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10 Ponant South Pacific Cruise Reviews

I chose this cruise from Sydney to Cairns as it was calling at smaller islands off the East Coast of Australia . Somewhere along the line this ship was just missing a beat if it wants to be considered 5 star. The food was excellent with ... Read More
I chose this cruise from Sydney to Cairns as it was calling at smaller islands off the East Coast of Australia . Somewhere along the line this ship was just missing a beat if it wants to be considered 5 star. The food was excellent with lots of French specialities. Same could not be said about the wine considering it was a French ship this was a great dissapoinment.Service was superb in the restaurant and bars but it was the next level of management where it fell down. It's a very small ship which I knew but when we have sea days it's nice to be able to walk around the decks but there was no deck to do that. The pool deck area was very small. Embarkation and disembarkation was very smoothly handled. The cabins were small but well laid out and lots of storage space. I think the ship needs a refurb. Some of the furniture in the main lounge was a bit well worn . Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
While preparing for this cruise I found it very difficult to get any real information about Ponant cruises and our itinerary. I wrote some notes once I was on board and they are below. Before that though I need to say one thing, and it ... Read More
While preparing for this cruise I found it very difficult to get any real information about Ponant cruises and our itinerary. I wrote some notes once I was on board and they are below. Before that though I need to say one thing, and it mimics what some others have experienced, is that the French speaking passengers get much better service in the dining venues than anyone else. We were 2/3 English speaking on our cruise but many of the French staff either ignored us completely or made us feel like second class citizens. Other staff on board like the bar, room and service desk personnel were quite friendly. The on-board naturalists where always smiling and always had a friendly word no matter who you were. Ponant needs to deal with this issue. Now my notes: Ponant L'Astral Great Barrier Reef March 6, 2018 Pre-Cruise We found the Ponant site very confusing and it had very limited information. There was no-where to book excursions or any on board items. The site claims documents will arrive electronically 30+ days before departure. Ours were emailed to us 26 days before departure. We were already travelling so we were unable to make specific preparations based on this information. Embarkation We arrived at the White Bay Cruise Terminal in Sydney at about 2:00pm. Our bags were taken and we proceeded into the terminal. There were already about 20 people there. We were advised boarding would start at 4:00pm. There was plenty of seating (along 2 sides of the room), washrooms, free bottled water, but no wifi. There was a snack bar but it was not open. There was a vending machine where you could get pop and candies. About half an hour prior to boarding, one of the ships staff started to hand out embarkation numbered tickets. These would be used to determine the order for embarkation. He had about 25-30 of each number starting at 1. He started to hand these out at one side of the room, from the front closest to the checkin counters, then after completing the row went to the top of the other side moving toward the checkin counters. Most of the early arrivals were given tickets about half way through, so arriving early did not necessarily mean you would board early. We just happened to be in the right spot to get a number 1 ticket. if you want to get on early watch for this process to start and go up to the man and get your teickets. The staff also handed out a medical questionaire which need to be completed. The only items of concern were if you had a fever prior to boarding. Checkin was quick, they checked our passport pictures to us then handed us our keys. We then proceeded through a quick security screening then on to the ship. On entry to the ship we had our photo taken for the ship security system (we have always had this done prior to boarding on other cruise lines), our sea passes were scanned and we were escorted to our rooms. Our bags were not yet in the staterooms. Drinks and snacks were available in the main lounge on deck 3. The snacks did not last long. Cabin 326 Cabin seems very workable, no better or worse than other cruise lines we have been on. Other reviews have pointed out that the toilet is in a separate room from the sink and shower. We did not see this as an issue. The sink had 2 drawers below it, side by side with plenty of room to store toiletries. My bottle of mouth wash was able to stand up so it is quite tall. Aircon worked well. Two wide air ducts sat along the top of the length of the room providing good coverage and air flow. There is a seperate temperature control in the room. Fairly large flat screen TV which showed on demand movies and tv shows. Also has access to the front camera. Daily activities are also listed. One thing that is not available is your stateroom account. For this you have to see reception. There seemed no way to change the TV input but I was able to connect my iPad to the TV using an HDMI adapter and cable and play videos. Only issue was I was unable to change the volume. There is a long flat surface along the wall that has space for your things. On it is a telephone, a table lamp, and a clock with iPod connector and speekers (will not fit a lightning device). Under this surface at one end are 2x2 drawers, about 18 inches tall by 36 inches wide. And a ottoman. On the wall above this surface are 2 power plugs. One has a single European 220V plug, and the 2nd has both a European 220V and an American 110V plug. Storage is plentiful. Bed allows for multiple suitcases to be store underneath. I mentioned the 4 drawers previously. There is are 2 full height doors for wardrobe. One side has a couple of shelves and the safe. There are 4 drawers below that for storage, the top one has the hair dryer in it. The lefthand side is your typical wardrobe with hangers. There is a small round table with a single chair. Not sure how 2 people have in-room dining in the cabin though. On each side of the bed there are shelves, open underneath. You also have reading lights. The king size bed (which can be made into 2 twins) is comfortable and you get 4 pillows to start with. There is a page in the room binder showing other pillows you can order. We got 2 ergonomic pillows but our cabin steward didn't want to take away any of the existing ones. We also found the duvet to be quite hot so our steward added a sheet to the bed so we could throw off the duvet if we wanted. The cabins on deck 3 all have balconies but the railing wall is sold metal, unlike the cabins on higher floors. This means you cannot sit on the balcony and see anything. Wasn't a huge deal for us. There were 2 wicker chairs and a small table. Note, because you are quite low on the ship our balconies were often wet and had salt spray. Parts of our trip were quite rough so this happened often. Bathroom has a makeup mirror and a power plug for raisers. 2 small shelves, maybe 4" by 12" on the left beside the sink for toiletries. On the wall between the bathroom and bedroom there is a sliding door which opens a glass wall looking into half of the bathroom. Presumably for light and to make the room look bigger. Wasted space in my mind. Shower is a good size, rectangular and a good shower head streaming lots of water. No problem getting hot water. WiFi They offer 3 plans: 100 minutes for 30E, 240 minutes for 60E, and 1,000 minutes for 180E. I opted for the 240 minute plan. You can log only one device in at a time and must log off that device to let your roommate log in. We used a router which allowed us to run multiple devices at the same time. Worked well for us. For quick logins to check email, weather, etc the 240 minute plan worked for us. I think we had maybe 7 minutes left on it at the end of the cruise. You must remember to log off though. Internet is satellite based so slow but I was able to use a virtual desktop and response was bearable. Outlook IMAP syncing was slow so I used my iPhone for email most of the time. Everything I tried worked. It did not seem like they blocked any sites. Captains Gala Guests from deck 3&4 met with the captain at 7:00 on deck 6. Guests on deck 5&6 met at 7:15. The doors to the MDR were to open when this event completed. The event started late and the speeches ran long. Doors opened just before 8:00. Dress was more upscale, no shorts etc. Most men did not wear ties or jackets but some did. All were in long pants and at least a shirt with collar. Dinner was a fixed 6 course menu, 2 choices, regular or vegetarian. You could switch mains or appetizers but hot for hot or cold for cold. So limited choices. It was all very good but with an 8:00 start we left at 9:30 before dessert was served. The deck 6 (buffet) menu was more extensive and included roasted turkey which we were told was very good. Muster Drill This was a 2-stage process. First we were all required to attend an introduction in the theatre where the staff was introduced and a welcome message from the Captain. We then had a life on board presentation. This lasted about 1 hour. Next everyone went back to their rooms and got their life jackets, put them on with the help of staff, and we returned to the theatre. Each person was checked off a list so that all guests were accounted for. This was followed by a talk on the process in the event of an evacuation. There are 2 lifeboats, one for each side of the theatre. Drink Plan The cruise is drink inclusive, which means there is always a white, rose & red wine available. These are supposed to change daily but our experience was they changed maybe 3 times during the cruise. Some were better than others. Also included are a couple of types of beer, Heineken and bud light if memory serves, and many cocktails; none top shelf. For top shelf you pay full price. A grey goose martini set me back 9 euros for a shot and a bit. For the most part it was free flowing and the included stuff you could order from anyone. The lounge often had a couple of different reds and whites on offer. Medical A number in our group required the services of the doctor due to chest problems. The doctor and nurse were friendly and for a short visit and some small drugs cost about 70 euros per person. Longer term treatments would be more. Tendering On our first day to stop we had a dry landing so they used the tenders. On one of the sea days prior they gave a presentation on the activities available. There was an included 4 hour excursion and a few optionals. Some of the optionals would only run in the morning or afternoon because of tides so we were asked to sign up for the optionals by noon the following sea day. Once they had this info they placed each cabin into one of 4 colors, red, yellow, blue and green. These would be our colors going forward. That afternoon we collected our snorkel gear by cabin numbers. At that time they gave us a color sticker for our sea pass. That evening we had a briefing about the next days excursions at which they identified which colors would go out at which time. The actual process of getting on the tender and returning was a breeze. Dining General The Main Dining Room on deck 2 is full table service. Doors open at 7:30 (or per daily plan) but you can come any time after that (except on gala nights where everyone is served at the same time). There are usually 2 soup and 2 salad choices, and 3-4 appetizer, main and dessert choices. There are also 3-4 always available mains such as a hamburger or rib-eye steak, and a couple of always available desserts such as Creme Brule. Dining is leisurely, especially if you are not french speaking, and you will likely take a good 90 minutes for dinner. Longer on gala nights. The more casual dining room on deck 6 is always a buffet with a main carvery that changes daily. Reservations are required as it cannot hold all of the guests but we never seemed to have a problem getting one. Dining here can be as fast or as slow as you want but we always felt rushed to finish. The staff did not do anything to speed us along, it is just the buffet style seemed to foster a much faster meal. We took almost all of our meals in the MDR but then a couple in our group did the opposite so it is really a personal choice. All in all the food was quite good in both venues although my wife had difficulty finding a main she wanted in the MDR. One night they had 3 fish selections out of 5 choices. That's all I have for now. If you have specific questions feel free to ask. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Joined L'Austral in Fremantle for the 26 day cruise of Northern Australia in the Wet Season. Boarding the ship in Fremantle was smooth and although we arrived early our bags were taken from us and we went for a walk around ... Read More
Joined L'Austral in Fremantle for the 26 day cruise of Northern Australia in the Wet Season. Boarding the ship in Fremantle was smooth and although we arrived early our bags were taken from us and we went for a walk around Fremantle. Returning at noon we were sent along the wharf to the ship and directed to the level 6 for lunch. After lunch we spent and hour in the lounge on level 3 before being directed to our cabin where our luggage had already been delivered. We sailed after life boat drill. Our ports of call up the Western Australian coast were Geraldton, Turquoise Bay, Broome, Talbot Bay, Wyndam. Darwin and Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Cape York Peninsular, Lizard Island, Cooktown, Port Douglas, Hamilton Island and Fraser Island in Queensland returning to Sydney. A previous writer has described the passage extremely well and I could not better her descriptions. The Naturalists on board were an extremely friendly group full of knowledge of the Kimberley area and the zodiac drivers knew how to handle their craft and we had no problems with wet water or dry landings. Entertainment on board was good and the ships crew put on an excellent show. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
This was the third cruise we have had on le Boreal and L'Austral. All have been excellent, This cruise was to the Sub antarcic Islands from Dunedin via the sounds and ending in Wellington NZ. As the ship was being repositioned from ... Read More
This was the third cruise we have had on le Boreal and L'Austral. All have been excellent, This cruise was to the Sub antarcic Islands from Dunedin via the sounds and ending in Wellington NZ. As the ship was being repositioned from Wellington to Sydney we were offered a free cruise to Sydney. The expedition could not be faulted as the weather and the seas allowed us to land on all the Islands where it is permitted. This we were told was exceptional. Even the cruise across the Tasman was akin to a Manly Ferry trip. We actually landed on both days as per the itinerary at Macquarie Island. Many of the expedition guides visited many times and had never achieved both landings. Some years were impossible to land at all. We also landed on Campbell Is and Enderby Is which were amazing. The entire operation was exceptionally managed and organised and minor tweaks were necessary to avoid some bad weather ahead of us. The Itinerary was completed with only one Zodiac outing cancelled due to unsafe waters over the loading deck at the Antipodese Is. Landing was not allowed there by NZNP's anyhow and it was a Zodiac inspection anyhow. The ship spent some time circumnavigating the islands so we could see the abundant bird life but missed the close up experience penguins and seals which we seen everywhere else. We had seen so many of these previously we didn't really miss much. All in all the entire expedition was amazing.Bio security was adhered to so nothing was conveyed to the Islands that would affect the ecology. Even no fresh food was allowed ashore. Things changed at Wellinton where many passengers left the ship to be replaced by people taking the 4 day cruise to Sydney. Is was to be a no frills cruise but developed into a big swill cruise with many of the new passengers overindulging in the open bar. They were not typical of the many passengers we have met and enjoyed on previous cruises who are mainly interested in the theme of the cruise - expeditions not boozing to excess. The cabins were comfortable and well serviced. As we were repeat passengers laundry was included. Dining was excellent at all meals. We preferred the more casual dining on Deck 6 which is buffet. The staff there were so accomodating and friendly where we found the dining in the formal dining room more formal and patronised by the more affluent wishing to be waited upon. The food is identical. Service is also more formal. There are no set dining periods or allocated seating. It is as you wish during the opening hours. On deck 6 bookings are often required due to popularity particularly if weather permits and as out-door dining is possible it is often extended to poolside. Each day there was a specially prepared dish available on deck 6 prepared by an exceptional chef (Jerome). Roast suckling pig,roast beef and lamb as well as a steak tartar to die for as well as prawns and scallops and many others. These meals are prepared for both lunch and dinner. Soups are always amazing.Wines are provided, red,white and rose at lunch and dinner which are reasonable but the more exclusive wines which are also available are expensive. Entertainment is restricted to 4 females and a male dancer and their performance is excellent.and if weather permits is performed on the pool deck. Otherwise it's in the theatre. For the more physical active a small gym is available to work off the extra weight that is so easy to put on.. Spa and massages are available. The lounges are comfortable and have singers or pianists playing at set times which are always advised in the daily schedule. Lectures are provided most days by one or other of the on-board guides, naturalists and scientists and are always most interesting and appropriate according to the areas being visited. Briefings and weather forecasts (if appropriate) are held before dinner regarding the next day's activities. In the sub-Antarctic they were were more than interesting and always gave us an appreciation of what we may expect be it good or bad. We have always found the cruise/expedition more than good value for money. The fact passenger size is limited to according to the size of the expedition and guides. Generally around 200 plus or minus a few depending upon how many people are permitted ashore which is dictated by the authorities managing the sites. Zodiac transfers are a breeze and access to/from the ship excellently achieved with ships crew amazing. Announcents are in French and English as there are usually more than a few French passengers on board (and they rule). It is after all a French owned ship. We have Been there and done that now three times and we will not travel with any other company based on ship size and passenger service. Many of the passengers and expedition staff formerly travelled or worked on the Orion which has now left Australian shores. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
Sailed on Le Soleal before and really like these vessels, not huge , excellent service and well appointed cabins , also around 250 passengers and around 140 crew, no casino or Pokies , these ships cater for a mature audience with a sense ... Read More
Sailed on Le Soleal before and really like these vessels, not huge , excellent service and well appointed cabins , also around 250 passengers and around 140 crew, no casino or Pokies , these ships cater for a mature audience with a sense of adventure hence the Zodiac inflatables on board to explore and land on remote beaches . With this in mind we booked on a cruise from Honolulu to French Polynesia , passengers mostly French , this can be a challenge if your French language skills are not up to scratch and , on their turf the French mostly keep themselves , a pity we had a great experience when sailing along the Australian coast ( Our Turf) on Le Soleal , more English speaking passengers , however the Crew from the top down are English speaking. This is a very important factor, Ponant is doing all it can to include all pasengers, but you have to keep this in mind when booking a cruise with Ponant and the area you visit, On our last cruise we stayed on Deck 5 , this time deck 3, the only difference a door to and instead sliding door and a partly enclosed balcony , the cabins are identical . Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We chose Ponant as it offered an in depth look at the area at a competitive price. This was our first Ponant cruise. We have cruised with Silversea and Seabourn previously, but not on expedition cruises. L'Austral is sleek and the ... Read More
We chose Ponant as it offered an in depth look at the area at a competitive price. This was our first Ponant cruise. We have cruised with Silversea and Seabourn previously, but not on expedition cruises. L'Austral is sleek and the décor is understated but elegant and contemporary. Our cabin ( a "prestige stateroom" on Deck 5) was very comfortable. It was a bit small in some respects but that's not surprising on a ship of this size. The French crew were attentive and pleasant. The expedition team was very impressive, particularly in organising and accompanying the groups departing on shore excursions by Zodiac. The shore excursions were a lot of fun and very interesting in terms of natural scenery and indigenous art, The wildlife was a highlight, particularly the unexpectedly large freshwater crocodiles on the Ord River and so many sea turtles near the Lacepede Islands, A couple of catering issues: There was a lack of choice in the included wines, apparently due to the non-delivery of ordered wines before departure in Darwin. A formal apology was issued by Ponant for this. Secondly, you couldn't get an espresso coffee in the Panoramic lounge during the day even though there is a coffee machine sitting there. There was no espresso coffee machine in the Deck 6 Grill restaurant, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. The waitstaff there had to order it from the Main lounge on Deck 3, so it was going cold by the time it got to us. And the coffee machine at the Deck 7 bar didn't work properly. But overall it was a very enjoyable cruise! Read Less
Sail Date July 2017
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore ... Read More
My dad was stationed in New Caledonia during WW II and I grew up sorting shells he brought home and later looking at his scrapbooks. I was delighted to see it firsthand. Vanuatu was a bonus and turned out to be a highlight. The shore excursions were excellent, especially the ports in Vanuatu. Being exposed to different cultures is important to me and the islands seemed very authentic and much more exotic than I expected. My only criticism was the use of the naturalists. On other cruises we have always enjoyed lectures by professors and experts on the area, that included historians as well as naturalists. Some of the lectures were quite good, others were almost insultingly basic. And there was almost no information given about the history of the islands and their place in the world today. I also would have appreciated more information on the people of the islands from an anthropologic viewpoint. With a couple of exception, the naturalists were not very visible on the excursions, it would have been good to have more direct contact with them. One of the things I appreciated most was the organization on board, you did an excellent job at that, from the lifeboat drills on. The food was quite good in the second floor restaurant, not so much on the 6th floor. But the wait staff was terrific. We also had contact with the medical staff, sadly, but they were very responsive and helpful Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in ... Read More
We selected the Ponant cruise to the NZ sub-Antarctic and Macquarie Island because it promised visits to places rarely seen yet in typical Ponant luxury. It isn't a cruise for wimps - we experienced Force 12 gales, difficulties in landing from Zodiacs and a slight mishap with an uncharted rock that necessitated a visit to Bluff for repairs. Yet throughout we saw interesting sights and were given expert briefings and debriefings by experts that complemented the care and attention of the Captain and crew who ensured our safety and kept us informed on weather and other factors that affected the program. (It can't have been fun standing in icy water for hours to ensure we landed and re-embarked safely!). The bird life and wildlife seen were highlights as promised in the advertisement that informed us of this rare cruise (only about 400 people a year visit these islands - far fewer than visit Antarctica). As on a previous cruise, the food and catering was excellent and cabins comfortable, if a little cramped. Hospitality staff were unfailingly cheerful and helpful. This was achieved despite dealing with a polyglot clientele of French, Anglo and Oriental passengers. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so ... Read More
This cruise was to the Sub-Antarctic islands. The voyage had some unexpected challenges for the Captain and the expedition team ably led by Mick Fogg. The ship and the expedition team worked closely to meet these developments and so achieve the best outcome for the passengers who were always kept fully informed. The zodiac crew worked well, often in very challenging weather conditions. The Captain is to be commended for regularly mixing with passengers on deck and in public rooms. Looking at the ship itself, our cabin steward (Agus) on Deck 4 gave excellent service. The talks given by the onboard lecturers were all exceptionally good and importantly outside of that the speakers made themselves available to chat informally with passengers in the public rooms. In regard to the dining arrangements, there were more self-service buffet style meals in the Deck 2 restaurant than we had expected; the impression had been given that it would be table service throughout except for the first course at breakfast where it is obviously preferable for people to serve themselves. Sometimes but not always at breakfast stewards would circulate with menus for those wishing to have a hot dish - it might be better to have small cards on each table listing the options for them to choose? At lunch for some reason the presentations of the cold entrée options and the desserts were placed side by side when it would have been better had they been separated so as to avoid confusion. Desserts did not appear to vary much from day to day. On the other hand the dinners were full table service and here the stewards worked well as a team. In the main lounge it was surprising that tea and coffee were on a self-service basis whereas counter service could have been more appropriate for a ship of five-star category. Similarly, on other ships of this category, cakes and sandwiches are displayed on a central table and after making their selection passengers move to tables where stewards serve tea. It was noticeable that a tray of cakes was only available at the counter - moreover the selection and its presentation remained identical for the entire 15-day voyage when some variety might have been expected. Also, passengers trying to juggle cups of tea and plates of cake with the rolling/pitching of the ship was not a good look. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
The itinerary was for a few days on Pitcairn and Easter Island, which is not possible with large ships. So small ships are the way to go. the food was divine and the entertainment excellent. the cruise director made cry non french ... Read More
The itinerary was for a few days on Pitcairn and Easter Island, which is not possible with large ships. So small ships are the way to go. the food was divine and the entertainment excellent. the cruise director made cry non french speaking traveller part of the cruise. The provided history and cultural videos of our cruise and ports were excellent and added to ur experiences. It was a memorable time for family and friends to finally reach Easter Island and put a big tick off our bucket list. Spending 3 days on Easter Island was just the best highlight of the cruise as there was so much to see the than the few Moi's that you see on the postcards. ti be up close and personal especially the moi's from the quarry was just an amazing experience. If you want o see Easter Island, you need seen some solid days exploring the Island and not just a scenic cruise by. this was achieved with Ponant. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
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