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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2019
Having never heard of Ponant, we chose this cruise because it did a circumnavigation of Iceland which is what we wanted. The ship was extremely clean, comfortable, and well laid-out. Embarkation from a small port outside of Reykjavik was ... Read More
Having never heard of Ponant, we chose this cruise because it did a circumnavigation of Iceland which is what we wanted. The ship was extremely clean, comfortable, and well laid-out. Embarkation from a small port outside of Reykjavik was a breeze (as was disembarkation). Captain Etienne Garcia was terrific - his enthusiasm for the immense beauty of Iceland came through in every message from him and he made sure no one on board missed a whale sighting or any other special event. Food service was in one of two rooms - on Deck 6 was a buffet-at-all-meals room that opened on to the deck which had additional seating. Weather during our cruise was wonderful so we could often eat on the deck which was delightful. Food was good and daily choices varied enough to keep us interested. The drinks-included selections were excellent and the pouring wine was very good. Other food option was a white-tablecloth dining room on Deck 2 with no outdoor access. We learned that it served the same food but with dinner served (not buffet). We did not choose that option. Excursions were very good and organization of everything on the ship was perfect. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
The cruise was to sail through the Northwest Passage, however there was too much ice so spent the majority of the time on the west coast of Greenland with some time in Canadian waters. The captain made the correct call about not proceeding ... Read More
The cruise was to sail through the Northwest Passage, however there was too much ice so spent the majority of the time on the west coast of Greenland with some time in Canadian waters. The captain made the correct call about not proceeding through the Passage judging by the ice in Bellot Strait and the ice maps for Alaska, so no problem with this. The Canadian icebreaker service was very good, but unfortunately the US does not provide such a service in their waters. The main problems were that some food types ran out after about a week into the cruise, such as no french fries! Also the meals tended to become somewhat repetitious and the lack of variety in vegetables was telling. OK we were in Arctic waters but the provisioning left a bit to be desired. The wine selection was better than we experienced on our Antarctica cruise on the same ship in February-March 2018, but the cheese selection was worse; much better earlier in the year. A lot of the supposedly soft cheeses on this cruise were not "ripe" and were dry in the middle. Also they ran out of draft beer plus some liqueurs. Some provisions were able to be topped up in Greenland but probably to the detriment of the locals as the supermarket was "raided" in a small community. Service in the main restaurant depended on where you sat as some staff were excellent whereas others were barely average, so didn't appear to be able to cope with a busy restaurant. Overall the cruise was better than average, but not good enough to rate as very good due to the onboard problems. The ship's officers were very good as were the expedition staff, the problem was more with the catering and restaurant area. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our first cruise with Ponant - and might I add it will probably be the last - and we were very much looking forward to cruising the North West Passage especially as we had booked two years ago and have read a lot of media about ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Ponant - and might I add it will probably be the last - and we were very much looking forward to cruising the North West Passage especially as we had booked two years ago and have read a lot of media about Ponant, the Company and the special voyages offered. There is no doubt there has been a huge media campaign to encourage Australians to participate in the various itineraries. First of all there was the debacle of the charter flight - or lack of - at the very start. We were made aware of the change in plans just before we left Australia and so we made arrangements to stay an extra night at our hotel in Paris instead of staying at the airport as the flight was scheduled for late afternoon. The fact that Ponant could not organise a direct charter flight Paris/Kangerlussuaq for all passengers beggars belief. Once at the airport we were given to understand that we would be assisted by Ponant representatives to ensure a smooth check-in. This was not the case. The signage at the airport was insignificant and there were two lines in order to have names checked off. One line was for the French passengers and the other for the Australian/English speaking passengers. This was not a good start. Once names were given we were told to go to the check-in counter which we did and after that we went to the departure gate to await the flight. No one assisted us and no one made themselves known or ensured everyone was content which is surely what a Rep would do if only for the PR exercise. Once the flight was called we were herded onto a bus - French passengers went somewhere else. The bus took us to the aircraft but instead of disembarking we were kept closed up in the bus with no air on a very hot afternoon for quite some time. Several passengers became irate and demanded that the doors be opened. Once on the aircraft we were told that not all baggage could be loaded so the Captain asked if we would agree to him placing the bags in a locked toilet, which meant that only one toilet was operational during the flight. Other bags were placed in empty seats with seatbelts around them! This is hardly what is expected on a very expensive 5 star trip. Once in Copenhagen, again, we were not met but told we had to collect bags and re-check for the flight to Kangerlussuaq. I finally found a Ponant representative hiding under a stairwell with a small sign and asked which gate we had to go to. No assistance whatsoever was given to any of us. It appeared that French passengers were given priority on the aircraft (they were in business class) and on arrival in Greenland they were the first off and onto a bus to the port. The rest of us managed - again without advice or assistance - and found our own way to one of the waiting buses. There was then a long wait (in the dark and it was cold) for the tender to make several trips. We finally boarded the ship around midnight which was equivalent to 4 am in Paris where we started. Throughout the cruise there was a definite feeling of separation between the French speaking and English speaking passengers. It was almost a feeling of resentment on the part of the French that they were not in the majority. I personally felt sad about this as I speak French and have many French friends having lived in the country years ago. The reality that we could not go through the Northwest Passage caused a lot of dismay. There were a lot of disgruntled people. I am now aware of the fact that the Canadian Coastguard posted a warning about the ice conditions and the fact that the Northwest Passage was impassable on 18th August – nine days before our departure from Paris. It defies logic that we were not told about this and at least given the option of either continuing the cruise – albeit to areas in and around Greenland - or cancelling the holiday. On board we were all under the impression that this ice development and weather conditions were sudden and unavoidable and under this misconception, Captain Marchesseau did his best to ensure that we had great experiences nonetheless. A comment I must make is that the ship does not seem ideally designed for a Polar cruise as outdoor areas cannot be utilized. Deck 7 was closed obviously because of the cold and the Pool area (deck 6) could not be used, thus the dining out by the pool was only utilised on about two occasions at lunch time when the wind dropped and the sun was out. This meant that the Restaurant on Deck 6 was always crowded and people had to go to the other Restaurant which was not the first choice. The Observation lounge on Deck 6 was also always crowded and the only other option was the Main Lounge which had entertainment in the afternoons (and sometimes during the morning) so it was impossible to sit quietly and read or write. It was too cold to sit in the outside lounge - which I imagine would be very pleasant on a warm weather cruise. A word about the food - it was not the gastronomic experience we had been led to believe it would be and the house wines were often unpalatable. The crew were all very friendly and did their best under the circumstances. The expedition team - led by Florence - were very good and we had some interesting lectures before and after the excursions. Finally, when flights from Kangerlussuaq to either Paris or Seattle were announced we were told that we would be going via Toronto to Seattle. It was not until we received boarding passes that we discovered we were, in fact, going to Buffalo for a refuelling stop. We had to stay on the aircraft for almost two hours before taking off for Seattle. This was understandable because of Customs formalities but why were we told we were going to Toronto? As with much of the trip. The information flow from Ponant to guests was anything but efficient. To summarise, I regret to say that I would not give Ponant or this cruise the 5 star luxury experience it purports to be. There were many frustrations and in speaking to both French and English speaking passengers over the three week period, it seems generally guests’ dissatisfaction was across the board. Personally, I really disliked the fact that the French were given priority over everyone else to the extent that the atmosphere on board became toxic at times, and I doubt we would ever choose Ponant again in spite of the fact that I am a Francophile. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
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 ... Read More
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. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Ponant markets itself as a luxury expedition cruiseline but it does not meet expectations on either account. Most other cruiselines offer at least similar or better levels of comfort, food and service, apart from the limited open bar. ... Read More
Ponant markets itself as a luxury expedition cruiseline but it does not meet expectations on either account. Most other cruiselines offer at least similar or better levels of comfort, food and service, apart from the limited open bar. Although the overall appearance of the ships is attractive some of the cabins are not particularly well-designed, having for example, only a narrow hanging space for a wardrobe. With only one chair In some, room service is not really an option. As for the expedition claim, Ponant ships carry far more pasengers - over 230 on Le Soleal - than expedtion companies such as Aurora, Coral Expeditions, Orion or True North. Smaller numbers of passengers means easier logistics and a more personal experience. The main drawback with Ponant is its pricing. You are paying a premium for the marketing claims which cannot be justified. If cost is not a concern then by all means go with Ponant. You will have a pleasant trip but it will not be good value for money. Read Less
24 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
I am a USAF military retiree, 20 years active duty (in uniform) and 13 years as a contractor. In effect, 33 years of service to this country’s military. I am at present 67 years old, with a number of health issues including a left knee ... Read More
I am a USAF military retiree, 20 years active duty (in uniform) and 13 years as a contractor. In effect, 33 years of service to this country’s military. I am at present 67 years old, with a number of health issues including a left knee that collapses on me at times and very bad back problems. My wife is 4 years younger, basically in good health with the usual old age ailments. We’re both able to still get around pretty good. Recently, I became interested in the historical search for THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE after watching a cable semi historical series that centered on the British Royal Navy’s Franklin Expedition in the mid 1800’s which tried to find the way through but disappeared and was never heard from again. Amundson finally made it through in the early 1900’s. Some blame “global warming” on causing more ice melt so that a passage exists now in the North American summertime. In more recent years, the historical details of what happened to the 2 Franklin ships and their crews have come to light. I have also watched a number of documentaries on the Franklin Expedition, and my interest began to rise. So, when an opportunity to sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE came up through the French cruise line Ponant, my wife & I booked passage. I was so excited, my wife not so much, but her enthusiasm increased as the cruise drew nearer. The itinerary was: 1)Fly to Paris on Aug 25-26, 2018, overnight in Paris the night of Aug 26th, and then fly on Aug 27th with a Ponant charter fight direct to Kangerlussuag on the west coast of Greenland; 2)Then cruise up the west coast of Greenland, enter THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at its east entrance; 3)Sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE; 4)Exit at the west exit of THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, and then sail to Nome, Alaska; 5)Disembark the ship(Le Soleal) at Nome and board a charter flight Ponant had said they arranged to Seattle; 6)From Seattle we were on our own to arrange transportation to our home, which we did with American Airlines, to Dallas, and then connected to El Paso, TX. And, then drive 90 miles to our home in Alamogordo, NM reaching it Sept 19, 2018. Yes, a long trip and it cost a bundle, but we figured we could still do it now because waiting was not a good idea because we’re now at the ages where one can get too sick to go or even die. This was also true of most of the other passengers. The first sign of trouble came about 2 weeks before departure. It was a letter on Ponant letter head stationary dated Aug 6th from someone named Emilie Soulte from Ponants headquarters in Marseille France. It informed us that the Ponant advertised included nonstop flight from Paris to Kangerlussuag Greenland would not be nonstop after all, there would be a stopover in Copenhagen where we were told to get our luggage and go to the 2nd flight. As it turned out, neither flight was a charter; the first one was Air France, and the second Greenland Air. This change not only made the trip more arduous, but now we wouldn’t get to Kangerlussuag Greenland until close to midnight. Originally, we were supposed to board the ship between 6-8 pm. Ponants letter dated Aug 6th blamed the change on the Kangerlussuag Airport authorities. This sounded fishy to me, so I contacted the Kangerlussuag airport directly via email, also sending them a copy of Ponants letter. Eventually, I got an email from the Kangerlussuag Airport Manager saying yes they were a small airport that could only handle 1 jet at a time, but he did not know what Ponant was talking about. He clearly suggested in his email that Ponant had not made the air arrangements soon enough and that was the cause of our stopover in Copenhagen. So, Ponant blames the Kangerlussuag airport. The airport manager blames Ponants tardiness. Whom do I believe? No doubt, I believe the Kangerlussuag Airport Manager!! So, we get off at the Kangerlussuag airport, and get on buses which were supposed to take us to a dock to board the ship Le Soleal. Most of the passengers were ecstatic at this point thinking we’d been through the worst of it and we would soon be aboard a luxury ship, The Le Soleal, & get to our cabins, fall on the beds and sleep for a long time. NOooo! By the way, we had seen no Ponant guides anywhere along the way to help us along and answer questions etc. So, the buses drove for a long time on a road that was mostly not paved. We arrive at the “dock” which was really just a small slab of concrete littered with abandoned cargo containers, and there was a little dock area with a rickety wooden gangplank leading to a small ship of questionable integrity. The Le Soleal was anchored out in the bay. Note: most cruise lines are boarded at regular large docks where they are tied down and passengers walk onto the boat in some comfortable way. Anyway, it’s nearly midnight, it’s very cold and windy, and nearly 250 passengers are dumped out of the buses onto this cold concrete slab, and the buses skedaddled (left). No Ponant people around to direct us and tell us what’s going on. Eventually, the boat, which turned out to be a Le Soleal lifeboat, started loading people and left for the ship. Myself & my wife did not make this first boat and where stranded on this rickety gang plank in the cold not knowing anything. The rest of the passengers were waiting on the concrete slab ”dock” in the cold not knowing anything about what’s going on. You’re thinking at this point: why weren’t the passengers allowed to stay in the warm buses and then called to the life boat when it was their turn to load. Nobody seems to know the answer to this. So, you’ve got a bunch of cold uninformed passengers standing on this concrete slab or rickety gang plank while these slow small lifeboats ferry people to the Le Soleal. Not exactly luxury cruising as Ponant advertised. So, eventually my wife & I board a boat and are ferried to the Le Soleal where we were greeted by Captain Patrick Marchesseau. He and the rest of the crew seemed unaware of the conditions his passengers had endured to get from the airport to the ship. I shook his hand and tried to tell him, but he seemed unconcerned and hustled me along, seeming to be more interested in glad handing the next passenger etc. Same was true of the rest of the officer crew who were in a small room behind the captain where they were serving welcoming appetizers and champagne. We went to our cabin, fell on our beds without any unpacking, and slept late into the next morning. The next morning with a good night’s sleep and food in our stomachs the world seemed brighter. We thought now we were through the worst of it. NOooo! At first it seemed all was well. We sailed up the west coast of Greenland making the scheduled stops. Then we crossed Baffin Bay and entered THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at its eastern entrance. Once inside THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at first things went well. But then, at 9:30 pm ships time on Sept 3rd, the captain called all the guests together in this little theater they had and announced that we were not going further west into THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE because the western exit into the Beaufort Sea was blocked with ice. He said that no Canadian Ice Breaker Ship could be spared because they were all being used on cargo ships. Does it seem odd that cargo ships took priority over a cruise ship filled with 250 guests, plus whatever the size of the crew was? Might it be that again Ponant had not coordinated soon enough with the Canadian Coast Guard? I don’t know, I guess the Canadian Coast Guard is the only one that can answer that question. The captain further said that we were going to turn around, cross Baffin Bay to the west coast of Greenland, stopping at “new” places and arriving back in Kangerlussuag (where we started) on Sept 18th the same day we were supposed to arrive in Nome. This point/date is significant, so please note them. Well, the passengers were up in arms. Some passengers had to book 2 years ahead of time. The main purpose of most of the passengers was to sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, not see scenery, wild life, etc. Most of the passengers were in their 60s and older, so this was their one & only chance to go through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE. One male passenger asked the captain: “Well, if we can’t get through why we don’t just sail straight back to Kangerlussuag instead of floating around Baffin Bay for 15 days?” No, the captain said we’re doing what I said and not arriving in Kangerlussuag until Sept 18th. Another passenger asked: “Why don’t we sail down the east coast of the Canadian Artic where we hadn’t been before?” The Captain said no, we were sailing across Baffin Bay, back to the west coast of Greenland, where we’d just been, and arriving in Kangerlussuag (our point of origin) on Sept 18th. Another passenger asked if there were not any other ice breaker ships available that could get us through, or one that might sail east into the west exit of THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE and then create a passage to get us through to the Beaufort Sea? NO, the captain said. So, we floated around Baffin Bay for 15 days!! Florence, the expedition team’s leader, “invented” places for us to stop over the next 15 days, but they were all the same: barren tundra, made up mostly of large & small rocks, and soft green mossy plants that your foot sank into when stepped on. I fell more than a few times. Another passenger broached a theory to me, which I believe to be correct, that the reason the ship was not going straight back to Kangerlussuag was that if it did then Ponant would have to give us refunds. By floating around Baffin Bay and not arriving back to Kangerlussuag until Sept 18, Ponant could say they gave us the advertised number of days on the ship, and refuse refunds. I believe firmly that this passenger’s theory was correct. And sure enough, a letter arrived to us on Sept 24th from Marseille France (Ponants headquarters) saying there would be no refunds, but they offered a 20% discount on our next sailing with them. What makes them think that we, or most of the other passengers, will ever book with Ponant again??? We will not. I had asked for a full refund. Another female passenger asked if Ponant knew before we left home that we couldn’t get through and just did this charade to prevent giving refunds. Because if they’d done the right & moral thing and cancelled the cruise before we left home, they’d definitely have to give us full refunds. Knowing Ponant the way I do now, I believe this is also a good possibility. As I said Ponant recently sent us a letter denying any (zero) refunds. At the end of this meeting, I was not convinced the captain realized the gravity of the situation of sailing back to Kangerlussuag was for the English speaking passengers—i.e. all the passengers had made plans to go on from Seattle. I was afraid that Ponant would simply book a charter flight back to Paris, dump us all off at the Paris airport, and wash their hands of us. And, yes I believe that is something Ponant would do! Now, flying back to Paris was OK for the French speaking passengers, but it would be terrible for all the English speaking passengers who had made plans to go on from Seattle. I simply wanted to speak with the captain to make sure he understood the plight of the English speaking passengers, but after the announcement he was mobbed and so I decided to wait until the next day. Note: even though this was a French cruise line, only about a third of the passengers were French. Two thirds were English speaking, a lot of Australian and some Americans like my wife & I. So, the first thing I did the next morning was call the customer service desk and ask that an appointment be arranged with me and the captain so I could communicate these concerns. I never got a call back. Later, that day I decided to go up to the bridge and see if I could speak with him there. On the way, I ran into the captain and Florence in a hall way. I told him I wanted to speak to him, but he said he was too busy running the ship and he couldn’t talk to me now. He and Florence literally ran away from me into a restricted part of the ship leading to the bridge where I couldn’t follow. Well, I knew that that day they were allowing ordinary passengers to be on the bridge and watch. Supposedly, there was an ice breaker ship leading us through this part of the trip. So, I entered the passengers’ entrance to the bridge and stood in a place where I could observe everything but not get into the way of the crew. I stood in that spot observing everything including how really busy the captain was. Here's what I observed with my own eyes and ears: The Captain was sitting in a plush chair with a large circular computer screen in front of him. Two crew members to his left was another officer with an identical computer screen, who I assume was his second in command and between them was a person (not an officer) who actually drove the ship. The driver had a joy stick in front of him which I assume controlled the rudder and thus the direction of the ship. On either side of this joy stick there were 2 levers with handles on them which I think controlled the 2 propellers which when pulled towards the driver slowed down or stopped that propeller, and when pushed forward sped up the propeller up to their maximum at fully forward. I assume that if the captain wasn’t at his post the second officer could control the boat from his station. I also saw the alleged ice breaker ship which looked more like a tug boat and was not breaking any ice anyway because there was none to break. I stood there for a whole hour watching everything and there was no ice to break, just small pieces of sea ice floating by. The bridge was calm and the captain did not seem very busy. There was an exit behind the captain which I assumed lead to his office. My plan was to watch when the captain was attempting to leave his chair and go down this exit to his office, and ask him if he had time now. The captain knew I was watching him, and when I briefly looked away, he got up and ran down the exit. I tried to follow, but 2 members of the crew stopped me. It was obvious to me that the captain did not want to talk to me. Why, I don’t know. SO, I resorted to a little subterfuge to get his attention and grant me an audience. And, it worked. I got a call in my cabin from the captain himself requesting a meeting in his office (which is all I wanted in the first place). He sent the Hotel Manager to our cabin, and he escorted my wife and I to the captain’s office. I sat immediately across the desk from him looking him in the eyes. Also present was the ships doctor, I guess to determine if I was crazy. Well, sitting eye to eye with the captain I simply explained my concerns, which is all I wanted to do from the beginning. He told me that Ponant was arranging to have 2 jets at the Kangerlussuag airport. One would take the French passengers to Paris, and the other to take the English speaking passengers to Seattle in time to make all their connections. He asked me if this reassured me, and I said Yes and No. I told him that if this was Silversea cruise line I would have no doubt that they would take care of us properly. But not so with Ponant. I told him I did not trust Ponant at all. He reassured me that what he told me would happen, and the meeting ended. Wow, talk about having to pull teeth. Note: the communication between the French officer crew of the Le Soleal and the English speaking passengers was terrible, and this was what caused most of the problems, distrust, and anger. Most of the English speaking people I talked to were of the opinion that the French always got preference even though they only made up a third of the passengers. Another odd thing happened during one of these “15 floating” days. Usually, in the late afternoon or early evening there would be a briefing in the theater about the next day’s activities. Florence, the head of the expedition team, would usually start these briefs. One day she started the briefing by accusing some supposedly drunken passengers of both malicious mischief and graffiti. Passenger’s expedition boots were kept outside the cabin on a mat there for that purpose. The idea was that way you don’t drag what’s still on your boots from being ashore into your cabin. So, she said that some passengers, who had too much to drink, took some boots and put them into a crew elevator as a prank. She also said that that night some passengers also did 2 instances of graffiti somewhere on the ship. Now I was skeptical of her opinion that it was the passengers that did these 2 pranks. Remember, most of the passengers were 60 or older, fit old people, but old. Is it likely that this age group would do pranks like this? I thought not. This is the type of thing that younger people do. She was sure it was not the crew. The command & officer parts of the French crew were very young. Captain Marchesseau was probably in his 40s. The rest of the French officers were in their 20’s, and the rest of the crew, both the people you see and the people you don’t regularly see, where also very young. She said they had videos from cameras in the areas and were going to identify the culprits. I decide to volunteer my services to review the videos as a service to both the passengers and the crew. So, at the end of the briefings, I went up to Florence and volunteered my services. Surprisingly, she turned me down, and kept walking away from me as I tried to talk to her more. What does that tell you? You be the judge. So, we floated around Baffin Bay near the west coast of Greenland for 15 days, arrived at Kangerlussuag early on Sept 18th, and then flew a charter aircraft Ponant had arranged from the Kangerlussuag airport to Seattle. When we got off the plane in Seattle we were so happy to be back in our own country, the good old USA. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Totally agree with Baloghpj. We also were on the Ponant Cruise that left from Kangerlussuaq to cruise the Northwest Passage on August 2018. He forgot to mention the debacle with the luggage on the flight from Paris from Copenhagen. We were ... Read More
Totally agree with Baloghpj. We also were on the Ponant Cruise that left from Kangerlussuaq to cruise the Northwest Passage on August 2018. He forgot to mention the debacle with the luggage on the flight from Paris from Copenhagen. We were all jammed into a Fokker 100 - after we boarded, the pilot realised that the plane could not hold all the luggage so it was put into three toilets and the few spare seats that were available - leaving one toilet between us all. This is how our “luxury” trip started. The flight back to Seattle wasn’t much better. We have looked at ice charts since we have returned and believe that Ponant should “reasonably” have known that the passage was blocked before we left. Also a lot of the passengers had either toured Greenland before or another Arctic/Antarctic area and weren’t interested in staying on the cruise to cruise the coastline of a country we had just left. When asked if they could disembark in Pond Inlet (where we had just left from) the Captain was very firm in his ruling that no passengers could leave the cruise till the final date of the cruise. We found the cabin staff and the various “ice specialists” (wildlife/history/geologists ect) employed by Ponant for the cruise to be good and they tried their best under difficult circumstances. However the management of Ponant is abysmal. We got the list of what we needed for the cruise when we boarded the plane for Paris! Spent a lot of time in Paris trying to find mosquitoe nets! Also we feel the cruise was overbooked - it was hard to find a spare seat on the 6th floor restaurant. The maître d would turn a blind eye to ppl wandering around with their trays trying to find a seat! There are a lot of angry, upset passengers who paid a lot of money to cruise the Northwest Passage. Ponant’s offer of a 20% discount on a cruise line that none of the passengers want to cruise with again is pathetic! If you are thinking of cruising with Ponant - think again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
My friend actually chose this Ponant cruise because of its interesting title: "In the Wake of the Vikings", and because of historical interest and curiosity about lands I had never before visited I decided it was a grand idea to ... Read More
My friend actually chose this Ponant cruise because of its interesting title: "In the Wake of the Vikings", and because of historical interest and curiosity about lands I had never before visited I decided it was a grand idea to see parts of Iceland and Scotland and finish in Norway where great adventurers had set out from to explore initially unknown lands. This cruise did not disappoint - the ship was absolutely perfect in its size and outlay. As there are only a small number of passengers the dining seating allowed us to meet many different people or we could be seated by ourselves if required.The meals were always beautifully cooked and served (5courses if you wanted with superb choices for each). This may sound over indulgent but portion size enabled us to taste such a wonderful assemblage of offerings! From the moment we stepped on board (to be greeted by the captain is a special delight) we were spoiled - our cabin (we had a stateroom on level 5 with its own balcony) was very well equipped and serviced(at several times throughout the day). All our needs were met immediately because of the small size so crew did not have to go far. A special bonus was access to the bridge when appropriate. The entertainment was varied and interesting - from the captain's welcome dinner to lectures about various lands and explorers; musical and film - all different! We had a variety of shore excursions to choose from - the "Chasing Waterfalls" walk from Seyisfiordur (Eastern Iceland) was particularly interesting and beautiful. The tours from Kirkwall (Orkney Islands), Lewrick (Shetland Islands) and Isle of Skye were always on time and exceeded expectation after we had sailed into these ports through beautiful scenery. Again because of the small ship there was absolutely no waiting for any shore excursion or to board a tender - it was instant.Consequently embarkation and disembarkation proceeded very smoothly (even in Bergen at the end of our cruise on a cold rainy day I think my face was more wet from tears of leaving such a wonderful trip and departing from newly found friends, than from the rain) - the crew were there with large umbrellas for the short walk from ship to terminal. Would I go again - you bet - in a flash - I have absolutely no question in my mind! In fact I would be loathe to embark on a "large liner" - I have been on 2 previous cruises with passenger numbers over 2000 and adamantly would NOT go with that type of cruise again! I'm staying with Ponant and hope to travel on a Kimberly cruise when their ships are in that area - or perhaps an Antarctic Expedition on their new custom designed icebreaker small ship.( Dreaming of visiting new sights again!) Ponant Cruising is ........(of numerous words to use which one?).....EXCEPTIONAL. Ponant Cruises will not disappoint. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
My cruise with Ponant was definitely a memorable experience! We were in the Reykjavik to Bergen cruise onboard Le Laperouse, the newest ship in the fleet. The ship was modern and luxurious - perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but I really ... Read More
My cruise with Ponant was definitely a memorable experience! We were in the Reykjavik to Bergen cruise onboard Le Laperouse, the newest ship in the fleet. The ship was modern and luxurious - perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but I really liked it! However, the two things that stood out the most for me were the staff’s excellent and friendly service and the sumptuous food. The restaurant staff knew our preferences after the 2nd day, so they’d always have our favorite drinks delivered to our table even before they take our order. My husband and I love French food, so it was a gastronomic delight for us. As dinners were served in the formal restaurant, we normally went to the grill for lunch. It was our first time to go on a cruise trip, and it really set the bar high. We’ll definitely take Ponant again when we go for our next cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
We booked this cruise because we have always wanted to see icebergs and the Disko bay. My husband only speaks french and we wanted to enjoy beautiful scenery, interesting conferences, and an all inclusive drink and food cruise. ... Read More
We booked this cruise because we have always wanted to see icebergs and the Disko bay. My husband only speaks french and we wanted to enjoy beautiful scenery, interesting conferences, and an all inclusive drink and food cruise. • Travel To Port of Embarkation We live in France and made our own way to Reykjavik Iceland to join the ship.We arrived the day before and stayed at the Storm Hotel, which was walking distance to town center. It's a simple and very clean modern hotel, rooms are small, no closet, but a clothes rack with a few hangers. It's okay for a night or 2. • Boarding was very easy, there are many people waiting to carry our bags on board and the captain and staff are there to welcome us. Stateroom • Our prestige stateroom was on the 5th floor, with a balcony. The rooms are beautiful, clean, and there are a lot of storage room. Double wardrobe with drawers and enough hangers, and opposite the bed there are 3 big drawers with a coffee machine and electric kettle on top . There is also a safe and small fridge. Note that you cannot store suitcases under the bed, we laid them flat in the wardrobe. • Shower room is small but very nice. It's a walk-in shower and there's a clothes line in it to hang your washing. Don't forget to bring a few clothes pins! Dining There are 2 dining rooms, one on the 6th floor which is a buffet, and another one on the 2nd floor which is a more formal dining room. Food is fabulous french cuisine, drinks and wine are included.You can also enjoy more expensive wines , but we found them very expensive, around 100€ a bottle. • Entertainment Don't expect entertainment like on Costa or other huge cruises! On the 6th floor there is a observatory bar with a musician who plays classical music and on the 3rd floor in the evening there's a singer and musician who are more lively and you can dance to disco, rock & roll or other music. • Port & Shore Excursions There are excursions organized in Reykjavit before leaving port, a few small towns, in the capital Nuuk, Illulisat, and bay of Disko. Most of the excursions are not free and you have to sign up for them. They are not cheap either! Considering that Ponant sells luxury cruises, they could have included these excursions in their price. • Disembarkation Disembarkation was at Kangerlussuaq which is an old american military base and we left the ship at 5:30AM, with a bus. Return flight to Paris was a chartered flight with Iberia. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
Although the expected itinerary was not respected, due to the ice conditions, the exploration crew always found nice alternatives to discover new sites, and interesting contacts with the local population. The exploration crew is very ... Read More
Although the expected itinerary was not respected, due to the ice conditions, the exploration crew always found nice alternatives to discover new sites, and interesting contacts with the local population. The exploration crew is very competent, which is the main point (together with the excellent service) to be able to discover and enjoy experiences in places that are otherwise unreachable for most people. Although a previous cruise to the Antartic was much more interesting, in terms of the variety and richness of the animal life, the present cruise gave us the opportunity to meet with the people leaving in extreme conditions, and how they cope with this. It was also very nice to see that respecting the traditions of the local population (Greenland) leads to a better life, while imposing a different culture as the "right one" leads to a lack of self-respect (Canada) with the related problems. In total, a very enjoyable experience!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
We joined Le Boreal in Longyearbyen on the A & K chartered cruise on 27 July. We had the previous night as part of the tour at Thon Opera, Oslo as the nominated hotel at our time of booking (Hotel Bristol) was closed for renovations ... Read More
We joined Le Boreal in Longyearbyen on the A & K chartered cruise on 27 July. We had the previous night as part of the tour at Thon Opera, Oslo as the nominated hotel at our time of booking (Hotel Bristol) was closed for renovations which was disappointing as we had booked and paid months earlier at Thon Rosenkrantz around the corner from Bristol and was, we thought, walking distance with wheelable luggage to relocate after arriving 2 nights earlier from Australia off longhaul flights. FYI we could not book Bristol – fully booked at the time, but as time went by, no bookings at all, so clearly this last minute move by A and K was known for some time!! The advice for the hotel change was only after we had paid our final amount, which was pretty disappointing and meant we had to make a change from one side of the city to the other – not insurmountable but inconvenient and had we known we probably would have booked the Opera for the whole period. The Thon Opera is a BIG 4ish star hotel, right on the back of the station. Very convenient, nice room, however we liked the Thon Rosenkrantz better despite much smaller rooms – better central location for two days exploring Oslo major sights, not so good for a longer stay though – room is a bit tight. Rosenkrantz also has a complimentary “supper” service and included breakfast. The supper, basic and a bit sloppy (bread, salad, stew of sorts) was great on the travel weary day, not great night 2 but we were still being lazy and not much else around the hotel without a few blocks walk. Rosenkrantz has a lovely enclosed rooftop area with free water and coffee with views of the Palace – would be a good catch up location to be with a group, would make up for the tiny rooms. Breakfast was as you would expect a buffet to be without being sumptuous. So to the ship – we attended the welcome function at the Opera – fairly basic affair and not a real tour warmer despite the calibre of A and K personnel there making the introductions and the price of the cruise. Next morning, somewhat early, we had an early private buffet breakfast back in our welcome room from the previous night and then buses to the airport. There were 3 tranches, cheapest cabins earliest call – that was us and that was fair enough in our view. Well the airport turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. The so called charter is not a charter – it is prebooking out entire flights on small commercial aircraft – the cruise had booked out all 3 consequetive flights so when we all lined up at the ticket counters to check in we were left to the mercy of the small airline staff who could not care less – our check in lines became so long that all 3 tranches ended up together in a long snaking line despite half hour gaps between buses being planned. The threat of no more than 23 kgs in pre tour information dissolved, although anybody with a bag over 20 kgs (and don’t forget you are going to cold climates so you have more than summer stuff and for those of us coming far this was a month long trip at least) was taken aside, mine included. In hindsight I think this is more of a threat than a cost but these “charter planes” are small – seats 2 x 2 across and no overhead racks to speak of so they are very luggage restricting. Pre tour I could not find any information re the ability to pay for extra luggage weight – this was frustrating. I took the view, pack what I needed but on the light must have side, and see what happens. Outcome was fine with no additional bag fees requested, but this was a stressor which could be easily overcome. I feel it is more of an effort to try to keep luggage down rather than allowing 32kgs for example, which would be more appropriate. Indeed many bags that were sidelined did look plenty heavy by size alone. The next stressor at Oslo airport was when our gate was changed no less than 3 times in an hour (after we had finally got through check in with not enough A and K oversight of the check in staff – (difficult given the ticketing arrangements) with kilometres of walking/running in between. We understand this may be normal, but if normal, A and K need to manage and warn passengers much better and have more staff on watch for the roulette gate changes. So the 2 flights we took to Longbearyen (stopover in Tromso for refuelling - but you could not get off the plane) – were seamless. We were met at Longbearyen airport where we claimed our luggage (none missing despite the “heavy bags” being sidelined ) and the ship’s personnel had it whisked away to our cabin – very smooth transition. We did a lap of the town in buses and a tour of a very good museum to set us in the Arctic mood and were given a sit down meal in a local auditorium which was strange and a little unannounced but OK. The weather was cool and rainy – weather that we thought was a sign of the cruise – we were so delighted to have been quite wrong. After lunch we were bused to the wharf to embark the ship. My husband and I took up our residence in cabin 331 which we thought turned out to be perfect. It is midships in case the weather was poor but on our cruise there was no rough weather. Firstly, unless you are in an upmarket suite, all cabins are the same size, layout and fit out no matter what your deck, so to pay more to be on a higher deck we felt was not necessary and proved so for us. In addition we found Level 3 most convenient. Level 3 is the disembarkation point for all zodiac activities so this was very convenient and it also has a lovely stern bar and lounge with all day coffee and drinks and a small balcony, again very convenient. Level 2 is the main dining room, two flights of stairs down – we decided to use the stairs for exercise. Level 4 is the theatre where briefings and lectures were held – two flights up. It was a bit of a hike to the Level 6 casual dining area and pool deck, but all in all Level 3 was an excellent choice. I note there are complaints on Cruise Critic saying Level 3 has fuel smells – our group had 3 Level 3 cabins and we had no fuel smell issues, in fact no issues at all and great cabin service. The cabin layout is practical and spacious enough with a good sized balcony which would be great in other parts of the world, but even in the Artic, it enabled you to pop out into the elements, feel the temperature, watch the scenery and it generally adds to the size of the cabin. The bed was large and comfortable. The bathroom layout was generous for a ship (and we have been on many of all sizes), there was plenty of wardrobe and drawer space and hooks to hang sometimes wet outdoor gear out of the way without it cluttering the bathroom. The desk was small but OK, there was one lounge chair and side table and a full size bar fridge that was topped up everyday with spirits, mixers, soft drink and water. All in all a very satisfactory home in our small expedition ship for 2 weeks. Given this was an A and K charter of Le Boreal, the cruise staff were A and K contractors and the ship personnel were Ponant. They worked seamlessly together. Captain Etienne Garcia was most generous with his time with passengers and the A and K team were handpicked, highly skilled and qualified men and women who just couldn’t do enough to share information, a joke, a meal. The cruise staff team was large by other cruise comparisons. They drove zodiacs, escorted shore tours, lectured on all manner of geography, history, flora and fauna. They went above and beyond to find us the best there was to see, as did the ship’s crew, all in all a very good combination. The initial safety briefing led by Captain Garcia and the Staff Captain was the best and most thorough of any ship safety briefing we have experienced. Unlike other waters where there are many ships available for rescue support, the Artic waters are not only remote but not that many ships are running there yet. We were told that there are 38 vessels plying the Antarctic (even though you don’t really see them as they take their slots in the various allocated stops to give the impression of wilderness), but the Arctic only has a handful of vessels around so safety is an even higher priority. Our 14 day cruise included Spitsbergen took us along the east coast of Greenland, a planned landing at the volcano Jan Mayan and 2 days on the west coast of Iceland. Our Jan Mayan stop was cancelled due to an emergency medical evacuation which saw us have to steam back to within 160 nautical miles of the Icelandic coast for a helicopter evacuation of a heart attack patient. Le Boreal has no helideck so it was a ship to chopper rappelling transfer. It was carried out at around 9.30pm, off the bow of the ship, midsea, right in front of all of the other passengers watching inside from the Level 6 deck bar area – it was done with the utmost calm and precision. Two rappellers were dropped on the deck, then a back pack, then the husband, then the ill wife were lifted by harness in 3 lifts, then the crew reboarded the chopper and all were loaded and away in under 30 minutes, maybe faster. Everything about the medivac looked very practiced and it must have cost A LOT!! Le Boreal then headed back towards Greenland and resumed her course southbound. We disembarked in Reykjavik and were taken to our pre cruise nominated hotel by a prepaid taxi as part of the trip package which was a nice closing gesture. We stayed on in Iceland for one week (2 days Rekyjavik and 5 days driving half the ring road – Akureyri to Keflavik– all fabulous and an excellent addition to the cruise, actually a must if you have the time and inclination). So some observations – we have now cruised the Antarctic and the Arctic. • Which is better we are asked? – well both are very different although the concept is similar. Antarctica is colder and the story is ice and penguins (all sorts) and likely rough weather. The Arctic is polar bears and ice but also interesting flora and the weather is likely to be kinder. • If you had to choose one (yes both are extremely expensive so price is not really any decision maker), I could not choose – loved them both. • Based on price, both can be similar, but there is more choice of vessel at present in the Antarctic so that may help the budget. • Perhaps the opportunity for cruise extensions may make a difference for you – Antarctica and South America: Arctic and/or Iceland/Scandanavia, or anywhere in Europe – Iceland is only 5 hours flight from London and not that far from US east coast. Then again Sth America is not that far from the US either. We chose the cruise that included the Falklands and South Georgia (a must for the emperor penguins). In hindsight this was such a bonus rather than just going up and back from Uschuia. • Another question is which one to do first? Again, one will prepare you in sorts for the other. You need to be average fitness to do both. • Another question is which ship? We were lucky enough to be told when we went first to the Antarctic to ensure you go on a small expedition ship, not a big cruise liner. That was exactly the right advice – in Antarctica ships can only land something like 200 passengers at any one time at any one place under the Antarctic Treaty, so whilst some of the bigger ships do go a south, you won’t have the same shore access or it will take a lot longer to do it or you will just sail past with a view and you are missing out on so much plus they can’t get into some of the smaller, wonderful spots. • Another thought is timing – Artic is July/August: Antarctic is December/January. What works best for you? We went to the Antarctic on The Fram (Hurtigruten Line). We enjoyed it immensely and the ship rode out some very rough weather very well (we know because our husbands are merchant sea captains so they know what rough weather looks and feels like) and the Norwegian captain and officers just took it like another day in the office. The Fram is similar in passenger size to Le Boreal but is not as comfortable (cabin to main rooms and we had a high level cabin on this vessel – not suite though) compared to Le Boreal. The A and K cruise staff made for a very different level of knowledge and interaction with the passengers, but you do pay for it. About seasickness – we used Kimite motion sick patches on both trips (definitely overkill for our Arctic trip but you need to be wearing them for 6 hours before you need the effect to kick in and hey, we had them in our bag and they have an expiry date). However they saved me from 4 plus days of rough weather on our crossing from South Georgia to the ice of the Antarctic – can totally recommend. FYI you can’t buy them in Australia – we obtain them in Hong Kong over the counter in chemist shops like Boots or Watsons (maybe able to get online?). Finally, our memories and photos of both expeditions – all fabulous, real life experiences, so lucky to have been able to have the opportunity to see one, more to see both and as they say be Bi-Polar. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
My wife and I recently went on the Le Soliel expedition cruise entitled The Saga of Erick the Red from July 17—29. The trip started in Iceland and spent most of the time combing the Greenland coast up to Kangerlussuaq. We were both ... Read More
My wife and I recently went on the Le Soliel expedition cruise entitled The Saga of Erick the Red from July 17—29. The trip started in Iceland and spent most of the time combing the Greenland coast up to Kangerlussuaq. We were both impressed with the level of service on the ship. The housekeeping as immaculate, the meals were wonderful, and the entertainment was enjoyable, and the ship staff was friendly and helpful. We are looking forward to spending another cruise with Ponant. Unfortunately, one serious drawback to the trip was the quality of the expedition staff (known as naturalist guides). The expedition leader, Florence, was over-matched in her role, and appeared to provide little actual leadership to her guide staff. While all the naturalist guides seemed to be good people, essentially they provided little real guiding. We were usually dumped onto land and were on our own to “use our imagination” as the expedition leader would say. The naturalist guides would simply spread out and watch as passengers walked around, often aimlessly and confused. Here are some examples to illustrate my point: • There was no emphasis on wilderness ethics. The Arctic growing season is short and plant life is precious, yet the expedition leader, Florence, and her staff made very little effort to educate the visitors on how to behave in these wild places and how to best preserve them. Passengers would be wearing big rubber boots designed specifically for mud and muck, yet would trample over delicate flora to avoid wet areas on the trails. • Naturalists were frequently unable to answer the most basic questions about the flora, fauna, geology, or history of a landing site. A naturalist guide should have at least a general knowledge of the natural and human history of an area to be visited, and should have a guidebook to help them answer questions, yet frequently, we got the “I don’t know” response or an outright mis-identification. • One hike we went on was a disaster. My wife and I were one of the first off the ship but we waited over an hour until the all passengers unloaded before the hike started. When it did, nearly 200 passengers all crammed along the same narrow trail, and received no guiding input on the hike. Instead of one enormous group, why not divide the passengers up among the guides and go on more manageable smaller group hikes? • The Viking sites were special but the expedition leader and her naturalist guides were not located at the actual ruins where they could identify the ruins and give historical background. In fact, the first Viking site we landed at, many passengers had no idea where the ruins were located and when we finally saw the 1,000 year-old ruins we had no idea what we were looking at. Passengers even found they had wandered right over one of the Viking long houses, not realizing where the ruin was. • Frequently, naturalist guides were taking pictures as their own personal hobby instead of helping passengers. • The naturalist guides’ PowerPoint presentations on the landing sites were of marginal use. Some of the information presented on the Vikings was superficial and incomplete. We talked to passengers who were on other Ponant expeditions and they said their previous experiences with the naturalists guides was must better. Perhaps we just hit a dud on this expedition. With that said, despite the poor guiding, we enjoyed the rest of the experience enough that we will try another Ponant cruise in the future. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Our long awaited and much anticipated Northwest Passage trip has ended and will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Inputing required information into Ponant’s website before the trip was frustratingly difficult and ... Read More
Our long awaited and much anticipated Northwest Passage trip has ended and will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Inputing required information into Ponant’s website before the trip was frustratingly difficult and generally only remedied by Sydney’s staff. Thank you to all who assisted. The required medical information was widely regarded by GPs and fellow travellers as an invasion of privacy. Our travels to Antarctica onboard MV Orion in 2007 and a previous 42-day Arctic expedition cruise aboard MV Silver Explorer in 2013 did not require such detailed information, simply evidence of travel insurance that included repatriation from remote areas. And then there were the charter flights. Check-in at Charles de Gaulle airport was an absolute shambles. Many, if not most, passengers had arrived long before the Ponant representative and located a Ponant banner near gates 50-51. Nobody was aware that there were two charter flights, the other check-in being on the opposite side of the terminal at gates 1-2. Much cross-terminal activity ensued as people realised they were in the wrong queues! My partner and I were allocated the Trade Air flight that used a Fokker 100 aircraft. The aircraft was not designed to carry a full economy-class passenger load with everyone having hold-stowed baggage, and consequently some baggage was loaded into some of the toilets at the captain’s suggestion. That carrier has been cited on previous occasions for regulatory breaches, according to internet entries, and this was possibly another. Being a charter flight we parked remotely from the terminal in Copenhagen and much of the baggage was offloaded into open baggage-carts in a downpour. Some passengers reported their baggage was sodden upon retrieval. Transferring to the Air Greenland commercial flight was another exercise involving a very long walk with little guidance. A couple of quick-thinking passengers were able to pay for a business-class upgrade, while most of us continued to languish in economy. Upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq we were directed to board coaches for the transfer to the ship. Nobody bothered to inform us, until asked, about what was to happen to our luggage....it was collected in bulk and transferred (successfully) to the ship. The reception on boarding the ship, was adequate but not exceptional, particularly as it was close to midnight when we boarded. Our cabin, 528, was tiny with no under-bed storage for luggage and was apparently designed as the sitting-room to the adjoining cabin 526, to which it had a connecting door for use when both cabins were sold as one suite. It was a similar story for other cabins on deck 5, some with under-bed storage, others without. Within the cabin, the bathroom and toilet doors opened outwards into the entrance passageway, as did the wardrobe doors. Open one door but beware opening another as they clashed with one another. Inexplicably, the shower door opened inwards to the stall and if anyone fell while in the shower and could not pick themselves up, access for assistants would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, without demolishing the screens. Compactness was also a feature of both restaurants, with tables very close together hampering access for both passengers and waiters. Both restaurants were badly under-staffed, with waiters having too many tables to look after and also doubling as wine waiters. Under these very trying circumstances, the waiters did the best they could, but lengthy delays were normal. The bars were also understaffed. Some food items and beverages ran very low, with some items completely exhausted within 10 days of the start of a 23 day cruise! Somebody needs to answer for that. The much-hyped French cuisine was disappointing, with a preponderance of fish on the dinner menu. The cruise proceeded much as advertised until it was announced that we would be unable to transit the Northwest Passage because of the ice conditions in Bellot Strait and further west. That decision was based on ice charts and forecasts available before we had even set sail from Kangerlussuaq on the cruise, and that changed little as the cruise progressed. We were initially offered early disembarkation (at Pond Inlet, Canada), an option that a number of us selected, and two other options, each less appealing than the other. Eventually it was decided an early disembarkation would unnecessarily delay the ship sailing north in Baffin Bay on a random itinerary taking us towards the very north of Greenland towards another channel blocked by sea ice, before turning south and returning to Kangerlussuaq by the 18th September, the date we were originally due to disembark in Nome. Mutterings were heard that we’d paid the ransom before we’d been kidnapped! Communications from staff members was poor on many occasions, with the constant changing from French to English difficult to follow. And once the revised itinerary got underway, we were only told on a daily basis what to expect the next day, with nobody sure when we would be back in Kangerlussuaq (17th or 18th, morning or afternoon etc). Eventually we found ourselves back in Kangerlussuaq and the charter flight shambles started all over again. Europeans won the lottery with a short flight back to Paris. The rest of us had to endure a long, uncomfortable economy-class flight all the way to Seattle with a refuelling stop in Buffalo. And finally liberation! We could never, in good conscience, recommend Ponant. As a luxury expedition/cruise line it barely rates a 3, based on this experience. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2018
This was our fourth cruise with Ponant and we are big fans of this French cruiseline. We love the small ship experience, Ponant's first class service, food and crew. We were excited to experience their newest ship, Le Laperouse on ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise with Ponant and we are big fans of this French cruiseline. We love the small ship experience, Ponant's first class service, food and crew. We were excited to experience their newest ship, Le Laperouse on it's maiden voyage (actually it's second week sailing around Iceland). The ship is beautiful, obviously everything was brand new. The capitan was great and very imformative. Iceland was fantastic. We took a Ponant excursion in every port and they were all fantastic. Some local guides were better than others (which is always the case) but all seemed to know their stuff and were very enthusiastic to show us and tell us about their country. Given that this was a new ship on only it's second voyage, we should have realized that the most of the crew would also be new. Many were and appeared to be unexperienced. This was most obvious in the food service and kitchen areas. Many of the waiters appeared to have no idea how to provide first class service. Many guests experienced very slow service and cold food. Waiters rarely ever return to your table after delivering your food. You had to ask (if you could find your waiter) to get more water or coffee. For most meals, only the dinning room (not the grill) was open which they said was due to the weather but it meant that only a buffet was open for breakfast. The grill was completely outside which is dfferent from the other Ponant ships that we have been on. I I think that this was a design faux. Outide dinning is great in warm weather climates but not in Iceland. The food on the buffet was not to the Ponant standard. The eggs were unsually cold and there was no cooked to order eggs available (on other Ponant ships they cook eggs to order in the grill). After a few days, we started ordering our breakfast through room service and the service and food was great but we missed dinning with the other guests. It did appear that things in the kitchen and diningroom were improving slightly towards the end of the week and hopefully service and food quality will be up to the Ponant standard on future voyages. We will be back. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2017
This was an Abercrombie & Kent trip on the Ponant ship Le Boreal through the Northwest Passage, from Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland to Nome, Alaska. The trip was very expensive, and extremely disappointing. Though I had ... Read More
This was an Abercrombie & Kent trip on the Ponant ship Le Boreal through the Northwest Passage, from Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland to Nome, Alaska. The trip was very expensive, and extremely disappointing. Though I had few, and those relatively minor, complaints about the ship and its crew, it soon became apparent that A&K had oversold the trip. Its literature highlighted close-up photos of polar bears, musk oxen, etc. and emphasized that there would be a focus on the history of Northwest Passage exploration and the individual explorers who attempted its passage. We saw very few large animals within the range of even very good binoculars (the animals are hunted by the indigenous population, and are nowhere to be seen when the yellow-jacketed “bear guards” go ashore to establish a wide perimeter before the passengers are ferried by zodiacs to the shoreline); had virtually no lectures about the several mariners who eventually treaded a path through the islands of the Canadian Archipelago and found the Northwest Passage (the "history" lecturer, apparently a last minute substitute, was terrible), missed about two and a half days when we should have been sailing along the northwest coast of Greenland because of a snafu in provisioning the ship, which caused us to have to retrace our steps and sail far south of the planned itinerary (for that significant omission, after much passenger protest, we were eventually given a credit of 200 euros per cabin, or about 3/10th of 1% of the $68,490 cost for the cruise). Furthermore, the 174 passengers were completely cut off from contact with the outside world for nearly two weeks – from Pond Inlet, Canada until we docked in Nome, Alaska – because the ship did not have sufficient band width to connect to the satellite (this during the period when hurricanes were devastating coastal areas of Texas and Florida, where a number of the passengers lived). Finally, and though this was much less significant than the above, the ship ran short of liquor (which was to be complimentary and included in the price) within just a few days. When I returned home, I wrote almost immediately to the President of A&K U.S. Even after three letters and e-mails, my correspondence (except for a very brief form response stating only that A&K had received my initial letter and was researching my points) was ignored until Dec. 20th, nearly three months after the date of my initial letter. Ultimately, when I did finally get a substantive response, I was told that A&K had no responsibility for anything that happened and referred to the various, small-print disclaimers and releases buried in the sales literature, which state that “this itinerary is subject to change based on weather, wildlife, ice and other conditions beyond A&K’s control. The final itinerary will be determined at the sole discretion of the Captain and Expedition Leader.” On balance, if someone wants to see the villages in which the Intuit people live in the remote regions of the Canadian Archipelago, this trip will fit that bill. But if your interest is, as mine was, to see the glaciers and fjords of western Greenland, to witness animal life close up (as you do in the Antarctic and Galapagos), and to learn first-hand what many intrepid mariners experienced as they sought the illusive Northwest Passage, you might want to rethink whether you want to spend a lot of money on this A&K expedition. As an alternative, if you are determined to sail the Northwest Passage on a comfortable ship, you could travel the same exact itinerary, and stay on the same ship and in the same cabin class, by booking directly from Ponant for about 22% ($7695 per person) less. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2017
We have friends who work in the Cruise travel industry. Ponant was portrayed as a luxury cruise small ship company with an expedition theme. We should have had some idea when we first booked that the cruise would not be "smooth" ... Read More
We have friends who work in the Cruise travel industry. Ponant was portrayed as a luxury cruise small ship company with an expedition theme. We should have had some idea when we first booked that the cruise would not be "smooth" sailing because all questions were referred to head office in France and the Sydney staff could not assist us. Day 1 arrived at Orly Airport at 7.30 am - there was no company staffer nor sign assisting us to find the charter flight at Orly Airport despite being reassured by Sydney Office the flight would be listed on Departures Board - it wasn't. Finally when we found check in desk in the basement we stood for 80 minutes waiting to be processed (there were no seats anywhere to be found on this floor). Through no fault of Ponant's our charter flight was delayed but there were no Ponant staff to give us an update or any information such as would it be at the same gate! Orly airport have very few seats at the departure gates so many of us sat on the floor for several hours.The rest I will dot point but its downhill all the way until we arrived safely back in Paris. 1. Arriving in Bergen to meet the ship there was no assistance with luggage from carousel to charter bus, we were not offered water upon our arrival to the bus and couldn't purchase any as Bergen shops wanted the local currency. We were met by some young ladies outside the airport who told us the bus number and take luggage and put it into the luggage hold. Our guide on the bus was a lovely young woman she shared her local knowledge and in particular that is rains in Bergen 360 pus days of the year. Shame Ponant didn't know that! 2. Taken on city tour of Bergen - 3 three times around the town centre and an hour later we were taken to wharf. All 4 buses at the same time arrived at the wharf. 3. Promptly told we had to collect our luggage and take it along the wharf to the ship - at this point we were tired but did as we told without complaint. 4. At the gang plank we had a 45 minute wait in light rain whilst the Captain greeted each of the 220 something passengers. Whilst waiting we were exposed to fumes as the ship was being refuelled and the truck would've been about 5 metres from us. I hoped no one would light up! Still no offer of beverages nor umbrellas and no concern for those of us who were waiting patiently on the dock: dehydrated and nauseous from the fumes and standing in the queue we approached the officer who was controlling the number of passengers on the gang plank and got an apologetic shrug.We got to our cabin at 5.20 pm and told over the loud speaker that the english shore excursions talk would begin in 10 minutes - no rest for the wicked! There was bottled water in our cabin thank goodness! 5. During the entire cruise the onboard staff were rude and unwelcoming. No "Bonjour" greetings. "No! you can't have that wine tonight", "no we've run out of croissants". 6. The cruise was advertised as "Expeditionary " but the first part of the cruise from Bergen to Tromso was not and paid Shore Excursions were on offer but limited numbers. The information session held on the first evening at 5.30pm repeated the information that we had printed out from the website, we were all making notes but despite this the speakers were difficult to understand with their broad accents and we struggled to comprehend what was on offer, there was much confusion amongst the english speaking guests (50 of us) but we bonded really well over this confusion pooled our fragments of information and worked out what to book. The popular excursions were quickly booked out e.g. the kayaking in one of the fjords and you couldn't book all your excursions at once they only opened for bookings for one hour in the early evening about one or two days in advance. No pre cruise booking was available. 7. English Lectures were interesting but whilst out in the field one of the Expedition team described the birdlife in French when he had finished he refused my request to translate the information to English although he had lectured to us in English the day before. One of the french speaking passengers was kind enough to tell me what was said. We found two of the expedition leaders were generous with their information and time and passionate about their work,we became their shadow where possible. Shore Excursions this was part expedition and part shore excursions. 8. Food served a la carte in formal dining room always tepid never hot. Returned it one day but waited 1/2 hr before it arrived back whilst those dining with me had finished their desserts! Didn't do that again. However the Ice Cream served warm 9.. Observation Deck Bar: Don't ask for a beverage before 12.00 noon (it was 11.55 am unaware the bar opened at 12.00) because you will get an unopened can, no glass and thumped down on the coffee table. Except the day the "tip" envelopes were delivered to our cabin - then we were offered a smile and nuts and a cocktail! 10. Departure: again no staff member to supervise the charter flights at the airport in Longyearbyen - flight delayed 1 1/2 hrs or more and when we finally arrived at CDG we discovered that our luggage was mistakenly put on the other charter flight 2 hours behind ours and their luggage was on the carousel in CDG with us! Again no official Ponant staff to speak to, however, as luck would have it, one of the expedition leaders was on our flight, thank goodness, he rang the ship and told us our luggage was on the other charter flight. Needless to say we missed our train to Lille but Ponant did reimburse us the fare. Approx 60 Euros. 11. We wrote to the Sydney Office detailing our issues and disappointment and were offered a 10% discount on a Ponant cruise. Thanks but no thanks Read Less
Sail Date: June 2017
A disastrous holiday from start to finish. Charter flight from Orly Aiport was exhausting. One would expect a staff representing Ponant to be at a designated Meeting Place but we were told the flight would be advertised on the Departure ... Read More
A disastrous holiday from start to finish. Charter flight from Orly Aiport was exhausting. One would expect a staff representing Ponant to be at a designated Meeting Place but we were told the flight would be advertised on the Departure Boards with check in details so need for signage or staff - there wasn't any information airport staff weren't sure. We finally found the charter flight check in ( in the basement) by accident. Flight delayed but no information at the gates as to expected time, no seating at the gates - sat on the floor. At our destination we were met by staff taken on a city tour with all 4 buses arriving at the wharf simultaneuosly. No assistnace with luggage, we queued in the rain for 45 minutes as the captain and his hotel manager stood at the top of the gang plank and welcomed each passenger. No regard for us getting wet, no beverages offered and no seating whilst we waited on wharf. Excursion staff and accessibilty to details: Poor Expedition Staff: Rude Waitstaff: Rude in both the dining room and Observation Deck Bar Food: Variety: reasonable Main Dining Room: Food served luke warm Alcohol: Wine of the day - if you preferred the wine served the previous day - "not available tonight" bad luck Organisation of Shore excursions: Chaotic Overall staff never greeted you on approach. They appeared to be disgruntled employees. We have traveeld on many cruise ship lines of various categoriesand have never been treated with such rudeness. Never again Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
Fabulous trip to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world, teeming with wildlife and wonderful autumn colours.. Superbly organised shore trips with excellent and very helpful crew members. We were landed ashore safely in ... Read More
Fabulous trip to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world, teeming with wildlife and wonderful autumn colours.. Superbly organised shore trips with excellent and very helpful crew members. We were landed ashore safely in often difficult conditions. A safety perimeter was established and the guides were freely available to provide information about the plant life and animals we saw. On board the captain would announce any wild life viewings and would follow whales and other wild life to provide passengers with the best possible views The cabin was spacious and well appointed with lots of storage space. The cabin crew were efficient and inobtrusive. The attached balcony was a great asset and a good place to relax and watch the coastline and birds drift past. The dining areas were elegant and the waiters attentive and helpful. The food was top quality, especially the cheeses, one of my weaknesses, and the menus varied.. There was probably too much but the energetic walks ashore prevented too much damage to the waistline. The lectures by the guides were interesting and informative but I was not a great fan of the stage shows. They did not seem appropriate for an adventure cruise and probably I was too tired to enjoy them at the end of a usually energetic day. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
We were taken with the promotional video of the animals to be found in Siberia, Russia and Kuril Islands and booked three back to back cruises. L'Austral was the perfect ship to perform all requirements having 10 or more Zodiacs ... Read More
We were taken with the promotional video of the animals to be found in Siberia, Russia and Kuril Islands and booked three back to back cruises. L'Austral was the perfect ship to perform all requirements having 10 or more Zodiacs along with 11 Naturalists who were experts in various fields - whales, orcas, lichen, bears, etc. The ship was small enough to enter shallow waters and in some instances, entered areas never before visited by Ponant. The pre and post lectures were exceptionally good and were conducted in both French and English. Other groups including Chinese and Russian had their own interpreters who filled their groups in after the main lectures. The Captain was amazing. He avoided adverse weather conditions where and whenever possible whilst keeping all passengers fully appraised of all situations including tides, northern lights, winds and typhoons. Although I could not enter our specific departure port of Nome in the section provided, I believe the ship did begin the Arctic cruise in Iceland. With only 180 passengers on board out of a total capacity of 250, rarely was there a wait of more than 15 minutes to board Zodiacs to enjoy all activities provided. All staff were exceptional from the Hotel Manager and Maitre 'D down to wait and cabin staff. 10 out of 10 for service in all areas. If there was a criticism it would be in the beverage department. For a French ship the daily wines were very basic and if a person wanted a better quality, you paid through the nose. Basic items such as a milkshake cost E10 as did the daily cocktail. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
This was almost so good. But yet it wasn't. And I doubt I would ever sail with Ponant again because of this experience. The itinerary was amazing - a 23 night cruise through the Arctic Circle, crossing from Greenland to Alaska ... Read More
This was almost so good. But yet it wasn't. And I doubt I would ever sail with Ponant again because of this experience. The itinerary was amazing - a 23 night cruise through the Arctic Circle, crossing from Greenland to Alaska via the North West Passage, it's the stuff of adventurous dreams. The expeditions were truly amazing, can you imagine the delight of zodiacs right up to the front of a glacier; tramping across pristine arctic tundra (though of course it won't stay pristine for much longer once the tourists really start to visit); being entertained by local Inuit people; and watching walruses and polar bears and seals and whales and narwhals and and and. The whole itinerary was simply wonderful; the expeditions were amazing and the expedition staff friendly and knowledgable (if occasionally slightly unintelligable). So, why was it all so disappointing? Well, it was billed as luxury luxury luxury 5 star 6 star best ever. And as such my expectations were way up. And it was expensive, but as a once in a lifetime cruise, I saved for it and then splurged. But it was all pretty ordinary. The cabins were small and in need of some major refurbishing and certainly a redesign. It was awkward to move in the cabin; with dressing table and drawers in the wrong spot. Storage was very narrow and deep and there was only one chair, no couch, to sit on So if you wanted to relax in the cabin one of you has to sit on the bed. Not so good for my back. The bed was very comfortable though and I slept brilliantly. The toilet was separate from the bathroom and basin and the actual bathroom was quite small. Ok for petites, not sure how some people could turn around in the shower. There is no guest laundry which means that all of your washing is either done by hand in the bathroom basin (not my idea of luxury) or sent out at expense for the ship to do. And it added up to quite an expense. The food was basic and as a vegetarian I struggled to get any variety. A strict vegan would be advised to bring their own! There were nights when my main meal consisted of pasta; potato and rice (and, mostly, dessert). Too often, the vegetables dishes had bacon included and for example on the barbeque meals, while there were all sorts of hamburger patties: beef; pork; chicken;and lamb, there were never any vegetable or chickpea patties. I ate salads mostly, but they lacked variety and 23 nights of almost the same meal is not what I call luxury. I must add though that the bread was amazing - best ever - and the desserts were without question as good as any patisserie. The 'inlcuded' wine was pretty ordinary plonk. The premium wine was just expensive. The dining hours were limited, and both the restaurant and the buffet filled up quickly. If you cruise normally there are extended options for your meals and being crowded out happens rarely. There were only shared tables of 4 or 6, but no tables of 2. I don't mind sharing on most nights but occasionally you like to have just a quiet night without having to make conversation. And, of course, if you got the seats next the window on a 6 person table you could barely get in or out of your seat until the others moved out. The cabin was not set up for a meal, sohaving room service regualrly was really out of the question. In addition, whole sections of both the buffet and the restaurant were put aside for tour groups, which was good for them, but not so convenient for the other passengers. The tour groups also seemed to take over one of the two guest lounges. A concern for me was that the usual cruise ship hygiene precautions did not seem to have high priority. The two hand sanitiser dispensers near the eating areas were rarely used (and their use never encouraged let alone enforced). Embarkation and disembarkation were both a schemozzle. I am aware that neither Kangerlussuaq nor Nome are luxury destinations, but Ponant was quite simply disorganised. The disembarkation was timed around getting the next group of passengers flown up from Seattle, so we had a full day to bumble around Nome waiting for the plane. That wasn't so bad as it's an interesting town, but then getting to the airport - tour groups got precedence (of course they did!) and the rest of us had to just line up and take what was left. It was 'open seating' so once the others were on, there were very limited options for the last bus load. Didn't seem quite fair but hey ho! The flight was a budget airline and quite squashed and running very late, so our day ended at about midnight in Seattle. So, I'd absolutely recommend the itinerary. I didn't object to paying a huge amount for the cruise but I was very disappointed in the shipping line. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
The expeditions on this cruise were amazing. The scenery, the wildlife and the excursions onshore in the remote arctic were the stuff of dreams and I would do it all again. But I would do it on a different ship and with a different ... Read More
The expeditions on this cruise were amazing. The scenery, the wildlife and the excursions onshore in the remote arctic were the stuff of dreams and I would do it all again. But I would do it on a different ship and with a different cruise line. This was expensive (very expensive) and was billed as '5 star luxury' but it was really at the class of the Queen Victoria (Cunard) - ie a good mid-level, small ship. It's not anywhere near the luxury levels of Silverseas or Regent. For example, the room only had one chair, not two nor a couch so that at any time in the room one of us had to sit on the bed. There were no rugs for covering us when on the balcony so we couldn't comfortably sit outside to watch the icebergs. And the main lounge opened onto the 'smokers deck' and was always having cold and smoky air rush in. Curiously, for a French line, the food was probably the most disappointing aspect. Well, that and the pushiness of most other passengers. It did not cater well for vegetarians and not at all for vegans. When specific foods were checked, the sous chef was abrupt to the point of rudeness in his responses. Not really good enough. The embarkation and disembarkation were disorganised (and, yes, I appreciate that neither Kangerlussuaq nor Nome are set up for big groups) but the arrangements were not good and the charter flights were very basic. It was not pleasant being in the crush for seats when boarding and then landing in Seattle late at night was tiring. If you look at just the 'expediaiton' nature of this cruise, then I would wholeheartedly recommend it. It was truly wonderful. But the luxury aspect wasn't. Read Less
30 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We took the August 2 – August 16, 2016 Abercrombie and Kent tour of the Arctic. This is our second time on the ship as we also sailed in December 2012 with the Abercrombie and Kent tour of Antarctica. Many of the ship crew (and staff) ... Read More
We took the August 2 – August 16, 2016 Abercrombie and Kent tour of the Arctic. This is our second time on the ship as we also sailed in December 2012 with the Abercrombie and Kent tour of Antarctica. Many of the ship crew (and staff) were the same as the previous tour. We found the crew, staff and A&K to be exceptional and excellent choices for delivering a tour that is very dynamic, flexible and not a simple checklist of ports/stops. We loved how the staff and crew added unexpected stops or landings when the opportunity appeared or we had more time in our schedule based on the great time we made crossing certain areas faster than expected. We should call out that we had great weather and this helped to made additional landings possible due to fast transit times. The start of the tour was in Oslo Norway. We booked our first night at the Hotel Continental. What a great choice. What a great location. What great service. Highly recommended hotel when visiting Oslo. The second night was booked with A&K: Hotel Bristol. It was only a few blocks away from the Continental so the location was great – but we were very disappointed with the hotel quality and amenities for such a high price as part of the tour. The rooms were TINY and you could not even move a suitcase past the bed to the other side as there was no room to do so. The shower has no door since it is so close to the toilet and sink. You definitely do not want to be in the bathroom when someone else is taking a shower as you will also be soaking wet from all the spray. The room was also very warm…when we complained, they brought up a desk fan as the solution as there was no air conditioning…despite the fact we were in August, a summer month. The hotel lobby and décor were delightful, but the rooms definitely proved the hotel is mainly a turnkey large volume tourist hotel and not a luxury accommodation. We stayed in cabin 416 this time similar to last time. It appears that the fourth floor is the best value of all floors. It is conveniently located in the middle of most areas and available at a reasonable price. All the cabins (except one or two) are the same size, same décor and same amenities. If you like to be on a higher floor, the cost is elevated significantly, but you really do not receive any major or significant benefits. The ship has not been renovated since its launch, but we found that all cabins and ship were extremely well maintained and any damage, wear and tear has definitely been fixed or replaced despite being 7 years old. All drinks are included, although if you prefer premium brands or beers, there are additional charges. The overall choices were quite nice and rarely did we find a need or feel a demand for paying for a premium brand. Also similar to our previous cruise on Le Boreal, we found the food to be excellent. There is always fresh bread, fresh cheese, fresh fruit and many choices…so many choices and so much food, nobody can eat it all. We mostly enjoyed the deck 6 buffet as the staff were excellent and the food choices met all our desires. The breakfast is a little more European style, but they do have eggs and bacon for the Americans and British when they want it. The deck 2 restaurant is definitely more of a premium, sit down service, but it does take significantly longer to complete a meal. The dinner meal takes (on average) 3 hours…which is a bit much for us. However, the larger event galas are quite fun and delightful. Nothing to complain about here. The entertainment is a limited, but the reality is this is an explorer/adventure cruise. It more about the itinerary and not the luxuries…although the ship is certainly 5 star in most aspects. Some say it is not as luxurious as a Seaborn cruise, but it is up there. In the deck 6 forward lounge, they have some nice piano music every evening and in the lower deck 2 lounge, it is more of a cover band (man and women) playing different music to entertain guests. There is only 1 or two evening entertainment acts in the entire trip…many evenings are spent with some documentary movies or late night lectures. I guess this appeals to the dominant older audience more than others, but it was only a small disappointment and not the overall goal of this trip. Not many people stay up late actually, but it is quite fun when in the Arctic Circle when there is no sunset, no darkness and you can spot whales, polar bears or other wildlife at 1:00 in the morning. It feels very difficult, but is quite a fun adventure when you cross above the 78-degree north latitude. For the outings, you definitely want and need the rubber boots. Almost all landings were “wet” and stepping out of the zodiacs into the water when you come ashore. You definitely also need the warm jackets, hats and gloves as some days the wind is cold and it is hard to stay warm on a long zodiac ride without it. However, as we often did, you also want lighter clothing that you can wear for more comfortable walking and hiking once ashore. We usually shed the heavier clothing and then put them back on when we got back on the zodiacs. The crew were excellent in discovering and spotting wildlife throughout the tour. The A&K crew work closely with the Le Boreal crew to make decisions where and when to visit different spots and their work to manage the travel speed during great weather to provide buffer when wildlife was spotted was very much appreciated. Only one of the landings/expeditions was a poor location or a bad use of time in the Greenland fjords. It is possible we were fortunate to spot wildlife on every other landing/expedition and this one was merely normal. I think we saw a total of 12 polar bears on our trip which was very exceptional and fortunate to the hard work of the crew to be watching and searching for wildlife 24x7. Be ready, the sightings may not occur until 1:00 or 3:00 in the morning, but when you have 24 hours of daylight in the Arctic Circle, it is much easier to stay up late. The ship does have Internet connectivity and they charge about 15 euros per hour of connectivity. It is not high speed and don’t try sending large pictures by email or uploading them to sites. It just will not work. It is also very spotty…and when you are up above 78 degrees north latitude, there is no coverage. The azimuth to the global satellites is too far off and you will have to live without connectivity for 3-4 days. When you are also in the Greenland fjords, the mountains will also block the connection so you will have limited connectivity here as well. The CNN/CNBC/BBC stations are also spotty dependent on the satellite connection. The ship does have a nice collection of recent movies which made some of the relax time in the rooms nice when taking a rest between expeditions. Read Less
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