lots of activities and Dubreuil is working with the local settlements in the planning.
"Just imagine the scenery, the brand-new luxury cruise vessel arriving through coastal ice to the fast ice where a group of residents with dog-sledges are meeting our passengers. It will be a once in a lifetime experience."