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17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2010
We boarded the brand new mega yacht Le Boreal in May for her Monaco Grand Prix cruise, with high expectations for an ultra luxury cruise experience. I will initially explain that I have now cruised with quite a few of the luxury lines ... Read More
We boarded the brand new mega yacht Le Boreal in May for her Monaco Grand Prix cruise, with high expectations for an ultra luxury cruise experience. I will initially explain that I have now cruised with quite a few of the luxury lines including Seabourn, Silversea and Regent. I have therefore come to expect a distinct level of service provided by these superior lines. Upon booking for Le Boreal it was explained to me that Compagnie du Ponant were putting this yacht in service to try to compete with the high end lines, the prices for the cruise were also very high over £4000 each for a week's cruise with only wine and tea coffee with meals included, for a small suite. We quickly embarked the ship and were promptly recieved and shown our suite, there was no welcome drink or pleasantries, just straight to our suite. The suite one down from the owners suite was compact, dread to think of the size of the other rooms! The balcony was solid and the room was quite dark because of this. This was not explained to us at the time of booking so visibility from the balcony was quite a problem, which we thought was very poor for a room of this magnitude. We complained to the hotel manager, but he showed little interest, and was more keen on taking every phone call he had whilst talking to us, extremely rude to say the least! We had a TV that did not work for 4 days of a 8 day cruise, but champagne was sent to the room as an apology. The public areas of the ship were very modern and sophisticated and the vessel with the right management could proove a successful enterprise. The restaurant was lovely, but we were told that we could not reserve tables and every time we went to a table it had a reserved sticker on it??? It seemed WE could not, but others could, and this pattern unfortunately continued for the whole of the cruise. I am used to hearing YES on a cruise, with our party on this cruise it became NO all of the time! The restaurant opened at not a set time, and the same wines were served EVERY DAY AND NIGHT for a week, to make you buy additional wines of course!! A cheap ploy for such an expensive cruise. The food ranged form the sublime to the plain awful and there seemed no in between. At lunch there was just a buffet available no grill menu, we saw a man special order a burger,so I called over the maitre'd to ask if I could pre order for the next day 2 burgers for our friends, the reply ......... The chef won't be very happy....my reply with a face of thunder,and I wont be very happy if you dont sort it out!! Unfortunately, this behaviour was typical of the whole experience one rule for one and one for the others. It really depended on which nationality you were as to the level of service you recieved, and I was shocked this kind of thing was happening. The rooms were small and although imaculate, they were brand new, they were furnished well and featured L'occitane amenities, these however were never replenished, which was just terrible, service like this you wouldnt receive in a cheap hotel. There was little to do and next to no entertainment in the day,apart from a singer or two, not even a game of bridge, trivia, cooking demonsration or wine tasting, nothing and with 3 days at sea it became pretty boring. I will summarise by saying that if the company do not adjust their business model I think it will quickly run out of staem, if clientele are paying premium money they expect good service,food,QUALITY wine, and ambience. LeBoreal is seriously lacking al of the above,which is a real shame as the vessel is stunning. Some fellow cruisers enjoyed themselves, but when I asked them if they had cruised before, I kinda knew the answer would be NO. If they had, they would have been seriously unhappy with this shower!!! 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
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
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
I was surprised to read the review by Tilly-Loves-Seabourn, because our experience was nearly identical on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica in December 2010. The saving grace was that our cruise was chartered by Abercrombie & Kent, who ... Read More
I was surprised to read the review by Tilly-Loves-Seabourn, because our experience was nearly identical on a 10-day cruise to Antarctica in December 2010. The saving grace was that our cruise was chartered by Abercrombie & Kent, who supplied all of the on-board lecturers and naturalists who worked hard as our zodiac guides. This ship (and its new Ponant owners) may have five-star aspirations but they don't seem to have a clue as to the requisite service levels and cuisine. I am sad to report that both service and cuisine are below the standard of Royal Caribbean mega ships, far below Celebrity, and not even comparable to Seabourn and her real peers. We had bartenders so green that they could not identify brand-name bottles on their shelf or find/mix the drinks on their cocktail list. We had waiter-busboys so inept that they were scraping cleared plates tableside, oblivious to standard clues as to when diners where finished with a course, unable to take accurate non-standard meal requests (e.g., substitutions). And don't get me started about the unsanitary way that I saw cutlery, fruits and straws handled. There were a few senior people in the dining room who seemed to understand our expectations but when privately pressed were frankly embarrassed that they lacked the new corporate head office support for adequate staffing or quality supplies. That may be true, but they were doing a poor job of training staff and working with what they had. There also was a certain French indifference to service requests, even though I'm fluent in French. Room service breakfast after 10:00 a.m. (because the restaurant stops serving at 9:30, even on at-sea days) -- impossible (not even toast or a hard-boiled egg). Someone is sick in the cabin and we need sheets changed -- no message passed on to the cabin stewards who arrive 3.5 hours later on their regular rounds. Except for the A&K Staff, there was virtually no entertainment or activity on board (not even a daily crossword puzzle). This may be the best looking boat sailing in the Antarctic, but I'll bet that many others offer better service and far better food. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2010
The biggest decision to make in regard to going to Antarctica on an 'expedition' ship is how much time you wish to spend 'off the boat', and what style you want to experience while on-board. Le Boreal is still probably ... Read More
The biggest decision to make in regard to going to Antarctica on an 'expedition' ship is how much time you wish to spend 'off the boat', and what style you want to experience while on-board. Le Boreal is still probably the most stylish way to explore the peninsula, but because it carries 200 passengers, you will spend less time roaming about in the zodiacs than on a smaller ship with less than 100 passengers (by regulation, only 100 individuals are allowed onshore at one time). Le Boreal does have it's failings though (as other reviewers have indicated), and when it comes up against all the other ships sailing other parts of the world, it would have some issues matching up. But in Antarctica, it will not be wanting for passengers... as only a small number of ships tour there, and more and more people are visiting each year. The staff will get better at being more professional, and the ship will work on eliminating some of the shakedown style problems. Bottom line, if you want to visit in style, and being restricted to only 3-4 hours a day off the ship is not an issue, than you will probably not do better than going on the Le Boreal... other parts of the world are another matter. 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
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
We have just undertaken a cruise on L'Austral from Venice to Croatia and back to Venice. We were very excited to go on such a brand new ship. We stayed in a normal cabin while our friends booked the owner's suite. Hopefully they ... Read More
We have just undertaken a cruise on L'Austral from Venice to Croatia and back to Venice. We were very excited to go on such a brand new ship. We stayed in a normal cabin while our friends booked the owner's suite. Hopefully they will write their review but they spent many hours talking to the hotel manager about things that were unacceptable. For me the outstanding point was that it was like walking into an old age home! There were no children or anyone under 50 years of age. I would recommend anyone younger to check first what the composition of the cruise passengers is like. The cabins are very small and the double bed occupies most of the room. Our room had only a shower and no bath. Service levels in general were not great. While the food was generally very good the service in the main dining room was shocking. The few waiters could not cope and we waited very long for our food. We eventually booked dinner in the buffet restaurant on deck 6 to avoid the long waiting. The 2 nights that there were cocktail functions before dinner with the captain and then dinner for everyone in the same restaurant were chaos. Also the Tauck group seemed to get preferential bookings at dinner and special functions where bars were closed for their functions. I found that totally unacceptable as I was a fully paying passenger! Croatia is beautiful but my impression was that the excursions off the boat were very expensive. We took one cycling excursion near Dubrovnik which cost Euro 75 per person and which was certainly not worth that amount. We ended up renting cars on our own in the other locations and definitely saved money doing that. All in all for me the cruise did not live up to the expectations created the brochure and I probably will not go on another Ponant cruise. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2011
We were disappointed in our cruise from Venice along the Croatian coast This brand new ship was elegant and comfortable though not without its design faults. This ship would suit people who speak french. The announcements were all made in ... Read More
We were disappointed in our cruise from Venice along the Croatian coast This brand new ship was elegant and comfortable though not without its design faults. This ship would suit people who speak french. The announcements were all made in French first and then when English was spoken you had to listen very carefully to understand their accents. It felt as though for every 5 minutes of french spoken only 1 minute of English was spoken during the announcements. There was a large group of TAUCK travellers (+- 130) and a group of French (60+). The ship accommodates 260 passengers. These groups enjoyed "Happy Hour" and cocktail parties that excluded the other passengers. I found the food very bland. The "Welcome" and "Farewell" dinners were both on nights that the ship was in port. The casino remained closed as we were never far away enough from the coast for it to open. There were no children and there was no happy holiday vibe I have experienced on other cruises. The dining area outside the buffet restaurant was always covered with water from the pool as the slope was incorrect (design error) and we could not sit there. The railing around the other outside seating area was not see trough and when sitting down we enjoyed no view of the sea at all. The large bed in the cabin took up most of the space and the cabin would have felt cramped if we had not had a very nice balcony. The itinerary was fabulous and the ports were all very enjoyable.Embarkation was great as we were greeted with umbrellas on the gang way and offered warm towels to wipe our hands. Disembarkation was also fine. 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
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
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: December 2011
Hotel before the cruise: 2 nights at the Tierra del Leyendas in Ushuaia. What a wonderful little hotel! Warm, inviting with great service and food. It is hard to imagine a better start to an Antarctic trip than a stay at this little ... Read More
Hotel before the cruise: 2 nights at the Tierra del Leyendas in Ushuaia. What a wonderful little hotel! Warm, inviting with great service and food. It is hard to imagine a better start to an Antarctic trip than a stay at this little gem. Highly recommended! The cruise: Before getting into the cruise, I have to make a few points about Ponant Customer Relations. We and our TA found it lacking and the communication very poor. Very shortly before departure (3 weeks), the company informed our agent they needed medical forms - and that we would be denied boarding if we did not have them signed by a physician and submitted. While the requirement of the form is not surprising, none of us had heard about the requirement since the cruise was booked (almost a year before sailing). In addition, no one had asked us about sizes for the parka we were to receive or how they were to be distributed. By comparison, Silversea asked our size for an Arctic cruise last year on the PA II (now the Silver Explorer) and had them for us when we boarded. Different procedures for different companies is certainly understandable, but a lack of communication and poor organization is not. As an aside, we were told the Ponant agent with whom our travel agent booked the cruise is no longer with them. Not exactly a surprise! On the dock before the cruise: Ponant unfortunately continued to provide a less than expected experience when we had to pull our own luggage all the way to the end of the dock to the gangway. I have never had to pull my own bags (not just my carry-on) all the way to the ship. Surely there was some way to take baggage from passengers and convey it to the ship. By the way, once on board we had to go back to reception to bring 2 of the 4 bags to the cabin since they were left standing there. Very disorganized and somewhat weird. The cruise: OK, enough of the bad stuff (just a little more to come). I am sure you think I am going to slam the cruise, but that is definitely not the case. I just felt it was necessary to share the bad with the good. The ship is beautiful and very comfortable. The last bit of bad stuff is that there is a design flaw in the balcony doors on Deck 3. On the first morning in the Drake Channel (25-30 foot seas) our cabin flooded twice in the space of 3 hours. The flaw lets water in under the sill of the door as well as around the seal. Until the ship makes a technical stop (their term) it cannot be corrected. As a result, at least 7 cabins on Deck 3 had the water problem and we were all moved to unsold cabins on Deck 6. Thank goodness they had them available. Service: Excellent. The cabin staff was tremendous and the dining room staff was superb. Food: This has been a hot topic of debate on the reviews. The quality of the food and preparation was absolutely top-notch. I can understand, however, how some passengers might have been disappointed with only 2 choices of soup, 2 choices of starters, 3 choices of main course (a fish, a meat, and a pasta), and 2 choices of dessert nightly. There were limited choices always available - Caesar Salad, Grilled Ribeye, ice cream, and a cheese plate. For the Captain's Gala Welcome and Farewell Dinners, the menus were fixed - and delicious. For me, there was always an appealing choice and I would rather have fewer selections of excellently prepared, top quality food than a lot of so-so items to pick from. Breakfast was a buffet (plus one featured dish prepared to taste) and lunch was a themed buffet daily. Nice house wines and beer was served with lunch and dinner with extra cost selections available as well. Public Rooms: Very appealing and well laid out. Cabin: Except for the flooding in our first stateroom (325), they were well designed and laid out. There were two quirks, however - 1) There is a panel that can be moved to reveal a fixed window that looks into the bath from the bed area; 2) The toilet is in a small area by itself. You have to exit it and go into the separate area with the shower and sink to wash your hand. Very odd. Entertainment: There were some very talented singers, dancers and musicians on-board. Entertainment was better than expected and made a nice way to end some evenings. In addition, Wii was available (I had never played) in 2 locations and made a nice diversion for the 5 children (and some adults - like us!) on-board. There was also a library (with a couple of tables for card playing or writing), computers (with available Internet packages), etc. In addition there were daily briefings and lectures like you would find on other Expedition cruises. Expedition Staff: Very competent but not as outgoing or sociable as on Silversea. All in all, though, they were dedicated to our safety, making sure we had every opportunity to enjoy Antarctica, to enforcing the rules and regulations. I don't think you could ask for more. I will also include the Videographer and Photographer in this category. They were incredible and very helpful. The video DVD and photo CD (available in US and non-US formats) are fantastic. Antarctica: The scenery and wildlife were amazing. Weather was always a challenge (snow probably half the time and rain others while near or on the continent). We saw the sun perhaps 1 or 2 days in addition to sail away and the day we returned. The tentative itinerary will definitely change due to ice, sea conditions (40 foot waves while fighting north on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula) and weather. Favorite moment? There were 2. Brown Bluff (huge Adele Penguin Rookeries with new chicks and taking zodiacs to get off on an ice flow in Wilhelmina Bay. I can only suggest that you go. You are in for an exhilarating and unique experience. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2011
Booking- We booked directly with Ponant's US office. Office staff were generally poorly responsive. Emails and voicemails were not were not regularly responded to and it was difficult to reach a person when calling. The office ... Read More
Booking- We booked directly with Ponant's US office. Office staff were generally poorly responsive. Emails and voicemails were not were not regularly responded to and it was difficult to reach a person when calling. The office also apparently neglected to forward information regarding the dietary restrictions of one of our party to the ship. Charter flight to Ushuaia/tour of Tierra del Fuego- We spent several days on our own in Buenos Aries. Since we'd heard flights to Ushuaia can be unreliable, we decided to pay the premium and reserve seats on a LAN flight chartered by Ponant. We were given instructions to be at AEP at 4:30 AM, where we'd be greeted by representatives of the cruise line who would get us our boarding passes and on the plane. We arrived at the airport at 4:20 to find no representatives and no indication what to do. Only the heroic help of the LAN representatives got us to the gate--the plane was half boarded at the time. Since it was a charter flight, there were no published flight times on the LAN web page, and the departure time had been moved up and we received no notice. Once arriving in Ushuaia, we had about a half hour to explore the town before our bus tour of the national park and traditional lamb BBQ. They had a bus specifically for English speaking guests. The bus tour was run by a local agency and we enjoyed it, although it was a pretty whirlwind trip and in retrospect would have enjoyed spending more time in Ushuaia. The cruise: Our big bags met us on the boat. We were happy with our cabin. The divided restroom is a little bit strange--it'd be nice to be able to get to the sink immediately after using the toilet. As mentioned in previous reviews, the shower/sink half of the restroom has a window to the rest of the cabin with a sliding door to close for privacy. It'd be nice to have the control of the privacy screen on the inside rather than outside of the restroom. We also would have appreciated one or two more electrical outlets. The ship itself is very modern and luxurious. Between our balcony and the common areas at the front and rear of the ship there was plenty of space for viewing scenery and wildlife. However, since everyone has a balcony, there isn't really a continuous deck you can use to, say, chase a whale around the boat. Dining-Breakfast and lunch were both buffet style. Lunch had a different ethnic theme (some more successful than others) each day while breakfast was pretty much the same thing every day. The food was good with a lot of options, but salads and desert in particular were pretty repetitive. Most dinners were 4 courses, with two options for each course. There was also an "alternative" salad + steak menu that was always available and a "light" option which was typically a steamed fish of the day. We were happy with these dinners. There was also the upper dining room, where a buffet was served. This dining room was really affected by the waves and closed on rougher days. There were 4 more "formal" nights with 5 course, fixed menus where everyone was expected to eat in the main dining room (upstairs was closed). We weren't a big fan of these nights--our companion with dietary restrictions (basically for a low fat/salt heart-healthy diet) wasn't very well accommodated. The alternative menu was available, but not the low fat option. Also, for anyone with a weak stomach, options are nice and the combination of noise and over application of perfume from everyone being in the dining room made these nights a bit nauseating even without the waves. Also, the main dining room had advertised that they took reservations for large parties but it became clear that they took reservations for everyone who wanted one. What ended up happening is that each night (especially the formal nights) ended up having more and more tables reserved. We apparently missed the memo, and had great difficulty getting seated a few nights. It was a weird hybrid combination of open and reserved seating, and we would have been totally happy if they'd just outright assigned everyone's seats on the formal nights in particular. We never took advantage of the breakfast room service, but had room service a few times at night. While there aren't a lot of options, service was pretty fast and the food was good. Entertainment-There wasn't a whole lot to do on the boat on days at sea (which there are plenty of on the S. Georgia loop). There tended to be live music in the lounges most hours of the afternoon and evening. There were also several nights when there were very talented dancers performing. Service-We were really happy with the service in the dining room and our cabin stewards. Our cabin was rapidly serviced when we wanted it to be, and the staff generally very accommodating with our requests in the dining room and elsewhere. The guests-This was a French cruise with English as the second, alternative language. Even among the English speakers, native speakers were only a plurality. Perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 of the boat spoke English, and of these 1/3 were native speakers, while the rest were a mix of Israelis, Spanish speakers, and Germans. Naturalists, lectures, and shore excursions- Not one of the naturalists was a native English speaker, but everyone could speak English and they were happy to talk to you if you had questions. Now, I didn't pay attention to how the French schedules to compared to ours, but the lion's share of our lectures were given by the two naturalists who spoke the best English. Lectures were fit for a general audience and covered mostly the animal life we were seeing, with a few historic/conservation-oriented lectures sprinkled in. The shore excursions are why you are on an Antarctic cruise and we were extremely fortunate with ours. L'Austral is a bigger boat so you generally had between 60-90 minutes on shore at a time. You are assigned a color group (they seemed to put most of the English speakers in one group) and they rotated who went first. There were two opportunities to go on longer hikes for the more physically able (3+ hours on shore), although we missed one of these because of the weather. Our scheduled landings were as follows: Falkland Islands (2): New Island, Grave Cove South Georgia (6): Salisbury Plain (Cancelled) , Fortuna Bay (Shackleton hike to Stromness), St. Andrews Bay, Grytviken, Gold Harbor, Cooper Bay (Zodiac cruise) Antarctica (4): Weddell Sea (Zodiac cruise/Sea Ice Landing), Brown Bluff (cancelled), Neko Harbor, Paradise Bay South Shetland Islands (3): Bailey Head (cancelled, missed hike opportunity), Telephone Bay, Aitcho Island Cape Horn We had a total of 3 landings cancelled due to weather--and for good reason! A few landings were borderline, but the expedition staff always had our safety first and foremost. I also have to commend the staff for doing everything in their power to accommodate low mobility passengers. While you probably won't be able to do every hike and explore as much of the landing site as more fit individuals, the staff will do a great job getting you in and out of the zodiac both from the cruise ship and on shore. Announcements and daily wrap-ups were done both in English and French at the same time. They always said more in French than English, which was a bit frustrating at times (What are they joking about? Etc.) This was really illustrated in the final wrap up, which was split into separate English and French groups, where the French wrap up went over the allotted time (hour and fifteen minutes in total) while the English version went for about a half hour. It was most frustrating when there was a whale sighting. They would go through the whole announcement in French--telling you where it was at, fawning over the majesty of nature--before saying in English where the whale was--I really just wanted to be told where the whales were at as soon as they were seen. Value-Booking the cruise with Ponant and sailing on L Austral was surprisingly affordable compared to other ships. In particular, it was probably 1/3 less than sailing on Le Boreal, the sister ship, which is chartered out by Abercrombie and Kent for most of the season. 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
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
The week got off to an inauspicious start. The instructions sent by Ponant for passengers arriving in their own car at the port of Venice turned out to be misleading and the cause of frustration and delay. Our spirits picked up when we ... Read More
The week got off to an inauspicious start. The instructions sent by Ponant for passengers arriving in their own car at the port of Venice turned out to be misleading and the cause of frustration and delay. Our spirits picked up when we were shown to our cabin (deluxe suite) which was comfortable and very adequate for a week long cruise. Any euphoria was soon dispelled the first night at dinner. We were told we could only sit with other groups throughout the cruise. On expressing surprise, the dining manage told us "Don't blame me, blame the ship's designers". The food offered was, at best, bland and, at worst, barely edible. It was suggested we might like to move to the buffet restaurant, where we offered cold rib of beef. When I asked that same evening if we could disembark and leave the cruise at the next port of call, our concerns began to be taken seriously. In fact, we were well looked after for the rest of the voyage, including being offered a table for two every meal time. Unfortunately, the food remained mediocre and uninspiring. Perhaps our expectations of the cuisine on a French ship were too high. There was a very large Tauck contingent on the cruise. Every evening they completely took over the bar prior to dinner; it was suggested that "we might like to take our cocktails in our cabin". We felt we were on a Tauck cruise. The little enjoyment we got from the cruise was due to the very friendly and helpful dining and bar staff.......and gorgeous weather during the whole week. 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
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
We enjoyed a two week Central America cruise on Le Boreal, a 2010-built vessel with 264 pax capacity. We had 186 on board. Crew 144. New vessels offer lots of advantages. First, the pluses: Cabins are small but feature a tasteful ... Read More
We enjoyed a two week Central America cruise on Le Boreal, a 2010-built vessel with 264 pax capacity. We had 186 on board. Crew 144. New vessels offer lots of advantages. First, the pluses: Cabins are small but feature a tasteful contemporary design with superb European finishes and fittings. King size bed and bedding was very comfortable. Bathroom is small, but top quality. Toilet is separate. L'Occitaine toiletries are standard. All suites have a small balcony. The food is excellent, as expected of a French vessel. Desserts are superb. There are two dining areas, one more casual, the other light and bright on deck 2. Open seating. Service was terrific, especially from the Philipino and Indonesian staff. The (non-European) French-speaking waiters were somewhat haughty, which we thought unusual. The French maitre de, Christophe, was superb, as was the sommelier, Charles. Young, vibrant and personable. Ship's officers were convivial and Captain Garcia deserves special mention. It is not often you can be on the bridge for a Panama transit. When he said it was an open bridge policy he truly meant it. One treat was an unscheduled stop in the Pacific for a swim from the ship's stern marina deck. Fantastic. Tours were standard, average value and consistent with most cruise ships. Nothing special. The French tour staff were most helpful and convivial. There were only 4 English speaking passengers on our cruise, albeit many French and EU passengers did speak English. This did not concern us but may be a drawback for those seeking more social interaction. One good feature is that in restaurants, bars etc. the French are very quiet. We like this. Overall noise levels are subdued. Now for the not so good points: The alcohol policy on board is outdated. Beer and wine of good qualities are served free during meals, but pouring finishes promptly when the restaurant Is closing. You can buy an 'open bar' ticket for $80 per day per person. Otherwise cocktails are $15 and standard drinks $10. Tea and coffee $3. So you are forever signing chits, even with an open bar provision. My advice is to negotiate an open bar deal when booking if you like to drink out of meal times. The pool is purely for immersion. Not very good. And the smokers congregate here too, especially flocking to the outdoor dining area. Tipping is encouraged on an 'all staff' basis at the end of the cruise. Like most Australians, we consider this a blatant impost to top up the wages of crew so we chose to simply tip those staff individually who provided exceptional service. Le Ponant needs to adopt what is rapidly becoming the market standard, a contemporary all-inclusive policy for drinking, tipping and tours. Cruise passengers are increasingly looking for no-extras once on board. IT services were below average. The in house TV was poor, with a clunky interface and poor graphics for navigation etc. No satellite news on TV, but printed daily news. About 20 movies on line - the usual popular releases. The library is both stylish and comfortable but the choice of books is limited. Internet service was variable and much the same as other ships. Unreliable, slow and expensive. About $20 per hour. Policy is stated as non-smoking, except in designated areas. But there are quite a few of them, including the outdoor dining area and pool surrounds as well as other locations. The French appear to smoke more than most so this is a real negative, especially in the pool and outdoor dining area if you don't like to share your meal with tobacco smoke. And there were pipes too. As we were sailing in equatorial areas, it was more comfortable to dine indoors anyway, but the smoking policy may be a put-off for many. Ponant need to change this should they wish to broaden their passenger base. We did not check out the entertainment at night. It appeared to be a standard cabaret offering with a Paris touch, as well as dancing. The lounge pianist played classical music standards during cocktail hour with much the same playlist every night. Not exciting. The lecturers (two) were both charming and excellent company however English language skills were lacking, as well as the topicality of subjects and depth of knowledge. This was a key issue for us as lectures are so important for our cruising. Before taking another Le Ponant cruise, we would be seeking more details of lecturers and their CVs. Overall, we rated this cruise very highly - the combination of a terrific (new) ship with a number of nooks and crannies to lounge in, coupled with excellent food and restaurant service. This ship is very comfortable in all respects, with great sea-keeping. The friendly officers added to the experience. Captain Garcia is a gem. 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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2013
Le Boreal is a very attractive ship with an elegant, sophisticated interior, comfortable public spaces, and smallish but comfortable cabins. We had a Deluxe Suite which had an extra dressing space and a longer balcony, and we found that ... Read More
Le Boreal is a very attractive ship with an elegant, sophisticated interior, comfortable public spaces, and smallish but comfortable cabins. We had a Deluxe Suite which had an extra dressing space and a longer balcony, and we found that there was plenty of space to store our items for a seven-day Iceland cruise. The mix of passengers is roughly half American (with some British) and half French. I enjoyed the mix as I am always looking for ways to improve my intermediate-level French and found a few French guests that were willing to tolerate my struggles at speaking their language. One could observe the standard American/French differences that may be uncomfortable for some Americans. French service tends to be formal and inflexible, and if you expect that at the outset you will be fine. My problem was not with the French and Swiss staff, or with the Filipino personnel, but rather with the many French-speaking waiters from francophone islands. They were, without exception, exceedingly unfriendly and seemed, at times, to be downright angry. The problem is that you encounter them at every breakfast, lunch, and dinner and at the lounges (they serve as bartenders). It actually became laughable towards the end. However, this factor alone would lead me to choose another company for an upcoming trip to Antarctica. While National Geographic/Lindblad is more expensive, I will happily pay the extra for professional, respectful service. The food was a great source of discussion on our trip. We all expected great food on a French trip. At times, the food did border on wonderful. Usually, however it was mediocre or less. A final note. The captain is an attractive, youngish French man. He was also one of the most affected people I have ever witnessed. His announcements were so unintentionally comical with his affect that our group found great amusement when he made them and we all enjoyed mimicking him. 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
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
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
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
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
Le Soleil is beautiful. It has everything going for it, except the food. Considering this is a French company we were expecting more, a lot more. The Chef de Cuisine, introduced to all at the welcome reception on the pool deck, was French ... Read More
Le Soleil is beautiful. It has everything going for it, except the food. Considering this is a French company we were expecting more, a lot more. The Chef de Cuisine, introduced to all at the welcome reception on the pool deck, was French but I am not sure how many others were French and know that a good number were not European. The main courses were regularly bland, lacking in appearance and in taste. There were common grumbles that the food was adequate at best but lacked any wow, ever. Too many times the hot food was served tepid and it was almost impossible to get a properly hot tea or coffee. Embarkation was not comfortable. The scheduled time was 4pm and guests were gathering before that. In our case from 3:30 directly from the airport to the port. It was a very hot day. The shed was not air-conditioned and had no facilities except a soft drinks machine that did not work. The staff sat at their desks looking at us standing around, some passengers forming lines, but not until the dot of 4:00pm did they begin to process embarkation. Not cool. There were good points. Announcements were in English and French and given equal time. We were never sure if the Cruise Director was an Englishman who spoke very good French or vice versa. The staff were uniformly friendly, cheerful and helpful, the Captain was out and about all over the ship, approachable, and his open bridge policy was appreciated. We have never before experienced such a silent, vibration-free ship when underway. It was modern propulsion at its outstanding best. Shore excursions seemed expensive but nearly everyone thinks that whichever cruise they are on. The Croatian ports are delightful. The piece-de-resistance was to be Dubrovnik, the Queen of the Dalmatian coast. It turned out to be the worst. Not the ship's fault. It is not a big town and there were at least four other cruise ships there at the same time. We were not sure how many because Soleil, due to it's smaller size, was able to anchor in the old harbour where we could quickly tender ashore while the mega ships moored somewhere else out of our sight. Ashore, the crowds were impossible and it was raining as well. With hundreds of umbrellas up in narrow streets I thought I was lucky not to loose an eye and we fled back to the ship. I have heard that the savvy cruises now call in late in the day for an overnight that presents an empty pleasant stopover. Something Ponant might consider for next season. For a ship claiming this rating they should be doing a lot better in the galley then they can have all the stars. Read Less
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