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24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Having made numerous cruises on various lines (20 +) I can honestly say Ponant really misses the mark. Cruise is billed as high end with gourmet dining, luxury cabins and exciting entertainment all to be accompanied with outstanding ... Read More
Having made numerous cruises on various lines (20 +) I can honestly say Ponant really misses the mark. Cruise is billed as high end with gourmet dining, luxury cabins and exciting entertainment all to be accompanied with outstanding French service standards. Rooms are clean, not spacious but such should be expected on a small ship. Toilet is in a separate room from shower making it somewhat inconvenient but tolerable. Plenty of closet storage as well as many drawers. Food was tolerable definitely not gourmet. Food that should be served hot was barely at room temperature, specifically at the buffet. Selections very limited and reservations required for the buffet at dinner. Service standards are hit or miss with the classical French attitude one would hope not to encounter. On a side note, the first evening at the buffet, went thru 4 packages of butter that were moldy, I suppose it can happen, but I was sitting directly next to the cruise director who ignored the issue turning his head the other. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
I am writing this following a April 2019 transatlantic crossing from Miami to Lisbon ( an itinerary to be repeated in 2020 ). This is a wonderful all inclusive experience as PONANT includes fine wines (including French champagne), ... Read More
I am writing this following a April 2019 transatlantic crossing from Miami to Lisbon ( an itinerary to be repeated in 2020 ). This is a wonderful all inclusive experience as PONANT includes fine wines (including French champagne), alcoholic beverages, tips and even WiFi with no additional charge to the cost of the cruise. Cabins feature toiletries from Hermes and offer all the comforts one would expect from a 5 star cruise line. Dress, however, is country club casual. While PONANT has deep French roots, the entire onboard staff is fluent in English and everything, including announcements, menus and shore excursions, are offered in both English and French. The cuisine, as one would expect, is gourmet and there is complimentary 24 hour room service for those who so desire. On my cruise entertainment included several singers and dancers, a guitar player and professionally trained classical pianist. There is also a lecturer, giving separate presentations in the theater in English and French. Shore excursions sold onboard are varied. The Captain and officers are quite visible and friendly with guests. And the service staff goes beyond expectations, quickly learning guests names and preferences. It should be noted that PONANT offers a number of itineraries with no single supplement, which can easily be found on their website. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
This ship is beautiful. It’s like being on a private yacht, especially when it is nowhere near full. It’s so easy to get everywhere and the decor is very soft aqua with neutrals. Our cabin was lovely and beautifully kept by our steward ... Read More
This ship is beautiful. It’s like being on a private yacht, especially when it is nowhere near full. It’s so easy to get everywhere and the decor is very soft aqua with neutrals. Our cabin was lovely and beautifully kept by our steward Manshuri. It’s really nice to have coffee capsules and different teas available and the mini bar has spirits, soft drinks and water. We were greeted by the Captain who was always around and gave an in depth weather forecast in the lounge daily. All the crew were wonderful and quickly remembered drinks etc (thanks Jay Jay, Richie and Berenice in the lounge) The whole dining process was wonderful all the way through. The staff again were great but special mention must be made for the chef Michenon Ludovic. The food he produced was Michelin star status although, we believe from other passengers, not the normal Ponant food. We looked forward to every meal and we’re not disappointed. From beef Wellington to Halibut with sesame and Asian sauce, to Chateaubriand spectacularly served at our table either by the chef or one of the restaurant managers. We had a gorgeous seafood tagliatelle with lobster, huge prawn and tiny mussels - the list goes on. It made it truly a gourmet cruise. Because it was a transatlantic cruise we were led to believe there would be no entertainment. However we had a great duo( her voice was great), a concert pianist and a singer with 3 dancers - how they dance when the ship is moving I don’t know. The cruise director, María (who was lovely) was very inventive and used the crew for talks or demonstrations and meet and greet sessions We even had a few hours in Funchal, not on the itinerary, which was unexpected but lovely Embarkation was a bit basic but we were in Cayenne which is not a cruise port!! All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would definitely like to repeat it Thank you to all on board (crew and Passengers)for making it so good Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2019
Le Champlain is a beautiful, small, expedition ship. We sailed on her from Cayenne to Lisbon-had a wonderful time! Only 43 guests on this voyage and 120 crew-the 11 day crossing felt like a party on your best friend's large yacht. ... Read More
Le Champlain is a beautiful, small, expedition ship. We sailed on her from Cayenne to Lisbon-had a wonderful time! Only 43 guests on this voyage and 120 crew-the 11 day crossing felt like a party on your best friend's large yacht. Nationalities of the guests: 5 Americans; 5 Australians; 2 Canadians; 4 from the UK; 1 German; and the rest French. All were well-traveled and everyone mixed well. Language was not an issue - the crew all spoke English and French-with our taxi/restaurant French, we managed to communicate well enough with our French friends. We had a base-level suite on deck 3. Well appointed, but a tad snug-they are significantly smaller than on other lines. We did not find this to be an issue. Food in our opinion was very good and we had a number of exceptional dishes. Service was good throughout the ship - best in the restaurant and suite. Open bar offerings sufficient-no need to up purchase anything. Limited entertainment. Booked another, we liked it so much! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2019
Just finished a 16 day Durban to Mahe (Seychelle Islands). We were a bit worried about the ship due to some not so good reviews. But, all I can say is it was a fantastic experience! We are generally traveling on Crystal and always happy, ... Read More
Just finished a 16 day Durban to Mahe (Seychelle Islands). We were a bit worried about the ship due to some not so good reviews. But, all I can say is it was a fantastic experience! We are generally traveling on Crystal and always happy, but this line has some very unique itineraries so we thought we would give it a try. To begin, the service is OUTSTANDING. Our Butler Hassan, the restaurant manager Kevin, the expedition guides, our daily food servers, our cabin attendant Rona, all exceeded our expectations. Due to the fact several in our group suffer from food allergy and are vegan, we were pleasantly surprised to find the chef provided very good meals for us. Enjoyed the daily salad bar, and the daily poolside BBQ of a variety of themed items. Several in our group loved the amazing breads, the french style cuisine, the terrific breakfast and option for a casual or more formal daily dinner. It is an all-inclusive ship with open bar. We tried several amazing “featured cocktails” and enjoyed them at the pool bar at sunset. The itinerary was terrific. We boarded the ship in Durban after a few days at the Oyster Box Hotel—which was also OUTSTANDING. Then visits to a variety of uninhabited islands. The snorkeling, diving and nature talks very, very good. Our daughter had a minor dive problem with her ear. The ship doctor and dive master were right on top of it every second and very helpful. We really appreciated their help. Smoking is only allowed off the back of ship. Other reviews complained about this, but I found it no problem. No smoking in rooms or public places. The Captain was quite personable and spoke English and French fluently. This was so nice that we booked two more cruises with really unique itineraries. Looking forward to going back. Loved this ship and staff! Read Less
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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me: Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier ... Read More
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me: Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier Islands, Moorea, Bora Bora and Papeete; Cruise#2: Papeete, Moorea, Tuamotu islands, Marquesa Islands, Hilo, Honolulu This review will cover both cruises. As it turned out, the itienrary had a lot of expedition-style elements: transportation by zodiac, snorkel eqipt. issued, visiting out of the way places (not even listed in Lonely Planet or much on the web about them), an excellent speaker introducing us to the various Polynesian cultures, film programs, some hiking, and excellent local guides. The mix on the ship was about 50% French-speaking and the rest English speaking (consisting of US, Australian/New Zelanders, Europeans) and most programs were offered twice, once for the French speaking, and again for the English speaking audience. Ship announcements were bi-lingual. Food is both restaurants is excellent and I enjoyed the buffet on on the 6th level for most meals as I could "eat and run". Spa services are excellent I liked that the ship had a afternoon reception for those of us traveling on our own so we could meet each other. This is a 5-star ship, with 5-star dining, 5-star services and 5-star amenities (for example, bathroom amenities are from Hermes). Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
It was my husband’s 70th birthday and we are wildlife carers so the opportunity to see so many penguin, albatross and seals in their natural,habitat was a must for us. We had never done such a cruise before, a smaller ship, only 150 ... Read More
It was my husband’s 70th birthday and we are wildlife carers so the opportunity to see so many penguin, albatross and seals in their natural,habitat was a must for us. We had never done such a cruise before, a smaller ship, only 150 passengers and 100 crew. We were amazed at having 13 expedition leaders to lead trips on zodiacs to various islands, each had speciality knowledge, flora, fauna and geological. Each day we experienced an expedition on zodiacs, we felt safe and were always assisted into and out of the boats. Despite some rough seas, we were comfortable and the shipmbehaved well, our Captain was very experienced in difficult seas, having taken passengers down to antarctic waters previously. The most wonderful experience was going to Macquarie Island where few people are able to go. We were surrounded on the beach by hundreds of King and Royal,penguins, a remarkable experience, to sit on the beach and have the birds come up to us and check us over. We visited islands of New Zealand including Enderby where we saw Royal Albatross and endangered yellow eyed penguins. I can thoroughly recommend this cruise if anyone is interested in wildlife. Despite the average age was 60+ no one seemed to miss out on the enjoyment, It was the best cruise ever, expensive but everything was provided, Nespresso machine and kettle for tea and coffee in our cabins, all wine and spirits unless expensive kinds wanted, French cuisine for lunch and dinner. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
I wanted to go to Antarctica in comfort and Ponant offered an excellent 'no single supplement' deal. Le Boreal is an elegant and well maintained ship with wonderful staff. It was very annoying not to get our travel documents ... Read More
I wanted to go to Antarctica in comfort and Ponant offered an excellent 'no single supplement' deal. Le Boreal is an elegant and well maintained ship with wonderful staff. It was very annoying not to get our travel documents until 2 weeks before departure. I was stressing about the baggage limits and the timing of the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. It turned out I need not have worried as the flight was at 0830 and the baggage limit was 23kgs. Arriving in Ushuaia we were taken to the magnificent hotel Arakur for lunch and an optional walk. The amount of time at the hotel could have been halved. On Le Boreal we ate most of our meals in the main dining room on level 2 rather than the self service option on level 6. Excellent variety of well prepared food and free flowing wines. The staff remembered our preferences and I noticed them carefully 'tweaking' the dishes on offer for a couple of fussy passengers. I always had room service breakfast which was fast and my order was always correct, something that is often a problem on larger ships. Being an expedition voyage, the emphasis was on zodiac rides and landings. As I am decidedly unfit I was a bit worried about these activities. I need not have been. The expedition leader, Florence, gave detailed briefings each day and there was a good little video demonstrating how to get on and off and in and out of the zodiacs. The sailors at the marina were wonderful, assisting all passengers. Passengers were divided into groups by language, i.e. French or English with the few Germans going with German speaking naturalist. Group order was rotated each day. I did not do all the excursions on offer, choosing those I felt most comfortable with. I am not an outdoors person, so all the layers of clothing were a new experience for me. Getting kitted up to venture out was a huge effort. Underthings, thermals, next layer, waterproof pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, neck scarf, beanie and enormous red Ponant supplied parka. As my stuff was all brand new I did not have to vacuum it prior to landing on the Antarctic peninsula. The supplied boots were a hassle and the website advice to go down a size when ordering was definitely incorrect. I ended up 3 sizes larger and still had to roll the boots over at the top, so if we had had very wet landings my feet would have been wet. Something to consider if you don't have slender legs. However this is a cruise where you can enjoy the great wilderness that is Antarctica from the comfort of your ship. Iceberg and whale viewings were magnificent. Our captain slowed down when there was something to see and we spent hours sailing around an enormous tabular iceberg. All in all I loved this cruise. At sea Ponant does a very good job indeed. It was a shame therefore that it ended on a real downer. After a faultless cruise, Ponant did not excel with the return transfers and flight. Left the ship at 0900, hung around Ushuaia for 45 minutes and then queued for over 90 minutes at the airport. The LATAM flight was a disorganised mess and the service was non existent. The flight down on Air Austral was much better but I would seriously suggest organising your own way to and from the ship. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
From the moment we arrived at the Buenos Aries airport to board our charter flight to Ushuaia , the attention to detail with this cruise line was evident. From having boarding passes ready to go, to buses in you should wear divided by ... Read More
From the moment we arrived at the Buenos Aries airport to board our charter flight to Ushuaia , the attention to detail with this cruise line was evident. From having boarding passes ready to go, to buses in you should wear divided by language, there was nothing it was left chance. The ship was immaculate and in wonderful shape, however it pale by comparison to the genuine friendliness and graciousness of the crew. They are relaxed elegant manner in meeting guest’s requests, made it an absolute delight to be on board. As Antarctica cruise, the coordination of people in and out of zodiacs was masterful and without incident. The food was wonderfully proportioned in the main dining room and for those of preferred self service, there was a buffet on the sixth deck. The lectures from the expedition crew we're insightful, pertinent pertinent, and well delivered. The trip lived up to the value proposition of a luxury cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
This trip began in Buenos Aires with a night at the Hyatt located in Recoleta. We have sailed with Ponant previously so knew the expeditions off boat would be great. We had two trips in zodiacs each day whilst on the Antarctic peninsula, ... Read More
This trip began in Buenos Aires with a night at the Hyatt located in Recoleta. We have sailed with Ponant previously so knew the expeditions off boat would be great. We had two trips in zodiacs each day whilst on the Antarctic peninsula, one a landing and the other a zodiac trip to take photographs. All were amazing and the expedition staff were extremely knowledgeable and generous with their time. We were so lucky with the weather that all but one zodiac trip went ahead. The recap of each day allowed for questions and expanded our general knowledge of what we had seen. Attention to detail to ensure our boots were sterile before stepping ashore was reassuring in not contaminating the otherwise pristine antarctic shores. Life on board was fabulous - great food and wine (even without a drinks package) extremely comfortable cabins and fabulous service not only in restaurants and bars but also in our cabin. We were so impressed that we have booked another Ponant cruise in the Arctic in July. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and ... Read More
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and I took into observation myself on what was available and what was limited especially regarding the trip to Antarctica. • The restaurant staff were very efficient and worked well under pressure at times (special occasions such as gala nights) while keeping great composure. • I was more drawn to the A La Carte and found the food to be very delicious along with a variety of specialties. • The drinks service at the bar was great. • The entertainment was good for being a small luxury ship and I considered that it wasn’t a party ship, but more of an intimate one as why I decided on a small luxury ship. • The cabin room had a balcony and it was very lovely and cosy with great space and storage. • The room service was great and the steward, she was very lovely. • The zodiac expeditions were very well organised and supervised by the Officer/s and crew who were very safety conscious and were never hesitant to take anything into consideration. • The Expedition Leader/ Naturalist (one in particular) were very well experienced and very knowledgeable and the lectures given were presented very well and were interesting. Engaging would be the word due to their passion. • I observed some customers giving some staff a hard time at the reception regarding “their concerns/expectations” of which I saw was well handled and sorted with great communication and expedience. • Any feedback was also taken into consideration and handled diligently and implemented. • The Captain and Expedition Leader both delivered on an amazing substituted trip in place of an expedition trip on one of the days we were not able to get to a destination due to weather and an ice blockage however this idea was a phenomenal one along with being in the right place to see whale activity much closer. Three Things To Consider • Single Supplementary Charges make it less flexible along with less journeys/experience to go on than I would like to have; • The cooked bacon could be improved; and • Regarding kids maybe more involvement interaction as they are the future however, I did see the Expedition Leader do his best with what he had and could do. It was the first time I had experienced a cruise, taken three flights within 24/48hrs experiencing jet lag for the first time along with travelling alone to areas with little language experience. The trip was perfect along with the weather and this was not “the Norm” every time so I got a special trip. I have lots of photos, lost of memories and I went on the trip with no expectations and instead it was just about enjoying the moments. Thank you to all who made my trip a great one and I will definitely be back for more. 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage ... Read More
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage allowed in cabin. The embarkation was seamless and very welcoming . The ship itself was pristine, hygiene incrediable, service form all staff inpeckiable, the facilities were outstanding. To be fair could not fault anything. The communication throughout the 10days was so regular and UTD. The excursions were professional and very well organised. comfort plus. I would definantly only ever do another cruise with Ponant, as ticked every box. Food was exceptional, and loads of variety, activity was constant and varied. Very professional expedition leaders and the staff involved in hauling us on and of the zodiacs were amazing. Captain was informative and passionate about his ship as well as Antartica. JUST AMAZING EPIC AND BREATHTAKING. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
We chose this cruise because it went to all the places we dreamed of going to. The expedition team were exceptional, very knowledgeable and made the trip forever memorable. Cruising to Falklands and South Georgia were a highlight. Captain ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to all the places we dreamed of going to. The expedition team were exceptional, very knowledgeable and made the trip forever memorable. Cruising to Falklands and South Georgia were a highlight. Captain and crew did an amazing job enabling us to land at all but one location Food was very good except never hot enough from the buffet on level 6. Many lovely desserts and great variety of French bread and cheese at all meals. One meal was spoiled by finding a piece of metal in tomato salad. Charter flight to embarkation port was standard domestic flight which took 2 hours longer than normal as it made a stop along the way. We thought the group photo was not very good and too expensive to purchase. Lectures by the naturalists were very engaging and informative. One criticism was that all announcement were made in French first and then English so sometimes it was hard to hear the English version in public areas as the French speakers talked over it. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
(Apologies if this is a bit long, but I know i love to get all the details when I read a review!) Day 1 - Boarding As others have noted Ponant are very strict with their 1 hour boarding window, and even turning up 15 minutes early ... Read More
(Apologies if this is a bit long, but I know i love to get all the details when I read a review!) Day 1 - Boarding As others have noted Ponant are very strict with their 1 hour boarding window, and even turning up 15 minutes early meant we were only able to leave our luggage and head for a beer in the brewery next door! Boarding in Cairns was very straightforward, with no Immigration requirements as this was an Australian cruise. There was a short delay boarding while both the Captain and the Chairman (Sarina Bratton A.M.) greeted every passenger. Once on board we were escorted to our cabin (312 which is about 10m from Reception). First impressions of the cabin were excellent. The light airy décor and general cabin layout were good, and the cabin was spotless. Departure As the next day was a port call at Lizard Island, the programme once aboard was rushed. Just time to grab a welcome drink before at 5pm (as boarding finished) there was an expedition briefing in the theatre and issue of lifejackets for the Zodiacs. Then back to the cabin to retrieve our full lifejackets for lifeboat drill in the theatre at 5:30pm – fortunately nothing is too far from anywhere on Le Laperouse. This was immediately followed by drinks on the rear deck for sailaway at 6pm, then dinner from 7:00pm. Day 2 – Lizard Island Our call at Lizard Island was affected by weather with the preferred anchorage unsuitable due to wind and swell. However the crew had a Plan B and we stopped on the other side of the island (although the captain was unable to anchor and had to drift and reposition the ship all day). This meant a slightly longer 15 minute Zodiac trip to the beach, and no real opportunity for snorkelling although the water was pleasant for swimming. The passengers were split into 4 colour groups for the duration of the cruise, and this determined your activity order and Zodiac boarding time. Generally this process ran pretty efficiently and too schedule. There were a couple of guided walks offered morning and afternoon which weren’t too strenuous and allowed us to become better acquainted with some of the Expedition team. Sailaway preceded the Captains Welcome party on the rear deck and the first of what proved to be many 6-course degustation dinners! Dress was what I describe as ‘semi-formal’ with most men wearing jackets, some wearing a tie as well, but others in long-sleeve shirts and slacks (noting it was 30ºC plus outside). Due to the balmy weather, the Grill on Level 3 was open every meal for those who didn’t wan’t a large extended dinner or wished to dress more casually. Day 3 & 4 – Willis Island Due to the massive complexity of Australian marine regulation (discussed by Sarina Bratton during her Q&A session) the cruise included 2 days at sea to make a “technical stop” at Willis Island. This constitutes ‘leaving Australia’ and avoids coastal-cruising fees which otherwise would be lumped onto the fares. Activities during what were effectively 2 sea days included lectures from the Expedition crew, and Sarina’s Q&A session. Snorkelling equipment was also issued to those so inclined, which you kept for the duration of the reef visits. A highlight was the seafood luncheon prepared by the guest chef, Guillame Brahimi, and the first of his 2 degustation dinners. Worth noting that the degustation dinners took nearly 2.5 hours to get to the final course as everyone was served at once. Day 5 – Hardy Reef The visit to Hardy Reef involves being moved by Zodiac to a moored reef pontoon some 20 minutes away by Zodiac. This is due to the restricted anchorage available for ships of this size. Due to choppy weather conditions, everyone got soaked en-route to the platform – fortunately the water was warm! We had the run of the platform except for between 11am and 4pm when we were joined by day-trippers. This included a ride in a semi-submersible over the reef, an underwater observatory, and snorkelling. Coffee, tea and water and toilets were available on the platforms cruise boat moored at the platform. Day 6 – Percy Island We moored off Percy Island in calmer conditions with a 5-10 minute ride into the beach. The crew had erected beach umbrellas on the sand, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) and 2-man kayaks were available to tour the small lagoon at the end of the beach during the morning. 2 walks were available, which were a bit more strenuous than Lizard Island, although a few wilting passengers were kindly transported by ute and quadbike by the residents (all 5 of them). Percy Island’s highlight is the “Yacht Club”, a large A-frame building covered in plaques and memorabilia from passing yachts (and cruise ships) – you could spend hours looking through them all. A pleasant surprise in the afternoon was a ‘cocktail party’ on the beach with rum punch, champagne and beer and a game of boules! Followed by another degustation dinner… Day 7 – Lady Musgrave Island Ponant arranges with the Lady Musgrave Experience tour boat for access to its facilities at Lady Musgrave Island. This includes snorkelling of their large reef boat, a glass-bottom boat tour and a walk around Lady Musgrave Island to see the turtle rookeries and bird colonies. However, rough weather made it impossible for the Zodiacs to be loaded, although the captain to his credit tried everything. Ultimately, to our amazement, they arranged to try a direct boat-to-boat transfer to the large reef boat! Some great seamanship on both sides saw 110 passengers taken to the reef to get a shortened experience for 2-3 hours. The snorkelling was excellent, and the guided walk (although necessarily short) was well done. All credit must go to the captains and crews for making it possible – lots of other cruises ships would have called it off hours earlier. Days 8 & 9 – At sea The next two days saw us cruise in increasingly better weather down the Australian east coast. An advantage of a ship with no casino, and smaller size, means they travel closer to the coast and there is more to see. One morning it was our colour groups turn at a Wine and Cheese Tasting hosted by the Sommelier, a chance to try some of the wines on the wine list paired with some excellent French cheeses (a step up from those on the buffet). Another degustation dinner… Day 10 – Newcastle Newcastle is a former steel making town that is re-inventing itself as a tourist destination based on its beaches and proximity to the Hunter Valley winery region. Ponant had organised an included tour, with each colour group boarding a coach to visit three of four wineries in the Hunter (so no 2 groups were at the same place at the same time), with all coaches converging on one winery for a 2-course lunch with some excellent local wine. A good day capped off with another degustation dinner… Day 11 – Sydney Our visit to Sydney highlighted the crisis the iconic harbour suffers with insufficient cruise ship capacity (particularly for large ships). We were unable to moor at the Overseas Passenger Terminal until 7pm due to another ship being port, and no other berth being available. The day started very well with the ship pulling into Broken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Zodiac tours ended up at a “surprise” location on a local tourist boat where we had an oyster shucking and testing session with some nice local wines – I sat among a group of non-oyster eaters and had a great time! The oysters were wonderful. About 30 passengers disembarked (mainly due to early flights the following day), and the remainder were allowed off from about 8pm to wander around The Rocks and Opera House precinct. Day 12 – Sydney Disembarkation was a nightmare – although it wasn’t particularly Ponant’s fault. At 4am Le Laperouse had to leave the OPT and moor at a mid-harbour anchorage so a large Carnival ship could berth. Passengers baggage was taken off and left at the OPT. The remaining passengers had to disembark by tender from 7am. This involved a bumpy 20 minute tender ride to the steps of the Opera House, very difficult for passengers with reduced mobility. That’s where the fun started… We were then herded across the Opera House forecourt by rude Security staff and loaded onto small buses to be taken to the OPT to clear Border Force formalities and get our baggage. This trip took nearly 20 minutes to cover what would be a 5-10 minute walk… Once at the terminal (about 8:15) we were forced to sit in the terminal (unless you joined the escorted tours to the toilets) until nearly 9:30 while Border Force finished with the Carnival ship. After all that, the actual Border Force process involved handing over the Incoming Passenger card and walking through… they would have processed all the passengers in less than 5 minutes. We could have dropped the cards in a box and been just as thoroughly processed. A very ordinary introduction to Sydney for our international visitors (although perhaps no great surprise to those of us locals who put up with their bureaucratic nonsense on a regular basis!). Overall Impression The Cabin Main Area – The bed and pillows were very comfortable, and the air-conditioning well controlled. The only real issue is the very narrow space at the foot of the bed requires the occasional pas-de-deux with your companion. Storage – shallow draws beneath the bedside tables (wide on one side of the bed, narrow on the other) with some space below. Good cupboards under the bench below the TV (although draws might have been better). Main wardrobe had good hanging space and plenty of hangers, with a shelf above (occupied by life jackets) and 4 storage shelves full-height on the side. Another cupboard to the side held the coffee/tea facilities (including a Nespresso machine and a kettle) and the mini-bar fridge (stocked with gin, vodka, scotch and bourbon along with beer, sparkling water, Coke, Coke no-sugar, tonic and fruit juice). The under-bed space was sufficient to store suitcases, although larger cases would need to be ‘butterflied’. Bathroom - The separate toilet and shower are a good idea, although the toilet cubicle is very small! The shower recess is quite roomy for a ship. All products were Hermes (a tie up with a parent company). There is a single large draw and 2 shelves and some bench space around the sink for storage. The only issue was that you can’t plug the sink to shave. Entertainment A large flat-screen TV has about 15 channels of mixed French/English entertainment and news channels, as well as channel for the front webcam and another for an underwater camera. There is a wide selection of new and old movies (although “Titanic” and “Lifeboat” may be odd choices for a cruise ship!). The only sport was mainly soccer (EPL etc), although watching the Super Bowl in French was novel! The Ship The ship generally has everything you want. Social life focusses around the main lounge and bar and the Grill area outside in fine weather, and in the Panorama Bar/Lounge above the Bridge. The much vaunted Blue Eye lounge is only open a few hours a day, and was rarely used. A short “Blue Eye Experience” was interesting, but otherwise it wasn’t open when you wanted it to be… The medical centre is staffed by a doctor and nurse, and a couple of people who had need of their services said they were helpful but expensive! The shop sells a lot of clothing and a few souvenirs, but doesn’t really stock any forgotten necessities. The Spa was well customised, the Sauna is beautiful (but not much used when it was already 30 plus outside!) and I believe there was a gym ! The theatre is comfortable and spacious, and can seat all passengers at once. It is used for daily recaps and briefings on Excursion cruises, and shows with the ships dancers on roughly alternate nights, weather permitting. The open-bridge policy is nice, and the crew are happy to answer questions. Once per cruise you can attend a bridge visit with the Captain who spent nearly an hour talking about the ship and it’s equipment and answering questions. The marina dock at the rear of the ship made boarding the Zodiacs relatively simple, and it can be raised to serve as a stage for the Captain’s welcome. Watching it unfurl itself from under the rear deck is a piece of theatre in itself! The Crew In a word, outstanding. Always friendly, quick to learn who you were and very visible and available – particularly the Captain who would frequently be on hand at the Marina as you boarded the Zodiacs. The opportunity was presented a couple of times during the cruise to ‘dine with an officer’ via a sign-up list at the Reception desk. We had two very pleasant dinners with crew, one hosted by the Reef Pilot and his wife, and once by the Cruise Director and the Shore Tours Manager. We were also joined by one of the Expedition team for a celebration dinner for my birthday. The waiters were generally engaging and efficient, and the bar staff quick to learn your preferences and anticipate your requirements! The Expedition team were all very friendly and engaged with the passengers frequently. When manning Zodiacs or taking guided walks they were well informed on the locations and wildlife. Our cabin steward was highly efficient but must have abseiled into the cabin ninja-like, as I think I saw him twice in 11 days for about 30 seconds each time. I never even found out his name… The Food… the food… the food… I guess that on a Food and Wine theme cruise, I shouldn’t have been surprised but there was SO MUCH FOOD…! Breakfasts were served either in the Nautilus Restaurant or the Grille, and were largely self-serve although egg dishes were available to order. A good range of juices, cereals, pastries, bread and hot food were available at the buffets. Lunch was similar, with one themed lunch run by the guest chef apart from the on-shore lunch arranged in Newcastle. Afternoon ‘tea’ food was available in the Main Lounge if you couldn’t hold out until dinner. Due to the theme, the normal 3 ‘Gala’ nights were supplemented by 2 others run by the guest chef, hence there were 5 six-course degustation dinners over 11 nights which was too much! To cap it off on the guest chef nights, you returned to your cabin to find a box of caramels or nougat on the bed… There was always a small treat left by the steward every night at turn-down, although many went uneaten as we couldn’t face any more food… The food itself was extremely good, and some of the dishes produced by the guest chef were sublime. There was a strong seafood content, although alternatives were always available, and a full vegetarian degustation was always offered in parallel on Gala nights. Room service was also available and included, but unused in my case. Drinks There was an ‘open’ bar including the in-cabin minibar, however there were a variety of extra-cost items and an extensive wine list with wines up to €900+ per bottle. There was also the option to purchase a €20 Euro/day (full duration only) package on the first 2 days that added more premium spirits and cocktails, and additional wines, to the package. Oddly, any premium spirit was charged at full cost despite the cost differential to the standard spirit being small (e.g. Johnnie Walker Red was included but Johnnie Walker Black was an extra €8 per serve, despite the cost differential between whole bottles being only roughly €10 in Australia or about €0.75 per serve – the same thing with Gordons vs Bombay Sapphire gin). The Itinerary The itinerary was as interesting as you would like an Expedition on the Great Barrier Reef to be. A pity that the local regulations forced the 2 sea days for the ‘technical stop’ as it would have been good to visit another part of the Great Barrier Reef (or one of the coastal towns). As a first time visitor, all the locations were interesting however they were all unsurprisingly to the same theme (swimming, snorkelling, beach) except Newcastle. In Summary Summing up this was a really excellent cruise despite the weather and the intervention of the Australian rules and regulations. Ponant have an excellent product and their crew are determined to make sure you enjoy your holiday. The cruise, even when hampered by weather, was conducted in good spirits and the small number of passengers made it very social as you ended up dining with nearly everyone at least once. As a first time Ponant cruiser, it was interesting to see the number of repeat cruisers with many following Sarina Bratton from her former Orion line. There was a definite French ‘touch’ to the ship, mainly in the décor, food and entertainment, but with 70% of the passengers being Australian the cruise was conducted entirely in English with all the crew bi- (or tri) lingual. I heard very few complaints (one woman was outraged she couldn’t order Eggs Benedict one day when it wasn’t the ‘egg of the day’) apart from the general concern about the disembarkation. A few passengers were amazed that they wouldn’t be able to disembark and make an 11am international flight – however their stupidity in booking a flight that required them to be at the airport (30 minutes from the terminal), an hour before the scheduled disembarkation time can hardly be laid at Ponant’s door, despite the passengers best efforts. All in all, highly recommended. We cruise again on Le Laperouse in 2 weeks to the Sub-Antarctic Islands and I can’t wait! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Words can’t do this cruise justice as is was far beyond anything that you expect The team are great and very knowledgeable. They are only too happy to share this with you. The wild life is amazing, beautiful and diverse. The ... Read More
Words can’t do this cruise justice as is was far beyond anything that you expect The team are great and very knowledgeable. They are only too happy to share this with you. The wild life is amazing, beautiful and diverse. The zodiac tours are great with lots of penguins all around you and the ship at Macca. They follow you like babies following mum. They are so fast in the water and waddle on land. The weather is cold but you are dressed properly and I was never cold. The ship is a great haven in the middle of nowhere. Warm, good food, drinks. There are rules that you have to abide by, no food to leave the ship, take nothing with you when you leave, stay on the boardwalk, don’t touch the wildlife. All outer clothes have to be vacuumed when you get back so as not to contaminate the next stop. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
Antarctica 2019 -What am amazing trip. The ship and the crew where Wonderfull. From the start, Ponant picked us at the airport - took care of all our luggage and bought it right to our room. Friendly greeting by the Captain, and ... Read More
Antarctica 2019 -What am amazing trip. The ship and the crew where Wonderfull. From the start, Ponant picked us at the airport - took care of all our luggage and bought it right to our room. Friendly greeting by the Captain, and cocktails waiting when you arrived on board. The expedition team- was amazing, friendly, knowledgable and top notch. The expedition team is really what made this already amazing trip to Antarctica even better. They where such a great group that made sure every day you knew what you were doing and ran every excursion smoothly. We had a recap every day of what we did, what we saw and what to expect the next day. We had great educational lectures, about the animals, landscape and facts about Antarctica. I just can not say enough about the expedition team we had. Whale Watching - When ever we would spot Whales, the Captain would stop the ship and circle around and whale watch. You felt like you where on a whale watching trip. They Bridge and the expedition team, made sure you had the full Antarctica experience. This is defiantly one of the great perks on being on a small ship. The Ship was lovely, and spotless. The rooms where clean and you had amazing view everyday. The food was fantastic, the desserts where amazing. Wow!! So much great French Cheese. Over all, the ship was run first class, you never had to worry about anything. Everything and anything was taken care of. Tips - Bring extra face cream and variety of creams (my face got very dry and wind blown) Dress Code - I stressed over what to bring for dinners and the 2 Captains dinner. They 2 more formal nights (are optional). Men: Sports Jackets / Suites. Women in cocktail dresses, some more casual dressed then other and some much more formal. The formal night defiantly had a wide range of styles. Some ladies had slacks, and accessorized. I had a nice sweater dress, necklace and earnings. Heals or flats worked. Other nights, I would wear black fitted slacks and pretty blouses. I suggest pack a few nice pieces. Over all the ship was warm and comfortable , so you do not need heavy clothes for dinner. Always nice to have layers and a sweater if you had to run out to the decks to see a whale or an amazing Ice Berg. I would go back on Ponant Cruise and most defiantly go back to Antarctica - it was spectacular. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
The staff on board Le Soleal were fabulous and always available to help. The ship itself was of a high standard with plenty of creature comforts. We were in a PR Deck 6 Cabin which was allocated from a Deluxe Guarantee Cabin and it was the ... Read More
The staff on board Le Soleal were fabulous and always available to help. The ship itself was of a high standard with plenty of creature comforts. We were in a PR Deck 6 Cabin which was allocated from a Deluxe Guarantee Cabin and it was the perfect position on Deck 6 being close by to the casual dining (buffet) area at the front and the bar / lounge at the back, both with observation decks. The cabin itself is spacious with large window doors opening to the balcony, very comfortable for the 11 days. Exceptional service on board from all staff including the expedition crew who were very knowledgeable, each with their own area of expertise. The wildlife and scenery in the Weddell Sea and on the Antarctic Peninsula was incredible and i believe the expedition staff and captain picked great landing spots throughout based on both of these. The only concern i have is that the 'charter' flight are not always chartered. The one from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia was a commercial flight where we had to check ourselves in with no real instructions on if we should just proceed or do this as a group. The airline (AR) was unaware of any group (because it was a commercial flight and not charter) and therefore didn't know anything about the 'voucher' which was provided by Ponant as the info on the flights. The 'voucher' stated luggage was 1pc 23kgs however AR only accept 15kgs so we had to pay for the excess luggage amount from the 15-23kgs which was extremely disappointing since those who had the 'charter' flight earlier that day would have checked in as a group and not had this issue in anyway. Coming back we had the actual charter flight while others would have been on the commercial one where they were not getting their bags transferred together and instead had to do this themselves as well as checking in etc which is disappointing when everyone believes they are paying for charter flights where the cost IS much higher then the normal commercial flights and instead they are on commercial anyway with no real instructions. Otherwise i do highly recommend if you are looking for a deluxe all inclusive Antarctica Cruise that Ponant for the cruising portion is a great option. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
I enjoyed everything on this cruise. Everything went really well and smoothly, from embarkation to disembarkation, there were no problems, delays or issues with anything. We choose the pre-cruise package and it was great because ... Read More
I enjoyed everything on this cruise. Everything went really well and smoothly, from embarkation to disembarkation, there were no problems, delays or issues with anything. We choose the pre-cruise package and it was great because everything was organised and we were able to meet some of the passengers the day before the cruise started. The ship is very confortable and the common areas and the cabin were in very good conditions, the decor is lovely and looks like new. The cabin was really comfortable, very warm and had everything we needed - it is not very spacious, but had everything needed - the towels were super fluffy! Food and drink were excellent, and there was a lot of variety everyday. The daily schedule was really well organised, and between landings, lectures and briefings we were kept busy. The destination is truly incredible and difficult to describe, and the captain and expedition leader took every opportunity to make the most of it. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
This is going to be the most difficult review of a ship I have written, I was on Le Ponant for 6 days as part of a Tauck sponsored People to People tour in Cuba which is one of the few ways Americans can visit Cuba. I searched in vein ... Read More
This is going to be the most difficult review of a ship I have written, I was on Le Ponant for 6 days as part of a Tauck sponsored People to People tour in Cuba which is one of the few ways Americans can visit Cuba. I searched in vein for in-depth comments on Le Ponant on Cruise Critic and there really isn't anything that proved helpful. So I decided to provide one. Le Ponant is primarily a sailing ship, its 3 masts having an acre or so of sail. It has an engine for backup. I believe it is the last cruise ship afloat that relies mostly on its sails. It is a beautiful ship, gorgeous to look at, like a sleek modern yacht. I carries a maximum of about 60 passengers in its 30 or so cabins. Its decor is art-deco, its blue white and mahogany furnishings are a throwback to years gone by. It has three large public spaces an art deco restaurant, again elegant, a large lounge where all enrichment lectures and briefings are held, and another largish area that is outside and covered where breakfast and lunch buffets are served. The restaurant serves all passengers at a fixed time 7:30 pm. ( a couple of times at 7:00) Some passengers might not like the fixed hours. All cabins except 1-5 are off a single long corridor. All are approximately 130 square feet. More on this later. Cabins 1-5 are a deck up and no larger but they afford a greater degree of privacy but are more susceptible to the roll from rougher seas. The crew is predominately French although everyone speaks English. Every member of the crew is helpful, polite, without exception. The captain, David Lemaire clearly loves being at the helm of a sailing ship. He is perhaps the youngest captain of a major cruise ship. So don't be alarmed when you are introduced to the Captain who is probably in his 30's. He does everything, from helping people in and out of zodiacs to having an open bridge which is unheard of. His bridge tour is not to be missed. Also not to be missed is the raising of the sails, a very complicated maneuver which is the high point of the journey. The captain could have a second career as a Hollywood movie star. This voyage was run by Tauck, all the passengers on the ship were Tauck clients. This means that all the enrichment activities and shore excursions were run by Tauck professionals. The tour directors were first rate, a cut above those I sailed with from luxe lines like Silversea and Cunard. I want to single out Laura Nunez and Ronny (?) who made this voyage something very special. They were always there to solve any difficulties. I could not imagine this voyage without them. Le Ponant's small size, around 270 feet enables it visit small ports that larger ships can't navigate. This is a huge plus. But, it is also a problem. And I hope potential passengers take careful notice here. This is not your large ocean liner. In rough seas the ships rolls. As the Captain constantly reminds you "one hand for you, one hand for the vessel". If you are prone to sea seasickness Le Ponant is not the ship for you. Rough seas also prevented us from sailing into Havana which for me would have been a high point of the voyage. But here I have to say the Captain made the absolute right decision, this was the day a huge tornado hit Havana which could have been a disaster. Now for the hard part. First, this review will be totally irrelevant in a year or so, Le Ponant is supposedly going into dry dock for a major retrofit (not confirmed). Which makes this review relevant for only a year or so. The primary purpose of the retrofit is to enlarge some of the cabins. And this is the second problem. Even though the cabins use every inch of possible space they are, after all, only 130 square feet. Hopefully this doesn't sound jaded and elitist but my primary cruise line is Silversea (8 trips) and the size of one of Le Ponant's staterooms is about the size of one of Silverseas closets. Needless to say, Le Ponant doesn't have the amenities of a Siversea, Seabourn, Crystal Regent and the other luxury brands. There are no balconies, no swimming pool, no spa and all the other bells and whistles I have become used to. Le Ponant has a very small sun deck with about a dozen chaises and that is about it. (One major suggestion is for Ponant to put in a whirlpool on the sun deck so you could at least get wet, please) One factor I just don't know about is the quality of Le Ponant's shore excursions. As I noted above, this was a Tauck expedition. The Tauck folks simply could not be any better. Not having sailed with Tauck before I don't know whether Ponant would achieve the same level of excellence. I will write about Cuba in the Trip Advisor forum. It is a time machine, truly fascinating. If Le Ponant is retrofitted with larger cabins and Tauck runs the tour again, it is a trip that seasoned travelers should not miss. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because of the small ship size (220 passeners), the fact that it was spending 6 full days at the white continent and that it would be sending us ashore on zodiac rafts. We were very impressed with the friendliness and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the small ship size (220 passeners), the fact that it was spending 6 full days at the white continent and that it would be sending us ashore on zodiac rafts. We were very impressed with the friendliness and service by the staff at every level from dining to the excursions. We were very excited about seeing the majesty of Antarctica and the ship's captain and crew did not disappoint. We felt they made every effort to insure that our cruise and shore experiences were excellent. The lectures were very good and informative although some of them didn't relate to the particular cruise we were on. Would have liked more specifics and history about Antarctica. The ship's store was also lacking, not in size but in products. Would have loved to see more items that were specific to our cruise i.e., clothing, hats, sweatshirts, shirts, etc, that related to Antarctica. The food service was excellent but the cuisine was just average for a cruise line. We expected a little higher end fare, especially on a French cruise line. We also felt that pre-cruise Ponant could have sent a little more information about preparing for the cruise to Antarctica and what to expect on board. Because of the uniqueness of this particular cruise a little more up front information would have been appreciated. Our criticisms are minor in what was otherwise a wonderful experience. It was one of those trips of a lifetime being able to experience Antarctica up close and we have already recommended Ponant as an excellent choice to friends Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We spent two days in Bali before embarking. We chose this cruise for the remote expedition excursions, and we were not disappointed. Mick, the expedition director, created some wonderful and unusual experiences on fairly isolated ... Read More
We spent two days in Bali before embarking. We chose this cruise for the remote expedition excursions, and we were not disappointed. Mick, the expedition director, created some wonderful and unusual experiences on fairly isolated Indonesian islands. Expedition staff was excellent. Lectures were excellent. Weather was hot and muggy, but we expected that. Two of our excursions had to be dropped because of bad weather. Cabin service was fine, no complaints. We are Ponant "Yacht Club" members and receive free laundry service which is an exceptional benefit, especially on a trip this long. Restaurant staff was friendly and helpful, but service was slow and uneven. The food was excellent. Reception staff was snooty, but got things done when asked. Ship was about 30% English speaking (American, Australian, English-speaking Europeans), the rest were French. We did not attend any of the entertainment activities. Fitness room was fine, but small. Embarkation was chaotic. Everyone crowded the entrance at one time and got a little pushy on the way onto the ship. We were surprised they didn't create lines or some better system. Luggage arrived reasonably promptly. Debarkation was smooth and easy. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
After nearly 14 days tour in Sri Lanka time to enjoy the newest ship in the Ponant fleet, Le Laperouse. The time fit perfect in school holidays and single travel appealed. I was fortunate to have the disabilty cabin on deck 4, which made ... Read More
After nearly 14 days tour in Sri Lanka time to enjoy the newest ship in the Ponant fleet, Le Laperouse. The time fit perfect in school holidays and single travel appealed. I was fortunate to have the disabilty cabin on deck 4, which made the time on board comfortable. As always, the French flair in dining was great, and the bistro style on deck 3 always had surprises, but you needed to find seats here for lunch quickly. Evenings in the dining room were relaxed, and a beautiful Christmas Eve meal, as well as New Year’s Eve. The special degastation evening I enkoyed gave an opportunity to taste some very special Food and French wines. Luck was with us in spotting whales on the Sri Lankan coast on the way to Trincomale, a late afternoon special. Christmas Day was in Chennai and the shore excusion to Kanchipurum and the Kailasananthar temple and sari silk weavers was an intersting day. Boxing Day was in Mamallapura looking at temples carved out of the granite bedrock. Who knew that Chennai had such a long and wide natural beach, and not far from the Chennai cricket stadium! The Bay of Bengal was kind to us and the days at sea were relatively calm. The time in the Andaman Islands was weather and tide dependant. The swim behind La Laperouse in the sea was terrific and we did experience the idyllic beach on one day. As always nature has no consideration for tourists, The special part of the ship is the Blue Eye. what an amzing space! While in the port of Galle and in the Blue Eye we managed to see fish swim past the window. I even have a photo! I can see how this space would be in the areas with corals and when stationery in the polar waters. The ship is special and I look forward to be on board again. Read Less
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