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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
Although the expected itinerary was not respected, due to the ice conditions, the exploration crew always found nice alternatives to discover new sites, and interesting contacts with the local population. The exploration crew is very ... Read More
Although the expected itinerary was not respected, due to the ice conditions, the exploration crew always found nice alternatives to discover new sites, and interesting contacts with the local population. The exploration crew is very competent, which is the main point (together with the excellent service) to be able to discover and enjoy experiences in places that are otherwise unreachable for most people. Although a previous cruise to the Antartic was much more interesting, in terms of the variety and richness of the animal life, the present cruise gave us the opportunity to meet with the people leaving in extreme conditions, and how they cope with this. It was also very nice to see that respecting the traditions of the local population (Greenland) leads to a better life, while imposing a different culture as the "right one" leads to a lack of self-respect (Canada) with the related problems. In total, a very enjoyable experience!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
We joined Le Boreal in Longyearbyen on the A & K chartered cruise on 27 July. We had the previous night as part of the tour at Thon Opera, Oslo as the nominated hotel at our time of booking (Hotel Bristol) was closed for renovations ... Read More
We joined Le Boreal in Longyearbyen on the A & K chartered cruise on 27 July. We had the previous night as part of the tour at Thon Opera, Oslo as the nominated hotel at our time of booking (Hotel Bristol) was closed for renovations which was disappointing as we had booked and paid months earlier at Thon Rosenkrantz around the corner from Bristol and was, we thought, walking distance with wheelable luggage to relocate after arriving 2 nights earlier from Australia off longhaul flights. FYI we could not book Bristol – fully booked at the time, but as time went by, no bookings at all, so clearly this last minute move by A and K was known for some time!! The advice for the hotel change was only after we had paid our final amount, which was pretty disappointing and meant we had to make a change from one side of the city to the other – not insurmountable but inconvenient and had we known we probably would have booked the Opera for the whole period. The Thon Opera is a BIG 4ish star hotel, right on the back of the station. Very convenient, nice room, however we liked the Thon Rosenkrantz better despite much smaller rooms – better central location for two days exploring Oslo major sights, not so good for a longer stay though – room is a bit tight. Rosenkrantz also has a complimentary “supper” service and included breakfast. The supper, basic and a bit sloppy (bread, salad, stew of sorts) was great on the travel weary day, not great night 2 but we were still being lazy and not much else around the hotel without a few blocks walk. Rosenkrantz has a lovely enclosed rooftop area with free water and coffee with views of the Palace – would be a good catch up location to be with a group, would make up for the tiny rooms. Breakfast was as you would expect a buffet to be without being sumptuous. So to the ship – we attended the welcome function at the Opera – fairly basic affair and not a real tour warmer despite the calibre of A and K personnel there making the introductions and the price of the cruise. Next morning, somewhat early, we had an early private buffet breakfast back in our welcome room from the previous night and then buses to the airport. There were 3 tranches, cheapest cabins earliest call – that was us and that was fair enough in our view. Well the airport turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. The so called charter is not a charter – it is prebooking out entire flights on small commercial aircraft – the cruise had booked out all 3 consequetive flights so when we all lined up at the ticket counters to check in we were left to the mercy of the small airline staff who could not care less – our check in lines became so long that all 3 tranches ended up together in a long snaking line despite half hour gaps between buses being planned. The threat of no more than 23 kgs in pre tour information dissolved, although anybody with a bag over 20 kgs (and don’t forget you are going to cold climates so you have more than summer stuff and for those of us coming far this was a month long trip at least) was taken aside, mine included. In hindsight I think this is more of a threat than a cost but these “charter planes” are small – seats 2 x 2 across and no overhead racks to speak of so they are very luggage restricting. Pre tour I could not find any information re the ability to pay for extra luggage weight – this was frustrating. I took the view, pack what I needed but on the light must have side, and see what happens. Outcome was fine with no additional bag fees requested, but this was a stressor which could be easily overcome. I feel it is more of an effort to try to keep luggage down rather than allowing 32kgs for example, which would be more appropriate. Indeed many bags that were sidelined did look plenty heavy by size alone. The next stressor at Oslo airport was when our gate was changed no less than 3 times in an hour (after we had finally got through check in with not enough A and K oversight of the check in staff – (difficult given the ticketing arrangements) with kilometres of walking/running in between. We understand this may be normal, but if normal, A and K need to manage and warn passengers much better and have more staff on watch for the roulette gate changes. So the 2 flights we took to Longbearyen (stopover in Tromso for refuelling - but you could not get off the plane) – were seamless. We were met at Longbearyen airport where we claimed our luggage (none missing despite the “heavy bags” being sidelined ) and the ship’s personnel had it whisked away to our cabin – very smooth transition. We did a lap of the town in buses and a tour of a very good museum to set us in the Arctic mood and were given a sit down meal in a local auditorium which was strange and a little unannounced but OK. The weather was cool and rainy – weather that we thought was a sign of the cruise – we were so delighted to have been quite wrong. After lunch we were bused to the wharf to embark the ship. My husband and I took up our residence in cabin 331 which we thought turned out to be perfect. It is midships in case the weather was poor but on our cruise there was no rough weather. Firstly, unless you are in an upmarket suite, all cabins are the same size, layout and fit out no matter what your deck, so to pay more to be on a higher deck we felt was not necessary and proved so for us. In addition we found Level 3 most convenient. Level 3 is the disembarkation point for all zodiac activities so this was very convenient and it also has a lovely stern bar and lounge with all day coffee and drinks and a small balcony, again very convenient. Level 2 is the main dining room, two flights of stairs down – we decided to use the stairs for exercise. Level 4 is the theatre where briefings and lectures were held – two flights up. It was a bit of a hike to the Level 6 casual dining area and pool deck, but all in all Level 3 was an excellent choice. I note there are complaints on Cruise Critic saying Level 3 has fuel smells – our group had 3 Level 3 cabins and we had no fuel smell issues, in fact no issues at all and great cabin service. The cabin layout is practical and spacious enough with a good sized balcony which would be great in other parts of the world, but even in the Artic, it enabled you to pop out into the elements, feel the temperature, watch the scenery and it generally adds to the size of the cabin. The bed was large and comfortable. The bathroom layout was generous for a ship (and we have been on many of all sizes), there was plenty of wardrobe and drawer space and hooks to hang sometimes wet outdoor gear out of the way without it cluttering the bathroom. The desk was small but OK, there was one lounge chair and side table and a full size bar fridge that was topped up everyday with spirits, mixers, soft drink and water. All in all a very satisfactory home in our small expedition ship for 2 weeks. Given this was an A and K charter of Le Boreal, the cruise staff were A and K contractors and the ship personnel were Ponant. They worked seamlessly together. Captain Etienne Garcia was most generous with his time with passengers and the A and K team were handpicked, highly skilled and qualified men and women who just couldn’t do enough to share information, a joke, a meal. The cruise staff team was large by other cruise comparisons. They drove zodiacs, escorted shore tours, lectured on all manner of geography, history, flora and fauna. They went above and beyond to find us the best there was to see, as did the ship’s crew, all in all a very good combination. The initial safety briefing led by Captain Garcia and the Staff Captain was the best and most thorough of any ship safety briefing we have experienced. Unlike other waters where there are many ships available for rescue support, the Artic waters are not only remote but not that many ships are running there yet. We were told that there are 38 vessels plying the Antarctic (even though you don’t really see them as they take their slots in the various allocated stops to give the impression of wilderness), but the Arctic only has a handful of vessels around so safety is an even higher priority. Our 14 day cruise included Spitsbergen took us along the east coast of Greenland, a planned landing at the volcano Jan Mayan and 2 days on the west coast of Iceland. Our Jan Mayan stop was cancelled due to an emergency medical evacuation which saw us have to steam back to within 160 nautical miles of the Icelandic coast for a helicopter evacuation of a heart attack patient. Le Boreal has no helideck so it was a ship to chopper rappelling transfer. It was carried out at around 9.30pm, off the bow of the ship, midsea, right in front of all of the other passengers watching inside from the Level 6 deck bar area – it was done with the utmost calm and precision. Two rappellers were dropped on the deck, then a back pack, then the husband, then the ill wife were lifted by harness in 3 lifts, then the crew reboarded the chopper and all were loaded and away in under 30 minutes, maybe faster. Everything about the medivac looked very practiced and it must have cost A LOT!! Le Boreal then headed back towards Greenland and resumed her course southbound. We disembarked in Reykjavik and were taken to our pre cruise nominated hotel by a prepaid taxi as part of the trip package which was a nice closing gesture. We stayed on in Iceland for one week (2 days Rekyjavik and 5 days driving half the ring road – Akureyri to Keflavik– all fabulous and an excellent addition to the cruise, actually a must if you have the time and inclination). So some observations – we have now cruised the Antarctic and the Arctic. • Which is better we are asked? – well both are very different although the concept is similar. Antarctica is colder and the story is ice and penguins (all sorts) and likely rough weather. The Arctic is polar bears and ice but also interesting flora and the weather is likely to be kinder. • If you had to choose one (yes both are extremely expensive so price is not really any decision maker), I could not choose – loved them both. • Based on price, both can be similar, but there is more choice of vessel at present in the Antarctic so that may help the budget. • Perhaps the opportunity for cruise extensions may make a difference for you – Antarctica and South America: Arctic and/or Iceland/Scandanavia, or anywhere in Europe – Iceland is only 5 hours flight from London and not that far from US east coast. Then again Sth America is not that far from the US either. We chose the cruise that included the Falklands and South Georgia (a must for the emperor penguins). In hindsight this was such a bonus rather than just going up and back from Uschuia. • Another question is which one to do first? Again, one will prepare you in sorts for the other. You need to be average fitness to do both. • Another question is which ship? We were lucky enough to be told when we went first to the Antarctic to ensure you go on a small expedition ship, not a big cruise liner. That was exactly the right advice – in Antarctica ships can only land something like 200 passengers at any one time at any one place under the Antarctic Treaty, so whilst some of the bigger ships do go a south, you won’t have the same shore access or it will take a lot longer to do it or you will just sail past with a view and you are missing out on so much plus they can’t get into some of the smaller, wonderful spots. • Another thought is timing – Artic is July/August: Antarctic is December/January. What works best for you? We went to the Antarctic on The Fram (Hurtigruten Line). We enjoyed it immensely and the ship rode out some very rough weather very well (we know because our husbands are merchant sea captains so they know what rough weather looks and feels like) and the Norwegian captain and officers just took it like another day in the office. The Fram is similar in passenger size to Le Boreal but is not as comfortable (cabin to main rooms and we had a high level cabin on this vessel – not suite though) compared to Le Boreal. The A and K cruise staff made for a very different level of knowledge and interaction with the passengers, but you do pay for it. About seasickness – we used Kimite motion sick patches on both trips (definitely overkill for our Arctic trip but you need to be wearing them for 6 hours before you need the effect to kick in and hey, we had them in our bag and they have an expiry date). However they saved me from 4 plus days of rough weather on our crossing from South Georgia to the ice of the Antarctic – can totally recommend. FYI you can’t buy them in Australia – we obtain them in Hong Kong over the counter in chemist shops like Boots or Watsons (maybe able to get online?). Finally, our memories and photos of both expeditions – all fabulous, real life experiences, so lucky to have been able to have the opportunity to see one, more to see both and as they say be Bi-Polar. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
The Good. The wait staff, front reception or any staff you met on deck exceptional! Rooms are very nice and clean and housekeeping excellent. I have travelled on a few River Cruises expecting a closet on a Small Ship. Not the case very ... Read More
The Good. The wait staff, front reception or any staff you met on deck exceptional! Rooms are very nice and clean and housekeeping excellent. I have travelled on a few River Cruises expecting a closet on a Small Ship. Not the case very nice. Shore excursions great. Our safety briefing was conducted by someone who did not have a great command of the English language. I left the session still not sure what to do in an emergency. We were asked to go back to our cabins to get our life jacket to ensure we knew how to put it on. What?? The boat would have sank by the time everyone returned. Now the bad, the food on the boat ough. Keep in mind I Love KD at home! So I am easy to please. Breakfast- eggs Benedict under a heat lamp, scrambled eggs in a large tray looked like yellow porridge, lunch had us looking at a Sword Fish as they gutted it. Every time I looked I saw guts from this animal dumped in a pail and the last view cutting the head off. This was the chef’s show for lunch ough. Dinner, it started day one no service. We had to flag down a waiter who was doing his best to keep up. Some tables almost finished their dinner before we received our appetizers. This continues throughput my trip and I returned two meals. The dinners around my table were returned or not eaten, however the pastries chef excellent. Tauck should include more on shore meals. When you look at the cost of the cruise and then add on shore meals you were responsible for this proves to be an expensive trip. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Our long awaited and much anticipated Northwest Passage trip has ended and will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Inputing required information into Ponant’s website before the trip was frustratingly difficult and ... Read More
Our long awaited and much anticipated Northwest Passage trip has ended and will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Inputing required information into Ponant’s website before the trip was frustratingly difficult and generally only remedied by Sydney’s staff. Thank you to all who assisted. The required medical information was widely regarded by GPs and fellow travellers as an invasion of privacy. Our travels to Antarctica onboard MV Orion in 2007 and a previous 42-day Arctic expedition cruise aboard MV Silver Explorer in 2013 did not require such detailed information, simply evidence of travel insurance that included repatriation from remote areas. And then there were the charter flights. Check-in at Charles de Gaulle airport was an absolute shambles. Many, if not most, passengers had arrived long before the Ponant representative and located a Ponant banner near gates 50-51. Nobody was aware that there were two charter flights, the other check-in being on the opposite side of the terminal at gates 1-2. Much cross-terminal activity ensued as people realised they were in the wrong queues! My partner and I were allocated the Trade Air flight that used a Fokker 100 aircraft. The aircraft was not designed to carry a full economy-class passenger load with everyone having hold-stowed baggage, and consequently some baggage was loaded into some of the toilets at the captain’s suggestion. That carrier has been cited on previous occasions for regulatory breaches, according to internet entries, and this was possibly another. Being a charter flight we parked remotely from the terminal in Copenhagen and much of the baggage was offloaded into open baggage-carts in a downpour. Some passengers reported their baggage was sodden upon retrieval. Transferring to the Air Greenland commercial flight was another exercise involving a very long walk with little guidance. A couple of quick-thinking passengers were able to pay for a business-class upgrade, while most of us continued to languish in economy. Upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq we were directed to board coaches for the transfer to the ship. Nobody bothered to inform us, until asked, about what was to happen to our luggage....it was collected in bulk and transferred (successfully) to the ship. The reception on boarding the ship, was adequate but not exceptional, particularly as it was close to midnight when we boarded. Our cabin, 528, was tiny with no under-bed storage for luggage and was apparently designed as the sitting-room to the adjoining cabin 526, to which it had a connecting door for use when both cabins were sold as one suite. It was a similar story for other cabins on deck 5, some with under-bed storage, others without. Within the cabin, the bathroom and toilet doors opened outwards into the entrance passageway, as did the wardrobe doors. Open one door but beware opening another as they clashed with one another. Inexplicably, the shower door opened inwards to the stall and if anyone fell while in the shower and could not pick themselves up, access for assistants would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, without demolishing the screens. Compactness was also a feature of both restaurants, with tables very close together hampering access for both passengers and waiters. Both restaurants were badly under-staffed, with waiters having too many tables to look after and also doubling as wine waiters. Under these very trying circumstances, the waiters did the best they could, but lengthy delays were normal. The bars were also understaffed. Some food items and beverages ran very low, with some items completely exhausted within 10 days of the start of a 23 day cruise! Somebody needs to answer for that. The much-hyped French cuisine was disappointing, with a preponderance of fish on the dinner menu. The cruise proceeded much as advertised until it was announced that we would be unable to transit the Northwest Passage because of the ice conditions in Bellot Strait and further west. That decision was based on ice charts and forecasts available before we had even set sail from Kangerlussuaq on the cruise, and that changed little as the cruise progressed. We were initially offered early disembarkation (at Pond Inlet, Canada), an option that a number of us selected, and two other options, each less appealing than the other. Eventually it was decided an early disembarkation would unnecessarily delay the ship sailing north in Baffin Bay on a random itinerary taking us towards the very north of Greenland towards another channel blocked by sea ice, before turning south and returning to Kangerlussuaq by the 18th September, the date we were originally due to disembark in Nome. Mutterings were heard that we’d paid the ransom before we’d been kidnapped! Communications from staff members was poor on many occasions, with the constant changing from French to English difficult to follow. And once the revised itinerary got underway, we were only told on a daily basis what to expect the next day, with nobody sure when we would be back in Kangerlussuaq (17th or 18th, morning or afternoon etc). Eventually we found ourselves back in Kangerlussuaq and the charter flight shambles started all over again. Europeans won the lottery with a short flight back to Paris. The rest of us had to endure a long, uncomfortable economy-class flight all the way to Seattle with a refuelling stop in Buffalo. And finally liberation! We could never, in good conscience, recommend Ponant. As a luxury expedition/cruise line it barely rates a 3, based on this experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
My wife and I recently went on the Le Soliel expedition cruise entitled The Saga of Erick the Red from July 17—29. The trip started in Iceland and spent most of the time combing the Greenland coast up to Kangerlussuaq. We were both ... Read More
My wife and I recently went on the Le Soliel expedition cruise entitled The Saga of Erick the Red from July 17—29. The trip started in Iceland and spent most of the time combing the Greenland coast up to Kangerlussuaq. We were both impressed with the level of service on the ship. The housekeeping as immaculate, the meals were wonderful, and the entertainment was enjoyable, and the ship staff was friendly and helpful. We are looking forward to spending another cruise with Ponant. Unfortunately, one serious drawback to the trip was the quality of the expedition staff (known as naturalist guides). The expedition leader, Florence, was over-matched in her role, and appeared to provide little actual leadership to her guide staff. While all the naturalist guides seemed to be good people, essentially they provided little real guiding. We were usually dumped onto land and were on our own to “use our imagination” as the expedition leader would say. The naturalist guides would simply spread out and watch as passengers walked around, often aimlessly and confused. Here are some examples to illustrate my point: • There was no emphasis on wilderness ethics. The Arctic growing season is short and plant life is precious, yet the expedition leader, Florence, and her staff made very little effort to educate the visitors on how to behave in these wild places and how to best preserve them. Passengers would be wearing big rubber boots designed specifically for mud and muck, yet would trample over delicate flora to avoid wet areas on the trails. • Naturalists were frequently unable to answer the most basic questions about the flora, fauna, geology, or history of a landing site. A naturalist guide should have at least a general knowledge of the natural and human history of an area to be visited, and should have a guidebook to help them answer questions, yet frequently, we got the “I don’t know” response or an outright mis-identification. • One hike we went on was a disaster. My wife and I were one of the first off the ship but we waited over an hour until the all passengers unloaded before the hike started. When it did, nearly 200 passengers all crammed along the same narrow trail, and received no guiding input on the hike. Instead of one enormous group, why not divide the passengers up among the guides and go on more manageable smaller group hikes? • The Viking sites were special but the expedition leader and her naturalist guides were not located at the actual ruins where they could identify the ruins and give historical background. In fact, the first Viking site we landed at, many passengers had no idea where the ruins were located and when we finally saw the 1,000 year-old ruins we had no idea what we were looking at. Passengers even found they had wandered right over one of the Viking long houses, not realizing where the ruin was. • Frequently, naturalist guides were taking pictures as their own personal hobby instead of helping passengers. • The naturalist guides’ PowerPoint presentations on the landing sites were of marginal use. Some of the information presented on the Vikings was superficial and incomplete. We talked to passengers who were on other Ponant expeditions and they said their previous experiences with the naturalists guides was must better. Perhaps we just hit a dud on this expedition. With that said, despite the poor guiding, we enjoyed the rest of the experience enough that we will try another Ponant cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose Ponant to sail the Adriatic because Le Lyrial is a small ship and like the other reviewer said the Captain was excellent and not aloof at all. Very hands on always helping us embark/disembark. His presentation in the control deck ... Read More
We chose Ponant to sail the Adriatic because Le Lyrial is a small ship and like the other reviewer said the Captain was excellent and not aloof at all. Very hands on always helping us embark/disembark. His presentation in the control deck was highly informative and fascinating to hear. The food was excellent and in the French style - serves were not too large but delicious. The French wines were fabulous. Well done Mr Sommelier. All the room staff and bar staff were very friendly and very attentive. The only small criticism I have is the bed was too big! It was a King size and we only need a Queen. This would add more room to our suite but we did have a private balcony as well. We loved it so much we have booked another cruise and have recommended Ponant to our friends. Can't wait to do the Kimberleys. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose this cruise as we do not like big cruise ships. We have cruised on Sea Dreaming before (American based) and was hoping for something similar from Ponant. What a let down. It started off great when we arrived in our cabin - very ... Read More
We chose this cruise as we do not like big cruise ships. We have cruised on Sea Dreaming before (American based) and was hoping for something similar from Ponant. What a let down. It started off great when we arrived in our cabin - very spacious and own balcony. Than the set backs 1. Smoking - all outside decks including the main bar were filled with filthy smokers puffing cigarettes and cigars - not able to go outside without being consumed by smoke 2. Service - If you have been to France, you will understand the service. First morning after 24 hour flight we wanted a coffee. No coffee available until 6.30 am. We arrived at 6.15am and waiter was setting up. Coffee was made but he said we could not have milk until 6.30am . The milk was 1.0 metre away from him in the fridge behind him! That standard was present throughout whole trip. Apart from the Filipino staff who were actually quite pleasant and genuine. 3. Food - can be described as business class aeroplane food - all pre-heated and 5 courses could be served to 244 passengers inside 60 minutes 4. Eating times - set dinner time - 7.30-9.00pm - absolutely ridiculous that we could not eat after the sun went down! We tried to come in around 8.30pm but NO food left on buffet! 5. Drinks - we are not big drinkers but like an occasional drink. Not one barman could actually make a reasoable vodka and soda with fresh lime? That is just one example. 6. Not a luxury cruise in any sense of the word. Pre-heated food, limited choice menu, set eating times limited to daylight hours - really disappointing This may be better than the big ships but do not choose this cruise if you have any expectations other than average Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
The itinerary was exactly what we wanted. We did a back to back cruise. First week was the Greek Islands and the 2nd week was Croatia. We did a lot of research on these areas and these cruises fit the bill. The excursions were ok to good. ... Read More
The itinerary was exactly what we wanted. We did a back to back cruise. First week was the Greek Islands and the 2nd week was Croatia. We did a lot of research on these areas and these cruises fit the bill. The excursions were ok to good. Staff was perfect...always accommodating and there to help. Cabin was lovely and well laid out and appointed and very clean. Food was very disappointing. Honestly we thought that being a French ship it would have had really great food. Lunches were definitely better than the dinners. The d'oeuvres at dinner were the same every night...sushi...and not even good sushi. Cheese course and breads were amazing. Desserts were ok to good. Another suggestion I had was between meals there was absolutely nothing to snack on if you wanted something and no where to buy anything. This was a big call out that several passengers complained about. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Having cruised before on larger ships we liked the concept of small ship cruising. Everything about the ship was exceptional. The staff were helpful and friendly and the dining room Cuisine was to die for. The itinerary took us to ... Read More
Having cruised before on larger ships we liked the concept of small ship cruising. Everything about the ship was exceptional. The staff were helpful and friendly and the dining room Cuisine was to die for. The itinerary took us to places we had not visited before and we appreciated the easy access that smaller ships enjoy which made transfers so easy . The ports we visited all had unique histories with interesting places to visit and enjoy the culture, food and people.We travelled in the peak season so naturally tourists were everywhere . That made us appreciate the serenity of our ship and surroundings when we returned on board. We did not participate in the nightly entertainment (To tired after long days) but feedback from other passengers was very positive. Once you have had a great experience like this you never forget. We will certainly sail again with Ponant when the next opportunity arises. We recommend you do a cruise with Ponant. You won't regret it !!! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Ponant had been suggested to me by a family member, and the smaller number of passengers was appealing after the larger cruise lines. However, leaving after this 8 night cruise, I am underwhelmed and left feeling that I certainly did not ... Read More
Ponant had been suggested to me by a family member, and the smaller number of passengers was appealing after the larger cruise lines. However, leaving after this 8 night cruise, I am underwhelmed and left feeling that I certainly did not get value for money. As has been previously stated by other reviewers, the standard of meals is not consistent. We had three Gala Dinners and these were all of varying standards, nothing particularly memorable about any of them. The alternative buffet on deck 6 was awful, I have had better more appealing meals on the larger cruise lines. I had room service a number of times and they were delivered without any covers over the plates! The last night farewell affair was laughable in that the entire staff were paraded onto the pool deck with rock music, whilst I understand that staff need to be acknowledged for their service this was over the top. As a non-French speaking passenger there was a feeling of condescension from the reception staff and in particular from the female cruise director, there were a number of non-French speakers on board and we all had the same opinion. The wait staff and cabin staff were much better, polite and willing to assist at all times. I will definitely not be cruising with Ponant again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose this cruise because the destination was attractive and we had enjoyed a similar cruise along the Croatian coast on Le Lyrial in 2017. Also Le Lyrial is a lovely ship with spacious lounge and restaurant areas. The only amenity ... Read More
We chose this cruise because the destination was attractive and we had enjoyed a similar cruise along the Croatian coast on Le Lyrial in 2017. Also Le Lyrial is a lovely ship with spacious lounge and restaurant areas. The only amenity lacking is adequate outdoor shady areas. The destination venues were well chosen and the opportunity to see Paxos [otherwise fairly inaccessible ] particularly welcome. The "Cuisine et Vins de France' theme was not very successful. The formal dinners were too elaborate and accompanied by far to much explanation. The choice of wines with dinner was generally excellent; however those chosen for the 'tastings' were highly esoteric . The staff were delightful and very helpful in every way. One aspect of concern to us was the attitude and behaviour of some of the antipodean passengers. Despite many reminders many totally ignored the very undemanding dress code for the Gala dinners and one group of ten Australians were unreasonably demanding about almost everything. The entertainment was rather 'downmarket' compared with our previous Ponant experience and, although talented, the acts and dancing were somewhat inappropriately risqué at times. Embarcation and Disembarcation were handled with great efficiency and our two night stay in Athens before the cruise proved a very good idea. A better effort to introduce passengers to each other would be helpful. Being English doesn't mean that we can't speak some French ! We have already booked a Ponant cruise for 2019 which is a good recommendation. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
This was our fourth cruise with Ponant and we are big fans of this French cruiseline. We love the small ship experience, Ponant's first class service, food and crew. We were excited to experience their newest ship, Le Laperouse on ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise with Ponant and we are big fans of this French cruiseline. We love the small ship experience, Ponant's first class service, food and crew. We were excited to experience their newest ship, Le Laperouse on it's maiden voyage (actually it's second week sailing around Iceland). The ship is beautiful, obviously everything was brand new. The capitan was great and very imformative. Iceland was fantastic. We took a Ponant excursion in every port and they were all fantastic. Some local guides were better than others (which is always the case) but all seemed to know their stuff and were very enthusiastic to show us and tell us about their country. Given that this was a new ship on only it's second voyage, we should have realized that the most of the crew would also be new. Many were and appeared to be unexperienced. This was most obvious in the food service and kitchen areas. Many of the waiters appeared to have no idea how to provide first class service. Many guests experienced very slow service and cold food. Waiters rarely ever return to your table after delivering your food. You had to ask (if you could find your waiter) to get more water or coffee. For most meals, only the dinning room (not the grill) was open which they said was due to the weather but it meant that only a buffet was open for breakfast. The grill was completely outside which is dfferent from the other Ponant ships that we have been on. I I think that this was a design faux. Outide dinning is great in warm weather climates but not in Iceland. The food on the buffet was not to the Ponant standard. The eggs were unsually cold and there was no cooked to order eggs available (on other Ponant ships they cook eggs to order in the grill). After a few days, we started ordering our breakfast through room service and the service and food was great but we missed dinning with the other guests. It did appear that things in the kitchen and diningroom were improving slightly towards the end of the week and hopefully service and food quality will be up to the Ponant standard on future voyages. We will be back. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
We chose this particular trip to Japan because the ship was small and the itinerary was part land and part sea.While the ship itself was adequate- the small room was comfortable, clean, and well attended, the restaurants and food left much ... Read More
We chose this particular trip to Japan because the ship was small and the itinerary was part land and part sea.While the ship itself was adequate- the small room was comfortable, clean, and well attended, the restaurants and food left much to be desired. We are not "foodies", but were quite displeased with the food. The more "formal" dining room seemed to be understaffed, and the staff that was there seemed rushed, impatient, and sometimes a bit discourteous. The more casual dining room required an advance reservation, something we felt a bit odd. It was buffet,also understaffed, with a rather boring selection of food that hardly ever changed. Perhaps, in general, our biggest complaint was the lack of almost anything that gave you the feeling you were traveling in Japan: not a Japanese dinner, a few pieces of the same sushi at the buffet, no Japanese "entertainment", and very limited Japanese culture and the like. We were very fortunate to be traveling with groups that provided excellent speakers- unfortunately, this ship does not have the system allowing you to listen or watch the speakers from your cabin, if you wished to do so. Furthermore, the ship has a peculiar lay-out, lacking rest rooms near the restaurants and no "quiet area"- the "library" is part of a lounge - we tried to sit there, but were driven out by the noisy card players .We are "seasoned" travelers having taking many, many land and sea trips and would definitely not travel on this line again nor could we recommend it to others. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
Itinerary, service standards and inclusions were very good. Food was excellent and the cabins are spacious and comfortable. The crew overall were very friendly and helpful and really are a highlight. Ponant also provide some very ... Read More
Itinerary, service standards and inclusions were very good. Food was excellent and the cabins are spacious and comfortable. The crew overall were very friendly and helpful and really are a highlight. Ponant also provide some very effective fares for single travellers using sole-occupancy. My only disappointments were: 1. the quality and value of some of the shore excursions. One in particular was rated moderate difficulty, but many able-bodied guests really struggled with it. 2. the poor satellite TV system which failed to automatically recover from the inevitable signal losses - it was necessary every time to change channels and back again when the satellite signal resumed. 3. the very expensive internet packages. Past guests get varying levels of free minutes (based on their status - but even the top level does not receive an "unlimited" package. Beyond the free minutes, additional packages are VERY expensive compared to competitors - and no "unlimited" packages are offered at all. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
Our previous experience in 2017 on Le Boreal gave us confidence in the offerings of Ponant. In addition, this voyage had interesting Pre Voyage offerings, which we purchased, as the chance to use the 4 day tour of Osaka and Nara was really ... Read More
Our previous experience in 2017 on Le Boreal gave us confidence in the offerings of Ponant. In addition, this voyage had interesting Pre Voyage offerings, which we purchased, as the chance to use the 4 day tour of Osaka and Nara was really attractive to us as mature travellers. Of particular note was the quality of the Kyoto Hotel Okura, which dazzled us completely! The provision of an interpreter during this experience was of great value throughout our land voyage. As were the transfers included. Our rating of the Pre offering is a full 5 stars for value and content. The opportunity to then visit the ports of Hiroshima, Yakushima, Naha, ishigaki and Hualien-Taiwan on the way to Manila worked as a bonus to us. We ventured on Ponant excursions at all ports, and found the organisation, equipment and locations outstanding in all cases. The transport supplied, and the fact that all excursion groups were fully escorted worked really well at all times. Where excursions included catering, this was provided at great establishments, and the food and drink included were excellent. We have now completed 7 voyage sectors with Ponant, and are so content with the offerings that we have 4 more sectors under deposit, and looking at others! For us, the small ship experience is the way to go, always! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
I had an invitation to cruise the Baltic - a chance for me to retrace my footsteps as a young traveller in this part of the world which has seen so many changes, Le Soleal lived up to all promises, with exceptional French service and ... Read More
I had an invitation to cruise the Baltic - a chance for me to retrace my footsteps as a young traveller in this part of the world which has seen so many changes, Le Soleal lived up to all promises, with exceptional French service and superb food and beverages at all times. Tours were well organised and wonderfully instructive. Relaxing on the ship was a great experience, though we were underwhelmed by the nightime offerings of entertainment and onboard lectures were inadequate (the only negative feature of the whole experience. I especially enjoyed the dining experiences at both restaurants with exceptional variety of foodstyles and ingredients. I appreciated the fresh fruit and salads available at each meal and loved the opportunity to try different dishes and styles of cuisine. The wine list was superb and the martinis excellent! My cabin was spacious, well -organised and beautifully maintained throughout the cruise. My special treat was to visit the bridge on our day at sea and hear all about navigation from the officer in charge. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
Dalmatian coast on the Ponant ship Le Lyrial. Food and service: fair to poor. Wine: poor. No choice at dinner: 1 red, 1 white, 1 rose. All wines were French for the entire cruise. Whites were undrinkable. Outdoor furniture in common areas: ... Read More
Dalmatian coast on the Ponant ship Le Lyrial. Food and service: fair to poor. Wine: poor. No choice at dinner: 1 red, 1 white, 1 rose. All wines were French for the entire cruise. Whites were undrinkable. Outdoor furniture in common areas: poor and most uncomfortable (no cushions). Westin hotel dinner: poor. Cabins: small. Shows were poor. Singers were very good. We enjoyed the ports however don't sail on Ponant. We chose this cruise for the ports, and booked through Tauck. Departed Venice on May 24, 2018. Cleanliness, laundry and room staff all OK. Dance lessons were good. Only one type of beer available in the restaurant. Waiters were friendly but service was poor. We were a couple and looking to sit with other people for dinners. Maitre d' was unable to help us and in fact did nothing. Champagne was not drinkable - tasted off. Boutique was very expensive. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We were very interested in the destination Japan. The Ship for this round trip should not be too big and exclusive. There is not much choice. That's why we decided to LÁustral. The price would be reasonable if service and quality ... Read More
We were very interested in the destination Japan. The Ship for this round trip should not be too big and exclusive. There is not much choice. That's why we decided to LÁustral. The price would be reasonable if service and quality were to be correct. It's not like that. The quality of the food was very different. The selection was partly not very large. Seafood as you know it from Silversea or Hapag Lloyd, there is little. My wife had a stomach upset and wanted a clear broth for lunch. This could not be realized. Every kitchen actually holds a broth! For dinner there was a broth... The trips were partly catastrophic. The guides were not always as qualified as you could expect. The temporal organization was not satisfactory. We complained about the cleanliness of our suite. The suite was not clean, instead we received a bottle of champagne as compensation. This was our so far most expensive cruise with more than €20,000 cost and unfortunately the worst of so far about 40 cruises in terms of value for money. For guests like us with high standards and willingness to pay a lot for this service unfortunately no recommendation. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We chose Tauck small ship cruises due to reputation. We had a good experience last year on two river cruises. We would not recommend small ship cruises with Tauck. I had written a 5 page letter describing both the good and the bad on ... Read More
We chose Tauck small ship cruises due to reputation. We had a good experience last year on two river cruises. We would not recommend small ship cruises with Tauck. I had written a 5 page letter describing both the good and the bad on two small ship back to back cruises and I received back a one page letter addressing one item. Most group dinners consisted of chicken. Very little choice of local foods since we visited 5 different countries. We drove around after lunch to kill time before going to hotel. VERY boring!. We should have been given a choice of shopping since we were close or go to hotel to wait. the stop At Tallinn was rushed. In Saint Petersburg only overpriced souvenir shops were suggested. Should have gone to a market area and shopped for bargains. Too many people(40) on each excursion trying to meander thru the towns we visited. I had thought Tauck was different using local guides and smaller groups. Other excursions we have been on have larger groups for less money. We did have a good Swedish lunch and a good Russian lunch. Not chicken!! this cruise better than the first one two weeks earlier with Tauck. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together ... Read More
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together beautifully., gave wonderful presentations and were always available for questions. The passenger makeup was mostly Australians, though about 20 French-speaking. I continued on the next cruise - Darwin to Bali - and the atmosphere changed a bit - now it was half English-speaking and half French-speaking. This was more of a cultural cruise as we made several stops in a few little-visited eastern islands of Indonesia. The island tours were well-organized. It was still active as we had several snorkeling opportunities. It is important to know that these were expedition-style cruises, and agility and balance are needed to board the zodiacs. It is active, with snorkeling and hiking opportunities. Everything is described in advance and passengers can self-select if they want to participate in the excursion. Ponant thinks of everything. For those of us continuing on, they provided a very nice half-day tour of Darwin with a good guide and a comfortable bus. I chose L'Austral for its reputation. I like the atmosphere and size of the ship.The fact that it is a fairly new ship (only 6 years old), and has continental food and service is a plus also. The back-to-back cruises were an excellent combination - with the first being all nature with a few visits to Aboriginal rock art; and the second more cultural. With such long flights to this part of the world, it made sense to do a back-to-back. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
We chose Ponant for this trip because we were looking for a more intimate cruise experience. We have been on large cruise ships (3000+ passengers) and felt it was time for a more refined trip. One of the best things about being on a ... Read More
We chose Ponant for this trip because we were looking for a more intimate cruise experience. We have been on large cruise ships (3000+ passengers) and felt it was time for a more refined trip. One of the best things about being on a smaller ship is that the embarkation and disemarkation process. All of the crew members were courteous and professional. Also, there was rarely ever a line. Once we landed at our port or destination, getting off the ship to begin enjoying the tours was a breeze. I must admit that we were a little skeptical about having the shore excursions included in the cost of the cruise. We wondered what the quality of the excursions would be. But, we were not disappointed. Every excursion we joined was very informative and enjoyable. In addition, our days on the uninhabited Caribbean Islands were the best! Being able to take the zodiac boats in for a morning of snorkeling along the coral reefs of the atolls was a once in a lifetime experience. Our cabin was lovely, and very well appointed. Having a balcony where we could enjoy the views and fresh sea air was a great feature. Of course, everything we needed was provided by the stewards, it was as though there were fairies on the ship tending to our every need. Every meal we enjoyed on the ship was perfect. The variety of food, and accommodations for special dietary needs was attended to very well. We were able to enjoy dinner at the captain's table as well. It was nice to see the captain at every dinner, and feel that he was approachable and willing to mingle with the guests. The entertainment and activities on the boat during days at sea and each evening were very enjoyable. We enjoyed everything from educational lectures about our ports of call to spectacular shows each evening from with the on board performers as well as specialty shows from some of our ports. There was never a lack of good entertainment. Overall, it was a wonderful adventure we would recommend to everyone looking for a luxury vacation experience. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
30 days all up covering three back to back cruises. What stands out above everything else is the impeccable dedication of the staff from Commandant Regis Daumesnil down to the humblest toiler, who would have to be the people who did ... Read More
30 days all up covering three back to back cruises. What stands out above everything else is the impeccable dedication of the staff from Commandant Regis Daumesnil down to the humblest toiler, who would have to be the people who did the laundry. We never saw them but without them, it would have beeen a very different voyage. The Commandant was exceptional in many ways, in particular the way he interacted with the passengers. Not only was he at the gangway for our arrival but every day we departed for excursions he was there to say Bon Jour and hope you have a good trip. It was an intensely personal touch and, in another example, many times he lunched and talked with passengers at the buffet on deck 6. He seemed genuinely interested in who his passengers were and in their welfare. I found him a fascinating conversationalist on a range of subjects and his commentary on tours of the bridge by passengers in French and English was very informative and absorbing. As usual, the food in both restaurants on decks 2 & 6 was sublime… too much so, as it’s very easy to overindulge. Thank goodness the gym was operational and, on some days, very busy! But I would have preferred a greater range of cuisines, e.g. why were there very few Asian dishes on offer or some Mexican cooking or some hot spicy choices? We need more variety. On the down side, however, Le Boréal, the oldest of the Ponant fleet, is beginning to show its age; little things didn’t work or were inefficient. For example, the left-hand lift between decks 2 & 6 was out of operation for the entire time we were on board. For the latter half of the cruise there was no access to the television channels in the cabins. And for the last ten days as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean the theatre was completely out of action as it was being renovated. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2018
Hello: We did not like : * The shore embarkation and disembarkation on the Zodiac : "wet shoes" * The primary school- like disciplin : prohibited to walk out of the flaged pathways, swimming prohibited, etc … * The ... Read More
Hello: We did not like : * The shore embarkation and disembarkation on the Zodiac : "wet shoes" * The primary school- like disciplin : prohibited to walk out of the flaged pathways, swimming prohibited, etc … * The disembarkation timing, compulsatory and early in the morning (sometime departure at 6h30), no other possibility of disembarkation if one miss the departure. * The short time spent on shore. The loud announcements at any time, from the cabin speakers. The lack of Holiday spirit ... permanent stress Kind Regards Jean-Claude and Jeanine in french : On n'a pas aimé : Les débarquements/embarquements en Zodiac « pieds mouillés » La discipline de type maitresse d'école : interdiction de sortir des sentiers balisés, interdiction de se baigner, … Les horaires des débarquements imposés très tôt le matin (certain départ à 6h30), sans aucune possibilité de débarquer si on « rate » le départ. La courte durée des escales. Les annonces haut-parleurs dans la cabine à toute heure Le manque d'esprit de vacances , le stress permanent Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
Time and place was suitable. Cruise #1 was very attractive with visit to game reserves. Cruise #2 was not as attractive as we are not great swimmers. one of the few english lecturers was 82 yrs old, he sat during his mumbled talks. ... Read More
Time and place was suitable. Cruise #1 was very attractive with visit to game reserves. Cruise #2 was not as attractive as we are not great swimmers. one of the few english lecturers was 82 yrs old, he sat during his mumbled talks. Only one of the expedition team ( of more than 16) was an englishman so that the number of talks in english was very limited - though the french staff members tried hard. Only 15% of the 200+ passengers were english speaking, we were all felt to feel like second class travellers, not by the ship's staff (who were excellent) but by the expedition members. three couples, independently, said to us they would not sail with ponant again. Quality of the food, again needs mention, it is not up to the standard expected. This was our tenth cruise on ponant and we have ten more booked, so we hope that the company improves it attention to international travellers. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We had been previously on a cruise across this Indonesian region last year that was disappointing with Silversea Expedition. This year Ponant cruise was exceptional, thanks to the outstanding expedition team lead by Mick Fogg and the ... Read More
We had been previously on a cruise across this Indonesian region last year that was disappointing with Silversea Expedition. This year Ponant cruise was exceptional, thanks to the outstanding expedition team lead by Mick Fogg and the captain; they chose superb location for all stops and we had both landing unique experiences visiting remote villages and extremely isolated locations in all islands of Western Papua, Spice Islands and South Philippines. the captain chose 5 unique locations where no ship had ever been before. They also selected almost every day beautiful remote top quality beach and snorkelling experience. Food with a dominant French style was magnificent as well as the European style service, as usual on Ponant ships. We usually prefer the full service downstairs, but there is everyday also the buffet style next to the swimming pool. Entertainment was high quality, in particular with excellent classical music pianist, singers and a team of 4 dancers. Read Less
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