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9 Ponant Osaka Cruise Reviews

We chose this particular trip to Japan because the ship was small and the itinerary was part land and part sea.While the ship itself was adequate- the small room was comfortable, clean, and well attended, the restaurants and food left much ... Read More
We chose this particular trip to Japan because the ship was small and the itinerary was part land and part sea.While the ship itself was adequate- the small room was comfortable, clean, and well attended, the restaurants and food left much to be desired. We are not "foodies", but were quite displeased with the food. The more "formal" dining room seemed to be understaffed, and the staff that was there seemed rushed, impatient, and sometimes a bit discourteous. The more casual dining room required an advance reservation, something we felt a bit odd. It was buffet,also understaffed, with a rather boring selection of food that hardly ever changed. Perhaps, in general, our biggest complaint was the lack of almost anything that gave you the feeling you were traveling in Japan: not a Japanese dinner, a few pieces of the same sushi at the buffet, no Japanese "entertainment", and very limited Japanese culture and the like. We were very fortunate to be traveling with groups that provided excellent speakers- unfortunately, this ship does not have the system allowing you to listen or watch the speakers from your cabin, if you wished to do so. Furthermore, the ship has a peculiar lay-out, lacking rest rooms near the restaurants and no "quiet area"- the "library" is part of a lounge - we tried to sit there, but were driven out by the noisy card players .We are "seasoned" travelers having taking many, many land and sea trips and would definitely not travel on this line again nor could we recommend it to others. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Itinerary, service standards and inclusions were very good. Food was excellent and the cabins are spacious and comfortable. The crew overall were very friendly and helpful and really are a highlight. Ponant also provide some very ... Read More
Itinerary, service standards and inclusions were very good. Food was excellent and the cabins are spacious and comfortable. The crew overall were very friendly and helpful and really are a highlight. Ponant also provide some very effective fares for single travellers using sole-occupancy. My only disappointments were: 1. the quality and value of some of the shore excursions. One in particular was rated moderate difficulty, but many able-bodied guests really struggled with it. 2. the poor satellite TV system which failed to automatically recover from the inevitable signal losses - it was necessary every time to change channels and back again when the satellite signal resumed. 3. the very expensive internet packages. Past guests get varying levels of free minutes (based on their status - but even the top level does not receive an "unlimited" package. Beyond the free minutes, additional packages are VERY expensive compared to competitors - and no "unlimited" packages are offered at all. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Our previous experience in 2017 on Le Boreal gave us confidence in the offerings of Ponant. In addition, this voyage had interesting Pre Voyage offerings, which we purchased, as the chance to use the 4 day tour of Osaka and Nara was really ... Read More
Our previous experience in 2017 on Le Boreal gave us confidence in the offerings of Ponant. In addition, this voyage had interesting Pre Voyage offerings, which we purchased, as the chance to use the 4 day tour of Osaka and Nara was really attractive to us as mature travellers. Of particular note was the quality of the Kyoto Hotel Okura, which dazzled us completely! The provision of an interpreter during this experience was of great value throughout our land voyage. As were the transfers included. Our rating of the Pre offering is a full 5 stars for value and content. The opportunity to then visit the ports of Hiroshima, Yakushima, Naha, ishigaki and Hualien-Taiwan on the way to Manila worked as a bonus to us. We ventured on Ponant excursions at all ports, and found the organisation, equipment and locations outstanding in all cases. The transport supplied, and the fact that all excursion groups were fully escorted worked really well at all times. Where excursions included catering, this was provided at great establishments, and the food and drink included were excellent. We have now completed 7 voyage sectors with Ponant, and are so content with the offerings that we have 4 more sectors under deposit, and looking at others! For us, the small ship experience is the way to go, always! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together ... Read More
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly. It was excellent in every way -- itinerary, activities, cabin, food, and especially the expedition team. They worked together beautifully., gave wonderful presentations and were always available for questions. The passenger makeup was mostly Australians, though about 20 French-speaking. I continued on the next cruise - Darwin to Bali - and the atmosphere changed a bit - now it was half English-speaking and half French-speaking. This was more of a cultural cruise as we made several stops in a few little-visited eastern islands of Indonesia. The island tours were well-organized. It was still active as we had several snorkeling opportunities. It is important to know that these were expedition-style cruises, and agility and balance are needed to board the zodiacs. It is active, with snorkeling and hiking opportunities. Everything is described in advance and passengers can self-select if they want to participate in the excursion. Ponant thinks of everything. For those of us continuing on, they provided a very nice half-day tour of Darwin with a good guide and a comfortable bus. I chose L'Austral for its reputation. I like the atmosphere and size of the ship.The fact that it is a fairly new ship (only 6 years old), and has continental food and service is a plus also. The back-to-back cruises were an excellent combination - with the first being all nature with a few visits to Aboriginal rock art; and the second more cultural. With such long flights to this part of the world, it made sense to do a back-to-back. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Chosen for itinerary and was intrigued to try out a small ship. Itineray was great but ship was a disappointment. Suite was nothing more than two standard rooms that adjoined, with the bed taken out of one and a couch and two chairs ... Read More
Chosen for itinerary and was intrigued to try out a small ship. Itineray was great but ship was a disappointment. Suite was nothing more than two standard rooms that adjoined, with the bed taken out of one and a couch and two chairs substituted. That did give us two bathrooms, which was important, since the bathrooms are tiny. the sleeping cabin was small with only about a foot or son between the end of the bed and the dresser. I have had suites on many larger 5 star ships that put this "premiere suite" to shame. The food was also terrible. Buffet breakfast and lunch was basically the same for 8 days. Being a French ship, I expected that at least pasties and deserts would be of high quality but even the croissants were dry, heavy. The best croissants I had on the trip was from a Japanese hotel (Shangri-la)m in Tokyo. Dinners were average at best and poor at worst. Beef steak lacked flavor. Fish was always overcooked and dry. There was no imagination with plating or menu selection. Only 3 entrees offered per night with an option for a steak, hamburger, etc all there time. Worst food we have ever had on a cruise ship. Staff was indifferent at best. Smiles were at the ready but real caring service was lacking. Waiters would walk by at breakfast with a coffee pot and never asked if you wanted more. We always had to flag someone down. Reception desk personnel sometimes acted like you were bothering them if you stopped and asked for something. Admittedly this is a small ship and you should not expect the comforts and activities of larger cruise lines. But the ship never felt comfortable and there are few places to go on board that offer a relaxing atmosphere. We are not mega ship cruisers but are more in the 750-1000 passenger ship category. Our experience on L'Austral convinced us to avoid small ships in the future and particularly Ponant Cruise line, which I feel was a poor representative of the small ship segment of the market. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, ... Read More
My husband and I chose to travel on L'Austral with Tauck because we enjoy Tauck's level of service, and liked the idea of the small ship experience. I had done quite a bit of research on Ponant and L'Austral specifically, and felt that we were well-informed on both the pros and the cons for this particular line and ship. I'm going to divide this review into two sections, the first dealing solely with our experiences on L'Austral, and the second touching on aspects that were primarily Tauck-controlled. L'Austral: Embarkation in Osaka was seamless, with our luggage waiting in our cabin. The cabin itself was compact, with space to move around the bed, but not much more. The shower and vanity and separate toilet cubicle were similarly compact, but perfectly adequate. Toiletries were L'Occitane. Beds were comfortable, bedding of good quality but not luxurious. There were several types of bottled water on a tray, and a small refrigerator with an assortment of alcohol and soft drinks. We liked our cabin, were happy that we had the balcony, and thought our room steward was friendly, efficient, and gave great service. There was plenty of room under the beds for our suitcases. For the most part, we used the main dining room. We ate one lunch at the buffet restaurant, but overall preferred coming back to the ship and being served by our (very welcoming)favorite waiters. The dining room decor was quietly elegant, the chairs and banquettes very comfortable, and the noise level low enough that it was easy to converse with your table mates without raising your voice. Breakfast was a combination of buffet and made to order items. The buffet tended to have the same assortment every day, with some variation in the available fresh fruit, and some of the made to order options. The breakfast pastries were very good, and obviously made fresh--we enjoyed those a lot! The lunch and dinner menus had choices for soup, starters, sides and dessert, and for the main course a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian option. The quality of the food ranged from average (some overcooked fish) to very good, with the majority being more towards the "very good" end of the range. However, for people who may have been expecting the variety and selection of some of the larger cruise lines, the food may have been a bit of a disappointment. Having read some of the negative reviews of the food on the Ponant ships, we were frankly surprised and relieved at how good it was. Portion sizes were European rather than American, which also pleased us. We did not go to any of the shows since those started at 9:30, and after a full day of touring, having frequently left the ship by 8:15am, after dinner we usually headed for our cabin to relax and prepare for the next day. We did see the dancers and two of the singers in the lounge during the cocktail hour, and thought that the little mini-shows were entertaining--but not entertaining enough to make us stay up long enough to attend the longer shows! The level of service from the majority of the staff was excellent: the waitstaff and room stewards were warm, friendly, and couldn't do enough for you. As an example, one of the people with whom we usually shared a table had a real weakness for chocolate--I think he had a chocolate dessert for every lunch and dinner--and one evening there was no chocolate dessert on the menu. Without saying a word, our waiter went to the kitchen and came back to the table with a mini-sundae with chocolate ice cream and cookies for our table mate. The women in reception were efficient, but not especially warm or helpful. Their coolness was especially noticeable since everyone else in a customer-facing position was so engaging. L'Austral is a small ship, but the public spaces are very pleasant, especially considering the fact that she is really an expedition ship, not a luxury cruise vessel. We hit some rough weather on our first night at sea, and while there was certainly quite a bit of motion that night, aside from that she was very comfortable, and didn't seem to be doing too much bobbing around. Tauck: For this particular cruise the Tauck passengers were divided into 4 groups of approximately 30-35, for a total of 120-140 total. This meant that the Tauck-ies constituted a majority of the passengers. I did wonder how this impacted the cuising experience of the other passengers, which, as nearly as I can remember, were a mixture of American, Australian, New Zealanders and about 20+/- French. My understanding is that next year Tauck will have 6 groups, which will effectively be the entire ship. There will also be some other changes in the tour, which this year began with 3 days in Kyoto, and next year will be based out of Osaka, with only a single day trip to Kyoto. We were happy that we were able to go this year, since we loved our time in Kyoto, and would hate to have missed it. As always, the Tauck tour director for our group of 30+ was wonderful, and kept us moving while still allowing for individual exploration and experiences. Our local guides were mostly excellent, and provided context and some nice extras, such as teaching us songs, playing counting games using Japanese numbers, and origami. Our hotel in Kyoto was the Granvia, situated on top of Kyoto Station. Two of the tour groups were based here, and the other two were at the Westin, and we had very little contact with them. The Granvia was a wonderful location, with underground shopping and restaurants, a department store, and easy access to both buses and subways which could take you to any part of the city. Kyoto site seeing: Kinkakuji(covered in gold leaf), the Pure Water Temple, Gion, a taiko performance, a calligraphy lesson, and a tea ceremony, Nijo-jo (where we heard the famous "nightingale floors"), a Heian shrine, and a welcome dinner which included a Geisha performance. I'm not sure how much of this will be included next year, but I would have hated to miss any of it. The first port after Osaka/Kobe was Tamano. Our group caught a ferry to Naoshima Island where famous architect Tadao Ando designed Benesse House and where other houses in the village have been incorporated into a living art project. In the afternoon we visited Kurashiki which has many 17th century warehouses built along canals, and the Ohara Museum of Art. The next port was Hiroshima, where we visited the Peace Park Memorial and museum, as well as the iconic A-Bomb Dome. This was a pretty intense and emotional morning, so as a way of shifting gears, we were taken for lunch to an okonomiyake restaurant, which was truly delicious. In the afternoon we visited Miyashima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine with its beautiful red gate surrounded by the ocean, and where the deer are protected and will eat the paper right out of your pockets. Uwajima was next, where we visited a pearl farm, saw a farm where bulls are raised for fighting, and visited the Flying Squirrel Temple. Kagoshima--We visited the base of Sakurajima, an active volcano, and the Chiran Kamikaze Museum, where we saw the bunkers that the suicide pilots spent their last night and read their last letters home. We also visited Chiran Samurai village, where there are houses that date back over 250 years, and in some cases still have the original families living in those houses. Nagasaki--In the morning we visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. The museum was very well done, and we actually preferred it to the Hiroshima Museum. In the afternoon we visited Dejima, which was the enclosed enclave that was the only place Dutch traders were allowed to live during much of the Edo period. We also visited Glover Garden, built in the mid-1800's for a Scottish physician, and containing the oldest Western style house in Japan. The next day took us to Pusan in South Korea where we visited the United Nations cemetery and memorial to the UN troops who died in the Korean War. We also took a trip to the Jagalchi fish market, where we saw fish that looked like something out of an Alien movie. Sakaiminato--In the morning we travelled to the Adachi Museum of Art, which has a wonderful collection of modern art, but where the real attraction are the incredible gardens around the museum. Every window in the museum frames another gorgeous view and viewpoint. In the afternoon we visited the Matsue black castle which is one of only 12 remaining original castles in Japan. Most of us climbed the 8 stories after having our photos taken with a samurai posing front of the castle. The next day we disembarked, which was a very smooth process, and were bused to Kyoto where we had lunch in a restaurant in the Gion district before we were taken to Kyoto Station to catch the bullet train to Tokyo. The bullet train was a great experience, and as a bonus, we got a superb view of Fujiyama on the way. Our Tokyo hotel was the Shangri-La, which was everything luxury hotel should be. We were taken on a brief orientation tour of Ginza, and then set loose to enjoy dinner on our own. Our last day of the tour began with a trip to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum (which really needed an entire day to itself to do it justice)and was followed by a "salaryman's lunch" at a wonderful restaurant. In the afternoon about half of the group, including my husband and myself, opted out of visiting the scheduled Meiji Shrine and chose to sightsee or shop on our own. That evening was the closing dinner at Happo-en which featured a demonstration by sumo wrestlers. As long as this review is, in terms of the Tauck portion of the cruise, I've really only given the barest outlines of what we did and experienced. Although there was some free time scheduled, for the most part we were kept moving. There seemed to be a larger than usual percentage of people in their mid-70's to mid-80's, and I believe that some of the people on the tour found the pace a bit taxing. My DH and I are in our early 60's and found the pace and activity level to be pretty much what we enjoy. How this compared to what the non-Tauck L'Austral cruisers experienced on their excursions, I have no idea, and I'm afraid I have no information on the quality of the excursions offered by L'Austral. Overall it was an excellent trip. We loved Japan, found the Japanese people to be warm, friendly and very helpful, and wouldn't hesitate to go back. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
We chose this cruise because of Ports of Call and time of year, and the smaller type of vessel. We were pleased with the choice of the Ports of Call but overall were disappointed in the Quality of the Cruise in a few facets. This is an ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of Ports of Call and time of year, and the smaller type of vessel. We were pleased with the choice of the Ports of Call but overall were disappointed in the Quality of the Cruise in a few facets. This is an expensive ship and we did not fell we received adequate value for the money spent The front desk staff were rude if not nasty, and very officious. The dining was good for Breakfast and Lunch but relatively poor for the evening The seating areas for both were less than comfortable and there were only 2 options for dining. The lack of any Japanese food on board and little attempt to make gala evenings feel gala. The local guides in japan were well meaning but generally incompetent in English and had very little of interest to report. The guide in Bosan was very good however. The tour locations were interesting however. This ship's bookings were dominated by Tauck and as a result we were isolated as a small group of English speakers who were not part of Tauck. Since we had a suite, we would expect a little attention and maybe a perq or two. There were none in evidence.. I think Ponant has a poor sense of customer expectations and I would rate it as much poorer than either AMA Waterways or Viking as well large cruise ships such as NCL. Having made these negative observations, I do want to compliment the service staff including waiters, butlers, and housekeeping. They were always friendly and very responisve Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on ... Read More
What a greeting we got the window to board was one hour we had come from Tokyo by bullet then a Taxi that did not know were the port was then we got out of the Taxi two crew took our bags and lead us to the gangway very nice touch, on entering the Ship 23 min early we were treated to you are early sit there till your cabin is ready , our party was made up of a 86 year old a 70 & a 60 year old the attitude shown was rude abrupt discourteous and not a credit to the French people it followed on with the reception counter staff also French The cabin was great but no list is given on what is included in you package and what is paid for the most of the cabin crew & restaurant staff are great not French the off handed French restaurant manger falling over the French customers but keeping away from the Australians Food quality could not be described a fine dining it had its moment but over all was not up to P&O at half the cost P&O , Carnival Line & Princess Line are able to handle 2500 passengers boarding in four hours this boat could not handle 200 Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
We paid £350 per person per day for an 8 night cruise around Japan on Le Boreal. Having paid a price similar to those on "Six Star" cruises such as Seabourn or Silversea I think it wasn't unreasonable of us to expect a ... Read More
We paid £350 per person per day for an 8 night cruise around Japan on Le Boreal. Having paid a price similar to those on "Six Star" cruises such as Seabourn or Silversea I think it wasn't unreasonable of us to expect a similar standard of food. We were sadly mistaken. Both Breakfast and Lunch are served as a buffet. The choice, presentation and flavour of the food on offer was distinctly 3 star or inedible, for example, American sytle bacon was served undercooked and submerged under 2 centimetres of molten fat! Dinner was a slight improvement but nowhere near the standard of, say, Seabourn. Poor service, cold soup, watery Caesar Salad and a miniscule overdone steak on three of our eight nights compounded our dissatisfaction. On most nights of the cruise the small boutique was not open. When we enquired why it wasn't open we were simply told "Because the manager has decided so" Embarcation on Ponant ships starts at 17.00. Not very useful if you have flown in earlier that morning. They provide no facility to store your baggage prior to embarcation. The embarcation process itself is shambolic e.g. luggage taken from you without being tagged, medical questionairre not collected. Entertainment on such a small ship is obviously going to be more restricted than on bigger ships. However, matters were not helped by the schedule of events being manipulated to suit "private events" or a cruise director who seemed incapable of keeping to a schedule. The ship itself is superb, service outside of the restaurants is excellent and the bars are outstanding. I've complained to Ponant and after three weeks they've offerred us a €500 onboard credit to spend in the spa or boutique. The spa is very expensive and the boutique is hardly ever open! If we'd had paid half of what we did I don't think we would have complained about anything, except breakfast which was truly awful. However, we paid £350 per person per night and it simply was not worth it compared to what you can get for your money elsewhere. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
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