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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We chose a cruise because we wanted to visit the Kimberley but did not want to do a land trip. We chose this particular cruise because we did not want to use a small vessel and had seen good reviews of Ponant in general. All the staff we ... Read More
We chose a cruise because we wanted to visit the Kimberley but did not want to do a land trip. We chose this particular cruise because we did not want to use a small vessel and had seen good reviews of Ponant in general. All the staff we encountered were very friendly and helpful and the service and dining were excellent. The menus provided were varied and extensive. The ship was well maintained, clean and tidy. Our cruise was an 'expedition' cruise entailing the use of zodiacs. This part of the cruise was superbly organised and we were thrilled with the experiences offered (congratulations to Mick Fogg!!); information provided by the 'expedition' crew was interesting and informative. We did not experience much in the way of entertainment, ie we did not go to any shows, but we did sit in on the music offerings at afternoon tea. We are not 'cruisers' but we wanted a way to see the Kimberley and this cruise fitted the bill. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience from beginning to the end. Our one criticism concerns the finalisation of our account. We settled our bill for extra excursions with cash (euros) the night before disembarkation but on arriving home we found that the amount for these excursions was 'frozen' on the card account of our bank (we were asked to provide card details at the start of the cruise). We contacted Ponant regarding this last week but as of writing this review, the amount is still being held. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
We always wanted to do a cruise of the Australian Kimberleys and when we realized that Ponant was including cruising in the region into their itinerary, we jumped at it straight away, having had a great previous experience with the ship ... Read More
We always wanted to do a cruise of the Australian Kimberleys and when we realized that Ponant was including cruising in the region into their itinerary, we jumped at it straight away, having had a great previous experience with the ship and the cruise in Antarctica. We had undertaken Antarctica together with our friends who also joined us on this cruise. We were not disappointed! The individual destinations chosen by the ship and its diverse naturalists brought us close to the best the Kimberleys has to offer and we thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. In addition to that, my wife celebrated her 60th birthday the day before the start of the cruise and we delayed those celebration till the first dinner onboard which I had specifically arranged with Ponant. As usual, the food on offer in both the main dining room as well as the restaurant on the 6th floor was outstanding for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Given all these facts, there was nothing that disappointed. It must have been pretty hard for the dance crew to perform their routine in the theatre but they offered some terrific shows. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2017
This was our second cruise with Ponant we have completed a cruise to Antarctica (La Boreal and the Kimberley's - L'Austral) and have already booked on L'Austral to travel to the New Zealand antipodes. We found the ship to be ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Ponant we have completed a cruise to Antarctica (La Boreal and the Kimberley's - L'Austral) and have already booked on L'Austral to travel to the New Zealand antipodes. We found the ship to be perfect for our form of travel - passenger numbers not too big nor too small.. Service either in the Dining Room (Deck 2) or the BBQ area (Deck 6) was excellent.On our last cruise the outside dining was extremely popular due to the warm weather conditions. The expedition style also suits us with daily shore visits and exceptional naturalists and guides.The were few if any Days at Sea. Cabins were clean and most comfortable and serviced to our satisfaction each day.. Food was varied and extremely enjoyable. Wines etc were good. The evening entertainment was most enjoyable. The excursions were perfect on both cruises with almost 2 shore landings each day (Antarctica and Kimberley's) . We have enjoyed both cruises and look forward to our next one in January.2018. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We wanted a small ship, so 240 passengers and 180 crew fitted. This gave an opportunity for a cabin with a personal balcony. Excellent feature. Cabin was well appointed and everything worked. The trip timetable was constructed around us ... Read More
We wanted a small ship, so 240 passengers and 180 crew fitted. This gave an opportunity for a cabin with a personal balcony. Excellent feature. Cabin was well appointed and everything worked. The trip timetable was constructed around us being on deck for every port berthing, great fun to watch and fascinating to see places we have been from the sea port at entry. Shore excursions were numerous, optional and used all available time in port well. Where we wanted to personalise an excursion this was handled well with onshore arrangements made for us Food was good to sometimes excellent. Restaurant choice, casual or formal worked well. Wine also was good to very good.,Outstanding wine was available for an extra charge. A good idea so we were only charged for the premium level we wanted. Ship activities included lectures (excellent speaker) and fun (quiz, etc) Good gym,small but all equipment types there Electric ship motors meant a smooth and quiet trip. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
21 cruises and 19 years after we first set sail on Radisson's "Song of Flower", which soon became Ponant's "Le Diamant", we at last experienced L'Austral and French hospitality. In the meantime we have ... Read More
21 cruises and 19 years after we first set sail on Radisson's "Song of Flower", which soon became Ponant's "Le Diamant", we at last experienced L'Austral and French hospitality. In the meantime we have sailed on many Seabourn cruises, some Radisson/Paul Gauguin, several Silversea, and a memorable trans-Atlantic trip on Cunard's QM2. We should have joined Ponant years earlier. As we made our way south along the coast of Vietnam, eventually to reach Brunei and Kota Kinabalu, we were delighted to find we again were back in the golden days of cruising; before the vessels were overrun with some of the grumpy non-travellers who have written some of these reviews. First, we were at last free of the structured, dress coded, regimented approach of Seabourn and (to a lesser extent) Silversea. From captain to repair mechanic, nothing was a problem. The elegant French ladies of reception, the restaurant maitre d's, the superb guest relations staff - all were faultless. Now its true that, with delightful Gallic insouciance, some who thought themselves important and could only converse in demands were put down in that delightful French way - service slowed down for example. With half our passengers French for a start, such delicate responses did not happen to many! The food was exceptional. The chef had the pride and the courage to simply offer his best- none of the "branded" marketing which has in the past been pushed at us that the menu is by some American chef unknown to us but apparently revered in his country. Ponant does not splash out on vast ranges of menu items, but instead provides what you would get in a family hotel in France. Good food, well cooked and presented. The sous chef who spent his night on the baguettes, brioches, pain du chocolate, and croissants made breakfast a delight. For the first time ever, the coffee was always equal to the best in Italy (or New Zealand). The tours were fascinating and left on time. They were excellent value, taking us to parts of Vietnam we could not have experienced by simply going ashore. Disembarkation was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Don't go on Ponant if you want a casino, trivia quiz sessions, or the intrusion on your holiday of attempts at mass jollity. Don't go if you think your cabin should be the size of an American hotel room and you intend to spend your time inside it. The compact cabin suites are, like many European hotel rooms, practical bases from which to have your holiday outside them not in them. Intelligent engaged older children would learn much - on this cruise there were none of any kind. Do go if you want quality entertainment like a ballet group of five, a classical pianist, and a singing duo of ability. A captain and crew tuned to your needs, an entertainment director who is a true professional, and a vision of cruising which seeks to provide what you want, not impose their ideas on your holiday. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
Choose your cruise mates the way you choose your food. That’s because chances are the people you cruise with will determine the kind of food served on the ship. And, of course, the kind of companionship and conversation you will ... Read More
Choose your cruise mates the way you choose your food. That’s because chances are the people you cruise with will determine the kind of food served on the ship. And, of course, the kind of companionship and conversation you will enjoy. For example, when up-market travel specialists Abercrombie & Kent USA chartered Ponant’s L’Austral for a Ryukyu Islands cruise from Osaka to Taiwan and Hong Kong, most of those A&K passengers came from the U.S. So A&K arranged with the ship to provide menus and food items that would appeal to Americans – even though some people on that cruise came from other countries. If you had been expecting rich French food and strong cheeses, you might have been disappointed with the more U.S. style of food items on offer – though, of course, their quality and quantity were what you would expect on a good cruise ship. Still, most cruise ship kitchens will respond to reasonable special requests if, in the above case, you had asked for more French style food…or for a strong cheese. Presumably that sort of cuisine was regularly served to at least the senior officers. Re-provisioning on this trip took place whenever the opportunity presented itself – taking on local seafood or fruit, for example. So that was always a treat. While the cruise ship provides the base for all the action – both on the water and on land – people who travel with A&K are looking for adventure experiences. This president's cruise (which turned into a chairman's cruise, reflecting former A&K USA president Phil Otterson's promotion to chairman of the board) certainly delivered – and, as a bonus, included a captain who had been captured along with his crew and ship by Somali pirates. But more about that later. This is an ideal expedition style ship, with just 134 passenger cabins yet with all the comforts and extras you come to expect from a luxury small ship. The balconies are actually wide enough to comfortably fit two chairs and an ottoman. Our itinerary took us to many of the little-known, little-visited Ryukyu Islands stretching away from the southwestern end of Japan’s main islands. The docks could accommodate us, so it was easy to embark and disembark to go ashore to explore the countryside on one of the three excursions A&K offered at each stop. As for the Somali pirate incident, that ship-napping took place in 2008 when Somali pirates fired on and then boarded the sailing ship Le Ponant, under the command of Patrick Marchesseau, now L’Austral’s captain. “It was scary when they came shooting at us with their Kalashnikovs but then it turned into more of a business transaction,” says Marchesseau, who managed to bargain the pirates down to USD$2 million from their original USD$3 million demand. His crew of 30, including seven women who had initially hidden below decks, were released; the captain was held hostage until the money had been paid. French navy helicopters then managed to capture some of the pirates, who had scattered on land, and recovered 20 per cent of the ransom. “When I told my three young daughters about what happened, I said it was like Captain Hook and I was Peter Pan,” said Marchesseau, who lives in Edmonton with his Canadian wife. He was awarded France’s Medal of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and wrote a book about the hijacking. But even if your captain hasn’t been captured by pirates, the bottom line is: think international when you go cruising these days and enjoy more than just your home culture. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose the cruise because of a great experience in 2016 Istanbul to Venice aboard Le Lyrial. The ship and crew were excellent.Kamel was full of energy and fun. The food was excellent although some of the menu selections were odd ... Read More
We chose the cruise because of a great experience in 2016 Istanbul to Venice aboard Le Lyrial. The ship and crew were excellent.Kamel was full of energy and fun. The food was excellent although some of the menu selections were odd for an asian cruise. I would like to have been offered some Asian European fusion options. Our prestige stateroom was clean and well appointed but uncomfortably smaller than we had on Le Lyrial. No larger options were available when we booked. The entertainment was very good. Shore excursions were disappointing; millions of busy people on motor bikes are amusing for only so long. Ha Long Bay and Hoi An were the pick of locations visited. The reality does not measure up to the travel brochure pictures and descriptions. Guides were obviosly very knowledgable and proud of their country but commentaries generally too detailed to the extent of being tedious. Better to cover more ground, see more and hear less statistics , data and dates. Embarcation in HK was terrible; mind you the contrast between the clean and welcoming ship and the drab grubby waiting area ashore may have been a cunning ploy. Internet services were poor. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, ... Read More
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, and felt that we were well-informed on both the pros and the cons for this particular line and ship. I'm going to divide this review into two sections, the first dealing solely with our experiences on L'Austral, and the second touching on aspects that were primarily Tauck-controlled. L'Austral: Embarkation in Osaka was seamless, with our luggage waiting in our cabin. The cabin itself was compact, with space to move around the bed, but not much more. The shower and vanity and separate toilet cubicle were similarly compact, but perfectly adequate. Toiletries were L'Occitane. Beds were comfortable, bedding of good quality but not luxurious. There were several types of bottled water on a tray, and a small refrigerator with an assortment of alcohol and soft drinks. We liked our cabin, were happy that we had the balcony, and thought our room steward was friendly, efficient, and gave great service. There was plenty of room under the beds for our suitcases. For the most part, we used the main dining room. We ate one lunch at the buffet restaurant, but overall preferred coming back to the ship and being served by our (very welcoming)favorite waiters. The dining room decor was quietly elegant, the chairs and banquettes very comfortable, and the noise level low enough that it was easy to converse with your table mates without raising your voice. Breakfast was a combination of buffet and made to order items. The buffet tended to have the same assortment every day, with some variation in the available fresh fruit, and some of the made to order options. The breakfast pastries were very good, and obviously made fresh--we enjoyed those a lot! The lunch and dinner menus had choices for soup, starters, sides and dessert, and for the main course a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian option. The quality of the food ranged from average (some overcooked fish) to very good, with the majority being more towards the "very good" end of the range. However, for people who may have been expecting the variety and selection of some of the larger cruise lines, the food may have been a bit of a disappointment. Having read some of the negative reviews of the food on the Ponant ships, we were frankly surprised and relieved at how good it was. Portion sizes were European rather than American, which also pleased us. We did not go to any of the shows since those started at 9:30, and after a full day of touring, having frequently left the ship by 8:15am, after dinner we usually headed for our cabin to relax and prepare for the next day. We did see the dancers and two of the singers in the lounge during the cocktail hour, and thought that the little mini-shows were entertaining--but not entertaining enough to make us stay up long enough to attend the longer shows! The level of service from the majority of the staff was excellent: the waitstaff and room stewards were warm, friendly, and couldn't do enough for you. As an example, one of the people with whom we usually shared a table had a real weakness for chocolate--I think he had a chocolate dessert for every lunch and dinner--and one evening there was no chocolate dessert on the menu. Without saying a word, our waiter went to the kitchen and came back to the table with a mini-sundae with chocolate ice cream and cookies for our table mate. The women in reception were efficient, but not especially warm or helpful. Their coolness was especially noticeable since everyone else in a customer-facing position was so engaging. L'Austral is a small ship, but the public spaces are very pleasant, especially considering the fact that she is really an expedition ship, not a luxury cruise vessel. We hit some rough weather on our first night at sea, and while there was certainly quite a bit of motion that night, aside from that she was very comfortable, and didn't seem to be doing too much bobbing around. Tauck: For this particular cruise the Tauck passengers were divided into 4 groups of approximately 30-35, for a total of 120-140 total. This meant that the Tauck-ies constituted a majority of the passengers. I did wonder how this impacted the cuising experience of the other passengers, which, as nearly as I can remember, were a mixture of American, Australian, New Zealanders and about 20+/- French. My understanding is that next year Tauck will have 6 groups, which will effectively be the entire ship. There will also be some other changes in the tour, which this year began with 3 days in Kyoto, and next year will be based out of Osaka, with only a single day trip to Kyoto. We were happy that we were able to go this year, since we loved our time in Kyoto, and would hate to have missed it. As always, the Tauck tour director for our group of 30+ was wonderful, and kept us moving while still allowing for individual exploration and experiences. Our local guides were mostly excellent, and provided context and some nice extras, such as teaching us songs, playing counting games using Japanese numbers, and origami. Our hotel in Kyoto was the Granvia, situated on top of Kyoto Station. Two of the tour groups were based here, and the other two were at the Westin, and we had very little contact with them. The Granvia was a wonderful location, with underground shopping and restaurants, a department store, and easy access to both buses and subways which could take you to any part of the city. Kyoto site seeing: Kinkakuji(covered in gold leaf), the Pure Water Temple, Gion, a taiko performance, a calligraphy lesson, and a tea ceremony, Nijo-jo (where we heard the famous "nightingale floors"), a Heian shrine, and a welcome dinner which included a Geisha performance. I'm not sure how much of this will be included next year, but I would have hated to miss any of it. The first port after Osaka/Kobe was Tamano. Our group caught a ferry to Naoshima Island where famous architect Tadao Ando designed Benesse House and where other houses in the village have been incorporated into a living art project. In the afternoon we visited Kurashiki which has many 17th century warehouses built along canals, and the Ohara Museum of Art. The next port was Hiroshima, where we visited the Peace Park Memorial and museum, as well as the iconic A-Bomb Dome. This was a pretty intense and emotional morning, so as a way of shifting gears, we were taken for lunch to an okonomiyake restaurant, which was truly delicious. In the afternoon we visited Miyashima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine with its beautiful red gate surrounded by the ocean, and where the deer are protected and will eat the paper right out of your pockets. Uwajima was next, where we visited a pearl farm, saw a farm where bulls are raised for fighting, and visited the Flying Squirrel Temple. Kagoshima--We visited the base of Sakurajima, an active volcano, and the Chiran Kamikaze Museum, where we saw the bunkers that the suicide pilots spent their last night and read their last letters home. We also visited Chiran Samurai village, where there are houses that date back over 250 years, and in some cases still have the original families living in those houses. Nagasaki--In the morning we visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. The museum was very well done, and we actually preferred it to the Hiroshima Museum. In the afternoon we visited Dejima, which was the enclosed enclave that was the only place Dutch traders were allowed to live during much of the Edo period. We also visited Glover Garden, built in the mid-1800's for a Scottish physician, and containing the oldest Western style house in Japan. The next day took us to Pusan in South Korea where we visited the United Nations cemetery and memorial to the UN troops who died in the Korean War. We also took a trip to the Jagalchi fish market, where we saw fish that looked like something out of an Alien movie. Sakaiminato--In the morning we travelled to the Adachi Museum of Art, which has a wonderful collection of modern art, but where the real attraction are the incredible gardens around the museum. Every window in the museum frames another gorgeous view and viewpoint. In the afternoon we visited the Matsue black castle which is one of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan. Most of us climbed the 8 stories after having our photos taken with a samurai posing front of the castle. The next day we disembarked, which was a very smooth process, and were bused to Kyoto where we had lunch in a restaurant in the Gion district before we were taken to Kyoto Station to catch the bullet train to Tokyo. The bullet train was a great experience, and as a bonus, we got a superb view of Fujiyama on the way. Our Tokyo hotel was the Shangri-La, which was everything luxury hotel should be. We were taken on a brief orientation tour of Ginza, and then set loose to enjoy dinner on our own. Our last day of the tour began with a trip to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum (which really needed an entire day to itself to do it justice)and was followed by a "salaryman's lunch" at a wonderful restaurant. In the afternoon about half of the group, including my husband and myself, opted out of visiting the scheduled Meiji Shrine and chose to sightsee or shop on our own. That evening was the closing dinner at Happo-en which featured a demonstration by sumo wrestlers. As long as this review is, in terms of the Tauck portion of the cruise, I've really only given the barest outlines of what we did and experienced. Although there was some free time scheduled, for the most part we were kept moving. There seemed to be a larger than usual percentage of people in their mid-70's to mid-80's, and I believe that some of the people on the tour found the pace a bit taxing. My DH and I are in our early 60's and found the pace and activity level to be pretty much what we enjoy. How this compared to what the non-Tauck L'Austral cruisers experienced on their excursions, I have no idea, and I'm afraid I have no information on the quality of the excursions offered by L'Austral. Overall it was an excellent trip. We loved Japan, found the Japanese people to be warm, friendly and very helpful, and wouldn't hesitate to go back. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
Chosen for itinerary and was intrigued to try out a small ship. Itineray was great but ship was a disappointment. Suite was nothing more than two standard rooms that adjoined, with the bed taken out of one and a couch and two chairs ... Read More
Chosen for itinerary and was intrigued to try out a small ship. Itineray was great but ship was a disappointment. Suite was nothing more than two standard rooms that adjoined, with the bed taken out of one and a couch and two chairs substituted. That did give us two bathrooms, which was important, since the bathrooms are tiny. the sleeping cabin was small with only about a foot or son between the end of the bed and the dresser. I have had suites on many larger 5 star ships that put this "premiere suite" to shame. The food was also terrible. Buffet breakfast and lunch was basically the same for 8 days. Being a French ship, I expected that at least pasties and deserts would be of high quality but even the croissants were dry, heavy. The best croissants I had on the trip was from a Japanese hotel (Shangri-la)m in Tokyo. Dinners were average at best and poor at worst. Beef steak lacked flavor. Fish was always overcooked and dry. There was no imagination with plating or menu selection. Only 3 entrees offered per night with an option for a steak, hamburger, etc all there time. Worst food we have ever had on a cruise ship. Staff was indifferent at best. Smiles were at the ready but real caring service was lacking. Waiters would walk by at breakfast with a coffee pot and never asked if you wanted more. We always had to flag someone down. Reception desk personnel sometimes acted like you were bothering them if you stopped and asked for something. Admittedly this is a small ship and you should not expect the comforts and activities of larger cruise lines. But the ship never felt comfortable and there are few places to go on board that offer a relaxing atmosphere. We are not mega ship cruisers but are more in the 750-1000 passenger ship category. Our experience on L'Austral convinced us to avoid small ships in the future and particularly Ponant Cruise line, which I feel was a poor representative of the small ship segment of the market. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2017
We chose this cruise because of Ports of Call and time of year, and the smaller type of vessel. We were pleased with the choice of the Ports of Call but overall were disappointed in the Quality of the Cruise in a few facets. This is an ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of Ports of Call and time of year, and the smaller type of vessel. We were pleased with the choice of the Ports of Call but overall were disappointed in the Quality of the Cruise in a few facets. This is an expensive ship and we did not fell we received adequate value for the money spent The front desk staff were rude if not nasty, and very officious. The dining was good for Breakfast and Lunch but relatively poor for the evening The seating areas for both were less than comfortable and there were only 2 options for dining. The lack of any Japanese food on board and little attempt to make gala evenings feel gala. The local guides in japan were well meaning but generally incompetent in English and had very little of interest to report. The guide in Bosan was very good however. The tour locations were interesting however. This ship's bookings were dominated by Tauck and as a result we were isolated as a small group of English speakers who were not part of Tauck. Since we had a suite, we would expect a little attention and maybe a perq or two. There were none in evidence.. I think Ponant has a poor sense of customer expectations and I would rate it as much poorer than either AMA Waterways or Viking as well large cruise ships such as NCL. Having made these negative observations, I do want to compliment the service staff including waiters, butlers, and housekeeping. They were always friendly and very responisve Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2017
Itinerary was good, ship nice and modern, very quiet engines. But the captain, hotel manager and reception are very arrogant ,and not very skilled in handling guests. After a horrible arriving on 5.30am,after waiting 4 hours on ... Read More
Itinerary was good, ship nice and modern, very quiet engines. But the captain, hotel manager and reception are very arrogant ,and not very skilled in handling guests. After a horrible arriving on 5.30am,after waiting 4 hours on gasstation in nowmans land of Batangas, the ship was still in dry dock and no-one was talking to us. We had drill on 11am, despite of having a seaday. . Food was poor for a french ship. fish overcooked, everyday the same salad ,fruits, only 4 kind of cheese the whole 18 days. Only one white wine, one red und sometimes a rose wine, always the same kind and winery never changing. English speaking guests are second class, or third class, if there is a huge Tauck group overcrowding the ship. After 30 cruises with the best ships of the other five star companies,this was a great disappointment. the excursions were average and a lot could have don by yourselves . Seldom we had a shuttles to the town, which sometimes was dangerous running between containers through the harbour to find an exit. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore ... Read More
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore excursions were excellent, especially the ports in Vanuatu. Being exposed to different cultures is important to me and the islands seemed very authentic and much more exotic than I expected. My only criticism was the use of the naturalists. On other cruises we have always enjoyed lectures by professors and experts on the area, that included historians as well as naturalists. Some of the lectures were quite good, others were almost insultingly basic. And there was almost no information given about the history of the islands and their place in the world today. I also would have appreciated more information on the people of the islands from an anthropologic viewpoint. With a couple of exception, the naturalists were not very visible on the excursions, it would have been good to have more direct contact with them. One of the things I appreciated most was the organization on board, you did an excellent job at that, from the lifeboat drills on. The food was quite good in the second floor restaurant, not so much on the 6th floor. But the wait staff was terrific. We also had contact with the medical staff, sadly, but they were very responsive and helpful Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2017
It was going to places we had never been before and we had never done expeditions before.i It met all our expectations.it was unfortunate that we missed Sandakan and spend so long at sea.likewise the last day in Manila to catch up with ... Read More
It was going to places we had never been before and we had never done expeditions before.i It met all our expectations.it was unfortunate that we missed Sandakan and spend so long at sea.likewise the last day in Manila to catch up with the ship was as you know terrible.Aside from this the meals onboard the service onboard were great.The cabin was very good and the daily cabin person was very helpful.The shore excursions were enjoyable.Those that involved walking for distances in forest terrain should have warned us how undulating it accurately was!! The entertainment by the locals was excellent both on land and on the wharves.Maybe for those of us who not into snorkling more could be done to find better areas for safe swimming.this was our first time with Ponant and it has made us aware of what you have to offer and we will return Not known in NZ Read Less
19 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of ... Read More
Background - My wife and I have cruised 12 times throughout the world. We live in Texas. We pick our cruises based upon the destination and ports. We do not like “days at sea” and we use cruises to see new places, in a short amount of time. I was looking for a cruise that sailed around New Zealand but I did not want a cruise that crossed the Tasman Sea from Australia. Ponant was the only luxury cruise line that had such an itinerary. The cruise started in Auckland and ended in Milford Sound (and then to Queenstown). Prior to booking this cruise I had never heard of Ponant and the reviews on various sites were not great. Here is my attempt to give more information. Pre and post cruise hotels – We did not buy the Pre or Post cruise hotel options from Ponant. However, we stayed in the same hotels as these packages and arranged our own transportation to/from the ship, at a fraction of the cost. We stayed pre-cruise at the Sofitel Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. This Sofitel is a very nice hotel located right near the harbor area. We were able to take walking tours of the city, the wharf and the museums. Our cab ride to the ship took about 5 minutes. Embarkation – Once we arrived at the ship, within the check-in window of 4 to 5 pm, we were escorted directly to the gangway. We had our photo taken at the entrance to the ship and were handed our cabin card. They did not even ask for a credit card imprint. We were escorted directly to our cabin and our bags arrived almost immediately. This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had. Ship – The L’Austral can hold as many as 250 passengers. On this trip there were approximately 200 passengers and 140 crewmembers. The ship is small but seemed to have very good stabilizers, when we hit rough waters. The ship had a small pool with padded lounge chairs, a fitness center with very nice views, and several viewing decks. In addition, the Captain maintained an “open bridge” policy. If the sign was green on the door to the bridge, you were welcome to come in and watch. The ship is French. The Captain and his direct reports were almost all from France. When the ship would make announcements, the first announcement was in French and the second was in English. About ½ of the passengers were Americans. About ¼ were French. The remaining crewmembers were from all over the world, consistent with every other cruise line. Internet is available throughout the ship at a price per minute. The internet service was very slow and did not work very well, if at all. You would be better off going to cafes on shore and get free internet. Activities and children’s club – The ship had a small library and card room plus a couple of bars fore and aft. We spent most of our daylight hours on shore so we did not participate in any of the activities. The ship had a small children’s area. On our cruise there were zero children on board. Service – Our cabin steward was excellent. Our cabin was very clean and he was very timely. We never came back from a meal or excursion and found him working on the room. Our servers in the dining room were also excellent. They were very friendly and would know us by name. Dining – The ship has two dining areas. The main dining room is on deck #2 and can accommodate all passengers. The dining room on deck #6 always had a buffet set-up for the meals. This dining room could not hold all the passengers so reservations were required. We ate 100% of our dinners in the main dining room. In the main dining room, it was “open” seating. You could sit anywhere you liked. Sometimes we ate with others and sometimes just the 2 of us. Dinner service started at 7:00 each night but often we wouldn’t arrive until 7:30 or 8:00. Not a problem. Breakfast was served buffet-style in both dining rooms although you could also order eggs and omelets, as preferred. The dinners were French cuisine. At each meal you had a choice of 3-4 entrees. You could also order a generic steak, chicken or fish dish also. The only time selection was limited to one entrée was on the Captain Welcome dinner and the Captain’s Gala dinner. For these two dinners, they suggested coats and ties. The entrée was lamb one night and beef filet the 2nd night. There was always a vegetarian option. If you like French food and cuisine, this ship will thrill you. My wife loved the food. Personally, I would have preferred simple meat, potatoes and vegetables. The chocolate desserts were wonderful. Each night 8 lucky guests were able to eat at the Captain’s table. We assumed these “lucky” guests were the high-rollers in the Owners Suites. Much to our surprise, on the 6th night of the cruise, we returned to our 4th level cabin and were invited to eat at the Captain’s Table – What a wonderful man and a very special evening. Cabin – Most of the cabins are balcony cabins. The majority of the cabins are approximately 200 sq. ft., not including the small balcony. As others have mentioned, the toilet is in a small room, by itself. In the next small room is the shower and sink. In the main part of the cabin is the bed and a chair. The balcony has 2 small chairs and a small table. On most ships, we try to book cabins approx. 300 sq. ft. On this ship, that was not an option. You went from the 200’ cabin to the large suites. The cost of the cabins increases slightly as you go higher on the ship but the cabins are the same size whether on 4, 5 or 6. Try to get a cabin in the middle or towards the front for the best ride. On this itinerary, we traveled in a clock-wise direction so you really needed an “odd #” cabin (starboard side). Get “even” (port side) if taking in reverse. Entertainment – I never book a cruise for the entertainment value. This ship had 4 dancers and 2-3 singers. We did not go to any of the main evening performances. The theatre is small but could accommodate all passengers. Ports and excursions – We had $500 of shipboard credit and we used our credit on 2 shore excursions. The cruise line offered 2-3 excursions per port. The excursions were well selected but very pricey. If we did not have the shipboard credit, we probably would have arranged all of our tours ourselves. I have reviewed the ports in more detail in the Port Review section. Here are the highlights: Tauranga – Took a tour to Rotorua arranged via Zealander. We ended-up as the only guests so we got a very personal tour. Saw geysers, Rotorua Lake area, Redwoods, waterfalls, Kiwi farm and Maori show. Napier – Took a Whirlwind Tour arranged with Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours. Once again, we were the only guests so our tour was private. We saw all the sites of Napier and had a wine tasting at Mission winery. Wellington – We rode the Red Cable Car and then did our own walking tour of the city. Picton – This was the first shore excursion booked from the ship. Their vendor was Cougar Tours. We had a boat ride across the harbor and were dropped-off for a guide-led hike along a portion of the Queen Charlotte track. Very nice! Akaroa – We booked the “Swim with Dolphins” from Black Cats. The bay has Hector dolphins. We did see the dolphins but the water was too rough to swim with them. They refunded a portion of our cost. Dunedin – This was the 2nd excursion arranged from the ship. The tour took us, by bus, to the Ortago Peninsula. On this peninsula, we saw nesting Albatrosses, nesting penguins and many very young, baby seals. A great wildlife area! Disembarkation and Queenstown – The cruise ended at Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a beautiful area in the fiords of the South Island. We met the bus at 7:30 which was earlier than we expected from the printed material (which said 9:00). Disembarkation was no problem. The cruise fare included bus service to Queenstown. In Queenstown, we stayed at the St. Moritz hotel. This boutique hotel is located within walking distance to the CBD. Queenstown is a very vibrant area with many adventurous activities. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and hiked some trails at the top. Summary ---- Overall, we enjoyed this cruise very much. The itinerary was great and I would cruise with Ponant again. In particular, we enjoyed the small size of the ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2017
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in ... Read More
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in landing from Zodiacs and a slight mishap with an uncharted rock that necessitated a visit to Bluff for repairs. Yet throughout we saw interesting sights and were given expert briefings and debriefings by experts that complemented the care and attention of the Captain and crew who ensured our safety and kept us informed on weather and other factors that affected the program. (It can't have been fun standing in icy water for hours to ensure we landed and re-embarked safely!). The bird life and wildlife seen were highlights as promised in the advertisement that informed us of this rare cruise (only about 400 people a year visit these islands - far fewer than visit Antarctica). As on a previous cruise, the food and catering was excellent and cabins comfortable, if a little cramped. Hospitality staff were unfailingly cheerful and helpful. This was achieved despite dealing with a polyglot clientele of French, Anglo and Oriental passengers. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Above all DON'T DRINK the WINE! On day one I tried the ship's wine, it was awful (to be kind.) On the second day I ordered a bottle of French Bordeaux Margaux for 125 Euros thinking I've never had a bad Margaux. I was ... Read More
Above all DON'T DRINK the WINE! On day one I tried the ship's wine, it was awful (to be kind.) On the second day I ordered a bottle of French Bordeaux Margaux for 125 Euros thinking I've never had a bad Margaux. I was wrong this was as bad as the ship's selection. For a French line this is a sin. There were higher priced wines available but based on this experience I abstained for the rest of the voyage. This cruise was part of a Tauck tour through Australia and NZ. What I was told of Tauck being a luxury tour group was wrong. It was average in reality but priced like a luxury tour. The food in the 2nd floor dining room was generally poor with limited menu items. The buffet on the 5th deck was a little better because you could pick and choose you poison. Overall for a ship "hand picked" by Tauck for luxury this was a mistake. Like others on this trip I paid dearly for this tour and I do not believe that I got what I paid for. As this was a smaller ship I did not expect many choices with entertainment and activities. This was as expected. The ship's staff were accommodating and friendly especially the ship's Master and Doctor. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
this cruise chosen for itinerary and chance to visit very remote islands south of new Zealand the cruise was poor, accommodation, small and basic, food either good or bad, service mediocre. I have read salty1000 report and think he ... Read More
this cruise chosen for itinerary and chance to visit very remote islands south of new Zealand the cruise was poor, accommodation, small and basic, food either good or bad, service mediocre. I have read salty1000 report and think he must be an employee because this was not what happened on the ship. This ship charges top 5 star prices and gives 3 star value at best Expedition staff were knowledgeable but zodiac drivers were poor with no knowledge, most of the time they were dancers from the cabaret, or novice cadets The ship hit rocks off of the Snares islands and this meant returning to Bluff Harbour for emergency repairs. The itinerary was now severely shortened and specific Islands such as Antipodes and Bounty were missed, others including Mc Quarrie island went from 3 days to 3 hours or less. Everything was to blame of course except Ponant, weather, seas, laws and governments, we paid for a pre cruise tour and we did not get it, instead we stood outside of the ship in the sun waiting for the ship to be ready for embarkation Our cabins bed was a foldaway and barely adequate. the food was bland, cold and poorly served most of the time. The ships design is poor, too many disconnected areas, very little outside spaces of any note for £8000+ per person we expected more than they gave to us. NO we would not use this cruise line again, even with the on board bribe of _15-25% off of new Poanant cruises. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
Cabin was fine . Excursion crews generally were good . This cruise was all about the intinerary . Due to the incompetent captain he hit a rock on our first excursion day . No quite Cosa Cordia but could have been . So we then ... Read More
Cabin was fine . Excursion crews generally were good . This cruise was all about the intinerary . Due to the incompetent captain he hit a rock on our first excursion day . No quite Cosa Cordia but could have been . So we then spent two days getting back to Bluff for 48 hours of underwater welding and then another wasted three days trying to get back down . Ever been to Bluff ? End result only 5 out of 12 intinerary landings . Lot more I could say but Ponants response to the incompetance was to come up with every excuse, even to the extent of a wonderful term " we touched a rock " Food was average . Mind you this was after a previous cruise we had paid to go on on Boreal 2016 was cancelled because the crew had a fire in the engine room while on an Antractic cruise in 2015 . You might say travelling with them is a health hazard . Also Austral only weeks later touched another rock in Milford Sound and has more recently been dry docked in Asia for another lot of urgent repairs from their many misadventures . Pity because their intineraries are good but two class - French and the rest and poor range of food and bad seamanship spoil what could be a good line . Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so ... Read More
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so achieve the best outcome for the passengers who were always kept fully informed. The zodiac crew worked well, often in very challenging weather conditions. The Captain is to be commended for regularly mixing with passengers on deck and in public rooms. Looking at the ship itself, our cabin steward (Agus) on Deck 4 gave excellent service. The talks given by the onboard lecturers were all exceptionally good and importantly outside of that the speakers made themselves available to chat informally with passengers in the public rooms. In regard to the dining arrangements, there were more self-service buffet style meals in the Deck 2 restaurant than we had expected; the impression had been given that it would be table service throughout except for the first course at breakfast where it is obviously preferable for people to serve themselves. Sometimes but not always at breakfast stewards would circulate with menus for those wishing to have a hot dish - it might be better to have small cards on each table listing the options for them to choose? At lunch for some reason the presentations of the cold entrée options and the desserts were placed side by side when it would have been better had they been separated so as to avoid confusion. Desserts did not appear to vary much from day to day. On the other hand the dinners were full table service and here the stewards worked well as a team. In the main lounge it was surprising that tea and coffee were on a self-service basis whereas counter service could have been more appropriate for a ship of five-star category. Similarly, on other ships of this category, cakes and sandwiches are displayed on a central table and after making their selection passengers move to tables where stewards serve tea. It was noticeable that a tray of cakes was only available at the counter - moreover the selection and its presentation remained identical for the entire 15-day voyage when some variety might have been expected. Also, passengers trying to juggle cups of tea and plates of cake with the rolling/pitching of the ship was not a good look. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2017
We were aiming to visit Macquarie Island and Ponant were one of the few companies that make this journey, although we knew from the outset that the final itinerary was always dependant on the weather and sea conditions. This was classed ... Read More
We were aiming to visit Macquarie Island and Ponant were one of the few companies that make this journey, although we knew from the outset that the final itinerary was always dependant on the weather and sea conditions. This was classed as an 'expedition' cruise and it exceeded our expectations, being full of adventure (zodiac outings, wildlife and scenery). Indeed Ponant did all the could to maximise our opportunities to visit as many of the destinations as the weather permitted. Our journey to the subantarctic Islands was memorable and the French flair and style was all around us, so we didn't do it too tough! Cabin very stylish and comfortable. They displayed great environmental stewardship of all our activities and excursions. Staff wonderful, oodles of great food, although being French they like their meat on the rare side. Dessert pastries were to die for! The expedition staff were of the highest calibre and there were excellent talks and lectures on the sea days. We came away much better informed about the challenges in these pristine environments, including the effects of plastics in the worlds oceans. Would we go again? Absolutely! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The small ship experience was the most important factor in my choice but the so called luxury experience left a lot to be desired. Service was varied and inconsistent, the food was not of the suggested standard and sometimes quite bad. I ... Read More
The small ship experience was the most important factor in my choice but the so called luxury experience left a lot to be desired. Service was varied and inconsistent, the food was not of the suggested standard and sometimes quite bad. I returned a number of meals to be replaced. Expedition activities were very good. Meals varied but meat that was of an inferior quality is not acceptable and the attitude of staff to issues of poor quality were indifferent. The Expedition staff were very good and the general style was as one would expect of a luxury ship. Cabins do have a balcony but mold in the shower is not acceptable and staff rectification of housekeeping issues is poor. The room staff were indifferent to individual needs and often had to be asked for simple services more than once. The age of the ship is beginning to show and more attention to refurbishment and ongoing maintenance is needed. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was called an "expedition cruise". And yes, there were some interesting excursions. But most afternoons were scheduled for swimming and/or snorkelling off a small island with no alternative activities. Not everyone in ... Read More
This was called an "expedition cruise". And yes, there were some interesting excursions. But most afternoons were scheduled for swimming and/or snorkelling off a small island with no alternative activities. Not everyone in the main cruising demographic needs so much water activity. We had been to some of the excursion sites before and found this time the visits were shorter, rather watered-down especially in Rabaul where we did not go as close to Mt Tavurvur as on a previous cruise, and were closely shepherded around the town and not allowed to wander. The visits to Kitava and Tufi were good, but we had seen more of Alotau on a previous trip. And please, Ponant, don't bother with Gizo! L'Austral is a very attractive ship, is very smooth. But there is very little area to sit and look at the sea with the exception of your cabin balcony. The bars were good, ditto the interior lounge spaces. The staff were excellent. Ditto the expedition leaders, especially Mick Fogg, Harry Christensen, and Justin Friend. Their summaries and information were extensive although a little more onshore involvement of expedition staff would have been appreciated. Now to the great disappointment - the food. For what could be classed as a reasonably expensive cruise the quality of the food could not even be classed as average. This is the first occasion that we have had to return meals because they were inedible or unchewable. This occurred on three occasions. Once, with a steak, we asked for English mustard and even the maître d' had not heard of it! Courses were very small and in many cases lacked flavour. However, the cheese selections were outstanding even though a little repetitive. The ship carries a good selection of wines which can be purchased but are reasonably expensive when charged in euros. We chose the house wines which were adequate but very limited in choice. We would have appreciated speaking to the sommelier about the wine selections but did not have the opportunity. However, the dining staff were excellent. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
It was a last minute decision to go on a cruise and this was the only one available. We booked two days before embarkation and arrived in Hong Kong the night before departure. The ship was beautiful and the staff very friendly. Although it ... Read More
It was a last minute decision to go on a cruise and this was the only one available. We booked two days before embarkation and arrived in Hong Kong the night before departure. The ship was beautiful and the staff very friendly. Although it is a French speaking ship, English was well catered for, with all crew bi-lingual. Announcements were made in French then repeated in English. This being our first cruise, we cant really make a comparison with other lines but we enjoyed the experience. There were other folk that seemed to be cruising experts and had been on many different boats; they had mixed reviews of our ship and line. One common complaint was that the food on board was not really up to standard for a 5 star cruise line; I agree. There were two restaurants, one buffet and one fine dining. The buffet was average and really only cafeteria standard, the choice was limited and food quite unappealing, with pretty much the same every day. The a la carte was naturally French cuisine and also limited. Quality in the fine dining restaurant was better than the buffet and the wine choice ok. The buffet wines were unacceptably poor quality. Entertainment on board was limited but pleasant, with singers and dancers and a piano player. Personally, I was happy with that level of entertainment and really, it was not a large ship, so one would not expect entertainment extravaganzas. Drinks and all food on board was included in the ticket, which was good. Excepting the wines in the buffet, the drinks selection was really good, with beers and quality spirits included; I like scotch and there was a very acceptable single malt in the choices. Any premium spirits or wines were charged for. Passenger demographic was mainly French with about 25 Americans and 15 Aussies on board. Everyone got on fine and we socialized with all groups. There were not many kids on board but they were very well behaved and the crew catered to and entertained them. I would guess the average age on board was around 45 - 50, hence, no disco....thank God. We have discovered that we like cruising, so we will go again soon and would very likely choose a Ponant cruise. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
The embarkation was delayed because the ship had to relocate due to a imminent cyclone. We had to stay overnight in Kanazawa and travelled by bus to the new port of departure and were welcomed by the Captain and officers, taken to our ... Read More
The embarkation was delayed because the ship had to relocate due to a imminent cyclone. We had to stay overnight in Kanazawa and travelled by bus to the new port of departure and were welcomed by the Captain and officers, taken to our cabin and as we departed, invited to an excellent brunch in the buffet. L'Austral is a small luxury cruise ship which has been designed with beautiful interiors, colours and furnishings both in the general areas and the cabins. The Gastronomic Restaurant was outstanding with wonderful meals and wines and the Grill the place to go for breakfast and lunch. The Main Lounge apart from an excellent bar service, provided evening entertainment, music, and later in the night, dancing after the show. The shows were terrific, with excellent dance, sound and stage performances. Three out of the six excursions we took were well organised, but the others left a lot to be desired. The entertainment provided by locals on the wharf in two of the small ports where L'Austral docked and meeting the ship in Osaka, were outstanding. The service by the cabin boy Christy, the bar staff, the restaurant staff and the Hotel Manager, and the support crew as well as the Captain and officers was excellent. We met some wonderful fellow passengers with whom will maintain contact in the future. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Chosen because of itinerary - shore excursions featured in promotional materials. Ponant completed mismanaged all shore activities from arrival at airport through nearly all shore excursions. Ponant rep could not find driver and bus at ... Read More
Chosen because of itinerary - shore excursions featured in promotional materials. Ponant completed mismanaged all shore activities from arrival at airport through nearly all shore excursions. Ponant rep could not find driver and bus at Narita airport keeping us waiting more than an hour causing us to arrive at destination after dark so that we could not see the first featured garden. Most local guides spoke with such thick accents that they could not be understood. In addition, since there was no continuity of guides, many repeated information that had been given to us previously. On one day we waited more than two hours to be processed by Japanese customs because Ponant had not prepared properly for the customs agents. Further Ponant representatives made no attempt to ensure that the queue was maintained in an orderly fashion, allowing cutting in to the line. On that day we were delayed so long that we were too late to enter the Hiroshima peace memorial (another highlight of the trip missed). Further, the PA announcements could not be heard in cabins, it was necessary to open the cabin door to hear the announcements through the corridor PA systems. In addition the details of when and where it was necessary to congregate were often changed at the last minute. On a more positive note, our cabin (a suite) was excellent, although the standard veranda cabins appeared to be too small compared with either Seabourn or Crystal's similar cabins. On board service was excellent. Dining - breakfasts were outstanding, luncheon buffets generally good except for the hot entrees. Dinners suffered from poor quality of the main entrees (tenderloin anything but tender) fish seemed not to be fresh. 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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