By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press
French company, Ponant Cruises, operates cruises around the globe. This year, two Ponant vessels, Le Bellot and Le Dumont d’Urville, offered cruises on the Great Lakes. Le Dumont d’Urville came to Tobermory on Sept 20 and Sept 28; Le Bellot is tentatively booked to come on Oct 12.
Tobermory Harbour Master Carla Watson states that on Sept 20, many of the ship’s passengers spent the whole day around Tobermory, including Flowerpot Cruises with Blue Heron. On Sept 28, Blue Heron had to cancel due to weather, but some people came ashore anyway to walk around and visit the stores.
The itinerary for the October 12 visit is not yet published.
Harbour Master Watson explains that Ponant wanted to come in the busy summer months but this was not practical. It would have been impossible to block off enough dock space to land the ship’s tenders and “there were already line-ups for washrooms — it would have been chaos.”
Ponant’s “Explorer” class vessels (there are four, all named after French explorers) are quite small for cruise ships — 430 feet long with a 59-foot beam. They can accommodate up to 184 guests. For reference, the Chi-Cheemaun ferry is 362 feet long with a 62-foot beam; the MV Columbus (since renamed the Hamburg) is 472 feet long with a 72 foot beam.
Harbour Master Watson says that negotiations are underway to bring a somewhat larger ship to Tobermory in 2025. The Welland Canal limits Upper Great Lakes traffic to vessels less than 730 feet long; according to Wikipedia the largest cruise ships currently sailing are 1,181 feet long with a beam of 198 feet.