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9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
My husband and I normally like to spend our holidays in a warm climate so this choice of Alaska was a huge gamble - we loved the whole experience! We were met at Vancouver Airport and transported by light aircraft to Nome, way up in the ... Read More
My husband and I normally like to spend our holidays in a warm climate so this choice of Alaska was a huge gamble - we loved the whole experience! We were met at Vancouver Airport and transported by light aircraft to Nome, way up in the north of Alaska. Before being taken to the ship by school bus, we were treated to a marvellous dog sled demonstration and some gold fossicking. Our cabin on deck 6 was luxurious and we relaxed immediately, unpacked and prepared ourselves for a big adventure. Life on board was fun, lots of activities, entertainment each night, two dining rooms - buffet or a la carte, dance lessons and a great salon for being pampered.The service was faultless. As the passengers were mainly from France, I was able to practise my schoolgirl French which was amusing! We stopped at fascinating islands and met the local Inuit Indians, who entertained us. Everywhere we stopped, we were taken by zodiac to see sights of interest: colonies of seals, grizzly bears, lots of whales and a ghost town on Unga Island.We also went kayaking at Sitka, which was a highlight for me. A thoroughly enjoyable expedition cruise that I can recommend to anyone who is fit and up for a lot of adventure. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
We joined this cruise very much under protest as we had been due to sail with Un=Cruise on one of their "tiny" ships (36 passengers) but it had engine trouble and so we were offered the alternative (cost met by Un-Cruise) of 5 ... Read More
We joined this cruise very much under protest as we had been due to sail with Un=Cruise on one of their "tiny" ships (36 passengers) but it had engine trouble and so we were offered the alternative (cost met by Un-Cruise) of 5 nights aboard L'Austral. None of us wanted a large cruise ship -anything above 500 passengers is not our scene and even the 250 passenger L'Austral seemed huge in comparison to what we had planned. However we were made very welcome on board and quickly settled into a life of luxury. Obviously with only 250 passengers the choice of activity and food is more limited than on a larger ship but we had absolutely no reason to complain. The crew were all attentive and friendly form the tender boat crew right up to the Captain and the officers were very much in evidence at all meals. The cabin so far as we were concerned was very suitable and indeed we praised its design with separate WC room and showeroom with washhand basin. Yes these 2 rooms were small but how long do you intend to spend in them! The kingsize bed was extremely comfortable, The range of shore trips was excellent in our opinion. Some had to be pre-booked days before embarkation but as the ship was not full we were able to get on all the trips we wanted to do and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The highlight of these for us was a zodiac trip close up to the Dawes glacier which calved off a huge chunk of ice just as we were about 300 metres from it with a resultant large wave. My only adverse comment would be that the swimming pool seemed quite small but frankly in Alaskan waters there was little call for it though is was exceptionally warm weather when we were there - hence the salmon run had not started and we saw no bears. However one night just as we sat down to dinner the Captain announced that we were in the the middle of a large pod of Humpback whales. He stopped the ship for about 45 minutes whilst most passengers deserted the restaurant for what was a great opportunity to view a pod of whales bubble feeding. This disruption of dinner did not faze the restaurant staff who took it in their stride. Perhaps one advantage of having only one sitting. The food and wine was fabulous as perhaps one would expect on a French ship. The restaurant was fine dining waiter service but there was a buffet facility on an upper deck which we tended to use for breakfast and lunch. No complaints there either. We were not allocated any specific table or dining companions which I find preferable. I would recommend the L'Austral to anyone who enjoys small ship cruising. The stage entertainment was perhaps a little lacking but the standard of the musicians on board and who played mostly in the bar but also on occasion in the theatre could not be faulted. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
This is an amazing ship with a wonderfully helpful staff. On this particularl itinerary, there was 0% single supplement, which made sailing alone possible. Overall a wonderful trip. Dining: Food in the main dining room is over the ... Read More
This is an amazing ship with a wonderfully helpful staff. On this particularl itinerary, there was 0% single supplement, which made sailing alone possible. Overall a wonderful trip. Dining: Food in the main dining room is over the top spectacular and, as others have noted, the pastries are unbelievable. I was very happy with the included wines and spirits, but I am not knowledgeable about wine, so take that with a grain of salt. The buffet food, on the other hand, was just OK. The salads were diverse and interesting and the desserts wonderful, but, 'main courses,' were surprisingly bad -- dried out and tasteless. I ate dinner there once and never again. For breakfast, it was OK, but for lunch, much better downstairs where the salads and desserts are buffet, but the main course is off a limited, but terrific menu. Itinerary: This was a pretty typical Alaska cruise itinerary, but incredibly enhanced by the small size of the ship and the passengers first attitude of the captain. At one point, the pilot spotted a pod of humpback whales, so the captain changed course and we had half an hour or more to observe them up close -- amazing experience. On another occasion, though this was not an expedition cruise, the Zodiacs were launched for us to explore the Terror Fjord, again, up close. Such fun. We stopped at Petersburg, a small fishing village with a Norwegian history. It looks to be too small for the big ships and was nice to visit. I have cruised Alaska once before on Princess, and this l Austral experience was incomparably superior. Staff: Contrary to what some reviewers have described, I found every crew member to be helpful, responsive and not in the least, 'anglophobic,' if that's a word. It's a French ship and French is the primary language, but most all staff spoke English, some better than others and all announcements were stated in both French and English. The passengers were maybe 50/50 or 60/40 favoring English speakers, but it was not an issue at all in my experience. Excursion groups were somewhat segregated by language to facilitate the guiding process, but people always made accommodations if there happened to be an English speaker in a French speaking group, or vice versa -- happened to me once and the guide was more than helpful. The officers were very open and friendly, the captain shaking your hand as you left the ship for the final time -- a very nice touch, I thought. Excursions: I did three of the offered excursions and was very happy with all of them. In Haines, the canoe trip to the Davidson Glacier was fantastic and we were very lucky to encounter a pod of Orcas on the way there. The guides were incredible. Likewise, in Skagway, really enjoyed the two mile hike and float on the river -- beautiful sights and interesting guide. All in all, the excursions were well organized and, given the small ship, hassle free -- no long waiting in line to get off the ship and no huge buses holding 40 people to load and unload again and again. Entertainment: I thought it was OK, given the limitations of a small ship and I don't care much about production numbers anyway. There was a classical pianist who was terrific and offered a lovely concert in the theater one evening, before heading up to the bar to play popular stuff. The night before, a classical piano recital was attempted in the bar space and was frankly a disaster as there was typical bar noise and talking going on, even including a couple crew members, while others were expecting a recital atmosphere, i.e., listen and don't talk, and were very, very unhappy. Could be that the concert the next night was in response to complaints as there were many made, I'm sure. Embarkation/Disembarkation: The on boarding process was a little chaotic, seemed to me, but once on board, it was very nicely done, with a steward showing every party to it's cabin, where the luggage was waiting. Getting off the ship was a breeze, with, as mentioned, a very nice send off by the captain. In summary, I am totally sold on Ponant and would happily sail again almost anywhere one of their ships is going, so long at the 0% single supplement is available. A couple for Melbourne said that at a presentation they had attended, a Ponant representative had said that there would never be a single supplement charged -- I hope, but doubt, that's true, but if it is, sign me up. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2015
My husband and I hadn't done a cruise before and were intimidated by the larger, floating shoe box style ships with an RSL style feel. We wanted to have an intimate cruise experience that was elegant and allowed us to experience ... Read More
My husband and I hadn't done a cruise before and were intimidated by the larger, floating shoe box style ships with an RSL style feel. We wanted to have an intimate cruise experience that was elegant and allowed us to experience destinations that the bigger ships couldn't provide. We can't speak more highly of our holiday. When the 3 horns sounded as we left Darwin, I felt we were transported back to a time of the 'romantic cruise liner' days. We met other Australian's who shared our same interests which made it easy to have engaging conversations - it was great to learn from other people and hear what they had achieved in their life. The interpretation between French and English was very exciting. We knew we were travelling with a French cruise line and had read the reviews about translation, but couldn't agree once we experienced it ourselves. It was just another feeling of being on a romantic cruise line voyage. Their service was impeccable. I loved the recognition after just a short time and the effort that was made to remember how we liked our breakfast, what wine for lunch and dinner, even cocktails at five-zizzies! The light afternoon gatherings and activities were always great fun. It was a non-pressured way to get to meet some of the other guests. Again, the other passengers were very interesting and we made some great connections with people from around the world. Our stateroom was absolutely beautiful - lazy afternoons sitting on our balcony, looking out to the passing islands, sunsets and sharing a glass of champagne with my husband. The design of our room was very stylish and tasteful with enough space to feel comfortable to stay in or spend the day out. One of the highlights was when we stopped at a sandy island and in the distance we could see a strange looking cloud, and then realised it was an active volcano way off in the distance - doubt we would have seen that on a bigger ship! Overall, we realised that starting our first cruise experience on a luxury cruise ship like PONANT would make it hard to try a different one... but we don't mind at all! We are going again this year to the Med and can't wait! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and ... Read More
Traveled with excellent Tauck group from Buenos Aires on charter flight to Ushuaia. Boarded Le Soleal in the afternoon. Welcomed by captain and officers. Immediately impressed by cleanliness, subtle design and classiness of this new and beautiful small ship. Enjoyed smooth Drake passage and great Antarctica weather. 12 zodiac landings led by outstanding team of naturalists. Impressed by safety and care taken by crew and naturalists. Cabin housekeeping excellent. Superb cruise director. Officers friendly and evident. Open bridge policy meant you can observe the ship being maneuvered, navigated and operated. Food good with choice of buffet on level 6 or dining room on level 2. Don't miss the superb steak tartare served at one lunch buffet. Pastry, desserts and baking fabulous. Crew smiling and helpful. Truly a fine voyage on a well run friendly ship. Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this ... Read More
I cruised on Le Boreal as part of a chartered Abercrombie and Kent expedition including The Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic peninsula in Dec 14/Jan 15. There are many reasons to select Le Boreal/A&K for this adventure: * Itinerary: every other expedition in this category and with these stops is 20+ days. This was 17, and was certainly not too short. It hit all the highlights you want to see, and there were plenty of expeditions at each stop. * Expedition staff: A&K gathered an impressive team led by Dr. Marco Favero, and cruise director Jannie Cloete. There were several PhDs, and many other skilled naturalists, photographers and historians. From my research, only Lindblad/Nat Geo can compare with this level of experienced staff. * Ship: Le Boreal is new, clean, and incredibly stylish. The cabins are streamlined but comfortable, and the public spaces are subtly beautiful. Look at the Lindblad/NatGeo ships and you'll see old-fashioned, somewhat hokey interiors. I cannot overstate how nice the ship design is. AND, every single cabin has a balcony, which I found incredibly nice. * The price: Though A&K is by no means known as affordable...the combination of the shorter itinerary and discounts for early bookings resulted in this cruise being several thousand dollars cheaper than the alternatives like Lindblad/NatGeo, SilverSeas, etc. And * The ship staff: service and professionalism was at the highest level. The captain and crew kept the bridge open to visitors daily, and navigated skillfully through heavy and icy seas...often changing course to see whales, add stops to our itineraries, etc. Bar and Restaurant staff...a mix of French and Filipino...was tremendously friendly and offered great personal service. You can read the company websites and brochures for day-by-day detailed itineraries so there is no point in repeating those here. Here are some tips/tricks/observations: * You are at sea for several days at a time with no stops, and there is limited entertainment, so bring books, movies, games, etc. Expedition staff will give lectures that can vary in quality, and there are about 20-25 movies on demand...not alot. The onboard library has a small selection of books, and WiFi is available by satellite, but quite expensive. In short, don't go if you are easily bored and you don't like reading or quiet times. * Food is overall good, but a bit on the French hotel bland side. The weakest areas are proteins...fish and meats usually overcooked. But, over 3 weeks with no stops to resupply there was always great fresh fruit, salads, and vegetables. Soups were good, desserts as well. And, breads and pastries were always consistently excellent. There is a buffet and a sit-down restaurant, and both were open for all meals. Cookies and tea were served in 2 bars off hours. A brief room service menu was available 24x7 when the restaurants were closed for meals. * Packing. Everyone but me seemed to ignore the many warnings to limit baggage to a minimum. There were huge suitcases, and about 1/3 of people had packed suits/ties and cocktail dresses for the welcome reception, xmas dinner, new year's eve, and farewell dinner. On this trip, you could rent boots for the onshore expeditions, and I recommend that option rather than bringing them. * Spa and Fitness Center. The spa was roomy and super comfortable...but I didn't hear anyone rave about the treatments. In France, there are levels of massage...with the highest requiring training and licensing and practiced usually in medical offices This is not what you get on Le Boreal. I heard people say it was usually light Swedish massage that was only passable. I got a facial which I thought was pretty good. The fitness center is nice but VERY small...2 treadmills, 2 bikes and a combination cable/weight machine. The end. It gets understandably crowded. * Getting to the ship from Buenos Aires. A&K arranged airport pickup which was perfect, and overnight stay at the Sofitel in BA. Ask for a high floor with a view...because I was on floor 3 overlooking an airshaft. Have patience during the trip to Ushuaia. A&K screwed up our tickets...we got boarding passes to the NatGeo charter flight...so all info was wrong. We also waiting in the airport for quite a while. I get that its hard to move 200 people around, but things seemed especially slow and ponderous. * When to go. We chose the xmas/new year "family" cruise with A&K...and it was a great choice. The demographic was younger than the usual A&K stuffy and pretentious oldsters...which livened up the mood. There were about 30 kids from 7 to 18...and they were all great.   Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
Portsmouth to Caen (D-Day area) to Dublin - Wales - Belfast - Scottish Isles - Glasgow. Overall very pleased with the ship and Gohagan Travel. I will comment on a previous reviewer: (Note - this cruise was various US and Canada alumni ... Read More
Portsmouth to Caen (D-Day area) to Dublin - Wales - Belfast - Scottish Isles - Glasgow. Overall very pleased with the ship and Gohagan Travel. I will comment on a previous reviewer: (Note - this cruise was various US and Canada alumni associations - so we ALL spoke English) " we found the crew and officers alike extremely friendly and helpful." Agree 100%. " A good sized cabin with a king size bed (two twins pushed together no doubt.) but comfortable. Ample storage space around. and our cases fitted under the bed with no problem. The bathroom is on the small side but a good size shower and then the toilet is separate - which is good. All with the usual complimentary soaps, etc. Bathrobes and slippers for use which is good less to pack . Balcony was a good size with two chairs and a table. Another plus was the good size of the safe . Constructive criticism to sit in front of the mirror - one couldn't get past. Complimentary bottled water, which was given continuously." Agree 100% We were in an upgraded room with a SMALL bathtub. "Loved the layout of the ship with a lift forward or aft if needed and found her "beautiful"" ABSOLUTELY "Had a couple of dinners in the main dining room (silver service) and must point out that the Maître D'hôtel put English speaking with English speaking etc. but we preferred eating up in the buffet. Liked the big windows to look out." We did not eat in the buffet, prefering the ordering from the menu. "Was a tad disappointed with the food. thought we were going to have a very good gastronomic experience. Yes, the breads, cakes, desserts, pastries etc. were wonderful . Good choice of various salads etc., but the main course - mediocre." I agree - they served around 240 people at once, so the food was not a gastronomic delight. Not bad (except the rib eye which was tough as shoe leather to many diners). All-in-all for the money I was satisfied, but not a foodie's dream. Few vegetables but a lot of fresh fruit for breakfast. Enteratinment was weak and the casino night was a real joke. Bartenders were excellent and the views from the front decks were marvelous. Only one smoker on the cruise, but I have seen other comments about on deck smoking and suspect that that would be an issue with European travellers. Too cold too swim, but pool (non-heated) looked fine.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2014
Have recently returned from a short cruise sailing from London - Tower Bridge to Copenhagen through the Kiel Canal. The info we received from Ponant re embarkation started us off on a wrong footing - giving us incorrect info re boarding. ... Read More
Have recently returned from a short cruise sailing from London - Tower Bridge to Copenhagen through the Kiel Canal. The info we received from Ponant re embarkation started us off on a wrong footing - giving us incorrect info re boarding. Suffice to say we overcame that but made us look out for anything else that would be wrong. Our booking through a local agent was extremely smooth - and we looked forward to sailing with this particular line for the first time. Once we had boarded the ship, we found the crew and officers alike extremely friendly and helpful. The cabin was on deck 3 forward which suited us, at least we got a bit of a walk going for meals or up to the lounges etc. A good sized cabin with a king size bed (two twins pushed together no doubt.) but comfortable. Ample storage space around. and our cases fitted under the bed with no problem. The bathroom is on the small side but a good size shower and then the toilet is separate - which is good. All with the usual complimentary soaps, etc. Bathrobes and slippers for use which is good less to pack . Balcony was a good size with two chairs and a table. Another plus was the good size of the safe . Constructive criticism to sit in front of the mirror - one couldn't get past. Complimentary bottled water, which was given continuously. Loved the layout of the ship with a lift forward or aft if needed and found her "beautiful" Had a couple of dinners in the main dining room (silver service) and must point out that the Maître D'hôtel put English speaking with English speaking etc. but we preferred eating up in the buffet. Liked the big windows to look out. A good selection for Breakfast. Lunch was also served in both venues, but then again we ate in the buffet on deck 6, and occasionally sat out by the pool - glorious. Afternoon Tea/Coffee served in the lounge with mini cakes and snacks. Was a tad disappointed with the food. thought we were going to have a very good gastronomic experience. Yes, the breads, cakes, desserts, pastries etc. were wonderful . Good choice of various salads etc., but the main course - mediocre. Our main reason for doing this cruise was to sail through the Kiel Canal on a small ship. Wonderful. We knew it was a French speaking ship and announcements were given first in French and then English, but definitely more was said in French than English!! We did one ship tour - something we don't normally do but as we had on-board credit, wanted to use it up. Do feel tho, ships tours are a rip off, but that is on any ship anywhere in the world. We were very lucky to have had the most amazing weather. Would we sail with this company again,? they must sort out their information re embarkation - a major failure. Mores the pity as it is a beautiful ship.   Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2014
Overview – This was a cruise to the Antarctic so the life on board the ship was catered to the location we were heading. Our trip with Compagnie de Ponant started with a chartered flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina. We were ... Read More
Overview – This was a cruise to the Antarctic so the life on board the ship was catered to the location we were heading. Our trip with Compagnie de Ponant started with a chartered flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina. We were met at the airport by a cruise representative at check-in. The airport was chaos and people crowded to get in line for boarding the plane. When we got to Ushuaia we were met by a tour guide and boarded a bus which was to give us an abbreviated tour of the national park and lunch. Since the flight had been delayed we headed straight for lunch at a lodge which was very rustic and nice. The meal was roasted lamb and potatoes, with a salad bar and dessert and drink. The bus had both French and English speaking passengers and our guide gave all information in both languages. We then went to the ship to head on board. As we were waiting in line to board several of the crew came out and took our hand luggage to carry on for us. Check in for the cruise was very easy. A picture of us was taken and we were given our cabin card and on to our cabin. Our luggage was already there. This cruise had a majority of English speaking passengers, and then groups of French, Japanese and Chinese speaking. All shipboard announcements were given in both French and English. Of course the safety drill was held the first evening with excellent instructions that made me feel I would know what to do. We had a great time on the cruise and the ship and staff helped make our cruise great. Cabins – We were on Deck 4. The room had TV, nice bed and bathroom, balcony and plenty of closest space. There was a table and only one chair. There was an ottoman but this was stored under the countertop. After a couple of days our cabin attendant moved a balcony chair in so we had two chairs. Since we were in Antarctica, there was no TV reception but a selection of movies was available. Current/updated information about landings etc was also posted on the TV since the schedule could quickly change depending on weather conditions. Dining – There are two locations for dining – the buffet on Deck 6 and the restaurant on Deck 2 and there was also room service. The buffet and restaurant had basically the same menu and were opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day except the two formal dinner evenings. On those evenings, dinner was only served in the restaurant. A small room service menu was available all days that also included much of the day’s menu items. There was a good selection each day, including a vegetarian selection and there were always a few standard items: chicken breast, hamburger or rib eye steak. Most lunches in the restaurant included a soup and salad bar and a dessert table that were self-service and the entre was ordered from your waiter. The buffet was mostly self-service but many times, a crew member would help carry your selection for you and if something was being prepared for you, would bring it to you. The food was very good and many people especially complemented the soups. We had room service bring coffee every morning and one evening during some rough seas (and a formal dinner) we ordered a light dinner. There were two bars, the Observation Lounge on Deck 6 and the Main Lounge on Deck 3. While the Main Lounge seemed to be open all day, starting with coffee and continental breakfast at 6am, the Observation Lounge opened for a couple hours before dinner and closed for an hour in the evening before reopening. Activities – All activities centered on getting to Antarctica and the landings. There were at least 10 naturists on board with different specialties. Since this cruise had a majority of English speaking passengers, the enrichment lectures were held in English in the theater. There were French lectures in the main lounge. We had enrichment lectures on the sea days during the crossings of Drake Passage each way. They ranged from topics of penguins, ice, whales, geology and climate change. Also during this crossing we had a mandatory briefing on getting in and out of the zodiacs and the restrictions needed to protect the Antarctica. The schedule called for 5 days of landings but the crossing of Drake Passage on our way to Antarctica was very smooth and we made an additional stop on South Shetland at the end of the crossing. For the five days, two landings or zodiac cruises were scheduled for each day and what we could see was different each time. There 198 passengers on board and we were divided into 4 groups for the landings, with the order rotated for each landing. The landing locations were in a different order than the initial plan (which we were told could change at any time). At each landing there were naturalists available to explain what was to be seen and answer any questions. One day, the ship had to change what was planned due to more sea ice than expected. With all the sea ice, a landing was planned for a walk on an ice floe. About half way through this landing, so much ice had blown in that the zodiacs could not leave the landing area and it took over 2 hours to get the people back on board. The Captain and Expedition Leader then selected another ice floe to continue the landings. The naturalists were always available to help us get the most of each landing. Our return crossing of the Drake Passage was not as smooth s our first crossing. There was crew deployed at each elevator landing and motion sick bags throughout the ship making sure passengers had help if needed. Entertainment – There was a show most evenings in the theater but I could not stay up late enough to go to them. To sum up our experience we thoroughly enjoyed both the destination and the ship. All of the staff and crew we met were extremely attentive to our needs. The food on board was very good with a good selection, however it was difficult to get a hamburger that was well done. My only complaint was the handling of crowded chaos such as at the airport and when we needed to get our landing color sticker put on our cabin card.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2013
I read reviews and had concerns. I need not have - I could not find fault. My husband and I had cabin 311 - pleasant accommodation with a balcony which we did use ; notwithstanding the destination the weather was wonderful. We were lucky ... Read More
I read reviews and had concerns. I need not have - I could not find fault. My husband and I had cabin 311 - pleasant accommodation with a balcony which we did use ; notwithstanding the destination the weather was wonderful. We were lucky and had calm seas - so much so on the return we went round Cape Horn. The food was excellent as you would expect from a french ship and the restaurant well located o the second deck - there was also self service on the 5th deck. Wine was included and unlimited with meals. The naturalists were outstanding and the entire crew did all they could to provide a memorable experience - every opportunity was seized. The 2 languages were french and english and there was no "short changing" if you were english./english speaking. We were the only English couple on board; mainly french guests as you would expect, a group of about 10 Chinese, a handful of Americans and a mix of Europeans. We had a wonderful concert pianist who gave 2 recitals, 3 singers and 4 dances. For the size of ship it was well provided. Remembering at all times you are on an expedition. Good theater for talks by the naturalists which were many and varied . The marina at the back of the ship makes getting in and out of the zodiacs much more accessible - a very good design. The landings were wonderful and all well organised, informative and respectful of the nature and scenery. You do need something to dress up in for evenings as there are gala dinners and with Christmas and New Year there were a number of formal dinners. All very enjoyable. You will not be disappointed. WE enjoyed it osm uch we have booked another destiantion. Happy sailings Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2013
We left Istanbul end of the day and the ship looked small compared to the Costa and the Xelebrity. The Austral is the second after Boral and before the new Solal. Human size Yachts of only 264 passengers, with only very nice outside ... Read More
We left Istanbul end of the day and the ship looked small compared to the Costa and the Xelebrity. The Austral is the second after Boral and before the new Solal. Human size Yachts of only 264 passengers, with only very nice outside rooms. But the first impressions were very positive regarding the casual and friendly style of this company. On a lot of ships you see the captain at a drink or a special event. Here Captain Jean-Philippe Lemaire and his staff were very close to the passengers. I reminded the experience of 2008 on the Windstar! Passengers are invited to visit the bridge (of course outside the maneuvers or when there is a pilot on board) Himself and his officers give you plenty of information and you are invited to ask question. And if you want to go back in the evening, no problem. A very nice different and impressive experience. There are two restaurants: the main one downstairs with full service (only in the evening) and the self-service upward with possibilities of eating outside. Good selected wines, beer and drinks are included during the meals. There are facilities such as a pool (not very large view the ship size) there is a wellness center, there is conference and theater and several bars. With regard to drinks you have the choice for paying (on your account) per consumption (prices in Euro but reasonable) or an all-inclusive forfeit of 30 per person per day. Tip: is only interesting if you stay most of the time on board and you drink quite a lot! After passing the mount Athos island the captain decided to approach Greek coast and drop the anchor and open the marina facilities. Swimming in the sea in a rather wide limited area of course with safety facilities of the crew with zodiacs. Destinations we did: Limnos (was no so good, all closed on Saturday) The mount Athos visit cruising (not allowed to go on land) was nice and impressive. At Volos we took the chip excursion of a full day to the mtoras with the impressive monasteries (we visited 2 of the 4 or 5 still in use) Worthwhile! Patmos was quite nice. Kusadasi you have the choice to go to Ephesus (what we did on a previous cruise) so we went with own means to Priene,Milat and Didyme with famous Greek / Roman constructions and in Diikilli we used the ships excursion to Pergame and Asclpion. The languages used are of course French but also English. We had mixed nationalities of passengers roughly half French of course, but also Belgians, Suisse, British some Americans, Aussies and New Zealanders and even a Japanese. There were some younger children, mostly adolescents, on board. A ship of this size is not a big fun ship of course, but the staff arranged a lot things with them participation for example in show and in spectacle with the artists. I can say that they really were proud, enjoyed themselves a lot! The company can really be recommended !!!   Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2013
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks. Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger ... Read More
A cruise to Antarctica is pricey, expensive even, but it is absolutely worth it! We saw amazing wildlife and beautiful scenery. It felt as if we were in a nature documentary for two weeks. Having previously cruised on 2500+ passenger cruise ships, the atmosphere and the level of service on this 200 passenger mega-yacht was very different. No lines, for instance. Also, crew was very approachable. The captain welcomed everyone in person and he was present at several dinners. The naturalists/guides were always available to answer questions. Even though French is the primary language on board, all announcements and briefings were in English as well. There was never a language barrier, nor were non-French speakers treated differently. Our stateroom was very nice, with good size beds and all the comforts you would expect. Lots of storage space. Bath room with separate toilet and shower. Housekeeping staff was excellent. Always friendly, always able to help with requests. Compared to the big cruise lines like Carnival and NCL, the food on l'Austral is certainly better. However, don't expect Michelin star or Steak house quality. It's upscale restaurant food. I was surprised by the freshness of the ingredients, even after two weeks cruising. Also, there was good amount of variety, some days with exotic dishes like kangaroo and skate. The desserts were absolutely delicious! We had a very rough Drake Passage, but once in Antarctica the skies were clear and the weather stayed remarkable friendly. Expeditions were spectacular. There had been lectures by the naturalists to inform us about the wildlife we'd see, but seeing (and smelling) a penguin colony for yourself is very special indeed. We saw more wildlife then we'd ever imagined. In the Antarctic Peninsula, we visited Paradise Bay, Neko Harbor, Wilhelmina Bay, Port Lockroy, Port Charcot, the Lemaire Channel, Dallmann Bay, Deception Island, Hannah Point, Gourdin Island and Brown Bluff. We then went back North via Elephant Island to the Falkland Islands for another four stops: Stanley, Volunteer Point, Saunders Island and New Island. After the Falklands we had three sea days and we finished the cruise in Montevideo, Uruguay. (for a more detailed review, including photos, visit the Antarctica section in Forums > Ports of Call) http://boards.cruisecritic.com/forumdisplay.php?f=475 Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
We took L'Austral to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina. This is an expedition cruise on a boat with less than 200 passengers, so a different experience from your usual cruise. The boat is ... Read More
We took L'Austral to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands from Ushuaia, Argentina. This is an expedition cruise on a boat with less than 200 passengers, so a different experience from your usual cruise. The boat is armed with a fleet of 8 zodiacs, staffed with several naturalists, all the things you'd get on a more rugged cruise, except you got plush accommodations and good food. BOOKING - Booking was easy over email, Lisa was very helpful. It was a bit disorganized at the end when we were suddenly asked for all the documentation that we'd already provided, just days before the cruise, and we actually had to write and ask for our boarding passes the day before the cruise because they hadn't been sent. Other than that, all was fine with the booking. LANGUAGE - The boat is French, and so the main language on board is French, but they always spoke in English too, and worked hard to ensure that English speakers were together on the expeditions, also at meals, so that there wasn't a language problem. There was also one German speaking naturalist for the German contingent, though they weren't as well catered to as the French and English speakers. We didn't find the language to be any problem, it was well dealt with by the ship crew. EMBARKATION - This was well handled except we didn't appreciate having to drag our luggage all the way down the cruise port with no assistance. SHIP - The ship is brand new and very nice. Well climate controlled with everything you need. There are three lounges, though the outside bar was rarely open. It handled the 18-20 foot seas of Drake Passage very well, even though waves were smashing over the sixth deck. STATEROOMS - We had the Prestige Cabins on the 5th floor. They were quite spacious for a ship - about the size of a normal hotel room, very new and well appointed with flatscreen TV (movies only, no reception for TV), Nespresso machine, Nice shower and separate toilet, a desk, and a balcony with two chairs and a table. The only problem we had was the balcony door first creaked very loudly and also was very drafty. Bed was comfortable. Telephone in the room, also wi-fi (exorbitantly expensive). SERVICES - There is a spa onboard, and a very nice fitness center which has a view of the ocean. There is wi-fi, but it is massively, ridiculously expensive, horribly slow, and intermittent (three days at a time without access at all). They sell it by the time block, with no refunds if you don't use it all. There are three computers that can't print, and the internet rarely worked on them. There is no TV signal (one day we had CNN) but a few movies to watch. There is a Wii and a few board games. Three lounges. FOOD - The food was a real surprise. The ala carte restaurant was a gem, with an amazing variety for the 16 day cruise, always fresh, always well presented and creative. It wasn't always good (mostly though), but they get an A for effort. There were always 2-3 choices of each of the 4 courses, with some other things you can get every day. You can also eat at the buffet restaurant which at least when we were there was of poor quality for dinner. It was better for breakfast and lunch though. Also a good variety considering no ports of call for restocking for 16 days - amazing we could still get fresh fruit at the end of the trip, for example. Unfortunately, except for the meals, there was no food available except peanuts in the bar. With lunch at noon and dinner at 8:30 PM, everyone starved all afternoon with nothing but room service possible, not even a croissant (there was an afternoon tea with a few cookies). STAFF - The staff was surprisingly friendly and nice. Everyone was very pleasant and tried hard, even at the end of a very long cruise. The cruise director had a great sense of humor and kept things light. The Expedition leader was also funny and very nice and professional. The naturalists were all pleasant but not very proactive - they spent most of the time on shore taking their own photos or wandering around making sure people didn't get too close to the animals, rather than proactively interacting with the guests. They were there to answer questions if you had some, but other than a quick 1 minute briefing when you got to shore, they weren't proactive about it at all, which was a suprise. EXPEDITIONS - The expeditions were professional and well organized. The parkas were of high quality, and nobody was cold. The naturalists were good about keeping everyone where they were supposed to be, and the landings were spectacular. One million adele penguins at one landing at Heroine Island was absolutely stunning. Another in South Georgia with 400,000 King Penguins, elephant seals, fur seals was spectacular. Zodiac cruising through the ice in Antarctica was magnificent, even though it was raining and snowing. Another day we sailed inside one of only three navigable calderas in the world, very cool. The hikes were marginal, and we would have liked to do one more day of ice and one less day in the Shetland Islands, but otherwise very, very good. We did an average of 2 landings each day that we had calls, with two days of sea in between areas. We were very pleased overall. The photgrapher and videographer did a stunning job - wow. We bought both CDs. Incredible work. ENTERTAINMENT - The entertainment schedule was lacking in imagination - by day you had a couple of naturalist briefings, which were really boring for the most part. Good subject matter, just dry presentation (reading off a paper like presenting a research paper rather than entertaining tourists). There was fitness and streching each day, and that was pretty much it. A couple of days there was Wii but with no kids and most people over 60, I don't think that was a big hit. By night it was better with a couple of relevant movies, a talented dance crew, and very good lounge singing. It wasn't a big variety at all, but by then most people were tired anyway and went to bed. They could really have done more fun things with the daytime entertainment though, not just fitness, streching and dancing. Card tournaments, cooking classes, wine tastings, and things like that would have been more age-appropriate for the guests I think. Overall, we had a very good cruise on L'Austral. Many people complained of boredom during sea days, and about the quality of the lectures and the bad internet, some about the food and the naturalists not being proactively engaging with the guests, but mostly I think people were satisfied. The expeditions that we all came for were great, with the only complaint being only one morning in the ice. There should have been one more. When you consider the alternative accommodations to Antarctica, L'Austral is way above any of the others, except Silver Explorer which is double the price. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2011
I have to confess that I am not easy to please so when I read some of the previous reviews of the L'Austral to the Dalmatian Coast, I was nervous. I have been across the Atlantic many times, including the SS France, and on one cruise ... Read More
I have to confess that I am not easy to please so when I read some of the previous reviews of the L'Austral to the Dalmatian Coast, I was nervous. I have been across the Atlantic many times, including the SS France, and on one cruise line and have to say this was as good as it gets for this size ship/crew. The service was perfect, the food excellent and the attention to detail (eg not waking everybody on the ship to announce the daily tours at 8:00 am) help with whatever you needed and including moving your table the next night from very loud neighbors. There was a Tauk group on the ship but we never even noticed that it was there except we were told...certainly no preferential treatment. This cruise was perfect for US...we weren't looking for night life etc. The cabins are small but extremely efficient and we didn't even use all our drawer space. On the negative side, the internet is ridiculously expensive and for me a bit difficult to navigate. On the whole, our ship mates ages were from late 40's to 70's. A well dressed, sophisticated group of travelers, primarily in the 60's group. Many French, many Australians. I hesitate to even write this review as I think the reviews are catching on and it will be more and more difficult to book on this and other Ponant cruises for Americans as word gets out across the ocean. We're already working on another. Hope this reassure those of you have already booked. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2011
In a word, our experience on L'Austral was exceptional. We just got back from a 10 day cruise from Venice to Athens. As hospitality professionals, we immediately recognized and appreciated the elegant quality of the ship, attention to ... Read More
In a word, our experience on L'Austral was exceptional. We just got back from a 10 day cruise from Venice to Athens. As hospitality professionals, we immediately recognized and appreciated the elegant quality of the ship, attention to detail, excellent selection of food, and high standard of customer service. We decided to book a prestige suite which turned out to be worth it as it was extremely comfortable and kept immaculately clean by the attentive staff. The bed and pillows were so comfortable my husband and I hadn't slept that well in quite awhile. The views from our double balcony were breathtaking. Fortunately our cabin was on the port side of the ship which faced the gorgeous Adriatic coastline. As a first time cruiser I suddenly knew why some people love cruises so much. We absolutely loved the relatively small size of L'Austral. It made for an intimate atmosphere and yet we had lots of privacy when we felt like it. We looked forward, a little too much, to our meals in one of the two dining rooms each day. On deck 2 the formal dining room has a daily four course dinner menu with various choices of delicious, beautifully presented dishes served by a team of hard-working and always friendly waiters. Lunch was a different theme each day. One day on deck 6 they had a huge bucket of fresh oysters which were being cracked open as we watched! Breakfast was also perfectly complete from steaming coffee to fresh croissants, and the whole nine yards for those who felt like it. The staff also went out of their way when we had some special food requests. English and French were spoken interchangeably. Although I speak a fair amount of French, I mostly spoke English and had no problem whatsoever. They were so genuinely helpful and professional, it felt like leaving old friends at the end of our cruise. We really enjoyed the itinerary. Croatia is absolutely lovely, and we are now officially in love with the Greek islands we visited, the Greek people, and of course, the Greek food. Conclusion, after weeks of planning and wondering if we had made the right choice, L'Austral turned out to be such a perfect fit for us that, you guessed it, we are already planning our next cruise to Asia with Le Ponant cruise line. Thank you to everyone who made this the best trip of our lives so far. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2011
'Welcome aboard Mr & Mrs Cooper' were the first words we heard from the Cruise Director on arrival by taxi at the quayside. How Sendrine knew who we were I have no idea, but she did. This was to be an extremely good insight ... Read More
'Welcome aboard Mr & Mrs Cooper' were the first words we heard from the Cruise Director on arrival by taxi at the quayside. How Sendrine knew who we were I have no idea, but she did. This was to be an extremely good insight as to how the rest of the week on board one of the most beautiful yatchs in the world would pan out. By the the next morning even the Captain was greeting us by name and the 50 or so lucky enough to be on board all soon knew each other as well. The food was out of this world with a Michelin star chef heading the team and an extremely accomplished pastry chef helped keep us going morning, noon and night. Eating breakfast and lunch on the after-deck was so relaxed and you felt in a different world so complete relaxation and escapism were achieved almost effortlessly. Most of the time at sea was under sail, in fact so much so that we all received a fuel rebate with our end of cruise accounts. This gave a wonderful easy motion to the yatch and watching the stars under a moonlit sky after dinner was quite romantic even for a fifty plus old git. It was not cheap, but rightly so, which also meant, and I'm going to sound snobby here, there were only people one would have chosen to be away with on board. There was no shouting, no swearing and never any pushing. Only refined good manners and everyone was elegantly dressed. Perfect in every way and we cannot wait to go again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2011
Maybe after the first 2 voyages the crew of L'Austral gelled, because the previous reviews were nothing like the experience we had. Took the cruise from Venice to the Dalmatian Coast and one day was more spectacular than the next. The ... Read More
Maybe after the first 2 voyages the crew of L'Austral gelled, because the previous reviews were nothing like the experience we had. Took the cruise from Venice to the Dalmatian Coast and one day was more spectacular than the next. The cabin may have been small, but luxurious, clean and comfortable. The dining hall was elegant and the meals spectacular. The outdoor grill was more modest and the food not as good, but offered a change of atmosphere. There were plenty of activities to keep you busy and private space was readily available. Excursions appealed to the sporty-types and the tourists; something for everyone. The incredible staff and the personal care shown by the ship's captain was truly unique. We just happened to take the "Family Cruise" and, although we didn't have children, this added to the fun. I'm assuming that mostly adults choose this cruise at other times and may not be appropriate for kids. Lastly, everyone on board, crew and guests, spoke English, but this is a French line and French is the dominant language. We found that this added to the exotic nature of the trip, but some may find this difficult. L'Austral was like spending time on a private yacht with a knowledgeable crew and great new friends; elegant, relaxing and memorable. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
Just to start I want to say that a trip to Antarctica is a special thing. It is the most magical and wonderful and amazing trip anyone can make. The sheer scale of the scenery is difficult to verbalize and the awe it inspires cannot be ... Read More
Just to start I want to say that a trip to Antarctica is a special thing. It is the most magical and wonderful and amazing trip anyone can make. The sheer scale of the scenery is difficult to verbalize and the awe it inspires cannot be transmitted by pictures or words. The expedition began in Buenos Aires. I flew in on a Delta flight from Atlanta which was uneventful. Met at the airport by A&K representatives. Waited around for more people on the tour, and waited, and waited. The representatives apparently did not know if the other pax had made the flight and only surmised that there was problem with the luggage. After about 40 minutes they put me on the transport bus. Waited there for 15 minutes at which point A&K provided me with a private car and driver and a representative for the drive into BA. Since I came in a day early I was grateful that I was able to check into my hotel room at the Caesar Park immediately on arrival. Room was nice on a high floor. I had no problems with the hotel but others on the trip reported that their bathrooms flooded and they had poor service in trying to get the problem remedied. The breakfast provided was good. I had booked a private guide for the two days and did not participate in the A&K cocktail party or their optional city tour. As a note, the Brits on the tour were put up at the Sofitel (got much higher marks than the Caesar Park) and did not the invitation to the cocktail party. My private guide took me on tour of the city by cab, foot and subway. I truly enjoyed the extensive walking and being in the local areas. Tried the Argentinian ice cream which is truly special. I was told that the average serving for Portenos was a 1/4 kilo per person. :) I ate at a parilla on the first night. The steak was a little overcooked for my taste (chef gets to cook it the way they want)but had a nice smoky flavor. Tried the fried cheese and the morcilla (blood sausage). It was a nice dinner but not my favorite. The next day was more walking and included a visit to La Recoleta Cemetary. Truly astounding place and not to be missed. That evening I got to go to the Gardel museum and had a private tango lesson. That is something that, if you want to learn to tango, I heartily endorse. Of course you can't learn that in a one hour lesson but it was a good start. Afterwards I was taken to a local Milonga - a really local place and told the rules of the house. The sponsor of the Milonga is the one to admit you and seat you - if you can't dance you don't get in. Men are on one side of the room and women on the other. One uses eye contact to ask someone to dance. It is considered rude to make eye contact and then decline to dance. Had a migas ham and cheese sandwich and shared a bottle of Malbec. Wonderful evening. Got in at 12:30 and the wake up call was at 3am. :( Boarded the transfer bus at 4am and went to the domestic airport for the transfer to Ushuaia at 5:30. Three and half hour flight down. We were told that if you wanted to drive it would take 3 days because of the state of the roads. Uneventful flight. Upon arrival we were taken on a tour of Tierra del Fuego national park. Very nice, very scenic. We made several stops for exploring and picture taking. Afterwards we had a barbecue lunch of chicken, lamb, sausage, fried potatoes and salad. There was folkloric dancing show provided. Many thought it was hokey but I thought the performers were trained dancers and were quite sweet. Our passports were collected before lunch and we were given our ship cards. We were then taken to Ushuaia proper and, since it was still too early to board, we were given "free time.' Not much to do since it was Sunday and most of the shops were closed and it was raining. There are evidently 300 days of rain/year in this area. Ushuaia is a native Yamana word meaning 'bay towards sunset.' It is a small city located on the Beagle channel. We boarded quickly and efficiently. We were greeted with glasses of champagne and everyone was very welcoming. Our luggage was already in the cabin. Did a quick unpacking and then got ready for the mandatory fire drill. Usual stuff. Ended up in the theater and got a welcoming speech from the captain and explanations of the adventure to come. Dinner was at the buffet space. We were supposed to leave Ushuaia at 11pm. Upon awakening I noted we were in the same place. Evidently they were waiting for a spare part for the engine and it did not arrive until early in the morning and they needed to install it. Frankly, it was better to sail up the Beagle channel during the day since one could take pictures. Not sure why they don't do that ordinarily. It would make sense to just overnight in Ushuaia since we made up any lost time during the sea day. Sea day - lectures by the naturalists on the team. Wonderful talks by people who were specialists in their field. We had an ornithologist, a geologist, a veterinarian turned team member, a historian, a biologist and naturalist. Each gave lovely, in depth talks. We would have at least two per day. Falkland Islands. We landed at New Island which is home to a large Rockhopper penguin rookery. There are also Black-browed Albatrosses and Cormorants which nest there. The zodiac drivers were all great and the guys that helped you into and out of the boats were totally competent. The landings were wet so you really need your waterproof pants and waterproof tall boots. We were fortunate to have good weather for this stop and layering kept you comfortable. There was supposed to be a stop at Carcass Island but the seas were too rough and we could not make a landing. Two sea days with more lectures. The ship is lovely and designed in a French style. The furniture is Ligne Rosset and very chic. There is lots of champagne always available along with mixed drinks, beer and soft drinks included in the price. Premium drinks (single malt scotch, good wines) are charged for. The wines provided were rather poor. One of the people I was friendly with made the comment that what they were serving were 'baby' wines - made for an introduction but not really worth the effort if you want decent wine. The mixed drinks were good but you might want to ask the bartender to add another shot of your poison. ;) The food on board was, shall we say, variable. Breakfast was the usual. Good. Eggs scrambled and scrambled with ham at the steam table. Home fries that looked like McDonalds but were tasty. Sausage that was odd tasting. Was told that they started out beef but then went to lamb. I did not care for them. Bacon which I also did not care for and roasted tomatoes that were good, and pancakes and french toast. You could also have eggs any way you wanted at the omelet station. They had wonderful croissants and pain au chocolat. Baguettes and white bread were available. Also, there was fruit and yogurt, and cereals and oatmeal. All in all a nice breakfast assortment. You could have it in either the buffet restaurant on 6 or in the dining room on 2. Now to the lunch and dinner. Sadly it went from lovely to awful with awful winning for the most part. I ate mostly in the 6th deck venue since the group that I was friendly preferred choosing their own food. Service on 2 was extremely slow and entailed painful waits between courses. Beef was sublime the one time that they had it braised. It was dry and gristly all the other times. Lamb was divine the day they had it braised. Otherwise, it was tough, gristly and very difficult to eat. One night they had osso bucco - went to the dining room on 2 since I love osso bucco. It had a lovely sauce - just needed another hour and a half in the oven. Pork ribs - sublime. Need I say that it was braised? Fish - generally dry and inedible. They did have two winners - a sardine dish one day and a hake on another. Both were not overcooked and really good. Otherwise the fish was awful. Sad. Choices were odd and seemed to have no theme or reason to be together. You could have fish and chicken available with chicken paella and spaghetti with tomato sauce along with the carrots. The few gala dinners were better but there were still misses among them. When I am paying this kind of money for a cruise I do not expect lumpfish 'caviar' as a gala appetizer. The tea sandwiches all had pre-aged bread. Not sure why they didn't just toast the bread and leave it at that. It would have seemed more logical. The bread chef made really good rolls. The pastry chef was very good. Made you want to just have rolls and dessert. :) There were also vegetarian selections and lots of different kinds of salads. Some winners, some losers. Just about everything, to my taste, needed salt. Also had a cheese assortment. Don't think the French on board were amused. :) South Georgia Island. We were extremely lucky with the weather and were able to make four landings. The first landing was at Salisbury Plain. Amazing scenes of King penguins - it is home to one of the largest colonies in the world. The sound is unbelievable. The 'oakum boys' (yearling chicks) whistle and the adults have a sound like a kazoo. I'll try to post a video to youtube - it must be heard to be believed. Also loads of fur seals with their two week old pups - adorable. Just have to be careful since they will attack without provocation and have a very nasty bite. Also, since it was Christmas Eve, there was carol singing in the Grand Salon at 7pm. Christmas day was at Grytviken. We had a hike up the mountain from Shackleton's grave (we had a toast to him with grog before the hike) to a small lake. Then down a mountain ridge that became smaller and smaller til you had to just jump onto more sloping ground. Interesting ground in that is was squishy. Did not know that water could be retained so well on a slope. After the hike we had a small service at the whalers church there. It was a Norwegian church that had been brought over intact and was consecrated Christmas day 1913. After the service we had a champagne toast to the holiday. It was beautifully set up on the lawn outside the church. They have a post office there and many sent out cards. Nice whalers museum also - very informative. The afternoon landing was St. Andrews Bay. St. Andrews bay is home to 150,000 nesting pairs in addition to 100,000 yearling chicks and elephant seals. Next day was at Gold Harbour - more penguins and seals and glaciers and awesome scenery. We were supposed to do a zodiac tour but the seas were too rough and it was deemed too dangerous More sea days and lectures on the way to the Weddell Sea. We were very fortunate since the eastern part of the Antarctic peninsula is not regularly on the schedule. We tried to make a landing at Paulet Island but the area was totally blocked in by ice so there was a decision to do a zodiac tour. Awesome!!! You got a eye-to-eye visit with ice floes and penguins. Got really great pictures on the trip. Continued on through the Antarctic Sound to Half Moon Island and to a Chinstrap penguin rookery. Saw newly hatched chicks - generally two hatched at a time. Really cute. Then on to Deception island. The kicker to this place is that it is the caldera of an active volcano. There are active thermal vents and, theoretically, you have warm waters to swim in. There were many who did the whole plunge. I waded in up to my knees. The air temperature was 34 degrees, the water temp was 32. It was cold. One of the more unusual aspects of this cruise was that one of the passengers, after doing the swim, had a heart attack that night. It was decided that the ship could not handle the emergency and we headed back to King George Island. Do not get sick on this trip. The time between the declaration of the emergency and arrival at King George was 14 hours. Also, the medevac plane could not come in from Chile due to heavy fog. While waiting to hear if we had to return to Ushuaia for emergency treatment for this passenger, we had a tour of the island and the Chilean base located there. They have a navy portion and and army portion. 8 people. :) We also visited the Russian station. They had been celebrating new year's eve on Moscow time and were in no shape to greet visitors. :) They have an amazing Russian Orthodox church that is built on the top of a very high hill. It is a wonder in that location. Later that day it was decided that, despite the passenger having been revived four times after having had a flat line, he was sufficiently stable for us to continue. Very strange. We then went to the Gerlache Strait (amazing views of icebergs and floes and glaciers coming down to the water) and on into Paradise Bay. Our final stop and a landing on the true continent! It was the most beautiful location imaginable. Sadly it was very foggy but great. They had a sledding area available from the top of a very high hill. It was about a 1/4 mile hike up to the top and you went down on your butt. One of the few pix I bought from the ship's photographer just to prove that I did it. The expedition leader just kept telling us to be careful and not overextend ourselves. He really, really did not want any more heart attacks. Back to Ushuaia via the Drake Passage. We lucked out once more and sailed the Drake Lake. Got back 12 hours early and some of the crew and pax did a night on the town. :) Off the ship the next morning at 8. Painless. Onto buses for a trip to Lago Escondido. Lovely scenery. The Andes mountains are spectacular. Back to the airport and the charter flight to BA. Bought some tee shirts for the family. Flight uneventful. BA - 5 hour layover. More shopping. Got to Atlanta early so we had to stay on the plane since the immigration crew did not arrive til 5:30am. Did the immigration hurry up and wait. Customs was nothing. Then - do you believe that you have just come off a plane in a secure area and you have to go through security again? The full deal - no water, zip lock bags, take off your shoes, etc. Sheesh! Onto plane for NYC. Again, uneventful flight and home. Trip was more than I expected. The wildlife was amazing. We even got to see Fin Whales, Humpbacks, Commerson's Dolphins, and Orcas. I recommend this trip to all. The A&K expedition staff were wonderful. Each person was such an expert in their field and the support staff were perfect. The ship, on the other hand, had its share of problems. There was flooding in some of the cabins from the drains. It was so bad in some that the pax were relocated to other cabins. I saw a mattress being replaced on my deck. No mention of problems was ever made by the hotel staff. There was distinct smell of mold on deck 6 aft by the restaurant. I never noted any problems with the engines despite the cancellation of the trip after ours. We had no stabilizers for several days but that was explained as being unable to deploy them in ice filled waters. You appreciate what they can do when you don't have them. :) Sorry to so long winded but there was just so much I wanted to say. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2010
The Le Boreal is the newest of the Le Ponant fleet. I have been on Le Ponant and Le Levant so was curious how this new vessel would stack up. General Impression: this is a very modern, clean ship with a very customer friendly design and ... Read More
The Le Boreal is the newest of the Le Ponant fleet. I have been on Le Ponant and Le Levant so was curious how this new vessel would stack up. General Impression: this is a very modern, clean ship with a very customer friendly design and beautiful and functional furnishings. It only accommodates about 250 guests but is not cramped and combines the best of a small and larger ship. The cabins are well designed with large beds, excellent bathrooms with separate toilet. Most cabins have a balcony. There is a large, flat screen TV with movies, music and cruise information. The shower was a good size and had excellent fixtures and great pressure. The food was excellent with 2 restaurants, a grill at lunch and a limited room service menu. The desserts were superb, featuring excellent fruit tarts and mousse. Shore excursions were well planned and executed at a very professional level. The ship's excursion coordinators were very helpful and traveled along on every excursion. Both the cruise director and the captain were omnipresent and extremely guest oriented. Some special surprises included a cruise though the Mouth of Kotor, a sightseeing swing through Istanbul and the first sailing through the Corinth Canal. There is no requirement for formal dress or even a tie if you are so inclined. Many guests did dress up, but others were well dressed in casual clothes. It worked. Entertainment was limited but there was a show every night including dancers, singers and a concert pianist. There were always guests in the lounge and there were always people dancing. I recommend this ship to anyone who wants a relaxed but high end cruise experience. This ship attracts passengers from many countries which enhanced the overall experience. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2010
I have had the pleasure of cruising on the new Ponant creature Le Boreal. After cruising 134 times, I still think Ponant is the perfect choice for all who want quality at low prices, in the premium cruising category. Aimed to give the ... Read More
I have had the pleasure of cruising on the new Ponant creature Le Boreal. After cruising 134 times, I still think Ponant is the perfect choice for all who want quality at low prices, in the premium cruising category. Aimed to give the company passengers a bigger ship, I have to admit that Jean Philip Nuel, one of the most prestigious designer has made a terrific job creating a masterpiece in minimalism, class, and luxury. If externally is one of the most discerning yacht ship afloat, internally nobody can match Le Boreal decoration. Monochromatic earthly tones are remarked by notes of crimson everywhere. Almost 10.000 tones gives an deep feeling of space containing everything one deserves: lower main restaurant decorated in white and grey colours, a huge circular lobby with hanging creative glass motives, the stunning Ispashan Lounge ideal for afternoon tea. The company has also fitted a new sidereal like theatre, a Carita Spa, and in the upper decks I would remark the beautiful buffet and the bar-lounge-library in the front. The outside decks are designed to look like a smart Yacht Club with the same decoration as the rest of the ship. Essentially most cabins are virtually the same except a couple of suites. Most of the cabin furniture seems to be taken from a "modern art studio" in Milan, with volumes, ideas, arrangements not seem in any other ship. I remark the stunning bath with an spectacular glass panel which allows you to have a shower while the daily light comes into. FOOD; French, elaborate and sublime. Everything tastes as it should taste. Desserts are sinful. Meats and fishes are of prime quality. The meals are a perfect combination of ingredients, freshly prepared recipes, graceful service and wines included. The stemware, china and service is second to none. Meals in the buffet (which offers plenty of space for alfresco dinning) always contains classics of the french cuisine like the best Chocolate Mousse ever tasted, exquisite Moroccan buffets, and delicious french soups, pasta, and crispy salads. Cabin service is sensational. Even baguette is freshly made, not frozen dough as in most cruise lines. Breakfast is sensational as well as coffee which is european style. EXPERIENCE: Don´t compare it to anyone. Ponant is aimed to discerning international passengers, specially those who love the french way of live, and who can´t pay overpriced cruises in the other luxury cruise companies. All those who love a sophisticated service without being stiff, all people who don´t really need an American way of cruising full of shows, casinos, and so on. I would recommend the Le Boreal, to all those who can´t afford the frills of the expensive luxury cruise, but need the feel the "flair" and taste of the luxury vessel, french style. I would suggest it to everyone who needs feeling in a familiar environment would love the friendliness of the crew, attentive attitude of the captain and chic live on board. Routes are simply imaginative and exotic, and usually visit many ports other can´t even dream to get at. However I would remark some minor negative aspects: plastic bottles on the buffet tables are not really elegant. The pool deck lacks shade areas, and the communication between the pool and the upper sun deck could be improved. Some members of the crew need a little bit more subtle with passengers who serve themselves a cup of tea in the main lounge before tea time. Read Less
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