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Sail Date: March 2019
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. ... Read More
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. We never witnessed grouchiness or tension among the staff, in definite contrast to the larger cruise ships we've been on in the past. The service was hence over the top. Perhaps it was just our L'Austral crew, but e.g. the front desk ladies were amazing, juggling all day in at least 2 languages, and manning the reception 24/7. Always friendly with a smile, and anything we asked for was done, taken care of or checked on with efficiency. We never felt 'second class' by not being French, and 99% of the French passengers were very friendly once you tried a few words in French.. I think sometimes people get insecure and appear standoffish until you get to know them a little. Due to the itinerary, we had a significant number of Aussies, Germans, Austrians, some Brits, someone from Iceland, and a handful of Americans. Several multilingual passengers, and an unusually high number of solo travelers. That being said, it does help to speak French, since the naturalists, cruise director etc are all native French people, and not every joke or comment can be translated properly into English. All announcements were always in both French and English. The captain was very involved and you seemed to run into him often. He was there, coming in another Zodiac when ours had engine problems, always ready to help out. He navigated that vessel safely and very smoothly. His background is commanding icebreakers, so a transatlantic is probably much easier work for him. Overall recommendations: Although there's 3 elevators, they don't reach everything, for example the marina. Not a good ship for wheelchair, crutches, or walker. Cane may be okay if you can negotiate 1-2 flights of stairs. Currency on board is Euro, but you can settle your account in USD, and if you book a future cruise on board, the quote can be done in either currency. The onboard boutique/store does NOT have sunscreen, nail clippers, antacids... so don't forget those. They have mostly clothing, a few gifts, small amount of jewelry and handbags. Most of the clothing is for use in Antarctica. All high quality (mostly made in France and Germany), and thus pricey. If you wish to leave tips, you have to have cash. Unlike on other cruise ships, where you can add a tip to your bill, you can't do that on Ponant. The services in the spa already include a service charge. Food/drink: Be prepared to gain weight - we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys.. especially the desserts are too delicious to pass up, plus they have daily varying homemade gelato.. ugh. The pastry chef is top notch, French of course. And then the cheeses...! Our ship wasn't full, so during the first 2 weeks, dinner was either buffet on 6, or sit down on 2, and lunch was only buffet. You can always get coffee drinks, croissants and fruit in the main lounge on 3 in the a.m., and coffee/tea with some type of goodie from 4pm-5pm, main lounge as well. Open bar using decent brands, top shelf is extra. Their champagne is pretty good, and on certain occasions, Veuve Cliquot comes out. House wines red/white/rosé are overall decent. If you like beer, you'll be probably disappointed. Mostly Heineken, and e.g. Corona amazingly has to be paid for. Main dishes range from okay to superb - it really depends who's cooking and what. The mostly Indonesian crew is of course best at fish etc, even room service fish was fantastic. The Peruvian carving chef was amazing. Lamb most of the time was awesome. Be aware most of their beef and pork meats (roast, loin etc) are cooked 'rare' and are quite fatty. Room service club sandwich was the best sandwich we've ever had, period. Now if you can't find anything to strike your fancy, just talk to the restaurant head guy or directly to the chefs, they will come up with something for you. Spa/fitness: actually got a haircut, Elsa was very good and took a whole hour, only 65Euro. The hammam looked nice, very hot in there and we were in the tropics, so didn't use. Fitness center looked nice, mostly deserted. The saltwater pool is a decent size for a small ship, due to internal ramp you can't swim laps but it's nice to hang out or tread water. As far as the itinerary - the Brazilian government has now banned all non-Brazilian vessels from anchoring off Fernando de Noronha. It was quite a bummer, but nothing could be done about it. We received 250Euro onboard credit each as a compensation. OB credit can't be used for future cruise deposit, certain visas they arrange for you, or tips as I mentioned above. Since basically everything is already included, we "had to" shop at the boutique, DH got a real Panama Hat and I bought an Icebreaker vest and 2 Breton sweaters, nice souvenirs! Brazil: Rio - loved it and will try to return Paraty - very quaint, difficult walking on cobblestones, not touristy, and no public RR Salvador - broke my heart to see how they let their city deteriorate in so many ways.. even in the public market prostitution was going on. Very sad. Recife/Olinda - Would love to return to see the Olinda Carnaval. We had dancers from Olinda come to the ship to present a show and they were spectacular. Olinda walking tours are quite the workout walking steep hills in high heat and humidity. Guinea-Bissau, Bijagos Islands There was a couple (he French, she Portuguese) who lives on Keré Island, who acted as cultural intermediaries. Our naturalists came from Antarctica and that's where their expertise lies, not Africa, so they did not have much information. Honestly, most of my information was from documentaries I had found online at home, prior to the voyage. The Islands are definitely not touristy (there's rarely a ferry from Bissau), most of the village inhabitants are very reserved and do not interact. It appears they asked a couple of women to put on their 'good dress' and sit by the walking trail, so people could get their selfies with a person from Bijagos. I felt we were being intrusive overall, although I understand they authorized the visit and Ponant helps finance e.g. a water well etc for the villages. If you're a snorkeler/diver, this is not your spot, water murky with very low visibility. Sadly, we saw almost no wildlife, wrong season, normally there are lot of birds, hippos etc. Senegal-Dakar Well, we spent the day at an African family's B&B in Dougar, 45 min E of Dakar, and about 20min from the new airport. We booked through airbnb.com and they reconciled us with Senegal. Before we arrived there, I couldn't get out of Dakar fast enough, between peddlers, noise, the smell of urine, Sahara dust, and traffic insanities... Considering you don't wait in line for anything except the Zodiac embarkations, and the whole ambiance, it's definitely a luxury line and we're glad we chose this trip. Regardless of the itinerary glitches, we enjoyed ourselves and were thoroughly relaxed, so we booked another/ future cruise onboard, which will be on one of the sister ships. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and ... Read More
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and I took into observation myself on what was available and what was limited especially regarding the trip to Antarctica. • The restaurant staff were very efficient and worked well under pressure at times (special occasions such as gala nights) while keeping great composure. • I was more drawn to the A La Carte and found the food to be very delicious along with a variety of specialties. • The drinks service at the bar was great. • The entertainment was good for being a small luxury ship and I considered that it wasn’t a party ship, but more of an intimate one as why I decided on a small luxury ship. • The cabin room had a balcony and it was very lovely and cosy with great space and storage. • The room service was great and the steward, she was very lovely. • The zodiac expeditions were very well organised and supervised by the Officer/s and crew who were very safety conscious and were never hesitant to take anything into consideration. • The Expedition Leader/ Naturalist (one in particular) were very well experienced and very knowledgeable and the lectures given were presented very well and were interesting. Engaging would be the word due to their passion. • I observed some customers giving some staff a hard time at the reception regarding “their concerns/expectations” of which I saw was well handled and sorted with great communication and expedience. • Any feedback was also taken into consideration and handled diligently and implemented. • The Captain and Expedition Leader both delivered on an amazing substituted trip in place of an expedition trip on one of the days we were not able to get to a destination due to weather and an ice blockage however this idea was a phenomenal one along with being in the right place to see whale activity much closer. Three Things To Consider • Single Supplementary Charges make it less flexible along with less journeys/experience to go on than I would like to have; • The cooked bacon could be improved; and • Regarding kids maybe more involvement interaction as they are the future however, I did see the Expedition Leader do his best with what he had and could do. It was the first time I had experienced a cruise, taken three flights within 24/48hrs experiencing jet lag for the first time along with travelling alone to areas with little language experience. The trip was perfect along with the weather and this was not “the Norm” every time so I got a special trip. I have lots of photos, lost of memories and I went on the trip with no expectations and instead it was just about enjoying the moments. Thank you to all who made my trip a great one and I will definitely be back for more. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos ... Read More
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos Aires after my flight from JFK, and met the Ponant team at the airport the next morning. The representatives were easy to find and I was quickly waiting in line to drop of my luggage and wait for boarding. After landing in Ushuaia, Ponant offered either a trip to the national park or lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking the city. I chose lunch. Here, I met other solo travelers who I dined with throughout the cruise. We were then taken to the ship were we began the embarkation process. There was no waiting. Walked directly from the bus up the gangway and onto the ship. We were greeted by the staff, and brought to our rooms. The room was very spacious and the bathroom had a sliding door covering a window which allowed you to watch the scenery when showering. It was very nice! Throughout the cruise, the staff kept us well informed of what the plans were for the day. We generally made 2 zodiac trips per day and most days, 2 landings. Everything was organized very well, from getting our parkas and boots to the daily educational programs (provided in French and English). Our weather was phenomenal, and Drake’s passage was like glass both directions! The expedition team was very concerned about the guests seeing as much as possible and worked very hard to ensure it. There are 2 restaurants on board and I generally chose to visit the buffet which allowed more choice than the sit down restaurant. The food was overall excellent and often had a French flair. The staff on the ship were lovely and any needs were met right away. This cruise was all inclusive and the drinks flowed freely! I did not attend any of the shows except the last one on the last night. It was cute but I’m not a show person. The WiFi was great! Free, and I was able to check email, social media, and text with family and friends (helpful since I was traveling solo). No issues with disembarkation at all. Extremely smooth and organized cruise. Loved Antarctica! I would go back and would chose Ponant again for sure!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special ... Read More
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special sights like minkes up close in a zodiac. 6am rise for a pod of orcas and to top it off a blue whale in the weddell sea. The guides and the zodiac drivers did a great job of getting you close to interesting sights and explaining everything well. On the ship the crew were great. Everything was so well taken care off. And the food well. Level 2 is Devine. I guess what you expect on a French ship! The crossing back across the Drake was windy but what's a trip to Antarctica without having to say you have endured the Drake... These Ponant ships are excellent. I would do it again in a heart beat. Maybe a tropical trip next time or Alaska. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage ... Read More
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage allowed in cabin. The embarkation was seamless and very welcoming . The ship itself was pristine, hygiene incrediable, service form all staff inpeckiable, the facilities were outstanding. To be fair could not fault anything. The communication throughout the 10days was so regular and UTD. The excursions were professional and very well organised. comfort plus. I would definantly only ever do another cruise with Ponant, as ticked every box. Food was exceptional, and loads of variety, activity was constant and varied. Very professional expedition leaders and the staff involved in hauling us on and of the zodiacs were amazing. Captain was informative and passionate about his ship as well as Antartica. JUST AMAZING EPIC AND BREATHTAKING. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise because of the small ship size (220 passeners), the fact that it was spending 6 full days at the white continent and that it would be sending us ashore on zodiac rafts. We were very impressed with the friendliness and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the small ship size (220 passeners), the fact that it was spending 6 full days at the white continent and that it would be sending us ashore on zodiac rafts. We were very impressed with the friendliness and service by the staff at every level from dining to the excursions. We were very excited about seeing the majesty of Antarctica and the ship's captain and crew did not disappoint. We felt they made every effort to insure that our cruise and shore experiences were excellent. The lectures were very good and informative although some of them didn't relate to the particular cruise we were on. Would have liked more specifics and history about Antarctica. The ship's store was also lacking, not in size but in products. Would have loved to see more items that were specific to our cruise i.e., clothing, hats, sweatshirts, shirts, etc, that related to Antarctica. The food service was excellent but the cuisine was just average for a cruise line. We expected a little higher end fare, especially on a French cruise line. We also felt that pre-cruise Ponant could have sent a little more information about preparing for the cruise to Antarctica and what to expect on board. Because of the uniqueness of this particular cruise a little more up front information would have been appreciated. Our criticisms are minor in what was otherwise a wonderful experience. It was one of those trips of a lifetime being able to experience Antarctica up close and we have already recommended Ponant as an excellent choice to friends Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
We chose Ponant for our Antactic cruise because of their high reputation for expedition cruises and general high quality reputation for food, service etc. our cruise was excellent in almost every way. The quality of the food, wine and ... Read More
We chose Ponant for our Antactic cruise because of their high reputation for expedition cruises and general high quality reputation for food, service etc. our cruise was excellent in almost every way. The quality of the food, wine and service on board was always of the highest quality. Our balcony cabin was comfortable, although the bathroom is small because the toilet is in a separate compartment. This trade off is quite OK. more seating would be welcome but there is no room. The expedition landings were virtually faultless. The expedition leader, Florence, was incredibly good. She worked tirelessly and endlessly to ensure that landings were interesting and safe. The team leaders were also excellent, very well informed and very enthusiastic. All landings went off perfectly and luckily, our weather was good to excellent. The experience was memorable and sometimes a little overwhelming in the grandeur and isolation. We would highly recommend an Antarctic cruise and highly recommend Ponant. Their organisation is down to a fine art and everything runs smoothly, at least for passengers. No doubt their is a huge effort behind the scenes to get to this level of perfection. The only disappointment with the whole trip was the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and back. The flight is a charter with Latam and is very poor in every way. The seats are the tightest and most uncomfortable I have ever experienced and the aircraft has one toilet for 180 passengers. There is no galley so you get only a small bag of biscuits and a soft drink for the 4 hour flight. On the return flight, 30 bags were left in Ushuaia ,and arrived 4 hours later. Some people had connecting flights and could not have received their bags in time.This is not Ponant's fault but needs to be fixed. Although Ponant is priced as a luxury line, it is less expensive for Antarctic cruises than many others. The ships are purpose designed for expeditions and yet are still luxury in terms of passenger comfort, amenity and service. They are value for money. We would certainly recommend Ponant for Antarctic cruises. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2018
This cruise visited Wallis and Futuna which I could not get with another cruise line. Since this was also a 30 anniversary cruise lots of specials were in store, such as reception in Wallis; native entertainment on board and on shore and ... Read More
This cruise visited Wallis and Futuna which I could not get with another cruise line. Since this was also a 30 anniversary cruise lots of specials were in store, such as reception in Wallis; native entertainment on board and on shore and the fireworks on the last night. The hula performances were a highlight. those dancers could surely move. The shore excursions were well organized allowing me to see the beauty of the various islands, especially from a high overlook on Moorea where the different shades of the waters really stood out. Even the dolphins cooperated (showed up) on an offshore boat trip. My balcony cabin located amidship, reduced the affects of the ocean and was always kept in good shape. The ships personnel was always friendly and eager to help. The food was plentiful and of good quality, too bad, gained a few pounds even though I was using the walking machine in the exercise room. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our 3 cruise with Ponant, The staff were very friendly and helpful, especially when we had to get on and off the zodiac boats as my husband not long ago has a knee replacement but was still able to go and enjoy the expedition. ... Read More
This was our 3 cruise with Ponant, The staff were very friendly and helpful, especially when we had to get on and off the zodiac boats as my husband not long ago has a knee replacement but was still able to go and enjoy the expedition. Level 3 was easier for him to get around to reception and get on the zodiacs. The expedition staff were amazing and were very passionate and knowledgeable about their chosen fields, we had booked dinner with the expedition crew and it was very imformative to sit and enjoy their company. The Kimberley coast of Australia, what better way to see this by boat/zodiacs amazing, we saw whales, turtles, dolphins, birds and so much more, I would encouage everyone to go its truley amazing. We ate dinner of a night alternating between the dining room and buffet which is on the pool deck, as the nights were warm and it was great to be outside. TV with satellite wasnt always that good. The food in the restaurant wasn’t as good as the last 2 cruises, buffet offered a better range of food. Pastries, Desserts, icecream, sorbet, cheese, bread yummy! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
We chose the cruise because while we have travelled to many other parts of the world we really need to see more of our own land. We combined the cruise with self drive land content before and after and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the ... Read More
We chose the cruise because while we have travelled to many other parts of the world we really need to see more of our own land. We combined the cruise with self drive land content before and after and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the north of Australia. There was a bit of a mess embarking as the papers were late arriving and the meeting point had changed but the Visitors' Centre in Broome was very accommodating. All was soon forgotten when we boarded, greeted by senior staff and with a glass of bubbles, we were escorted to our cabin where our bags were waiting. Our cabin, 508, was very comfortable, with plenty of space for our belongings, and the screen in the bathroom giving a view of the outside from the shower was exciting, as well as acting as a source of light. Our attendant kept everything very clean and was helpful in a range of small ways. I have never had such a thorough lifeboat drill, leaving the theatre to fetch our life jackets, donning them, being checked off and then shown row by row to the lifeboat boarding area. This attention to safety was also shown by the zodiac with the doctor, and a senior officer accompanying all excursions, people on hand to assist with difficult parts of walks and a briefing each evening on how rigorous the next day would be. There always seemed to be entertainment in the main lounge, a singer, classical pianist or a mood music, and on the only sea day there were two short documentaries related to the area. The main lounge and the observation lounge as well as the outdoor areas gave plenty of places to relax, read, talk, play games or just watch the passing views. Even at night it was very pleasant to take the air and look at the stars. The main entertainment however was the excursion program, and what a program. After the evening briefing we looked forward tot he sights of the next day and weren't disappointed. The zodiacs were manned by mainly young, but always very enthusiastic and informative members of the expedition team. We saw whales, turtles, rays, many varieties of birds, crocodiles, dolphins, and some lucky passengers saw a dugong. On shore we visited rock art sites from different periods, and a beach with strange shaped rocks of significance to indigenous Australians, as well as venturing up rivers and gorges. The sunsets were amazing, and the sunrises were probably also spectacular judging by the light I saw early one morning! It was the most wonderful experience to go out on a zodiac and then return to a ship with excellent French food and wine, good company and a warm ambiance. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
We wanted to visit the Kimberley region from the sea and experience rock art and geographic features. We were not particularly interested in the birdlife but found it fascinating nevertheless. The hotels before and after were all we ... Read More
We wanted to visit the Kimberley region from the sea and experience rock art and geographic features. We were not particularly interested in the birdlife but found it fascinating nevertheless. The hotels before and after were all we expected - very pleasant stays. The ship was impressive with plenty to keep us occupied on board. Service was very good. The excursions and explanatory talks before and after and the commentary during them were excellent. The cabin was well laid out and comfortable and in a great position. The balcony was a great spot to relax. Food, drinks and service were very good and nothing seemed to be too much to ask the staff, who were very helpful and courteous. We only partook of a little of the entertainment, but what we did experience was enjoyable. Both embarkation and disembarkation were handled quickly and efficiently. All in all it was a great experience and we thoroughly enjoyed very aspect of it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
We had previously sailed on Ponant cruises to Alaska and Antarctica and had fantastic exoeriences with them so we decided to cruise with Ponant again in our own country Australia from Darwin to Broome to see the Kimberley Region, The ... Read More
We had previously sailed on Ponant cruises to Alaska and Antarctica and had fantastic exoeriences with them so we decided to cruise with Ponant again in our own country Australia from Darwin to Broome to see the Kimberley Region, The ships are very comfortable in classic French chique style and only take approximately 200 passengers rather than other massive cruise ships, We find this size of boat perfect t allows for comfort and service without being too small or too large, The food is excellent and the service is also friendly and courteous, The cruise Director was amazing with the on-board entertainment also a lot of fun. The wait staff were also friendly as were the bar staff although our only criticism of the Kimberley Cruise was that one of the bar staff in the main bar seemed unfriendly and disinterested which was so out of character with the other staff. It was something that should have been rectified while we were sailing on the cruise as it did impact bar service and sense of fun. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
We booked this cruise 18 months earlier and we are so glad we did. To begin with, the Kimberley area is stunning! The scenery, the wildlife and the indigenous rock art is all wonderfully beautiful. We saw an abundance of the most ... Read More
We booked this cruise 18 months earlier and we are so glad we did. To begin with, the Kimberley area is stunning! The scenery, the wildlife and the indigenous rock art is all wonderfully beautiful. We saw an abundance of the most beautiful birds, crocodiles, whales and sea turtles, all in their natural environment. The physical scenery was absolutely stunning. The geological features are incredibly special and places like Talbot Bay with the Horizontal Waterfalls, Raft Point, Prince Frederick Harbour with the amazing Mitchell Falls seen by helicopter will live in our memories forever. Seeing Montgomery Reef rise out of the water as the tide fell was an incredible experience. We were literally metres away from this. We visited several sites with ancient aboriginal rock art that were just amazing. Added to this, was the expertise of our guiding naturalists. They combined a sense of fun with incredible knowledge and made the daily excursions in the zodiacs something to really look forward to. The evening recap meetings led by Sandrine and the naturalists ensured we all knew exactly what was happening the next day as well as reliving that day's experiences. We couldn't have asked for more. The ship itself was quite beautiful. It was stylish and modern with more than a touch of class. Our cabin was 431 and it suited us perfectly. We loved sitting on the private balcony, particularly while whales frolicked nearby. Our room was kept spotlessly clean and the bar fridge constantly restocked. There was also no shortage of fabulous entertainment on board with various musicians, singers and a great dance group. I also used the library to get through a couple of relaxing books. We found the food to be beautiful and it was complemented by a never ending supply of fine wines. We ate in both the formal restaurant and also in the more casual buffet and found them to be outstanding. Finally a word about the staff. They were incredibly good, quick with a smile and always helpful. The service was far and away the best we have experienced. This was a really special holiday and we couldn't have been happier. Thank you Ponant! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
Our previous experience in 2017 on Le Boreal gave us confidence in the offerings of Ponant. In addition, this voyage had interesting Pre Voyage offerings, which we purchased, as the chance to use the 4 day tour of Osaka and Nara was really ... Read More
Our previous experience in 2017 on Le Boreal gave us confidence in the offerings of Ponant. In addition, this voyage had interesting Pre Voyage offerings, which we purchased, as the chance to use the 4 day tour of Osaka and Nara was really attractive to us as mature travellers. Of particular note was the quality of the Kyoto Hotel Okura, which dazzled us completely! The provision of an interpreter during this experience was of great value throughout our land voyage. As were the transfers included. Our rating of the Pre offering is a full 5 stars for value and content. The opportunity to then visit the ports of Hiroshima, Yakushima, Naha, ishigaki and Hualien-Taiwan on the way to Manila worked as a bonus to us. We ventured on Ponant excursions at all ports, and found the organisation, equipment and locations outstanding in all cases. The transport supplied, and the fact that all excursion groups were fully escorted worked really well at all times. Where excursions included catering, this was provided at great establishments, and the food and drink included were excellent. We have now completed 7 voyage sectors with Ponant, and are so content with the offerings that we have 4 more sectors under deposit, and looking at others! For us, the small ship experience is the way to go, always! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2018
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
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We had been previously on a cruise across this Indonesian region last year that was disappointing with Silversea Expedition. This year Ponant cruise was exceptional, thanks to the outstanding expedition team lead by Mick Fogg and the ... Read More
We had been previously on a cruise across this Indonesian region last year that was disappointing with Silversea Expedition. This year Ponant cruise was exceptional, thanks to the outstanding expedition team lead by Mick Fogg and the captain; they chose superb location for all stops and we had both landing unique experiences visiting remote villages and extremely isolated locations in all islands of Western Papua, Spice Islands and South Philippines. the captain chose 5 unique locations where no ship had ever been before. They also selected almost every day beautiful remote top quality beach and snorkelling experience. Food with a dominant French style was magnificent as well as the European style service, as usual on Ponant ships. We usually prefer the full service downstairs, but there is everyday also the buffet style next to the swimming pool. Entertainment was high quality, in particular with excellent classical music pianist, singers and a team of 4 dancers. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
We chose this cruise for its luxurious small ship experience. The ship was all the better for the French influence on the food and wine which were superb. The ship was fabulous with wonderful caring staff from Captain David Marionneau to ... Read More
We chose this cruise for its luxurious small ship experience. The ship was all the better for the French influence on the food and wine which were superb. The ship was fabulous with wonderful caring staff from Captain David Marionneau to the cabin stewards, wait staff, bar staff, housekeeping staff, reception and entertainment staff. What a trip! We boarded in Fremantle a couple of weeks into the 40 night Circumnavigation of Australia cruise which departed Sydney on 25th January and Fremantle on 8th February. Lovely cabin (315). Nice balcony, comfortable bed and adequate toilet and bathroom facilities (separate) serviced at least twice a day or on demand. Complimentary mini bar replenished daily (no wine though). If we wanted wine we needed to get it from room service. No problem. Plenty of beer, spirits and mixers along with water and soft drinks. Leaving Fremantle we sailed north to Geraldton, then on to Exmouth (glass bottomed boat experience). On to Broome, Talbot Bay for the horizontal falls. Astounding! Waterfalls everywhere- naturalists on board had not seen anything like it, nor the flows from the King George Falls. Aboriginal settlement at Yirrkala was amazing, artworks beautiful, and a performance that was exciting. On we travelled our 26 nights reducing rapidly. So many experiences - so much to see and great weather. Had no problems with the zodiacs and many people older than my 65 years managed them easily with the care and attention of the crew. Boy did we see parts of Australia I never knew existed. Other passengers were also overwhelmed by the beauty and colours of the Kimberley. This was all complimented by food (lots of high quality French inspired food but interspersed with some special lunches of Italian, Moroccan, Baltic inspired. Our bar, lounge and waiting staff knew us all by name after 24 hours, and they knew our drink preferences. Other stops at Darwin, cape york, Thursday Island, Hamilton Island and Fraser Island before heading back to Sydney where our “on board family” of 240 passengers said goodbye. A very sad time. This certainly an unforgettable cruise. So much, wonderful people, sights, eats and drinks, memories after memories, friend after friends. Thoroughly recommend the ship, it’s very professional but friendly and very happy crew and amazing entertainers. Just go, we are so glad we did. Read Less
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
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
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
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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