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21 Ponant Australia & New Zealand Cruise Reviews

We chose these cruises for the expeditions and ability of the vessel to get into small ports and also to change course to find unexpected delights. We also love French food! The expedition leaders were wonderful as were their lectures ... Read More
We chose these cruises for the expeditions and ability of the vessel to get into small ports and also to change course to find unexpected delights. We also love French food! The expedition leaders were wonderful as were their lectures each evening on the following day's adventures. All the crew went out of their way to make sure those of us who were less able-bodied were included in as many excursions as physically possible. There was always help with getting in and out of the Zodiacs, etc. We would certainly go on another of these expedition cruises and look forward to the National Geographic connection with Ponant. It was delightful for us to be able to practice our foreign language skills again on this multi-lingual vessel. Captain Fabien Roche was a brilliant commander - very easy to engage with. We made many new friends on both of our back-to-back cruises and hope to see them again on future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date August 2019
Having sailed twice before with Ponant on expedition cruises the choice for our cruise to the Kimberley was easy to make as we knew first hand the type of cruise that we would be joining. Ponant are a little expensive compared to some ... Read More
Having sailed twice before with Ponant on expedition cruises the choice for our cruise to the Kimberley was easy to make as we knew first hand the type of cruise that we would be joining. Ponant are a little expensive compared to some other operators in the Kimberley area, however the quality with Ponant is always the same and they spare nothing to allow each person to enjoy the most out of the adventure. In Wyndham you have the choice of 3 excursions (included in the cruise price),a cruise undertaking the remarkable Ord river wildlife, a scenic flight over the east Kimberley including the Bungle Bungle Range or a day exploring El Questro station including Emma George and Zebedee Springs. We chose the Ord river which is supplied by a Ponant contractor and is a fantastic day seeing all the wild life and the water system of the river. Each day we enjoyed 2 different Zodiacs trips offered by the very experienced Expedition team which allowed us to get up close to some of the most amazing sights on earth. We will never forget the King George River, Vansittart Bay, Hunter River , Mitchell Falls, Collier Bay ( Horizontal Waterfalls), Talbot Bay (Montgomery Reef),Lacepede Islands or the amazing day trips to view and learn about the first nations people and the cave art work and way of life. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
Did this cruise two years ago on L'Austral. It was so good we re-booked and took our adult children on with us this time on Le Laperouse. This trip was even better! The new ship is beautiful. Love the cabins and public areas. The new ... Read More
Did this cruise two years ago on L'Austral. It was so good we re-booked and took our adult children on with us this time on Le Laperouse. This trip was even better! The new ship is beautiful. Love the cabins and public areas. The new Zodiac landing arm is amazing. When not in use for this purpose we had a champagne cocktail party on it as well as a concert by an opera singer as the sun was setting over the Indian Ocean. Magical. The expedition team were fantastic. Very knowledgeable and likable. Wonderful Captain and crew on board and sensational food. An incredible itinerary in such a beautiful remote area. We felt very privileged to be able to hike to some of the Aboriginal rock art sites. We are quite well traveled and cruise a lot and hands down this was the best trip we have ever done. Could not fault a thing. If you haven't been to the Kimberley be sea, I would highly recommend it with Ponant. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
The crew were unfailingly friendly yet efficient. The organisation of embarkation, disembarkation and the multiple excursions was flawless, and supplemented by daily debriefing/briefing sessions which ensured passengers were well informed ... Read More
The crew were unfailingly friendly yet efficient. The organisation of embarkation, disembarkation and the multiple excursions was flawless, and supplemented by daily debriefing/briefing sessions which ensured passengers were well informed as to the requirements and expectations for each day's activities. Shore excursions were supervised by highly qualified, well-informed and enthusiastic scientist/naturalists, and we visited stunning locations which are only accessible by boat (or helicopter). While encouraged to participate, passengers could do as much or as little as they wished. With only 175 passengers aboard, there was a great sense of community on the ship. Cabin accommodation was very comfortable, well laid out and kept spotlessly clean and replenished by twice-daily staff visits; individual balconies were a bonus. There was plenty of space for lounging and relaxation. Facilities included a gymnasium and sauna/spa/massage. Although there were only about 15 children on board, they were well catered for by the cruise director and her team (and, to their parents' great credit, the children's behaviour was beyond reproach). There were ample entertainments laid on in the evenings and at night. Meals were superb in variety, cuisine and presentation, with excellent wines included (no need to subscribe to the "superior" beverage package!); all dietary requirements were catered for. Only complaint: too short! Would we go again? Definitely! Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
It was my husband’s 70th birthday and we are wildlife carers so the opportunity to see so many penguin, albatross and seals in their natural,habitat was a must for us. We had never done such a cruise before, a smaller ship, only 150 ... Read More
It was my husband’s 70th birthday and we are wildlife carers so the opportunity to see so many penguin, albatross and seals in their natural,habitat was a must for us. We had never done such a cruise before, a smaller ship, only 150 passengers and 100 crew. We were amazed at having 13 expedition leaders to lead trips on zodiacs to various islands, each had speciality knowledge, flora, fauna and geological. Each day we experienced an expedition on zodiacs, we felt safe and were always assisted into and out of the boats. Despite some rough seas, we were comfortable and the shipmbehaved well, our Captain was very experienced in difficult seas, having taken passengers down to antarctic waters previously. The most wonderful experience was going to Macquarie Island where few people are able to go. We were surrounded on the beach by hundreds of King and Royal,penguins, a remarkable experience, to sit on the beach and have the birds come up to us and check us over. We visited islands of New Zealand including Enderby where we saw Royal Albatross and endangered yellow eyed penguins. I can thoroughly recommend this cruise if anyone is interested in wildlife. Despite the average age was 60+ no one seemed to miss out on the enjoyment, It was the best cruise ever, expensive but everything was provided, Nespresso machine and kettle for tea and coffee in our cabins, all wine and spirits unless expensive kinds wanted, French cuisine for lunch and dinner. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
(Apologies if this is a bit long, but I know i love to get all the details when I read a review!) Day 1 - Boarding As others have noted Ponant are very strict with their 1 hour boarding window, and even turning up 15 minutes early ... Read More
(Apologies if this is a bit long, but I know i love to get all the details when I read a review!) Day 1 - Boarding As others have noted Ponant are very strict with their 1 hour boarding window, and even turning up 15 minutes early meant we were only able to leave our luggage and head for a beer in the brewery next door! Boarding in Cairns was very straightforward, with no Immigration requirements as this was an Australian cruise. There was a short delay boarding while both the Captain and the Chairman (Sarina Bratton A.M.) greeted every passenger. Once on board we were escorted to our cabin (312 which is about 10m from Reception). First impressions of the cabin were excellent. The light airy décor and general cabin layout were good, and the cabin was spotless. Departure As the next day was a port call at Lizard Island, the programme once aboard was rushed. Just time to grab a welcome drink before at 5pm (as boarding finished) there was an expedition briefing in the theatre and issue of lifejackets for the Zodiacs. Then back to the cabin to retrieve our full lifejackets for lifeboat drill in the theatre at 5:30pm – fortunately nothing is too far from anywhere on Le Laperouse. This was immediately followed by drinks on the rear deck for sailaway at 6pm, then dinner from 7:00pm. Day 2 – Lizard Island Our call at Lizard Island was affected by weather with the preferred anchorage unsuitable due to wind and swell. However the crew had a Plan B and we stopped on the other side of the island (although the captain was unable to anchor and had to drift and reposition the ship all day). This meant a slightly longer 15 minute Zodiac trip to the beach, and no real opportunity for snorkelling although the water was pleasant for swimming. The passengers were split into 4 colour groups for the duration of the cruise, and this determined your activity order and Zodiac boarding time. Generally this process ran pretty efficiently and too schedule. There were a couple of guided walks offered morning and afternoon which weren’t too strenuous and allowed us to become better acquainted with some of the Expedition team. Sailaway preceded the Captains Welcome party on the rear deck and the first of what proved to be many 6-course degustation dinners! Dress was what I describe as ‘semi-formal’ with most men wearing jackets, some wearing a tie as well, but others in long-sleeve shirts and slacks (noting it was 30ºC plus outside). Due to the balmy weather, the Grill on Level 3 was open every meal for those who didn’t wan’t a large extended dinner or wished to dress more casually. Day 3 & 4 – Willis Island Due to the massive complexity of Australian marine regulation (discussed by Sarina Bratton during her Q&A session) the cruise included 2 days at sea to make a “technical stop” at Willis Island. This constitutes ‘leaving Australia’ and avoids coastal-cruising fees which otherwise would be lumped onto the fares. Activities during what were effectively 2 sea days included lectures from the Expedition crew, and Sarina’s Q&A session. Snorkelling equipment was also issued to those so inclined, which you kept for the duration of the reef visits. A highlight was the seafood luncheon prepared by the guest chef, Guillame Brahimi, and the first of his 2 degustation dinners. Worth noting that the degustation dinners took nearly 2.5 hours to get to the final course as everyone was served at once. Day 5 – Hardy Reef The visit to Hardy Reef involves being moved by Zodiac to a moored reef pontoon some 20 minutes away by Zodiac. This is due to the restricted anchorage available for ships of this size. Due to choppy weather conditions, everyone got soaked en-route to the platform – fortunately the water was warm! We had the run of the platform except for between 11am and 4pm when we were joined by day-trippers. This included a ride in a semi-submersible over the reef, an underwater observatory, and snorkelling. Coffee, tea and water and toilets were available on the platforms cruise boat moored at the platform. Day 6 – Percy Island We moored off Percy Island in calmer conditions with a 5-10 minute ride into the beach. The crew had erected beach umbrellas on the sand, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) and 2-man kayaks were available to tour the small lagoon at the end of the beach during the morning. 2 walks were available, which were a bit more strenuous than Lizard Island, although a few wilting passengers were kindly transported by ute and quadbike by the residents (all 5 of them). Percy Island’s highlight is the “Yacht Club”, a large A-frame building covered in plaques and memorabilia from passing yachts (and cruise ships) – you could spend hours looking through them all. A pleasant surprise in the afternoon was a ‘cocktail party’ on the beach with rum punch, champagne and beer and a game of boules! Followed by another degustation dinner… Day 7 – Lady Musgrave Island Ponant arranges with the Lady Musgrave Experience tour boat for access to its facilities at Lady Musgrave Island. This includes snorkelling of their large reef boat, a glass-bottom boat tour and a walk around Lady Musgrave Island to see the turtle rookeries and bird colonies. However, rough weather made it impossible for the Zodiacs to be loaded, although the captain to his credit tried everything. Ultimately, to our amazement, they arranged to try a direct boat-to-boat transfer to the large reef boat! Some great seamanship on both sides saw 110 passengers taken to the reef to get a shortened experience for 2-3 hours. The snorkelling was excellent, and the guided walk (although necessarily short) was well done. All credit must go to the captains and crews for making it possible – lots of other cruises ships would have called it off hours earlier. Days 8 & 9 – At sea The next two days saw us cruise in increasingly better weather down the Australian east coast. An advantage of a ship with no casino, and smaller size, means they travel closer to the coast and there is more to see. One morning it was our colour groups turn at a Wine and Cheese Tasting hosted by the Sommelier, a chance to try some of the wines on the wine list paired with some excellent French cheeses (a step up from those on the buffet). Another degustation dinner… Day 10 – Newcastle Newcastle is a former steel making town that is re-inventing itself as a tourist destination based on its beaches and proximity to the Hunter Valley winery region. Ponant had organised an included tour, with each colour group boarding a coach to visit three of four wineries in the Hunter (so no 2 groups were at the same place at the same time), with all coaches converging on one winery for a 2-course lunch with some excellent local wine. A good day capped off with another degustation dinner… Day 11 – Sydney Our visit to Sydney highlighted the crisis the iconic harbour suffers with insufficient cruise ship capacity (particularly for large ships). We were unable to moor at the Overseas Passenger Terminal until 7pm due to another ship being port, and no other berth being available. The day started very well with the ship pulling into Broken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Zodiac tours ended up at a “surprise” location on a local tourist boat where we had an oyster shucking and testing session with some nice local wines – I sat among a group of non-oyster eaters and had a great time! The oysters were wonderful. About 30 passengers disembarked (mainly due to early flights the following day), and the remainder were allowed off from about 8pm to wander around The Rocks and Opera House precinct. Day 12 – Sydney Disembarkation was a nightmare – although it wasn’t particularly Ponant’s fault. At 4am Le Laperouse had to leave the OPT and moor at a mid-harbour anchorage so a large Carnival ship could berth. Passengers baggage was taken off and left at the OPT. The remaining passengers had to disembark by tender from 7am. This involved a bumpy 20 minute tender ride to the steps of the Opera House, very difficult for passengers with reduced mobility. That’s where the fun started… We were then herded across the Opera House forecourt by rude Security staff and loaded onto small buses to be taken to the OPT to clear Border Force formalities and get our baggage. This trip took nearly 20 minutes to cover what would be a 5-10 minute walk… Once at the terminal (about 8:15) we were forced to sit in the terminal (unless you joined the escorted tours to the toilets) until nearly 9:30 while Border Force finished with the Carnival ship. After all that, the actual Border Force process involved handing over the Incoming Passenger card and walking through… they would have processed all the passengers in less than 5 minutes. We could have dropped the cards in a box and been just as thoroughly processed. A very ordinary introduction to Sydney for our international visitors (although perhaps no great surprise to those of us locals who put up with their bureaucratic nonsense on a regular basis!). Overall Impression The Cabin Main Area – The bed and pillows were very comfortable, and the air-conditioning well controlled. The only real issue is the very narrow space at the foot of the bed requires the occasional pas-de-deux with your companion. Storage – shallow draws beneath the bedside tables (wide on one side of the bed, narrow on the other) with some space below. Good cupboards under the bench below the TV (although draws might have been better). Main wardrobe had good hanging space and plenty of hangers, with a shelf above (occupied by life jackets) and 4 storage shelves full-height on the side. Another cupboard to the side held the coffee/tea facilities (including a Nespresso machine and a kettle) and the mini-bar fridge (stocked with gin, vodka, scotch and bourbon along with beer, sparkling water, Coke, Coke no-sugar, tonic and fruit juice). The under-bed space was sufficient to store suitcases, although larger cases would need to be ‘butterflied’. Bathroom - The separate toilet and shower are a good idea, although the toilet cubicle is very small! The shower recess is quite roomy for a ship. All products were Hermes (a tie up with a parent company). There is a single large draw and 2 shelves and some bench space around the sink for storage. The only issue was that you can’t plug the sink to shave. Entertainment A large flat-screen TV has about 15 channels of mixed French/English entertainment and news channels, as well as channel for the front webcam and another for an underwater camera. There is a wide selection of new and old movies (although “Titanic” and “Lifeboat” may be odd choices for a cruise ship!). The only sport was mainly soccer (EPL etc), although watching the Super Bowl in French was novel! The Ship The ship generally has everything you want. Social life focusses around the main lounge and bar and the Grill area outside in fine weather, and in the Panorama Bar/Lounge above the Bridge. The much vaunted Blue Eye lounge is only open a few hours a day, and was rarely used. A short “Blue Eye Experience” was interesting, but otherwise it wasn’t open when you wanted it to be… The medical centre is staffed by a doctor and nurse, and a couple of people who had need of their services said they were helpful but expensive! The shop sells a lot of clothing and a few souvenirs, but doesn’t really stock any forgotten necessities. The Spa was well customised, the Sauna is beautiful (but not much used when it was already 30 plus outside!) and I believe there was a gym ! The theatre is comfortable and spacious, and can seat all passengers at once. It is used for daily recaps and briefings on Excursion cruises, and shows with the ships dancers on roughly alternate nights, weather permitting. The open-bridge policy is nice, and the crew are happy to answer questions. Once per cruise you can attend a bridge visit with the Captain who spent nearly an hour talking about the ship and it’s equipment and answering questions. The marina dock at the rear of the ship made boarding the Zodiacs relatively simple, and it can be raised to serve as a stage for the Captain’s welcome. Watching it unfurl itself from under the rear deck is a piece of theatre in itself! The Crew In a word, outstanding. Always friendly, quick to learn who you were and very visible and available – particularly the Captain who would frequently be on hand at the Marina as you boarded the Zodiacs. The opportunity was presented a couple of times during the cruise to ‘dine with an officer’ via a sign-up list at the Reception desk. We had two very pleasant dinners with crew, one hosted by the Reef Pilot and his wife, and once by the Cruise Director and the Shore Tours Manager. We were also joined by one of the Expedition team for a celebration dinner for my birthday. The waiters were generally engaging and efficient, and the bar staff quick to learn your preferences and anticipate your requirements! The Expedition team were all very friendly and engaged with the passengers frequently. When manning Zodiacs or taking guided walks they were well informed on the locations and wildlife. Our cabin steward was highly efficient but must have abseiled into the cabin ninja-like, as I think I saw him twice in 11 days for about 30 seconds each time. I never even found out his name… The Food… the food… the food… I guess that on a Food and Wine theme cruise, I shouldn’t have been surprised but there was SO MUCH FOOD…! Breakfasts were served either in the Nautilus Restaurant or the Grille, and were largely self-serve although egg dishes were available to order. A good range of juices, cereals, pastries, bread and hot food were available at the buffets. Lunch was similar, with one themed lunch run by the guest chef apart from the on-shore lunch arranged in Newcastle. Afternoon ‘tea’ food was available in the Main Lounge if you couldn’t hold out until dinner. Due to the theme, the normal 3 ‘Gala’ nights were supplemented by 2 others run by the guest chef, hence there were 5 six-course degustation dinners over 11 nights which was too much! To cap it off on the guest chef nights, you returned to your cabin to find a box of caramels or nougat on the bed… There was always a small treat left by the steward every night at turn-down, although many went uneaten as we couldn’t face any more food… The food itself was extremely good, and some of the dishes produced by the guest chef were sublime. There was a strong seafood content, although alternatives were always available, and a full vegetarian degustation was always offered in parallel on Gala nights. Room service was also available and included, but unused in my case. Drinks There was an ‘open’ bar including the in-cabin minibar, however there were a variety of extra-cost items and an extensive wine list with wines up to €900+ per bottle. There was also the option to purchase a €20 Euro/day (full duration only) package on the first 2 days that added more premium spirits and cocktails, and additional wines, to the package. Oddly, any premium spirit was charged at full cost despite the cost differential to the standard spirit being small (e.g. Johnnie Walker Red was included but Johnnie Walker Black was an extra €8 per serve, despite the cost differential between whole bottles being only roughly €10 in Australia or about €0.75 per serve – the same thing with Gordons vs Bombay Sapphire gin). The Itinerary The itinerary was as interesting as you would like an Expedition on the Great Barrier Reef to be. A pity that the local regulations forced the 2 sea days for the ‘technical stop’ as it would have been good to visit another part of the Great Barrier Reef (or one of the coastal towns). As a first time visitor, all the locations were interesting however they were all unsurprisingly to the same theme (swimming, snorkelling, beach) except Newcastle. In Summary Summing up this was a really excellent cruise despite the weather and the intervention of the Australian rules and regulations. Ponant have an excellent product and their crew are determined to make sure you enjoy your holiday. The cruise, even when hampered by weather, was conducted in good spirits and the small number of passengers made it very social as you ended up dining with nearly everyone at least once. As a first time Ponant cruiser, it was interesting to see the number of repeat cruisers with many following Sarina Bratton from her former Orion line. There was a definite French ‘touch’ to the ship, mainly in the décor, food and entertainment, but with 70% of the passengers being Australian the cruise was conducted entirely in English with all the crew bi- (or tri) lingual. I heard very few complaints (one woman was outraged she couldn’t order Eggs Benedict one day when it wasn’t the ‘egg of the day’) apart from the general concern about the disembarkation. A few passengers were amazed that they wouldn’t be able to disembark and make an 11am international flight – however their stupidity in booking a flight that required them to be at the airport (30 minutes from the terminal), an hour before the scheduled disembarkation time can hardly be laid at Ponant’s door, despite the passengers best efforts. All in all, highly recommended. We cruise again on Le Laperouse in 2 weeks to the Sub-Antarctic Islands and I can’t wait! Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Words can’t do this cruise justice as is was far beyond anything that you expect The team are great and very knowledgeable. They are only too happy to share this with you. The wild life is amazing, beautiful and diverse. The ... Read More
Words can’t do this cruise justice as is was far beyond anything that you expect The team are great and very knowledgeable. They are only too happy to share this with you. The wild life is amazing, beautiful and diverse. The zodiac tours are great with lots of penguins all around you and the ship at Macca. They follow you like babies following mum. They are so fast in the water and waddle on land. The weather is cold but you are dressed properly and I was never cold. The ship is a great haven in the middle of nowhere. Warm, good food, drinks. There are rules that you have to abide by, no food to leave the ship, take nothing with you when you leave, stay on the boardwalk, don’t touch the wildlife. All outer clothes have to be vacuumed when you get back so as not to contaminate the next stop. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
We went to the Kimberleys, having embarked in Broome. We spent a few days in Broome and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The Cabin was well appointed but somewhat small, however not really a problem The naturalists and experts on ... Read More
We went to the Kimberleys, having embarked in Broome. We spent a few days in Broome and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The Cabin was well appointed but somewhat small, however not really a problem The naturalists and experts on the cruise were really fantastic. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and always willing to speak to passengers about their specialities The excursions ashore were really interesting, educational, extremely well organised and most enjoyable. Most of the on board lectures were very informative and interesting. The food was Ok , not so fantastic, but the crew, and stewards were excellent and professional. For coffee afficionados there is definite room for improvement. Entertainment was usually scheduled a little too late, and we would have to wait around too long after dinner. However the on board entertainers were of a high standard and we enjoyed the shows that we attended Our departure from the ship was very well organised and all went very smoothly for our group. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We chose the cruise because while we have travelled to many other parts of the world we really need to see more of our own land. We combined the cruise with self drive land content before and after and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the ... Read More
We chose the cruise because while we have travelled to many other parts of the world we really need to see more of our own land. We combined the cruise with self drive land content before and after and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the north of Australia. There was a bit of a mess embarking as the papers were late arriving and the meeting point had changed but the Visitors' Centre in Broome was very accommodating. All was soon forgotten when we boarded, greeted by senior staff and with a glass of bubbles, we were escorted to our cabin where our bags were waiting. Our cabin, 508, was very comfortable, with plenty of space for our belongings, and the screen in the bathroom giving a view of the outside from the shower was exciting, as well as acting as a source of light. Our attendant kept everything very clean and was helpful in a range of small ways. I have never had such a thorough lifeboat drill, leaving the theatre to fetch our life jackets, donning them, being checked off and then shown row by row to the lifeboat boarding area. This attention to safety was also shown by the zodiac with the doctor, and a senior officer accompanying all excursions, people on hand to assist with difficult parts of walks and a briefing each evening on how rigorous the next day would be. There always seemed to be entertainment in the main lounge, a singer, classical pianist or a mood music, and on the only sea day there were two short documentaries related to the area. The main lounge and the observation lounge as well as the outdoor areas gave plenty of places to relax, read, talk, play games or just watch the passing views. Even at night it was very pleasant to take the air and look at the stars. The main entertainment however was the excursion program, and what a program. After the evening briefing we looked forward tot he sights of the next day and weren't disappointed. The zodiacs were manned by mainly young, but always very enthusiastic and informative members of the expedition team. We saw whales, turtles, rays, many varieties of birds, crocodiles, dolphins, and some lucky passengers saw a dugong. On shore we visited rock art sites from different periods, and a beach with strange shaped rocks of significance to indigenous Australians, as well as venturing up rivers and gorges. The sunsets were amazing, and the sunrises were probably also spectacular judging by the light I saw early one morning! It was the most wonderful experience to go out on a zodiac and then return to a ship with excellent French food and wine, good company and a warm ambiance. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We wanted to visit the Kimberley region from the sea and experience rock art and geographic features. We were not particularly interested in the birdlife but found it fascinating nevertheless. The hotels before and after were all we ... Read More
We wanted to visit the Kimberley region from the sea and experience rock art and geographic features. We were not particularly interested in the birdlife but found it fascinating nevertheless. The hotels before and after were all we expected - very pleasant stays. The ship was impressive with plenty to keep us occupied on board. Service was very good. The excursions and explanatory talks before and after and the commentary during them were excellent. The cabin was well laid out and comfortable and in a great position. The balcony was a great spot to relax. Food, drinks and service were very good and nothing seemed to be too much to ask the staff, who were very helpful and courteous. We only partook of a little of the entertainment, but what we did experience was enjoyable. Both embarkation and disembarkation were handled quickly and efficiently. All in all it was a great experience and we thoroughly enjoyed very aspect of it. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We had previously sailed on Ponant cruises to Alaska and Antarctica and had fantastic exoeriences with them so we decided to cruise with Ponant again in our own country Australia from Darwin to Broome to see the Kimberley Region, The ... Read More
We had previously sailed on Ponant cruises to Alaska and Antarctica and had fantastic exoeriences with them so we decided to cruise with Ponant again in our own country Australia from Darwin to Broome to see the Kimberley Region, The ships are very comfortable in classic French chique style and only take approximately 200 passengers rather than other massive cruise ships, We find this size of boat perfect t allows for comfort and service without being too small or too large, The food is excellent and the service is also friendly and courteous, The cruise Director was amazing with the on-board entertainment also a lot of fun. The wait staff were also friendly as were the bar staff although our only criticism of the Kimberley Cruise was that one of the bar staff in the main bar seemed unfriendly and disinterested which was so out of character with the other staff. It was something that should have been rectified while we were sailing on the cruise as it did impact bar service and sense of fun. Read Less
Sail Date August 2018
We chose this cruise line and ship for it's supposed 5 star rating and it's small number of passengers. We had previously been on two cruises on the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti which were fantastic so we expected a similar ... Read More
We chose this cruise line and ship for it's supposed 5 star rating and it's small number of passengers. We had previously been on two cruises on the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti which were fantastic so we expected a similar experience as the two ships are of similar size and capacity. We booked to travel from Noumea to New Zealand over 14 days spending Christmas and New Year on board expecting something quite special. It only took a couple of days to realise that there was a shortage of staff in the lounge/bar/entertainment area on deck 3. The lounge was nice and comfortable but could not accommodate a lot of guests and when there were quite a few there we found it could take up to an hour to get a drink. There was often only one waiter and one barman who just couldn't cope with all the orders. Sometimes the bar manager was in attendance however he did not arrange more staff and seemed more interested in talking with the French guests. We are English speakers only and it appeared that the French would receive more attention. There is a nice piano bar on deck 6 which we liked to attend however there were a few instances when the piano player was performing and the bar was closed. When the bar was open Alex, the barman, was excellent with his service and did his best for all. The a la carte restaurant on deck 2 was very nice but also short staffed when busy. The quality and range of the food was only average and the wine selection very limited. They had one particular white, red and rose house wine available each day which were very average. They had 3 chardonnays and one chablis the whole trip which were included in the open bar. If you wanted a sav blanc you had to pay 8 euros a glass. The rest of the open bar drinks were quite extensive so the cocktails, spirits and beers were plentiful. The buffet restaurant on deck 6 was always crowded which seemed to be a poor reflection on the a la carte one. The food was also average with some uncomfortable push and shove around the serveries. The cabin was very nice with sufficient storage. The cabin cleaner, Putu, was excellent and could not do enough for us. As we had visited New Zealand previously we did not do any shore excursions. We would just get off the ship for a few hours and explore the current port which was enjoyable. We spoke to quite a few other guests who had been on previous Ponant cruises who stated that they had really enjoyed their previous trips however were similarly disappointed with this one. It seems that the Ponant is great for expeditions but not so good for just cruising. We both picked up a 24/48 hour stomach bug at different times during the cruise and later discovered that this happened to several other guests also. We can only assume that this might have had something to to with the full offload of the ships stores in Auckland to be replaced by New Zealand produce which took all day at great cost. The official line was that this was a requirement of the New Zealand authorities. For 3 days there was a terrible smell on our deck which seemed to be vomit on the carpets however we were told a few days later that a sewer pipe had burst beneath the floor. This was not explained by the crew at any time. We would not go on another Ponant cruise after this trip. If asked we would recommend the Paul Gauguin over the Ponant. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This was our second cruise with Ponant we have completed a cruise to Antarctica (La Boreal and the Kimberley's - L'Austral) and have already booked on L'Austral to travel to the New Zealand antipodes. We found the ship to be ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Ponant we have completed a cruise to Antarctica (La Boreal and the Kimberley's - L'Austral) and have already booked on L'Austral to travel to the New Zealand antipodes. We found the ship to be perfect for our form of travel - passenger numbers not too big nor too small.. Service either in the Dining Room (Deck 2) or the BBQ area (Deck 6) was excellent.On our last cruise the outside dining was extremely popular due to the warm weather conditions. The expedition style also suits us with daily shore visits and exceptional naturalists and guides.The were few if any Days at Sea. Cabins were clean and most comfortable and serviced to our satisfaction each day.. Food was varied and extremely enjoyable. Wines etc were good. The evening entertainment was most enjoyable. The excursions were perfect on both cruises with almost 2 shore landings each day (Antarctica and Kimberley's) . We have enjoyed both cruises and look forward to our next one in January.2018. Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
this cruise chosen for itinerary and chance to visit very remote islands south of new Zealand the cruise was poor, accommodation, small and basic, food either good or bad, service mediocre. I have read salty1000 report and think he ... Read More
this cruise chosen for itinerary and chance to visit very remote islands south of new Zealand the cruise was poor, accommodation, small and basic, food either good or bad, service mediocre. I have read salty1000 report and think he must be an employee because this was not what happened on the ship. This ship charges top 5 star prices and gives 3 star value at best Expedition staff were knowledgeable but zodiac drivers were poor with no knowledge, most of the time they were dancers from the cabaret, or novice cadets The ship hit rocks off of the Snares islands and this meant returning to Bluff Harbour for emergency repairs. The itinerary was now severely shortened and specific Islands such as Antipodes and Bounty were missed, others including Mc Quarrie island went from 3 days to 3 hours or less. Everything was to blame of course except Ponant, weather, seas, laws and governments, we paid for a pre cruise tour and we did not get it, instead we stood outside of the ship in the sun waiting for the ship to be ready for embarkation Our cabins bed was a foldaway and barely adequate. the food was bland, cold and poorly served most of the time. The ships design is poor, too many disconnected areas, very little outside spaces of any note for £8000+ per person we expected more than they gave to us. NO we would not use this cruise line again, even with the on board bribe of _15-25% off of new Poanant cruises. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
The voyage started in Sydney and called the various islands and anchorages a ship of only this size is capable of , with the Zodiacs on board ferrying passengers across to remote places in the region if tender service not an option , this ... Read More
The voyage started in Sydney and called the various islands and anchorages a ship of only this size is capable of , with the Zodiacs on board ferrying passengers across to remote places in the region if tender service not an option , this worked quite wel We found the staff very capable and instructions both in French and English well presented and all explained in detail in most cases the day before , the Australian expedition leaders knowledgeable and a bit of Aussie humour to flavour the experience !it was the vessels and Ponant's first experience exploring the Barrier Reef. Passengers mostly from France , My guess 60 percent and the remainder Aussies , some Anericans and other Europeans , actually a great mixture and it seemed they all enjoyed each other's company. The Ship is fairly new and cabins and beautifully appointed , comfortable beds , a flat screen TVs with all the English channels , a mini bar well stocked and replenished daily at no cost and included in the open bar policy , however be mindful of the suites , they might have a fold out couch serving as a king size bed , best to check this out if you prefer 2 singles The cabins on deck 5 very quiet and no noise from other passenger cabins nearby . The vessel boasts 2 restaurants , all open sitting , the on deck 6 more casual and booking for dinner is essential due to the limited space , the one on deck 2 very nicely appointed and seats all if required , the senior officers and Master occupy their own table apart from Welcome and Farewell dinners , The vessel has an open bar policy that includes most drinks, cocktails , wines , fancy a gin and tonic or a Martini , a Brandy after dinner , not a problem ! We experienced 2 Wine tastings , one in French and one in English , very knowledgable and presented , the stock of top wines is also on display and available from the restaurant in deck 2 . Numerous activities during the day , what ever you fancy from Quizes to Can Can shows at night in the theatre and with the amount of passengers not a busy excercise , the ship also has an open bridge policy most of the time if you fancy a look where all the action is . Food , plenty , not silver service though , not sure if that still excists nowadays , there is a Butler service if you want to dine in private , the French tone is prevellent of course and if you like this style , these sort of cruises won't disappoint , The Master and Officers are French , the crew in general a mixture of Fillipino and Indonesian , and all English speaking . Embarkation / Disembarkation not a problem , yes 4 o'clock for a 6 pm departure , what's the fuss? Your luggage tagged and delivered to your cabin and vice versa when going off . The staterooms on deck 3 don't have an totally open veranda as on the top,decks , there is a reason for that as you are closer to the water line, just a safety thing, and so are the doors towards your veranda not full length , same thing . Overall a beautiful ship , no pokies , no casino,no rowdy teenagers ! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
As a long time cruiser having sailed on Holland America, Celebrity, P&O Australia, Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Silversea, Seabourn and lately Ponant, I have to say Ponant is way down the list in overall satisfaction, giving that is ... Read More
As a long time cruiser having sailed on Holland America, Celebrity, P&O Australia, Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Silversea, Seabourn and lately Ponant, I have to say Ponant is way down the list in overall satisfaction, giving that is supposed to be up there with the best. I have never written a cruise review before, but after reading other cruisecritic reviews of the Le Soleal, decided to add my thoughts. The ships decor was very nicely done, and was light and bright, a few Christmas decorations were in place, but not enough Festive ambience was created for this special time in my opinion. I was on the leg from Noumea to Akaroa in December 2015, and it was the worst "premium" cruise EVER. This was supposed to be a wonderful Xmas experience for us, but from day one it was clear that the ship and its staff did not in any way live up to its promises. Embarkation was after 5 pm, after waiting for 3hrs in a deserted area in the port and believe me, downtown Noumea on a Sunday is pretty dismal. Food was very average, on the two most important nights, Captain's Gala Dinner and Christmas Eve there was a set menu. No other choices from a standard menu as is usual on other ships, so if you didn't like what was offered, bad luck. The lunch buffet often ran out of the main offering so we went without on a few occassions. Alcohol was included, but only two wines, a red or white and very average quality, upon asking for a decent drop we were told there was a surcharge. 'Fresh' orange juice was advertised but not produced, just a concentrated cheap tasting alternative. No entertainment to rave about, in fact there was nothing to do during the day. Officers sat at their own table and virtually ignored passengers each evening. The waiters were unable, in the main, to answer questions about the menus etc, it seemed they, and the bar staff did what they needed and no more. Other Australian and NZ passengers commented on their disappointment on this ship, and one couple who were fervent Ponant cruisers having done 6 already, cancelled their next cruise then and there so bad was their experience. Lifeboat drill was a farce. We had to go down to listen to 45 minutes of both French and English translations and a spiel about all the facilities on board, then file out, trudge upstairs, go to our stateroom, get our lifejackets and return for the drill. What???? I could go on, but you get the idea. Never again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We have done about 25 cruises overall, and with Oceania, SilverSea, Seabourn, Crystal and APT. All top end luxury cruise lines. Ponant is priced at the same level but our cruise was unbelievably awful, FOOD...tasteless, the same every ... Read More
We have done about 25 cruises overall, and with Oceania, SilverSea, Seabourn, Crystal and APT. All top end luxury cruise lines. Ponant is priced at the same level but our cruise was unbelievably awful, FOOD...tasteless, the same every day...poor quality..boring, so I survived on watermelon and lettuce. SUITE..what a joke. They left the door open between two adjoining cabins and called it a suite. We had no need for a second cabin, so we paid double for nothing. SERVICE...It would help if the crew spoke English without an accent one cannot understand and it would also help if the Maitre D did not argue with guests about the poor quality of the food...very defensive. EXCURSIONS...Very expensive and should have been included in the price. ATTITUDE ON BOARD....OK if you are French, not OK if you speak English...felt like we were intruding on the French guests and crew. DISEMBARKATION....what a joke. They promised to take us to Christchurch and dropped us off at a place called Akaora some 2 hours from Christchurch so we had to pay yet again to get to Christchurch. ITINERARY...Do NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING THIS MOB PUT IN THEIR BROCHURES . We purchased this cruise to visit Norfolk Island, the high light of the cruise. The day before we sailed when I read the itinerary that had been delivered to us only hours earlier, we found a quite different itinerary which cut out Norfolk Island. No explanation and when I asked for compensation from Ponant upon return to Sydney, I received a most arrogant defensive letter ." you should have checked our website to check out what changes we make..". Just awful attitude...rude..defensive...insulting...just like the attitude on board. It comes from the top administration of course, so if you are looking for a far inferior cruise to those I have mentioned above, and you want to eat poor quality food the same every day and have to hassle to get what you have paid for, go for Ponant. If on the other hand you want good service, food, accommodation etc. then there are plenty of other cruise lines that charge the same or less who will respect you as a guest. Embarkation at Noumea. No preparation...had to wait on street with luggage with no water or refreshments until 5 p.m. boarding. Unusually late for luxury ship, but they were still not ready. Very disorganised. SUITE. We purchased a suite and were given two adjoining cabins with door propped open. We had no use for a second cabin, so we paid double for no suite . FOOD. Just awful. Repetitive. Bland. Overcooked. Poor quality. Tasteless and unattractive I mostly ate watermelon and lettuce. CHRISTMAS DAY. What a joke..a few red and white balloons with the kitchen staff embarrassingly trying to sing something relevant at dinner and crew on Deck 3 lounge even worse prepared as they struggled through french and then english unfamiliar songs. ENTERTAINMENT. 4 female and 1 male professional dancers were the full extent, plus a pianist and two female singers. Dancers were excellent but not sufficient to hold attention of a luxury ship's guests for nearly 2 weeks. BEVERAGES Open bar worked well on decks 3 and 6. SHIP. New and attractive but too small for open seas..it bobbed around like a cork on the rough days. EXCURSIONS. Too expensive we did not purchase. ITINERARY. We purchased the cruise to visit Norfolk Island but discovered only a day before sailing that Ponant had totally changed the published itinerary...we were never notified and Ponant advised me on return to Sydney I should have been checking out their web site for any changes....unbelievable and arrogant. Compensation claim underway. DISEMBARKATION. Another misleading promise by Ponant. We purchased a cruise to Christchurch, New Zealand but were ferried across to a wharf at Akaroa 2 hours from Christchurch, where Ponant charged us nearly AUD $200 to finish the trip. Either that or get a local bus for about AUD $60 to Christchurch which some guests did. I definitely would NEVER EVER use Ponant again and I did not meet one English speaking guest on board who disagreed. It is a french line, totally focused on french speaking guests. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
Keen to try a Ponant cruise, we booked a 10 day Christmas cruise in December from Noumea to Akaroa. As seasoned cruisers, mostly with Seabourn and Silversea, we were expecting Ponant to deliver similar service, food and ambience that ... Read More
Keen to try a Ponant cruise, we booked a 10 day Christmas cruise in December from Noumea to Akaroa. As seasoned cruisers, mostly with Seabourn and Silversea, we were expecting Ponant to deliver similar service, food and ambience that other small ships excel in. CHECK IN: Many pax had a 3-4 hour wait at the port as check in was at 5pm. It was a hot day, so bottled water would have been a nice touch as it was Sunday and shops were closed. Check in was efficient and staff to escort us on to the ship, but where was the welcome glass of champagne? AMENITIES: Beautiful modern decor, stateroom was small with a separate shower/vanity room and small toilet room which was useless. Not ideal as we had to exit the toilet without being able to wash our hands to step back ip into the shower room. There were 2 lounge areas and a nook that provided some board games and a few books, unfortunately mostly French language. MDR was beautifully set up with comfortable dining chairs but limited tables for 2. FOOD: Was never amazing but ranged from good to terrible. The breakfast & lunch buffet was very limited. Quality and choice was poor and it was difficult to find something really tasty. Food in the MDR was nicely presented but very small portions and usually luke warm. 2nd night was a Gala Dinner with a menu chosen by the Captain, it was not to our taste, (think: almost raw egg on cucumber jelly) and mushrooms that we cant eat, so our party of 4 left and went to the almost deserted buffet. Finding a limited selection I ordered a small steak. After repeating to the Maitre D that the steak was to have no blood, a bloody steak appeared and he argued that it was perfectly fine and it was bloody juice, not blood ! He left us in a huff and never spoke to us again. Very unprofessional. What was supposed to be a lovely night was totally ruined. Christmas Eve was a set menu with many dishes containing mushrooms which we can't eat. We could not order anything else even though we gave the Chef 24 hours notice. Hungry again. Ordered a Bacardi & Coke one day in the buffet only to be told to get it from the bar myself. Breakfast finished at 9.30 am but staff started clearing at 9.15 each day, not good for those who want a lie in. Alcohol was included, but choice was limited. Fresh orange juice disappeared after day one, but they still called the concentrated juice 'fresh'. Fresh supplies came on board in Tauranga, and whilst beautiful fresh berries were in season and being sold everywhere in the region, did we get any on board for breakfast? Or oranges, so we could have fresh juice again ? NO and NO. ENTERTAINMENT: Virtually nothing during the day. On a couple of occasions we were given ONE bingo card to play. Prizes were a 3 yr old Inaugural Cruise coffee mug and on another occasion a plastic pencil case. The game lasted all of 15 minutes with another 15 minutes added for english translation as first language on the ship is French. Shows were limited with at least one cancelled. We were so bored. What does the Cruise Director do all day? Staff socialised mainly with French guests. Smoking was allowed everywhere which limited non-smoking guests to the inside lounges if they didn't want to sit near smokers. ACCIDENT: Day 2 after the disastrous Gala night, my wife injured her ankle whilst exiting the bathroom (step). Saw the Doctor the next morning who placed a cast on her leg. Both Doctor and Nurse spoke very poor English and were difficult to understand. No painkillers for her (ankle fractured) or any other advice. No arrangements to have an Xray at next port of call. We went back to our cabin and realized that now she was in a wheelchair we needed a disabled room, but no one suggested or offered assistance. I had to organize it. No senior officer, guest relations person or anyone came to see if she was ok or to see if we needed assistance to get an X-ray in port. In Tauranga NZ, armed with only an email giving the name of a Radiology Centre I pushed my wife down the dock in the rain and had to park her under some shelter whilst I walked up to the main street to hail a cab. The radiology place could not X-ray through the cast, nor did we have a proper referral from the ship's doctor which is necessary. They piled us and the wheelchair into their own vehicle and took us to an accident & emergency centre where she was diagnosed, x rayed and had a new cast fitted. The locals were so helpful and friendly. Back on board, still no follow up.....until the Doctor, realizing we had now complained to the Hotel Manager started pressing us for the documentation we had from the A& E rooms as he had not followed procedure and was concerned for his own sake. He verbally abused us in front of reception staff, then back in the surgery, kept yelling, raised his fist at me and then ordered us off the ship. With a very distressed wife I asked for a meeting with the Captain. He argued the fact that the Doctor's rage was due to lack of communication due to his poor English. We flew home a day early as Wellington was the next wheelchair accessible port. The Captain, Hotel Manager, Doctor and his Nurse (wife), Guest Relations person et al all came down on to the dock to see us off in the cab, (probably hoping everyone could see how caring they were), they all shook our hands and the nurse took my wife's hand, pressed a couple of painkillers in an envelope into it and said she hoped we would sail again with them. Not likely. Were these the painkillers my wife needed a week ago?? I think we were charged for them too after we paid our final bill. This ship is probably not suited for Australian & New Zealanders. It is too French, and the many long announcements in French start to annoy you after a while. It is sadly lacking in entertainment, good food, and sociable staff. For the price you pay, I would suggest you sail Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal or Regent. Not Ponant. We held off posting this review until we had a response from Ponant, but to date we are still waiting so here it is. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
This was supposed to be a 5 star cruise over Christmas. We had paid a premium price for this and were disappointed before we even got on the ship. Our tickets arrived 2 weeks before the cruise. When we checked them we found that the ... Read More
This was supposed to be a 5 star cruise over Christmas. We had paid a premium price for this and were disappointed before we even got on the ship. Our tickets arrived 2 weeks before the cruise. When we checked them we found that the itinerary had been changed and no longer stopped at Norfolk Island. Stopping at Norfolk Island was the main reason that we booked this. Our Travel Agent checked with Ponant and found that the itinerary was altered back in June and he was not told of this. At this late stage we really had no alternative but to except this . When we arrived at the ship it was chaotic and there did not seem to be any organisation. We were very concerned when we boarded as there was no security checking of hand luggage. In view of the fact that it had only been 5 weeks since the Paris shootings, and that this was a french ship, we really felt that security should have been more rigorous. At no time when we re-boarded were any bags checked. At the mandatory lifeboat drill my husband found that he had a defective life jacket. He reported this to 2 different crew members who told him that it would be replaced. It never was. As Norfolk Island was no longer on the itinerary we had more time at sea. I found this very boring as there was not enough going on. The Lectures were not of interest to me and so other than reading a book there was little else to do, unless you wanted the spa. We tried Afternoon tea. What a fiasco. You had to get a mug and make your own tea from the urn. One day there was even a Salsa dance class going on in the middle of the room. This is such a contrast to how Seabourn and Silversea arrange Afternoon Tea. A white gloved waiter who serves you with an assortment of teas, sandwiches and cakes. This is how it should be done. The dining overall was satisfactory. However on Christmas Eve only 1 restaurant was open and no buffet. When we arrived we were shown the menu. It was a set meal, 1st course an Egg dish (I do not eat eggs) 2nd and 3rd courses seafood (I am sick if I eat seafood). We asked what I could have instead and was told nothing. I would have to sit through 3 courses with no food. At this we walked out of the restaurant. We decided to order room service instead, even though the cabin only had 1 chair and a tiny table. We were told that there was no room service on Christmas Eve and that we must eat in the Restaurant. Their brochure says 24 hour a day room service. When I said that I could not eat a large part of the menu the receptionist then asked the chef what he was prepared to cook. He said a steak and salad. I said that was OK as long as my steak was well done. When it came it was bright red in the middle and the salad was limp and looked old. I could not eat this, so had no dinner that night. Christmas Day was another none event. We sailed around White Island, which took all of 20 minutes and that was it . We were at sea for the rest of the day with no particular Christmas events planned. You were not able to pre book Excursions. I have never been on a cruise before when this is the case.We had to wait until the excursion desk opened and then it was a free for all, loads of pushing and queue jumping. The excursions when you got them were fine and quite interesting. We disembarked at Akaroa. There is no proper wharf there and we had to disembark by tender, along with your suitcases. This was very badly organised and we were told one thing one minute only to be altered by another crew member a few minutes later. I cannot believe that they ended a cruise here, as getting to Christchurch from here is not easy, as there are no taxis or Hire cars in Akaroa. This is probably one of the worst cruises that I have ever been on and I feel if Ponant want to get into the Australian luxury cruise market they need to improve dramatically. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
We took a Tauck tour "Cruising Down Under." This was a new tour for Tauck and they chose L'Austral starting in Auckland, New Zealand and ending in Melbourne, Australia for 12 days. Let me say that we have traveled twice on ... Read More
We took a Tauck tour "Cruising Down Under." This was a new tour for Tauck and they chose L'Austral starting in Auckland, New Zealand and ending in Melbourne, Australia for 12 days. Let me say that we have traveled twice on the Regent Seven Seas through the Panama Canal and Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, twice on the Paul Gauguin in the South Seas, once on the Silver Seas - Silver Cloud from Istanbul to Cyprus and twice on the Windstar – once in the Caribbean and once on the Adriatic, and NEVER had a problem. Our complaints arise with the L’Austral. The food on this ship was not up to Tauck standards. As a matter of fact it was awful. Many people on the tour complained about the food and said they would write to Tauck which I have also done. Dinner on Deck 2 in Le Coromandel was bland and uninviting. One instance of poor food was the Rib Eye Steak which was very tough, and when I complained to the maître d he said the steak was from New Zealand and therefore not under their control. Has anyone ever heard of ordering from another supplier? If so many people complained in a restaurant and the restaurant did nothing about it – it would be closed. Well the ship had a captive audience. Both Captain’s Dinners were pre-set menus. When we asked the waiter what would happen if we didn’t like the meal, he told us, “Don’t eat it.” The serving sizes were very small and of poor quality. For example, for an appetizer we had “one” scallop; the second course was “one” lobster medallion about the size of a quarter. We had monkfish one night, which was about two inches and wouldn’t feed a child. This is a French ship and we had to continually ask for a French dinner. We asked for Escargot and got it once. We asked for French Onion Soup and all the chef did was sauté onions and plopped them in beef bouillon. No crusty bread in the soup and no cheese on top. Should I have offered to give the chef the recipe for French Onion Soup? We asked for a soufflé for dessert and we were told that there were not enough cooks in the kitchen to make soufflés. Could this be possible??? On Deck 6 the casual Le Rodrigues was a buffet and was another culinary experience. The first night we chose to eat in this restaurant because we were tired and wanted a shorter dining time. One gastronomical delight was a hamburger not even fit for a dog. We were told that Tauck suggested hamburgers because most of their tour group was Americans. The average age of our group was about 65 and for the most part well-travelled people who paid a great deal for this trip. Do you honestly think we were looking for hamburgers? The rest of the buffet was sparse and tasteless. The fish was tough, the pork medallions were dry and I could get better spaghetti and meatballs in an Atlantic City, NJ buffet table. The bathroom in our cabin and in every cabin consisted of two rooms – a water closet with a bowl and no sink. You have to leave the water closet and then go into the portion of the bathroom with a sink and a shower. This is so unsanitary that I felt that I was in an airport bathroom. How could this renowned ship have a water closet with no sink to wash your hands before you opened the door to leave this portion of the bathroom? As a matter of fact there were many people on board the ship who were sick with bad colds and flu-like symptoms. The ship’s doctor said that there was an epidemic of bad colds and flu-like symptoms on the cruise before ours. It seems that the ship was not sanitized before we got on board. The Wi Fi on the ship was barely existent. If you managed to log on, you were bounced off in two minutes. We were told that their connection to the satellite was weak – well upgrade. When we were in port we were told that you could not get a connection because the buildings interfered with the connection. We were supposedly connecting to a satellite and not a tower – so how could the buildings get in the way. We paid almost $40,000 for this vacation. The most we have ever spent on any vacation and I am sure a large portion of this was due to the L’Austral. I would like to talk to the group that made the decision to use this ship and ask them if they actually took the voyage and actually ate the same food that was served to us. This ship is supposed to be a luxury cruise ship. It was not luxury but sub par. I have seen other reviews which give this ship and food a decent rating. I can't understand why.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
Embarked on Ponant’s L’Austral in Cairns for a 1 week NYE cruise, sailing to Sydney. This was not an ‘expedition’ cruise (as with many of the itineraries with Ponant) but rather a more standard cruise type. Over half of the 260 ... Read More
Embarked on Ponant’s L’Austral in Cairns for a 1 week NYE cruise, sailing to Sydney. This was not an ‘expedition’ cruise (as with many of the itineraries with Ponant) but rather a more standard cruise type. Over half of the 260 passengers were French speaking, but many had great English, and all announcements etc. were in English as well as French. There were 14 nationalities on board, and it was quite nice being on a ship where it felt like we were in another country (even though as Australians we were cruising in our own waters). The ship itself is lovely – quite new, well designed and maintained, lots of public spaces to sit. The cabin was very functional, with a small balcony. The ‘open’ shower panel is really an optional thing – if you don’t like it, then close it. Good to have a separate WC. The only fault I would say with the cabins is that there is nowhere to sit comfortably, and if you want the 24 hour included room service there is really nowhere to eat it comfortably (no table in the cabin). The pool was very small but nice if you just wanted a dip. They even had water aerobics daily. The gym is very nice, a tiny library and PC set-up. The two restaurants each have their own pluses and minuses. The formal restaurant on Deck 2 is very flash, but we found it very hard to order any wine (the house wines, included in the fare, were pretty good, but it would have been nice to have the option). The sommelier really only seemed to be interested in the French passengers. The formal restaurant offered two options for each course EXCEPT on the formal/gala nights, when the meal was a set menu. Unfortunately for us, the gala nights on this cruise were 3 nights out of 7, so we opted to eat at the Grill restaurant on Deck 6 as much as possible. The fare was simpler there with more variety, and frankly we liked the flexibility of the open air option, and the dessert bar and bread station got a great work-out! Food quality was good overall without being great – somewhat tiny courses in the formal restaurant (although plenty of them – degustation model). There was no flexibility to order anything ‘off menu’, but we always found something we liked. We purchased an open bar package at the beginning of the week, and this gave us any drink on board except non-house wines and (to our confusion) anything in the mini-bar. So we could go to any bar on board and have a cosmopolitan and pay nothing, but if we wanted a vodka and tonic from the mini-bar we had to pay. Weird; I believe Ponant are going all-inclusive for all cruises from mid-2015. We didn’t go for many excursions and just lazed away the days (which was our intention), although a trip to Whitehaven Beach was lovely. The stop on Percy Island was also very nice – the only time we had to use zodiacs for a wet landing. The comprehensive briefing to passengers about using the zodiacs was excellent and inspired confidence. The ship features a troop of dancers, singers and musicians – a bit French and corny, but many passengers seemed to like it (there is a small theatre). Demographic of the ship was over 40s mainly, with the average I’d say about 50-60. Staff were excellent – we particularly liked the barmen Samuel and Ashley. One disappointment was that the officers were not very accessible to ordinary passengers – we saw the Captain and the Cruise Director around, but that was about it. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t speak English, but we also never saw the staff dining with passengers much (except for the experts on board who gave lectures about wildlife, etc). Another small issue we did not like was that we were never addressed by our names except by our cabin attendant.. seemed a little impersonal. The ship did not have good internet access – wifi was expensive and frankly we didn’t bother as we were so close to land most of the time we could get access then. Overall, I would recommend this cruise line as a luxury standard, small ship option. Not perfect but definitely worth a try.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
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