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9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same time. It appeared that no one from Ponant was present to advise us what we were to do and we were all walking around like sheep. At the disembarkation end it was even worse as we were told there would be taxis once we got out of the terminal and of course there were none, nor did the taxis even come there, so we had to arrange very expensive private transfers after waiting more than an hour for a fabled taxi. Once on board, our cabin was what we expected. It was very clean and our room steward was excellent. The turnaround for laundry, which was free for us as past passengers, was brilliant. Service in the dining room was inconsistent. Sometimes it was good and sometimes not. The service on any gala night seemed to favour those tables which had officers, which seemed to only host French passengers. That said, the wait staff we had were always happy and helpful. The standard of the entertainment is consistently good and the shows are always a highlight. Kamel, the Cruise Director is a huge asset for Ponant. The food is the biggest let down on this ship. In advance of this cruise we were required to produce significant medical evidence of our ability to travel for the last 6 days. From that I would have thought that both I, and my doctor, had made my gluten intolerance very clear. Apparently not. The choice of gluten free food is beyond poor. I raised this at the first opportunity with the head waiter, who then raised it with a very indignant head chef, who effectively dismissed my complaints. To be given a broken piece of toast for breakfast is an absolute insult, given how much this cruise cost. There were no gluten free pastries, not even rice biscuits for the cheese. The room service menu was even more limited. It is not often that I can go on a 3 week holiday, on what sets itself up as a French culinary gastronomy cruise and lose weight, but it happened. The quality of the included wine was very hit and miss. It was all French. Some was acceptable and others were very, very ordinary. The cocktails however were fabulous. The port calls were a bit of a problem, but mainly due to the water conditions. Our captain did a great job to get us to Pitcairn. In other reviews, non French passengers have made the complaint that there appears to be favouritism shown to French passengers and a sense of entitlement. We saw this too. I don't know how many times I was literally pushed out of the way by a person thinking that they had a better right than I did to be in that position in an ordered queue. We had very few landings on this cruise and for our special lunch and performance on Easter Island the French speaking passengers arrived significantly before the English speaking ones and took up the very best positions. We found it so hard to find a spot together so far from the action that it was not worth even bothering to get involved in the show. With so many non French traveling on Ponant this really needs to be addressed. We really did feel like we were getting second best treatment. Overall, if this had been my first cruise with Ponant I would be in no hurry to do another. We have been on two other cruises ( the Kimberley and from New Zealand to Sydney) and they were excellent. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
This cruise was from Lautoka in Fiji to Papeete in Tahiti, in September/October 2018. It was promoted as the 30th Anniversary cruise for Ponant, and made a special visit to Mata Utu, the registration home for Ponant ships. The Ponant CEO ... Read More
This cruise was from Lautoka in Fiji to Papeete in Tahiti, in September/October 2018. It was promoted as the 30th Anniversary cruise for Ponant, and made a special visit to Mata Utu, the registration home for Ponant ships. The Ponant CEO was onboard for the cruise, along with a very large proportion of French passengers.We had cruised on Ponant a few times before, and on this particular ship. The cruise itinerary was interesting and met the usual Ponant onboard standards but we were a little disappointed. We thought more information and relevant lectures might have been provided. The cruise visited some island locations not previously visited by cruise ships, and that showed in some below average excursions and details. That, along with some bad weather, made the first half of the voyage less than memorable. The second half, visiting the Cook Islands, Bora Bora, and Moorea was much more enjoyable. Very picturesque and excursions were satisfactory (apart from the usual high costs). The cruise ended with a great fireworks display at Papeete harbour provided by Ponant. it is not pleasant to register some reservations about fellow passengers but we did find that not all the French passengers were very welcoming. There was an attitude apparent that Ponant is a French cruise line and the French passengers therefore hold or expect special rights in some undefined way! This did spoil things a bit at times although senior crew made it clear this was not the Ponant view. The line has to make revenue and profits and that means appealing to all comers. Just a point to keep in mind for some cruises. Overall could only rate this cruise as average but recognising some of the Ponant efforts to make it a memorable anniversary cruise. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Cabins too small, temperature too cold throughout the ship including in cabins, food very disappointing for what is expected from the French, meat tough, food too salty even the doctor on board told the chefs this but they refused to ... Read More
Cabins too small, temperature too cold throughout the ship including in cabins, food very disappointing for what is expected from the French, meat tough, food too salty even the doctor on board told the chefs this but they refused to change. Little to no service poolside, pool only a plunge pool. Ponant office in Sydney much too slow at sending documents, many passengers did not receive prior to leaving their homes to travel. Pick-up from hotels in Broome organised by Ponant was a debarkle, some passengers not informed of pickup location and time and then when we arrived at ship we were informed that we were an hour too early and would have to wait an hour in hot sun with no shade or seating. Australian expedition crew excellent! Ponant Sydney office are not organised— we 3 will never travel Ponant again— back to Silver Sea and Seabourn for future cruises. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We were very interested in the destination Japan. The Ship for this round trip should not be too big and exclusive. There is not much choice. That's why we decided to LÁustral. The price would be reasonable if service and quality ... Read More
We were very interested in the destination Japan. The Ship for this round trip should not be too big and exclusive. There is not much choice. That's why we decided to LÁustral. The price would be reasonable if service and quality were to be correct. It's not like that. The quality of the food was very different. The selection was partly not very large. Seafood as you know it from Silversea or Hapag Lloyd, there is little. My wife had a stomach upset and wanted a clear broth for lunch. This could not be realized. Every kitchen actually holds a broth! For dinner there was a broth... The trips were partly catastrophic. The guides were not always as qualified as you could expect. The temporal organization was not satisfactory. We complained about the cleanliness of our suite. The suite was not clean, instead we received a bottle of champagne as compensation. This was our so far most expensive cruise with more than €20,000 cost and unfortunately the worst of so far about 40 cruises in terms of value for money. For guests like us with high standards and willingness to pay a lot for this service unfortunately no recommendation. 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
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
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
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
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
Chosen specifically for the Iceland, Greenland and Northwest Artic passage to Alaska. Excellent itinerary with great shore excursions and expedition excursions. Many great features such as the ship design, 24/7 access to bridge, zodiacs, ... Read More
Chosen specifically for the Iceland, Greenland and Northwest Artic passage to Alaska. Excellent itinerary with great shore excursions and expedition excursions. Many great features such as the ship design, 24/7 access to bridge, zodiacs, etc. Had a suite which was great, but a regular cabin was not of sufficient size. The dining, menu, food preparation was very bad, not at all up to standard, let alone luxury! Dining room service was poor. Room service was excellent and the selected acceptable food items were good. Cabin service was outstanding. Went for the specific itinerary and expeditionary cruise which was excellent, HOWEVER would never ever take or recommend Ponant to anyone unless the specific itinerary was unique and special. There are now other much better expeditionary modern cruise ships which are ice rated. The expedition team was mixed, some very good and some very very poor. Very few English speaking passengers, at a significant disadvantage unless French! Captain, ship officers and receptionists were excellent. Organization of the charter flight from Nome was horrible. Some information from home sales group was significantly wrong. Lectures were badly organized with bad time management. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
The itinerary of Morocco and Andalusia was our primary attraction. The itinerary and the tours were up to expectations. Excellent and recommended We expected a 6 star cruise line, although Ponant and their ships are fairly new in the ... Read More
The itinerary of Morocco and Andalusia was our primary attraction. The itinerary and the tours were up to expectations. Excellent and recommended We expected a 6 star cruise line, although Ponant and their ships are fairly new in the cruise industry. We appreciated the modest number of passengers, and we look for the cruise lines that have smaller ships. We have been Seabourn fans for some years, but are now avoiding them as their ships have grown from ~150 to over 700. Ponant provided an excellent and engaging set of talks and lectures which we thoroughly enjoyed on the history of Morocco, Andalusia and Islam. We long for the more intimate cruising experience with an emphasis on historic and cultural presentations. Ponant delivered on this promise. Ponant’s service outside of the dining room was excellent, their staff well trained. The food was not up to our expectations, a surprise given the French ownership of the line. The dining room service was the weak point in an otherwise excellent service experience. We routinely required almost two hours to eat in the dining room with extended waits for the food. Perhaps our biggest problem was with the staterooms. They were incredibly small and cramped. Significantly smaller than the Seabourn staterooms. We will not likely cruise with Ponant again in the future because of the cramped staterooms. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
Only part i can give 5 stars to are the ship and the suites. Our suite was small but felt larger than it was. There was amazing storage and hanging places to put all our stuff. Bathroom was elegant with a separate toilet. Good fitness ... Read More
Only part i can give 5 stars to are the ship and the suites. Our suite was small but felt larger than it was. There was amazing storage and hanging places to put all our stuff. Bathroom was elegant with a separate toilet. Good fitness center with floor to ceiling windows to see the view. Service was reluctant at best. When ever I went to reception for a question or information, the first response was always, "Well, I don't know" rather than "How can I help you" The staff seems to find you an annoyance rather than a paying customer. The wine that was served on board (included) was of the quality of wine in a box. Several passengers beside me commented on the poor quality for a French ship. The wine they wanted you to pay for was always very expensive. The cheapest recommended wine was 79 Euros a bottle.The food was inconsistent. Some times it was excellent; other times it was mediocre. On the final night, the veal medallion was like a hockey puck. The night of the captain's dinner we did not get served our main course until 10:30 pm. Service in the Dining Rooms needs improvement. 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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