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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2018
I have been on this ship once before to Macquarie Island and the New Zealand subantartic islands. This ship takes you to places where the others don’t go. Unbelievable experiences and excellent on board, with quality food beautifully ... Read More
I have been on this ship once before to Macquarie Island and the New Zealand subantartic islands. This ship takes you to places where the others don’t go. Unbelievable experiences and excellent on board, with quality food beautifully cooked, interesting fellow passengers and a relaxed style. Magnifique as only the French can do. The all inclusive fare includes your shore excursions in zodiacs (if on an expedition cruise) drinks, premium coffee etc which at the end of the day makes a cruise with this line much more competitive in price than it might seem at first blush when simply comparing ticket prices. Ponant ships are new, well equipped serve some of the best food I have ever experienced on a cruise ship and provide great service. All announcements are in French and English and there is a very welcoming atmosphere on board. The expedition cruises are great fun and the expedition crew are amazing. Je t’aime L’Austral 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
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: 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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
The highlight was the Zodiac cruises to places very rarely visited. More people climb Everest each year than visit the islands we saw. We were privileged to get close to literally thousands of birds and seals (many classified as rare and ... Read More
The highlight was the Zodiac cruises to places very rarely visited. More people climb Everest each year than visit the islands we saw. We were privileged to get close to literally thousands of birds and seals (many classified as rare and endangered). What a joy to find seals and penguins who were as interested in checking out the red penguins (humans in their Ponant supplied red parkas) as we were in looking at them! The outstanding range of colourful flora on all the islands (except the Bounty group which only support some grasses) was a joy to the eye and the megaherbs a reminder that it doesn't need to be a tropical plant to be fascinating and strange. The L'Austral is a superb cruise ship and Ponant a first class company. Food, service, cabin -- all top quality. The French touch was important. Activities were divided into those for French speakers and English speakers. I joined the French speakers with my French wife. This meant we were a group of about 40 while the other group was closer to 150. Thanks to that we had a more personal expedition and got to know our guides and fellow passengers. The cruise is very dependent on the weather. We were very lucky to have the best weather ever experienced by the ship's captain and the expedition team. Two days of all day sunshine (the Snares and the Bounty Islands). The other days were mixed (think of a typical English summer in the north such as the Lake District). The Southern Ocean was unusually calm so we suffered very little from sea-sickness and soon had our sea-legs. There are 2 restaurants. Deck 2 has a better menu and tables. Deck 6 is on the "First Class" passenger level but more like a snack bar with buffet service. We dined almost every time on Deck 2 and quickly befriended our servers. Their personal service gave us a First Class experience even though we had the economy cabins on Deck 3. Value for money was on Deck 3. Every deck higher was a couple of thousand $/EUR higher without any tangible benefit. Satellite based internet was expensive (30 EUR for 1 hour) and so slow it was essentially unusable. Perhaps because I was trying to get to a NZ based server and the satellite service was tuned to Europe (my wife and I live 6 months in NZ and 6 months in France)? Deck 3 gave us quick access to the central services of the boat - the 24 h staffed reception and the grand salon with its bar and outside deck looking over the stern. The outside deck was always a delight to get the feel of the sea and sky. All food and drink is included. This means a mini-bar with beer, spirits, juice, water (but no wine) and 2 other bars with wine, cocktails, beer (only Heineken to my dismay) and spirits. The restaurant service also provided unlimited access to the same array of drinks. Nibbles are provided (even without asking) in the bar areas. The range of food was good - always with a French touch. The standard did not really come up to the rest of our experiences on the ship. The food was never bad but was only occasionally exceptional. The breads and cheeses were well up to the high standard of French cuisine. The captain (le commandant) is soft spoken in French (his native tongue) and English (with an English accent). We looked forward to his daily bulletins with eagerness and pleasure at his insightful commentary and confidence inspiring information. The cruise director was French but communicated clearly in English. As a French speaking Englishman I found the bilingual announcements to have sometimes quite different interpretations but never really misleading. The main fault I found was the poor port service in Dunedin and Wellington. Not a fault of the cruise company. Both these cities are known for their wet and windy weather. There is no shelter for passengers or baggage during embarkation or disembarkation which can mean being at the mercy of the elements for 20 - 30 minutes at each end of the trip. Congratulations to Ponant, the ship's crew and the Expedition team for making this one of the top adventures in my life (along with running the Grand Canyon with just 2 inflatable rafts and 4 people over 3 weeks). Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2018
These islands are possibly the least visited and unspoilt islands in the world with unique flora and fauna. They cruise visits these island positioned halfway between Australia and New Zealand and Antarctica. In the great southern ocean ... Read More
These islands are possibly the least visited and unspoilt islands in the world with unique flora and fauna. They cruise visits these island positioned halfway between Australia and New Zealand and Antarctica. In the great southern ocean The islands contain the greatest variety of penguins and the opportunity to sit on the beach and have these highly curios birds come and investigate the stranger in their midst On Macquarie hugh breeding colonies of up to 500,000 pairs can be observed plus smaller breading colonies Colony’s of elephant seal, New Zealand fur seals, New Zealand sea lions can be observed while wali g on the islands Bird life is abundant and breading colonies of various breeds of Albatros can be observed whilst on land and also from zodiacs while investigating the shore line and inlets and cliffs of the various islands. Apart from. Penguins, seals, and a great diversity of bird life the islands have their own unique forms of vegetation This all takes place with a team of highly experienced specialised experts who daily give lecture on what we can expect to see on the next days excursions ashore or from the zodiacs Ponant take you to these far away places in the luxury of their ship with fine food,fine wine and great service that makes the trip even more enjoyable Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
We chose this cruise line and ship for it's supposed 5 star rating and it's small number of passengers. We had previously been on two cruises on the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti which were fantastic so we expected a similar ... Read More
We chose this cruise line and ship for it's supposed 5 star rating and it's small number of passengers. We had previously been on two cruises on the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti which were fantastic so we expected a similar experience as the two ships are of similar size and capacity. We booked to travel from Noumea to New Zealand over 14 days spending Christmas and New Year on board expecting something quite special. It only took a couple of days to realise that there was a shortage of staff in the lounge/bar/entertainment area on deck 3. The lounge was nice and comfortable but could not accommodate a lot of guests and when there were quite a few there we found it could take up to an hour to get a drink. There was often only one waiter and one barman who just couldn't cope with all the orders. Sometimes the bar manager was in attendance however he did not arrange more staff and seemed more interested in talking with the French guests. We are English speakers only and it appeared that the French would receive more attention. There is a nice piano bar on deck 6 which we liked to attend however there were a few instances when the piano player was performing and the bar was closed. When the bar was open Alex, the barman, was excellent with his service and did his best for all. The a la carte restaurant on deck 2 was very nice but also short staffed when busy. The quality and range of the food was only average and the wine selection very limited. They had one particular white, red and rose house wine available each day which were very average. They had 3 chardonnays and one chablis the whole trip which were included in the open bar. If you wanted a sav blanc you had to pay 8 euros a glass. The rest of the open bar drinks were quite extensive so the cocktails, spirits and beers were plentiful. The buffet restaurant on deck 6 was always crowded which seemed to be a poor reflection on the a la carte one. The food was also average with some uncomfortable push and shove around the serveries. The cabin was very nice with sufficient storage. The cabin cleaner, Putu, was excellent and could not do enough for us. As we had visited New Zealand previously we did not do any shore excursions. We would just get off the ship for a few hours and explore the current port which was enjoyable. We spoke to quite a few other guests who had been on previous Ponant cruises who stated that they had really enjoyed their previous trips however were similarly disappointed with this one. It seems that the Ponant is great for expeditions but not so good for just cruising. We both picked up a 24/48 hour stomach bug at different times during the cruise and later discovered that this happened to several other guests also. We can only assume that this might have had something to to with the full offload of the ships stores in Auckland to be replaced by New Zealand produce which took all day at great cost. The official line was that this was a requirement of the New Zealand authorities. For 3 days there was a terrible smell on our deck which seemed to be vomit on the carpets however we were told a few days later that a sewer pipe had burst beneath the floor. This was not explained by the crew at any time. We would not go on another Ponant cruise after this trip. If asked we would recommend the Paul Gauguin over the Ponant. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2017
Great expedition cruise : very knowledgeable and experienced expedition team with great selection of spots to visit on land; great interactions with locals and landings always so well prepared and fantastic welcome from locals. Very ... Read More
Great expedition cruise : very knowledgeable and experienced expedition team with great selection of spots to visit on land; great interactions with locals and landings always so well prepared and fantastic welcome from locals. Very good talks for review and preparation of excursions. Great opportunity to learn about the various indigenous population of such great diversity as Papua, Solomon and Vanuatu, with such differences in traditions from place to place. Quite interesting approach to the Second Word War in Asia Pacific, with a great talk and various visit to most historical and significant locations. As usually, luxury accommodation and excellent food in a relax ambiance. Cabin is very comfortable and functional. great choice of premium vines on top of usual free selection. The only thing we missed a little were the snorkelling opportunities, that were not so great due partially to the weather conditions and also because the choice of locations : they were too closed to beaches and not remote enough o get eth best of corals and fishes. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
We chose this cruise on L'Austral as the pre and post cruise land tours gave us the opportunity to visit both the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar. Both of these tours were fantastic and we saw so much. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise on L'Austral as the pre and post cruise land tours gave us the opportunity to visit both the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Bagan in Myanmar. Both of these tours were fantastic and we saw so much. We very much enjoy travelling on the small ships these days, we find Ponant suits our taste and you do get to know the crew and many of the other passengers on such a small ship. With the choice of the casual buffet on Deck 6 where you can dine inside or out,or the more formal restaurant on Deck 2, you have the best of both worlds. Cabins are very tastefully decorated in muted tones and there is a seperate toilet to the bathroom which proves far more convenient. Whilst you do not have the selection of entertainment found on the larger ships, we find the smaller production shows quite adequate. The shore excursions offered onboard are usually very good and Ponant quite often provide some of the excursions free of charge. Overall we would definitely recommend Ponant especially the expedition cruises. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
I chose this cruise because of the "no single supplement". Ponant is the only luxury cruise with this option and I really think it is a good marketing option for the company. More and more you have a lot of women traveling and ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the "no single supplement". Ponant is the only luxury cruise with this option and I really think it is a good marketing option for the company. More and more you have a lot of women traveling and exploring the world by themselves. At the beginning of my cruise Ponant had a get together for all the people traveling alone, so we could meet each other. I also selected Ponant because I wanted to speak French and eat French! I was not disappointed! We visited some very remote islands in Indonesia and met fabulous ethnies: the Torajans for example. Ponant went out of its way to find an event so we could observe first hand the Torajan Funeral rites (we even went there with two live pigs we could offer to the family!). It was superb! The conferences were always of great interest: the naturalists were experienced on board and we were lucky to have Jean Marie Rouart from the Academie française in a panel Paris Match (a great addition for this cruise)! I am now a fan of Ponant! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Fulfilled a long term ambition to visit Darwin and cruise the Kimberleys in WA. While there were quite a few issues on the vessel which were not the best, my overall rating is quite high just for the fact of my experiences within the ... Read More
Fulfilled a long term ambition to visit Darwin and cruise the Kimberleys in WA. While there were quite a few issues on the vessel which were not the best, my overall rating is quite high just for the fact of my experiences within the Kimberleys. The L'Austral was quite good although I believe it mostly catered for French tastes which is understandable with a French ship & mostly french crew. I went to see the Kimberleys and get up close travelling the waterways in Zodiacs & was not disappointed. I thought the onboard laundry & ironing charges were very expensive. Cabin service was outstanding though. All staff friendly & helpful. I can recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to see the Kimberleys as the access to amazing scenery & onshore visits would generally not be accessible other then by water or air. Naturalists on board were first rate and very informative. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
I had been to the Antarctic on L'Austral so when the opportunity came to visit the Kimberley I could not pass that opportunity to again travel in 5 star luxury. The ship is quiet, the staff helpful and friendly, they go out of their ... Read More
I had been to the Antarctic on L'Austral so when the opportunity came to visit the Kimberley I could not pass that opportunity to again travel in 5 star luxury. The ship is quiet, the staff helpful and friendly, they go out of their way to make sure you enjoy your experience. The organization of the zodiac excursions runs like clock work and the expedition leaders are very knowledgeable and ready to answer any questions. The food, wine and service first class whether dining in the main dining room or more casually by the pool. The Kimberley Expedition Cruise exceeded my expectation when everyday there was another experience to look forward to and to visit many otherwise inaccessible places.The visit to the Lacepede Islands was spectacular with the aqua color of the sea reflecting on the white feathers of the birds which were all as curious about the humans as the humans were about the birds.The visit to Paspaley Pearls in Darwin was another highlight. I highly recommend an expedition cruise with Ponant. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
First time on Ponant but 16th cruise overall. We were totally spoilt like never before. The ship is beautiful and the staff were all so very nice and went the extra mile with everything they did. The rooms were bigger than other cruise ... Read More
First time on Ponant but 16th cruise overall. We were totally spoilt like never before. The ship is beautiful and the staff were all so very nice and went the extra mile with everything they did. The rooms were bigger than other cruise lines we have travelled on and the finishing touches were lovely. Very comfortable beds and pillows. Plenty of closet space, an in room safe, good quality toiletries and a drinks fridge. The included mini bar was constantly restocked. It was great having an open bar and the French wines and champagne were very good. Some of the best red and Rose we have had for quite some time. Now the food, it couldn't be any better. Young Chef Tony deserves a medal along with his team for feeding us so well. It was all so delicious and we came home much heavier than when we boarded the ship. The French cuisine was superb. There were 3 formal nights on board, 2 of which we ate in the a la carte restaurant, all other meals were taken mostly outside by the pool at the buffet area. It was just so nice to sit outside at night and bookings were needed in advance due to the popularity. Morning and afternoon tea were always delicious little French cakes, pastries and savoury treats. This was an Expedition cruise Darwin to Darwin visiting the Kimberley's. Mick Fogg and the team were brilliant. Very friendly and extremely knowledgeable. We were awestruck day after day by what we saw in this very special part of the world. Just incredible scenery and Aboriginal rock art. Daily outing in the Zodiacs were well organised as were the couple of the optional tours we chose to do. There were daily evening recaps about what we had seen and what was in store the following day. Full credit to the team on a fantastic job.. There was nightly entertainment but we didn't see any of it as after dinner we were so tired that we went to bed ready for the following days big adventure. We are early 50's and we couldn't keep our eyes open after 10pm! If you are considering a Kimberley trip I would choose Ponant over every other option. We could not fault a thing. It was worth every cent and then some. . Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We visited the Kimberley region 20 years ago on a small cruise boat with less than 20 passengers and always wished to return. The Ponant Expedition Cruise with very experienced Naturalists on board to explain and show you the ... Read More
We visited the Kimberley region 20 years ago on a small cruise boat with less than 20 passengers and always wished to return. The Ponant Expedition Cruise with very experienced Naturalists on board to explain and show you the fascinating features and Aboriginal art was a highlight tat is a must for visitors to the area. We are well past retirement age and found the accessability into the Zodiacs and places of interest easily managed with only one set of falls missed due to the 70 degree climb that was really only suitable for the really fit passengers. That was not an issue as the crew took us to other places of interest. The Le Austral is a 5 star vessel with all the features that go with that rating, the cabin and dining was excellent with the French touch. Two dining experience were available the al la carte and the Buffet the latter on the Pool deck which was really suited to travelling in the tropics Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
We undertook our first ever cruise this month. It was with Ponant and the ship was L'Austral. We chose this cruise as the expedition to the Kimberleys appealed to us also the small number of passengers of around 230 people was ... Read More
We undertook our first ever cruise this month. It was with Ponant and the ship was L'Austral. We chose this cruise as the expedition to the Kimberleys appealed to us also the small number of passengers of around 230 people was perfect. It was Darwin to Darwin. The cruise was 10 nights 11 days. Being our first ever cruise we had no idea of what to expect but we were more than pleased with every part of this experience. We were on deck 4, cabin 431, which was perfectly located to access all other decks easily by the stairs or lifts if needed. Our cabin had a queen bed and separate toilet to the bathroom. We also had a balcony which had plenty of room. Our cabin steward was lovely and very efficient. Our cabin was always cleaned and tidied morning and night. The restaurants were on Deck 2, table service and deck 6, buffet. Both served great food with a French influence. The service in the restaurants was high quality. The French wines were more than enjoyable. Room service was also available and was quick and beautifully presented. The on board entertainment was entertaining. In the main theatre, there was always a recap of the expedition of that day and a run down of the next day's expedition. The expeditions were great experiences. We went out in zodiacs most days to explore the breathtaking beauty of the Kimberley coast. There were always expedition team members on the zodiacs who were very knowledgeable and informative in their fields which ranged from geology, birds, sea animals and naturalists, to name a few. Overall this expedition cruise was amazing and would highly recommend this Kimberley expedition. Brilliant. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
For me, Ponant is the perfect mix of intinerary, price and comfort. It is not for everyone - this was my third Ponant cruise, complaints about the food are common and based on the mis-understanding that the French eat souffle, foie ... Read More
For me, Ponant is the perfect mix of intinerary, price and comfort. It is not for everyone - this was my third Ponant cruise, complaints about the food are common and based on the mis-understanding that the French eat souffle, foie gras and French onion soup every day. Simple, high quality fresh ingredients is the norm. Also expect the Captain, officers, receptionists, spa staff and some of the naturalists to be French by birth and speak English with French accents! It is a bi-lingual staff and crew. Some of the rudest Australians I've ever met have been on the Ponant ships, demanding that French not be spoken as they feel that they are missing out in some way. If you're that paranoid, there are many other 'English only cruise lines. Rant over. The Kimberley expedition was Darwin to Darwin, which might be the first and last time Ponant offer that variation. The sea conditions and weather were spectacular - the calmest seas I've ever seen, clear blue skies and emerald green seas. Getting up to the Wandjina art caves at Raft Bay takes some physical fitness, as does the climb to the top of King George Falls, as does some ability to cope with the heat (35 Celsius on average). L'Austral is a modern, comfortable, ship, showing some signs of exterior wear after the Antarctic season, but nothing that a coat of paint won't rectify. The cabins are in excellent condition and the cabin staff maintain the cleanliness of them very well. There were 231 passengers out of a possible 264 due to the number of single travellers, and it never seems like too many people - I saw people at disembarkation that I'd never seen in the preceding 10 days. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2017
We had always wanted to experience the Kimberley from the Ocean and chose Ponant as we have cruised with them before. Their service is great - pleasant cabin and excellent food and dining facilities. The expedition staff were ... Read More
We had always wanted to experience the Kimberley from the Ocean and chose Ponant as we have cruised with them before. Their service is great - pleasant cabin and excellent food and dining facilities. The expedition staff were knowledgeable and helpful. The excursions were well organised from getting people into the zodiacs and out to the attractions to the effort put in to making sure that we had the best possible experience off ship. The presentations onboard that backed up the excursions were also particularly interesting. The food was excellent, and I was very well looked after with my special dietary requirements (vegetarian). The main dining room (with a la carte service) is particularly good and we used it for all meals. Our cabin was quite spacious, well maintained and pleasant. Staff are always courteous and cannot do enough to make sure that guests have a great experience. Both embarkation and disembarkation were handled professionally and expeditiously. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2017
Always wanted to see the Kimberly coast by ship, to view the horizontal waterfalls. King George gorge scenery, and Rock Art proof of extra-terrestial visitors from long ago. The trip met expectations, but wine was not uniformly of expected ... Read More
Always wanted to see the Kimberly coast by ship, to view the horizontal waterfalls. King George gorge scenery, and Rock Art proof of extra-terrestial visitors from long ago. The trip met expectations, but wine was not uniformly of expected standard for french wine and should have been at next level up for non-selected (types- champagne,rose were 0K) Service on back outside deck was exceptionally good ,as was upstairs bar. Food variety (except for fish) was interesting and well presented and prepared - especially the omelettes!! The visit to the bridge was particularly informative and interesting and we appreciated the time and operations detailed by the om-duty officer. The medical officer ,trained at Toulouse. was efficient and seemed to understand my partners' (attempted) French. The bottom rung of the in-pool ladder should be fitted with a non slip sleved surface (this caused deep lacerations to my partners shin)., Well put together and executed schedule of visitations. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2017
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together ... Read More
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together beautifully., gave wonderful presentations and were always available for questions. The passenger makeup was mostly Australians, though about 20 French-speaking. I continued on the next cruise - Darwin to Bali - and the atmosphere changed a bit - now it was half English-speaking and half French-speaking. This was more of a cultural cruise as we made several stops in a few little-visited eastern islands of Indonesia. The island tours were well-organized. It was still active as we had several snorkeling opportunities. It is important to know that these were expedition-style cruises, and agility and balance are needed to board the zodiacs. It is active, with snorkeling and hiking opportunities. Everything is described in advance and passengers can self-select if they want to participate in the excursion. Ponant thinks of everything. For those of us continuing on, they provided a very nice half-day tour of Darwin with a good guide and a comfortable bus. I chose L'Austral for its reputation. I like the atmosphere and size of the ship.The fact that it is a fairly new ship (only 6 years old), and has continental food and service is a plus also. The back-to-back cruises were an excellent combination - with the first being all nature with a few visits to Aboriginal rock art; and the second more cultural. With such long flights to this part of the world, it made sense to do a back-to-back. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We decide to cruise from Darwin to Broome with Ponant from July 24th 2017 to 2 August 2017 because we wanted to experience the Kimberley from the ocean side. We had travelled the region by car back in 2007 and love the colours and the ... Read More
We decide to cruise from Darwin to Broome with Ponant from July 24th 2017 to 2 August 2017 because we wanted to experience the Kimberley from the ocean side. We had travelled the region by car back in 2007 and love the colours and the landscape. We chose Ponant because it was a 5 star French ship, the price was reasonable and it was doing the areas we wanted to visit. $750 per day, per person (deck 4 verandah) which included all the zodiac tours, all meals and open bar. We were expecting French food and fine wine as per their brochure. Disappointingly, their fine wine and open bar was not as we expected and no French food. Their "house wine" was Jacobs Creek Classic Shiraz, Jacobs Creek Chardonay, and Gossips Rose. There were other wines which you could purchase by the glass or bottle. You could imagine the horror of 220 Australians on board to be served Jacobs Creek wine which retails at Dan Murphy's for about $7 and Gossips Rose for $3. The Hotel Managers excuse for the Jacobs Creek wine was because their shipment had not arrived. Not quite believable. Not a drop of Sav Blac to be found on the ship for those who preferred something other than Chardonay. They ran out of Sprite, Bailey, Dramburie, VB and had to share the Sambucca between the bars - if you wanted to have a Gin & Tonic with Blue Sapphire gin it is 9 euro, and any cocktails that were not on the "ordinary" list you had to pay for. As for the food, average but definitely not French Cabins are small with only 1 chair for sitting except on bed, couldn't have bathroom door and wardrobe door open at same time and you both could not walk past the end of the bed at the same time. Whilst you are not in your cabin a lot, sometimes it is nice to relax in your own space with room to move. Entertainment although not a lot was acceptable. Service - not enough Bar staff, they were always very busy and service was slow. Wait staff in dining room was good. The Buffet at night was crowded and difficult to get hot food with the number of people queueing. Definitely not what we expected of a 5 star cruise line. Silverseas wins over Ponant hands down. However on a positive note the expedition team and zodiac outings were exceptional, everything was well planned and organised. All of the team were very informative and knowledgeable. Great job. Would we go again?.... Only if we factored in $200 a day for drinkable wine. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2017
We wanted to see the Kimberley and we decided that this was the way to do it without having to pack and unpack every day or so - do so with a degree of luxury. The trip started in Darwin and finished in Broome. When excursions are added ... Read More
We wanted to see the Kimberley and we decided that this was the way to do it without having to pack and unpack every day or so - do so with a degree of luxury. The trip started in Darwin and finished in Broome. When excursions are added such as Bungle Bungles, Mitchell Falls, Horizontal Falls, etc it makes the whole experience come alive and educational. The whole expedition crew were very knowledgeable - especially the Expedition Leader (Mick Fogg) and this added to our overall enjoyment. The ships crew were always attentive and made the "cruise" part of the trip an absolute pleasure. The 2 dining rooms were excellent and well serviced by stewards. The cruise was all inclusive except for additional excursions such as the plane and helicopter flights, but normal expedition excursions, eg zodiac expeditions up the King George River to the Falls, Montgomery Reef, Lacepede Islands, etc were included. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
The ship is young enough and attractively styled and crewed! Maintenance of rust and cleaning of deck,glass,and balcony are not great. Cabin and storage was totally fine. Our cabin steward was never close to our heart and when we ... Read More
The ship is young enough and attractively styled and crewed! Maintenance of rust and cleaning of deck,glass,and balcony are not great. Cabin and storage was totally fine. Our cabin steward was never close to our heart and when we boarded one waste bin was not emptied, nor the bedside table cleaned. The toilet compartment seemed to need a deep clean /freshening. The Senior Housekeeper always looked in control but the staff were disappointing as stewards and waiters. Our cabin /balcony was blighted by the constant contact with Zodiac boats being lowered and raised to the top deck storage. Ponant made several blunders during the booking, confusing my details with someone on the other side of the world with a similar name. We were given an on board spend to our surprise just before the end of the cruise after being told earlier that there was none. I must say the Captain and French members of staff were excellent as was Camal the Cruise Director. Though with a 98% English speaking passenger group why French was usually the first language spoken I never understood. The very few French speakers on board were favoured and one day, next in line to board a zodiac ,we became invisible as a French couple were shown on ahead of us ! Even more outstanding were the large Nature Guide/Zodiac pilots team who gave excellent lectures/briefings and were entertaining stars. The trouble was the food and drink. The baking was also pathetic at times. Twice there were "fancy" set menu special/party nights in the very attractive main dining room. However the set menu food was even worse than regular cooking.Now I have been on many ships and make every allowance I can for the catering difficulty of a small ship in remote waters, but this was BAD. The extra pasta meal required due to the sea state delay in final docking was one of the better efforts!! To cap it Ponant served as house wine (to mainly Australian passengers) cheap Australian "Oxford Landing" wines, which irritated many. Cabin service food was simple but fast and well served. Eventually some poor French wines did materialized! Bar service could be slow with one bar man being the norm and many cocktails on offer! I will say I enjoyed the free flowing Champagne.... The "Grill" (deck) restaurant/buffet is too small when the ship is full and the weather hot. These Kimberly Coast cruises attracted mostly (noisy) elderly Australians so the fun of an international passenger mix was missing. Good ships photography/DVD service. Did not use internet, (100 minutes@ 30Euroes). I could never use Ponant again as my food and drink is important to me. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We recently returned from our second Ponant Cruise where we cruised from Darwin to Broome along the Kimberley Coast of Western Australia. We had previously travelled to Antarctica with Ponant and enjoyed the expedition style cruising so ... Read More
We recently returned from our second Ponant Cruise where we cruised from Darwin to Broome along the Kimberley Coast of Western Australia. We had previously travelled to Antarctica with Ponant and enjoyed the expedition style cruising so much we decided to travel with them again. We spent 5 nights exploring Darwin and were surprised by the activities available and found it was time well spent. Ponant arranged a private showing of pearls at the Pasarley Pearls showroom the afternoon prior to departure. Embarkation in Darwin was very smooth and we were soon on board L’Austral enjoying a glass of champagne and chatting with fellow cruisers. Our cabin on deck 5 was very comfortable with plenty of storage and kept very clean. It would be good to have a card introducing our steward so we could be on a first name basis. We dined most of the time in the more formal Level 2 restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As the Level 6 Grill Restaurant flows out to the pool deck it has a more casual feel which made it very busy at times. We were disappointed there was no variety in the house wines on offer. Ponant have acknowledged our disappointment and stated they normally carry a larger selection of wine but it was not possible on this trip. Coffee and tea facilities could be improved with the use of self-serve machines in the main lounge area. As this was an expedition cruise we found that the expedition crew were very knowledgeable.They certainly did not disappoint us with daily zodiacs through waterways looking at wildlife, rock formations or just to the beach where we would walk to view Aboriginal paintings. The extra excursions taking in flights over the Bungle Bungles, a helicopter to the Mitchell Falls or a fast boat ride through the Horizontal Falls were very well organised. We looked forward to the daily talk on the activities we had done that day and what we were doing the next. Our days were kept very busy with some early morning starts. It became apparent to us that the crew on this ship were very happy. As Ponant ships are small they don’t have a lot of entertainment as the bigger cruise ships do but the singers, musicians and dancers were all very good and we thoroughly enjoyed their performances. Kamel the cruise director was very good and made a lot of people laugh with his antics. The morning we were to arrive in Broome we were informed that the port was closed because of strong winds. Disembarkation days are always busy on a ship but to Ponant’s credit they allowed us to stay in our cabin and served us lunch before the okay was given to dock. Disembarkation went very smoothly and there to wish us well were some of the expedition crew and of course the Captain himself. We also enjoyed four nights in Broome at the end of the cruise staying at the Mangrove Hotel which we found to be comfortable and walking distance to town. We found more than enough to do in the time there. We thoroughly enjoyed this trip and would recommend it. 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
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We had previously sailed on L'Austral in Alaska and were so impressed that when we learnt that Ponant were to cruise the Kimberley we decided to join them again. FRom the moment we embarked, we were made very welcome by the captain ... Read More
We had previously sailed on L'Austral in Alaska and were so impressed that when we learnt that Ponant were to cruise the Kimberley we decided to join them again. FRom the moment we embarked, we were made very welcome by the captain and crew. As the cruise progressed it became clear that the expedition crew (naturalists and specialists on indigenous rock art etc) were really top class and excellent communicators. The cabin was comfortable and room service was excellent and unobtrusive. As second time travellers the addition of free laundry service was a remarkable additional comfort. The information sessions and entertainment were well managed and relevant. As a personal reflection, the fact that many of the crew were French nationals, made the cruise that more enjoyable to one who loves to try out his French language skills (or lack of) and it was good that their was a response that made us feel good for trying. The food was excellent and the choice of a la carte or buffet style was refreshing. The only slight problem was that the wine selection was a little lacking although we understand that this was due to circumstances beyond Ponant's control. once again, as we had been in Alaska, we came away refreshed and renewed and happy enough to book a cruise on the same ship to Antartica. Read Less
L'Austral Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 5.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 3.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 4.4
Enrichment 2.0 4.1
Service 3.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 3.0 4.1

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