French line Ponant debuts Blue Eye underwater lounge

Katherine Lawrey
French free dive champion Aurore Asso performs an aquatic ballet - Ponant - L. Patricot

One of the most exciting features of Ponant’s new Le Laperouse, christened in Iceland this week, is Blue Eye, a multi-sensory lounge, located in the hull below the water line.

While we were sailing around the chilly waters outside Reykjavik, immediately after the christening ceremony of the sleek 192-passenger yacht, there was a distinct lack of marine life to show off the submarine lounge to its full potential. So the cruise line called in a French national free dive champion, Aurore Asso, to perform aquatic ballet at one of the lounge’s big portholes. We were transfixed - Blue Eye is a thrilling innovation from a French cruise line with world-class ambitions.

Encased in a space shaped with whale-inspired curves and fused with blue lighting, Ponant passengers are able to enjoy the privileges usually only afforded to divers by observing the deep through two large, oval portholes. The centre of each window is only 2.5 metres below the water - by day natural light fills the lounge and at night unobtrusive spotlights fixed to the hull illuminate the seabed.

But that’s not all. Blue Eye is also equipped with state-of-the-art technology allowing guests an acoustic immersion in the sea. With sounds captured across a five-kilometre radius, the clicks, whistles and calls of a whale will be transmitted live into the lounge in the form of acoustic waves. Body Listening sofas, which discreetly vibrate, enhance the experience.

The overall effect is a subaquatic concert - a symphony of the sea - which will bring lounge users closer to the underwater world.

But that’s still not all. This is a luxury holiday after all and so there will be a bartender in the lounge, making Blue Eye the most innovative bar at sea.

Le Laperouse's maiden voyage was around Iceland Credit: Ponant - Philip

Starting with Le Laperouse, over the next three years Ponant will add five more luxury expedition ships and one ice breaker to its existing count of five ships.

Le Laperouse sets the standard high for the Ponant Explorers, a fleet of broadly identical ships, all named after great French navigators.

Part of Groupe Artemis, which owns Christie’s Auction House and Chateau Latour among other interests, Ponant's Explorers are designed with all the chic attributes you’d expect of a luxury French line.

Ponant Explorer - Le Laperouse

All of the 88 cabins have balconies and four suites have private terraces; there is a spa, fitness room, sauna and infinity pool; cosy, stylish lounges and a panoramic restaurant, where the menu is overseen Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse.

To help guests discover the natural environment, each Explorer has a flotilla of 10 Zodiac boats for expeditions and a marina platform that allows access to the sea for swimming and water sports.

Cruises are bilingual. If that does not appeal, check out the line’s new Quintessential Collection for 2019, a series of eight English-speaking only voyages, one departing from London on Le Boreal, launched in 2010, and five more on the new Ponant Explorers.

My tip? Consider a voyage in the Seychelles or Indonesia - where exploration among coral reefs and tropical islands is almost certain to deliver the aquarium effect for which the lounge was designed.