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Sail Date: March 2019
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. ... Read More
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. We never witnessed grouchiness or tension among the staff, in definite contrast to the larger cruise ships we've been on in the past. The service was hence over the top. Perhaps it was just our L'Austral crew, but e.g. the front desk ladies were amazing, juggling all day in at least 2 languages, and manning the reception 24/7. Always friendly with a smile, and anything we asked for was done, taken care of or checked on with efficiency. We never felt 'second class' by not being French, and 99% of the French passengers were very friendly once you tried a few words in French.. I think sometimes people get insecure and appear standoffish until you get to know them a little. Due to the itinerary, we had a significant number of Aussies, Germans, Austrians, some Brits, someone from Iceland, and a handful of Americans. Several multilingual passengers, and an unusually high number of solo travelers. That being said, it does help to speak French, since the naturalists, cruise director etc are all native French people, and not every joke or comment can be translated properly into English. All announcements were always in both French and English. The captain was very involved and you seemed to run into him often. He was there, coming in another Zodiac when ours had engine problems, always ready to help out. He navigated that vessel safely and very smoothly. His background is commanding icebreakers, so a transatlantic is probably much easier work for him. Overall recommendations: Although there's 3 elevators, they don't reach everything, for example the marina. Not a good ship for wheelchair, crutches, or walker. Cane may be okay if you can negotiate 1-2 flights of stairs. Currency on board is Euro, but you can settle your account in USD, and if you book a future cruise on board, the quote can be done in either currency. The onboard boutique/store does NOT have sunscreen, nail clippers, antacids... so don't forget those. They have mostly clothing, a few gifts, small amount of jewelry and handbags. Most of the clothing is for use in Antarctica. All high quality (mostly made in France and Germany), and thus pricey. If you wish to leave tips, you have to have cash. Unlike on other cruise ships, where you can add a tip to your bill, you can't do that on Ponant. The services in the spa already include a service charge. Food/drink: Be prepared to gain weight - we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys.. especially the desserts are too delicious to pass up, plus they have daily varying homemade gelato.. ugh. The pastry chef is top notch, French of course. And then the cheeses...! Our ship wasn't full, so during the first 2 weeks, dinner was either buffet on 6, or sit down on 2, and lunch was only buffet. You can always get coffee drinks, croissants and fruit in the main lounge on 3 in the a.m., and coffee/tea with some type of goodie from 4pm-5pm, main lounge as well. Open bar using decent brands, top shelf is extra. Their champagne is pretty good, and on certain occasions, Veuve Cliquot comes out. House wines red/white/rosé are overall decent. If you like beer, you'll be probably disappointed. Mostly Heineken, and e.g. Corona amazingly has to be paid for. Main dishes range from okay to superb - it really depends who's cooking and what. The mostly Indonesian crew is of course best at fish etc, even room service fish was fantastic. The Peruvian carving chef was amazing. Lamb most of the time was awesome. Be aware most of their beef and pork meats (roast, loin etc) are cooked 'rare' and are quite fatty. Room service club sandwich was the best sandwich we've ever had, period. Now if you can't find anything to strike your fancy, just talk to the restaurant head guy or directly to the chefs, they will come up with something for you. Spa/fitness: actually got a haircut, Elsa was very good and took a whole hour, only 65Euro. The hammam looked nice, very hot in there and we were in the tropics, so didn't use. Fitness center looked nice, mostly deserted. The saltwater pool is a decent size for a small ship, due to internal ramp you can't swim laps but it's nice to hang out or tread water. As far as the itinerary - the Brazilian government has now banned all non-Brazilian vessels from anchoring off Fernando de Noronha. It was quite a bummer, but nothing could be done about it. We received 250Euro onboard credit each as a compensation. OB credit can't be used for future cruise deposit, certain visas they arrange for you, or tips as I mentioned above. Since basically everything is already included, we "had to" shop at the boutique, DH got a real Panama Hat and I bought an Icebreaker vest and 2 Breton sweaters, nice souvenirs! Brazil: Rio - loved it and will try to return Paraty - very quaint, difficult walking on cobblestones, not touristy, and no public RR Salvador - broke my heart to see how they let their city deteriorate in so many ways.. even in the public market prostitution was going on. Very sad. Recife/Olinda - Would love to return to see the Olinda Carnaval. We had dancers from Olinda come to the ship to present a show and they were spectacular. Olinda walking tours are quite the workout walking steep hills in high heat and humidity. Guinea-Bissau, Bijagos Islands There was a couple (he French, she Portuguese) who lives on Keré Island, who acted as cultural intermediaries. Our naturalists came from Antarctica and that's where their expertise lies, not Africa, so they did not have much information. Honestly, most of my information was from documentaries I had found online at home, prior to the voyage. The Islands are definitely not touristy (there's rarely a ferry from Bissau), most of the village inhabitants are very reserved and do not interact. It appears they asked a couple of women to put on their 'good dress' and sit by the walking trail, so people could get their selfies with a person from Bijagos. I felt we were being intrusive overall, although I understand they authorized the visit and Ponant helps finance e.g. a water well etc for the villages. If you're a snorkeler/diver, this is not your spot, water murky with very low visibility. Sadly, we saw almost no wildlife, wrong season, normally there are lot of birds, hippos etc. Senegal-Dakar Well, we spent the day at an African family's B&B in Dougar, 45 min E of Dakar, and about 20min from the new airport. We booked through airbnb.com and they reconciled us with Senegal. Before we arrived there, I couldn't get out of Dakar fast enough, between peddlers, noise, the smell of urine, Sahara dust, and traffic insanities... Considering you don't wait in line for anything except the Zodiac embarkations, and the whole ambiance, it's definitely a luxury line and we're glad we chose this trip. Regardless of the itinerary glitches, we enjoyed ourselves and were thoroughly relaxed, so we booked another/ future cruise onboard, which will be on one of the sister ships. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and ... Read More
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and I took into observation myself on what was available and what was limited especially regarding the trip to Antarctica. • The restaurant staff were very efficient and worked well under pressure at times (special occasions such as gala nights) while keeping great composure. • I was more drawn to the A La Carte and found the food to be very delicious along with a variety of specialties. • The drinks service at the bar was great. • The entertainment was good for being a small luxury ship and I considered that it wasn’t a party ship, but more of an intimate one as why I decided on a small luxury ship. • The cabin room had a balcony and it was very lovely and cosy with great space and storage. • The room service was great and the steward, she was very lovely. • The zodiac expeditions were very well organised and supervised by the Officer/s and crew who were very safety conscious and were never hesitant to take anything into consideration. • The Expedition Leader/ Naturalist (one in particular) were very well experienced and very knowledgeable and the lectures given were presented very well and were interesting. Engaging would be the word due to their passion. • I observed some customers giving some staff a hard time at the reception regarding “their concerns/expectations” of which I saw was well handled and sorted with great communication and expedience. • Any feedback was also taken into consideration and handled diligently and implemented. • The Captain and Expedition Leader both delivered on an amazing substituted trip in place of an expedition trip on one of the days we were not able to get to a destination due to weather and an ice blockage however this idea was a phenomenal one along with being in the right place to see whale activity much closer. Three Things To Consider • Single Supplementary Charges make it less flexible along with less journeys/experience to go on than I would like to have; • The cooked bacon could be improved; and • Regarding kids maybe more involvement interaction as they are the future however, I did see the Expedition Leader do his best with what he had and could do. It was the first time I had experienced a cruise, taken three flights within 24/48hrs experiencing jet lag for the first time along with travelling alone to areas with little language experience. The trip was perfect along with the weather and this was not “the Norm” every time so I got a special trip. I have lots of photos, lost of memories and I went on the trip with no expectations and instead it was just about enjoying the moments. Thank you to all who made my trip a great one and I will definitely be back for more. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos ... Read More
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos Aires after my flight from JFK, and met the Ponant team at the airport the next morning. The representatives were easy to find and I was quickly waiting in line to drop of my luggage and wait for boarding. After landing in Ushuaia, Ponant offered either a trip to the national park or lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking the city. I chose lunch. Here, I met other solo travelers who I dined with throughout the cruise. We were then taken to the ship were we began the embarkation process. There was no waiting. Walked directly from the bus up the gangway and onto the ship. We were greeted by the staff, and brought to our rooms. The room was very spacious and the bathroom had a sliding door covering a window which allowed you to watch the scenery when showering. It was very nice! Throughout the cruise, the staff kept us well informed of what the plans were for the day. We generally made 2 zodiac trips per day and most days, 2 landings. Everything was organized very well, from getting our parkas and boots to the daily educational programs (provided in French and English). Our weather was phenomenal, and Drake’s passage was like glass both directions! The expedition team was very concerned about the guests seeing as much as possible and worked very hard to ensure it. There are 2 restaurants on board and I generally chose to visit the buffet which allowed more choice than the sit down restaurant. The food was overall excellent and often had a French flair. The staff on the ship were lovely and any needs were met right away. This cruise was all inclusive and the drinks flowed freely! I did not attend any of the shows except the last one on the last night. It was cute but I’m not a show person. The WiFi was great! Free, and I was able to check email, social media, and text with family and friends (helpful since I was traveling solo). No issues with disembarkation at all. Extremely smooth and organized cruise. Loved Antarctica! I would go back and would chose Ponant again for sure!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special ... Read More
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special sights like minkes up close in a zodiac. 6am rise for a pod of orcas and to top it off a blue whale in the weddell sea. The guides and the zodiac drivers did a great job of getting you close to interesting sights and explaining everything well. On the ship the crew were great. Everything was so well taken care off. And the food well. Level 2 is Devine. I guess what you expect on a French ship! The crossing back across the Drake was windy but what's a trip to Antarctica without having to say you have endured the Drake... These Ponant ships are excellent. I would do it again in a heart beat. Maybe a tropical trip next time or Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage ... Read More
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage allowed in cabin. The embarkation was seamless and very welcoming . The ship itself was pristine, hygiene incrediable, service form all staff inpeckiable, the facilities were outstanding. To be fair could not fault anything. The communication throughout the 10days was so regular and UTD. The excursions were professional and very well organised. comfort plus. I would definantly only ever do another cruise with Ponant, as ticked every box. Food was exceptional, and loads of variety, activity was constant and varied. Very professional expedition leaders and the staff involved in hauling us on and of the zodiacs were amazing. Captain was informative and passionate about his ship as well as Antartica. JUST AMAZING EPIC AND BREATHTAKING. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because of the small ship size (220 passeners), the fact that it was spending 6 full days at the white continent and that it would be sending us ashore on zodiac rafts. We were very impressed with the friendliness and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the small ship size (220 passeners), the fact that it was spending 6 full days at the white continent and that it would be sending us ashore on zodiac rafts. We were very impressed with the friendliness and service by the staff at every level from dining to the excursions. We were very excited about seeing the majesty of Antarctica and the ship's captain and crew did not disappoint. We felt they made every effort to insure that our cruise and shore experiences were excellent. The lectures were very good and informative although some of them didn't relate to the particular cruise we were on. Would have liked more specifics and history about Antarctica. The ship's store was also lacking, not in size but in products. Would have loved to see more items that were specific to our cruise i.e., clothing, hats, sweatshirts, shirts, etc, that related to Antarctica. The food service was excellent but the cuisine was just average for a cruise line. We expected a little higher end fare, especially on a French cruise line. We also felt that pre-cruise Ponant could have sent a little more information about preparing for the cruise to Antarctica and what to expect on board. Because of the uniqueness of this particular cruise a little more up front information would have been appreciated. Our criticisms are minor in what was otherwise a wonderful experience. It was one of those trips of a lifetime being able to experience Antarctica up close and we have already recommended Ponant as an excellent choice to friends Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose Ponant for our Antactic cruise because of their high reputation for expedition cruises and general high quality reputation for food, service etc. our cruise was excellent in almost every way. The quality of the food, wine and ... Read More
We chose Ponant for our Antactic cruise because of their high reputation for expedition cruises and general high quality reputation for food, service etc. our cruise was excellent in almost every way. The quality of the food, wine and service on board was always of the highest quality. Our balcony cabin was comfortable, although the bathroom is small because the toilet is in a separate compartment. This trade off is quite OK. more seating would be welcome but there is no room. The expedition landings were virtually faultless. The expedition leader, Florence, was incredibly good. She worked tirelessly and endlessly to ensure that landings were interesting and safe. The team leaders were also excellent, very well informed and very enthusiastic. All landings went off perfectly and luckily, our weather was good to excellent. The experience was memorable and sometimes a little overwhelming in the grandeur and isolation. We would highly recommend an Antarctic cruise and highly recommend Ponant. Their organisation is down to a fine art and everything runs smoothly, at least for passengers. No doubt their is a huge effort behind the scenes to get to this level of perfection. The only disappointment with the whole trip was the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back. The flight is a charter with Latam and is very poor in every way. The seats are the tightest and most uncomfortable I have ever experienced and the aircraft has one toilet for 180 passengers. There is no galley so you get only a small bag of biscuits and a soft drink for the 4 hour flight. On the return flight, 30 bags were left in Ushuaia ,and arrived 4 hours later. Some people had connecting flights and could not have received their bags in time.This is not Ponant's fault but needs to be fixed. Although Ponant is priced as a luxury line, it is less expensive for Antarctic cruises than many others. The ships are purpose designed for expeditions and yet are still luxury in terms of passenger comfort, amenity and service. They are value for money. We would certainly recommend Ponant for Antarctic cruises. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same time. It appeared that no one from Ponant was present to advise us what we were to do and we were all walking around like sheep. At the disembarkation end it was even worse as we were told there would be taxis once we got out of the terminal and of course there were none, nor did the taxis even come there, so we had to arrange very expensive private transfers after waiting more than an hour for a fabled taxi. Once on board, our cabin was what we expected. It was very clean and our room steward was excellent. The turnaround for laundry, which was free for us as past passengers, was brilliant. Service in the dining room was inconsistent. Sometimes it was good and sometimes not. The service on any gala night seemed to favour those tables which had officers, which seemed to only host French passengers. That said, the wait staff we had were always happy and helpful. The standard of the entertainment is consistently good and the shows are always a highlight. Kamel, the Cruise Director is a huge asset for Ponant. The food is the biggest let down on this ship. In advance of this cruise we were required to produce significant medical evidence of our ability to travel for the last 6 days. From that I would have thought that both I, and my doctor, had made my gluten intolerance very clear. Apparently not. The choice of gluten free food is beyond poor. I raised this at the first opportunity with the head waiter, who then raised it with a very indignant head chef, who effectively dismissed my complaints. To be given a broken piece of toast for breakfast is an absolute insult, given how much this cruise cost. There were no gluten free pastries, not even rice biscuits for the cheese. The room service menu was even more limited. It is not often that I can go on a 3 week holiday, on what sets itself up as a French culinary gastronomy cruise and lose weight, but it happened. The quality of the included wine was very hit and miss. It was all French. Some was acceptable and others were very, very ordinary. The cocktails however were fabulous. The port calls were a bit of a problem, but mainly due to the water conditions. Our captain did a great job to get us to Pitcairn. In other reviews, non French passengers have made the complaint that there appears to be favouritism shown to French passengers and a sense of entitlement. We saw this too. I don't know how many times I was literally pushed out of the way by a person thinking that they had a better right than I did to be in that position in an ordered queue. We had very few landings on this cruise and for our special lunch and performance on Easter Island the French speaking passengers arrived significantly before the English speaking ones and took up the very best positions. We found it so hard to find a spot together so far from the action that it was not worth even bothering to get involved in the show. With so many non French traveling on Ponant this really needs to be addressed. We really did feel like we were getting second best treatment. Overall, if this had been my first cruise with Ponant I would be in no hurry to do another. We have been on two other cruises ( the Kimberley and from New Zealand to Sydney) and they were excellent. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This cruise was from Lautoka in Fiji to Papeete in Tahiti, in September/October 2018. It was promoted as the 30th Anniversary cruise for Ponant, and made a special visit to Mata Utu, the registration home for Ponant ships. The Ponant CEO ... Read More
This cruise was from Lautoka in Fiji to Papeete in Tahiti, in September/October 2018. It was promoted as the 30th Anniversary cruise for Ponant, and made a special visit to Mata Utu, the registration home for Ponant ships. The Ponant CEO was onboard for the cruise, along with a very large proportion of French passengers.We had cruised on Ponant a few times before, and on this particular ship. The cruise itinerary was interesting and met the usual Ponant onboard standards but we were a little disappointed. We thought more information and relevant lectures might have been provided. The cruise visited some island locations not previously visited by cruise ships, and that showed in some below average excursions and details. That, along with some bad weather, made the first half of the voyage less than memorable. The second half, visiting the Cook Islands, Bora Bora, and Moorea was much more enjoyable. Very picturesque and excursions were satisfactory (apart from the usual high costs). The cruise ended with a great fireworks display at Papeete harbour provided by Ponant. it is not pleasant to register some reservations about fellow passengers but we did find that not all the French passengers were very welcoming. There was an attitude apparent that Ponant is a French cruise line and the French passengers therefore hold or expect special rights in some undefined way! This did spoil things a bit at times although senior crew made it clear this was not the Ponant view. The line has to make revenue and profits and that means appealing to all comers. Just a point to keep in mind for some cruises. Overall could only rate this cruise as average but recognising some of the Ponant efforts to make it a memorable anniversary cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
This cruise visited Wallis and Futuna which I could not get with another cruise line. Since this was also a 30 anniversary cruise lots of specials were in store, such as reception in Wallis; native entertainment on board and on shore and ... Read More
This cruise visited Wallis and Futuna which I could not get with another cruise line. Since this was also a 30 anniversary cruise lots of specials were in store, such as reception in Wallis; native entertainment on board and on shore and the fireworks on the last night. The hula performances were a highlight. those dancers could surely move. The shore excursions were well organized allowing me to see the beauty of the various islands, especially from a high overlook on Moorea where the different shades of the waters really stood out. Even the dolphins cooperated (showed up) on an offshore boat trip. My balcony cabin located amidship, reduced the affects of the ocean and was always kept in good shape. The ships personnel was always friendly and eager to help. The food was plentiful and of good quality, too bad, gained a few pounds even though I was using the walking machine in the exercise room. Read Less
L'Austral Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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