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Sail Date: March 2019
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. ... Read More
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. We never witnessed grouchiness or tension among the staff, in definite contrast to the larger cruise ships we've been on in the past. The service was hence over the top. Perhaps it was just our L'Austral crew, but e.g. the front desk ladies were amazing, juggling all day in at least 2 languages, and manning the reception 24/7. Always friendly with a smile, and anything we asked for was done, taken care of or checked on with efficiency. We never felt 'second class' by not being French, and 99% of the French passengers were very friendly once you tried a few words in French.. I think sometimes people get insecure and appear standoffish until you get to know them a little. Due to the itinerary, we had a significant number of Aussies, Germans, Austrians, some Brits, someone from Iceland, and a handful of Americans. Several multilingual passengers, and an unusually high number of solo travelers. That being said, it does help to speak French, since the naturalists, cruise director etc are all native French people, and not every joke or comment can be translated properly into English. All announcements were always in both French and English. The captain was very involved and you seemed to run into him often. He was there, coming in another Zodiac when ours had engine problems, always ready to help out. He navigated that vessel safely and very smoothly. His background is commanding icebreakers, so a transatlantic is probably much easier work for him. Overall recommendations: Although there's 3 elevators, they don't reach everything, for example the marina. Not a good ship for wheelchair, crutches, or walker. Cane may be okay if you can negotiate 1-2 flights of stairs. Currency on board is Euro, but you can settle your account in USD, and if you book a future cruise on board, the quote can be done in either currency. The onboard boutique/store does NOT have sunscreen, nail clippers, antacids... so don't forget those. They have mostly clothing, a few gifts, small amount of jewelry and handbags. Most of the clothing is for use in Antarctica. All high quality (mostly made in France and Germany), and thus pricey. If you wish to leave tips, you have to have cash. Unlike on other cruise ships, where you can add a tip to your bill, you can't do that on Ponant. The services in the spa already include a service charge. Food/drink: Be prepared to gain weight - we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys.. especially the desserts are too delicious to pass up, plus they have daily varying homemade gelato.. ugh. The pastry chef is top notch, French of course. And then the cheeses...! Our ship wasn't full, so during the first 2 weeks, dinner was either buffet on 6, or sit down on 2, and lunch was only buffet. You can always get coffee drinks, croissants and fruit in the main lounge on 3 in the a.m., and coffee/tea with some type of goodie from 4pm-5pm, main lounge as well. Open bar using decent brands, top shelf is extra. Their champagne is pretty good, and on certain occasions, Veuve Cliquot comes out. House wines red/white/rosé are overall decent. If you like beer, you'll be probably disappointed. Mostly Heineken, and e.g. Corona amazingly has to be paid for. Main dishes range from okay to superb - it really depends who's cooking and what. The mostly Indonesian crew is of course best at fish etc, even room service fish was fantastic. The Peruvian carving chef was amazing. Lamb most of the time was awesome. Be aware most of their beef and pork meats (roast, loin etc) are cooked 'rare' and are quite fatty. Room service club sandwich was the best sandwich we've ever had, period. Now if you can't find anything to strike your fancy, just talk to the restaurant head guy or directly to the chefs, they will come up with something for you. Spa/fitness: actually got a haircut, Elsa was very good and took a whole hour, only 65Euro. The hammam looked nice, very hot in there and we were in the tropics, so didn't use. Fitness center looked nice, mostly deserted. The saltwater pool is a decent size for a small ship, due to internal ramp you can't swim laps but it's nice to hang out or tread water. As far as the itinerary - the Brazilian government has now banned all non-Brazilian vessels from anchoring off Fernando de Noronha. It was quite a bummer, but nothing could be done about it. We received 250Euro onboard credit each as a compensation. OB credit can't be used for future cruise deposit, certain visas they arrange for you, or tips as I mentioned above. Since basically everything is already included, we "had to" shop at the boutique, DH got a real Panama Hat and I bought an Icebreaker vest and 2 Breton sweaters, nice souvenirs! Brazil: Rio - loved it and will try to return Paraty - very quaint, difficult walking on cobblestones, not touristy, and no public RR Salvador - broke my heart to see how they let their city deteriorate in so many ways.. even in the public market prostitution was going on. Very sad. Recife/Olinda - Would love to return to see the Olinda Carnaval. We had dancers from Olinda come to the ship to present a show and they were spectacular. Olinda walking tours are quite the workout walking steep hills in high heat and humidity. Guinea-Bissau, Bijagos Islands There was a couple (he French, she Portuguese) who lives on Keré Island, who acted as cultural intermediaries. Our naturalists came from Antarctica and that's where their expertise lies, not Africa, so they did not have much information. Honestly, most of my information was from documentaries I had found online at home, prior to the voyage. The Islands are definitely not touristy (there's rarely a ferry from Bissau), most of the village inhabitants are very reserved and do not interact. It appears they asked a couple of women to put on their 'good dress' and sit by the walking trail, so people could get their selfies with a person from Bijagos. I felt we were being intrusive overall, although I understand they authorized the visit and Ponant helps finance e.g. a water well etc for the villages. If you're a snorkeler/diver, this is not your spot, water murky with very low visibility. Sadly, we saw almost no wildlife, wrong season, normally there are lot of birds, hippos etc. Senegal-Dakar Well, we spent the day at an African family's B&B in Dougar, 45 min E of Dakar, and about 20min from the new airport. We booked through airbnb.com and they reconciled us with Senegal. Before we arrived there, I couldn't get out of Dakar fast enough, between peddlers, noise, the smell of urine, Sahara dust, and traffic insanities... Considering you don't wait in line for anything except the Zodiac embarkations, and the whole ambiance, it's definitely a luxury line and we're glad we chose this trip. Regardless of the itinerary glitches, we enjoyed ourselves and were thoroughly relaxed, so we booked another/ future cruise onboard, which will be on one of the sister ships. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos ... Read More
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos Aires after my flight from JFK, and met the Ponant team at the airport the next morning. The representatives were easy to find and I was quickly waiting in line to drop of my luggage and wait for boarding. After landing in Ushuaia, Ponant offered either a trip to the national park or lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking the city. I chose lunch. Here, I met other solo travelers who I dined with throughout the cruise. We were then taken to the ship were we began the embarkation process. There was no waiting. Walked directly from the bus up the gangway and onto the ship. We were greeted by the staff, and brought to our rooms. The room was very spacious and the bathroom had a sliding door covering a window which allowed you to watch the scenery when showering. It was very nice! Throughout the cruise, the staff kept us well informed of what the plans were for the day. We generally made 2 zodiac trips per day and most days, 2 landings. Everything was organized very well, from getting our parkas and boots to the daily educational programs (provided in French and English). Our weather was phenomenal, and Drake’s passage was like glass both directions! The expedition team was very concerned about the guests seeing as much as possible and worked very hard to ensure it. There are 2 restaurants on board and I generally chose to visit the buffet which allowed more choice than the sit down restaurant. The food was overall excellent and often had a French flair. The staff on the ship were lovely and any needs were met right away. This cruise was all inclusive and the drinks flowed freely! I did not attend any of the shows except the last one on the last night. It was cute but I’m not a show person. The WiFi was great! Free, and I was able to check email, social media, and text with family and friends (helpful since I was traveling solo). No issues with disembarkation at all. Extremely smooth and organized cruise. Loved Antarctica! I would go back and would chose Ponant again for sure!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special ... Read More
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special sights like minkes up close in a zodiac. 6am rise for a pod of orcas and to top it off a blue whale in the weddell sea. The guides and the zodiac drivers did a great job of getting you close to interesting sights and explaining everything well. On the ship the crew were great. Everything was so well taken care off. And the food well. Level 2 is Devine. I guess what you expect on a French ship! The crossing back across the Drake was windy but what's a trip to Antarctica without having to say you have endured the Drake... These Ponant ships are excellent. I would do it again in a heart beat. Maybe a tropical trip next time or Alaska. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same time. It appeared that no one from Ponant was present to advise us what we were to do and we were all walking around like sheep. At the disembarkation end it was even worse as we were told there would be taxis once we got out of the terminal and of course there were none, nor did the taxis even come there, so we had to arrange very expensive private transfers after waiting more than an hour for a fabled taxi. Once on board, our cabin was what we expected. It was very clean and our room steward was excellent. The turnaround for laundry, which was free for us as past passengers, was brilliant. Service in the dining room was inconsistent. Sometimes it was good and sometimes not. The service on any gala night seemed to favour those tables which had officers, which seemed to only host French passengers. That said, the wait staff we had were always happy and helpful. The standard of the entertainment is consistently good and the shows are always a highlight. Kamel, the Cruise Director is a huge asset for Ponant. The food is the biggest let down on this ship. In advance of this cruise we were required to produce significant medical evidence of our ability to travel for the last 6 days. From that I would have thought that both I, and my doctor, had made my gluten intolerance very clear. Apparently not. The choice of gluten free food is beyond poor. I raised this at the first opportunity with the head waiter, who then raised it with a very indignant head chef, who effectively dismissed my complaints. To be given a broken piece of toast for breakfast is an absolute insult, given how much this cruise cost. There were no gluten free pastries, not even rice biscuits for the cheese. The room service menu was even more limited. It is not often that I can go on a 3 week holiday, on what sets itself up as a French culinary gastronomy cruise and lose weight, but it happened. The quality of the included wine was very hit and miss. It was all French. Some was acceptable and others were very, very ordinary. The cocktails however were fabulous. The port calls were a bit of a problem, but mainly due to the water conditions. Our captain did a great job to get us to Pitcairn. In other reviews, non French passengers have made the complaint that there appears to be favouritism shown to French passengers and a sense of entitlement. We saw this too. I don't know how many times I was literally pushed out of the way by a person thinking that they had a better right than I did to be in that position in an ordered queue. We had very few landings on this cruise and for our special lunch and performance on Easter Island the French speaking passengers arrived significantly before the English speaking ones and took up the very best positions. We found it so hard to find a spot together so far from the action that it was not worth even bothering to get involved in the show. With so many non French traveling on Ponant this really needs to be addressed. We really did feel like we were getting second best treatment. Overall, if this had been my first cruise with Ponant I would be in no hurry to do another. We have been on two other cruises ( the Kimberley and from New Zealand to Sydney) and they were excellent. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This cruise was from Lautoka in Fiji to Papeete in Tahiti, in September/October 2018. It was promoted as the 30th Anniversary cruise for Ponant, and made a special visit to Mata Utu, the registration home for Ponant ships. The Ponant CEO ... Read More
This cruise was from Lautoka in Fiji to Papeete in Tahiti, in September/October 2018. It was promoted as the 30th Anniversary cruise for Ponant, and made a special visit to Mata Utu, the registration home for Ponant ships. The Ponant CEO was onboard for the cruise, along with a very large proportion of French passengers.We had cruised on Ponant a few times before, and on this particular ship. The cruise itinerary was interesting and met the usual Ponant onboard standards but we were a little disappointed. We thought more information and relevant lectures might have been provided. The cruise visited some island locations not previously visited by cruise ships, and that showed in some below average excursions and details. That, along with some bad weather, made the first half of the voyage less than memorable. The second half, visiting the Cook Islands, Bora Bora, and Moorea was much more enjoyable. Very picturesque and excursions were satisfactory (apart from the usual high costs). The cruise ended with a great fireworks display at Papeete harbour provided by Ponant. it is not pleasant to register some reservations about fellow passengers but we did find that not all the French passengers were very welcoming. There was an attitude apparent that Ponant is a French cruise line and the French passengers therefore hold or expect special rights in some undefined way! This did spoil things a bit at times although senior crew made it clear this was not the Ponant view. The line has to make revenue and profits and that means appealing to all comers. Just a point to keep in mind for some cruises. Overall could only rate this cruise as average but recognising some of the Ponant efforts to make it a memorable anniversary cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
This cruise visited Wallis and Futuna which I could not get with another cruise line. Since this was also a 30 anniversary cruise lots of specials were in store, such as reception in Wallis; native entertainment on board and on shore and ... Read More
This cruise visited Wallis and Futuna which I could not get with another cruise line. Since this was also a 30 anniversary cruise lots of specials were in store, such as reception in Wallis; native entertainment on board and on shore and the fireworks on the last night. The hula performances were a highlight. those dancers could surely move. The shore excursions were well organized allowing me to see the beauty of the various islands, especially from a high overlook on Moorea where the different shades of the waters really stood out. Even the dolphins cooperated (showed up) on an offshore boat trip. My balcony cabin located amidship, reduced the affects of the ocean and was always kept in good shape. The ships personnel was always friendly and eager to help. The food was plentiful and of good quality, too bad, gained a few pounds even though I was using the walking machine in the exercise room. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose the cruise because while we have travelled to many other parts of the world we really need to see more of our own land. We combined the cruise with self drive land content before and after and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the ... Read More
We chose the cruise because while we have travelled to many other parts of the world we really need to see more of our own land. We combined the cruise with self drive land content before and after and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the north of Australia. There was a bit of a mess embarking as the papers were late arriving and the meeting point had changed but the Visitors' Centre in Broome was very accommodating. All was soon forgotten when we boarded, greeted by senior staff and with a glass of bubbles, we were escorted to our cabin where our bags were waiting. Our cabin, 508, was very comfortable, with plenty of space for our belongings, and the screen in the bathroom giving a view of the outside from the shower was exciting, as well as acting as a source of light. Our attendant kept everything very clean and was helpful in a range of small ways. I have never had such a thorough lifeboat drill, leaving the theatre to fetch our life jackets, donning them, being checked off and then shown row by row to the lifeboat boarding area. This attention to safety was also shown by the zodiac with the doctor, and a senior officer accompanying all excursions, people on hand to assist with difficult parts of walks and a briefing each evening on how rigorous the next day would be. There always seemed to be entertainment in the main lounge, a singer, classical pianist or a mood music, and on the only sea day there were two short documentaries related to the area. The main lounge and the observation lounge as well as the outdoor areas gave plenty of places to relax, read, talk, play games or just watch the passing views. Even at night it was very pleasant to take the air and look at the stars. The main entertainment however was the excursion program, and what a program. After the evening briefing we looked forward tot he sights of the next day and weren't disappointed. The zodiacs were manned by mainly young, but always very enthusiastic and informative members of the expedition team. We saw whales, turtles, rays, many varieties of birds, crocodiles, dolphins, and some lucky passengers saw a dugong. On shore we visited rock art sites from different periods, and a beach with strange shaped rocks of significance to indigenous Australians, as well as venturing up rivers and gorges. The sunsets were amazing, and the sunrises were probably also spectacular judging by the light I saw early one morning! It was the most wonderful experience to go out on a zodiac and then return to a ship with excellent French food and wine, good company and a warm ambiance. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
We wanted to visit the Kimberley region from the sea and experience rock art and geographic features. We were not particularly interested in the birdlife but found it fascinating nevertheless. The hotels before and after were all we ... Read More
We wanted to visit the Kimberley region from the sea and experience rock art and geographic features. We were not particularly interested in the birdlife but found it fascinating nevertheless. The hotels before and after were all we expected - very pleasant stays. The ship was impressive with plenty to keep us occupied on board. Service was very good. The excursions and explanatory talks before and after and the commentary during them were excellent. The cabin was well laid out and comfortable and in a great position. The balcony was a great spot to relax. Food, drinks and service were very good and nothing seemed to be too much to ask the staff, who were very helpful and courteous. We only partook of a little of the entertainment, but what we did experience was enjoyable. Both embarkation and disembarkation were handled quickly and efficiently. All in all it was a great experience and we thoroughly enjoyed very aspect of it. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Cabins too small, temperature too cold throughout the ship including in cabins, food very disappointing for what is expected from the French, meat tough, food too salty even the doctor on board told the chefs this but they refused to ... Read More
Cabins too small, temperature too cold throughout the ship including in cabins, food very disappointing for what is expected from the French, meat tough, food too salty even the doctor on board told the chefs this but they refused to change. Little to no service poolside, pool only a plunge pool. Ponant office in Sydney much too slow at sending documents, many passengers did not receive prior to leaving their homes to travel. Pick-up from hotels in Broome organised by Ponant was a debarkle, some passengers not informed of pickup location and time and then when we arrived at ship we were informed that we were an hour too early and would have to wait an hour in hot sun with no shade or seating. Australian expedition crew excellent! Ponant Sydney office are not organised— we 3 will never travel Ponant again— back to Silver Sea and Seabourn for future cruises. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We booked this cruise 18 months earlier and we are so glad we did. To begin with, the Kimberley area is stunning! The scenery, the wildlife and the indigenous rock art is all wonderfully beautiful. We saw an abundance of the most ... Read More
We booked this cruise 18 months earlier and we are so glad we did. To begin with, the Kimberley area is stunning! The scenery, the wildlife and the indigenous rock art is all wonderfully beautiful. We saw an abundance of the most beautiful birds, crocodiles, whales and sea turtles, all in their natural environment. The physical scenery was absolutely stunning. The geological features are incredibly special and places like Talbot Bay with the Horizontal Waterfalls, Raft Point, Prince Frederick Harbour with the amazing Mitchell Falls seen by helicopter will live in our memories forever. Seeing Montgomery Reef rise out of the water as the tide fell was an incredible experience. We were literally metres away from this. We visited several sites with ancient aboriginal rock art that were just amazing. Added to this, was the expertise of our guiding naturalists. They combined a sense of fun with incredible knowledge and made the daily excursions in the zodiacs something to really look forward to. The evening recap meetings led by Sandrine and the naturalists ensured we all knew exactly what was happening the next day as well as reliving that day's experiences. We couldn't have asked for more. The ship itself was quite beautiful. It was stylish and modern with more than a touch of class. Our cabin was 431 and it suited us perfectly. We loved sitting on the private balcony, particularly while whales frolicked nearby. Our room was kept spotlessly clean and the bar fridge constantly restocked. There was also no shortage of fabulous entertainment on board with various musicians, singers and a great dance group. I also used the library to get through a couple of relaxing books. We found the food to be beautiful and it was complemented by a never ending supply of fine wines. We ate in both the formal restaurant and also in the more casual buffet and found them to be outstanding. Finally a word about the staff. They were incredibly good, quick with a smile and always helpful. The service was far and away the best we have experienced. This was a really special holiday and we couldn't have been happier. Thank you Ponant! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
I chose this cruise from Sydney to Cairns as it was calling at smaller islands off the East Coast of Australia . Somewhere along the line this ship was just missing a beat if it wants to be considered 5 star. The food was excellent with ... Read More
I chose this cruise from Sydney to Cairns as it was calling at smaller islands off the East Coast of Australia . Somewhere along the line this ship was just missing a beat if it wants to be considered 5 star. The food was excellent with lots of French specialities. Same could not be said about the wine considering it was a French ship this was a great dissapoinment.Service was superb in the restaurant and bars but it was the next level of management where it fell down. It's a very small ship which I knew but when we have sea days it's nice to be able to walk around the decks but there was no deck to do that. The pool deck area was very small. Embarkation and disembarkation was very smoothly handled. The cabins were small but well laid out and lots of storage space. I think the ship needs a refurb. Some of the furniture in the main lounge was a bit well worn . Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We chose this cruise for its luxurious small ship experience. The ship was all the better for the French influence on the food and wine which were superb. The ship was fabulous with wonderful caring staff from Captain David Marionneau to ... Read More
We chose this cruise for its luxurious small ship experience. The ship was all the better for the French influence on the food and wine which were superb. The ship was fabulous with wonderful caring staff from Captain David Marionneau to the cabin stewards, wait staff, bar staff, housekeeping staff, reception and entertainment staff. What a trip! We boarded in Fremantle a couple of weeks into the 40 night Circumnavigation of Australia cruise which departed Sydney on 25th January and Fremantle on 8th February. Lovely cabin (315). Nice balcony, comfortable bed and adequate toilet and bathroom facilities (separate) serviced at least twice a day or on demand. Complimentary mini bar replenished daily (no wine though). If we wanted wine we needed to get it from room service. No problem. Plenty of beer, spirits and mixers along with water and soft drinks. Leaving Fremantle we sailed north to Geraldton, then on to Exmouth (glass bottomed boat experience). On to Broome, Talbot Bay for the horizontal falls. Astounding! Waterfalls everywhere- naturalists on board had not seen anything like it, nor the flows from the King George Falls. Aboriginal settlement at Yirrkala was amazing, artworks beautiful, and a performance that was exciting. On we travelled our 26 nights reducing rapidly. So many experiences - so much to see and great weather. Had no problems with the zodiacs and many people older than my 65 years managed them easily with the care and attention of the crew. Boy did we see parts of Australia I never knew existed. Other passengers were also overwhelmed by the beauty and colours of the Kimberley. This was all complimented by food (lots of high quality French inspired food but interspersed with some special lunches of Italian, Moroccan, Baltic inspired. Our bar, lounge and waiting staff knew us all by name after 24 hours, and they knew our drink preferences. Other stops at Darwin, cape york, Thursday Island, Hamilton Island and Fraser Island before heading back to Sydney where our “on board family” of 240 passengers said goodbye. A very sad time. This certainly an unforgettable cruise. So much, wonderful people, sights, eats and drinks, memories after memories, friend after friends. Thoroughly recommend the ship, it’s very professional but friendly and very happy crew and amazing entertainers. Just go, we are so glad we did. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
I have been on this ship once before to Macquarie Island and the New Zealand subantartic islands. This ship takes you to places where the others don’t go. Unbelievable experiences and excellent on board, with quality food beautifully ... Read More
I have been on this ship once before to Macquarie Island and the New Zealand subantartic islands. This ship takes you to places where the others don’t go. Unbelievable experiences and excellent on board, with quality food beautifully cooked, interesting fellow passengers and a relaxed style. Magnifique as only the French can do. The all inclusive fare includes your shore excursions in zodiacs (if on an expedition cruise) drinks, premium coffee etc which at the end of the day makes a cruise with this line much more competitive in price than it might seem at first blush when simply comparing ticket prices. Ponant ships are new, well equipped serve some of the best food I have ever experienced on a cruise ship and provide great service. All announcements are in French and English and there is a very welcoming atmosphere on board. The expedition cruises are great fun and the expedition crew are amazing. Je t’aime L’Austral Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
This was the third cruise we have had on le Boreal and L'Austral. All have been excellent, This cruise was to the Sub antarcic Islands from Dunedin via the sounds and ending in Wellington NZ. As the ship was being repositioned from ... Read More
This was the third cruise we have had on le Boreal and L'Austral. All have been excellent, This cruise was to the Sub antarcic Islands from Dunedin via the sounds and ending in Wellington NZ. As the ship was being repositioned from Wellington to Sydney we were offered a free cruise to Sydney. The expedition could not be faulted as the weather and the seas allowed us to land on all the Islands where it is permitted. This we were told was exceptional. Even the cruise across the Tasman was akin to a Manly Ferry trip. We actually landed on both days as per the itinerary at Macquarie Island. Many of the expedition guides visited many times and had never achieved both landings. Some years were impossible to land at all. We also landed on Campbell Is and Enderby Is which were amazing. The entire operation was exceptionally managed and organised and minor tweaks were necessary to avoid some bad weather ahead of us. The Itinerary was completed with only one Zodiac outing cancelled due to unsafe waters over the loading deck at the Antipodese Is. Landing was not allowed there by NZNP's anyhow and it was a Zodiac inspection anyhow. The ship spent some time circumnavigating the islands so we could see the abundant bird life but missed the close up experience penguins and seals which we seen everywhere else. We had seen so many of these previously we didn't really miss much. All in all the entire expedition was amazing.Bio security was adhered to so nothing was conveyed to the Islands that would affect the ecology. Even no fresh food was allowed ashore. Things changed at Wellinton where many passengers left the ship to be replaced by people taking the 4 day cruise to Sydney. Is was to be a no frills cruise but developed into a big swill cruise with many of the new passengers overindulging in the open bar. They were not typical of the many passengers we have met and enjoyed on previous cruises who are mainly interested in the theme of the cruise - expeditions not boozing to excess. The cabins were comfortable and well serviced. As we were repeat passengers laundry was included. Dining was excellent at all meals. We preferred the more casual dining on Deck 6 which is buffet. The staff there were so accomodating and friendly where we found the dining in the formal dining room more formal and patronised by the more affluent wishing to be waited upon. The food is identical. Service is also more formal. There are no set dining periods or allocated seating. It is as you wish during the opening hours. On deck 6 bookings are often required due to popularity particularly if weather permits and as out-door dining is possible it is often extended to poolside. Each day there was a specially prepared dish available on deck 6 prepared by an exceptional chef (Jerome). Roast suckling pig,roast beef and lamb as well as a steak tartar to die for as well as prawns and scallops and many others. These meals are prepared for both lunch and dinner. Soups are always amazing.Wines are provided, red,white and rose at lunch and dinner which are reasonable but the more exclusive wines which are also available are expensive. Entertainment is restricted to 4 females and a male dancer and their performance is excellent.and if weather permits is performed on the pool deck. Otherwise it's in the theatre. For the more physical active a small gym is available to work off the extra weight that is so easy to put on.. Spa and massages are available. The lounges are comfortable and have singers or pianists playing at set times which are always advised in the daily schedule. Lectures are provided most days by one or other of the on-board guides, naturalists and scientists and are always most interesting and appropriate according to the areas being visited. Briefings and weather forecasts (if appropriate) are held before dinner regarding the next day's activities. In the sub-Antarctic they were were more than interesting and always gave us an appreciation of what we may expect be it good or bad. We have always found the cruise/expedition more than good value for money. The fact passenger size is limited to according to the size of the expedition and guides. Generally around 200 plus or minus a few depending upon how many people are permitted ashore which is dictated by the authorities managing the sites. Zodiac transfers are a breeze and access to/from the ship excellently achieved with ships crew amazing. Announcents are in French and English as there are usually more than a few French passengers on board (and they rule). It is after all a French owned ship. We have Been there and done that now three times and we will not travel with any other company based on ship size and passenger service. Many of the passengers and expedition staff formerly travelled or worked on the Orion which has now left Australian shores. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2018
These islands are possibly the least visited and unspoilt islands in the world with unique flora and fauna. They cruise visits these island positioned halfway between Australia and New Zealand and Antarctica. In the great southern ocean ... Read More
These islands are possibly the least visited and unspoilt islands in the world with unique flora and fauna. They cruise visits these island positioned halfway between Australia and New Zealand and Antarctica. In the great southern ocean The islands contain the greatest variety of penguins and the opportunity to sit on the beach and have these highly curios birds come and investigate the stranger in their midst On Macquarie hugh breeding colonies of up to 500,000 pairs can be observed plus smaller breading colonies Colony’s of elephant seal, New Zealand fur seals, New Zealand sea lions can be observed while wali g on the islands Bird life is abundant and breading colonies of various breeds of Albatros can be observed whilst on land and also from zodiacs while investigating the shore line and inlets and cliffs of the various islands. Apart from. Penguins, seals, and a great diversity of bird life the islands have their own unique forms of vegetation This all takes place with a team of highly experienced specialised experts who daily give lecture on what we can expect to see on the next days excursions ashore or from the zodiacs Ponant take you to these far away places in the luxury of their ship with fine food,fine wine and great service that makes the trip even more enjoyable Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
We chose this cruise line and ship for it's supposed 5 star rating and it's small number of passengers. We had previously been on two cruises on the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti which were fantastic so we expected a similar ... Read More
We chose this cruise line and ship for it's supposed 5 star rating and it's small number of passengers. We had previously been on two cruises on the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti which were fantastic so we expected a similar experience as the two ships are of similar size and capacity. We booked to travel from Noumea to New Zealand over 14 days spending Christmas and New Year on board expecting something quite special. It only took a couple of days to realise that there was a shortage of staff in the lounge/bar/entertainment area on deck 3. The lounge was nice and comfortable but could not accommodate a lot of guests and when there were quite a few there we found it could take up to an hour to get a drink. There was often only one waiter and one barman who just couldn't cope with all the orders. Sometimes the bar manager was in attendance however he did not arrange more staff and seemed more interested in talking with the French guests. We are English speakers only and it appeared that the French would receive more attention. There is a nice piano bar on deck 6 which we liked to attend however there were a few instances when the piano player was performing and the bar was closed. When the bar was open Alex, the barman, was excellent with his service and did his best for all. The a la carte restaurant on deck 2 was very nice but also short staffed when busy. The quality and range of the food was only average and the wine selection very limited. They had one particular white, red and rose house wine available each day which were very average. They had 3 chardonnays and one chablis the whole trip which were included in the open bar. If you wanted a sav blanc you had to pay 8 euros a glass. The rest of the open bar drinks were quite extensive so the cocktails, spirits and beers were plentiful. The buffet restaurant on deck 6 was always crowded which seemed to be a poor reflection on the a la carte one. The food was also average with some uncomfortable push and shove around the serveries. The cabin was very nice with sufficient storage. The cabin cleaner, Putu, was excellent and could not do enough for us. As we had visited New Zealand previously we did not do any shore excursions. We would just get off the ship for a few hours and explore the current port which was enjoyable. We spoke to quite a few other guests who had been on previous Ponant cruises who stated that they had really enjoyed their previous trips however were similarly disappointed with this one. It seems that the Ponant is great for expeditions but not so good for just cruising. We both picked up a 24/48 hour stomach bug at different times during the cruise and later discovered that this happened to several other guests also. We can only assume that this might have had something to to with the full offload of the ships stores in Auckland to be replaced by New Zealand produce which took all day at great cost. The official line was that this was a requirement of the New Zealand authorities. For 3 days there was a terrible smell on our deck which seemed to be vomit on the carpets however we were told a few days later that a sewer pipe had burst beneath the floor. This was not explained by the crew at any time. We would not go on another Ponant cruise after this trip. If asked we would recommend the Paul Gauguin over the Ponant. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
I chose this cruise because of the "no single supplement". Ponant is the only luxury cruise with this option and I really think it is a good marketing option for the company. More and more you have a lot of women traveling and ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the "no single supplement". Ponant is the only luxury cruise with this option and I really think it is a good marketing option for the company. More and more you have a lot of women traveling and exploring the world by themselves. At the beginning of my cruise Ponant had a get together for all the people traveling alone, so we could meet each other. I also selected Ponant because I wanted to speak French and eat French! I was not disappointed! We visited some very remote islands in Indonesia and met fabulous ethnies: the Torajans for example. Ponant went out of its way to find an event so we could observe first hand the Torajan Funeral rites (we even went there with two live pigs we could offer to the family!). It was superb! The conferences were always of great interest: the naturalists were experienced on board and we were lucky to have Jean Marie Rouart from the Academie française in a panel Paris Match (a great addition for this cruise)! I am now a fan of Ponant! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
First time on Ponant but 16th cruise overall. We were totally spoilt like never before. The ship is beautiful and the staff were all so very nice and went the extra mile with everything they did. The rooms were bigger than other cruise ... Read More
First time on Ponant but 16th cruise overall. We were totally spoilt like never before. The ship is beautiful and the staff were all so very nice and went the extra mile with everything they did. The rooms were bigger than other cruise lines we have travelled on and the finishing touches were lovely. Very comfortable beds and pillows. Plenty of closet space, an in room safe, good quality toiletries and a drinks fridge. The included mini bar was constantly restocked. It was great having an open bar and the French wines and champagne were very good. Some of the best red and Rose we have had for quite some time. Now the food, it couldn't be any better. Young Chef Tony deserves a medal along with his team for feeding us so well. It was all so delicious and we came home much heavier than when we boarded the ship. The French cuisine was superb. There were 3 formal nights on board, 2 of which we ate in the a la carte restaurant, all other meals were taken mostly outside by the pool at the buffet area. It was just so nice to sit outside at night and bookings were needed in advance due to the popularity. Morning and afternoon tea were always delicious little French cakes, pastries and savoury treats. This was an Expedition cruise Darwin to Darwin visiting the Kimberley's. Mick Fogg and the team were brilliant. Very friendly and extremely knowledgeable. We were awestruck day after day by what we saw in this very special part of the world. Just incredible scenery and Aboriginal rock art. Daily outing in the Zodiacs were well organised as were the couple of the optional tours we chose to do. There were daily evening recaps about what we had seen and what was in store the following day. Full credit to the team on a fantastic job.. There was nightly entertainment but we didn't see any of it as after dinner we were so tired that we went to bed ready for the following days big adventure. We are early 50's and we couldn't keep our eyes open after 10pm! If you are considering a Kimberley trip I would choose Ponant over every other option. We could not fault a thing. It was worth every cent and then some. . Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2017
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together ... Read More
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together beautifully., gave wonderful presentations and were always available for questions. The passenger makeup was mostly Australians, though about 20 French-speaking. I continued on the next cruise - Darwin to Bali - and the atmosphere changed a bit - now it was half English-speaking and half French-speaking. This was more of a cultural cruise as we made several stops in a few little-visited eastern islands of Indonesia. The island tours were well-organized. It was still active as we had several snorkeling opportunities. It is important to know that these were expedition-style cruises, and agility and balance are needed to board the zodiacs. It is active, with snorkeling and hiking opportunities. Everything is described in advance and passengers can self-select if they want to participate in the excursion. Ponant thinks of everything. For those of us continuing on, they provided a very nice half-day tour of Darwin with a good guide and a comfortable bus. I chose L'Austral for its reputation. I like the atmosphere and size of the ship.The fact that it is a fairly new ship (only 6 years old), and has continental food and service is a plus also. The back-to-back cruises were an excellent combination - with the first being all nature with a few visits to Aboriginal rock art; and the second more cultural. With such long flights to this part of the world, it made sense to do a back-to-back. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Fulfilled a long term ambition to visit Darwin and cruise the Kimberleys in WA. While there were quite a few issues on the vessel which were not the best, my overall rating is quite high just for the fact of my experiences within the ... Read More
Fulfilled a long term ambition to visit Darwin and cruise the Kimberleys in WA. While there were quite a few issues on the vessel which were not the best, my overall rating is quite high just for the fact of my experiences within the Kimberleys. The L'Austral was quite good although I believe it mostly catered for French tastes which is understandable with a French ship & mostly french crew. I went to see the Kimberleys and get up close travelling the waterways in Zodiacs & was not disappointed. I thought the onboard laundry & ironing charges were very expensive. Cabin service was outstanding though. All staff friendly & helpful. I can recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see the Kimberleys as the access to amazing scenery & onshore visits would generally not be accessible other then by water or air. Naturalists on board were first rate and very informative. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We visited the Kimberley region 20 years ago on a small cruise boat with less than 20 passengers and always wished to return. The Ponant Expedition Cruise with very experienced Naturalists on board to explain and show you the ... Read More
We visited the Kimberley region 20 years ago on a small cruise boat with less than 20 passengers and always wished to return. The Ponant Expedition Cruise with very experienced Naturalists on board to explain and show you the fascinating features and Aboriginal art was a highlight tat is a must for visitors to the area. We are well past retirement age and found the accessability into the Zodiacs and places of interest easily managed with only one set of falls missed due to the 70 degree climb that was really only suitable for the really fit passengers. That was not an issue as the crew took us to other places of interest. The Le Austral is a 5 star vessel with all the features that go with that rating, the cabin and dining was excellent with the French touch. Two dining experience were available the al la carte and the Buffet the latter on the Pool deck which was really suited to travelling in the tropics Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
For me, Ponant is the perfect mix of intinerary, price and comfort. It is not for everyone - this was my third Ponant cruise, complaints about the food are common and based on the mis-understanding that the French eat souffle, foie ... Read More
For me, Ponant is the perfect mix of intinerary, price and comfort. It is not for everyone - this was my third Ponant cruise, complaints about the food are common and based on the mis-understanding that the French eat souffle, foie gras and French onion soup every day. Simple, high quality fresh ingredients is the norm. Also expect the Captain, officers, receptionists, spa staff and some of the naturalists to be French by birth and speak English with French accents! It is a bi-lingual staff and crew. Some of the rudest Australians I've ever met have been on the Ponant ships, demanding that French not be spoken as they feel that they are missing out in some way. If you're that paranoid, there are many other 'English only cruise lines. Rant over. The Kimberley expedition was Darwin to Darwin, which might be the first and last time Ponant offer that variation. The sea conditions and weather were spectacular - the calmest seas I've ever seen, clear blue skies and emerald green seas. Getting up to the Wandjina art caves at Raft Bay takes some physical fitness, as does the climb to the top of King George Falls, as does some ability to cope with the heat (35 Celsius on average). L'Austral is a modern, comfortable, ship, showing some signs of exterior wear after the Antarctic season, but nothing that a coat of paint won't rectify. The cabins are in excellent condition and the cabin staff maintain the cleanliness of them very well. There were 231 passengers out of a possible 264 due to the number of single travellers, and it never seems like too many people - I saw people at disembarkation that I'd never seen in the preceding 10 days. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
The ship is young enough and attractively styled and crewed! Maintenance of rust and cleaning of deck,glass,and balcony are not great. Cabin and storage was totally fine. Our cabin steward was never close to our heart and when we ... Read More
The ship is young enough and attractively styled and crewed! Maintenance of rust and cleaning of deck,glass,and balcony are not great. Cabin and storage was totally fine. Our cabin steward was never close to our heart and when we boarded one waste bin was not emptied, nor the bedside table cleaned. The toilet compartment seemed to need a deep clean /freshening. The Senior Housekeeper always looked in control but the staff were disappointing as stewards and waiters. Our cabin /balcony was blighted by the constant contact with Zodiac boats being lowered and raised to the top deck storage. Ponant made several blunders during the booking, confusing my details with someone on the other side of the world with a similar name. We were given an on board spend to our surprise just before the end of the cruise after being told earlier that there was none. I must say the Captain and French members of staff were excellent as was Camal the Cruise Director. Though with a 98% English speaking passenger group why French was usually the first language spoken I never understood. The very few French speakers on board were favoured and one day, next in line to board a zodiac ,we became invisible as a French couple were shown on ahead of us ! Even more outstanding were the large Nature Guide/Zodiac pilots team who gave excellent lectures/briefings and were entertaining stars. The trouble was the food and drink. The baking was also pathetic at times. Twice there were "fancy" set menu special/party nights in the very attractive main dining room. However the set menu food was even worse than regular cooking.Now I have been on many ships and make every allowance I can for the catering difficulty of a small ship in remote waters, but this was BAD. The extra pasta meal required due to the sea state delay in final docking was one of the better efforts!! To cap it Ponant served as house wine (to mainly Australian passengers) cheap Australian "Oxford Landing" wines, which irritated many. Cabin service food was simple but fast and well served. Eventually some poor French wines did materialized! Bar service could be slow with one bar man being the norm and many cocktails on offer! I will say I enjoyed the free flowing Champagne.... The "Grill" (deck) restaurant/buffet is too small when the ship is full and the weather hot. These Kimberly Coast cruises attracted mostly (noisy) elderly Australians so the fun of an international passenger mix was missing. Good ships photography/DVD service. Did not use internet, (100 minutes@ 30Euroes). I could never use Ponant again as my food and drink is important to me. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We decide to cruise from Darwin to Broome with Ponant from July 24th 2017 to 2 August 2017 because we wanted to experience the Kimberley from the ocean side. We had travelled the region by car back in 2007 and love the colours and the ... Read More
We decide to cruise from Darwin to Broome with Ponant from July 24th 2017 to 2 August 2017 because we wanted to experience the Kimberley from the ocean side. We had travelled the region by car back in 2007 and love the colours and the landscape. We chose Ponant because it was a 5 star French ship, the price was reasonable and it was doing the areas we wanted to visit. $750 per day, per person (deck 4 verandah) which included all the zodiac tours, all meals and open bar. We were expecting French food and fine wine as per their brochure. Disappointingly, their fine wine and open bar was not as we expected and no French food. Their "house wine" was Jacobs Creek Classic Shiraz, Jacobs Creek Chardonay, and Gossips Rose. There were other wines which you could purchase by the glass or bottle. You could imagine the horror of 220 Australians on board to be served Jacobs Creek wine which retails at Dan Murphy's for about $7 and Gossips Rose for $3. The Hotel Managers excuse for the Jacobs Creek wine was because their shipment had not arrived. Not quite believable. Not a drop of Sav Blac to be found on the ship for those who preferred something other than Chardonay. They ran out of Sprite, Bailey, Dramburie, VB and had to share the Sambucca between the bars - if you wanted to have a Gin & Tonic with Blue Sapphire gin it is 9 euro, and any cocktails that were not on the "ordinary" list you had to pay for. As for the food, average but definitely not French Cabins are small with only 1 chair for sitting except on bed, couldn't have bathroom door and wardrobe door open at same time and you both could not walk past the end of the bed at the same time. Whilst you are not in your cabin a lot, sometimes it is nice to relax in your own space with room to move. Entertainment although not a lot was acceptable. Service - not enough Bar staff, they were always very busy and service was slow. Wait staff in dining room was good. The Buffet at night was crowded and difficult to get hot food with the number of people queueing. Definitely not what we expected of a 5 star cruise line. Silverseas wins over Ponant hands down. However on a positive note the expedition team and zodiac outings were exceptional, everything was well planned and organised. All of the team were very informative and knowledgeable. Great job. Would we go again?.... Only if we factored in $200 a day for drinkable wine. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2017
We wanted to see the Kimberley and we decided that this was the way to do it without having to pack and unpack every day or so - do so with a degree of luxury. The trip started in Darwin and finished in Broome. When excursions are added ... Read More
We wanted to see the Kimberley and we decided that this was the way to do it without having to pack and unpack every day or so - do so with a degree of luxury. The trip started in Darwin and finished in Broome. When excursions are added such as Bungle Bungles, Mitchell Falls, Horizontal Falls, etc it makes the whole experience come alive and educational. The whole expedition crew were very knowledgeable - especially the Expedition Leader (Mick Fogg) and this added to our overall enjoyment. The ships crew were always attentive and made the "cruise" part of the trip an absolute pleasure. The 2 dining rooms were excellent and well serviced by stewards. The cruise was all inclusive except for additional excursions such as the plane and helicopter flights, but normal expedition excursions, eg zodiac expeditions up the King George River to the Falls, Montgomery Reef, Lacepede Islands, etc were included. Read Less
L'Austral Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 3.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.4
Enrichment 2.0 4.1
Service 3.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 3.0 4.1

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