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My wife & I chose Ponant on the recommendation of our travel agent as the preferred cruise line to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with a transit of the North West Passage. Unfortunately, Ponant failed dismally to deliver & in our opinion, were misleading & deceptive in their decision to proceed with the cruise in view of the forecast sea ice conditions. We believe that Ponant should have known that the NWP was or was likely to be impassable prior to embarcation on le Soleal (& le Boreal) as reported by the Canadian Ice Service & Canadian Coast Guard. I need not repeat the reviews of other Cruise Critic members on the the saga of the connecting air charters, the second class treatment of non-French passengers, the shortage of restaurant staff, food & drinks or the amount of time spent needlessly sailing around Greenland so as to use up the number of cruise days. These comments are consistent with our experience & that of other passengers, including a number of French passengers who were equally unimpressed - "luxury" it was not! While these issues have been formally raised with Ponant by a number of passengers, no adequate response has yet been provided. The cabin, a “deluxe stateroom” was clean & comfortable but included only one chair in the room & we had to bring a chair from the verandah to sit in the room as a couple. Dining was a disaster as the ship was full to capacity & there was insufficient capacity in the 2 dining rooms – one of which required bookings & was usually full. Further, both restaurants were understaffed, the food selection was limited & definitely not “heute cusine”. Embarcation of the Australians & some other nationalities was after midnight from a tender after a long, economy charter flight from Paris via Copenhagen that was so full that some of the baggage had to be stored in a bathroom (against aircraft regulations?). At the end of the “cruise” we suffered another economy charter from Kangerlussaq to Seattle (over 10 hours) with an unexpected stop in Buffallo NY where we were not permitted to leave the aircraft. We understand that many of the French passengers were flown business class from & to Paris by Ponant at no extra cost. Apart from a daily bulletin (which contained mis-information about le Boreal supposedly transiting the Bellot Strait) that was informative & a couple of very helpful & friendly room service, bar & excursion staff, the rest of the le Soleal crew had arrogant & dismissive attitudes & would have difficulty obtaining work on a quality cruise line. Communications with passengers was poor & we were misled about the sea ice conditions preventing the transit of the North West Passage. As mentioned above, the on-board experience was very disappointing & many passengers were looking forward to leaving the ship rather than floating around Greenland killing time for a large proportion of the cruise. This was a very expensive cruise at more than AUD53000 for a couple but I would feel even more aggrieved if I had paid significantly more to travel as part of the Captain’s Choice group on le Soleal or on the Abercrombie & Kent charter of le Boreal. To compound the situation, Ponant declined to refund any of the cruise costs (unlike another cruise line similarly impacted by the sea ice) & their "offer" of modest discounts on future Ponant cruises is useless as all of the passengers we have contacted will NEVER sail with Ponant again.

First and last Ponant cruise.

Le Soleal Cruise Review by DandJCruisers

6 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2018
  • Destination: Arctic
My wife & I chose Ponant on the recommendation of our travel agent as the preferred cruise line to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with a transit of the North West Passage.

Unfortunately, Ponant failed dismally to deliver & in our opinion, were misleading & deceptive in their decision to proceed with the cruise in view of the forecast sea ice conditions. We believe that Ponant should have known that the NWP was or was likely to be impassable prior to embarcation on le Soleal (& le Boreal) as reported by the Canadian Ice Service & Canadian Coast Guard.

I need not repeat the reviews of other Cruise Critic members on the the saga of the connecting air charters, the second class treatment of non-French passengers, the shortage of restaurant staff, food & drinks or the amount of time spent needlessly sailing around Greenland so as to use up the number of cruise days. These comments are consistent with our experience & that of other passengers, including a number of French passengers who were equally unimpressed - "luxury" it was not! While these issues have been formally raised with Ponant by a number of passengers, no adequate response has yet been provided.

The cabin, a “deluxe stateroom” was clean & comfortable but included only one chair in the room & we had to bring a chair from the verandah to sit in the room as a couple.

Dining was a disaster as the ship was full to capacity & there was insufficient capacity in the 2 dining rooms – one of which required bookings & was usually full. Further, both restaurants were understaffed, the food selection was limited & definitely not “heute cusine”.

Embarcation of the Australians & some other nationalities was after midnight from a tender after a long, economy charter flight from Paris via Copenhagen that was so full that some of the baggage had to be stored in a bathroom (against aircraft regulations?). At the end of the “cruise” we suffered another economy charter from Kangerlussaq to Seattle (over 10 hours) with an unexpected stop in Buffallo NY where we were not permitted to leave the aircraft. We understand that many of the French passengers were flown business class from & to Paris by Ponant at no extra cost.

Apart from a daily bulletin (which contained mis-information about le Boreal supposedly transiting the Bellot Strait) that was informative & a couple of very helpful & friendly room service, bar & excursion staff, the rest of the le Soleal crew had arrogant & dismissive attitudes & would have difficulty obtaining work on a quality cruise line. Communications with passengers was poor & we were misled about the sea ice conditions preventing the transit of the North West Passage.

As mentioned above, the on-board experience was very disappointing & many passengers were looking forward to leaving the ship rather than floating around Greenland killing time for a large proportion of the cruise.

This was a very expensive cruise at more than AUD53000 for a couple but I would feel even more aggrieved if I had paid significantly more to travel as part of the Captain’s Choice group on le Soleal or on the Abercrombie & Kent charter of le Boreal.

To compound the situation, Ponant declined to refund any of the cruise costs (unlike another cruise line similarly impacted by the sea ice) & their "offer" of modest discounts on future Ponant cruises is useless as all of the passengers we have contacted will NEVER sail with Ponant again.
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Cabin Review

Cabin
Compact cabin for a "Deluxe Double Stateroom" with only one chair in the room & limited clothing storage for an Arctic cruise.
The vessel was not well suited to Arctic cruising as it had limited in-door public sitting & viewing areas.