International cruises in the heart of winter in Québec’s home ports: Cruise the Saint Lawrence proudly announces a North American premiere

June 19, 2023

Québec, 19 June 2023 – In January 2025, for the first time ever, an international cruise ship will sail the waters of the Saint Lawrence in heart of winter. The Commandant Charcot, with some 200 winter activity enthusiasts aboard, will make four 12-night sailings between late January and early March 2025. Several Saint Lawrence member ports of call appear on the scheduled itinerary, including Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspé, Sept-Îles, Saguenay and Québec. Embarkation and disembarkation operations will be shared between Québec and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.

To enable passengers to immerse themselves fully in regional offerings in winter, the cruises will include longer stopovers of at least one overnight stay which is infrequent in conventional cruise planning. This decision comes in the wake of an onsite inspection tour conducted in February 2023 by José Sarica, Director, Expedition Experience with PONANT and Emerick Le Mouël, first officer aboard the Commandant Charcot.

René Trépanier, Executive Director of Cruise the Saint Lawrence (CSL), could not be prouder of the efforts deployed upstream by the team at CSL and destination member ports of call. “For almost a decade, we have repeatedly promoted unparalleled winterscapes and winter season shore activities with expedition cruise operators. Our efforts appear, at long last, to have begun to pay off with the announcement of this exciting North American premiere,” asserted Mr Trépanier enthusiastically.

PONANT passengers will experience the wonders of the Canadian winter and a superlative succession of seasonal snowscapes. They will enjoy the opportunity to tent overnight in an Innu community, tour on snowmobile, ride a fat bike on a snow-covered beach and try their hand at dogsledding, snowshoeing or even ice fishing on the Saguenay fjord. And who knows? They may even be treated to a dazzling display of the northern lights, or aurora borealis, as was the PONANT team this past February at Sept-Îles. 

When the Commandant Charcot sets out to navigate the ice of the Saint Lawrence in January 2025, she will be embarking on a world premiere journey. A hybrid electric polar expedition vessel powered by liquified natural gas, the Commandant Charcot offers a cutting edge example of the shape of more responsible navigation. The ship’s ice breaking capability enables her to operate safely in polar conditions.  

“At PONANT, we are particularly attached to the Saint Lawrence region, a region that our ships have visited in summer for a number of years now. Our market-leading winter cruises will open the doors to totally novel experiences, unrivalled by any operator elsewhere in the world. The Commandant Charcot will enable us to navigate the ice in complete safety, while providing passengers with an onboard experience nothing short of exceptional. Working together with Destination Saint Lawrence authorities, we have developed an out-of-the-ordinary itinerary. And we are especially eager to share this adventure with our passengers,” stated Hervé Gastinel, President of PONANT.




Tourism Québec expressed great pleasure in seeing this initiative come to fruition: “The launch of winter cruises on the Saint Lawrence marks a turning point in the history of international cruises in Québec. This announcement aligns to perfection with efforts devoted to promoting upmarket and Indigenous tourism, while transforming Québec into a leader in the winter tourism sector,” underscored Caroline Proulx, Minister of Tourism of Québec.

At the Port of Québec, officials delighted in witnessing the international cruise industry usher in a new era with the addition of winter season offerings. “We are particularly pleased by this announcement which will expand the cruise season beyond late autumn. Québec represents a destination of choice for cruise operators who will henceforth have occasion to discover our destination in winter. Rest assured that our teams and terminals will be ready to welcome our winter visitors to our shores,” stated Mario Girard, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Québec.

The team at Destination Québec Cité echoed similar sentiments: “Welcoming cruises in winter will provide us with an opportunity to showcase the wonders of winter at Québec, North America’s winter capital par excellence. Winter is part and parcel of our DNA and visiting Québec in winter will plunge travellers into the living history of a French-speaking city dating back some 415 years in time,” proffered Robert Mercure, Director, Destination Québec Cité.

At the scheduled ports of call, the excitement has already started to build in anticipation of offering the best welcome replete with a diversity of activities. “To look on as the first cruise ship sails up the Saguenay fjord and comes to a stop amid the ice in the Baie des Ha! Ha! a prime ice fishing location will make for a unique Nordic experience in one of the most enchanting settings in the world, and represents a dream come true,” underscored Priscilla Nemey, Director, Promotion Saguenay.

About Cruise the Saint Lawrence

Cruise the Saint Lawrence is a sectoral organization which groups together the nine ports of call located along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. The mission of the organization is to grow cruise market activities in Québec and across Destination Canada New England through the provision of marketing and development services to members. Cruise the Saint Lawrence enjoys the support of partners Tourism Québec, Québec Tourism Industry Alliance and Industry, Science and Economic Development Canada. 


Explore to inspire. Explore to better understand, share and protect. For 35 years, PONANT has committed to promoting a more responsible, more sustainable form of tourism and meaningful journeys of discovery. Registered under the French flag, the fleet of thirteen, small capacity ships are each fitted with the latest in environmental equipment. At PONANT, exploring is refined, authentic and a source of inspiration.


Source: Cruise the Saint Lawrence               

Media Relations :  Julie Gagnon Communications                                                                       

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