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10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We wanted a small ship, so 240 passengers and 180 crew fitted. This gave an opportunity for a cabin with a personal balcony. Excellent feature. Cabin was well appointed and everything worked. The trip timetable was constructed around us ... Read More
We wanted a small ship, so 240 passengers and 180 crew fitted. This gave an opportunity for a cabin with a personal balcony. Excellent feature. Cabin was well appointed and everything worked. The trip timetable was constructed around us being on deck for every port berthing, great fun to watch and fascinating to see places we have been from the sea port at entry. Shore excursions were numerous, optional and used all available time in port well. Where we wanted to personalise an excursion this was handled well with onshore arrangements made for us Food was good to sometimes excellent. Restaurant choice, casual or formal worked well. Wine also was good to very good.,Outstanding wine was available for an extra charge. A good idea so we were only charged for the premium level we wanted. Ship activities included lectures (excellent speaker) and fun (quiz, etc) Good gym,small but all equipment types there Electric ship motors meant a smooth and quiet trip. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
21 cruises and 19 years after we first set sail on Radisson's "Song of Flower", which soon became Ponant's "Le Diamant", we at last experienced L'Austral and French hospitality. In the meantime we have ... Read More
21 cruises and 19 years after we first set sail on Radisson's "Song of Flower", which soon became Ponant's "Le Diamant", we at last experienced L'Austral and French hospitality. In the meantime we have sailed on many Seabourn cruises, some Radisson/Paul Gauguin, several Silversea, and a memorable trans-Atlantic trip on Cunard's QM2. We should have joined Ponant years earlier. As we made our way south along the coast of Vietnam, eventually to reach Brunei and Kota Kinabalu, we were delighted to find we again were back in the golden days of cruising; before the vessels were overrun with some of the grumpy non-travellers who have written some of these reviews. First, we were at last free of the structured, dress coded, regimented approach of Seabourn and (to a lesser extent) Silversea. From captain to repair mechanic, nothing was a problem. The elegant French ladies of reception, the restaurant maitre d's, the superb guest relations staff - all were faultless. Now its true that, with delightful Gallic insouciance, some who thought themselves important and could only converse in demands were put down in that delightful French way - service slowed down for example. With half our passengers French for a start, such delicate responses did not happen to many! The food was exceptional. The chef had the pride and the courage to simply offer his best- none of the "branded" marketing which has in the past been pushed at us that the menu is by some American chef unknown to us but apparently revered in his country. Ponant does not splash out on vast ranges of menu items, but instead provides what you would get in a family hotel in France. Good food, well cooked and presented. The sous chef who spent his night on the baguettes, brioches, pain du chocolate, and croissants made breakfast a delight. For the first time ever, the coffee was always equal to the best in Italy (or New Zealand). The tours were fascinating and left on time. They were excellent value, taking us to parts of Vietnam we could not have experienced by simply going ashore. Disembarkation was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Don't go on Ponant if you want a casino, trivia quiz sessions, or the intrusion on your holiday of attempts at mass jollity. Don't go if you think your cabin should be the size of an American hotel room and you intend to spend your time inside it. The compact cabin suites are, like many European hotel rooms, practical bases from which to have your holiday outside them not in them. Intelligent engaged older children would learn much - on this cruise there were none of any kind. Do go if you want quality entertainment like a ballet group of five, a classical pianist, and a singing duo of ability. A captain and crew tuned to your needs, an entertainment director who is a true professional, and a vision of cruising which seeks to provide what you want, not impose their ideas on your holiday. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2017
The itinerary was fabulous, with varied and interesting ports of call: Beautiful Stockholm, elegant Helsinki, opulent St Petersburg (3 days), unspoilt Tallin with its exquisite Old Town and lovely local shops, finishing in elegant ... Read More
The itinerary was fabulous, with varied and interesting ports of call: Beautiful Stockholm, elegant Helsinki, opulent St Petersburg (3 days), unspoilt Tallin with its exquisite Old Town and lovely local shops, finishing in elegant Copenhagen. We spent a few days exploring Stockholm prior to departing for the Balic Sea and spent a couple of days in Copenhagen at the end of the cruise. The service was outstanding throughout the entire cruise with smiling helpful staff making you feel very welcome at all times. Much of the crew is from the Philippines with the cruise director and officers mostly being French. Everyone spoke excellent English. Embarkation and disembarkation ran extremely smoothly. The ship's decor is understated and elegant. Its three lounges/theatre allow plenty of room for passengers to relax in common areas and never feel crowded. The more formal restaurant on Deck 2 can seat the entire ship in one sitting. There is no need to book a table and staff will accommodate your wishes to sit alone or with a group. With about half the passengers being French and the other half English, your preferred language and preferred dining companions are taken into consideration when offering you a table for dinner. The more casual buffet and carvery restaurant is on Deck 6 and, despite being more casual, bookings are advised. There is no specific dress code, but smart casual is expected in the dining room. Some passengers choose to dress more formally for the Captain's dinner and most men wear a sports jacket, but many women are in pants. There is certainly no need for formal attire. The food is of excellent quality with a French influence. We loved it. The cabins are located towards the bow of the ship and most common areas towards the stern resulting in no discernible engine noise. Our cabin was well appointed, attractive, very comfortable and spacious, with a king-size bed and excellent storage. A desk, lounge chair and small table were very useful. The floor-ceiling doors leading to the good size balcony were wonderful and you could pull back the drapes and lie in bed and look out at the passing landsccape if you wished. A fabulous lecturer gave extremely informative and entertaining lectures on each port. We didn't pay much attention to the entertainment, choosing instead to chat with fellow passengers in the bar. The spa was wonderful. We would certainly travel with Ponant again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
Tauck Tours uses this ship for the Baltic Tour. I won't write about the "tour" part, but the ship had some good aspects. The staterooms were nice and clean. The bed comfortable. After day two, we spent a lot of time off the ... Read More
Tauck Tours uses this ship for the Baltic Tour. I won't write about the "tour" part, but the ship had some good aspects. The staterooms were nice and clean. The bed comfortable. After day two, we spent a lot of time off the ship. Two points of concern. The first is the food, which effected us three times a day. It's just not good. I can't remember one thing I ate that I liked, though now a memory of some good cheese returns. But that it? Cheese? And the wifi. Really? We were given 1.5 hour vouchers, but the service is so slow, 1.5 hours goes by in a wink. I actually had to work while onboard, and it was really difficult. I know other cruise liners provide better service, and for the prices, I would say they need to work on this. Most everyone was nice, the the people at reception got a little terse, mostly because we were there asking questions and they were under-staffed. This experience has made me think I won't be cruising again soon. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
Our cruise on the Le Lyrial was quite enjoyable with great food and wine. The Asian crew made sure you had everything that you wanted without a fuss to make sure that you enjoyed your time on board. Saying this I have to say that ... Read More
Our cruise on the Le Lyrial was quite enjoyable with great food and wine. The Asian crew made sure you had everything that you wanted without a fuss to make sure that you enjoyed your time on board. Saying this I have to say that the Cruise Director, Guest Relation Manager and Shorex Manager were extremely rude young women who would only speak to you if you were french. One of these women was not going to listen to me until I said (are you gong to listen to my complaint - twice). There was no organisation for tours going ashore and one day the Shorex Manager was yelling at people asking where to go to meet the tour guide. Meals at dinner in the Le Celeste was very rushed. Entre plate taken and one swoop next dish placed in front of you at the same for the next course. Ponant is having four new ships delivered in the next two years and that means more english speaking people therefore Ponant needs to have all French staff except other languages. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2017
Sailed aboard the Lyrical The ship epitomizes its French origins - go for show, worry about substance another time. The boat is modern, sleek, and almost well designed. The cabins are nice. The food itself is mediocre. I have had ... Read More
Sailed aboard the Lyrical The ship epitomizes its French origins - go for show, worry about substance another time. The boat is modern, sleek, and almost well designed. The cabins are nice. The food itself is mediocre. I have had better on other cruise lines. They make a great show of presentation,when serving the food but calling a hot dog a tube steak does not change the fact that it is still a hot dog. The first meal after embarkation was 35 - 45 minutes late. No explanation. A few things which would have improved my experience on board. When they say it is a small ship, they are telling the truth. You get one washroom. That is it. There may be other washroom facilities on board the ship but the only other one I saw, besides the one in my cabin, was kept locked. If you are at one end of the ship and need the washroom, you have to move quickly, and hope your roommate is not using it. The bulk of the serving staff were French, and they let you know it. If you were not French,well they condescended to serve you. You were expected to be impressed, and pay for some of their fantastic wines. Internet charges are reasonable, I think. They started at 30 Euros, and went up from there. I don't know how good the wifi service was on board because I never used it.. Of course when I got off the boat there are lots of places which provided wifi for free. The staff claims to understand English, but only to their advantage. When I put the gratuity for the staff on my credit card at the end of the trip, I expressed the amount in dollars. When I asked for a receipt, the staff member would not give me one, but assured me it was correct. Except it was not. They got the amount right. But they put it through in Euros, not in dollars. Sailing on Le Lyrial was an interesting learning experience for me. I don't think I will sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise as being the most interesting way to manage our return home to Perth, Australia from Fort de France - Martinique. Unknown to us when we booked, the ship was scheduled to visit Bermuda over 2 days, which extended our ... Read More
We chose this cruise as being the most interesting way to manage our return home to Perth, Australia from Fort de France - Martinique. Unknown to us when we booked, the ship was scheduled to visit Bermuda over 2 days, which extended our planned voyage by these 2 days (at no extra cost). The bonus of this leg was being introduced to the Groupama people at a sit-down meal on the arrival evening at Hamilton, and then a tour of the Cup facility after moving to Kings Wharf on the following morning. Then, to top off, 3 Cup boats came out to train, providing "Flybys" of the ship which anchored at the Cup course! We had an option to choose Premium Suite 618 for this passage which we did enjoy greatly. As this was a continuation of our voyage, our cabin move was managed by the ship while we were offered a shore excursion during the day in Fort de France which gave us an opportunity to see the ruins of Saint Pierre and also the Depaz rum distillery. Also visited was the the Sacre Coeur Martinique (Balata Church). Our time on board Le Boreal during this leg of our voyage was very relaxed and enjoyable as the Passage form of this leg was well catered and provided with low key entertainment and activities (which was as advertised). Room servicing on this ship was the best that we have experienced on any voyage so far, and the experience of Ports and Shore Excursions was excellent. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
Chosen for itinerary and was intrigued to try out a small ship. Itineray was great but ship was a disappointment. Suite was nothing more than two standard rooms that adjoined, with the bed taken out of one and a couch and two chairs ... Read More
Chosen for itinerary and was intrigued to try out a small ship. Itineray was great but ship was a disappointment. Suite was nothing more than two standard rooms that adjoined, with the bed taken out of one and a couch and two chairs substituted. That did give us two bathrooms, which was important, since the bathrooms are tiny. the sleeping cabin was small with only about a foot or son between the end of the bed and the dresser. I have had suites on many larger 5 star ships that put this "premiere suite" to shame. The food was also terrible. Buffet breakfast and lunch was basically the same for 8 days. Being a French ship, I expected that at least pasties and deserts would be of high quality but even the croissants were dry, heavy. The best croissants I had on the trip was from a Japanese hotel (Shangri-la)m in Tokyo. Dinners were average at best and poor at worst. Beef steak lacked flavor. Fish was always overcooked and dry. There was no imagination with plating or menu selection. Only 3 entrees offered per night with an option for a steak, hamburger, etc all there time. Worst food we have ever had on a cruise ship. Staff was indifferent at best. Smiles were at the ready but real caring service was lacking. Waiters would walk by at breakfast with a coffee pot and never asked if you wanted more. We always had to flag someone down. Reception desk personnel sometimes acted like you were bothering them if you stopped and asked for something. Admittedly this is a small ship and you should not expect the comforts and activities of larger cruise lines. But the ship never felt comfortable and there are few places to go on board that offer a relaxing atmosphere. We are not mega ship cruisers but are more in the 750-1000 passenger ship category. Our experience on L'Austral convinced us to avoid small ships in the future and particularly Ponant Cruise line, which I feel was a poor representative of the small ship segment of the market. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, ... Read More
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, and felt that we were well-informed on both the pros and the cons for this particular line and ship. I'm going to divide this review into two sections, the first dealing solely with our experiences on L'Austral, and the second touching on aspects that were primarily Tauck-controlled. L'Austral: Embarkation in Osaka was seamless, with our luggage waiting in our cabin. The cabin itself was compact, with space to move around the bed, but not much more. The shower and vanity and separate toilet cubicle were similarly compact, but perfectly adequate. Toiletries were L'Occitane. Beds were comfortable, bedding of good quality but not luxurious. There were several types of bottled water on a tray, and a small refrigerator with an assortment of alcohol and soft drinks. We liked our cabin, were happy that we had the balcony, and thought our room steward was friendly, efficient, and gave great service. There was plenty of room under the beds for our suitcases. For the most part, we used the main dining room. We ate one lunch at the buffet restaurant, but overall preferred coming back to the ship and being served by our (very welcoming)favorite waiters. The dining room decor was quietly elegant, the chairs and banquettes very comfortable, and the noise level low enough that it was easy to converse with your table mates without raising your voice. Breakfast was a combination of buffet and made to order items. The buffet tended to have the same assortment every day, with some variation in the available fresh fruit, and some of the made to order options. The breakfast pastries were very good, and obviously made fresh--we enjoyed those a lot! The lunch and dinner menus had choices for soup, starters, sides and dessert, and for the main course a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian option. The quality of the food ranged from average (some overcooked fish) to very good, with the majority being more towards the "very good" end of the range. However, for people who may have been expecting the variety and selection of some of the larger cruise lines, the food may have been a bit of a disappointment. Having read some of the negative reviews of the food on the Ponant ships, we were frankly surprised and relieved at how good it was. Portion sizes were European rather than American, which also pleased us. We did not go to any of the shows since those started at 9:30, and after a full day of touring, having frequently left the ship by 8:15am, after dinner we usually headed for our cabin to relax and prepare for the next day. We did see the dancers and two of the singers in the lounge during the cocktail hour, and thought that the little mini-shows were entertaining--but not entertaining enough to make us stay up long enough to attend the longer shows! The level of service from the majority of the staff was excellent: the waitstaff and room stewards were warm, friendly, and couldn't do enough for you. As an example, one of the people with whom we usually shared a table had a real weakness for chocolate--I think he had a chocolate dessert for every lunch and dinner--and one evening there was no chocolate dessert on the menu. Without saying a word, our waiter went to the kitchen and came back to the table with a mini-sundae with chocolate ice cream and cookies for our table mate. The women in reception were efficient, but not especially warm or helpful. Their coolness was especially noticeable since everyone else in a customer-facing position was so engaging. L'Austral is a small ship, but the public spaces are very pleasant, especially considering the fact that she is really an expedition ship, not a luxury cruise vessel. We hit some rough weather on our first night at sea, and while there was certainly quite a bit of motion that night, aside from that she was very comfortable, and didn't seem to be doing too much bobbing around. Tauck: For this particular cruise the Tauck passengers were divided into 4 groups of approximately 30-35, for a total of 120-140 total. This meant that the Tauck-ies constituted a majority of the passengers. I did wonder how this impacted the cuising experience of the other passengers, which, as nearly as I can remember, were a mixture of American, Australian, New Zealanders and about 20+/- French. My understanding is that next year Tauck will have 6 groups, which will effectively be the entire ship. There will also be some other changes in the tour, which this year began with 3 days in Kyoto, and next year will be based out of Osaka, with only a single day trip to Kyoto. We were happy that we were able to go this year, since we loved our time in Kyoto, and would hate to have missed it. As always, the Tauck tour director for our group of 30+ was wonderful, and kept us moving while still allowing for individual exploration and experiences. Our local guides were mostly excellent, and provided context and some nice extras, such as teaching us songs, playing counting games using Japanese numbers, and origami. Our hotel in Kyoto was the Granvia, situated on top of Kyoto Station. Two of the tour groups were based here, and the other two were at the Westin, and we had very little contact with them. The Granvia was a wonderful location, with underground shopping and restaurants, a department store, and easy access to both buses and subways which could take you to any part of the city. Kyoto site seeing: Kinkakuji(covered in gold leaf), the Pure Water Temple, Gion, a taiko performance, a calligraphy lesson, and a tea ceremony, Nijo-jo (where we heard the famous "nightingale floors"), a Heian shrine, and a welcome dinner which included a Geisha performance. I'm not sure how much of this will be included next year, but I would have hated to miss any of it. The first port after Osaka/Kobe was Tamano. Our group caught a ferry to Naoshima Island where famous architect Tadao Ando designed Benesse House and where other houses in the village have been incorporated into a living art project. In the afternoon we visited Kurashiki which has many 17th century warehouses built along canals, and the Ohara Museum of Art. The next port was Hiroshima, where we visited the Peace Park Memorial and museum, as well as the iconic A-Bomb Dome. This was a pretty intense and emotional morning, so as a way of shifting gears, we were taken for lunch to an okonomiyake restaurant, which was truly delicious. In the afternoon we visited Miyashima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine with its beautiful red gate surrounded by the ocean, and where the deer are protected and will eat the paper right out of your pockets. Uwajima was next, where we visited a pearl farm, saw a farm where bulls are raised for fighting, and visited the Flying Squirrel Temple. Kagoshima--We visited the base of Sakurajima, an active volcano, and the Chiran Kamikaze Museum, where we saw the bunkers that the suicide pilots spent their last night and read their last letters home. We also visited Chiran Samurai village, where there are houses that date back over 250 years, and in some cases still have the original families living in those houses. Nagasaki--In the morning we visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. The museum was very well done, and we actually preferred it to the Hiroshima Museum. In the afternoon we visited Dejima, which was the enclosed enclave that was the only place Dutch traders were allowed to live during much of the Edo period. We also visited Glover Garden, built in the mid-1800's for a Scottish physician, and containing the oldest Western style house in Japan. The next day took us to Pusan in South Korea where we visited the United Nations cemetery and memorial to the UN troops who died in the Korean War. We also took a trip to the Jagalchi fish market, where we saw fish that looked like something out of an Alien movie. Sakaiminato--In the morning we travelled to the Adachi Museum of Art, which has a wonderful collection of modern art, but where the real attraction are the incredible gardens around the museum. Every window in the museum frames another gorgeous view and viewpoint. In the afternoon we visited the Matsue black castle which is one of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan. Most of us climbed the 8 stories after having our photos taken with a samurai posing front of the castle. The next day we disembarked, which was a very smooth process, and were bused to Kyoto where we had lunch in a restaurant in the Gion district before we were taken to Kyoto Station to catch the bullet train to Tokyo. The bullet train was a great experience, and as a bonus, we got a superb view of Fujiyama on the way. Our Tokyo hotel was the Shangri-La, which was everything luxury hotel should be. We were taken on a brief orientation tour of Ginza, and then set loose to enjoy dinner on our own. Our last day of the tour began with a trip to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum (which really needed an entire day to itself to do it justice)and was followed by a "salaryman's lunch" at a wonderful restaurant. In the afternoon about half of the group, including my husband and myself, opted out of visiting the scheduled Meiji Shrine and chose to sightsee or shop on our own. That evening was the closing dinner at Happo-en which featured a demonstration by sumo wrestlers. As long as this review is, in terms of the Tauck portion of the cruise, I've really only given the barest outlines of what we did and experienced. Although there was some free time scheduled, for the most part we were kept moving. There seemed to be a larger than usual percentage of people in their mid-70's to mid-80's, and I believe that some of the people on the tour found the pace a bit taxing. My DH and I are in our early 60's and found the pace and activity level to be pretty much what we enjoy. How this compared to what the non-Tauck L'Austral cruisers experienced on their excursions, I have no idea, and I'm afraid I have no information on the quality of the excursions offered by L'Austral. Overall it was an excellent trip. We loved Japan, found the Japanese people to be warm, friendly and very helpful, and wouldn't hesitate to go back. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because of Ports of Call and time of year, and the smaller type of vessel. We were pleased with the choice of the Ports of Call but overall were disappointed in the Quality of the Cruise in a few facets. This is an ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of Ports of Call and time of year, and the smaller type of vessel. We were pleased with the choice of the Ports of Call but overall were disappointed in the Quality of the Cruise in a few facets. This is an expensive ship and we did not fell we received adequate value for the money spent The front desk staff were rude if not nasty, and very officious. The dining was good for Breakfast and Lunch but relatively poor for the evening The seating areas for both were less than comfortable and there were only 2 options for dining. The lack of any Japanese food on board and little attempt to make gala evenings feel gala. The local guides in japan were well meaning but generally incompetent in English and had very little of interest to report. The guide in Bosan was very good however. The tour locations were interesting however. This ship's bookings were dominated by Tauck and as a result we were isolated as a small group of English speakers who were not part of Tauck. Since we had a suite, we would expect a little attention and maybe a perq or two. There were none in evidence.. I think Ponant has a poor sense of customer expectations and I would rate it as much poorer than either AMA Waterways or Viking as well large cruise ships such as NCL. Having made these negative observations, I do want to compliment the service staff including waiters, butlers, and housekeeping. They were always friendly and very responisve Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
We recently completed our 3rd & 4th cruise with Ponant. Our prior experience was 5 years ago and it was excellent. Again, the service and friendliness of the general staff (servers, bartenders, cabin stewards, cooks, entertainers, ... Read More
We recently completed our 3rd & 4th cruise with Ponant. Our prior experience was 5 years ago and it was excellent. Again, the service and friendliness of the general staff (servers, bartenders, cabin stewards, cooks, entertainers, excursion helpers, etc.) were excellent! Open bar was a nice touch. The Le Boreal is very nice, but has some limitations for a "luxury" ship. .The rooms are nice, but only 1 chair (2nd person had to sit on bed), very small table, and a very small bathroom. The TV seldom worked and the Internet was slow and often not available. The “included” red wine, white wine & champagne were terrible; the premium wines were over priced. No decent, reasonably priced wines were available. Meals/food were “just OK”; not excellent. Same things daily, over-cooked, not fresh tasting. The bread & cheeses were excellent. Breakfast (eggs) was the probably the best meal of the day .With the exception of 1 excellent lecturer, there were very few lectures and most were poor. Also, there was a Zodiac accident nearly 2 months ago where people could have died and the passengers lost many valuables; there has been no response from Ponant yet. Ponant has changed hands twice since we first cruised with them and has gone down hill. It had been 4 to 5 stars, now it is 3 stars. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2017
Our reason for choosing this cruise was 2 part. Small Ship & New Horizons. This leg involved joining the ship at Valparaiso, Chile continuing to Guayaquil, Ecuador. French food was an added attraction. As 2 people in our 70's we ... Read More
Our reason for choosing this cruise was 2 part. Small Ship & New Horizons. This leg involved joining the ship at Valparaiso, Chile continuing to Guayaquil, Ecuador. French food was an added attraction. As 2 people in our 70's we do not try to do the impossible, and the excursion choices allowed us to stay within our limits without difficulty. For example, on this leg we chose the Flight over the Nasca Lines excursion, but passed on the Macchu Picchu excursion because of the altitude. The on ship lectures were generally good, as they varied between being delivered in French and English languages, but the slides etc had subtitles, so worked well. Ports and Shore excursions were well organised, and a ship representative travelled on the excursions at all times to smooth the way. Worked well. The small ship also has a benefit at many locations as it berthed at really convenient locations compared to larger ships which we observed along the way. Crew interaction with PAX a all times was really good. For example we had casual coffee with all deck officers at various times. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2017
Itinerary was good, ship nice and modern, very quiet engines. But the captain, hotel manager and reception are very arrogant ,and not very skilled in handling guests. After a horrible arriving on 5.30am,after waiting 4 hours on ... Read More
Itinerary was good, ship nice and modern, very quiet engines. But the captain, hotel manager and reception are very arrogant ,and not very skilled in handling guests. After a horrible arriving on 5.30am,after waiting 4 hours on gasstation in nowmans land of Batangas, the ship was still in dry dock and no-one was talking to us. We had drill on 11am, despite of having a seaday. . Food was poor for a french ship. fish overcooked, everyday the same salad ,fruits, only 4 kind of cheese the whole 18 days. Only one white wine, one red und sometimes a rose wine, always the same kind and winery never changing. English speaking guests are second class, or third class, if there is a huge Tauck group overcrowding the ship. After 30 cruises with the best ships of the other five star companies,this was a great disappointment. the excursions were average and a lot could have don by yourselves . Seldom we had a shuttles to the town, which sometimes was dangerous running between containers through the harbour to find an exit. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2017
I had never been to Uruguay. This cruise connected with the Amazon cruise which we very much wanted to go on. I enjoyed Montevideo, but would have liked more time to explore. Very rough weather with very few ports. We were supposed to ... Read More
I had never been to Uruguay. This cruise connected with the Amazon cruise which we very much wanted to go on. I enjoyed Montevideo, but would have liked more time to explore. Very rough weather with very few ports. We were supposed to have 2 full days in Rio, but were very late getting in. We had to really cram in the 2 tours and sightseeing. Very disappointing with very little communication from the crew. Late Embarking and late most of the cruise. Balance of non-French speaking passengers was very low. No effort made to get us together. One couple ate with a table of people who spoke no English. They were very uncomfortable until they connected with other passengers. I have sailed with Ponant before and enjoyed the interaction with all passengers, but this cruise was very different. The passengers were NOT very friendly. 1 from UK, 3 from USA, 2 from Canada, 2 from Hong Kong. The rest were French. We were lucky to meet the English lady at the airport, who was traveling by herself. I would suggest a first night mixer for passengers with languages, other than French. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
My wife and I chose this cruise because of the small number of passengers, French cuisine, wines and other drinks included, good comments from friends who have sailed on Ponant. Our expectations were met. Also liked the access to the ... Read More
My wife and I chose this cruise because of the small number of passengers, French cuisine, wines and other drinks included, good comments from friends who have sailed on Ponant. Our expectations were met. Also liked the access to the bridge and information provided on the navigation from the officers. The professionalism of the crews of the Zodiacs was noted and welcomed. The ability to book a table in the Deck 2 restaurant meant that our group could have pre-dinner drinks and not rush to be at a table; very civilised. The entertainment from the dancers was very professional, the quizes were entertaining and were suitable for an audience from mixed counties, including French (mainly), Australian, US and others. Announcements in English, in addition to those in French, were welcome and should be a priority. A highlight of our cruise was the captain's decision to berth into the ice shelf and provide champaigne and a group photograph. We will be booking further cruises on Ponant. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
It's not until you stand in front of a elephant seal or surrounded by penguins that you realise how extraordinary is the experience on this ship. Then you return to the ship to superb luxury, warmth and friendly service. The ... Read More
It's not until you stand in front of a elephant seal or surrounded by penguins that you realise how extraordinary is the experience on this ship. Then you return to the ship to superb luxury, warmth and friendly service. The captain literally took the ship to places where no Ponant ship had been before. We stood on an iceflow and drank champagne with the ship's bow above us. We navigated through icebergs and ice flows at night and we steamed past Cape Horn itself. Simply a beautiful ship, superbly run and a real expedition. The theme of the cruise was Antarctic and expedition and we did both. I wonder if the floor show was needed (although they were very good) and if more lectures could be given on the area itself. Onboard activities were well run. The whisky tasting was a hit (well with me anyway). The cuisine was amazing and the portion sizes just right. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore ... Read More
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore excursions were excellent, especially the ports in Vanuatu. Being exposed to different cultures is important to me and the islands seemed very authentic and much more exotic than I expected. My only criticism was the use of the naturalists. On other cruises we have always enjoyed lectures by professors and experts on the area, that included historians as well as naturalists. Some of the lectures were quite good, others were almost insultingly basic. And there was almost no information given about the history of the islands and their place in the world today. I also would have appreciated more information on the people of the islands from an anthropologic viewpoint. With a couple of exception, the naturalists were not very visible on the excursions, it would have been good to have more direct contact with them. One of the things I appreciated most was the organization on board, you did an excellent job at that, from the lifeboat drills on. The food was quite good in the second floor restaurant, not so much on the 6th floor. But the wait staff was terrific. We also had contact with the medical staff, sadly, but they were very responsive and helpful Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2017
It was going to places we had never been before and we had never done expeditions before.i It met all our expectations.it was unfortunate that we missed Sandakan and spend so long at sea.likewise the last day in Manila to catch up with ... Read More
It was going to places we had never been before and we had never done expeditions before.i It met all our expectations.it was unfortunate that we missed Sandakan and spend so long at sea.likewise the last day in Manila to catch up with the ship was as you know terrible.Aside from this the meals onboard the service onboard were great.The cabin was very good and the daily cabin person was very helpful.The shore excursions were enjoyable.Those that involved walking for distances in forest terrain should have warned us how undulating it accurately was!! The entertainment by the locals was excellent both on land and on the wharves.Maybe for those of us who not into snorkling more could be done to find better areas for safe swimming.this was our first time with Ponant and it has made us aware of what you have to offer and we will return Not known in NZ Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
This was a College Charter run by Gohagen & Co. booked through UCLA Alumni. Our ratings: UCLA Alumni Travel: 5/5 Gohagen & Co.: 5/5 Ponant: 5/5 Le Soleal: 5/5 Antarctica: 10/5 The booking process went very ... Read More
This was a College Charter run by Gohagen & Co. booked through UCLA Alumni. Our ratings: UCLA Alumni Travel: 5/5 Gohagen & Co.: 5/5 Ponant: 5/5 Le Soleal: 5/5 Antarctica: 10/5 The booking process went very smoothly as was the follow-up to the numerous questions we had prior to the trip. Documentation was equally easy. We left from Houston IAH where we met the Gohagen staff who escorted us to Buenos Aires for two nights. We then flew to Ushuaia to board Le Soleal. We had read several poor reviews of this ship on CC so we were quite surprised when the Captain himself greeted us by name (without a prompt) as we boarded. We had never experienced anything like this on our previous 40 cruises on various lines. Most of the staff knew ours and everyone else's name by the third day. With very few exceptions, each crew member was gracious, informative and helpful. The ship was comfortable (having a suite is a big plus) and it met most of our needs. Food was good, service superb and selection was fine. The visit to Antarctica was unbelieveable. The on-board naturalists and scientists were very informative, interesting and well trained. Getting on and off the ship via Zodiacs was a challenge for us older folks, but the crew made it work well. When you tour the Polar areas everything depends on the local weather so you don't know from hour to hour what stops you will be making. The Captain did a great job of finding great stops and keeping us informed. You will not believe what you see ashore. It reminded me of my visit to the Grand Canyon: You can't really describe it with words nor can you really photograph it. In summary: A life altering experience. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We were participants in a university alum travel group. It was appealing to explore Cuba while having a floating hotel. We love cruising and this was our first time on Le Ponant. The staff was outstanding - each was friendly and knew ... Read More
We were participants in a university alum travel group. It was appealing to explore Cuba while having a floating hotel. We love cruising and this was our first time on Le Ponant. The staff was outstanding - each was friendly and knew our names in no time. We were disappointed in the food and with the bed in the cabin. The snack food during happy hour was the best food on the trip. Since this is a French ship, we expected wonderful food - that was not the case. It was as if they were trying too hard to do something complicated and missed the mark time after time. The focus was on seafood with few other options. Even the seafood was mediocre. Additionally, dinner was served late and took forever to complete. This was a group who had a full itinerary every day with early starts and an earlier dinner with a faster pace would have been appreciated. The bed was miserable - it was hard as a rock. I was in pain all night and as I arose. I had them add extra padding on top but it did nothing to change the level of comfort. The room itself was fine although small, the bathroom fine. There were 2 channels on the TV (CNN and sports) as well as movie selections. The shore excursions were through the university travel group. The ship had no responsibility for those. This was true of the enrichment lectures as well. All in all, we are glad to have made the trip to explore Cuba. We would not travel on Le Ponant again. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of ... Read More
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of time. I was looking for a cruise that sailed around New Zealand but I did not want a cruise that crossed the Tasman Sea from Australia. Ponant was the only luxury cruise line that had such an itinerary. The cruise started in Auckland and ended in Milford Sound (and then to Queenstown). Prior to booking this cruise I had never heard of Ponant and the reviews on various sites were not great. Here is my attempt to give more information. Pre and post cruise hotels – We did not buy the Pre or Post cruise hotel options from Ponant. However, we stayed in the same hotels as these packages and arranged our own transportation to/from the ship, at a fraction of the cost. We stayed pre-cruise at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. This Sofitel is a very nice hotel located right near the harbor area. We were able to take walking tours of the city, the wharf and the museums. Our cab ride to the ship took about 5 minutes. Embarkation – Once we arrived at the ship, within the check-in window of 4 to 5 pm, we were escorted directly to the gangway. We had our photo taken at the entrance to the ship and were handed our cabin card. They did not even ask for a credit card imprint. We were escorted directly to our cabin and our bags arrived almost immediately. This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. Ship – The L’Austral can hold as many as 250 passengers. On this trip there were approximately 200 passengers and 140 crewmembers. The ship is small but seemed to have very good stabilizers, when we hit rough waters. The ship had a small pool with padded lounge chairs, a fitness center with very nice views, and several viewing decks. In addition, the Captain maintained an “open bridge” policy. If the sign was green on the door to the bridge, you were welcome to come in and watch. The ship is French. The Captain and his direct reports were almost all from France. When the ship would make announcements, the first announcement was in French and the second was in English. About ½ of the passengers were Americans. About ¼ were French. The remaining crewmembers were from all over the world, consistent with every other cruise line. Internet is available throughout the ship at a price per minute. The internet service was very slow and did not work very well, if at all. You would be better off going to cafes on shore and get free internet. Activities and children’s club – The ship had a small library and card room plus a couple of bars fore and aft. We spent most of our daylight hours on shore so we did not participate in any of the activities. The ship had a small children’s area. On our cruise there were zero children on board. Service – Our cabin steward was excellent. Our cabin was very clean and he was very timely. We never came back from a meal or excursion and found him working on the room. Our servers in the dining room were also excellent. They were very friendly and would know us by name. Dining – The ship has two dining areas. The main dining room is on deck #2 and can accommodate all passengers. The dining room on deck #6 always had a buffet set-up for the meals. This dining room could not hold all the passengers so reservations were required. We ate 100% of our dinners in the main dining room. In the main dining room, it was “open” seating. You could sit anywhere you liked. Sometimes we ate with others and sometimes just the 2 of us. Dinner service started at 7:00 each night but often we wouldn’t arrive until 7:30 or 8:00. Not a problem. Breakfast was served buffet-style in both dining rooms although you could also order eggs and omelets, as preferred. The dinners were French cuisine. At each meal you had a choice of 3-4 entrees. You could also order a generic steak, chicken or fish dish also. The only time selection was limited to one entrée was on the Captain Welcome dinner and the Captain’s Gala dinner. For these two dinners, they suggested coats and ties. The entrée was lamb one night and beef filet the 2nd night. There was always a vegetarian option. If you like French food and cuisine, this ship will thrill you. My wife loved the food. Personally, I would have preferred simple meat, potatoes and vegetables. The chocolate desserts were wonderful. Each night 8 lucky guests were able to eat at the Captain’s table. We assumed these “lucky” guests were the high-rollers in the Owners Suites. Much to our surprise, on the 6th night of the cruise, we returned to our 4th level cabin and were invited to eat at the Captain’s Table – What a wonderful man and a very special evening. Cabin – Most of the cabins are balcony cabins. The majority of the cabins are approximately 200 sq. ft., not including the small balcony. As others have mentioned, the toilet is in a small room, by itself. In the next small room is the shower and sink. In the main part of the cabin is the bed and a chair. The balcony has 2 small chairs and a small table. On most ships, we try to book cabins approx. 300 sq. ft. On this ship, that was not an option. You went from the 200’ cabin to the large suites. The cost of the cabins increases slightly as you go higher on the ship but the cabins are the same size whether on 4, 5 or 6. Try to get a cabin in the middle or towards the front for the best ride. On this itinerary, we traveled in a clock-wise direction so you really needed an “odd #” cabin (starboard side). Get “even” (port side) if taking in reverse. Entertainment – I never book a cruise for the entertainment value. This ship had 4 dancers and 2-3 singers. We did not go to any of the main evening performances. The theatre is small but could accommodate all passengers. Ports and excursions – We had $500 of shipboard credit and we used our credit on 2 shore excursions. The cruise line offered 2-3 excursions per port. The excursions were well selected but very pricey. If we did not have the shipboard credit, we probably would have arranged all of our tours ourselves. I have reviewed the ports in more detail in the Port Review section. Here are the highlights: Tauranga – Took a tour to Rotorua arranged via Zealander. We ended-up as the only guests so we got a very personal tour. Saw geysers, Rotorua Lake area, Redwoods, waterfalls, Kiwi farm and Maori show. Napier – Took a Whirlwind Tour arranged with Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours. Once again, we were the only guests so our tour was private. We saw all the sites of Napier and had a wine tasting at Mission winery. Wellington – We rode the Red Cable Car and then did our own walking tour of the city. Picton – This was the first shore excursion booked from the ship. Their vendor was Cougar Tours. We had a boat ride across the harbor and were dropped-off for a guide-led hike along a portion of the Queen Charlotte track. Very nice! Akaroa – We booked the “Swim with Dolphins” from Black Cats. The bay has Hector dolphins. We did see the dolphins but the water was too rough to swim with them. They refunded a portion of our cost. Dunedin – This was the 2nd excursion arranged from the ship. The tour took us, by bus, to the Ortago Peninsula. On this peninsula, we saw nesting Albatrosses, nesting penguins and many very young, baby seals. A great wildlife area! Disembarkation and Queenstown – The cruise ended at Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a beautiful area in the fiords of the South Island. We met the bus at 7:30 which was earlier than we expected from the printed material (which said 9:00). Disembarkation was no problem. The cruise fare included bus service to Queenstown. In Queenstown, we stayed at the St. Moritz hotel. This boutique hotel is located within walking distance to the CBD. Queenstown is a very vibrant area with many adventurous activities. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and hiked some trails at the top. Summary ---- Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much. The itinerary was great and I would cruise with Ponant again. In particular, we enjoyed the small size of the ship. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Above all DON'T DRINK the WINE! On day one I tried the ship's wine, it was awful (to be kind.) On the second day I ordered a bottle of French Bordeaux Margaux for 125 Euros thinking I've never had a bad Margaux. I was ... Read More
Above all DON'T DRINK the WINE! On day one I tried the ship's wine, it was awful (to be kind.) On the second day I ordered a bottle of French Bordeaux Margaux for 125 Euros thinking I've never had a bad Margaux. I was wrong this was as bad as the ship's selection. For a French line this is a sin. There were higher priced wines available but based on this experience I abstained for the rest of the voyage. This cruise was part of a Tauck tour through Australia and NZ. What I was told of Tauck being a luxury tour group was wrong. It was average in reality but priced like a luxury tour. The food in the 2nd floor dining room was generally poor with limited menu items. The buffet on the 5th deck was a little better because you could pick and choose you poison. Overall for a ship "hand picked" by Tauck for luxury this was a mistake. Like others on this trip I paid dearly for this tour and I do not believe that I got what I paid for. As this was a smaller ship I did not expect many choices with entertainment and activities. This was as expected. The ship's staff were accommodating and friendly especially the ship's Master and Doctor. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2017
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in ... Read More
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in landing from Zodiacs and a slight mishap with an uncharted rock that necessitated a visit to Bluff for repairs. Yet throughout we saw interesting sights and were given expert briefings and debriefings by experts that complemented the care and attention of the Captain and crew who ensured our safety and kept us informed on weather and other factors that affected the program. (It can't have been fun standing in icy water for hours to ensure we landed and re-embarked safely!). The bird life and wildlife seen were highlights as promised in the advertisement that informed us of this rare cruise (only about 400 people a year visit these islands - far fewer than visit Antarctica). As on a previous cruise, the food and catering was excellent and cabins comfortable, if a little cramped. Hospitality staff were unfailingly cheerful and helpful. This was achieved despite dealing with a polyglot clientele of French, Anglo and Oriental passengers. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We were based on the boat with three university alum travel groups visiting Cuba. It was a great advantage to return to one location after visiting 4 of the oldest cities on the island. We were always greeted warmly by the French crew ... Read More
We were based on the boat with three university alum travel groups visiting Cuba. It was a great advantage to return to one location after visiting 4 of the oldest cities on the island. We were always greeted warmly by the French crew and it was good to have a respite from rundown Cuba. We enjoyed the special food and buffet service on the outside deck for breakfast and lunch and dinner in the dining room by outstanding crew who knew our names after the first day. We also appreciated the boat crew who helped us get on and off the boat. There was even a doctor from the boat who accompanied the tours-nice because the steps and walkways were so uneven. We had one night being tossed around at sea between Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. The boat rocks side to side with swells. That gets me to what is totally unacceptable on this boat-THE BEDS! They are rock hard mattresses which no first class ship should ever use. My husband had a back ache every morning. When I told the hotel director I had read a cruise critic reviewer had the same complaint, he said that was the best they could do. I wonder how they ever get a return customer to sleep on that bed! Read Less
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