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6 Ponant Transatlantic Cruise Reviews

I am writing this following a April 2019 transatlantic crossing from Miami to Lisbon ( an itinerary to be repeated in 2020 ). This is a wonderful all inclusive experience as PONANT includes fine wines (including French champagne), ... Read More
I am writing this following a April 2019 transatlantic crossing from Miami to Lisbon ( an itinerary to be repeated in 2020 ). This is a wonderful all inclusive experience as PONANT includes fine wines (including French champagne), alcoholic beverages, tips and even WiFi with no additional charge to the cost of the cruise. Cabins feature toiletries from Hermes and offer all the comforts one would expect from a 5 star cruise line. Dress, however, is country club casual. While PONANT has deep French roots, the entire onboard staff is fluent in English and everything, including announcements, menus and shore excursions, are offered in both English and French. The cuisine, as one would expect, is gourmet and there is complimentary 24 hour room service for those who so desire. On my cruise entertainment included several singers and dancers, a guitar player and professionally trained classical pianist. There is also a lecturer, giving separate presentations in the theater in English and French. Shore excursions sold onboard are varied. The Captain and officers are quite visible and friendly with guests. And the service staff goes beyond expectations, quickly learning guests names and preferences. It should be noted that PONANT offers a number of itineraries with no single supplement, which can easily be found on their website. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This ship is beautiful. It’s like being on a private yacht, especially when it is nowhere near full. It’s so easy to get everywhere and the decor is very soft aqua with neutrals. Our cabin was lovely and beautifully kept by our steward ... Read More
This ship is beautiful. It’s like being on a private yacht, especially when it is nowhere near full. It’s so easy to get everywhere and the decor is very soft aqua with neutrals. Our cabin was lovely and beautifully kept by our steward Manshuri. It’s really nice to have coffee capsules and different teas available and the mini bar has spirits, soft drinks and water. We were greeted by the Captain who was always around and gave an in depth weather forecast in the lounge daily. All the crew were wonderful and quickly remembered drinks etc (thanks Jay Jay, Richie and Berenice in the lounge) The whole dining process was wonderful all the way through. The staff again were great but special mention must be made for the chef Michenon Ludovic. The food he produced was Michelin star status although, we believe from other passengers, not the normal Ponant food. We looked forward to every meal and we’re not disappointed. From beef Wellington to Halibut with sesame and Asian sauce, to Chateaubriand spectacularly served at our table either by the chef or one of the restaurant managers. We had a gorgeous seafood tagliatelle with lobster, huge prawn and tiny mussels - the list goes on. It made it truly a gourmet cruise. Because it was a transatlantic cruise we were led to believe there would be no entertainment. However we had a great duo( her voice was great), a concert pianist and a singer with 3 dancers - how they dance when the ship is moving I don’t know. The cruise director, María (who was lovely) was very inventive and used the crew for talks or demonstrations and meet and greet sessions We even had a few hours in Funchal, not on the itinerary, which was unexpected but lovely Embarkation was a bit basic but we were in Cayenne which is not a cruise port!! All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would definitely like to repeat it Thank you to all on board (crew and Passengers)for making it so good Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Le Champlain is a beautiful, small, expedition ship. We sailed on her from Cayenne to Lisbon-had a wonderful time! Only 43 guests on this voyage and 120 crew-the 11 day crossing felt like a party on your best friend's large yacht. ... Read More
Le Champlain is a beautiful, small, expedition ship. We sailed on her from Cayenne to Lisbon-had a wonderful time! Only 43 guests on this voyage and 120 crew-the 11 day crossing felt like a party on your best friend's large yacht. Nationalities of the guests: 5 Americans; 5 Australians; 2 Canadians; 4 from the UK; 1 German; and the rest French. All were well-traveled and everyone mixed well. Language was not an issue - the crew all spoke English and French-with our taxi/restaurant French, we managed to communicate well enough with our French friends. We had a base-level suite on deck 3. Well appointed, but a tad snug-they are significantly smaller than on other lines. We did not find this to be an issue. Food in our opinion was very good and we had a number of exceptional dishes. Service was good throughout the ship - best in the restaurant and suite. Open bar offerings sufficient-no need to up purchase anything. Limited entertainment. Booked another, we liked it so much! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. ... Read More
First of all, on our many cruises we've never had such a warm and fuzzy crew, we felt like part of an extended family, and it was genuine. The crew actually bids to come back to the same ship because they like being around each other. We never witnessed grouchiness or tension among the staff, in definite contrast to the larger cruise ships we've been on in the past. The service was hence over the top. Perhaps it was just our L'Austral crew, but e.g. the front desk ladies were amazing, juggling all day in at least 2 languages, and manning the reception 24/7. Always friendly with a smile, and anything we asked for was done, taken care of or checked on with efficiency. We never felt 'second class' by not being French, and 99% of the French passengers were very friendly once you tried a few words in French.. I think sometimes people get insecure and appear standoffish until you get to know them a little. Due to the itinerary, we had a significant number of Aussies, Germans, Austrians, some Brits, someone from Iceland, and a handful of Americans. Several multilingual passengers, and an unusually high number of solo travelers. That being said, it does help to speak French, since the naturalists, cruise director etc are all native French people, and not every joke or comment can be translated properly into English. All announcements were always in both French and English. The captain was very involved and you seemed to run into him often. He was there, coming in another Zodiac when ours had engine problems, always ready to help out. He navigated that vessel safely and very smoothly. His background is commanding icebreakers, so a transatlantic is probably much easier work for him. Overall recommendations: Although there's 3 elevators, they don't reach everything, for example the marina. Not a good ship for wheelchair, crutches, or walker. Cane may be okay if you can negotiate 1-2 flights of stairs. Currency on board is Euro, but you can settle your account in USD, and if you book a future cruise on board, the quote can be done in either currency. The onboard boutique/store does NOT have sunscreen, nail clippers, antacids... so don't forget those. They have mostly clothing, a few gifts, small amount of jewelry and handbags. Most of the clothing is for use in Antarctica. All high quality (mostly made in France and Germany), and thus pricey. If you wish to leave tips, you have to have cash. Unlike on other cruise ships, where you can add a tip to your bill, you can't do that on Ponant. The services in the spa already include a service charge. Food/drink: Be prepared to gain weight - we felt like Thanksgiving turkeys.. especially the desserts are too delicious to pass up, plus they have daily varying homemade gelato.. ugh. The pastry chef is top notch, French of course. And then the cheeses...! Our ship wasn't full, so during the first 2 weeks, dinner was either buffet on 6, or sit down on 2, and lunch was only buffet. You can always get coffee drinks, croissants and fruit in the main lounge on 3 in the a.m., and coffee/tea with some type of goodie from 4pm-5pm, main lounge as well. Open bar using decent brands, top shelf is extra. Their champagne is pretty good, and on certain occasions, Veuve Cliquot comes out. House wines red/white/rosé are overall decent. If you like beer, you'll be probably disappointed. Mostly Heineken, and e.g. Corona amazingly has to be paid for. Main dishes range from okay to superb - it really depends who's cooking and what. The mostly Indonesian crew is of course best at fish etc, even room service fish was fantastic. The Peruvian carving chef was amazing. Lamb most of the time was awesome. Be aware most of their beef and pork meats (roast, loin etc) are cooked 'rare' and are quite fatty. Room service club sandwich was the best sandwich we've ever had, period. Now if you can't find anything to strike your fancy, just talk to the restaurant head guy or directly to the chefs, they will come up with something for you. Spa/fitness: actually got a haircut, Elsa was very good and took a whole hour, only 65Euro. The hammam looked nice, very hot in there and we were in the tropics, so didn't use. Fitness center looked nice, mostly deserted. The saltwater pool is a decent size for a small ship, due to internal ramp you can't swim laps but it's nice to hang out or tread water. As far as the itinerary - the Brazilian government has now banned all non-Brazilian vessels from anchoring off Fernando de Noronha. It was quite a bummer, but nothing could be done about it. We received 250Euro onboard credit each as a compensation. OB credit can't be used for future cruise deposit, certain visas they arrange for you, or tips as I mentioned above. Since basically everything is already included, we "had to" shop at the boutique, DH got a real Panama Hat and I bought an Icebreaker vest and 2 Breton sweaters, nice souvenirs! Brazil: Rio - loved it and will try to return Paraty - very quaint, difficult walking on cobblestones, not touristy, and no public RR Salvador - broke my heart to see how they let their city deteriorate in so many ways.. even in the public market prostitution was going on. Very sad. Recife/Olinda - Would love to return to see the Olinda Carnaval. We had dancers from Olinda come to the ship to present a show and they were spectacular. Olinda walking tours are quite the workout walking steep hills in high heat and humidity. Guinea-Bissau, Bijagos Islands There was a couple (he French, she Portuguese) who lives on Keré Island, who acted as cultural intermediaries. Our naturalists came from Antarctica and that's where their expertise lies, not Africa, so they did not have much information. Honestly, most of my information was from documentaries I had found online at home, prior to the voyage. The Islands are definitely not touristy (there's rarely a ferry from Bissau), most of the village inhabitants are very reserved and do not interact. It appears they asked a couple of women to put on their 'good dress' and sit by the walking trail, so people could get their selfies with a person from Bijagos. I felt we were being intrusive overall, although I understand they authorized the visit and Ponant helps finance e.g. a water well etc for the villages. If you're a snorkeler/diver, this is not your spot, water murky with very low visibility. Sadly, we saw almost no wildlife, wrong season, normally there are lot of birds, hippos etc. Senegal-Dakar Well, we spent the day at an African family's B&B in Dougar, 45 min E of Dakar, and about 20min from the new airport. We booked through airbnb.com and they reconciled us with Senegal. Before we arrived there, I couldn't get out of Dakar fast enough, between peddlers, noise, the smell of urine, Sahara dust, and traffic insanities... Considering you don't wait in line for anything except the Zodiac embarkations, and the whole ambiance, it's definitely a luxury line and we're glad we chose this trip. Regardless of the itinerary glitches, we enjoyed ourselves and were thoroughly relaxed, so we booked another/ future cruise onboard, which will be on one of the sister ships. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
Time and place was suitable. Cruise #1 was very attractive with visit to game reserves. Cruise #2 was not as attractive as we are not great swimmers. one of the few english lecturers was 82 yrs old, he sat during his mumbled talks. ... Read More
Time and place was suitable. Cruise #1 was very attractive with visit to game reserves. Cruise #2 was not as attractive as we are not great swimmers. one of the few english lecturers was 82 yrs old, he sat during his mumbled talks. Only one of the expedition team ( of more than 16) was an englishman so that the number of talks in english was very limited - though the french staff members tried hard. Only 15% of the 200+ passengers were english speaking, we were all felt to feel like second class travellers, not by the ship's staff (who were excellent) but by the expedition members. three couples, independently, said to us they would not sail with ponant again. Quality of the food, again needs mention, it is not up to the standard expected. This was our tenth cruise on ponant and we have ten more booked, so we hope that the company improves it attention to international travellers. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We choose this cruise because it took us to several places that we wanted to visit which would have been much more difficult to reach on our own. I especially enjoyed the Cod Island landing and hiking which took full advantage of a ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it took us to several places that we wanted to visit which would have been much more difficult to reach on our own. I especially enjoyed the Cod Island landing and hiking which took full advantage of a beautiful day. This opportunity to explore a tundra environment underscored the creativity and flexibility of the expedition crew to give travelers the best experiences possible. On board services were outstanding with very friendly, attentive hotel personnel and ship's crew. Most of the lectures were delivered by well-informed speakers whose enthusiasm for their areas of interest overcame all language barriers (Jean-Pierre was amazing). But a few didn't add to my current knowledge of some subjects, especially environmental issues. We took advantage of the cruise itinerary to spend four days in Paris at the start of the trip and another four days to explore Quebec at the end of the cruise. Finally, we spent a few days in Chicago to visit friends and to see Lyric Opera's production of Orphee -- a fitting end to a wonderful French experience. However, my request to learn about Le Soleal's state-of-the-art waste management system was ignored. Since I'm a board member of a waste management district which faces similar environmental challenges as the Ponant ships, I was disappointed that I did not have the opportunity to learn more about the technology and systems used by Le Soleal. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
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