4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
France-based Ponant, launched in 1988, was an early pioneer of luxury expedition cruising. The cruise line offers a range of standard and unusual, off-the-beaten-track itineraries on a variety of small ships and offers a strongly French onboard experience.
With the bilingual staff fluent in French and English, the passenger mix is strongly French and European, although a small, but growing number of North Americans are finding the line. The average age on a Ponant cruise is early 60s, and most passengers are married and college educated. There are some designated family-friendly cruises, and the line does offer special rates for kids up to age 17 traveling with their parents, but, in general, you will not find many kids onboard.
We'd say yes. Though there isn't a specific dress code, you'll be uncomfortable if you don't show up for dinner in country club casual dress at the bare minimum. The French passengers generally wear chic designer clothing, high heels for women and jackets and ties for men. The dress code by day is casual, but you won't see shorts, jeans or T-shirts in the evening. Each sailing also hosts one or two gala dinners, where the line recommends a formal cocktail dress or dark suit.
As elegant as it is, Ponant is an expedition line, so the destination is the center of activities, with presentations from naturalists and various experts enhancing the shore excursions. Lectures are offered separately in French and English.
While sailing, passengers choose their own activities as they feel moved. Many head for the heated seawater pool or the solarium and relax in the hammam. Ponant ships have no casinos but do have comfortable lounges where cruisers often sit to read and chat. In the evenings there is music or cabaret in the theater.
No. One difference between Ponant's cruises and those of other upscale lines is that the onboard pricing is more a la carte. You will pay extra for shore excursions, gratuities, spa and beauty services and other amenities and services, with varying policies for people booking in different countries.
The cruise fare includes all dining on board, beverages at all times (mineral water, soft drinks, wine, beer, Henri Abele Brut Champagne, spirits, coffee, tea), unlimited Wi-Fi and port taxes.