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57 Ponant Antarctica Cruise Reviews

I wanted to go to Antarctica in comfort and Ponant offered an excellent 'no single supplement' deal. Le Boreal is an elegant and well maintained ship with wonderful staff. It was very annoying not to get our travel documents ... Read More
I wanted to go to Antarctica in comfort and Ponant offered an excellent 'no single supplement' deal. Le Boreal is an elegant and well maintained ship with wonderful staff. It was very annoying not to get our travel documents until 2 weeks before departure. I was stressing about the baggage limits and the timing of the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. It turned out I need not have worried as the flight was at 0830 and the baggage limit was 23kgs. Arriving in Ushuaia we were taken to the magnificent hotel Arakur for lunch and an optional walk. The amount of time at the hotel could have been halved. On Le Boreal we ate most of our meals in the main dining room on level 2 rather than the self service option on level 6. Excellent variety of well prepared food and free flowing wines. The staff remembered our preferences and I noticed them carefully 'tweaking' the dishes on offer for a couple of fussy passengers. I always had room service breakfast which was fast and my order was always correct, something that is often a problem on larger ships. Being an expedition voyage, the emphasis was on zodiac rides and landings. As I am decidedly unfit I was a bit worried about these activities. I need not have been. The expedition leader, Florence, gave detailed briefings each day and there was a good little video demonstrating how to get on and off and in and out of the zodiacs. The sailors at the marina were wonderful, assisting all passengers. Passengers were divided into groups by language, i.e. French or English with the few Germans going with German speaking naturalist. Group order was rotated each day. I did not do all the excursions on offer, choosing those I felt most comfortable with. I am not an outdoors person, so all the layers of clothing were a new experience for me. Getting kitted up to venture out was a huge effort. Underthings, thermals, next layer, waterproof pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, neck scarf, beanie and enormous red Ponant supplied parka. As my stuff was all brand new I did not have to vacuum it prior to landing on the Antarctic peninsula. The supplied boots were a hassle and the website advice to go down a size when ordering was definitely incorrect. I ended up 3 sizes larger and still had to roll the boots over at the top, so if we had had very wet landings my feet would have been wet. Something to consider if you don't have slender legs. However this is a cruise where you can enjoy the great wilderness that is Antarctica from the comfort of your ship. Iceberg and whale viewings were magnificent. Our captain slowed down when there was something to see and we spent hours sailing around an enormous tabular iceberg. All in all I loved this cruise. At sea Ponant does a very good job indeed. It was a shame therefore that it ended on a real downer. After a faultless cruise, Ponant did not excel with the return transfers and flight. Left the ship at 0900, hung around Ushuaia for 45 minutes and then queued for over 90 minutes at the airport. The LATAM flight was a disorganised mess and the service was non existent. The flight down on Air Austral was much better but I would seriously suggest organising your own way to and from the ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
From the moment we arrived at the Buenos Aries airport to board our charter flight to Ushuaia , the attention to detail with this cruise line was evident. From having boarding passes ready to go, to buses in you should wear divided by ... Read More
From the moment we arrived at the Buenos Aries airport to board our charter flight to Ushuaia , the attention to detail with this cruise line was evident. From having boarding passes ready to go, to buses in you should wear divided by language, there was nothing it was left chance. The ship was immaculate and in wonderful shape, however it pale by comparison to the genuine friendliness and graciousness of the crew. They are relaxed elegant manner in meeting guest’s requests, made it an absolute delight to be on board. As Antarctica cruise, the coordination of people in and out of zodiacs was masterful and without incident. The food was wonderfully proportioned in the main dining room and for those of preferred self service, there was a buffet on the sixth deck. The lectures from the expedition crew we're insightful, pertinent pertinent, and well delivered. The trip lived up to the value proposition of a luxury cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
This trip began in Buenos Aires with a night at the Hyatt located in Recoleta. We have sailed with Ponant previously so knew the expeditions off boat would be great. We had two trips in zodiacs each day whilst on the Antarctic peninsula, ... Read More
This trip began in Buenos Aires with a night at the Hyatt located in Recoleta. We have sailed with Ponant previously so knew the expeditions off boat would be great. We had two trips in zodiacs each day whilst on the Antarctic peninsula, one a landing and the other a zodiac trip to take photographs. All were amazing and the expedition staff were extremely knowledgeable and generous with their time. We were so lucky with the weather that all but one zodiac trip went ahead. The recap of each day allowed for questions and expanded our general knowledge of what we had seen. Attention to detail to ensure our boots were sterile before stepping ashore was reassuring in not contaminating the otherwise pristine antarctic shores. Life on board was fabulous - great food and wine (even without a drinks package) extremely comfortable cabins and fabulous service not only in restaurants and bars but also in our cabin. We were so impressed that we have booked another Ponant cruise in the Arctic in July. Read Less
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
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
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
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
Sail Date February 2019
We chose this cruise because it went to all the places we dreamed of going to. The expedition team were exceptional, very knowledgeable and made the trip forever memorable. Cruising to Falklands and South Georgia were a highlight. Captain ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to all the places we dreamed of going to. The expedition team were exceptional, very knowledgeable and made the trip forever memorable. Cruising to Falklands and South Georgia were a highlight. Captain and crew did an amazing job enabling us to land at all but one location Food was very good except never hot enough from the buffet on level 6. Many lovely desserts and great variety of French bread and cheese at all meals. One meal was spoiled by finding a piece of metal in tomato salad. Charter flight to embarkation port was standard domestic flight which took 2 hours longer than normal as it made a stop along the way. We thought the group photo was not very good and too expensive to purchase. Lectures by the naturalists were very engaging and informative. One criticism was that all announcement were made in French first and then English so sometimes it was hard to hear the English version in public areas as the French speakers talked over it. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
Antarctica 2019 -What am amazing trip. The ship and the crew where Wonderfull. From the start, Ponant picked us at the airport - took care of all our luggage and bought it right to our room. Friendly greeting by the Captain, and ... Read More
Antarctica 2019 -What am amazing trip. The ship and the crew where Wonderfull. From the start, Ponant picked us at the airport - took care of all our luggage and bought it right to our room. Friendly greeting by the Captain, and cocktails waiting when you arrived on board. The expedition team- was amazing, friendly, knowledgable and top notch. The expedition team is really what made this already amazing trip to Antarctica even better. They where such a great group that made sure every day you knew what you were doing and ran every excursion smoothly. We had a recap every day of what we did, what we saw and what to expect the next day. We had great educational lectures, about the animals, landscape and facts about Antarctica. I just can not say enough about the expedition team we had. Whale Watching - When ever we would spot Whales, the Captain would stop the ship and circle around and whale watch. You felt like you where on a whale watching trip. They Bridge and the expedition team, made sure you had the full Antarctica experience. This is defiantly one of the great perks on being on a small ship. The Ship was lovely, and spotless. The rooms where clean and you had amazing view everyday. The food was fantastic, the desserts where amazing. Wow!! So much great French Cheese. Over all, the ship was run first class, you never had to worry about anything. Everything and anything was taken care of. Tips - Bring extra face cream and variety of creams (my face got very dry and wind blown) Dress Code - I stressed over what to bring for dinners and the 2 Captains dinner. They 2 more formal nights (are optional). Men: Sports Jackets / Suites. Women in cocktail dresses, some more casual dressed then other and some much more formal. The formal night defiantly had a wide range of styles. Some ladies had slacks, and accessorized. I had a nice sweater dress, necklace and earnings. Heals or flats worked. Other nights, I would wear black fitted slacks and pretty blouses. I suggest pack a few nice pieces. Over all the ship was warm and comfortable , so you do not need heavy clothes for dinner. Always nice to have layers and a sweater if you had to run out to the decks to see a whale or an amazing Ice Berg. I would go back on Ponant Cruise and most defiantly go back to Antarctica - it was spectacular. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
The staff on board Le Soleal were fabulous and always available to help. The ship itself was of a high standard with plenty of creature comforts. We were in a PR Deck 6 Cabin which was allocated from a Deluxe Guarantee Cabin and it was the ... Read More
The staff on board Le Soleal were fabulous and always available to help. The ship itself was of a high standard with plenty of creature comforts. We were in a PR Deck 6 Cabin which was allocated from a Deluxe Guarantee Cabin and it was the perfect position on Deck 6 being close by to the casual dining (buffet) area at the front and the bar / lounge at the back, both with observation decks. The cabin itself is spacious with large window doors opening to the balcony, very comfortable for the 11 days. Exceptional service on board from all staff including the expedition crew who were very knowledgeable, each with their own area of expertise. The wildlife and scenery in the Weddell Sea and on the Antarctic Peninsula was incredible and i believe the expedition staff and captain picked great landing spots throughout based on both of these. The only concern i have is that the 'charter' flight are not always chartered. The one from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia was a commercial flight where we had to check ourselves in with no real instructions on if we should just proceed or do this as a group. The airline (AR) was unaware of any group (because it was a commercial flight and not charter) and therefore didn't know anything about the 'voucher' which was provided by Ponant as the info on the flights. The 'voucher' stated luggage was 1pc 23kgs however AR only accept 15kgs so we had to pay for the excess luggage amount from the 15-23kgs which was extremely disappointing since those who had the 'charter' flight earlier that day would have checked in as a group and not had this issue in anyway. Coming back we had the actual charter flight while others would have been on the commercial one where they were not getting their bags transferred together and instead had to do this themselves as well as checking in etc which is disappointing when everyone believes they are paying for charter flights where the cost IS much higher then the normal commercial flights and instead they are on commercial anyway with no real instructions. Otherwise i do highly recommend if you are looking for a deluxe all inclusive Antarctica Cruise that Ponant for the cruising portion is a great option. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
I enjoyed everything on this cruise. Everything went really well and smoothly, from embarkation to disembarkation, there were no problems, delays or issues with anything. We choose the pre-cruise package and it was great because ... Read More
I enjoyed everything on this cruise. Everything went really well and smoothly, from embarkation to disembarkation, there were no problems, delays or issues with anything. We choose the pre-cruise package and it was great because everything was organised and we were able to meet some of the passengers the day before the cruise started. The ship is very confortable and the common areas and the cabin were in very good conditions, the decor is lovely and looks like new. The cabin was really comfortable, very warm and had everything we needed - it is not very spacious, but had everything needed - the towels were super fluffy! Food and drink were excellent, and there was a lot of variety everyday. The daily schedule was really well organised, and between landings, lectures and briefings we were kept busy. The destination is truly incredible and difficult to describe, and the captain and expedition leader took every opportunity to make the most of it. Read Less
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
Sail Date January 2019
I chose Ponant to travel to the Antarctic as it offered the longest amount time that I would be on board. And I really liked the pleasant look and design of the Ponant vessels. I was also impressed with the locations that we were ... Read More
I chose Ponant to travel to the Antarctic as it offered the longest amount time that I would be on board. And I really liked the pleasant look and design of the Ponant vessels. I was also impressed with the locations that we were intending to visit. But unfortunately things happened that was well below satisfactory. And the voyage ended up almost being a total disaster. The ship had been damaged on a previous voyage and basically was not ready for any passenger on the designated time. When we finally boarded at around 2300 hr, nearly one and half days late. And apart from ridiculous hour of the day, the crew were very pleasant and they tried hard to make us all welcome. As the voyage was my second one with Ponant, I was very happy with the cleanliness and décor of the vessel. Both of the restaurants were open so we all could have a meal. But because of the hour I went straight to my cabin. Which was the same as the Le Boreal. Very comfortable, quiet and clean. As I was travelling by myself I found the cabin exceptionally good. So the first night was spent along side the wharf as the ship needed fuel. We finally left the port of Concepcion at just before lunch the following day. So now we all had 4 days travelling down the west coast of Chile instead of leaving from Ushuaia, which is at the bottom of Sth America, where we should have left from. But I have to say the dinning and the choice of food, along with the crew were all fabulous. With the vast majority of the crew being very pleasant and made us all feel very welcome. So I was trying hard to see the glass half full rather than half empty which helped me enjoy the company of some great people from a number of countries around the world. We also enjoyed the enthusiasm of the expedition team with their great lectures on a number of topics. But when we finally arrived at Cape Horn we had basically lost nearly six days of our voyage. And because of this, the time lost had to be made up somewhere else. While we were all offered 35% refund on our fair. That did not replace the hurt and disappointment that we all experienced by firstly only having less than 24 hours at the Falkland Islands. And we also missed out on going to the South Georgia Isl.,all together. But when we finally arrived on the Antarctic Peninsula the weather was perfect for the days we were there. That part of the trip was fabulous and was everything I expected the Antarctic to be like. But then it started going wrong again because of the inexperience of some of the expedition crew, and unfortunately the arrogance of the expedition leader himself. On our first shore landing on the RIB ( zodiac ) which I was on, was nearly tipped over when making the approach to the shore. The inexperience of the RIB driver ( coxswain ) was being directed by the expedition leader on the shore. This stupidity caused the RIB to nearly tip over, and flinging two passengers into the water, one under the zodiac, and the other 8 passengers nearly going in as well. Luckily the 2 men that went into the water managed to recover and scramble out of the water to the shore. But the disbelief didn't stop there. The ships captain and ponant did not conduct any investigation into the near miss drowning. Which they are meant to do under IMO regulation. To our disappointment, they also refused to discuss the incident with anybody. Which we only wanted to contribute something to maybe help them put things in place to help prevent it ever happening again. I am very disappointed in the voyage as a whole and the arrogance of the Ponant. As I have written. The only thing that made my voyage enjoyable. Was the great crew. The very good dinning with a good amount of choice of food in the two very good restaurants. And the fact that we got fantastic weather while we were in the Antarctic Peninsula.The disembarkation for me went perfectly. As I was staying in Ushuaia for an extra two days. I had booked my own private driver. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Christmas and New Year in Southern Lands From December 20th 2018 to January 05th 2019 After reading information on your site about other travelers' experiences we felt that we should share our experience of traveling with ... Read More
Christmas and New Year in Southern Lands From December 20th 2018 to January 05th 2019 After reading information on your site about other travelers' experiences we felt that we should share our experience of traveling with Ponant. 1. The issues began before we boarded the ship. We live in Perth, West Australia and booked a pre-cruise tour to Patagonia with Ponant and also the cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic. We left Perth on 9th December 2018 and flew for approximately 20 hours to Buenos Aires. This was 12 days before we were due to board the ship Le Soleal. At 0139 am on Friday 14 December in Buenos Aires we were woken by an sms telling us that there was going to be a "very big itinerary change" to our cruise. Basically the cruise was still going, however after an “issue” a couple of weeks earlier, the ship would be departing from Talcahuano in Chile. Ponant had chartered a flight from Buenos Aires to Concepcion and then a coach transfer to Talcahuano to join the ship. As well, the cruise would miss the stopover in the Falkland Islands on the 22nd December and South Georgia for the 25th to 27th December, would be mainly on the Antarctica Peninsula and would be having the two tours from the ship per day. We were offered a 4 day pro rata refund per person if we continued, or a full refund of the cruise and associated costs if we wanted to come home. After receiving this sms in the middle of the night prior to leaving for Iguazu Falls early that morning, we went on line to try find out the nature of the “issue” with the ship. We discovered that the ship had sustained significant underwater damage a month previously and had only recently arrived at Talcahuano. This meant that the damage to the ship had happened before we had left West Australia. As we had been able to find out some of the details of the incident we were concerned as to the viability of the cruise going forward as originally advertised and so we contacted Ponant in France. The person we spoke to was surprised that we knew about the changes to the ships’ schedule. Ponant’s only advice was that we should keep in touch with our travel agent. We continued with our holiday but at the same time we were in daily communication with our travel agent as we moved to Iguazu Falls and then back to Buenos Aires. Our travel agent was in communication with Ponant in Sydney who had been told that France had been working on developing an enhanced itinerary for guests traveling from Chile to Antarctica. Ponant in Sydney wrote that this would be an expedition cruise so therefore they were assuming that there would be wonderful expedition opportunities in the Chilean Fjords before then spending more time in the Antarctic Peninsula (7-8 Days) and then 3 days cruising back to Ushuaia. We were communicating with our travel agent in West Australia late at night and we began to feel increasingly worried and exhausted on what was meant to be a holiday. On arrival back in Buenos Aires we were hopeful of more direct information from Ponant because we were then on their organised pre-tour. None of their agents in either Buenos Aires or in Patagonia knew anything. The Patagonian pre-tour was wonderful. The agents and the hotels were excellent. On the night of the 17th December we rang Ponant’s office in Sydney, Australia and asked them specifically whether or not the ship was back in the water, had undertaken trials and had been passed back into survey. We were answered “yes” to each of these questions. On the basis of this we decided to continue with the cruise. The confirmation of the ship being in the water ready for embarkation was advised to our travel agent by Ponant’s Sydney office on the 19th December. In Calafate, Patagonia, we were told by the Ponant agent that we would be flying to Buenos Aires on the morning of the 20th December and changing planes for a charter flight to Concepcion where we would be bused to Talcahuno to join the ship. On the charter flight on the 20th December we were advised that we would be landing at Santiago to clear customs and quarantine before continuing the flight to Concepcion where we would now be staying overnight at a hotel as the ship was still in dry dock. The information from Ponant had changed yet again. Clearing customs in Santiago was a nightmare. It was the height of the holiday season, we were a group made up of different nationalities, most of whom did not know one another, and despite the best efforts by a very overwrought young man acting on Ponant’s behalf, most of us managed to get lost in the airport and its seemingly endless and chaotic queues. With the help of airport staff we eventually managed to find each other again and to help each other as much as we could. Most of the group were older, were overwrought, suffering from dehydration and very tired. In circumstances such as these, rumours abound and in this situation it was no different. No one really knew what was happening but everyone had an opinion. On arrival at Concepcion buses were provided to ferry us to the hotels. We were in the group to stay at the Aton and on our bus a local courier with no English attempted to advise us of the procedures on arrival at the hotel. One of the group who understood some Spanish relayed the basics of what was happening to the rest of us, but the English speakers did not really know what was going on. If a representative from Ponant had met us at the airport and explained what was happening so that everyone could understand, the ensuing chaos, at the end of a trying day, could have been prevented. The buses pulled up in a street near the entrance to the hotel. Unfortunately the street was on a hill and the passengers had to take their luggage themselves and carry or wheel it across the road, along an entrance driveway which was cobbled and up steps into the hotel entrance. A number of the passengers were elderly or incapacitated. Some of the able bodied passengers helped those who were not. Others just walked away and did not help. The bus driver and the courier did their best. It was chaotic, with runaway luggage heading down the hill and panicking owners trying to control their bags. On entering the foyer of the hotel we found the Ponant Expedition Team waiting for our arrival. Their welcoming assistance would have been far more appreciated had they waited for us at the kerbside or at the airport. The hotel was unaccustomed to such an influx of guests at one time but rose to the occasion magnificently and continued their amazingly high level of service throughout our stay. I can thoroughly recommend the Aton Hotel in Concepcion, Chile. That night at dinner we were told by the Captain that the ship would come out of dry dock in the early hours of the morning, would undertake trials, and would be ready for us to join after breakfast in the morning. This was certainly different information than we had been told by Ponant in Sydney thee days earlier. They had told us that the ship was in the water and ready to go. We were asked to hand in our passports to the Cruise Director but by now a number of people had decided not to continue with the cruise. As a result of the dissatisfaction being shown by the passengers the Cruise Director became increasingly frustrated and was increasingly failing to keep a pleasant demeanour towards the passengers. By the time my husband and I reached the head of the queue, we were told in no uncertain terms we had to make up our mind there and then whether of not we were going to continue with the cruise because once we had handed our passports in, we would not be getting them back. Of course he could not do this, but it made for a rather uncomfortable situation and an unsettled night’s sleep. We were worried by what appeared to be an unprofessional attitude projected by an inexperienced and disorganised staff. At breakfast we were advised of a city tour in the morning, followed by lunch at the hotel and to have our bags ready after that in order to join the ship. A small group of us, three Australians and five French, decided to order two taxis and go down to the docks in Talcahuana to see over the 19th century iron clad ship the Huascar. To our surprise we could see the Ponant ship Le Soleal still in the dock. This was certainly not what we had been lead to believe the night before. At lunch, back in the hotel, we were again told to have our bags ready to be taken down to the ship and that this would happen while we were taken on a coach tour of the area before joining the ship at around 7 pm that evening. We were told that the ship was going to conduct sea trials that night while we were all on board, that it would sail in the early hours of the morning and that they were planning on 5 and a half days sea time to the Antarctic traveling at 15 knots. By now the gossip and rumour had started about the different compensation packages that people had been offered. Each "offer" seemed to be different. On the afternoon tour we visited a beach, a museum and the museum garden. It was interesting, well organised and handled professionally by a very good driver and an excellent courier. However as it stretched into the evening we became increasingly worried about what was happening and were becoming tired and hungry. We stopped at a café where one of the Expedition Team used his own money to buy us food and drinks, and then later we all queued at a service station near the docks in order to use the toilets. We finally embarked at 9.30pm. During the course of this day a number of people decided to leave the cruise and people were still deciding to leave right up to the time that we arrived at the dock gates. As a result, by the time we embarked the cruise was by no means full. After sea trials that night we returned to the dockside and were alongside when we woke. We fueled in morning and finally sailed at 11am on the 22nd of December, two days late. By this time what had begun as a wonderful holiday in South America and the Antarctic was rapidly turning into a nightmare of exhaustion and uncertainty. We had decided to stay with the cruise because we were a long way from home and to get back we would have had to go across South America to Buenos Aires at the height of the holiday season and then fly back to the west coast of Australia right on Christmas. We had made and paid for all the arrangements for the care of our home, garden and animals. We had invested in the appropriate clothing for Antarctic, clothing which would never be worn in our home town. One of my dreams had been to visit the Antarctic and we had been promised that we would be sailing straight down to spend as much time there as possible. 2. The Cruise The problem now was that we were not only two days late sailing, but also that we were sailing from Talcahuana, half way up the coast of Chile, and not from Ushuaia at the tip of South America. Quite obviously this meant that we could not complete our original cruise, but what it did mean was continued discussion and the spreading of rumours about exactly where we were going. It became increasingly apparent that the information we had been given about sailing from Chile to Antarctica (approximately 4 – 5 days) and optimising our time in the Antarctic (7 – 8 days) was not going to happen. But by the time this became apparent we were on board and steaming down the coast of Chile. Two days into the cruise our itinerary was confirmed as being to the Falklands and then to the Antarctic. It was a great pity that we had only one afternoon and one morning in the Falklands, and that we had only 4 days in Antarctica. All the rest were at sea. This was not what we had hoped for when we planned this holiday. Also, this was not what we thought we had accepted on the basis of maximising our time in Antarctica on what ended up being 14 full days on board ship. We could have had 8 meaningful days in Antarctica, but we did not. However it was fortunate that we had excellent weather throughout enabling full use to be made of the time that we did have in the Falklands and in Antarctica. 3. Other Issues: An accident at a landing site in the Antarctic meant that two men fell out of and underneath a zodiac. They were freezing cold, wet, battered, bruised and shocked but were not injured in a serious way, perhaps because they were more run over by the zodiac than dunked in the water, their lifejackets did not deploy. Before the next trip by zodiac the crew, upon request, demonstrated that the lifejackets would inflate when immersed in water. It was unfortunate that the two men in the accident felt that their efforts to express their dismay to the Captain were not recognised in a serious and professional manner. This lead to more gossip, rumours and unease amongst the passengers. It was disconcerting to find on the third to last day of the cruise that when the fast rescue boat had been retrieved on board, the brake control wire had left its drum and overwrapped the main falls. This situation could impede safe launching if not noticed beforehand. The situation was pointed out to ship’s staff but the wires were still in the same condition when we arrived in Ushuaia. Some passengers had looked forward to sea kayaking in the Antarctic. There were kayaks stored on board and the opportunity to kayak had been advertised as part of the cruise. The interested passengers were told that there was no one on board qualified to supervise the use of the kayaks and that therefore they would not be launched. This did not make people feel any happier with Ponant. The attitude of the Cruise Director was patronising and unhelpful. He appeared to be out of his depth. The Expedition Director was capable but arrogant and did not cater for those of us who were interested in the overall history of the area although there was one excellent lecture by one of the team on Shackelton’s Expedition. Personally I was deeply disappointed at being unable to visit South Georgia. Despite being advertised as a luxury cruise, it was not. Our cabin was one which could be combined with another to make a suite. The door between the two was locked but unfortunately there was a hole through which wind whistled. The ship was not full and there was no one on either side of us, so we were not overly concerned. The entry passage in the cabin was so narrow that if the wardrobe doors were open the bathroom door could not be opened and vice versa. It made for uncomfortable clashes from time to time. The cabins were definitely not large. We had no trouble with our toilet, but others did have issues with sewage backing up. From talking with other passengers it soon became apparent that different people had been offered different compensation packages. This did not make for a contented group of people. The charter flight at the end from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires was cramped and extremely uncomfortable. 4. Good points. The accommodation and the ship in general was extremely comfortable. The beds were large, the linen of good quality and changed regularly. There was a plentiful supply of clean, fluffy towels at least twice a day. There was a plentiful supply of Hermes cosmetics. The complimentary bar fridge in the cabin was fully restocked every day. The cabin staff, the bar staff and the restaurant staff were excellent. They could not do enough for us. Nothing seemed to upset them. Nothing was too much trouble. They did everything they could to accommodate our needs and our wishes. They were professionals. They should be proud of their work on this cruise. Having an open bridge was interesting, specially when navigating in confined areas. The members of the multinational Expedition Team were very good, very helpful and very kind. The one time that I fell over on the ice they were there in an instant to help. When I had trouble walking down a steep track in the ice, one of them walked down backwards in front of me, encouraging me to have confidence and to keep going by myself, instead of being manually helped down. There was an excellent classically trained pianist on the staff. The food was very good indeed in both restaurants although I preferred the informality and open ambiance of the restaurant on Deck 6. Although embarkation had been a nightmare, disembarkation was swift and efficient. 5. Conclusion There were three distinct groups of passengers on the ship, divided by ethnicity, and there seemed to be no one in the hierarchy on board skilled enough to bring these three small groups of people together. There was some cross-over communication and we made friends in each group, but on the whole this did not happen. This lead to a certain amount of suspicion and gossip that one group was being offered a better “deal” than the others and unfortunately did not make for a collegial atmosphere. This is perhaps the crux of the whole issue with the cruise. Everyone was in some way disappointed. The group as a whole did not “gel”. The hierarchy on board did not seem to have the skills to make it all work. Throughout there was continued discussion amongst the passengers about their dissatisfaction with the cruise and with Ponant. It was not a happy ship. From our personal point of view the main issue was the disconnect between the reality of what had happened with the ship and the communications we received from Ponant. Openess and transparency in communication would have been appreciated and would have enabled each of us to have made more informed decisions. On the 24th of December we were all offered a refund of 35% of the price of our cruise, an on board credit of Euros 500 per cabin, 25% off our next trip with Ponant and 50% off any Ponant cruise calling at South Georgia and departing within the next 3 years. This is a fair and generous offer. It is unfortuate that we are still being told of people having been offered and having accepted more generous offers. I returned home and immediately came down with shingles which is why I have only now been able to write this report. At this moment I find it hard to imagine ever planning another holiday that in any way involved Ponant. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
For a long time I have wanted to visit Antarctica and it was a privilege to be one of comparatively few people who have visited the white continent. Friends talked us into taking a cruise which took in South Georgia and its penguin ... Read More
For a long time I have wanted to visit Antarctica and it was a privilege to be one of comparatively few people who have visited the white continent. Friends talked us into taking a cruise which took in South Georgia and its penguin colonies are amazing. We also visited western Falklands but I wouldn't recommend it as has been too heavily farmed and the wildlife compared with South Georgia is not in the same league and it made for additional days at sea. We chose Ponant due to its reputation and competitive price. Le Boreal is a sleek but sturdy ship. The cabin was comfortable and the food excellent. It is mildly annoying to have every announcement in French then English. Luckily I can understand the former so was able to tune out the second time around. Very professional crew and experienced and charming captain. The naturalists were good in their own field of expertise but generally weak on other areas. Other activities such as daily quizzes, yoga and Zumba were well received. When the sea was calm the theatre show was very good and the entertainers in both bars were also accomplished, especially the pianist Asenili. I would visit Antarctica again, but next time with a fly/cruise. If the price and itinerary were right, I would travel with Ponant again. Read Less
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
Sail Date December 2018
I chose this trip because it offered 3 stops on South Georgia Island weather dependant and I felt there was a chance of at least getting one stop. As it happened we had five on shore excursions, one Zodiac cruise around a bay and another ... Read More
I chose this trip because it offered 3 stops on South Georgia Island weather dependant and I felt there was a chance of at least getting one stop. As it happened we had five on shore excursions, one Zodiac cruise around a bay and another ship cruise down a Fjord so that exceeded my expectations. I loved a lot of things about the ship, and the customer service was exceptionally good. However there was room for improvement and I noted a few ideas on my evaluation form. It is essential I say that the trip exceeded my expectations in more ways that I could ever have anticipated. My nit-picking centred around the following items: I expected more lectures would be scheduled and that lectures would be presented by seasoned experts; I wished for inexpensive and ‘on tap’ internet access; French food, as offered, was a limited cuisine and I wished for flavours such as those from Asia, the Middle East and Africa; occasionally foods were overcooked and inedible (but there was always more to choose from); the staff didn’t understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian; and the free Antarctic jackets were badly designed with unshielded pockets so rain soaked into them. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We had done an Antarctic Cruise with Ponant before and wanted to revisit St Georgia and break new ground on Tristan and open sea cruising. The ship was well decked out and comfortable even in rough weather. Food was disappointing at ... Read More
We had done an Antarctic Cruise with Ponant before and wanted to revisit St Georgia and break new ground on Tristan and open sea cruising. The ship was well decked out and comfortable even in rough weather. Food was disappointing at times but understand that there was no real replenishment available. The passenger list were mainly French (to be expected) and at times we (Australian) felt a bit left out on activities and service. The butler service was ordinary - previous trips had better butlers. Land expeditions were very good to excellent especially St Georgia and Tristan. Weather at times made life a bit difficult but at all times we felt safe and secure during transfers with the one exception at Tristan. Staff in general were courteous but not particularly friendly. The expedition leaders were good and had good knowledge on their subjects with a couple of exceptions. Our previous trip to St Georgia was a A&K cruise and we felt they had better leaders. All in all a very good trip Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Ponant people were at the airport the plane to ushuaia and there for all of us on the tour to antarctica it was very easy to get where i was going not being with a group as i was a single person on the tour. Once we got on the ship the ... Read More
Ponant people were at the airport the plane to ushuaia and there for all of us on the tour to antarctica it was very easy to get where i was going not being with a group as i was a single person on the tour. Once we got on the ship the cabin was great with a balcony which was great i saw many whales seals and dolphins of of my balcony . the on shore tours were great and i had a great time meeting new people and having meals in the great dining rooms on the ship.the service on the ship especially the dining rooms were excellent . The lectures were also excellent as they were given by people who were passionately and excited about telling us about what we were about to see . the drake passage was a little rough but the ships crew did a great job of keeping it to a minimum . ALL IN ALL EXCELLENT Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We wanted a more luxurious cruise than a standard converted ice breaker could offer and we were not disappointed. We were also attracted to the follow on cruise offered by Ponant from Ushuaia to Cape Town via the Falkland Islands, South ... Read More
We wanted a more luxurious cruise than a standard converted ice breaker could offer and we were not disappointed. We were also attracted to the follow on cruise offered by Ponant from Ushuaia to Cape Town via the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Tristan da Cunha archipelago. To say it in a few short words, just outstanding! One factor on our cruise needs a special mention that has contributed a great deal to this outstanding success: our Capt Etienne Garcia. Being in charge of both Cruises he showed an enthusiastism and eagerness to inform us about wildlife sightings which was electrifying to the entire ship and crew. The policy of an open bridge for all in times of simple cruising created an atmosphere of one happy group of lucky people being able and privileged to experience such a unique landscape first hand. Well done and a big thank you to all Crew and expedition members for an excellent job done in a professional and caring manner. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
this cruise was part of an APT tour to Antartica. A trip of a lifetime. Having read some of the reviews of Le Lyrial I feel the need to set the record straight. The ship is fantastic its Captain Erwan La Rouzic and Crew were extremely ... Read More
this cruise was part of an APT tour to Antartica. A trip of a lifetime. Having read some of the reviews of Le Lyrial I feel the need to set the record straight. The ship is fantastic its Captain Erwan La Rouzic and Crew were extremely professional and certainly helped make the voyage a wonderful experience. The design of the ship made crossing the renowned Drake passage a much more comfortable experience than I thought it would be. The cabins were very well designed and the housekeeping staff did a very good job. The Expedition crew went above and beyond to grab every opportunity for the passengers to experience the real Antartica. Their knowledge and pure excitement when we found whales and seals and penguins certainly made for a great time.The zodiac and shore excursions were fantastic. The dining experience on board could not of been better being a bit of a foodie I am pretty fussy but the food did not disappoint and the wines served with every meal were more than acceptable. We had never heard of the Ponant Line before but it will not be the last time we travel with them. Not being a fan of large cruise ships the size is a great advantage, and they go to places a lot of other cruise ships don't go. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
What a privilege it was to experience Antarctica. The Antarctic peninsula we explored was so magical and beautiful. Ponant offered and provided an experience of a lifetime. Everything was well organised from picking us up at our BA ... Read More
What a privilege it was to experience Antarctica. The Antarctic peninsula we explored was so magical and beautiful. Ponant offered and provided an experience of a lifetime. Everything was well organised from picking us up at our BA hotel, and on check in at Buenos Aires airport to our arrival in Ushuaia and embarkation to our ship. From our Captain of Le Boreal, Christophe Colaris and his crew, and to the expedition leader, Klemens Putz and his team, you all made it wonderful for us. From the lectures/talks given by the expedition team to the zodicac outings as well as land expeditions, all were enormously enjoyable. Safety being a priority on all these expeditions. The Le Boreal crew all looked after us extremely well. Our cabin steward was friendly and efficient; the bar and restaurant staff attentive to our requirements and the food, très bon. This is our second expedition cruise with Ponant. Once again safety, comfort and attention to detail are requirements for us and Ponant do these well. The champagne bar on an ice floe capped off an incredible cruise expedition. We have been more than enthusiastic in recommending Ponant and especially this area of the world to our friends. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We chose this cruise because of the lines reputation and the size of the ship.I fel that the naturalists were optimistic in their rating of some of the excursions. They tend to forget that we were all quite a lot older than them and what ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the lines reputation and the size of the ship.I fel that the naturalists were optimistic in their rating of some of the excursions. They tend to forget that we were all quite a lot older than them and what is easy to mild to them is not to people over 55. But Antarctica was wonderful and hard to describe to people just how magnificent it is. The size of the ship helped in that everywhere we went was acessable. Embarkation and disembarkation was well organised as were the excursions. In particular I would give special praise to the restaurant staff. They were exceptional with their service, especially Teddy, Yogi and Baptiste. Food was exceptional and after 15-16 days it was still as fresh as when we started. With regards to the entertainment, maybe a little less electronic backing music and just the singers themselves, as they all had good voices without having to rely on electronic backing. William was an excellent entertainment officer and his piano playing was terrific, also his knowledge of the different music genres. I would recommend Ponant to anyone who will listen. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Beyond the polar circle expedition trip of 16 nights with Ponant Soleal including the Falkland and South Georgia Islands will always remain in our memories for life. Landscapes still intact and wild life of birds, penguins, seals, ... Read More
Beyond the polar circle expedition trip of 16 nights with Ponant Soleal including the Falkland and South Georgia Islands will always remain in our memories for life. Landscapes still intact and wild life of birds, penguins, seals, whales, and icebergs, sea ice, and mountains of Antarctica were no where found and still very much untouched by humans makes this expedition very unique of its kind. Ponant staff overall were very friendly and very service oriented deserve to be appreciated. Naturalists were young, multilingual, motivated, and , very knowledgeable and did a fantastic job with landings and preparing the land itineraries with poles and presence everywhere if you needed them. We had the cabin 603 deluxe suite and it was comfortable although the toilet we a bit small. Internet connection was not the best although it had to be purchased separately but we were warned about the connection. Overall, I would rate this expedition trip with Ponant high, 4.5 on a scale of 5. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
We were very, very happy with our cruise. Our travel agent had recommended Ponant, in US we don't hear a lot about it. At least with the multiple brochures we receive I had not gotten anything from this amazing cruise line. Going to ... Read More
We were very, very happy with our cruise. Our travel agent had recommended Ponant, in US we don't hear a lot about it. At least with the multiple brochures we receive I had not gotten anything from this amazing cruise line. Going to the Antartica was my dream. Going first to South Georgia and Falklands was a very important part of the trip. The ship was lovely. Never a worry about being bored, hungry or thirsty. And just when I thought I was being spoiled as can be, the staff provided a new surprise like champagne and French macaroons served on an iceberg. This a cruise like no other. As the captain (who was wonderful) reminded passengers, the show is outside. You come for the penguins and fall in love with the ice. So if you like penguins, whales, seals, sea birds and ice and the most breathtaking scenery ever. this is the ultimate destination. I feel it was like another world. However, all good Antartica cruises will see what nature offers. I feel Ponant created the perfect cruise to let it happen. So if you like excellent food (too much for me), perfect service, nice entertainment and a comfortable ship Ponant has it all. We had a basic cabin and it was very functional. Small, but that comes with being an expedition ship. The zodiacs were very well run and I felt very safe. The naturalists were excellent. They went out of their way to be helpful. Each seemed to have their own niche. Also, impressed with the fact most of them were able to communicate in both French (French, first, it is a French line) and English. My only criticism is I would have liked availability of field guides for birds and mammals. I hadn't brought any because I assumed they would be available on the ship. As a bonus, we met very lovely people from Australia, England and US. What I would do different--bring less stuff and upgrade flight between B.A. and Ursula to Economy plus (ship provides basic economy). When I say bring less stuff, I am glad I included some nice dinner outfits because Europeans tend to dress nicely. My husband was happy that there was no "formal" night however. Be sure to buy the CD. The photographers were great. It's hard to take a bad penguin picture but the professional video is a great memory. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
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