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We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed. Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, elegantly finished in light woods and simple decor. There is no bling, a huge positive for us. There is ample seating inside and out, and even below water in the Blue Eye lounge. The crew, including the very approachable captain, are always about and eager to meet each passenger’s needs. Special kudos to the cruise director and the main lounge barmen — Richie and Jay Jay — who were outstanding. Food and wines were ample and very good throughout. I would have liked to see local ingredients and dishes start to appear on the menu (as one does on, say, Seabourn), but the chef clearly sticks with more traditional French preparations. Towards the end of our 12 days, we were ready for more menu variation. Table service is generally attentive, with occasional lapses. But this cruise was really about the Zodiac excursions to see the flora and fauna in the inlets and lakes that abut the Amazon, and here Ponant earns every available star! The excursion team was truly amazing, with the naturalists representing a wide array of specialties and interests. The outings were memorable, and the accompanying lectures informative and highly interesting. This is a French cruise line and I’d guess 3/4 of the passengers were French speakers, but the English speakers were fully served with several naturalists whose first language is English (several didn’t even speak French!). Maria, Dani and John, you were all fabulous! Separate English and French Zodiacs and lectures avoided the need for translations, maximizing the info that could be shared on the available time. It became clear to me that successful Zodiac outings require the full cooperation of the captain, and his willingness to move the ship to the best location for the day’s conditions. On Le Champlain, this collaboration was noticeable and fantastic. In fact, a highlight of the trip was the captain’s decision for an extra, surprise Zodiac outing on the narrow Strait of Breves, where passengers joined locals on river, to gawk as the beautiful Le Champlain came around a bend in the waterway. Although Ponant is a French cruise line and attracts a majority of French-speaking guests, in my experience English-speaking passengers (Americans, Australians, Japanese and non-French Europeans on this cruise) are equally well served in every respect. English may even be an advantage when speaking to the non-officer crew members, who are largely from the Philippines and seem more comfortable with English. I’ve read other English-speaking reviewers of Ponant cruises, who complained about getting 2nd-rate treatment, and even heard some grumblings from passengers on this cruise. In my view, such comments are totally off base and reflect the biases of the passenger, not of Ponant. I would highly recommend Ponant, and Le Champlain specifically, to English speakers seeking a rich, international experience, and a wonderful cruise experience.

Amazing Expedition Cruise on the Amazon

Le Champlain Cruise Review by healthlaw2

18 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed.

Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, elegantly finished in light woods and simple decor. There is no bling, a huge positive for us. There is ample seating inside and out, and even below water in the Blue Eye lounge. The crew, including the very approachable captain, are always about and eager to meet each passenger’s needs. Special kudos to the cruise director and the main lounge barmen — Richie and Jay Jay — who were outstanding.

Food and wines were ample and very good throughout. I would have liked to see local ingredients and dishes start to appear on the menu (as one does on, say, Seabourn), but the chef clearly sticks with more traditional French preparations. Towards the end of our 12 days, we were ready for more menu variation. Table service is generally attentive, with occasional lapses.

But this cruise was really about the Zodiac excursions to see the flora and fauna in the inlets and lakes that abut the Amazon, and here Ponant earns every available star! The excursion team was truly amazing, with the naturalists representing a wide array of specialties and interests. The outings were memorable, and the accompanying lectures informative and highly interesting. This is a French cruise line and I’d guess 3/4 of the passengers were French speakers, but the English speakers were fully served with several naturalists whose first language is English (several didn’t even speak French!). Maria, Dani and John, you were all fabulous! Separate English and French Zodiacs and lectures avoided the need for translations, maximizing the info that could be shared on the available time.

It became clear to me that successful Zodiac outings require the full cooperation of the captain, and his willingness to move the ship to the best location for the day’s conditions. On Le Champlain, this collaboration was noticeable and fantastic. In fact, a highlight of the trip was the captain’s decision for an extra, surprise Zodiac outing on the narrow Strait of Breves, where passengers joined locals on river, to gawk as the beautiful Le Champlain came around a bend in the waterway.

Although Ponant is a French cruise line and attracts a majority of French-speaking guests, in my experience English-speaking passengers (Americans, Australians, Japanese and non-French Europeans on this cruise) are equally well served in every respect. English may even be an advantage when speaking to the non-officer crew members, who are largely from the Philippines and seem more comfortable with English. I’ve read other English-speaking reviewers of Ponant cruises, who complained about getting 2nd-rate treatment, and even heard some grumblings from passengers on this cruise. In my view, such comments are totally off base and reflect the biases of the passenger, not of Ponant. I would highly recommend Ponant, and Le Champlain specifically, to English speakers seeking a rich, international experience, and a wonderful cruise experience.
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Cabin Review

Cabin 406
The base staterooms on Ponant ships are well laid out, but small (about 200 sq. ft.). We chose the Deluxe Suite, which is 50% larger, allowing for a walk-in dressing room, a larger couch/sitting area, and a larger balcony. The suite is beautifully designed, and met our space needs for a 12-day Cruise. My only niggle is that instead of a comfie sofa, Ponant opted for a day bed that (I suppose) could accommodate a 3rd sleeper. This choice both sacrificed seating comfort and took up more floor space than a nice, soft couch.

More important, if you look at Le Champlain’s deck charts, there is an unidentified space between the elevator and Suite 406. That is a heavily used crew’s staircase. Although the stairwell has sound-proofing, you definitely hear heavy footsteps and other noises in the cabin. Be aware if you’re a light sleeper, or like daytime naps when the stair get the most activity. BTW, we spoke to the folks in the cabin right above us and they had the same noise awareness.

Also, it’s a small ship and this is a forward cabin, so you definitely hear and feel it when the anchor is dropped.

All in all, despite these minor concerns, we loved the cabin.

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