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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
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
I chose Ponant to travel to the Antarctic as it offered the longest amount time that I would be on board. And I really liked the pleasant look and design of the Ponant vessels. I was also impressed with the locations that we were ... Read More
I chose Ponant to travel to the Antarctic as it offered the longest amount time that I would be on board. And I really liked the pleasant look and design of the Ponant vessels. I was also impressed with the locations that we were intending to visit. But unfortunately things happened that was well below satisfactory. And the voyage ended up almost being a total disaster. The ship had been damaged on a previous voyage and basically was not ready for any passenger on the designated time. When we finally boarded at around 2300 hr, nearly one and half days late. And apart from ridiculous hour of the day, the crew were very pleasant and they tried hard to make us all welcome. As the voyage was my second one with Ponant, I was very happy with the cleanliness and décor of the vessel. Both of the restaurants were open so we all could have a meal. But because of the hour I went straight to my cabin. Which was the same as the Le Boreal. Very comfortable, quiet and clean. As I was travelling by myself I found the cabin exceptionally good. So the first night was spent along side the wharf as the ship needed fuel. We finally left the port of Concepcion at just before lunch the following day. So now we all had 4 days travelling down the west coast of Chile instead of leaving from Ushuaia, which is at the bottom of Sth America, where we should have left from. But I have to say the dinning and the choice of food, along with the crew were all fabulous. With the vast majority of the crew being very pleasant and made us all feel very welcome. So I was trying hard to see the glass half full rather than half empty which helped me enjoy the company of some great people from a number of countries around the world. We also enjoyed the enthusiasm of the expedition team with their great lectures on a number of topics. But when we finally arrived at Cape Horn we had basically lost nearly six days of our voyage. And because of this, the time lost had to be made up somewhere else. While we were all offered 35% refund on our fair. That did not replace the hurt and disappointment that we all experienced by firstly only having less than 24 hours at the Falkland Islands. And we also missed out on going to the South Georgia Isl.,all together. But when we finally arrived on the Antarctic Peninsula the weather was perfect for the days we were there. That part of the trip was fabulous and was everything I expected the Antarctic to be like. But then it started going wrong again because of the inexperience of some of the expedition crew, and unfortunately the arrogance of the expedition leader himself. On our first shore landing on the RIB ( zodiac ) which I was on, was nearly tipped over when making the approach to the shore. The inexperience of the RIB driver ( coxswain ) was being directed by the expedition leader on the shore. This stupidity caused the RIB to nearly tip over, and flinging two passengers into the water, one under the zodiac, and the other 8 passengers nearly going in as well. Luckily the 2 men that went into the water managed to recover and scramble out of the water to the shore. But the disbelief didn't stop there. The ships captain and ponant did not conduct any investigation into the near miss drowning. Which they are meant to do under IMO regulation. To our disappointment, they also refused to discuss the incident with anybody. Which we only wanted to contribute something to maybe help them put things in place to help prevent it ever happening again. I am very disappointed in the voyage as a whole and the arrogance of the Ponant. As I have written. The only thing that made my voyage enjoyable. Was the great crew. The very good dinning with a good amount of choice of food in the two very good restaurants. And the fact that we got fantastic weather while we were in the Antarctic Peninsula.The disembarkation for me went perfectly. As I was staying in Ushuaia for an extra two days. I had booked my own private driver. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Christmas and New Year in Southern Lands From December 20th 2018 to January 05th 2019 After reading information on your site about other travelers' experiences we felt that we should share our experience of traveling with ... Read More
Christmas and New Year in Southern Lands From December 20th 2018 to January 05th 2019 After reading information on your site about other travelers' experiences we felt that we should share our experience of traveling with Ponant. 1. The issues began before we boarded the ship. We live in Perth, West Australia and booked a pre-cruise tour to Patagonia with Ponant and also the cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic. We left Perth on 9th December 2018 and flew for approximately 20 hours to Buenos Aires. This was 12 days before we were due to board the ship Le Soleal. At 0139 am on Friday 14 December in Buenos Aires we were woken by an sms telling us that there was going to be a "very big itinerary change" to our cruise. Basically the cruise was still going, however after an “issue” a couple of weeks earlier, the ship would be departing from Talcahuano in Chile. Ponant had chartered a flight from Buenos Aires to Concepcion and then a coach transfer to Talcahuano to join the ship. As well, the cruise would miss the stopover in the Falkland Islands on the 22nd December and South Georgia for the 25th to 27th December, would be mainly on the Antarctica Peninsula and would be having the two tours from the ship per day. We were offered a 4 day pro rata refund per person if we continued, or a full refund of the cruise and associated costs if we wanted to come home. After receiving this sms in the middle of the night prior to leaving for Iguazu Falls early that morning, we went on line to try find out the nature of the “issue” with the ship. We discovered that the ship had sustained significant underwater damage a month previously and had only recently arrived at Talcahuano. This meant that the damage to the ship had happened before we had left West Australia. As we had been able to find out some of the details of the incident we were concerned as to the viability of the cruise going forward as originally advertised and so we contacted Ponant in France. The person we spoke to was surprised that we knew about the changes to the ships’ schedule. Ponant’s only advice was that we should keep in touch with our travel agent. We continued with our holiday but at the same time we were in daily communication with our travel agent as we moved to Iguazu Falls and then back to Buenos Aires. Our travel agent was in communication with Ponant in Sydney who had been told that France had been working on developing an enhanced itinerary for guests traveling from Chile to Antarctica. Ponant in Sydney wrote that this would be an expedition cruise so therefore they were assuming that there would be wonderful expedition opportunities in the Chilean Fjords before then spending more time in the Antarctic Peninsula (7-8 Days) and then 3 days cruising back to Ushuaia. We were communicating with our travel agent in West Australia late at night and we began to feel increasingly worried and exhausted on what was meant to be a holiday. On arrival back in Buenos Aires we were hopeful of more direct information from Ponant because we were then on their organised pre-tour. None of their agents in either Buenos Aires or in Patagonia knew anything. The Patagonian pre-tour was wonderful. The agents and the hotels were excellent. On the night of the 17th December we rang Ponant’s office in Sydney, Australia and asked them specifically whether or not the ship was back in the water, had undertaken trials and had been passed back into survey. We were answered “yes” to each of these questions. On the basis of this we decided to continue with the cruise. The confirmation of the ship being in the water ready for embarkation was advised to our travel agent by Ponant’s Sydney office on the 19th December. In Calafate, Patagonia, we were told by the Ponant agent that we would be flying to Buenos Aires on the morning of the 20th December and changing planes for a charter flight to Concepcion where we would be bused to Talcahuno to join the ship. On the charter flight on the 20th December we were advised that we would be landing at Santiago to clear customs and quarantine before continuing the flight to Concepcion where we would now be staying overnight at a hotel as the ship was still in dry dock. The information from Ponant had changed yet again. Clearing customs in Santiago was a nightmare. It was the height of the holiday season, we were a group made up of different nationalities, most of whom did not know one another, and despite the best efforts by a very overwrought young man acting on Ponant’s behalf, most of us managed to get lost in the airport and its seemingly endless and chaotic queues. With the help of airport staff we eventually managed to find each other again and to help each other as much as we could. Most of the group were older, were overwrought, suffering from dehydration and very tired. In circumstances such as these, rumours abound and in this situation it was no different. No one really knew what was happening but everyone had an opinion. On arrival at Concepcion buses were provided to ferry us to the hotels. We were in the group to stay at the Aton and on our bus a local courier with no English attempted to advise us of the procedures on arrival at the hotel. One of the group who understood some Spanish relayed the basics of what was happening to the rest of us, but the English speakers did not really know what was going on. If a representative from Ponant had met us at the airport and explained what was happening so that everyone could understand, the ensuing chaos, at the end of a trying day, could have been prevented. The buses pulled up in a street near the entrance to the hotel. Unfortunately the street was on a hill and the passengers had to take their luggage themselves and carry or wheel it across the road, along an entrance driveway which was cobbled and up steps into the hotel entrance. A number of the passengers were elderly or incapacitated. Some of the able bodied passengers helped those who were not. Others just walked away and did not help. The bus driver and the courier did their best. It was chaotic, with runaway luggage heading down the hill and panicking owners trying to control their bags. On entering the foyer of the hotel we found the Ponant Expedition Team waiting for our arrival. Their welcoming assistance would have been far more appreciated had they waited for us at the kerbside or at the airport. The hotel was unaccustomed to such an influx of guests at one time but rose to the occasion magnificently and continued their amazingly high level of service throughout our stay. I can thoroughly recommend the Aton Hotel in Concepcion, Chile. That night at dinner we were told by the Captain that the ship would come out of dry dock in the early hours of the morning, would undertake trials, and would be ready for us to join after breakfast in the morning. This was certainly different information than we had been told by Ponant in Sydney thee days earlier. They had told us that the ship was in the water and ready to go. We were asked to hand in our passports to the Cruise Director but by now a number of people had decided not to continue with the cruise. As a result of the dissatisfaction being shown by the passengers the Cruise Director became increasingly frustrated and was increasingly failing to keep a pleasant demeanour towards the passengers. By the time my husband and I reached the head of the queue, we were told in no uncertain terms we had to make up our mind there and then whether of not we were going to continue with the cruise because once we had handed our passports in, we would not be getting them back. Of course he could not do this, but it made for a rather uncomfortable situation and an unsettled night’s sleep. We were worried by what appeared to be an unprofessional attitude projected by an inexperienced and disorganised staff. At breakfast we were advised of a city tour in the morning, followed by lunch at the hotel and to have our bags ready after that in order to join the ship. A small group of us, three Australians and five French, decided to order two taxis and go down to the docks in Talcahuana to see over the 19th century iron clad ship the Huascar. To our surprise we could see the Ponant ship Le Soleal still in the dock. This was certainly not what we had been lead to believe the night before. At lunch, back in the hotel, we were again told to have our bags ready to be taken down to the ship and that this would happen while we were taken on a coach tour of the area before joining the ship at around 7 pm that evening. We were told that the ship was going to conduct sea trials that night while we were all on board, that it would sail in the early hours of the morning and that they were planning on 5 and a half days sea time to the Antarctic traveling at 15 knots. By now the gossip and rumour had started about the different compensation packages that people had been offered. Each "offer" seemed to be different. On the afternoon tour we visited a beach, a museum and the museum garden. It was interesting, well organised and handled professionally by a very good driver and an excellent courier. However as it stretched into the evening we became increasingly worried about what was happening and were becoming tired and hungry. We stopped at a café where one of the Expedition Team used his own money to buy us food and drinks, and then later we all queued at a service station near the docks in order to use the toilets. We finally embarked at 9.30pm. During the course of this day a number of people decided to leave the cruise and people were still deciding to leave right up to the time that we arrived at the dock gates. As a result, by the time we embarked the cruise was by no means full. After sea trials that night we returned to the dockside and were alongside when we woke. We fueled in morning and finally sailed at 11am on the 22nd of December, two days late. By this time what had begun as a wonderful holiday in South America and the Antarctic was rapidly turning into a nightmare of exhaustion and uncertainty. We had decided to stay with the cruise because we were a long way from home and to get back we would have had to go across South America to Buenos Aires at the height of the holiday season and then fly back to the west coast of Australia right on Christmas. We had made and paid for all the arrangements for the care of our home, garden and animals. We had invested in the appropriate clothing for Antarctic, clothing which would never be worn in our home town. One of my dreams had been to visit the Antarctic and we had been promised that we would be sailing straight down to spend as much time there as possible. 2. The Cruise The problem now was that we were not only two days late sailing, but also that we were sailing from Talcahuana, half way up the coast of Chile, and not from Ushuaia at the tip of South America. Quite obviously this meant that we could not complete our original cruise, but what it did mean was continued discussion and the spreading of rumours about exactly where we were going. It became increasingly apparent that the information we had been given about sailing from Chile to Antarctica (approximately 4 – 5 days) and optimising our time in the Antarctic (7 – 8 days) was not going to happen. But by the time this became apparent we were on board and steaming down the coast of Chile. Two days into the cruise our itinerary was confirmed as being to the Falklands and then to the Antarctic. It was a great pity that we had only one afternoon and one morning in the Falklands, and that we had only 4 days in Antarctica. All the rest were at sea. This was not what we had hoped for when we planned this holiday. Also, this was not what we thought we had accepted on the basis of maximising our time in Antarctica on what ended up being 14 full days on board ship. We could have had 8 meaningful days in Antarctica, but we did not. However it was fortunate that we had excellent weather throughout enabling full use to be made of the time that we did have in the Falklands and in Antarctica. 3. Other Issues: An accident at a landing site in the Antarctic meant that two men fell out of and underneath a zodiac. They were freezing cold, wet, battered, bruised and shocked but were not injured in a serious way, perhaps because they were more run over by the zodiac than dunked in the water, their lifejackets did not deploy. Before the next trip by zodiac the crew, upon request, demonstrated that the lifejackets would inflate when immersed in water. It was unfortunate that the two men in the accident felt that their efforts to express their dismay to the Captain were not recognised in a serious and professional manner. This lead to more gossip, rumours and unease amongst the passengers. It was disconcerting to find on the third to last day of the cruise that when the fast rescue boat had been retrieved on board, the brake control wire had left its drum and overwrapped the main falls. This situation could impede safe launching if not noticed beforehand. The situation was pointed out to ship’s staff but the wires were still in the same condition when we arrived in Ushuaia. Some passengers had looked forward to sea kayaking in the Antarctic. There were kayaks stored on board and the opportunity to kayak had been advertised as part of the cruise. The interested passengers were told that there was no one on board qualified to supervise the use of the kayaks and that therefore they would not be launched. This did not make people feel any happier with Ponant. The attitude of the Cruise Director was patronising and unhelpful. He appeared to be out of his depth. The Expedition Director was capable but arrogant and did not cater for those of us who were interested in the overall history of the area although there was one excellent lecture by one of the team on Shackelton’s Expedition. Personally I was deeply disappointed at being unable to visit South Georgia. Despite being advertised as a luxury cruise, it was not. Our cabin was one which could be combined with another to make a suite. The door between the two was locked but unfortunately there was a hole through which wind whistled. The ship was not full and there was no one on either side of us, so we were not overly concerned. The entry passage in the cabin was so narrow that if the wardrobe doors were open the bathroom door could not be opened and vice versa. It made for uncomfortable clashes from time to time. The cabins were definitely not large. We had no trouble with our toilet, but others did have issues with sewage backing up. From talking with other passengers it soon became apparent that different people had been offered different compensation packages. This did not make for a contented group of people. The charter flight at the end from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires was cramped and extremely uncomfortable. 4. Good points. The accommodation and the ship in general was extremely comfortable. The beds were large, the linen of good quality and changed regularly. There was a plentiful supply of clean, fluffy towels at least twice a day. There was a plentiful supply of Hermes cosmetics. The complimentary bar fridge in the cabin was fully restocked every day. The cabin staff, the bar staff and the restaurant staff were excellent. They could not do enough for us. Nothing seemed to upset them. Nothing was too much trouble. They did everything they could to accommodate our needs and our wishes. They were professionals. They should be proud of their work on this cruise. Having an open bridge was interesting, specially when navigating in confined areas. The members of the multinational Expedition Team were very good, very helpful and very kind. The one time that I fell over on the ice they were there in an instant to help. When I had trouble walking down a steep track in the ice, one of them walked down backwards in front of me, encouraging me to have confidence and to keep going by myself, instead of being manually helped down. There was an excellent classically trained pianist on the staff. The food was very good indeed in both restaurants although I preferred the informality and open ambiance of the restaurant on Deck 6. Although embarkation had been a nightmare, disembarkation was swift and efficient. 5. Conclusion There were three distinct groups of passengers on the ship, divided by ethnicity, and there seemed to be no one in the hierarchy on board skilled enough to bring these three small groups of people together. There was some cross-over communication and we made friends in each group, but on the whole this did not happen. This lead to a certain amount of suspicion and gossip that one group was being offered a better “deal” than the others and unfortunately did not make for a collegial atmosphere. This is perhaps the crux of the whole issue with the cruise. Everyone was in some way disappointed. The group as a whole did not “gel”. The hierarchy on board did not seem to have the skills to make it all work. Throughout there was continued discussion amongst the passengers about their dissatisfaction with the cruise and with Ponant. It was not a happy ship. From our personal point of view the main issue was the disconnect between the reality of what had happened with the ship and the communications we received from Ponant. Openess and transparency in communication would have been appreciated and would have enabled each of us to have made more informed decisions. On the 24th of December we were all offered a refund of 35% of the price of our cruise, an on board credit of Euros 500 per cabin, 25% off our next trip with Ponant and 50% off any Ponant cruise calling at South Georgia and departing within the next 3 years. This is a fair and generous offer. It is unfortuate that we are still being told of people having been offered and having accepted more generous offers. I returned home and immediately came down with shingles which is why I have only now been able to write this report. At this moment I find it hard to imagine ever planning another holiday that in any way involved Ponant. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
For a long time I have wanted to visit Antarctica and it was a privilege to be one of comparatively few people who have visited the white continent. Friends talked us into taking a cruise which took in South Georgia and its penguin ... Read More
For a long time I have wanted to visit Antarctica and it was a privilege to be one of comparatively few people who have visited the white continent. Friends talked us into taking a cruise which took in South Georgia and its penguin colonies are amazing. We also visited western Falklands but I wouldn't recommend it as has been too heavily farmed and the wildlife compared with South Georgia is not in the same league and it made for additional days at sea. We chose Ponant due to its reputation and competitive price. Le Boreal is a sleek but sturdy ship. The cabin was comfortable and the food excellent. It is mildly annoying to have every announcement in French then English. Luckily I can understand the former so was able to tune out the second time around. Very professional crew and experienced and charming captain. The naturalists were good in their own field of expertise but generally weak on other areas. Other activities such as daily quizzes, yoga and Zumba were well received. When the sea was calm the theatre show was very good and the entertainers in both bars were also accomplished, especially the pianist Asenili. I would visit Antarctica again, but next time with a fly/cruise. If the price and itinerary were right, I would travel with Ponant again. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We first saw Le Lapérouse from above, in port, next to a massive Costa ship - the contrast couldn't have been greater! If you like all the benefits of a small, well-run, brand new ship and enjoy French food and style, then this is ... Read More
We first saw Le Lapérouse from above, in port, next to a massive Costa ship - the contrast couldn't have been greater! If you like all the benefits of a small, well-run, brand new ship and enjoy French food and style, then this is definitely for you. Everything was impeccable - the warm welcome, the incredible ease of embarkation, the super-excellent service, the delicious and very imaginative French food, the pool area (with its glass wall - you can watch the horizon from the pool) the delightful public areas and a back deck that drops down to sea level for trips out on Zodiacs / RIBs - perfect for the kind of adventures you would never get on a bigger ship. We swam in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we snorkelled around an idyllic island in the Maldives that we had to ourselves - a truly unforgettable trip. Highly recommended, but not really suitable for children. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed. Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed. Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, elegantly finished in light woods and simple decor. There is no bling, a huge positive for us. There is ample seating inside and out, and even below water in the Blue Eye lounge. The crew, including the very approachable captain, are always about and eager to meet each passenger’s needs. Special kudos to the cruise director and the main lounge barmen — Richie and Jay Jay — who were outstanding. Food and wines were ample and very good throughout. I would have liked to see local ingredients and dishes start to appear on the menu (as one does on, say, Seabourn), but the chef clearly sticks with more traditional French preparations. Towards the end of our 12 days, we were ready for more menu variation. Table service is generally attentive, with occasional lapses. But this cruise was really about the Zodiac excursions to see the flora and fauna in the inlets and lakes that abut the Amazon, and here Ponant earns every available star! The excursion team was truly amazing, with the naturalists representing a wide array of specialties and interests. The outings were memorable, and the accompanying lectures informative and highly interesting. This is a French cruise line and I’d guess 3/4 of the passengers were French speakers, but the English speakers were fully served with several naturalists whose first language is English (several didn’t even speak French!). Maria, Dani and John, you were all fabulous! Separate English and French Zodiacs and lectures avoided the need for translations, maximizing the info that could be shared on the available time. It became clear to me that successful Zodiac outings require the full cooperation of the captain, and his willingness to move the ship to the best location for the day’s conditions. On Le Champlain, this collaboration was noticeable and fantastic. In fact, a highlight of the trip was the captain’s decision for an extra, surprise Zodiac outing on the narrow Strait of Breves, where passengers joined locals on river, to gawk as the beautiful Le Champlain came around a bend in the waterway. Although Ponant is a French cruise line and attracts a majority of French-speaking guests, in my experience English-speaking passengers (Americans, Australians, Japanese and non-French Europeans on this cruise) are equally well served in every respect. English may even be an advantage when speaking to the non-officer crew members, who are largely from the Philippines and seem more comfortable with English. I’ve read other English-speaking reviewers of Ponant cruises, who complained about getting 2nd-rate treatment, and even heard some grumblings from passengers on this cruise. In my view, such comments are totally off base and reflect the biases of the passenger, not of Ponant. I would highly recommend Ponant, and Le Champlain specifically, to English speakers seeking a rich, international experience, and a wonderful cruise experience. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose Ponant for our Antactic cruise because of their high reputation for expedition cruises and general high quality reputation for food, service etc. our cruise was excellent in almost every way. The quality of the food, wine and ... Read More
We chose Ponant for our Antactic cruise because of their high reputation for expedition cruises and general high quality reputation for food, service etc. our cruise was excellent in almost every way. The quality of the food, wine and service on board was always of the highest quality. Our balcony cabin was comfortable, although the bathroom is small because the toilet is in a separate compartment. This trade off is quite OK. more seating would be welcome but there is no room. The expedition landings were virtually faultless. The expedition leader, Florence, was incredibly good. She worked tirelessly and endlessly to ensure that landings were interesting and safe. The team leaders were also excellent, very well informed and very enthusiastic. All landings went off perfectly and luckily, our weather was good to excellent. The experience was memorable and sometimes a little overwhelming in the grandeur and isolation. We would highly recommend an Antarctic cruise and highly recommend Ponant. Their organisation is down to a fine art and everything runs smoothly, at least for passengers. No doubt their is a huge effort behind the scenes to get to this level of perfection. The only disappointment with the whole trip was the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back. The flight is a charter with Latam and is very poor in every way. The seats are the tightest and most uncomfortable I have ever experienced and the aircraft has one toilet for 180 passengers. There is no galley so you get only a small bag of biscuits and a soft drink for the 4 hour flight. On the return flight, 30 bags were left in Ushuaia ,and arrived 4 hours later. Some people had connecting flights and could not have received their bags in time.This is not Ponant's fault but needs to be fixed. Although Ponant is priced as a luxury line, it is less expensive for Antarctic cruises than many others. The ships are purpose designed for expeditions and yet are still luxury in terms of passenger comfort, amenity and service. They are value for money. We would certainly recommend Ponant for Antarctic cruises. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
Pretty well everything about this voyage was great. The only concern I had was the obvious lack of experience from some of the expedition crew in their lack of ability and skill in operating the RIB's ( zodiac ). In saying that ... Read More
Pretty well everything about this voyage was great. The only concern I had was the obvious lack of experience from some of the expedition crew in their lack of ability and skill in operating the RIB's ( zodiac ). In saying that I was just a bit careful who I travelled with. But all of their lectures were great. And they were quite passionate in what they did in regards to the preservation of the environment and passing on information to the passengers. I think the captain certainly did his best along with the crew to make our experience the best ever. Which they achieved. The Patagonian coast with the Andes in the distance made for fabulous scenery every day while aboard. I felt the food was more than adequate and their was plenty of it. Travelling as a single person I also had no problems in meeting a lot of great people. Not only from Australia, but from a number of other countries. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
Chilean Fjords were on my wish list for several years. I chose Ponant because it seemed that the cruise would fulfil my wishes and because there was a special price offer due to a jubilee year and no single supplement. As a lone traveller ... Read More
Chilean Fjords were on my wish list for several years. I chose Ponant because it seemed that the cruise would fulfil my wishes and because there was a special price offer due to a jubilee year and no single supplement. As a lone traveller this is important. I liked the fact that everything onboard was included in the price. Service was excellent and the staff discreet and friendly. The expedition leaders were mostly knowledgeable and informative. The captain's enthusiasm was infectious and inspiring. The open bridge policy was also excellent. There was always a good choice of fine meals and the chefs were very good. I liked the cabin layout with a balcony and big windows. Above all, the cruise itself was amazing and the landing at Cape Horn super. Regarding the type of cruise, I have only ever been on expedition type cruises with around 200 passengers or far less (28). I have no interest in any other type of cruise. This was one of the most luxurious cruises I have been on, yet the expedition side was also good. It is nice to be pampered after an adventure! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
I chose this trip because it offered 3 stops on South Georgia Island weather dependant and I felt there was a chance of at least getting one stop. As it happened we had five on shore excursions, one Zodiac cruise around a bay and another ... Read More
I chose this trip because it offered 3 stops on South Georgia Island weather dependant and I felt there was a chance of at least getting one stop. As it happened we had five on shore excursions, one Zodiac cruise around a bay and another ship cruise down a Fjord so that exceeded my expectations. I loved a lot of things about the ship, and the customer service was exceptionally good. However there was room for improvement and I noted a few ideas on my evaluation form. It is essential I say that the trip exceeded my expectations in more ways that I could ever have anticipated. My nit-picking centred around the following items: I expected more lectures would be scheduled and that lectures would be presented by seasoned experts; I wished for inexpensive and ‘on tap’ internet access; French food, as offered, was a limited cuisine and I wished for flavours such as those from Asia, the Middle East and Africa; occasionally foods were overcooked and inedible (but there was always more to choose from); the staff didn’t understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian; and the free Antarctic jackets were badly designed with unshielded pockets so rain soaked into them. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
I have always wanted to visit Pitcairn and Easter Island, so this cruise became an excellent opportunity to visit these two isolated destinations. I arrived in Papeete five days before the cruise was due to begin. This gave me plenty of ... Read More
I have always wanted to visit Pitcairn and Easter Island, so this cruise became an excellent opportunity to visit these two isolated destinations. I arrived in Papeete five days before the cruise was due to begin. This gave me plenty of time to explore Papeete, do a round island and inner island tour and laze by the pool. The embarkation in Papeete was the best of my three Ponant cruises. My cabin on Deck 3 was central to everything, especially Reception, the main lounge and the theatre on deck 4. As a solo traveller I had more than enough storage space. Shower was always hot and with good pressure. Service by all staff I encountered was excellent. I was made to feel welcome, staff soon learning my preferences like sparkling water at lunch and dinner, tea with milk at breakfast etc.. most importantly my name. The service provided by my cabin steward was excellent.. I enjoyed the captain's enthusiasm for the voyage, the South Pacific, Easter Island and our sighting of whales on our last evening at sea just west of Valparaiso. Unfortunately we were unable to land on Pitcairn Island due to big seas, 'so close and yet so far'. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
This was our first cruise with Ponant and we were not disappointed. It was 5 star all the way. The food was magnificent and delicious for every meal. Our cabin with veranda was completely adequate for our needs as we do not spend much ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Ponant and we were not disappointed. It was 5 star all the way. The food was magnificent and delicious for every meal. Our cabin with veranda was completely adequate for our needs as we do not spend much time in there. The toilet was separate to the bathroom which was unusual and very pleasing. The bed was comfortable and there was plenty of storage. My only criticism is that the balustrade for the balcony is steel so if sitting on the veranda, one cannot see much at all. A perspex or some other transparent material would be better. Maybe becaue it is an icebreaker - I don't know? Rhis is also our first cruise on a small ship and we were dispoointed some times in the lack of activities in the afternoon. Is this because the passengers are having nana naps?! Staff were excellent and catered to our every request. Shore excursions - we only did one in Tangier which was really good and the other in Casablanca which was only satisfactory because we were put on a bus with French speakers and their French guide who dominated our English speaking guide and monopolised the microphone on the bus. There is not a lot to see in Casablanca and I felt that the tour was "padded out" with useless information to fill in time. One could easily walk from the port to the mosque and that's all you really need ro see. While we loved the cruise, I am not sure that I would do a small ship cruise again as we had some not rough seas, but serious swells that made quite a few people sea sick. I have been on big ships with rough seas and never felt sick like I did on this one. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
we chose this cruise because it was an Expedition Cruise in an area we had not yet been to and we had had good experiences with both Ponant in general and Expedition Cruises in particular. Unfortunately Ponant were not up to scratch with ... Read More
we chose this cruise because it was an Expedition Cruise in an area we had not yet been to and we had had good experiences with both Ponant in general and Expedition Cruises in particular. Unfortunately Ponant were not up to scratch with this one. Things started badly when we discovered that the cabin we had been allocated, ( the one for the physically disabled), was not the one we believed we had booked. After a while our concerns were noted that afternoon and we were reallocated a normal cabin. The cruise was in association with a magazine "Paris Match' whic we soon came to discover to be the reason why there were 80% French passengers and that lectures etc were scewed towards the benifit of the French. Organisation of tours and trips seemed to somewhat haphazard, compared with our previous experences. While 'laid back' is good but only in controlled moderation. Luckily all other activities, including crew, were up to the usual high standandards that we have come to expect. The fitness programmes are excellent and as used by only the few healthy ones likes us there was never ever overcrowding.. Exercise was important in order to try and minimalize the ourmet food experiences match with the unlimited alcohol consumption. 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
We enjoyed four days in Honolulu prior to the arrival of Le Boreal. The ship was actually a day late as she had been stuck in ice attempting a Northwest Passage transit in August. After disembarking her passengers in Greenland she sailed ... Read More
We enjoyed four days in Honolulu prior to the arrival of Le Boreal. The ship was actually a day late as she had been stuck in ice attempting a Northwest Passage transit in August. After disembarking her passengers in Greenland she sailed full speed for Hawaii via the Panama Canal, encountering Hurricane Rosa on the way across the Pacific. We felt it too on our flight from Sydney to Honolulu! Anyway, Ponant very generously covered our additional night's accommodation in Honolulu, arranged transfer to the ship and offered generous compensation for the late arrival and subsequent cancellation of two port calls on our voyage to Valparaiso. Boarding of the ship was very well organised, especially for a full complement of passengers and we were soon settling into our cabin and preparing to enjoy the sail out from Honolulu. Although rather small, the cabin is beautifully fitted out with plenty of storage and good amenities. The ship itself, in my view, is a beautiful design with very sleek lines and complimentary colour scheme. Fitted with stabilisers, she rides nicely through rough seas and is one of the quietest and most vibration free ships that I've sailed on...and I am a professional Master Mariner. Being a small ship, she only has two dining venues; a grill buffet restaurant on deck six for a more relaxed atmosphere and the formal restaurant on deck two. We enjoyed excellent service in both with very friendly staff who we got to know very well during our six weeks on board. Waiters are Indonesian with senior staff French, all speak excellent English and tolerated my limited use of French and Bahasa Indonesie! Downstairs the food had a tendency to be somewhat bland, but I guess this may be deliberate as not everyone appreciates a lot of seasoning and spices or chilli. One area that could be improved is catering for those requiring a low sugar diet, e.g. Diabetics. The only low carb drink available,other than water, was Diet Coke. It would be nice to see some other options available. The French influence is apparent but not overwhelming and in fact is rather charming. The officers and crew are very approachable and being such a small vessel are easily accessible. The bridge of the ship is generally accessible to passengers except during critical periods such as emergency drills. Our Captain changed halfway through our cruise and there was a marked difference in style. The first Master was very visible, approachable and interested in meeting all his passengers whilst managing the vessel, whereas his successor seemed more interested in his French passengers and could often be seen interacting with them. He seemed reluctant to engage with English speakers and non French nationals. He did make many announcements of interesting sights in both French and English however. The entertainers on board were excellent and I was surprised how involved the dancers were in other aspects of the hotel/excursion activities. Our final ocean voyage from Hanga Roa to Valparaiso (with about 70 or 80 pax) was the most relaxed part of our cruise and we had some enjoyable informal evenings with the musicians and dancers. We found that the cruise director was sometimes giving contradictory information in her announcements and the planning of some on board activities could have been better organised. We shouldn't forget the unseen heroes such as the galley, laundry and housekeeping staff who did so much behind the scenes to ensure our comfort. All so cheerful and enthusiastic. The range of shore excursions was fantastic and so interesting and informative to learn about the different cultures that we encountered. Our tour manager worked very hard on our behalf, especially so when the internet link was disrupted for several days. We would recommend taking some excursions when they are offered as we consider they were good value for the price paid. The ship lost twhe internet and tv links for several days which, although not disastrous, was somewhat annoying. Our disembarkation in Valparaiso was very relaxed as the ship didn't arrive until late morning. This enabled us to have lunch before leaving the ship around 1:15pm. Our tour manager coordinated our transfer to Santiago for €70 in a comfortable Mercedes minibus as there were nine of us travelling, very helpful. We enjoyed our voyage immensely and have future cruises booked on Le Boreal's three sisterships through to late 2020. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
We had travelled on Ponant (L'Austral) previously and found that the size of ship, crew numbers, facilities suited the style of cruising which we look for. The destinations are different to other cruise lines with experts on board to ... Read More
We had travelled on Ponant (L'Austral) previously and found that the size of ship, crew numbers, facilities suited the style of cruising which we look for. The destinations are different to other cruise lines with experts on board to give detailed information about the destination and customs of the local people. Disembarkation at the ''ports'' is via zodiacs which makes for a fun experience. Travelling with only 200-230 passengers and 140 crew makes for an intimate cruise experience. Crew are aware of each passengers requirements as the same crew look after you whether it be the bar or restaurants. There are two dining options - a more formal dining room and buffet. There is a wide variety of food at both venues. Two main lounge areas are available serving beverages. Cabins are well appointed, always well looked after by cabin crew for whom nothing is too much trouble. There is a spa area with gym equipment which is open 24/7 - small but has enough equipment to counteract the food and beverages if required. Crew are obviously loyal to Ponant as we met crew on this cruise who we had met previously. We have since travelled on 2 more Ponant cruises and again met crew who we had met before and they remembered us. This is not a cruise for people looking for big bands, large shows but looking more for background music in a more relaxed environment. Shows performed by 5 dancers who also have other duties so are able to mingle with the passengers. There are activities arranged for sea days. All in all a wonderful small ship experience. 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
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