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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Always wanted to see the Kimberly coast by ship, to view the horizontal waterfalls. King George gorge scenery, and Rock Art proof of extra-terrestial visitors from long ago. The trip met expectations, but wine was not uniformly of expected ... Read More
Always wanted to see the Kimberly coast by ship, to view the horizontal waterfalls. King George gorge scenery, and Rock Art proof of extra-terrestial visitors from long ago. The trip met expectations, but wine was not uniformly of expected standard for french wine and should have been at next level up for non-selected (types- champagne,rose were 0K) Service on back outside deck was exceptionally good ,as was upstairs bar. Food variety (except for fish) was interesting and well presented and prepared - especially the omelettes!! The visit to the bridge was particularly informative and interesting and we appreciated the time and operations detailed by the om-duty officer. The medical officer ,trained at Toulouse. was efficient and seemed to understand my partners' (attempted) French. The bottom rung of the in-pool ladder should be fitted with a non slip sleved surface (this caused deep lacerations to my partners shin)., Well put together and executed schedule of visitations. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
21 cruises and 19 years after we first set sail on Radisson's "Song of Flower", which soon became Ponant's "Le Diamant", we at last experienced L'Austral and French hospitality. In the meantime we have ... Read More
21 cruises and 19 years after we first set sail on Radisson's "Song of Flower", which soon became Ponant's "Le Diamant", we at last experienced L'Austral and French hospitality. In the meantime we have sailed on many Seabourn cruises, some Radisson/Paul Gauguin, several Silversea, and a memorable trans-Atlantic trip on Cunard's QM2. We should have joined Ponant years earlier. As we made our way south along the coast of Vietnam, eventually to reach Brunei and Kota Kinabalu, we were delighted to find we again were back in the golden days of cruising; before the vessels were overrun with some of the grumpy non-travellers who have written some of these reviews. First, we were at last free of the structured, dress coded, regimented approach of Seabourn and (to a lesser extent) Silversea. From captain to repair mechanic, nothing was a problem. The elegant French ladies of reception, the restaurant maitre d's, the superb guest relations staff - all were faultless. Now its true that, with delightful Gallic insouciance, some who thought themselves important and could only converse in demands were put down in that delightful French way - service slowed down for example. With half our passengers French for a start, such delicate responses did not happen to many! The food was exceptional. The chef had the pride and the courage to simply offer his best- none of the "branded" marketing which has in the past been pushed at us that the menu is by some American chef unknown to us but apparently revered in his country. Ponant does not splash out on vast ranges of menu items, but instead provides what you would get in a family hotel in France. Good food, well cooked and presented. The sous chef who spent his night on the baguettes, brioches, pain du chocolate, and croissants made breakfast a delight. For the first time ever, the coffee was always equal to the best in Italy (or New Zealand). The tours were fascinating and left on time. They were excellent value, taking us to parts of Vietnam we could not have experienced by simply going ashore. Disembarkation was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Don't go on Ponant if you want a casino, trivia quiz sessions, or the intrusion on your holiday of attempts at mass jollity. Don't go if you think your cabin should be the size of an American hotel room and you intend to spend your time inside it. The compact cabin suites are, like many European hotel rooms, practical bases from which to have your holiday outside them not in them. Intelligent engaged older children would learn much - on this cruise there were none of any kind. Do go if you want quality entertainment like a ballet group of five, a classical pianist, and a singing duo of ability. A captain and crew tuned to your needs, an entertainment director who is a true professional, and a vision of cruising which seeks to provide what you want, not impose their ideas on your holiday. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of ... Read More
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of time. I was looking for a cruise that sailed around New Zealand but I did not want a cruise that crossed the Tasman Sea from Australia. Ponant was the only luxury cruise line that had such an itinerary. The cruise started in Auckland and ended in Milford Sound (and then to Queenstown). Prior to booking this cruise I had never heard of Ponant and the reviews on various sites were not great. Here is my attempt to give more information. Pre and post cruise hotels – We did not buy the Pre or Post cruise hotel options from Ponant. However, we stayed in the same hotels as these packages and arranged our own transportation to/from the ship, at a fraction of the cost. We stayed pre-cruise at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. This Sofitel is a very nice hotel located right near the harbor area. We were able to take walking tours of the city, the wharf and the museums. Our cab ride to the ship took about 5 minutes. Embarkation – Once we arrived at the ship, within the check-in window of 4 to 5 pm, we were escorted directly to the gangway. We had our photo taken at the entrance to the ship and were handed our cabin card. They did not even ask for a credit card imprint. We were escorted directly to our cabin and our bags arrived almost immediately. This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. Ship – The L’Austral can hold as many as 250 passengers. On this trip there were approximately 200 passengers and 140 crewmembers. The ship is small but seemed to have very good stabilizers, when we hit rough waters. The ship had a small pool with padded lounge chairs, a fitness center with very nice views, and several viewing decks. In addition, the Captain maintained an “open bridge” policy. If the sign was green on the door to the bridge, you were welcome to come in and watch. The ship is French. The Captain and his direct reports were almost all from France. When the ship would make announcements, the first announcement was in French and the second was in English. About ½ of the passengers were Americans. About ¼ were French. The remaining crewmembers were from all over the world, consistent with every other cruise line. Internet is available throughout the ship at a price per minute. The internet service was very slow and did not work very well, if at all. You would be better off going to cafes on shore and get free internet. Activities and children’s club – The ship had a small library and card room plus a couple of bars fore and aft. We spent most of our daylight hours on shore so we did not participate in any of the activities. The ship had a small children’s area. On our cruise there were zero children on board. Service – Our cabin steward was excellent. Our cabin was very clean and he was very timely. We never came back from a meal or excursion and found him working on the room. Our servers in the dining room were also excellent. They were very friendly and would know us by name. Dining – The ship has two dining areas. The main dining room is on deck #2 and can accommodate all passengers. The dining room on deck #6 always had a buffet set-up for the meals. This dining room could not hold all the passengers so reservations were required. We ate 100% of our dinners in the main dining room. In the main dining room, it was “open” seating. You could sit anywhere you liked. Sometimes we ate with others and sometimes just the 2 of us. Dinner service started at 7:00 each night but often we wouldn’t arrive until 7:30 or 8:00. Not a problem. Breakfast was served buffet-style in both dining rooms although you could also order eggs and omelets, as preferred. The dinners were French cuisine. At each meal you had a choice of 3-4 entrees. You could also order a generic steak, chicken or fish dish also. The only time selection was limited to one entrée was on the Captain Welcome dinner and the Captain’s Gala dinner. For these two dinners, they suggested coats and ties. The entrée was lamb one night and beef filet the 2nd night. There was always a vegetarian option. If you like French food and cuisine, this ship will thrill you. My wife loved the food. Personally, I would have preferred simple meat, potatoes and vegetables. The chocolate desserts were wonderful. Each night 8 lucky guests were able to eat at the Captain’s table. We assumed these “lucky” guests were the high-rollers in the Owners Suites. Much to our surprise, on the 6th night of the cruise, we returned to our 4th level cabin and were invited to eat at the Captain’s Table – What a wonderful man and a very special evening. Cabin – Most of the cabins are balcony cabins. The majority of the cabins are approximately 200 sq. ft., not including the small balcony. As others have mentioned, the toilet is in a small room, by itself. In the next small room is the shower and sink. In the main part of the cabin is the bed and a chair. The balcony has 2 small chairs and a small table. On most ships, we try to book cabins approx. 300 sq. ft. On this ship, that was not an option. You went from the 200’ cabin to the large suites. The cost of the cabins increases slightly as you go higher on the ship but the cabins are the same size whether on 4, 5 or 6. Try to get a cabin in the middle or towards the front for the best ride. On this itinerary, we traveled in a clock-wise direction so you really needed an “odd #” cabin (starboard side). Get “even” (port side) if taking in reverse. Entertainment – I never book a cruise for the entertainment value. This ship had 4 dancers and 2-3 singers. We did not go to any of the main evening performances. The theatre is small but could accommodate all passengers. Ports and excursions – We had $500 of shipboard credit and we used our credit on 2 shore excursions. The cruise line offered 2-3 excursions per port. The excursions were well selected but very pricey. If we did not have the shipboard credit, we probably would have arranged all of our tours ourselves. I have reviewed the ports in more detail in the Port Review section. Here are the highlights: Tauranga – Took a tour to Rotorua arranged via Zealander. We ended-up as the only guests so we got a very personal tour. Saw geysers, Rotorua Lake area, Redwoods, waterfalls, Kiwi farm and Maori show. Napier – Took a Whirlwind Tour arranged with Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours. Once again, we were the only guests so our tour was private. We saw all the sites of Napier and had a wine tasting at Mission winery. Wellington – We rode the Red Cable Car and then did our own walking tour of the city. Picton – This was the first shore excursion booked from the ship. Their vendor was Cougar Tours. We had a boat ride across the harbor and were dropped-off for a guide-led hike along a portion of the Queen Charlotte track. Very nice! Akaroa – We booked the “Swim with Dolphins” from Black Cats. The bay has Hector dolphins. We did see the dolphins but the water was too rough to swim with them. They refunded a portion of our cost. Dunedin – This was the 2nd excursion arranged from the ship. The tour took us, by bus, to the Ortago Peninsula. On this peninsula, we saw nesting Albatrosses, nesting penguins and many very young, baby seals. A great wildlife area! Disembarkation and Queenstown – The cruise ended at Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a beautiful area in the fiords of the South Island. We met the bus at 7:30 which was earlier than we expected from the printed material (which said 9:00). Disembarkation was no problem. The cruise fare included bus service to Queenstown. In Queenstown, we stayed at the St. Moritz hotel. This boutique hotel is located within walking distance to the CBD. Queenstown is a very vibrant area with many adventurous activities. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and hiked some trails at the top. Summary ---- Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much. The itinerary was great and I would cruise with Ponant again. In particular, we enjoyed the small size of the ship. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Only part i can give 5 stars to are the ship and the suites. Our suite was small but felt larger than it was. There was amazing storage and hanging places to put all our stuff. Bathroom was elegant with a separate toilet. Good fitness ... Read More
Only part i can give 5 stars to are the ship and the suites. Our suite was small but felt larger than it was. There was amazing storage and hanging places to put all our stuff. Bathroom was elegant with a separate toilet. Good fitness center with floor to ceiling windows to see the view. Service was reluctant at best. When ever I went to reception for a question or information, the first response was always, "Well, I don't know" rather than "How can I help you" The staff seems to find you an annoyance rather than a paying customer. The wine that was served on board (included) was of the quality of wine in a box. Several passengers beside me commented on the poor quality for a French ship. The wine they wanted you to pay for was always very expensive. The cheapest recommended wine was 79 Euros a bottle.The food was inconsistent. Some times it was excellent; other times it was mediocre. On the final night, the veal medallion was like a hockey puck. The night of the captain's dinner we did not get served our main course until 10:30 pm. Service in the Dining Rooms needs improvement. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
My husband and I hadn't done a cruise before and were intimidated by the larger, floating shoe box style ships with an RSL style feel. We wanted to have an intimate cruise experience that was elegant and allowed us to experience ... Read More
My husband and I hadn't done a cruise before and were intimidated by the larger, floating shoe box style ships with an RSL style feel. We wanted to have an intimate cruise experience that was elegant and allowed us to experience destinations that the bigger ships couldn't provide. We can't speak more highly of our holiday. When the 3 horns sounded as we left Darwin, I felt we were transported back to a time of the 'romantic cruise liner' days. We met other Australian's who shared our same interests which made it easy to have engaging conversations - it was great to learn from other people and hear what they had achieved in their life. The interpretation between French and English was very exciting. We knew we were travelling with a French cruise line and had read the reviews about translation, but couldn't agree once we experienced it ourselves. It was just another feeling of being on a romantic cruise line voyage. Their service was impeccable. I loved the recognition after just a short time and the effort that was made to remember how we liked our breakfast, what wine for lunch and dinner, even cocktails at five-zizzies! The light afternoon gatherings and activities were always great fun. It was a non-pressured way to get to meet some of the other guests. Again, the other passengers were very interesting and we made some great connections with people from around the world. Our stateroom was absolutely beautiful - lazy afternoons sitting on our balcony, looking out to the passing islands, sunsets and sharing a glass of champagne with my husband. The design of our room was very stylish and tasteful with enough space to feel comfortable to stay in or spend the day out. One of the highlights was when we stopped at a sandy island and in the distance we could see a strange looking cloud, and then realised it was an active volcano way off in the distance - doubt we would have seen that on a bigger ship! Overall, we realised that starting our first cruise experience on a luxury cruise ship like PONANT would make it hard to try a different one... but we don't mind at all! We are going again this year to the Med and can't wait! 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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