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6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
This is going to be the most difficult review of a ship I have written, I was on Le Ponant for 6 days as part of a Tauck sponsored People to People tour in Cuba which is one of the few ways Americans can visit Cuba. I searched in vein ... Read More
This is going to be the most difficult review of a ship I have written, I was on Le Ponant for 6 days as part of a Tauck sponsored People to People tour in Cuba which is one of the few ways Americans can visit Cuba. I searched in vein for in-depth comments on Le Ponant on Cruise Critic and there really isn't anything that proved helpful. So I decided to provide one. Le Ponant is primarily a sailing ship, its 3 masts having an acre or so of sail. It has an engine for backup. I believe it is the last cruise ship afloat that relies mostly on its sails. It is a beautiful ship, gorgeous to look at, like a sleek modern yacht. I carries a maximum of about 60 passengers in its 30 or so cabins. Its decor is art-deco, its blue white and mahogany furnishings are a throwback to years gone by. It has three large public spaces an art deco restaurant, again elegant, a large lounge where all enrichment lectures and briefings are held, and another largish area that is outside and covered where breakfast and lunch buffets are served. The restaurant serves all passengers at a fixed time 7:30 pm. ( a couple of times at 7:00) Some passengers might not like the fixed hours. All cabins except 1-5 are off a single long corridor. All are approximately 130 square feet. More on this later. Cabins 1-5 are a deck up and no larger but they afford a greater degree of privacy but are more susceptible to the roll from rougher seas. The crew is predominately French although everyone speaks English. Every member of the crew is helpful, polite, without exception. The captain, David Lemaire clearly loves being at the helm of a sailing ship. He is perhaps the youngest captain of a major cruise ship. So don't be alarmed when you are introduced to the Captain who is probably in his 30's. He does everything, from helping people in and out of zodiacs to having an open bridge which is unheard of. His bridge tour is not to be missed. Also not to be missed is the raising of the sails, a very complicated maneuver which is the high point of the journey. The captain could have a second career as a Hollywood movie star. This voyage was run by Tauck, all the passengers on the ship were Tauck clients. This means that all the enrichment activities and shore excursions were run by Tauck professionals. The tour directors were first rate, a cut above those I sailed with from luxe lines like Silversea and Cunard. I want to single out Laura Nunez and Ronny (?) who made this voyage something very special. They were always there to solve any difficulties. I could not imagine this voyage without them. Le Ponant's small size, around 270 feet enables it visit small ports that larger ships can't navigate. This is a huge plus. But, it is also a problem. And I hope potential passengers take careful notice here. This is not your large ocean liner. In rough seas the ships rolls. As the Captain constantly reminds you "one hand for you, one hand for the vessel". If you are prone to sea seasickness Le Ponant is not the ship for you. Rough seas also prevented us from sailing into Havana which for me would have been a high point of the voyage. But here I have to say the Captain made the absolute right decision, this was the day a huge tornado hit Havana which could have been a disaster. Now for the hard part. First, this review will be totally irrelevant in a year or so, Le Ponant is supposedly going into dry dock for a major retrofit (not confirmed). Which makes this review relevant for only a year or so. The primary purpose of the retrofit is to enlarge some of the cabins. And this is the second problem. Even though the cabins use every inch of possible space they are, after all, only 130 square feet. Hopefully this doesn't sound jaded and elitist but my primary cruise line is Silversea (8 trips) and the size of one of Le Ponant's staterooms is about the size of one of Silverseas closets. Needless to say, Le Ponant doesn't have the amenities of a Siversea, Seabourn, Crystal Regent and the other luxury brands. There are no balconies, no swimming pool, no spa and all the other bells and whistles I have become used to. Le Ponant has a very small sun deck with about a dozen chaises and that is about it. (One major suggestion is for Ponant to put in a whirlpool on the sun deck so you could at least get wet, please) One factor I just don't know about is the quality of Le Ponant's shore excursions. As I noted above, this was a Tauck expedition. The Tauck folks simply could not be any better. Not having sailed with Tauck before I don't know whether Ponant would achieve the same level of excellence. I will write about Cuba in the Trip Advisor forum. It is a time machine, truly fascinating. If Le Ponant is retrofitted with larger cabins and Tauck runs the tour again, it is a trip that seasoned travelers should not miss. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
The Good. The wait staff, front reception or any staff you met on deck exceptional! Rooms are very nice and clean and housekeeping excellent. I have travelled on a few River Cruises expecting a closet on a Small Ship. Not the case very ... Read More
The Good. The wait staff, front reception or any staff you met on deck exceptional! Rooms are very nice and clean and housekeeping excellent. I have travelled on a few River Cruises expecting a closet on a Small Ship. Not the case very nice. Shore excursions great. Our safety briefing was conducted by someone who did not have a great command of the English language. I left the session still not sure what to do in an emergency. We were asked to go back to our cabins to get our life jacket to ensure we knew how to put it on. What?? The boat would have sank by the time everyone returned. Now the bad, the food on the boat ough. Keep in mind I Love KD at home! So I am easy to please. Breakfast- eggs Benedict under a heat lamp, scrambled eggs in a large tray looked like yellow porridge, lunch had us looking at a Sword Fish as they gutted it. Every time I looked I saw guts from this animal dumped in a pail and the last view cutting the head off. This was the chef’s show for lunch ough. Dinner, it started day one no service. We had to flag down a waiter who was doing his best to keep up. Some tables almost finished their dinner before we received our appetizers. This continues throughput my trip and I returned two meals. The dinners around my table were returned or not eaten, however the pastries chef excellent. Tauck should include more on shore meals. When you look at the cost of the cruise and then add on shore meals you were responsible for this proves to be an expensive trip. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2018
We were incredibly impressed on the quality of our cruise aboard Le Ponant. The ship had been built as a luxury yacht vs. a cruise ship. The cabins had just recently been updated and service was fantastic. However, the best part of our ... Read More
We were incredibly impressed on the quality of our cruise aboard Le Ponant. The ship had been built as a luxury yacht vs. a cruise ship. The cabins had just recently been updated and service was fantastic. However, the best part of our cruise was by far the food! The food was a 5 course meal for almost every meal! There was a full time French pasty chef, which means it was extremely hard to come home. We were waited on constantly. I can't say thank you enough to our spectacular captain and crew! The crew to passenger ration for us was about 1:1 which meant that we had a fantastic relationship with all crew members. All evening events were extremely well thought out and the ship was prepared for everything. One day at sea we had 8-10ft swells however due to the ships sailing hull design, the ride was extremely comfortable as sailing ships have very little roll. Another fantastic attribute about Le Ponant is that its a massive sailing yacht. During one of our day's at sea, we were able to relax under her massive sails and enjoy the tropical sun without any engine power. 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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
A wonderful experience in every aspect. Le Ponant is a beautiful yacht with thirty-two cabins and ideal for the itinerary with so much stunning scenery. Comfortable cabins, with good bathroom and shower, hairdryer. Friendly ... Read More
A wonderful experience in every aspect. Le Ponant is a beautiful yacht with thirty-two cabins and ideal for the itinerary with so much stunning scenery. Comfortable cabins, with good bathroom and shower, hairdryer. Friendly Captain and Crew readily available to interact with passengers. Excellent food and waiters, with formal dining and dining on deck being our preferred option. Ports of call beautiful and unique with zodiacs at our disposal. Opportunities to swim off the back of the yacht as well as opportunities at most ports of call with sections of beach set aside with Ponant beach umbrellas set up by the wonderful crew. At Calvi, we were served champagne and oysters on the beach. Excursions optional but so interesting. Embarkation and disembarkation was effortless. We have traveled quite extensively and this experience is the most memorable and fun we have undertaken and we would do it all again in a heartbeat. Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We were participants in a university alum travel group. It was appealing to explore Cuba while having a floating hotel. We love cruising and this was our first time on Le Ponant. The staff was outstanding - each was friendly and knew ... Read More
We were participants in a university alum travel group. It was appealing to explore Cuba while having a floating hotel. We love cruising and this was our first time on Le Ponant. The staff was outstanding - each was friendly and knew our names in no time. We were disappointed in the food and with the bed in the cabin. The snack food during happy hour was the best food on the trip. Since this is a French ship, we expected wonderful food - that was not the case. It was as if they were trying too hard to do something complicated and missed the mark time after time. The focus was on seafood with few other options. Even the seafood was mediocre. Additionally, dinner was served late and took forever to complete. This was a group who had a full itinerary every day with early starts and an earlier dinner with a faster pace would have been appreciated. The bed was miserable - it was hard as a rock. I was in pain all night and as I arose. I had them add extra padding on top but it did nothing to change the level of comfort. The room itself was fine although small, the bathroom fine. There were 2 channels on the TV (CNN and sports) as well as movie selections. The shore excursions were through the university travel group. The ship had no responsibility for those. This was true of the enrichment lectures as well. All in all, we are glad to have made the trip to explore Cuba. We would not travel on Le Ponant again. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We were based on the boat with three university alum travel groups visiting Cuba. It was a great advantage to return to one location after visiting 4 of the oldest cities on the island. We were always greeted warmly by the French crew ... Read More
We were based on the boat with three university alum travel groups visiting Cuba. It was a great advantage to return to one location after visiting 4 of the oldest cities on the island. We were always greeted warmly by the French crew and it was good to have a respite from rundown Cuba. We enjoyed the special food and buffet service on the outside deck for breakfast and lunch and dinner in the dining room by outstanding crew who knew our names after the first day. We also appreciated the boat crew who helped us get on and off the boat. There was even a doctor from the boat who accompanied the tours-nice because the steps and walkways were so uneven. We had one night being tossed around at sea between Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. The boat rocks side to side with swells. That gets me to what is totally unacceptable on this boat-THE BEDS! They are rock hard mattresses which no first class ship should ever use. My husband had a back ache every morning. When I told the hotel director I had read a cruise critic reviewer had the same complaint, he said that was the best they could do. I wonder how they ever get a return customer to sleep on that bed! Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Ponant is a lovely yacht if the seas are kind. We were lucky and it only got rough the last night. Despite the excellent service onboard, there are a few things that, for the price, should be addressed. 1. Do not be fooled by the ... Read More
Ponant is a lovely yacht if the seas are kind. We were lucky and it only got rough the last night. Despite the excellent service onboard, there are a few things that, for the price, should be addressed. 1. Do not be fooled by the deck chart. Cabins 1 through 5 are very tiny and definitely should be your last choice. The beds are fixed queens and cannot be separated. These cabins themselves are very tiny. 2. On day two of sleeping onboard I awoke with the most horrible pain in my hip. This has never happened before. This pain stayed with me throughout the entire cruise. I could only get to a standing position very slowly with much pain and walking pain. Then I found out I was not alone. Two other people were having such issues, another one actually having to stay onboard like I did. There is something wrong with the mattresses. Even adding two duvets to the top and a pillow did not help. 3. Food choices are really geared to lamb and fish. I never saw chicken on the menu. Although the ship was very accomodating on some food issues, in general all I can say is that both my husband and I lost weight on the cruise. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We found the Trip a great experience, the crew friendly professional and helpful at any time .The food and beverages of high quality and selection. The selection of stops for swimming excellent. The stop for Sardinia,-Porto Cervo a waste ... Read More
We found the Trip a great experience, the crew friendly professional and helpful at any time .The food and beverages of high quality and selection. The selection of stops for swimming excellent. The stop for Sardinia,-Porto Cervo a waste of time. Bonifacio a great location. Also we enjoyed the mix of people on the boat and the occasion of meeting Mr. Stephen Winter who gave us an insight on the cruise business in general and the Le Potent concept in particular. All in All nothing to complain about except two small issues: - The introduction after coming on board held in english was very poor and the information given was only a fraction of the same in French. This needs to be improved. - The beds are simply too small and this could eb improved by having them facing the wall on side as it would be perfectly OK just to enter from one side or the foot end. 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
Le Ponant Ratings
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