1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Ponant
  4. Ponant Cruise Reviews
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
The itinerary was exactly what we wanted. We did a back to back cruise. First week was the Greek Islands and the 2nd week was Croatia. We did a lot of research on these areas and these cruises fit the bill. The excursions were ok to good. ... Read More
The itinerary was exactly what we wanted. We did a back to back cruise. First week was the Greek Islands and the 2nd week was Croatia. We did a lot of research on these areas and these cruises fit the bill. The excursions were ok to good. Staff was perfect...always accommodating and there to help. Cabin was lovely and well laid out and appointed and very clean. Food was very disappointing. Honestly we thought that being a French ship it would have had really great food. Lunches were definitely better than the dinners. The d'oeuvres at dinner were the same every night...sushi...and not even good sushi. Cheese course and breads were amazing. Desserts were ok to good. Another suggestion I had was between meals there was absolutely nothing to snack on if you wanted something and no where to buy anything. This was a big call out that several passengers complained about. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2018
We chose this cruise because the destination was attractive and we had enjoyed a similar cruise along the Croatian coast on Le Lyrial in 2017. Also Le Lyrial is a lovely ship with spacious lounge and restaurant areas. The only amenity ... Read More
We chose this cruise because the destination was attractive and we had enjoyed a similar cruise along the Croatian coast on Le Lyrial in 2017. Also Le Lyrial is a lovely ship with spacious lounge and restaurant areas. The only amenity lacking is adequate outdoor shady areas. The destination venues were well chosen and the opportunity to see Paxos [otherwise fairly inaccessible ] particularly welcome. The "Cuisine et Vins de France' theme was not very successful. The formal dinners were too elaborate and accompanied by far to much explanation. The choice of wines with dinner was generally excellent; however those chosen for the 'tastings' were highly esoteric . The staff were delightful and very helpful in every way. One aspect of concern to us was the attitude and behaviour of some of the antipodean passengers. Despite many reminders many totally ignored the very undemanding dress code for the Gala dinners and one group of ten Australians were unreasonably demanding about almost everything. The entertainment was rather 'downmarket' compared with our previous Ponant experience and, although talented, the acts and dancing were somewhat inappropriately risqué at times. Embarcation and Disembarcation were handled with great efficiency and our two night stay in Athens before the cruise proved a very good idea. A better effort to introduce passengers to each other would be helpful. Being English doesn't mean that we can't speak some French ! We have already booked a Ponant cruise for 2019 which is a good recommendation. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
This was our fourth cruise with Ponant and we are big fans of this French cruiseline. We love the small ship experience, Ponant's first class service, food and crew. We were excited to experience their newest ship, Le Laperouse on ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise with Ponant and we are big fans of this French cruiseline. We love the small ship experience, Ponant's first class service, food and crew. We were excited to experience their newest ship, Le Laperouse on it's maiden voyage (actually it's second week sailing around Iceland). The ship is beautiful, obviously everything was brand new. The capitan was great and very imformative. Iceland was fantastic. We took a Ponant excursion in every port and they were all fantastic. Some local guides were better than others (which is always the case) but all seemed to know their stuff and were very enthusiastic to show us and tell us about their country. Given that this was a new ship on only it's second voyage, we should have realized that the most of the crew would also be new. Many were and appeared to be unexperienced. This was most obvious in the food service and kitchen areas. Many of the waiters appeared to have no idea how to provide first class service. Many guests experienced very slow service and cold food. Waiters rarely ever return to your table after delivering your food. You had to ask (if you could find your waiter) to get more water or coffee. For most meals, only the dinning room (not the grill) was open which they said was due to the weather but it meant that only a buffet was open for breakfast. The grill was completely outside which is dfferent from the other Ponant ships that we have been on. I I think that this was a design faux. Outide dinning is great in warm weather climates but not in Iceland. The food on the buffet was not to the Ponant standard. The eggs were unsually cold and there was no cooked to order eggs available (on other Ponant ships they cook eggs to order in the grill). After a few days, we started ordering our breakfast through room service and the service and food was great but we missed dinning with the other guests. It did appear that things in the kitchen and diningroom were improving slightly towards the end of the week and hopefully service and food quality will be up to the Ponant standard on future voyages. We will be back. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2018
Itinerary, service standards and inclusions were very good. Food was excellent and the cabins are spacious and comfortable. The crew overall were very friendly and helpful and really are a highlight. Ponant also provide some very ... Read More
Itinerary, service standards and inclusions were very good. Food was excellent and the cabins are spacious and comfortable. The crew overall were very friendly and helpful and really are a highlight. Ponant also provide some very effective fares for single travellers using sole-occupancy. My only disappointments were: 1. the quality and value of some of the shore excursions. One in particular was rated moderate difficulty, but many able-bodied guests really struggled with it. 2. the poor satellite TV system which failed to automatically recover from the inevitable signal losses - it was necessary every time to change channels and back again when the satellite signal resumed. 3. the very expensive internet packages. Past guests get varying levels of free minutes (based on their status - but even the top level does not receive an "unlimited" package. Beyond the free minutes, additional packages are VERY expensive compared to competitors - and no "unlimited" packages are offered at all. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
I chose this cruise from Sydney to Cairns as it was calling at smaller islands off the East Coast of Australia . Somewhere along the line this ship was just missing a beat if it wants to be considered 5 star. The food was excellent with ... Read More
I chose this cruise from Sydney to Cairns as it was calling at smaller islands off the East Coast of Australia . Somewhere along the line this ship was just missing a beat if it wants to be considered 5 star. The food was excellent with lots of French specialities. Same could not be said about the wine considering it was a French ship this was a great dissapoinment.Service was superb in the restaurant and bars but it was the next level of management where it fell down. It's a very small ship which I knew but when we have sea days it's nice to be able to walk around the decks but there was no deck to do that. The pool deck area was very small. Embarkation and disembarkation was very smoothly handled. The cabins were small but well laid out and lots of storage space. I think the ship needs a refurb. Some of the furniture in the main lounge was a bit well worn . Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
While preparing for this cruise I found it very difficult to get any real information about Ponant cruises and our itinerary. I wrote some notes once I was on board and they are below. Before that though I need to say one thing, and it ... Read More
While preparing for this cruise I found it very difficult to get any real information about Ponant cruises and our itinerary. I wrote some notes once I was on board and they are below. Before that though I need to say one thing, and it mimics what some others have experienced, is that the French speaking passengers get much better service in the dining venues than anyone else. We were 2/3 English speaking on our cruise but many of the French staff either ignored us completely or made us feel like second class citizens. Other staff on board like the bar, room and service desk personnel were quite friendly. The on-board naturalists where always smiling and always had a friendly word no matter who you were. Ponant needs to deal with this issue. Now my notes: Ponant L'Astral Great Barrier Reef March 6, 2018 Pre-Cruise We found the Ponant site very confusing and it had very limited information. There was no-where to book excursions or any on board items. The site claims documents will arrive electronically 30+ days before departure. Ours were emailed to us 26 days before departure. We were already travelling so we were unable to make specific preparations based on this information. Embarkation We arrived at the White Bay Cruise Terminal in Sydney at about 2:00pm. Our bags were taken and we proceeded into the terminal. There were already about 20 people there. We were advised boarding would start at 4:00pm. There was plenty of seating (along 2 sides of the room), washrooms, free bottled water, but no wifi. There was a snack bar but it was not open. There was a vending machine where you could get pop and candies. About half an hour prior to boarding, one of the ships staff started to hand out embarkation numbered tickets. These would be used to determine the order for embarkation. He had about 25-30 of each number starting at 1. He started to hand these out at one side of the room, from the front closest to the checkin counters, then after completing the row went to the top of the other side moving toward the checkin counters. Most of the early arrivals were given tickets about half way through, so arriving early did not necessarily mean you would board early. We just happened to be in the right spot to get a number 1 ticket. if you want to get on early watch for this process to start and go up to the man and get your teickets. The staff also handed out a medical questionaire which need to be completed. The only items of concern were if you had a fever prior to boarding. Checkin was quick, they checked our passport pictures to us then handed us our keys. We then proceeded through a quick security screening then on to the ship. On entry to the ship we had our photo taken for the ship security system (we have always had this done prior to boarding on other cruise lines), our sea passes were scanned and we were escorted to our rooms. Our bags were not yet in the staterooms. Drinks and snacks were available in the main lounge on deck 3. The snacks did not last long. Cabin 326 Cabin seems very workable, no better or worse than other cruise lines we have been on. Other reviews have pointed out that the toilet is in a separate room from the sink and shower. We did not see this as an issue. The sink had 2 drawers below it, side by side with plenty of room to store toiletries. My bottle of mouth wash was able to stand up so it is quite tall. Aircon worked well. Two wide air ducts sat along the top of the length of the room providing good coverage and air flow. There is a seperate temperature control in the room. Fairly large flat screen TV which showed on demand movies and tv shows. Also has access to the front camera. Daily activities are also listed. One thing that is not available is your stateroom account. For this you have to see reception. There seemed no way to change the TV input but I was able to connect my iPad to the TV using an HDMI adapter and cable and play videos. Only issue was I was unable to change the volume. There is a long flat surface along the wall that has space for your things. On it is a telephone, a table lamp, and a clock with iPod connector and speekers (will not fit a lightning device). Under this surface at one end are 2x2 drawers, about 18 inches tall by 36 inches wide. And a ottoman. On the wall above this surface are 2 power plugs. One has a single European 220V plug, and the 2nd has both a European 220V and an American 110V plug. Storage is plentiful. Bed allows for multiple suitcases to be store underneath. I mentioned the 4 drawers previously. There is are 2 full height doors for wardrobe. One side has a couple of shelves and the safe. There are 4 drawers below that for storage, the top one has the hair dryer in it. The lefthand side is your typical wardrobe with hangers. There is a small round table with a single chair. Not sure how 2 people have in-room dining in the cabin though. On each side of the bed there are shelves, open underneath. You also have reading lights. The king size bed (which can be made into 2 twins) is comfortable and you get 4 pillows to start with. There is a page in the room binder showing other pillows you can order. We got 2 ergonomic pillows but our cabin steward didn't want to take away any of the existing ones. We also found the duvet to be quite hot so our steward added a sheet to the bed so we could throw off the duvet if we wanted. The cabins on deck 3 all have balconies but the railing wall is sold metal, unlike the cabins on higher floors. This means you cannot sit on the balcony and see anything. Wasn't a huge deal for us. There were 2 wicker chairs and a small table. Note, because you are quite low on the ship our balconies were often wet and had salt spray. Parts of our trip were quite rough so this happened often. Bathroom has a makeup mirror and a power plug for raisers. 2 small shelves, maybe 4" by 12" on the left beside the sink for toiletries. On the wall between the bathroom and bedroom there is a sliding door which opens a glass wall looking into half of the bathroom. Presumably for light and to make the room look bigger. Wasted space in my mind. Shower is a good size, rectangular and a good shower head streaming lots of water. No problem getting hot water. WiFi They offer 3 plans: 100 minutes for 30E, 240 minutes for 60E, and 1,000 minutes for 180E. I opted for the 240 minute plan. You can log only one device in at a time and must log off that device to let your roommate log in. We used a router which allowed us to run multiple devices at the same time. Worked well for us. For quick logins to check email, weather, etc the 240 minute plan worked for us. I think we had maybe 7 minutes left on it at the end of the cruise. You must remember to log off though. Internet is satellite based so slow but I was able to use a virtual desktop and response was bearable. Outlook IMAP syncing was slow so I used my iPhone for email most of the time. Everything I tried worked. It did not seem like they blocked any sites. Captains Gala Guests from deck 3&4 met with the captain at 7:00 on deck 6. Guests on deck 5&6 met at 7:15. The doors to the MDR were to open when this event completed. The event started late and the speeches ran long. Doors opened just before 8:00. Dress was more upscale, no shorts etc. Most men did not wear ties or jackets but some did. All were in long pants and at least a shirt with collar. Dinner was a fixed 6 course menu, 2 choices, regular or vegetarian. You could switch mains or appetizers but hot for hot or cold for cold. So limited choices. It was all very good but with an 8:00 start we left at 9:30 before dessert was served. The deck 6 (buffet) menu was more extensive and included roasted turkey which we were told was very good. Muster Drill This was a 2-stage process. First we were all required to attend an introduction in the theatre where the staff was introduced and a welcome message from the Captain. We then had a life on board presentation. This lasted about 1 hour. Next everyone went back to their rooms and got their life jackets, put them on with the help of staff, and we returned to the theatre. Each person was checked off a list so that all guests were accounted for. This was followed by a talk on the process in the event of an evacuation. There are 2 lifeboats, one for each side of the theatre. Drink Plan The cruise is drink inclusive, which means there is always a white, rose & red wine available. These are supposed to change daily but our experience was they changed maybe 3 times during the cruise. Some were better than others. Also included are a couple of types of beer, Heineken and bud light if memory serves, and many cocktails; none top shelf. For top shelf you pay full price. A grey goose martini set me back 9 euros for a shot and a bit. For the most part it was free flowing and the included stuff you could order from anyone. The lounge often had a couple of different reds and whites on offer. Medical A number in our group required the services of the doctor due to chest problems. The doctor and nurse were friendly and for a short visit and some small drugs cost about 70 euros per person. Longer term treatments would be more. Tendering On our first day to stop we had a dry landing so they used the tenders. On one of the sea days prior they gave a presentation on the activities available. There was an included 4 hour excursion and a few optionals. Some of the optionals would only run in the morning or afternoon because of tides so we were asked to sign up for the optionals by noon the following sea day. Once they had this info they placed each cabin into one of 4 colors, red, yellow, blue and green. These would be our colors going forward. That afternoon we collected our snorkel gear by cabin numbers. At that time they gave us a color sticker for our sea pass. That evening we had a briefing about the next days excursions at which they identified which colors would go out at which time. The actual process of getting on the tender and returning was a breeze. Dining General The Main Dining Room on deck 2 is full table service. Doors open at 7:30 (or per daily plan) but you can come any time after that (except on gala nights where everyone is served at the same time). There are usually 2 soup and 2 salad choices, and 3-4 appetizer, main and dessert choices. There are also 3-4 always available mains such as a hamburger or rib-eye steak, and a couple of always available desserts such as Creme Brule. Dining is leisurely, especially if you are not french speaking, and you will likely take a good 90 minutes for dinner. Longer on gala nights. The more casual dining room on deck 6 is always a buffet with a main carvery that changes daily. Reservations are required as it cannot hold all of the guests but we never seemed to have a problem getting one. Dining here can be as fast or as slow as you want but we always felt rushed to finish. The staff did not do anything to speed us along, it is just the buffet style seemed to foster a much faster meal. We took almost all of our meals in the MDR but then a couple in our group did the opposite so it is really a personal choice. All in all the food was quite good in both venues although my wife had difficulty finding a main she wanted in the MDR. One night they had 3 fish selections out of 5 choices. That's all I have for now. If you have specific questions feel free to ask. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
Joined L'Austral in Fremantle for the 26 day cruise of Northern Australia in the Wet Season. Boarding the ship in Fremantle was smooth and although we arrived early our bags were taken from us and we went for a walk around ... Read More
Joined L'Austral in Fremantle for the 26 day cruise of Northern Australia in the Wet Season. Boarding the ship in Fremantle was smooth and although we arrived early our bags were taken from us and we went for a walk around Fremantle. Returning at noon we were sent along the wharf to the ship and directed to the level 6 for lunch. After lunch we spent and hour in the lounge on level 3 before being directed to our cabin where our luggage had already been delivered. We sailed after life boat drill. Our ports of call up the Western Australian coast were Geraldton, Turquoise Bay, Broome, Talbot Bay, Wyndam. Darwin and Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Cape York Peninsular, Lizard Island, Cooktown, Port Douglas, Hamilton Island and Fraser Island in Queensland returning to Sydney. A previous writer has described the passage extremely well and I could not better her descriptions. The Naturalists on board were an extremely friendly group full of knowledge of the Kimberley area and the zodiac drivers knew how to handle their craft and we had no problems with wet water or dry landings. Entertainment on board was good and the ships crew put on an excellent show. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We had done an Antarctic Cruise with Ponant before and wanted to revisit St Georgia and break new ground on Tristan and open sea cruising. The ship was well decked out and comfortable even in rough weather. Food was disappointing at ... Read More
We had done an Antarctic Cruise with Ponant before and wanted to revisit St Georgia and break new ground on Tristan and open sea cruising. The ship was well decked out and comfortable even in rough weather. Food was disappointing at times but understand that there was no real replenishment available. The passenger list were mainly French (to be expected) and at times we (Australian) felt a bit left out on activities and service. The butler service was ordinary - previous trips had better butlers. Land expeditions were very good to excellent especially St Georgia and Tristan. Weather at times made life a bit difficult but at all times we felt safe and secure during transfers with the one exception at Tristan. Staff in general were courteous but not particularly friendly. The expedition leaders were good and had good knowledge on their subjects with a couple of exceptions. Our previous trip to St Georgia was a A&K cruise and we felt they had better leaders. All in all a very good trip Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
This was the third cruise we have had on le Boreal and L'Austral. All have been excellent, This cruise was to the Sub antarcic Islands from Dunedin via the sounds and ending in Wellington NZ. As the ship was being repositioned from ... Read More
This was the third cruise we have had on le Boreal and L'Austral. All have been excellent, This cruise was to the Sub antarcic Islands from Dunedin via the sounds and ending in Wellington NZ. As the ship was being repositioned from Wellington to Sydney we were offered a free cruise to Sydney. The expedition could not be faulted as the weather and the seas allowed us to land on all the Islands where it is permitted. This we were told was exceptional. Even the cruise across the Tasman was akin to a Manly Ferry trip. We actually landed on both days as per the itinerary at Macquarie Island. Many of the expedition guides visited many times and had never achieved both landings. Some years were impossible to land at all. We also landed on Campbell Is and Enderby Is which were amazing. The entire operation was exceptionally managed and organised and minor tweaks were necessary to avoid some bad weather ahead of us. The Itinerary was completed with only one Zodiac outing cancelled due to unsafe waters over the loading deck at the Antipodese Is. Landing was not allowed there by NZNP's anyhow and it was a Zodiac inspection anyhow. The ship spent some time circumnavigating the islands so we could see the abundant bird life but missed the close up experience penguins and seals which we seen everywhere else. We had seen so many of these previously we didn't really miss much. All in all the entire expedition was amazing.Bio security was adhered to so nothing was conveyed to the Islands that would affect the ecology. Even no fresh food was allowed ashore. Things changed at Wellinton where many passengers left the ship to be replaced by people taking the 4 day cruise to Sydney. Is was to be a no frills cruise but developed into a big swill cruise with many of the new passengers overindulging in the open bar. They were not typical of the many passengers we have met and enjoyed on previous cruises who are mainly interested in the theme of the cruise - expeditions not boozing to excess. The cabins were comfortable and well serviced. As we were repeat passengers laundry was included. Dining was excellent at all meals. We preferred the more casual dining on Deck 6 which is buffet. The staff there were so accomodating and friendly where we found the dining in the formal dining room more formal and patronised by the more affluent wishing to be waited upon. The food is identical. Service is also more formal. There are no set dining periods or allocated seating. It is as you wish during the opening hours. On deck 6 bookings are often required due to popularity particularly if weather permits and as out-door dining is possible it is often extended to poolside. Each day there was a specially prepared dish available on deck 6 prepared by an exceptional chef (Jerome). Roast suckling pig,roast beef and lamb as well as a steak tartar to die for as well as prawns and scallops and many others. These meals are prepared for both lunch and dinner. Soups are always amazing.Wines are provided, red,white and rose at lunch and dinner which are reasonable but the more exclusive wines which are also available are expensive. Entertainment is restricted to 4 females and a male dancer and their performance is excellent.and if weather permits is performed on the pool deck. Otherwise it's in the theatre. For the more physical active a small gym is available to work off the extra weight that is so easy to put on.. Spa and massages are available. The lounges are comfortable and have singers or pianists playing at set times which are always advised in the daily schedule. Lectures are provided most days by one or other of the on-board guides, naturalists and scientists and are always most interesting and appropriate according to the areas being visited. Briefings and weather forecasts (if appropriate) are held before dinner regarding the next day's activities. In the sub-Antarctic they were were more than interesting and always gave us an appreciation of what we may expect be it good or bad. We have always found the cruise/expedition more than good value for money. The fact passenger size is limited to according to the size of the expedition and guides. Generally around 200 plus or minus a few depending upon how many people are permitted ashore which is dictated by the authorities managing the sites. Zodiac transfers are a breeze and access to/from the ship excellently achieved with ships crew amazing. Announcents are in French and English as there are usually more than a few French passengers on board (and they rule). It is after all a French owned ship. We have Been there and done that now three times and we will not travel with any other company based on ship size and passenger service. Many of the passengers and expedition staff formerly travelled or worked on the Orion which has now left Australian shores. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
The absolute best way to see Cabo Verde - we were able to see 7 of the 10 islands. Small ship enabled us to get into all the small ports. Who can say NO to french cuisine. We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Remember this is a ... Read More
The absolute best way to see Cabo Verde - we were able to see 7 of the 10 islands. Small ship enabled us to get into all the small ports. Who can say NO to french cuisine. We had a wonderful time on this cruise. Remember this is a small ship and it's not about the ship or the on board amenities, it's about the location. We found most of the staff to be very accommodating, remember on a small ship they all have dual roles. Captain and his crew were fantastic about explain the ship, the sails and sailing. The islands are interesting not much wildlife but the hiking on Fogo Volcano was incredible. It's still very active. The beaches on Maio were very nice as well. Santo Antão was the absolute highlight. The mountains are breaktaking. If you have extra time, it's worth spending it on this island. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
We've traveled with Ponant ships on a number of trips. The cabins have amble room and storage. Essentially the same layouts on levels 3, 4 and 5. The toilet is in a separate area from the sink and shower. Great water pressure. The ... Read More
We've traveled with Ponant ships on a number of trips. The cabins have amble room and storage. Essentially the same layouts on levels 3, 4 and 5. The toilet is in a separate area from the sink and shower. Great water pressure. The ship staff seems to truly enjoy what they do and seem to work together under the guidance of a ship captain who seems to foster a sense of family for all onboard. Guests and workers. You will find the ship impeccably clean. Lots of places to relax and enjoy (and drink). Indoors and out of doors. The bread/pastries/dessert are fantastic. Pastry chefs gets a gold star. Where there is need for more attention is the food -- lacking choice, laden with fats and gluten, overcooked, uninspiring. Not keeping with European and American current food trends. Also the captains evenings are very old school. Too much pomp and circumstance. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2017
Sailed on Le Soleal before and really like these vessels, not huge , excellent service and well appointed cabins , also around 250 passengers and around 140 crew, no casino or Pokies , these ships cater for a mature audience with a sense ... Read More
Sailed on Le Soleal before and really like these vessels, not huge , excellent service and well appointed cabins , also around 250 passengers and around 140 crew, no casino or Pokies , these ships cater for a mature audience with a sense of adventure hence the Zodiac inflatables on board to explore and land on remote beaches . With this in mind we booked on a cruise from Honolulu to French Polynesia , passengers mostly French , this can be a challenge if your French language skills are not up to scratch and , on their turf the French mostly keep themselves , a pity we had a great experience when sailing along the Australian coast ( Our Turf) on Le Soleal , more English speaking passengers , however the Crew from the top down are English speaking. This is a very important factor, Ponant is doing all it can to include all pasengers, but you have to keep this in mind when booking a cruise with Ponant and the area you visit, On our last cruise we stayed on Deck 5 , this time deck 3, the only difference a door to and instead sliding door and a partly enclosed balcony , the cabins are identical . Read Less
Sail Date: September 2017
We choose this cruise because it took us to several places that we wanted to visit which would have been much more difficult to reach on our own. I especially enjoyed the Cod Island landing and hiking which took full advantage of a ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it took us to several places that we wanted to visit which would have been much more difficult to reach on our own. I especially enjoyed the Cod Island landing and hiking which took full advantage of a beautiful day. This opportunity to explore a tundra environment underscored the creativity and flexibility of the expedition crew to give travelers the best experiences possible. On board services were outstanding with very friendly, attentive hotel personnel and ship's crew. Most of the lectures were delivered by well-informed speakers whose enthusiasm for their areas of interest overcame all language barriers (Jean-Pierre was amazing). But a few didn't add to my current knowledge of some subjects, especially environmental issues. We took advantage of the cruise itinerary to spend four days in Paris at the start of the trip and another four days to explore Quebec at the end of the cruise. Finally, we spent a few days in Chicago to visit friends and to see Lyric Opera's production of Orphee -- a fitting end to a wonderful French experience. However, my request to learn about Le Soleal's state-of-the-art waste management system was ignored. Since I'm a board member of a waste management district which faces similar environmental challenges as the Ponant ships, I was disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to learn more about the technology and systems used by Le Soleal. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2017
We chose Ponant as it offered an in depth look at the area at a competitive price. This was our first Ponant cruise. We have cruised with Silversea and Seabourn previously, but not on expedition cruises. L'Austral is sleek and the ... Read More
We chose Ponant as it offered an in depth look at the area at a competitive price. This was our first Ponant cruise. We have cruised with Silversea and Seabourn previously, but not on expedition cruises. L'Austral is sleek and the décor is understated but elegant and contemporary. Our cabin ( a "prestige stateroom" on Deck 5) was very comfortable. It was a bit small in some respects but that's not surprising on a ship of this size. The French crew were attentive and pleasant. The expedition team was very impressive, particularly in organising and accompanying the groups departing on shore excursions by Zodiac. The shore excursions were a lot of fun and very interesting in terms of natural scenery and indigenous art, The wildlife was a highlight, particularly the unexpectedly large freshwater crocodiles on the Ord River and so many sea turtles near the Lacepede Islands, A couple of catering issues: There was a lack of choice in the included wines, apparently due to the non-delivery of ordered wines before departure in Darwin. A formal apology was issued by Ponant for this. Secondly, you couldn't get an espresso coffee in the Panoramic lounge during the day even though there is a coffee machine sitting there. There was no espresso coffee machine in the Deck 6 Grill restaurant, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. The waitstaff there had to order it from the Main lounge on Deck 3, so it was going cold by the time it got to us. And the coffee machine at the Deck 7 bar didn't work properly. But overall it was a very enjoyable cruise! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
This cruise was chosen as a celebratory event for a 50th wedding anniversary and was chosen because it had an art theme. It also had an interesting itinery and the cruise dates fitted in with the dates to visit family in Sweden during ... Read More
This cruise was chosen as a celebratory event for a 50th wedding anniversary and was chosen because it had an art theme. It also had an interesting itinery and the cruise dates fitted in with the dates to visit family in Sweden during their summer holidays. The features included special excursions to coincide with the Venice Biennale with open tickets to the evnts whilst in Venice. The cruise had attendance of some art specialists from the international firm of Christies and this provided interesting insights into the bsuiness world of collectable art assets. The food was well balanced with some specialties such as fresh oysters and calamari at selected ports. The excursions were led by very competant guides and with the exception of being placed in a french speaking group (an issue that was rectified at the first rerst stop) the information and content was very interesting. In Dubrovnik we were treated to some excellent singing in the Rector's palace by a local group of male acapella singers known as the Klapa Subrenum singers. The Adriatic was at peace during the whole trip and the ship was very quiet being electrically propelled. Passing though the Corinth canal was a treat and worth a special mention in case the choice of ship size is important. The small ship format was importnant to us as we had only cruised twice previously ( on the Orion under Australian waters and SS Catherine on the Rhone river cruise with Uniworld) and so prefered the more intimate and casual style which we were happy with. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
Weboarded in Stockholm after a three day stay there, we met the ship at the address stated on our paper work, we were greeted by the captain ( a very dry and funny guy) they're still looking for my luggage ( just joking) his crew who ... Read More
Weboarded in Stockholm after a three day stay there, we met the ship at the address stated on our paper work, we were greeted by the captain ( a very dry and funny guy) they're still looking for my luggage ( just joking) his crew who were absolutely fantastic. We had a cabin on deck 6 which was close to the main dining area, perfect for us. We chose the starboard side but in hindsight it wouldn't matter which side of the boat you're on when travelling through the Fjords the scenery was fabulous. Dining was in two areas, the formal and not so formal and both areas had everything covered, the food was sensational and a want for nothing, the food varied always with wonderful breads and desserts, the wines with the meals were just right and if one wanted something more special that was also available at a price. The room service incase one slept in for lunch or dinner was also fabulous. The bars, which I think there were 3, are fantastic the bar tenders super knowledgable and speak multiple languages of course the cocktails were included in the fare so why not a Bloody Mary at 10 am and Pisco sours in the afternoon. The entrainment on the ship was a bit lame and boring it would have been nice if they had a dinner dance or if the musicians who played on the boat separately could have joined together in a band, I felt that the musicians and the opera singer were only there for their own holiday and a fill in. ( my opinion and really need to do some work on it) In the morning there were yoga classes and some dance classes which were fun the teachers had a great sense of humour. We didn't elect to go on any tours as we like to do our own thing when getting to port which was fine for us as we didn't miss the great lunches or cocktails!!! We didn't hear any complaints from people who did go on the tours, passengers weren't given the big sell and we felt very comfortable. The service we received on the ship was absolutely fantastic from George the cabin steward to the ships captain everyone was so obliging. Our cruise quite a mix of race of passengers mostly French who I might add were lovely and we tried to converse regularly, The ship was near capacity at 240 passengers and 142 crew - in my world - perfect - plenty of room to move around no one in each others pockets. I loved every minute of this cruise except for the so called world famous opera and the lame musicians, Please do something so that people can dance after dinner to reasonable music. My wife loved the yoga and dance classes All in all a fabulous time Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We wanted to cruise around Norway. Also we had cruised with Seabourne and Silverseas and we decided to try a cruise with Ponant We enjoyed the cruise and found the atmosphere great and staff very friendly. This came all the way down ... Read More
We wanted to cruise around Norway. Also we had cruised with Seabourne and Silverseas and we decided to try a cruise with Ponant We enjoyed the cruise and found the atmosphere great and staff very friendly. This came all the way down from the Captain who was remarkably attentive seeing us off and welcoming us from onshore excursions. The entertainment on the boat was excellent and the shore excursions were well chosen with excellent guides. We found the food on board adequate but it lacked variety. Also there was insufficient fresh local content. There were wonderful fresh berries in The market in Bergen yet we were never offered these berries for breakfast. Similarly we were not offered the varieties of fish, particularly herrings available onshore. The wines offered with meals were mediocre. I found this surprising on a French boat. It is true that I could have purchased better wine but I believe that if you serve good quality meals the wine should be of equal quality without the need to pay extra for a decent bottle of wine. At times the service in the restaurant on the sixth floor was poor. There were not enough waiters allotted to this restaurant and consequently water glasses were not replenished and used plates were not taken away in a timely fashion. My only other comment is in regard to the lectures on Scandinavia given during the cruise. I felt that these could have been improved. The images were difficult to see and the talk was not well organized Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
Solely because of the itineraries and the size of the ship. We had always wanted to visit Norway, the islands of the North Atlantic and Iceland. The two back to back cruises provided a wonderful introduction the the geography and history ... Read More
Solely because of the itineraries and the size of the ship. We had always wanted to visit Norway, the islands of the North Atlantic and Iceland. The two back to back cruises provided a wonderful introduction the the geography and history of this part of the world. The insight into Viking history and culture was especially interesting. The ship was very comfortable and the hotel staff were excellent. Unfortunately we found that the reception staff, although uniformly charming, often gave conflicting information, especially about excursions, The English language skills were sometimes poor. This led us to be stranded in Bergin but fortunately the tour guides saved the day. The majority of the excursions were excellent but the practice of putting the minority non-French speakers at the back of the buses with variable methods of delivering an intelligible commentary became a little tedious. If Ponant is serious about expanding its non French speaking customers it should consider these issues. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose the cruise because of a great experience in 2016 Istanbul to Venice aboard Le Lyrial. The ship and crew were excellent.Kamel was full of energy and fun. The food was excellent although some of the menu selections were odd ... Read More
We chose the cruise because of a great experience in 2016 Istanbul to Venice aboard Le Lyrial. The ship and crew were excellent.Kamel was full of energy and fun. The food was excellent although some of the menu selections were odd for an asian cruise. I would like to have been offered some Asian European fusion options. Our prestige stateroom was clean and well appointed but uncomfortably smaller than we had on Le Lyrial. No larger options were available when we booked. The entertainment was very good. Shore excursions were disappointing; millions of busy people on motor bikes are amusing for only so long. Ha Long Bay and Hoi An were the pick of locations visited. The reality does not measure up to the travel brochure pictures and descriptions. Guides were obviosly very knowledgable and proud of their country but commentaries generally too detailed to the extent of being tedious. Better to cover more ground, see more and hear less statistics , data and dates. Embarcation in HK was terrible; mind you the contrast between the clean and welcoming ship and the drab grubby waiting area ashore may have been a cunning ploy. Internet services were poor. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, ... Read More
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, and felt that we were well-informed on both the pros and the cons for this particular line and ship. I'm going to divide this review into two sections, the first dealing solely with our experiences on L'Austral, and the second touching on aspects that were primarily Tauck-controlled. L'Austral: Embarkation in Osaka was seamless, with our luggage waiting in our cabin. The cabin itself was compact, with space to move around the bed, but not much more. The shower and vanity and separate toilet cubicle were similarly compact, but perfectly adequate. Toiletries were L'Occitane. Beds were comfortable, bedding of good quality but not luxurious. There were several types of bottled water on a tray, and a small refrigerator with an assortment of alcohol and soft drinks. We liked our cabin, were happy that we had the balcony, and thought our room steward was friendly, efficient, and gave great service. There was plenty of room under the beds for our suitcases. For the most part, we used the main dining room. We ate one lunch at the buffet restaurant, but overall preferred coming back to the ship and being served by our (very welcoming)favorite waiters. The dining room decor was quietly elegant, the chairs and banquettes very comfortable, and the noise level low enough that it was easy to converse with your table mates without raising your voice. Breakfast was a combination of buffet and made to order items. The buffet tended to have the same assortment every day, with some variation in the available fresh fruit, and some of the made to order options. The breakfast pastries were very good, and obviously made fresh--we enjoyed those a lot! The lunch and dinner menus had choices for soup, starters, sides and dessert, and for the main course a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian option. The quality of the food ranged from average (some overcooked fish) to very good, with the majority being more towards the "very good" end of the range. However, for people who may have been expecting the variety and selection of some of the larger cruise lines, the food may have been a bit of a disappointment. Having read some of the negative reviews of the food on the Ponant ships, we were frankly surprised and relieved at how good it was. Portion sizes were European rather than American, which also pleased us. We did not go to any of the shows since those started at 9:30, and after a full day of touring, having frequently left the ship by 8:15am, after dinner we usually headed for our cabin to relax and prepare for the next day. We did see the dancers and two of the singers in the lounge during the cocktail hour, and thought that the little mini-shows were entertaining--but not entertaining enough to make us stay up long enough to attend the longer shows! The level of service from the majority of the staff was excellent: the waitstaff and room stewards were warm, friendly, and couldn't do enough for you. As an example, one of the people with whom we usually shared a table had a real weakness for chocolate--I think he had a chocolate dessert for every lunch and dinner--and one evening there was no chocolate dessert on the menu. Without saying a word, our waiter went to the kitchen and came back to the table with a mini-sundae with chocolate ice cream and cookies for our table mate. The women in reception were efficient, but not especially warm or helpful. Their coolness was especially noticeable since everyone else in a customer-facing position was so engaging. L'Austral is a small ship, but the public spaces are very pleasant, especially considering the fact that she is really an expedition ship, not a luxury cruise vessel. We hit some rough weather on our first night at sea, and while there was certainly quite a bit of motion that night, aside from that she was very comfortable, and didn't seem to be doing too much bobbing around. Tauck: For this particular cruise the Tauck passengers were divided into 4 groups of approximately 30-35, for a total of 120-140 total. This meant that the Tauck-ies constituted a majority of the passengers. I did wonder how this impacted the cuising experience of the other passengers, which, as nearly as I can remember, were a mixture of American, Australian, New Zealanders and about 20+/- French. My understanding is that next year Tauck will have 6 groups, which will effectively be the entire ship. There will also be some other changes in the tour, which this year began with 3 days in Kyoto, and next year will be based out of Osaka, with only a single day trip to Kyoto. We were happy that we were able to go this year, since we loved our time in Kyoto, and would hate to have missed it. As always, the Tauck tour director for our group of 30+ was wonderful, and kept us moving while still allowing for individual exploration and experiences. Our local guides were mostly excellent, and provided context and some nice extras, such as teaching us songs, playing counting games using Japanese numbers, and origami. Our hotel in Kyoto was the Granvia, situated on top of Kyoto Station. Two of the tour groups were based here, and the other two were at the Westin, and we had very little contact with them. The Granvia was a wonderful location, with underground shopping and restaurants, a department store, and easy access to both buses and subways which could take you to any part of the city. Kyoto site seeing: Kinkakuji(covered in gold leaf), the Pure Water Temple, Gion, a taiko performance, a calligraphy lesson, and a tea ceremony, Nijo-jo (where we heard the famous "nightingale floors"), a Heian shrine, and a welcome dinner which included a Geisha performance. I'm not sure how much of this will be included next year, but I would have hated to miss any of it. The first port after Osaka/Kobe was Tamano. Our group caught a ferry to Naoshima Island where famous architect Tadao Ando designed Benesse House and where other houses in the village have been incorporated into a living art project. In the afternoon we visited Kurashiki which has many 17th century warehouses built along canals, and the Ohara Museum of Art. The next port was Hiroshima, where we visited the Peace Park Memorial and museum, as well as the iconic A-Bomb Dome. This was a pretty intense and emotional morning, so as a way of shifting gears, we were taken for lunch to an okonomiyake restaurant, which was truly delicious. In the afternoon we visited Miyashima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine with its beautiful red gate surrounded by the ocean, and where the deer are protected and will eat the paper right out of your pockets. Uwajima was next, where we visited a pearl farm, saw a farm where bulls are raised for fighting, and visited the Flying Squirrel Temple. Kagoshima--We visited the base of Sakurajima, an active volcano, and the Chiran Kamikaze Museum, where we saw the bunkers that the suicide pilots spent their last night and read their last letters home. We also visited Chiran Samurai village, where there are houses that date back over 250 years, and in some cases still have the original families living in those houses. Nagasaki--In the morning we visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. The museum was very well done, and we actually preferred it to the Hiroshima Museum. In the afternoon we visited Dejima, which was the enclosed enclave that was the only place Dutch traders were allowed to live during much of the Edo period. We also visited Glover Garden, built in the mid-1800's for a Scottish physician, and containing the oldest Western style house in Japan. The next day took us to Pusan in South Korea where we visited the United Nations cemetery and memorial to the UN troops who died in the Korean War. We also took a trip to the Jagalchi fish market, where we saw fish that looked like something out of an Alien movie. Sakaiminato--In the morning we travelled to the Adachi Museum of Art, which has a wonderful collection of modern art, but where the real attraction are the incredible gardens around the museum. Every window in the museum frames another gorgeous view and viewpoint. In the afternoon we visited the Matsue black castle which is one of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan. Most of us climbed the 8 stories after having our photos taken with a samurai posing front of the castle. The next day we disembarked, which was a very smooth process, and were bused to Kyoto where we had lunch in a restaurant in the Gion district before we were taken to Kyoto Station to catch the bullet train to Tokyo. The bullet train was a great experience, and as a bonus, we got a superb view of Fujiyama on the way. Our Tokyo hotel was the Shangri-La, which was everything luxury hotel should be. We were taken on a brief orientation tour of Ginza, and then set loose to enjoy dinner on our own. Our last day of the tour began with a trip to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum (which really needed an entire day to itself to do it justice)and was followed by a "salaryman's lunch" at a wonderful restaurant. In the afternoon about half of the group, including my husband and myself, opted out of visiting the scheduled Meiji Shrine and chose to sightsee or shop on our own. That evening was the closing dinner at Happo-en which featured a demonstration by sumo wrestlers. As long as this review is, in terms of the Tauck portion of the cruise, I've really only given the barest outlines of what we did and experienced. Although there was some free time scheduled, for the most part we were kept moving. There seemed to be a larger than usual percentage of people in their mid-70's to mid-80's, and I believe that some of the people on the tour found the pace a bit taxing. My DH and I are in our early 60's and found the pace and activity level to be pretty much what we enjoy. How this compared to what the non-Tauck L'Austral cruisers experienced on their excursions, I have no idea, and I'm afraid I have no information on the quality of the excursions offered by L'Austral. Overall it was an excellent trip. We loved Japan, found the Japanese people to be warm, friendly and very helpful, and wouldn't hesitate to go back. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2017
Our reason for choosing this cruise was 2 part. Small Ship & New Horizons. This leg involved joining the ship at Valparaiso, Chile continuing to Guayaquil, Ecuador. French food was an added attraction. As 2 people in our 70's we ... Read More
Our reason for choosing this cruise was 2 part. Small Ship & New Horizons. This leg involved joining the ship at Valparaiso, Chile continuing to Guayaquil, Ecuador. French food was an added attraction. As 2 people in our 70's we do not try to do the impossible, and the excursion choices allowed us to stay within our limits without difficulty. For example, on this leg we chose the Flight over the Nasca Lines excursion, but passed on the Macchu Picchu excursion because of the altitude. The on ship lectures were generally good, as they varied between being delivered in French and English languages, but the slides etc had subtitles, so worked well. Ports and Shore excursions were well organised, and a ship representative travelled on the excursions at all times to smooth the way. Worked well. The small ship also has a benefit at many locations as it berthed at really convenient locations compared to larger ships which we observed along the way. Crew interaction with PAX a all times was really good. For example we had casual coffee with all deck officers at various times. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore ... Read More
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore excursions were excellent, especially the ports in Vanuatu. Being exposed to different cultures is important to me and the islands seemed very authentic and much more exotic than I expected. My only criticism was the use of the naturalists. On other cruises we have always enjoyed lectures by professors and experts on the area, that included historians as well as naturalists. Some of the lectures were quite good, others were almost insultingly basic. And there was almost no information given about the history of the islands and their place in the world today. I also would have appreciated more information on the people of the islands from an anthropologic viewpoint. With a couple of exception, the naturalists were not very visible on the excursions, it would have been good to have more direct contact with them. One of the things I appreciated most was the organization on board, you did an excellent job at that, from the lifeboat drills on. The food was quite good in the second floor restaurant, not so much on the 6th floor. But the wait staff was terrific. We also had contact with the medical staff, sadly, but they were very responsive and helpful Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2017
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in ... Read More
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in landing from Zodiacs and a slight mishap with an uncharted rock that necessitated a visit to Bluff for repairs. Yet throughout we saw interesting sights and were given expert briefings and debriefings by experts that complemented the care and attention of the Captain and crew who ensured our safety and kept us informed on weather and other factors that affected the program. (It can't have been fun standing in icy water for hours to ensure we landed and re-embarked safely!). The bird life and wildlife seen were highlights as promised in the advertisement that informed us of this rare cruise (only about 400 people a year visit these islands - far fewer than visit Antarctica). As on a previous cruise, the food and catering was excellent and cabins comfortable, if a little cramped. Hospitality staff were unfailingly cheerful and helpful. This was achieved despite dealing with a polyglot clientele of French, Anglo and Oriental passengers. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so ... Read More
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so achieve the best outcome for the passengers who were always kept fully informed. The zodiac crew worked well, often in very challenging weather conditions. The Captain is to be commended for regularly mixing with passengers on deck and in public rooms. Looking at the ship itself, our cabin steward (Agus) on Deck 4 gave excellent service. The talks given by the onboard lecturers were all exceptionally good and importantly outside of that the speakers made themselves available to chat informally with passengers in the public rooms. In regard to the dining arrangements, there were more self-service buffet style meals in the Deck 2 restaurant than we had expected; the impression had been given that it would be table service throughout except for the first course at breakfast where it is obviously preferable for people to serve themselves. Sometimes but not always at breakfast stewards would circulate with menus for those wishing to have a hot dish - it might be better to have small cards on each table listing the options for them to choose? At lunch for some reason the presentations of the cold entrée options and the desserts were placed side by side when it would have been better had they been separated so as to avoid confusion. Desserts did not appear to vary much from day to day. On the other hand the dinners were full table service and here the stewards worked well as a team. In the main lounge it was surprising that tea and coffee were on a self-service basis whereas counter service could have been more appropriate for a ship of five-star category. Similarly, on other ships of this category, cakes and sandwiches are displayed on a central table and after making their selection passengers move to tables where stewards serve tea. It was noticeable that a tray of cakes was only available at the counter - moreover the selection and its presentation remained identical for the entire 15-day voyage when some variety might have been expected. Also, passengers trying to juggle cups of tea and plates of cake with the rolling/pitching of the ship was not a good look. Read Less
26 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for years, and I finally made that dram a reality in December 2016. It was an amazing voyage, and lived up to the high expectations I had planted in my mind. Travelers should realize that when you ... Read More
Antarctica had been on my bucket list for years, and I finally made that dram a reality in December 2016. It was an amazing voyage, and lived up to the high expectations I had planted in my mind. Travelers should realize that when you cruise to Antarctica, you really only visit the tip of the Antarctic peninsula, not the great mass of the continent to which only intrepid explorers and crazy people go. Some cruises sail from Ushuaia just to the peninsula and back, usually over the course of 10-12 days. I wanted to take a longer, 16-day, cruise that included the Falklands and South Georgia island. Why Ponant? I was looking for a combination of itinerary, comfort, cuisine and cost, and it appeared that Ponant scored high on all categories. I'm sure that Silversea's offering is wonderful, but they were much more expensive. Hurtigruten was less costly, but they fall short in the comfort and cuisine areas. Ponant, which has only been actively marketing to Americans for two years or so, seemed to have the right balance. The Le Soleal is a new ship with comfortable cabins, an attentive and helpful crew, excellent food and the perfect itinerary. The French connection was another plus. My wife speaks French fluently, but she gets rusty from disuse and was savoring the idea that she would be able to hear and speak French for 2 1/2 weeks straight. The Cabin: Most of the cabins on Le Soleal have balconies, but I intentionally chose one of the few cabins with only a big window. Why? Because I simply didn't think I'd use the balcony very much in Antarctica. What's more, my cabin (#302) was exactly the same size as the others, except that their 30 square feet of balcony was a 30 square foot sitting area in mine. I don't regret the decision. Beyond that, the cabins were just fine. . . nothing opulent, but well-equipped and quite comfortable. A quick digression: The trip I booked was "all-inclusive" and included wine, liquor and gratuities. The mini-fridge in the cabin was stocked with sodas, water, beer and a few mini-bottles of booze, all complimentary. That was nice. But elsewhere in the cabin was an assortment of what I recall were crackers and cookies, that you were welcome to consume for several Euros each. They simply didn't fit the nom de plume "all-inclusive". I had my cabin steward remove them on the first day. Embarkation day was a disaster, most of which was NOT Ponant's fault. An eight hour strike by the baggage handlers on the day of our departure resulted in dozens of passengers missing luggage for a week, and a few of us (including me) missing luggage for the entire cruise. Ponant's senior crew and their on-shore representatives did a horrible job that day communicating with affected passengers. We were given little information and much of what was communicated was wrong. I - and many others - spent a couple of hours just before departure scouring stores in Ushuaia for socks, underwear, pants, shirts,hats, gloves, toothpaste, razors, etc. (I learned that the only place to buy underwear in Ushuaia is the grocery store.) I have to give Ponant a lot of credit. After the initial luggage SNAFU, Ponant got their act together, stepped up and bent over backwards to assist those of us without our bags. They defrayed our on-shore expenses, provided clothing items from the shop on board as well as from the crews' clothing outlet in the bowels of the ship, and gave us complimentary laundry service. They even planned and successfully executed a rendezvous six days later with another Ponant ship which enabled most of the delayed luggage to be reunited with its owners on Le Soleal. Dining on Le Soleal was excellent. There are two restaurants on Le Soleal. L'Eclipse on Deck 2 is full-service while Le Pytheas on Deck 6 is buffet and less elegant. Both were outstanding with lots of choices. I was especially impressed with the produce on board.. Remember that this was a 16 day cruise with no opportunity along the way to resupply the kitchen. Nonetheless, the fruits and salads were always excellent. Granted, as the days wore on, kiwi and bananas disappeared, and a few days later we had no more lettuce. But there was little else missing. Ponant did an outstanding job providing fresh, tasty produce throughout the cruise. Language. The passenger compliment on Le Soleal was probably 50% or more French speaking European, with the other half a mish-mash of Aussies, Americans, Asians, etc. Announcements were almost always given in both French and English. Efforts were often made (on Zodiac rides, eg., and some lectures) to have the entire group English speaking or French speaking. It was sometimes cumbersome, but necessary. (If you would prefer a totally English-speaking passenger compliment, Abercrombie & Kent, Tauk, and other companies sometimes charter the entire ship for an English-only experience.) Most passengers were quite friendly and outgoing, and I got to know and spend lots of time with many wonderful fellow travelers from around the world. I truly hope and expect that some of those relationships will endure. Daily and nightly entertainment on board were pianists and lounge singers who performed often in the lounge and observatory. Le Soleal also had a troop of young, very flexible and energetic dancers (four girls and a guy) who performed several creative and high-energy, productions in the theater. We also made out own entertainment. Kudos to Patrick, our cruise director. When several of us lobbied Patrick to schedule one or two karaoke nights, he happily complied, and we had a great time singing, dancing and making karaoke fools of ourselves. Excursions. All the above is nice, but the main reason travelers come to Antarctica is to see and walk among the wild life. And we did that in spades! There were thirteen naturalists on board. All of them were good and some were truly excellent. They were experienced, knowledgeable and willing to share with the passengers. The large fleet of Zodiacs on board was adequate to the task and Ponant had a well-trained crew to safely and efficiently get us where we needed to go. The wildlife is incredible! We saw, up close and personal, eight species of penguins, including a nesting colony of some 400,000 King Penguins on South Georgia Island. We saw what has to be the most photographed bird in Antarctica: a single, solitary Emperor Penguin on an ice shelf in Wilhelmina Bay, some two hundred miles or more from where most of the rest of the Emperors were congregating. The whale watching on this cruise was, by far, the most incredible I've ever seen. We observed Fin Whales, Minke Whales and even a rare Blue Whale. We watched a couple pods of Orca Whales. But the stars of the sea were the Humpback Whales. They were all around us, often only a few feet away from the Zodiac, lunge feeding, flipper-flapping, and, of course, proudly displaying their tails as they dove back under the surface. They were magnificent! Bottom Line: This cruise was just about everything I had hoped it would be. I would highly recommend Ponant and Le Soleal to anyone considering a cruise to Antarctica. Read Less
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise