Sarina Bratton signs her agreement with the founder and CEO of Compagnie Du Ponant, Jean-Emannuel Sauvee

French luxury cruise and five-star expedition operator, Compagnie Du Ponant has signalled its intention to develop the Australian and Asian markets with the appointment of Australian luxury expedition cruise pioneer Sarina Bratton to head its local operations.

Considered Australia’s “First Lady” of cruising, Mrs Bratton, who dominated luxury expedition cruising in the Asia Pacific region when she created market-leading five-star Orion Expedition Cruises a decade ago, has been named Compagnie Du Ponant’s Australasian chairman and special advisor to the company’s Marseilles-headquartered executive team. She sold her remaining shares in Orion earlier this year.

In her new role, Mrs Bratton will spearhead Compagnie Du Ponant’s  international development, with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region, as both key destinations and source markets. A Sydney-based sales and reservations facility will support the new venture.

Future plans for the company include the positioning of a new expedition ship in and around Australia from late 2015 for a program of itineraries featuring Australia, Asia and the Pacific islands. The company will also heavily promote accessibility to other unique global expedition destinations with its existing expedition sister ships L’Austral, Le Boreal and Le Soleal and its spectacular sailing ship Le Ponant.

Jean-Emmanuel Sauvee, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Compagnie Du Ponant, said today he was “extremely delighted and excited” to have Sarina Bratton join the Compagnie Du Ponant executive team.

“There are very few entrepreneurs and founders of cruise companies in this world, so Sarina and I are kindred spirits,” he said. “We see the Asia Pacific region being an important strategic development for our business and recognise the pioneering itineraries, destinations and source markets developed by Sarina and her former team over the past ten years, as guiding pathways for our ongoing development.”

Mrs Bratton said Compagnie Du Ponant had the assets and balance sheet to become the global leader in small and five-star expedition ship operations.

“It is a real honour and a challenge to be a part of this unique business, both to help with the internationalisation of Compagnie Du Ponant and also to bring a unique luxury product into a market I know so well,” she said.

“Australia has never seen ships like these,” Mrs Bratton added. “The majority of the world’s small expedition ships are old, having been built in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. But Compagnie Du Poinant has a fleet of four, brand-new, ‘state of the art’ ships and a touch of that unique French avant-garde style”.

Each ship carries only 240 guests, and has the most advanced technical and environmental systems on any cruise line in the world. Each ship resembles a private luxury yacht flying the French flag and specifically designed to navigate in extreme conditions. This provides Compagnie Du Pionant with a unique advantage.

Respecting the environment is a priority for Compagnie du Ponant, a member of the Charte Bleue d’Armateurs de France. From the design of the ships, which earned the international Cleanship label, to the outings ashore, every care has been taken to reduce the impact on the environment: from “green” equipment and eco-friendly hull coatings to raising awareness among passengers and crew, and respecting local people.

Compagnie Du Ponant is owned by one of the largest private equity funds in Europe, Bridgepoint, thus providing stable financial underpinning for the company’s rapid growth.

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