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Sail Date: August 2016
My wife and I were facing such a cruise for the 1st time. Good friends of ours told us to join them, I was not ready to do it because I was reserving this kind of experiences for my 80's... Well, even if we had explored the program ... Read More
My wife and I were facing such a cruise for the 1st time. Good friends of ours told us to join them, I was not ready to do it because I was reserving this kind of experiences for my 80's... Well, even if we had explored the program before departing, the surprise went far beyond expectations: we personally loved the "small yacht" principle and the expeditions side surrounded by top quality in all its aspects: registration process, boarding, logistic, high maintenance of equipment/material, organization and variety of expeditions, lodging, service, personnel, restaurants and food, etc. Last but not least we greatly appreciated that 'nature' linked with 'culture' with the level of specialists who accompanied us, and with who we shared their so interesting professional experiences. Yes we are planning to go again, with other friends why not? since they are all paying interest to all what we are telling them. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2016
Love the Expedition Cruises! The locations visited are amazing and without hords of tourist. The Expedition Crew are so knowledgeable on the locations; People, flora, fauna and wildlife found there. We love the small ship size: The ... Read More
Love the Expedition Cruises! The locations visited are amazing and without hords of tourist. The Expedition Crew are so knowledgeable on the locations; People, flora, fauna and wildlife found there. We love the small ship size: The entire Crew is friendly from the waiters, bartenders, bus boys & housekeeping personnel to the Bridge crew and the Captain himself. The food is 5 star across the board taste, choices and presentation. Accomodations are graciously made for allergies. The Piano and Cabaret are very nice. A few fun activities are provided on sea days. The children on board ages 7 and up, seem to enjoy the various activities provided by the AMAZING cruise director, Note:These Expeditions are not really suitable for children under the age of 6. This is not your typical big boat cruise. This is a Luxary Mega Yacht with Mega Amazing prople on board who treat you like a Royal Family. The Gym & Spa on board were a nice feature for sea days. See you again soon. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
What a lovely experience on Le Soleal. The captain, the crew and our expedition team were fantastic. I have never seen a more accessible ship's captain The ship was ideal for our expedition cruise through the Inside Passage, in ... Read More
What a lovely experience on Le Soleal. The captain, the crew and our expedition team were fantastic. I have never seen a more accessible ship's captain The ship was ideal for our expedition cruise through the Inside Passage, in and out of some of the tiniest places. The itinerary needed to be modified for rough seas and a danger to participants in boarding Zodiacs so another treat was planned. It was fantastic. With the shallow draft were were able to go where ships seldom venture. Icy Bay was an example, to see glaciers down to sea level. Cabin space was about the same as comparable space on other ships we have experienced, but the walk in shower made bathing so much easier. Ours was well appointed with a. iPod player and coffee machine. Dining in the two dining rooms was easy and staff very attentive. Food quality was good and as usual, I had potential to add too much when dining in the buffet. Our activities were to the fullest, as we had up to two Zodiac or tender visits a day to some out of the way places. Other activities were well organised and enjoyable. Our trip on Le Soleal was organised and marketed through APT (Australian Pacific Tours) Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
The cruise was a charter for selected college graduates in the US, starting from Juneau, making it's way in a semi-expeditionary manner to Vancouver with approx 250 passengers. The voyage was a quality and satisfying experience, with ... Read More
The cruise was a charter for selected college graduates in the US, starting from Juneau, making it's way in a semi-expeditionary manner to Vancouver with approx 250 passengers. The voyage was a quality and satisfying experience, with warm and sincerely friendly service, great food on two decks, and on the house drinks including wine. The house wines were quite satisfactory. Visited small fishing towns where large liners could not go. Much of the travel was in narrow channels which are impassible for large liners. A definite plus in our book. The ship itself was very svelte, nicely decorated inside, kept very clean, and was very quiet while moving, for the most part. Some operational noise cannot be avoided, such as lowering/raising the zodiacs and lifeboats. While we had a lower fwd room without balcony, that turned out to be a definite plus, as the lack of balcony gave us more room, which was entirely adequate for the two of us. The window size was fine, the rest of the ship quite accessible to all. Absolutely did not miss the lack of wi-fi and internet. Nice to get away from it all. We left as very satisfied customers, and although not inexpensive, would travel again on this small ship, avoiding the super large ships at all cost. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
This Ponant cruise greatly exceeded our expectations! We're first time cruisers and read many reviews before choosing this cruise line. We were looking for a smaller ship that would provide a more personal experience which could get ... Read More
This Ponant cruise greatly exceeded our expectations! We're first time cruisers and read many reviews before choosing this cruise line. We were looking for a smaller ship that would provide a more personal experience which could get into some of the tighter ports and avoid the crush of hundreds of other travelers with the same agenda. Embarkation was smooth. Once we cleared security at the terminal, it wasn't long before we were escorted on-board, being greeted by a smiling ship's captain and senior officers as we embarked. The Cruise Director, Kamel, and entire on-board staff we interacted with were professional, friendly, helpful and smiling. This made for a very enjoyable upbeat cruise. The ship was clean and had a very elegant feel. Each of the public areas were spacious and kept immaculate. The dining was exceptional. Whether we chose the more casual dining experience on Deck 6 or the more formal service on Level 2, the smiling staff were attentive and helpful. The food was fresh, inventive, beautifully plated and offered a variety to satisfy all tastes.We especially enjoyed the fresh fish of the day. Ponant truly delivered on its promise of 'gastonomie francaise!' There was a good choice of excursions at each port of call. Our ability to enjoy these excursions was enhanced by the on-board guest lecturers that discussed the history, geology, flora & fauna of Alaska. The zodiac excursion to the face of the Dawes Glacier and Endicott Arm was a clear trip highlight. Although this was a smaller ship with 120 staterooms, we were delighted with the quality of the nightly entertainment and hourly activities one could participate in, whether it be games for the kids, yoga, stretching, zoomba and a fitness room for the healthy-minded on-board or cozy spots in their library to curl up with a good book. Ponant also offered pre- and post-cruise travel options, which we did not participate in. We would not hesitate to travel with this company again. We're already planning our next cruise with them! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2016
The moment we stepped aboard and were personally greeted by the Captain and crew we had a feeling this was going to be a warm and enjoyable experience. We chose the Ponnant line following a recommendation from friends who said the small ... Read More
The moment we stepped aboard and were personally greeted by the Captain and crew we had a feeling this was going to be a warm and enjoyable experience. We chose the Ponnant line following a recommendation from friends who said the small size of the ship, with about 160 passengers, allowed access to places on the Inside Passage to Alaska that other larger cruise ships cant enter. This was true and we found that the size also allowed the crew to be get to know us and make us feel very welcome. Staff even greeted us by name in the corridors. Our cabin was very roomy with enough space for all our belongings.Having a private balcony was fantastic. We could choose either the formal dining or the buffet. Both were beyond our expectations. The French cuisine included traditional dishes, beautifully prepared and presented. The Inside passage from Vancouver to Juneau,Alaska has some of the most amazing scenery with different highlights every day. We enjoyed the lectures explaining the landscapes,the fauna and flora . However it would have been better to have native English speakers as the French naturalists struggled with the language. The shore excursions were well organised and with enough variety to meet most interests. I would have preferred to be able to choose the excursions prior to boarding . We are already looking forward to our next trip with Ponnant Read Less
Sail Date: June 2016
A cruise up the Inside Passage of Alaska has been on our Bucket List for many years. When we discovered that Ponant operated such cruises on their luxury, small ships, we jumped at the opportunity. Life on board was fantastic, such ... Read More
A cruise up the Inside Passage of Alaska has been on our Bucket List for many years. When we discovered that Ponant operated such cruises on their luxury, small ships, we jumped at the opportunity. Life on board was fantastic, such wonderful French influence was everywhere, from welcome aboard to departure. The cabin was very nice and the dining on Level 2 exceptional. Of course the staff were helpful and caring at all times. We really enjoyed the entertainment and lectures in the theatre. The shore excursions were all very good and in particular we enjoyed the Chilkoot Trail Hike and Float outing from Skagway. It covered some rough trails, but quite manageable. The hike leader/guide was excellent. The visit to Petersburg was very special and our group voted Haines as our favourite shore outing. At the end of the cruise we spent time in Juneau, where a visit to the Red Dog Saloon is a must! Happy to recommend this cruise. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
We joined this cruise very much under protest as we had been due to sail with Un=Cruise on one of their "tiny" ships (36 passengers) but it had engine trouble and so we were offered the alternative (cost met by Un-Cruise) of 5 ... Read More
We joined this cruise very much under protest as we had been due to sail with Un=Cruise on one of their "tiny" ships (36 passengers) but it had engine trouble and so we were offered the alternative (cost met by Un-Cruise) of 5 nights aboard L'Austral. None of us wanted a large cruise ship -anything above 500 passengers is not our scene and even the 250 passenger L'Austral seemed huge in comparison to what we had planned. However we were made very welcome on board and quickly settled into a life of luxury. Obviously with only 250 passengers the choice of activity and food is more limited than on a larger ship but we had absolutely no reason to complain. The crew were all attentive and friendly form the tender boat crew right up to the Captain and the officers were very much in evidence at all meals. The cabin so far as we were concerned was very suitable and indeed we praised its design with separate WC room and showeroom with washhand basin. Yes these 2 rooms were small but how long do you intend to spend in them! The kingsize bed was extremely comfortable, The range of shore trips was excellent in our opinion. Some had to be pre-booked days before embarkation but as the ship was not full we were able to get on all the trips we wanted to do and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The highlight of these for us was a zodiac trip close up to the Dawes glacier which calved off a huge chunk of ice just as we were about 300 metres from it with a resultant large wave. My only adverse comment would be that the swimming pool seemed quite small but frankly in Alaskan waters there was little call for it though is was exceptionally warm weather when we were there - hence the salmon run had not started and we saw no bears. However one night just as we sat down to dinner the Captain announced that we were in the the middle of a large pod of Humpback whales. He stopped the ship for about 45 minutes whilst most passengers deserted the restaurant for what was a great opportunity to view a pod of whales bubble feeding. This disruption of dinner did not faze the restaurant staff who took it in their stride. Perhaps one advantage of having only one sitting. The food and wine was fabulous as perhaps one would expect on a French ship. The restaurant was fine dining waiter service but there was a buffet facility on an upper deck which we tended to use for breakfast and lunch. No complaints there either. We were not allocated any specific table or dining companions which I find preferable. I would recommend the L'Austral to anyone who enjoys small ship cruising. The stage entertainment was perhaps a little lacking but the standard of the musicians on board and who played mostly in the bar but also on occasion in the theatre could not be faulted. 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
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
This is an amazing ship with a wonderfully helpful staff. On this particularl itinerary, there was 0% single supplement, which made sailing alone possible. Overall a wonderful trip. Dining: Food in the main dining room is over the ... Read More
This is an amazing ship with a wonderfully helpful staff. On this particularl itinerary, there was 0% single supplement, which made sailing alone possible. Overall a wonderful trip. Dining: Food in the main dining room is over the top spectacular and, as others have noted, the pastries are unbelievable. I was very happy with the included wines and spirits, but I am not knowledgeable about wine, so take that with a grain of salt. The buffet food, on the other hand, was just OK. The salads were diverse and interesting and the desserts wonderful, but, 'main courses,' were surprisingly bad -- dried out and tasteless. I ate dinner there once and never again. For breakfast, it was OK, but for lunch, much better downstairs where the salads and desserts are buffet, but the main course is off a limited, but terrific menu. Itinerary: This was a pretty typical Alaska cruise itinerary, but incredibly enhanced by the small size of the ship and the passengers first attitude of the captain. At one point, the pilot spotted a pod of humpback whales, so the captain changed course and we had half an hour or more to observe them up close -- amazing experience. On another occasion, though this was not an expedition cruise, the Zodiacs were launched for us to explore the Terror Fjord, again, up close. Such fun. We stopped at Petersburg, a small fishing village with a Norwegian history. It looks to be too small for the big ships and was nice to visit. I have cruised Alaska once before on Princess, and this l Austral experience was incomparably superior. Staff: Contrary to what some reviewers have described, I found every crew member to be helpful, responsive and not in the least, 'anglophobic,' if that's a word. It's a French ship and French is the primary language, but most all staff spoke English, some better than others and all announcements were stated in both French and English. The passengers were maybe 50/50 or 60/40 favoring English speakers, but it was not an issue at all in my experience. Excursion groups were somewhat segregated by language to facilitate the guiding process, but people always made accommodations if there happened to be an English speaker in a French speaking group, or vice versa -- happened to me once and the guide was more than helpful. The officers were very open and friendly, the captain shaking your hand as you left the ship for the final time -- a very nice touch, I thought. Excursions: I did three of the offered excursions and was very happy with all of them. In Haines, the canoe trip to the Davidson Glacier was fantastic and we were very lucky to encounter a pod of Orcas on the way there. The guides were incredible. Likewise, in Skagway, really enjoyed the two mile hike and float on the river -- beautiful sights and interesting guide. All in all, the excursions were well organized and, given the small ship, hassle free -- no long waiting in line to get off the ship and no huge buses holding 40 people to load and unload again and again. Entertainment: I thought it was OK, given the limitations of a small ship and I don't care much about production numbers anyway. There was a classical pianist who was terrific and offered a lovely concert in the theater one evening, before heading up to the bar to play popular stuff. The night before, a classical piano recital was attempted in the bar space and was frankly a disaster as there was typical bar noise and talking going on, even including a couple crew members, while others were expecting a recital atmosphere, i.e., listen and don't talk, and were very, very unhappy. Could be that the concert the next night was in response to complaints as there were many made, I'm sure. Embarkation/Disembarkation: The on boarding process was a little chaotic, seemed to me, but once on board, it was very nicely done, with a steward showing every party to it's cabin, where the luggage was waiting. Getting off the ship was a breeze, with, as mentioned, a very nice send off by the captain. In summary, I am totally sold on Ponant and would happily sail again almost anywhere one of their ships is going, so long at the 0% single supplement is available. A couple for Melbourne said that at a presentation they had attended, a Ponant representative had said that there would never be a single supplement charged -- I hope, but doubt, that's true, but if it is, sign me up. Read Less
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