Introducing Le Soléal – A New Ship is Launched
Posted by Dan Mahar
Posted in: Taucks on Tauck
Tags: Small Ship Cruising, Rome
Greetings from Rome:
My wife Kiki and I traveled to Rome for the launch and coin ceremony for Le Soléal. Kiki was honored to be named Godmother of this exquisite new vessel as she joins her sister ships Le Boréal and L’Austral.
Thursday, December 6 was a special day. We headed east three hours from Rome to the port city of Ancona. Just one hour outside of Rome, we climbed up and through 10,000-ft. mountains. Fresh snow coated all the trees, and the sun was out – it felt very Narnia-like. Beautiful.
However, on the other side of the mountains, it was a rainy, windy and cold December day in Ancona. But spirits were high and all of the workers, nearly 500 men in hardhats, attended the launch ceremony. They were so proud of their work, and thankful for work, as the slowdown in new builds has hit this shipyard hard. It made our day to meet many of them. We met the GM of the yard, who was born in Ancona, and he spoke eloquently about his workers and the potential for his shipyard. He also shared their plans for raising the Costa Concordia – they're building the equipment for this project, scheduled to start in 2013. Upon seeing Le Soléal in dry dock, it’s amazing to consider the progress on this vessel since they started the steel work just 10 months ago. Today sits a beautiful ship – with the interior fit / finish to continue until spring 2013. To anyone who has built a house, it is remarkable to see such progress in so short a time frame.
In the wind, and under a small tent alongside the ship, the ceremony began. The GM spoke first about his shipyard and his team of employees. Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, CEO of Compagnie du Ponant, spoke next about his vision for the ship and itineraries she will sail, and then Kiki spoke about the spirit of travel and the partnership between Tauck and Ponant. A blessing of the ship followed, and then Kiki used a small hatchet to cut the line – which freed the champagne, and the bottle smashed successfully against the hull. Next, we proceeded to deck seven for the placement of the coin, which was designed in memory of the Le Ponant hijacking off the coast of Somalia a few years ago. After the coin was placed, we each had a chance to wear a welders' hat and coat and take a turn making our "marks" on a steel plate near the coin. Kiki went first, followed by myself and then Xavier Robert, a partner at Bridgepoint, a European private equity firm. We then toasted the crew with champagne.
Lunch followed downtown. The President of Fincantieri was present, and it was nice to meet him. Véronique Saadé was present as well, and she has done an extraordinary job ensuring a beautiful and functional interior design. Véronique’s family is the visionary force behind the building of these new ships. She graciously provided a tour of “mockup” cabins for Le Soléal. She is very proud, and says that #3 is best – they learn from each ship.
Upon returning from lunch, the dry dock was now filled with water. Le Soléal was launched, and she sat beautifully in the water. It was now 4:00 pm, and we departed back to Rome and flew home the next morning. The wonderful people and relationships that exist in our business made this a very moving launch ceremony. Tauck is fortunate to have a great partnership with Compagnie du Ponant and Jean-Emmanuel, and we feel so blessed to launch these vessels knowing that thousands of future guests will experience great voyages of discovery onboard in the years to come.