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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
10 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2017
To discover Antarctica: the wild, the peaceful, the pristine landscapes, the animals, in their very own habitat, and visibly not disturbed by these strange visitors coming from other continents, To do so onboard a small size ship to be ... Read More
To discover Antarctica: the wild, the peaceful, the pristine landscapes, the animals, in their very own habitat, and visibly not disturbed by these strange visitors coming from other continents, To do so onboard a small size ship to be able to go in shore as much as possible around the icebergs and the whales, to enjoy the feeling of being part of a small family (only 200 passengers), to benefit of a strong and caring team of naturalists who were extremely helpful in preparing the visits... And to top it up, to relax in a large, nicely furnished room with a large bed, a balcony... and to enjoy a constantly amazingly good food, and good wines. What else? Very friendly staff, always ready to help. Excellent service at the various bars and restaurants. State of cleanliness very much OK. And I appreciated as well the availability and dedication of the Captain and of the Cruise Director who did everything in their power to make our cruise a memorable one, probably the "cruise of my life"... Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
this cruise chosen for itinerary and chance to visit very remote islands south of new Zealand the cruise was poor, accommodation, small and basic, food either good or bad, service mediocre. I have read salty1000 report and think he ... Read More
this cruise chosen for itinerary and chance to visit very remote islands south of new Zealand the cruise was poor, accommodation, small and basic, food either good or bad, service mediocre. I have read salty1000 report and think he must be an employee because this was not what happened on the ship. This ship charges top 5 star prices and gives 3 star value at best Expedition staff were knowledgeable but zodiac drivers were poor with no knowledge, most of the time they were dancers from the cabaret, or novice cadets The ship hit rocks off of the Snares islands and this meant returning to Bluff Harbour for emergency repairs. The itinerary was now severely shortened and specific Islands such as Antipodes and Bounty were missed, others including Mc Quarrie island went from 3 days to 3 hours or less. Everything was to blame of course except Ponant, weather, seas, laws and governments, we paid for a pre cruise tour and we did not get it, instead we stood outside of the ship in the sun waiting for the ship to be ready for embarkation Our cabins bed was a foldaway and barely adequate. the food was bland, cold and poorly served most of the time. The ships design is poor, too many disconnected areas, very little outside spaces of any note for £8000+ per person we expected more than they gave to us. NO we would not use this cruise line again, even with the on board bribe of _15-25% off of new Poanant cruises. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Cabin was fine . Excursion crews generally were good . This cruise was all about the intinerary . Due to the incompetent captain he hit a rock on our first excursion day . No quite Cosa Cordia but could have been . So we then ... Read More
Cabin was fine . Excursion crews generally were good . This cruise was all about the intinerary . Due to the incompetent captain he hit a rock on our first excursion day . No quite Cosa Cordia but could have been . So we then spent two days getting back to Bluff for 48 hours of underwater welding and then another wasted three days trying to get back down . Ever been to Bluff ? End result only 5 out of 12 intinerary landings . Lot more I could say but Ponants response to the incompetance was to come up with every excuse, even to the extent of a wonderful term " we touched a rock " Food was average . Mind you this was after a previous cruise we had paid to go on on Boreal 2016 was cancelled because the crew had a fire in the engine room while on an Antractic cruise in 2015 . You might say travelling with them is a health hazard . Also Austral only weeks later touched another rock in Milford Sound and has more recently been dry docked in Asia for another lot of urgent repairs from their many misadventures . Pity because their intineraries are good but two class - French and the rest and poor range of food and bad seamanship spoil what could be a good line . Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so ... Read More
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so achieve the best outcome for the passengers who were always kept fully informed. The zodiac crew worked well, often in very challenging weather conditions. The Captain is to be commended for regularly mixing with passengers on deck and in public rooms. Looking at the ship itself, our cabin steward (Agus) on Deck 4 gave excellent service. The talks given by the onboard lecturers were all exceptionally good and importantly outside of that the speakers made themselves available to chat informally with passengers in the public rooms. In regard to the dining arrangements, there were more self-service buffet style meals in the Deck 2 restaurant than we had expected; the impression had been given that it would be table service throughout except for the first course at breakfast where it is obviously preferable for people to serve themselves. Sometimes but not always at breakfast stewards would circulate with menus for those wishing to have a hot dish - it might be better to have small cards on each table listing the options for them to choose? At lunch for some reason the presentations of the cold entrée options and the desserts were placed side by side when it would have been better had they been separated so as to avoid confusion. Desserts did not appear to vary much from day to day. On the other hand the dinners were full table service and here the stewards worked well as a team. In the main lounge it was surprising that tea and coffee were on a self-service basis whereas counter service could have been more appropriate for a ship of five-star category. Similarly, on other ships of this category, cakes and sandwiches are displayed on a central table and after making their selection passengers move to tables where stewards serve tea. It was noticeable that a tray of cakes was only available at the counter - moreover the selection and its presentation remained identical for the entire 15-day voyage when some variety might have been expected. Also, passengers trying to juggle cups of tea and plates of cake with the rolling/pitching of the ship was not a good look. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We were aiming to visit Macquarie Island and Ponant were one of the few companies that make this journey, although we knew from the outset that the final itinerary was always dependant on the weather and sea conditions. This was classed ... Read More
We were aiming to visit Macquarie Island and Ponant were one of the few companies that make this journey, although we knew from the outset that the final itinerary was always dependant on the weather and sea conditions. This was classed as an 'expedition' cruise and it exceeded our expectations, being full of adventure (zodiac outings, wildlife and scenery). Indeed Ponant did all the could to maximise our opportunities to visit as many of the destinations as the weather permitted. Our journey to the subantarctic Islands was memorable and the French flair and style was all around us, so we didn't do it too tough! Cabin very stylish and comfortable. They displayed great environmental stewardship of all our activities and excursions. Staff wonderful, oodles of great food, although being French they like their meat on the rare side. Dessert pastries were to die for! The expedition staff were of the highest calibre and there were excellent talks and lectures on the sea days. We came away much better informed about the challenges in these pristine environments, including the effects of plastics in the worlds oceans. Would we go again? Absolutely! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The small ship experience was the most important factor in my choice but the so called luxury experience left a lot to be desired. Service was varied and inconsistent, the food was not of the suggested standard and sometimes quite bad. I ... Read More
The small ship experience was the most important factor in my choice but the so called luxury experience left a lot to be desired. Service was varied and inconsistent, the food was not of the suggested standard and sometimes quite bad. I returned a number of meals to be replaced. Expedition activities were very good. Meals varied but meat that was of an inferior quality is not acceptable and the attitude of staff to issues of poor quality were indifferent. The Expedition staff were very good and the general style was as one would expect of a luxury ship. Cabins do have a balcony but mold in the shower is not acceptable and staff rectification of housekeeping issues is poor. The room staff were indifferent to individual needs and often had to be asked for simple services more than once. The age of the ship is beginning to show and more attention to refurbishment and ongoing maintenance is needed. Read Less
26 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for years, and I finally made that dram a reality in December 2016. It was an amazing voyage, and lived up to the high expectations I had planted in my mind. Travelers should realize that when you ... Read More
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for years, and I finally made that dram a reality in December 2016. It was an amazing voyage, and lived up to the high expectations I had planted in my mind. Travelers should realize that when you cruise to Antarctica, you really only visit the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, not the great mass of the continent to which only intrepid explorers and crazy people go. Some cruises sail from Ushuaia just to the peninsula and back, usually over the course of 10-12 days. I wanted to take a longer, 16-day, cruise that included the Falklands and South Georgia island. Why Ponant? I was looking for a combination of itinerary, comfort, cuisine and cost, and it appeared that Ponant scored high on all categories. I'm sure that Silversea's offering is wonderful, but they were much more expensive. Hurtigruten was less costly, but they fall short in the comfort and cuisine areas. Ponant, which has only been actively marketing to Americans for two years or so, seemed to have the right balance. The Le Soleal is a new ship with comfortable cabins, an attentive and helpful crew, excellent food and the perfect itinerary. The French connection was another plus. My wife speaks French fluently, but she gets rusty from disuse and was savoring the idea that she would be able to hear and speak French for 2 1/2 weeks straight. The Cabin: Most of the cabins on Le Soleal have balconies, but I intentionally chose one of the few cabins with only a big window. Why? Because I simply didn't think I'd use the balcony very much in Antarctica. What's more, my cabin (#302) was exactly the same size as the others, except that their 30 square feet of balcony was a 30 square foot sitting area in mine. I don't regret the decision. Beyond that, the cabins were just fine. . . nothing opulent, but well-equipped and quite comfortable. A quick digression: The trip I booked was "all-inclusive" and included wine, liquor and gratuities. The mini-fridge in the cabin was stocked with sodas, water, beer and a few mini-bottles of booze, all complimentary. That was nice. But elsewhere in the cabin was an assortment of what I recall were crackers and cookies, that you were welcome to consume for several Euros each. They simply didn't fit the nom de plume "all-inclusive". I had my cabin steward remove them on the first day. Embarkation day was a disaster, most of which was NOT Ponant's fault. An eight hour strike by the baggage handlers on the day of our departure resulted in dozens of passengers missing luggage for a week, and a few of us (including me) missing luggage for the entire cruise. Ponant's senior crew and their on-shore representatives did a horrible job that day communicating with affected passengers. We were given little information and much of what was communicated was wrong. I - and many others - spent a couple of hours just before departure scouring stores in Ushuaia for socks, underwear, pants, shirts,hats, gloves, toothpaste, razors, etc. (I learned that the only place to buy underwear in Ushuaia is the grocery store.) I have to give Ponant a lot of credit. After the initial luggage SNAFU, Ponant got their act together, stepped up and bent over backwards to assist those of us without our bags. They defrayed our on-shore expenses, provided clothing items from the shop on board as well as from the crews' clothing outlet in the bowels of the ship, and gave us complimentary laundry service. They even planned and successfully executed a rendezvous six days later with another Ponant ship which enabled most of the delayed luggage to be reunited with its owners on Le Soleal. Dining on Le Soleal was excellent. There are two restaurants on Le Soleal. L'Eclipse on Deck 2 is full-service while Le Pytheas on Deck 6 is buffet and less elegant. Both were outstanding with lots of choices. I was especially impressed with the produce on board.. Remember that this was a 16 day cruise with no opportunity along the way to resupply the kitchen. Nonetheless, the fruits and salads were always excellent. Granted, as the days wore on, kiwi and bananas disappeared, and a few days later we had no more lettuce. But there was little else missing. Ponant did an outstanding job providing fresh, tasty produce throughout the cruise. Language. The passenger compliment on Le Soleal was probably 50% or more French speaking European, with the other half a mish-mash of Aussies, Americans, Asians, etc. Announcements were almost always given in both French and English. Efforts were often made (on Zodiac rides, eg., and some lectures) to have the entire group English speaking or French speaking. It was sometimes cumbersome, but necessary. (If you would prefer a totally English-speaking passenger compliment, Abercrombie & Kent, Tauk, and other companies sometimes charter the entire ship for an English-only experience.) Most passengers were quite friendly and outgoing, and I got to know and spend lots of time with many wonderful fellow travelers from around the world. I truly hope and expect that some of those relationships will endure. Daily and nightly entertainment on board were pianists and lounge singers who performed often in the lounge and observatory. Le Soleal also had a troop of young, very flexible and energetic dancers (four girls and a guy) who performed several creative and high-energy, productions in the theater. We also made out own entertainment. Kudos to Patrick, our cruise director. When several of us lobbied Patrick to schedule one or two karaoke nights, he happily complied, and we had a great time singing, dancing and making karaoke fools of ourselves. Excursions. All the above is nice, but the main reason travelers come to Antarctica is to see and walk among the wild life. And we did that in spades! There were thirteen naturalists on board. All of them were good and some were truly excellent. They were experienced, knowledgeable and willing to share with the passengers. The large fleet of Zodiacs on board was adequate to the task and Ponant had a well-trained crew to safely and efficiently get us where we needed to go. The wildlife is incredible! We saw, up close and personal, eight species of penguins, including a nesting colony of some 400,000 King Penguins on South Georgia Island. We saw what has to be the most photographed bird in Antarctica: a single, solitary Emperor Penguin on an ice shelf in Wilhelmina Bay, some two hundred miles or more from where most of the rest of the Emperors were congregating. The whale watching on this cruise was, by far, the most incredible I've ever seen. We observed Fin Whales, Minke Whales and even a rare Blue Whale. We watched a couple pods of Orca Whales. But the stars of the sea were the Humpback Whales. They were all around us, often only a few feet away from the Zodiac, lunge feeding, flipper-flapping, and, of course, proudly displaying their tails as they dove back under the surface. They were magnificent! Bottom Line: This cruise was just about everything I had hoped it would be. I would highly recommend Ponant and Le Soleal to anyone considering a cruise to Antarctica. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
We chose the cruise upon the recommendation of a friend who had previously traveled with Ponant. We found all the staff (especially the expedition staff) to be terrific people who all seemed to enjoy their job very much. The expedition ... Read More
We chose the cruise upon the recommendation of a friend who had previously traveled with Ponant. We found all the staff (especially the expedition staff) to be terrific people who all seemed to enjoy their job very much. The expedition staff had an obvious enthusiasm for all the places we visited. Other guests were friendly. All the meals and drinks were excellent. Did not have a bad meal. Our only disappointment was the obvious mess up in getting all guests on to the chartered flight from Beunos Aires. We were amongst the 45 passengers who were not advised of the chartered aeroplane's early departure. The B.A. staff from the Ponant office were excellent and did all they could to get us to Ushaia. It was disappointing that no apology was forthcoming from the captain regarding this inconvenience. (We waited 13 hours at Jorge Newbury airport before leaving for Ushaia). Nous avons choisi la croisière sur la recommendation d'un ami qui avait auparavant voyagé avec Ponant. Nous avons constaté que tout le personnel (surtout le personnel d'expédition) a été les gens terrifiants que tous ont semblés apprécier leur emploi très beaucoup. Le personnel d'expédition avait un enthousiasme évident pour tous les endroits que nous avons visités. D'autres invités étaient sympathiques. Tous les repas et les boissons étaient excellents. N'avait pas de mauvais repas. Notre seul désappointement était le désordre évident en haut dans le fait de monter tous les invités au vol chartered de Beunos Aires. Nous étions parmi les 45 passagers à qui on n'a pas conseillé du premier départ de l'avion chartered. Le personnel B.A. du bureau Ponant était excellent et a fait tout ce qu'ils pourraient pour nous recevoir à Ushaia. Il était décevant qu'aucune apologie n'était prochaine du capitaine quant à ce dérangement. (Nous avons attendu 13 heures à l'aéroport de Jorge Newbury avant le départ pour Ushaia). Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was called an "expedition cruise". And yes, there were some interesting excursions. But most afternoons were scheduled for swimming and/or snorkelling off a small island with no alternative activities. Not everyone in ... Read More
This was called an "expedition cruise". And yes, there were some interesting excursions. But most afternoons were scheduled for swimming and/or snorkelling off a small island with no alternative activities. Not everyone in the main cruising demographic needs so much water activity. We had been to some of the excursion sites before and found this time the visits were shorter, rather watered-down especially in Rabaul where we did not go as close to Mt Tavurvur as on a previous cruise, and were closely shepherded around the town and not allowed to wander. The visits to Kitava and Tufi were good, but we had seen more of Alotau on a previous trip. And please, Ponant, don't bother with Gizo! L'Austral is a very attractive ship, is very smooth. But there is very little area to sit and look at the sea with the exception of your cabin balcony. The bars were good, ditto the interior lounge spaces. The staff were excellent. Ditto the expedition leaders, especially Mick Fogg, Harry Christensen, and Justin Friend. Their summaries and information were extensive although a little more onshore involvement of expedition staff would have been appreciated. Now to the great disappointment - the food. For what could be classed as a reasonably expensive cruise the quality of the food could not even be classed as average. This is the first occasion that we have had to return meals because they were inedible or unchewable. This occurred on three occasions. Once, with a steak, we asked for English mustard and even the maître d' had not heard of it! Courses were very small and in many cases lacked flavour. However, the cheese selections were outstanding even though a little repetitive. The ship carries a good selection of wines which can be purchased but are reasonably expensive when charged in euros. We chose the house wines which were adequate but very limited in choice. We would have appreciated speaking to the sommelier about the wine selections but did not have the opportunity. However, the dining staff were excellent. Read Less
57 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Simply wonderful.This is a trip I have wanted to do for many decades and I am so pleased I opted for Abercrombie & Kent. I chose to fly business class to Buenos Aires (there was no First Class available with BA), this made an expensive ... Read More
Simply wonderful.This is a trip I have wanted to do for many decades and I am so pleased I opted for Abercrombie & Kent. I chose to fly business class to Buenos Aires (there was no First Class available with BA), this made an expensive trip into a very expensive trip, but that was my choice. My cabin or stateroom as they are rather pretentiously called, was on deck three and I was more than happy with it, it was close to reception, the Grand Salon, the restaurant and I was very comfortable. The food on board was excellent, personally I thought it was remarkable they could offer such wonderful selections of fresh fruits and salads throughout the trip. There were two restaurants, an informal buffet restaurant that was often busy on level six and a more formal and quieter restaurant on level two. Some guests complained about the choice etc, but then you will always get some people who just take a delight in finding something to complain about. It was a boat with 200 guests and 100 staff not 3,000 guests; they served three meals a day plus snacks and afternoon teas and even crepes some afternoons. If at anytime you were hungry, you could always order from the extensive room service menu for which there was no extra charge. All drinks including from the cabin's mini bar were included with the exception of high value vintage wines and vintage champagnes.The staff on board were on the whole simply delightful. Many of the waiters etc were from Indonesia or Bali, they were charming and smiled and tried as hard as possible. The criticisms I had were relatively minor but I think justified: one my trip, we only had part of one day in The Falklands, I would have dearly liked to have spent more time, atleast two or three days; the films on the TV in the cabin were awful; readers might think this is a stupid comment, but in rough seas I wanted to spend time on my bed doing nothing and would have really appreciated a far better selection. The laundry and (sporadic) internet connection I felt unnecessarily expensive, my extras for the two weeks amounted to only $280 but that was just laundry and the internet. Sadly for me some of the lectures were dull, but it gave you something to do, and if like me, you could always go to sleep in them. The scenery was of course out of this world; if you want to see Penguins, seals, and whales, they all came to you, and delighted everyone. I met some lovely people, both guests and staff; and of course there were those who I won't be sending Christmas cards to in future, but that's life. I came away feeling sad I had to return to the realities of home and very fortunate that I was in the position to be able to have afforded such a trip. No amount of photos could ever do the trip justice and I could never put into words the feelings of wonder and excitement that I experienced. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
Antarctica has been #1 on my "bucket list" for as long as I can remember. Le Soleal and its crew made the Antarctic a one of a kind experience. From the captain's greeting as we boarded the ship to the ship itself, the ... Read More
Antarctica has been #1 on my "bucket list" for as long as I can remember. Le Soleal and its crew made the Antarctic a one of a kind experience. From the captain's greeting as we boarded the ship to the ship itself, the crew, the food, the shore excursions and more, I will always remember my visit to Antarctica. If you choose to venture so far south, go with Ponant. You won't regret it! Prior to the cruise we had been warned that setting foot on the continent might not ne possible given ice. My goal was to set foot on it at least once and I would die a happy cruiser. Not only did we landed once, but we did so nine more times. Unlike other cruises, the captain had the freedom to change the itinerary to capture the best weather, the stay within sighting distance of a pod of Orcas, and maneuver us among magnificent icebergs. We saw tens of thousands of penguins as well as elephant seal, whales and Orcas. The knowledgeable crew gave daily lectures on the birds, mammals, penguins, and types of ice we would see. And the fine touches were the icing on the cake. One day our zodiac rounded the side of an iceberg where we were greeting by crew in another zodiac with champagne. Although I will likely never venture to the Antarctic again, I will cruise with Ponant! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
Seeing the antarctica was definitely a bucket list item for us , I have wanted to do this cruise for the last 5 years , and was surprised when friends told us they were planning to do this cruise with Ponant in 8 months time in November ... Read More
Seeing the antarctica was definitely a bucket list item for us , I have wanted to do this cruise for the last 5 years , and was surprised when friends told us they were planning to do this cruise with Ponant in 8 months time in November and why not join them . the all inclusive price for the accommodation, flights , special clothing ( gum boots and thermal coat issued on the boat) all drinks on board made this cruise great value for money . Everything was 5 star and we were treated as 5 star guests by all the crew and staff . There is no doubt the small ship of 200 passengers and 150 crew and staff made this trip beyond all expectations for us. Of all the expedition trips on offer , this has to be the most amazing cruise for seeing the wildlife close up and having experienced naturalists to explain and guide you on shore. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
We always wanted to go to Antarctica but searched for a little more comfort than the typical icebreaker offered. Le Lyrial with its reinforced hull and 122 staterooms gave us that small ship feel to get us into all the little bays and ... Read More
We always wanted to go to Antarctica but searched for a little more comfort than the typical icebreaker offered. Le Lyrial with its reinforced hull and 122 staterooms gave us that small ship feel to get us into all the little bays and ports whilst travelling in style. Our window cabin (307) was the cheapest but, being designated "disabled", much larger than the standard balcony stateroom. Heaps of space. Dining location alternated depending on our mood between the a-la-cart Gastronomic on deck 2 and more casual Grill restaurant on deck 6. The food was wonderful. Interestingly it became necessary to reserve a table at the Grill for an evening meal, it was so popular. As you would expect, activities centred on the expedition nature of the cruise with a good dose of lectures from the many expedition crew members. French and English lectures were scheduled separately and were superb. With 2 zodiac trips, a day we didn't have much time for the evening entertainment so can't comment. Most spare time was spent just catching up with others in one of the 2 public rooms. An open bar made that a very pleasant pre-dinner ritual. The service on board was excellent, plenty of staff, some of whom we soon got to know quite well. We sensed, however, some tension between the French-speaking passengers and one senior Italian crew member where her french announcements weren't deemed adequate. The expedition crew were excellent and couldn't have done a better job of keeping us safe whilst finding the best possible landing sites. If landing was unsafe a revised location was quickly and seamlessly established. They then manned the zodiacs and made themselves available on-shore to answer the many questions we all wanted answering. The volume of wildlife was mindblowing. We all tried to stick to the flags marking a separation from the thousands of penguins, seals and birds but the animals don't know the rules and just come right up to you to investigate. One tip is to make sure that South Georgia is included in your Antarctic expedition. The Antarctic peninsular was great. South Georgia was amazing. Literally millions of wildlife. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
It was a last minute decision to go on a cruise and this was the only one available. We booked two days before embarkation and arrived in Hong Kong the night before departure. The ship was beautiful and the staff very friendly. Although it ... Read More
It was a last minute decision to go on a cruise and this was the only one available. We booked two days before embarkation and arrived in Hong Kong the night before departure. The ship was beautiful and the staff very friendly. Although it is a French speaking ship, English was well catered for, with all crew bi-lingual. Announcements were made in French then repeated in English. This being our first cruise, we cant really make a comparison with other lines but we enjoyed the experience. There were other folk that seemed to be cruising experts and had been on many different boats; they had mixed reviews of our ship and line. One common complaint was that the food on board was not really up to standard for a 5 star cruise line; I agree. There were two restaurants, one buffet and one fine dining. The buffet was average and really only cafeteria standard, the choice was limited and food quite unappealing, with pretty much the same every day. The a la carte was naturally French cuisine and also limited. Quality in the fine dining restaurant was better than the buffet and the wine choice ok. The buffet wines were unacceptably poor quality. Entertainment on board was limited but pleasant, with singers and dancers and a piano player. Personally, I was happy with that level of entertainment and really, it was not a large ship, so one would not expect entertainment extravaganzas. Drinks and all food on board was included in the ticket, which was good. Excepting the wines in the buffet, the drinks selection was really good, with beers and quality spirits included; I like scotch and there was a very acceptable single malt in the choices. Any premium spirits or wines were charged for. Passenger demographic was mainly French with about 25 Americans and 15 Aussies on board. Everyone got on fine and we socialized with all groups. There were not many kids on board but they were very well behaved and the crew catered to and entertained them. I would guess the average age on board was around 45 - 50, hence, no disco....thank God. We have discovered that we like cruising, so we will go again soon and would very likely choose a Ponant cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
The embarkation was delayed because the ship had to relocate due to a imminent cyclone. We had to stay overnight in Kanazawa and travelled by bus to the new port of departure and were welcomed by the Captain and officers, taken to our ... Read More
The embarkation was delayed because the ship had to relocate due to a imminent cyclone. We had to stay overnight in Kanazawa and travelled by bus to the new port of departure and were welcomed by the Captain and officers, taken to our cabin and as we departed, invited to an excellent brunch in the buffet. L'Austral is a small luxury cruise ship which has been designed with beautiful interiors, colours and furnishings both in the general areas and the cabins. The Gastronomic Restaurant was outstanding with wonderful meals and wines and the Grill the place to go for breakfast and lunch. The Main Lounge apart from an excellent bar service, provided evening entertainment, music, and later in the night, dancing after the show. The shows were terrific, with excellent dance, sound and stage performances. Three out of the six excursions we took were well organised, but the others left a lot to be desired. The entertainment provided by locals on the wharf in two of the small ports where L'Austral docked and meeting the ship in Osaka, were outstanding. The service by the cabin boy Christy, the bar staff, the restaurant staff and the Hotel Manager, and the support crew as well as the Captain and officers was excellent. We met some wonderful fellow passengers with whom will maintain contact in the future. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
The itinerary was for a few days on Pitcairn and Easter Island, which is not possible with large ships. So small ships are the way to go. the food was divine and the entertainment excellent. the cruise director made cry non french ... Read More
The itinerary was for a few days on Pitcairn and Easter Island, which is not possible with large ships. So small ships are the way to go. the food was divine and the entertainment excellent. the cruise director made cry non french speaking traveller part of the cruise. The provided history and cultural videos of our cruise and ports were excellent and added to ur experiences. It was a memorable time for family and friends to finally reach Easter Island and put a big tick off our bucket list. Spending 3 days on Easter Island was just the best highlight of the cruise as there was so much to see the than the few Moi's that you see on the postcards. ti be up close and personal especially the moi's from the quarry was just an amazing experience. If you want o see Easter Island, you need seen some solid days exploring the Island and not just a scenic cruise by. this was achieved with Ponant. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2016
Have just returned from a cruise on Le Soleal from Tahiti to Easter Island. We chose this cruise as it visited remote islands, particularly the difficult to access Pitcairn Island. Having seen some quite negative reviews from Australians ... Read More
Have just returned from a cruise on Le Soleal from Tahiti to Easter Island. We chose this cruise as it visited remote islands, particularly the difficult to access Pitcairn Island. Having seen some quite negative reviews from Australians on this site about this cruiseline I was a bit concerned before we left. Having travelled on a few cruise lines I found Ponant friendly, professional, staff catered well to non French speaking passengers and the food and service were excellent. There was a balance of fun, comfort and adventure. The Captain was frequently accessible and the cruise director one of the best. The cabins were comfortable and always clean. With such difficult to access islands it was sometimes unclear whether we would be able to land until the last minute, but we were always kept informed by the Captain about the conditions. So some flexibility is needed when undertaking this type of cruise but it all adds up to an unforgettable holiday. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Chosen because of itinerary - shore excursions featured in promotional materials. Ponant completed mismanaged all shore activities from arrival at airport through nearly all shore excursions. Ponant rep could not find driver and bus at ... Read More
Chosen because of itinerary - shore excursions featured in promotional materials. Ponant completed mismanaged all shore activities from arrival at airport through nearly all shore excursions. Ponant rep could not find driver and bus at Narita airport keeping us waiting more than an hour causing us to arrive at destination after dark so that we could not see the first featured garden. Most local guides spoke with such thick accents that they could not be understood. In addition, since there was no continuity of guides, many repeated information that had been given to us previously. On one day we waited more than two hours to be processed by Japanese customs because Ponant had not prepared properly for the customs agents. Further Ponant representatives made no attempt to ensure that the queue was maintained in an orderly fashion, allowing cutting in to the line. On that day we were delayed so long that we were too late to enter the Hiroshima peace memorial (another highlight of the trip missed). Further, the PA announcements could not be heard in cabins, it was necessary to open the cabin door to hear the announcements through the corridor PA systems. In addition the details of when and where it was necessary to congregate were often changed at the last minute. On a more positive note, our cabin (a suite) was excellent, although the standard veranda cabins appeared to be too small compared with either Seabourn or Crystal's similar cabins. On board service was excellent. Dining - breakfasts were outstanding, luncheon buffets generally good except for the hot entrees. Dinners suffered from poor quality of the main entrees (tenderloin anything but tender) fish seemed not to be fresh. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
We chose this cruise because Ponant is one of the very few companies to offer a cruise starting and ending in Tahiti. We also chose it because, being a very small yacht, it was able to visit remote islands that were too small to service or ... Read More
We chose this cruise because Ponant is one of the very few companies to offer a cruise starting and ending in Tahiti. We also chose it because, being a very small yacht, it was able to visit remote islands that were too small to service or accommodate big cruise ships. Having read the wildly varying reviews of Ponant and Le Soleal on this site we wondered if we had done the right thing. In the end our fears, raised by some of the reviewers on this site proved to be complete unfounded. Le Soleal is a fabulous cruise yacht, the staff are friendly to a fault and the food is absolutely the finest French cuisine. All the excursions including the zodiac disembarkation onto tiny little islets were organised with the utmost professionalism and slickness. Really impossible to fault. Almost everyone we spoke to and dined with loved the cruise unreservedly. The notable exceptions were the Australians who had cruised on Seabourne etc. They whinged incessantly and I guess it's they who are responsible for the poor reviews here. None of the Europeans we spoke to were anything other than delighted with the ship and the crew. I haven't been on a Seabourne cruise but I have dined in some of the finest restaurants and stayed at some of the finest hotels and as fas as I'm concerned Le Soleal was right up there with the best. However, to sample the very finest wines you you have to leave the all-inclusive menu and choose something (expensive) a la carte. Only once did I see anything less than exemplary behaviour from one of the staff and that was the result of constant whinging and harping from one of our Australian cruisers. I can quite see how the French crew would get wound up by people who do nothing but criticise. In short Le Soleal is a wonderful cruise experience best suited to middle aged affluent travellers who are still agile enough to enjoy all their is to offer (snorkelling, diving etc). But even if you have advanced beyond that the Polynesian cruise on Le Soleal is a perfect way to sample the islands. Best of all you get to see the ones that are well off the beaten track as well as the standard favourites such as Bora Bora. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
A very enjoyable cruise on a well presented and managed ship. My wife has been reluctant to cruise and this was her first. At the end of the cruise she was speaking about the next. What made this very enjoyable was the small ship ... Read More
A very enjoyable cruise on a well presented and managed ship. My wife has been reluctant to cruise and this was her first. At the end of the cruise she was speaking about the next. What made this very enjoyable was the small ship concept which made for a very pleasant uncrowded time on-board ship - we had 240 passengers with all cabins taken. A good mix of nationalities. The staff were attentive and efficient. As you would expect from a French ship the food was excellent and lived up to what you would expect from any good French restaurant. While the whole ship had an open bar, the selection of French wines in the restaurants could have been better. The ship's public areas were well appointed and not crowded. The cabin was spacious, modern and well appointed with a very usable balcony. The on-shore excursions were well organised and informative. Of course, there were some ports where doing your own thing was appealing. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Ponant is a lovely yacht if the seas are kind. We were lucky and it only got rough the last night. Despite the excellent service onboard, there are a few things that, for the price, should be addressed. 1. Do not be fooled by the ... Read More
Ponant is a lovely yacht if the seas are kind. We were lucky and it only got rough the last night. Despite the excellent service onboard, there are a few things that, for the price, should be addressed. 1. Do not be fooled by the deck chart. Cabins 1 through 5 are very tiny and definitely should be your last choice. The beds are fixed queens and cannot be separated. These cabins themselves are very tiny. 2. On day two of sleeping onboard I awoke with the most horrible pain in my hip. This has never happened before. This pain stayed with me throughout the entire cruise. I could only get to a standing position very slowly with much pain and walking pain. Then I found out I was not alone. Two other people were having such issues, another one actually having to stay onboard like I did. There is something wrong with the mattresses. Even adding two duvets to the top and a pillow did not help. 3. Food choices are really geared to lamb and fish. I never saw chicken on the menu. Although the ship was very accomodating on some food issues, in general all I can say is that both my husband and I lost weight on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2016
i was offered a deal by your sydney sales woman,gina. i had to take advantage of it.the only part of the cruise that was 5 star ,was the service provided by the receptionists, the excursion officer, all the cabin attendants,the house ... Read More
i was offered a deal by your sydney sales woman,gina. i had to take advantage of it.the only part of the cruise that was 5 star ,was the service provided by the receptionists, the excursion officer, all the cabin attendants,the house keeping supervisor,the restaurants serving staff and supervisors,most of the bar attendants and some of the crew members. some of the a la carte food would be considered illegal in australia. the quality of food was from sizzlers 3 star quality to 5 star. embarkation was not pleasant. logistically not well organised. the on board lectures by sophie and pascal were a high light. the theatre has great atmosphere. the stage performances were french formula type. pleasant ,but average. the islands childrens and dancers visiting at night were very pleasant. the trivia games were very retirement village type. the incidental music provided by the onboard singers/musicians was average. the rudeness towards some of the staff and fellow passengers by some of the french passengers was intolerable. from the time of the the meeting in the theatre regarding disembarkation,some of us felt abandoned. the company has our money . so get off. we have to start to think about the next group of arriving passengers. the cruise director should of gone around to every table the night before disembarkation and quickly thanked everybody. but we noted it did not happen. he represents the owner and senior managers of the company. but overall it was a french experience,but certainly not 5 star. that was reflected in the attitude of the captain, officers and hotel management. you may not like it ,but we passengers do talk to each other about the various qualities of the 5 star cruise ship market. i sent an email to head office regarding employment for somebody. but typically ,no reply. i would like to embark on another ponant cruise, but it depends upon where and how long. i want to go to antarctica. but so far what you are offering ,is inadequate. Read Less
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