The Louvre Museum Is Getting Into the Curated Luxury Cruise Business, Offering Trips Into History for $4,000 a Head

One voyage includes visiting Venice, which could upset the locals, while another sails through the politically sensitive waters of the Persian Gulf.

Venice's crowded waters. Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

The Louvre is going big with its corporate partnerships. First it was Airbnb, letting a lucky visitor spend a night with the Mona Lisa. Now, the prestigious French museum is partnering with a luxury cruise ship company to offer cultural voyages of the Adriatic as well as the Persian Gulf. 

The French cruise line company Ponant has designed itineraries with the Paris museum for two inaugural cultural cruises, including a voyage around the Adriatic that ends in Venice, which may upset locals who continue to fight against cruise liners sailing close to the city. A spokeswoman for the company stresses that Ponant’s ship Le Lyrial, which has a maximum capacity of 244 people, is “small and intimate in size” compared to super liners with more than 1,000 cabins. 

Guests can choose between two sailings, which are due to depart in August and November 2020. One takes in ancient sites around the Adriatic while the other sails through the Persian Gulf. The voyages include onboard programming designed in collaboration with Louvre experts.

Jannic Durand, the Louvre’s director of the department of decorative arts, and Ludovic Laugier, its expert on Greek sculptures, are due to join the Adriatic cruise. On board the Middle East cruise will be Louvre curator Yannick Lintz, who is the museum’s director of the department of Islamic arts.

The first tour will sail from Athens to Venice. Costing from $4,000 a head, highlights include a passage through the historic Corinth Canal to the Aegean Sea. Shore visits include the Acropolis in Athens, and the 1,700-year-old Diocletian’s Palace in Croatia.

While Le Lyrial may be smaller than some vast cruise ships that visit Venice, the vessel is still due to travel past Saint Mark’s Square on its way to Venice’s San Basilio terminal.

Ponant Cruise's Le Lyrial in Venice

Ponant Cruise’s Le Lyrial in Venice. Image courtesy of Ponant.

Cruise ships of all sizes in Venice continue to be a point of contention among local residents. Activists and environmentalists have long been campaigning to get them banned because they pollute the city, as well dominate its beautiful vistas. Ponant’s spokeswoman says that “all out ships are equipped with the latest technologies to minimize their impact on the environment.”

The second Louvre-endorsed cruise is due to sail through the Straight of Hormuz, despite rising tension in the narrow waters between Oman and Iran. The cruise departs from Muscat in Oman and ends in Dubai. Tourists will sail in Ponant’s new, luxury cruise ship, Le Jacques-Cartier. Described on its website as a “limited-capacity yacht boasting just 92 staterooms and suites,” guests will learn about the artistic heritage of the Persian Gulf, and its Islamic cultural traditions.

The cruise includes a visit to Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, which was designed by I.M Pei, the architect of the Louvre’s pyramid. It then heads to the Louvre Abu Dhabi before the trip ends in Dubai. Ponant’s spokewoman says that it takes the security of passengers and crew “very seriously,” adding that there will be “competent authority” on board who will keep the company regularly informed on the situation. 

Last month, another company’s cruise ship, the MSC Opera, injured five people in Venice when it collided with a tourist boat, and crashed into the dock in the busy Guidecca canal. The cruise ship issue was even the subject of a Banksy stunt during the Venice Biennale’s opening week, when the street artist lampooned the massive cruise liners with a new work. The city is introducing a landing tax targeting day-trippers from cruise ships on December 31 this year.

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