Le Commandant Charcot

year built
crew members
492 feet
92 feet
33 feet
ice class

Le Commandant Charcot is a sophisticated hybrid-electric ship cruising Antarctica and the Arctic’s Poles with up to 245 guests (200 in Antarctica). Named after Doctor Jean-Baptiste Charcot, an explorer and exceptional sailor, this expedition-ready LNG ship was built at the Vard Group (Fincantieri) shipyard in Sovik, Norway, and first set sail in 2021.

Le Commandant Charcot – At a Glance

Le Commandant Charcot’s cutting-edge technology, featuring a hybrid-electric engine powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), make her a leader in sustainable polar expedition vessels. And her ice rating makes her the most powerful polar expedition cruise ship sailing today. Among her many notable features & accomplishments are:

  • Polar Class 2 ice rating, the highest of any purpose-built cruise ship
  • First hybrid-electric polar cruise ship powered by liquified natural gas
  • Dynamic positioning system allows the ship to hover in place without dropping anchor
  • Can be autonomous for 1.5 months
  • When in electric mode, can be silent with zero-emissions for up to 2 hours
  • Wastewater treatment onboard, discharging nothing but clean water into ocean
  • Onboard wet and dry science labs
  • Safety & rescue equipment exceeds military criteria
  • Largest battery bank ever installed on a cruise ship
  • World record holder for arriving at the most southerly point ever reached in the history of sailing: 78⁰44’S in the Bay of Whales on February 27, 2022
  • First French-flagged ship to reach the North Pole
  • First purpose-built passenger cruise ship to reach the North Pole
  • First ship to navigate through the most northerly route of the Northwest Passage

Le Commandant Charcot – In Detail
Why Cruise Aboard
Ice Rating & Safety
Common Areas
Dining & Cuisine
Activities Aboard & Off Ship
Cabins, Suites & Deck Plan

Why Sail Aboard Le Commandant Charcot

Choose Le Commandant Charcot to sail on the top expedition ship in our modern history. Our experts who have been aboard say that this ship is a bucket-list experience in itself. Highlights include the ship’s innovative hybrid-electric engine; incredible maneuverability; onboard science labs with the opportunity to learn from working scientists; and incredible Michelin-level dining. This unique LNG ship blends luxury, gastronomy, wellness, entertainment and active programming with a French-inspired flair while cruising through some of the farthest reaches of the globe. Plus, every stateroom or suite offers a private balcony or terrace, for exclusive moments. For these and many other reasons, Le Commandant Charcot is among our top choices for explorers seeking Antarctica luxury cruises and the best North Pole expedition ship.

AdventureSmith Explorations has been aboard Le Commandant Charcot firsthand. Read our dedicated Le Commandant Charcot review to learn more personal insights from our time aboard, or consult this page for our detailed description of the Charcot ship, including the ship’s specifications, deck plan, cabin images, photo gallery and current links to all the trips Charcot sails. And contact our experts to compare Le Commandant Charcot with other Antarctica shipssmall cruise ships and polar expedition ships offering Antarctica cruises, Arctic cruises, Svalbard cruises, North Pole cruises and Canada small ship cruises.

Ice Rating & Safety

Charcot is leading her field with first-time accolades. She is the world’s first passenger ship with a Polar Class 2 (PC2) hull. Charcot’s Polar Class 2 ice rating is just one notch below the highest possible rating, Polar Class 1. However, no Polar Class 1 ships have been built yet, making her the most powerful polar expedition cruise ship today. For comparison, other advanced polar expedition ships are classified as Polar Class 5-7. These ships can break through ice 3.5 feet thick; Charcot can break through 8.5 feet. A large helipad also houses a dedicated helicopter to help the Captain and crew scout the best routes through the ice.

This rating also translates into many safety redundancies aboard the ship, including double engine rooms, bridges, 6 diesel generators and other backups. In addition, the Charcot ensures guests are safer than most at sea, with novel, proprietary safety and rescue gear, including an Ice Cube, group survival kit, floating polar shelters and survival suits. Upon the ship’s launch, this equipment exceeds criteria used in both the tourism industry and the military.

Plus, the most powerful azipods in the world are employed for exceptional safety and maneuvering capabilities in ice. Forward and reverse maneuvers are all handled by these 360-degree propulsion units. An electronic positioning system eliminates any need for anchoring in protected areas, plus offers reduced noise and vibrations.

Sustainability of the Ship

Hybrid electric ship Le Commandant Charcot optimizes energy use with her unique mode of propulsion and cutting-edge technologies, including a bank of high-capacity batteries (the largest bank ever used on a cruise ship), ballast water treatment and ice routing software developed specifically for the ship. When in hybrid electric mode, Le Commandant Charcot produces zero emissions and significantly reduces noise. The energy recuperation system aboard, powered by the ship’s propulsion system, improves her power output; it also heats her pools. Her digital navigation system reduces fuel consumption. And her advanced wastewater treatment system and waste heat recovery systems help recycle and reuse.

This LNG ship is certified as a “Clean Ship” by Bureau Veritas, one of the world’s foremost stewards of ecologically sound travel. Her use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) reduces particle emissions of sulphur oxide, fine particle emissions (by 95%), nitrogen oxide (by 85%) and carbon dioxide (by 25%). When running on LNG, this ship can be autonomous for 1.5 months thanks to two 4,500 m3 tanks. And when navigating in electric mode, she can travel for two hours without producing any emissions or noise. See a full list of eco-features in this PDF.

Science Aboard Le Commandant Charcot

Le Commandant Charcot was designed with a primary goal of keeping the polar regions it explores pristine. Having resident scientists on board helps increase the understanding of these fragile and remote areas. But Charcot takes it step further with two dedicated science labs with advanced technology to enable scientific researchers to further their studies while sharing the progress with guests. For example, the modular wet lab has a side door accessing the sea for deploying sensors (also available via the ship’s hoist on the quarterdeck) or collecting samples with plankton nets. The dry lab is designed for computer work and data analysis. Data about the thickness of the ice, the water, sound velocity and the climate is continuously being collected from the ship’s weather station. Additional onboard tools include sonars, drones, beacon-buoys, a thermosalinometer, a corer and a drone.

While aboard, guests will have opportunities to aid in the scientific research by participating in citizen science activities. Examples include uploading whale photos to a tracking app, identifying and counting seabirds, observing clouds for NASA, listening to underwater wildlife using cameras (ROV) and hydrophones, and collecting plankton samples and analyzing them through onboard microscopes.

Accessibility Features

Le Commandant Charcot’s design offers access to wheelchairs in all communal areas. Spaces are reserved for wheelchairs in the Theatre. The public toilets situated on deck 9 and deck 5 are wheelchair accessible. Two elevators connect all of the ship’s passenger decks. Portable ramps are provided at the thresholds to the main doors. Fire safety systems emit a sound and light signal for the hard of hearing. A braille translation is provided on each deck, at the entrances to all communal areas and public toilets. Lastly, three cabins are fitted specifically for people with reduced mobility.

Common Areas & Design

Le Commandant Charcot features a contemporary, warm and elegant setting designed by world-renowned French architectural firms The Studio Jean-Philippe Nuel and Wilmotte & Associés. Various common spaces are named in Inuit, paying homage to the cultures through which the ship travels. Stone, wood and leather blend with fluid lines, lightly colored decor and some 300 ornaments and works of art.

The Lobby offers a continually-staffed concierge desk, plus an expeditions desk, photo area and shop with clothing, jewelry, beauty care products and other accessories. The Theater seats all guests at once and features state-of-the-art technology. The Main Lounge invites with comfortable furniture, a separate Cigar Lounge and a Tea Room and bar offering periodic live music. The Pool Deck features a novel indoor pool heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, plus an outdoor Blue Lagoon with one cold plunge pool and another pool heated to between 80 and 100 degrees with reused energy from the ship. A Detox bar here features sofas and armchairs. Beside the outdoor Blue Lagoon is a giant firepit and the Blue Lagoon bar, open throughout the day.

The Panoramic Lounge invites guests to relax with a book from the library, plus a bar and observation lounge. A dedicated pre-expedition briefing room provides lockers and space to store and change into and out of outdoor gear. Outside, a wraparound Promenade Deck offers benches heated by recovered energy and two Swarovski Optik spotting scopes for viewing vistas and wildlife comfortably. Finally, the ship’s infirmary is available 24 hours a day and is equipped to treat non-emergency matters. A doctor is available for a nominal fee.

Dining Aboard Le Commandant Charcot

There are three restaurants aboard Le Commandant Charcot, all staffed by a brigade of talented chefs who are driven by their passion for French culinary heritage. These artists align culinary know-how and cutting-edge kitchen technology to bring dishes worthy of the world’s top restaurants to the sea.

Nuna is the first-ever shipboard restaurant by celebrated French chef Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most decorated chefs. It’s here that you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying breakfast, lunch, à la carte dinners and a selection of special signature dishes, all accompanied by the kind of service you’d expect to find at a luxury hotel on land. The furniture is by Ligne Roset, and you’ll dine on Bernardaud French china with glassware by Elne to perfectly complement the cuisine. Located at the rear of deck 5, Nuna can seat all the ship’s passengers at a single sitting. The ship’s second bridge is located at the back of the restaurant, so behind its large windows, you will have a front-row seat to observe the crew during their operations. A fine wine cellar rounds out the experience.

Sila on Deck 9 offers more relaxed atmosphere buffet with innovative offerings and themed dinners. And at Inneq at the Blue Lagoon, find an outdoor grill and open-air bar where you can enjoy a varied and refined range of international sweet and savory dishes throughout the day, as well as a permanent menu offered between the hours of the other two restaurants. The menu features French and international cuisine, including Lenôtre pastries, detox juices and more.

Every day, a French baker makes bread and then bakes it on board. Organic baguettes, sandwich breads and special breads are available as a buffet option with each breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, find five onboard bars, with a captain’s welcome cocktail, wine tastings and other special opportunities like gala nights to imbibe.

After off-ship activities, look for creative cuisine to help you warm up, including hot drinks, mulled wine, hot soups and other snacks. The ship also has water dispensers for always-available still (cold or room temperature) or sparkling water.

Activities Aboard & Off Ship

Le Commandant Charcot creates daily opportunities for exploration, education, entertainment and refined leisure. A plethora of daily onboard activities engage passengers while the ship moves to its next stop for off-ship activity. Live music and dance performances, hosted wellness and movement classes, organized card games, photography workshops and tastings aim to keep guests engaged with the crew and each other.

The Wellness Center spa features massage and beauty care treatments, plus a hair salon and nail salon. All guests can enjoy complimentary access to the sauna and unique snow room that simulates time spent out in the polar environment. The spa features natural and eco-friendly products with plant-sourced raw active ingredients and packaging made from recycled materials. Consider Charcot’s two signature treatments for returning to the ship from the extreme environments in which she sails: “expedition return” and “exploration return.”

An onboard gym offers the latest elliptical trainers, treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, weights, a Kinesis® wall and more. Group or private lessons are available for general fitness, yoga, pilates, meditation and more.

Le Commandant Charcot is equipped with a fleet of 16 Zodiacs which comfortably transport guests to shore and allow for exceptional discoveries of polar wildlife and the surrounding coastal landscapes. This is an absolute must for exploratory excursions along coastlines or for accessing shallow water ports. Zodiac launches are conducted from a secure Zodiac hangar on either side of the ship.

Charcot offers a few unique and fun off-ship activities on select itineraries as well, including kayaking, dog sledding and ice fishing (on select Arctic departures), snowshoeing, a polar plunge, citizen science opportunities and ice floating in special dry suits.

Crew & Guides

Le Commandant Charcot’s flawlessly trained staff focus on guest comfort with discreet-yet-attentive service that has become legendary among discriminating travelers. Cruising aboard Le Commandant Charcot is enhanced by her sophisticated crew who help create the feeling of being aboard a private yacht.

There is an international team of expedition guides and naturalists, comprised of biologists, geologists, historians, etc. who will give informational lectures during the days at sea and then take groups out for activities off the ship. There were also dedicated kayaking and polar hiking guides.

A curated team of 19 to 23 multi-lingual expedition guides offer daily lectures on their areas of expertise: biology, nature, engineering, glaciology, geology, oceanography, climatology, geography, history and political science. Although lectures are offered separately in English and French, guides are often international in their ability to speak additional languages such as Dutch, Spanish, Italian and German. There are also dedicated kayaking, polar hiking, photography and other specialty activity guides depending on the itinerary. A favorable 1:10 guide-to-guest ratio ensures every Charcot traveler has access to an expert. Additionally, a team of scientific mediators provide guests with insight into their research profession, as well as oversee citizen science workshops where guests can contribute to valuable polar research.

Le Commandant Charcot Cabins & Deck Plan

All accommodations offer touches of luxury and plenty of room, with a private balcony or terrace. Each stateroom or suite features the option of one king-size bed or two twin beds, individually-controlled air-conditioning, minibar, flat-screen satellite TV, bluetooth speakers, on-demand video, a safe, hairdryer, bathrobes, a 110/220-volt outlet, French bath products, 24-hour room service, complimentary WiFi Internet access and added-fee satellite direct-line telephone. Laundry service is available for a fee.