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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2018
My wife and I recently went on the Le Soliel expedition cruise entitled The Saga of Erick the Red from July 17—29. The trip started in Iceland and spent most of the time combing the Greenland coast up to Kangerlussuaq. We were both ... Read More
My wife and I recently went on the Le Soliel expedition cruise entitled The Saga of Erick the Red from July 17—29. The trip started in Iceland and spent most of the time combing the Greenland coast up to Kangerlussuaq. We were both impressed with the level of service on the ship. The housekeeping as immaculate, the meals were wonderful, and the entertainment was enjoyable, and the ship staff was friendly and helpful. We are looking forward to spending another cruise with Ponant. Unfortunately, one serious drawback to the trip was the quality of the expedition staff (known as naturalist guides). The expedition leader, Florence, was over-matched in her role, and appeared to provide little actual leadership to her guide staff. While all the naturalist guides seemed to be good people, essentially they provided little real guiding. We were usually dumped onto land and were on our own to “use our imagination” as the expedition leader would say. The naturalist guides would simply spread out and watch as passengers walked around, often aimlessly and confused. Here are some examples to illustrate my point: • There was no emphasis on wilderness ethics. The Arctic growing season is short and plant life is precious, yet the expedition leader, Florence, and her staff made very little effort to educate the visitors on how to behave in these wild places and how to best preserve them. Passengers would be wearing big rubber boots designed specifically for mud and muck, yet would trample over delicate flora to avoid wet areas on the trails. • Naturalists were frequently unable to answer the most basic questions about the flora, fauna, geology, or history of a landing site. A naturalist guide should have at least a general knowledge of the natural and human history of an area to be visited, and should have a guidebook to help them answer questions, yet frequently, we got the “I don’t know” response or an outright mis-identification. • One hike we went on was a disaster. My wife and I were one of the first off the ship but we waited over an hour until the all passengers unloaded before the hike started. When it did, nearly 200 passengers all crammed along the same narrow trail, and received no guiding input on the hike. Instead of one enormous group, why not divide the passengers up among the guides and go on more manageable smaller group hikes? • The Viking sites were special but the expedition leader and her naturalist guides were not located at the actual ruins where they could identify the ruins and give historical background. In fact, the first Viking site we landed at, many passengers had no idea where the ruins were located and when we finally saw the 1,000 year-old ruins we had no idea what we were looking at. Passengers even found they had wandered right over one of the Viking long houses, not realizing where the ruin was. • Frequently, naturalist guides were taking pictures as their own personal hobby instead of helping passengers. • The naturalist guides’ PowerPoint presentations on the landing sites were of marginal use. Some of the information presented on the Vikings was superficial and incomplete. We talked to passengers who were on other Ponant expeditions and they said their previous experiences with the naturalists guides was must better. Perhaps we just hit a dud on this expedition. With that said, despite the poor guiding, we enjoyed the rest of the experience enough that we will try another Ponant cruise in the future. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
This was a College Charter run by Gohagen & Co. booked through UCLA Alumni. Our ratings: UCLA Alumni Travel: 5/5 Gohagen & Co.: 5/5 Ponant: 5/5 Le Soleal: 5/5 Antarctica: 10/5 The booking process went very ... Read More
This was a College Charter run by Gohagen & Co. booked through UCLA Alumni. Our ratings: UCLA Alumni Travel: 5/5 Gohagen & Co.: 5/5 Ponant: 5/5 Le Soleal: 5/5 Antarctica: 10/5 The booking process went very smoothly as was the follow-up to the numerous questions we had prior to the trip. Documentation was equally easy. We left from Houston IAH where we met the Gohagen staff who escorted us to Buenos Aires for two nights. We then flew to Ushuaia to board Le Soleal. We had read several poor reviews of this ship on CC so we were quite surprised when the Captain himself greeted us by name (without a prompt) as we boarded. We had never experienced anything like this on our previous 40 cruises on various lines. Most of the staff knew ours and everyone else's name by the third day. With very few exceptions, each crew member was gracious, informative and helpful. The ship was comfortable (having a suite is a big plus) and it met most of our needs. Food was good, service superb and selection was fine. The visit to Antarctica was unbelieveable. The on-board naturalists and scientists were very informative, interesting and well trained. Getting on and off the ship via Zodiacs was a challenge for us older folks, but the crew made it work well. When you tour the Polar areas everything depends on the local weather so you don't know from hour to hour what stops you will be making. The Captain did a great job of finding great stops and keeping us informed. You will not believe what you see ashore. It reminded me of my visit to the Grand Canyon: You can't really describe it with words nor can you really photograph it. In summary: A life altering experience. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2016
Love the Expedition Cruises! The locations visited are amazing and without hords of tourist. The Expedition Crew are so knowledgeable on the locations; People, flora, fauna and wildlife found there. We love the small ship size: The ... Read More
Love the Expedition Cruises! The locations visited are amazing and without hords of tourist. The Expedition Crew are so knowledgeable on the locations; People, flora, fauna and wildlife found there. We love the small ship size: The entire Crew is friendly from the waiters, bartenders, bus boys & housekeeping personnel to the Bridge crew and the Captain himself. The food is 5 star across the board taste, choices and presentation. Accomodations are graciously made for allergies. The Piano and Cabaret are very nice. A few fun activities are provided on sea days. The children on board ages 7 and up, seem to enjoy the various activities provided by the AMAZING cruise director, Note:These Expeditions are not really suitable for children under the age of 6. This is not your typical big boat cruise. This is a Luxary Mega Yacht with Mega Amazing prople on board who treat you like a Royal Family. The Gym & Spa on board were a nice feature for sea days. See you again soon. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2016
This cruise was planned by an affinity group (MIT alumni). I signed up because they always plan great trips with stimulating fellow travelers and my wife and I are mildly addicted eclipse chasers. Also, Australia/Indonesia/Malaysia is a ... Read More
This cruise was planned by an affinity group (MIT alumni). I signed up because they always plan great trips with stimulating fellow travelers and my wife and I are mildly addicted eclipse chasers. Also, Australia/Indonesia/Malaysia is a part of the world that I had long wanted to visit. Le Soleal and Ponant exceeded expectations. The accommodations, crew, amenities, excursions, and food were all first class. We spent a day in Sydney before flying on to Darwin to meet the ship. Sydney was great fun, exactly what we expected from prior reading, surfing and recommendations. Darwin is just a place to meet the ship. Embarkation involved a long, boring wait in a typical but uncrowded, unadorned, unsupported boarding room. Disembarkation was fine. The ship has all the amenties I consider important. No casino but not much time for one. We upgraded to a suite which was a first-time, outstanding luxury to which we may become addicted. The French cuisine was outstanding, despite our various dietary restrictions. The combined MIT and ship's lectures were excellent. Service was impeccable. The shore excursions were interesting, educational, and fun. SCUBA would have been a plus but wasn't offered. However, the snorkeling sites were great. Yes, I would go again. In fact, we did, five months later on the same ship, in the same cabin, to Western Alaska and Siberia. Another great trip, albeit with somewhat lesser excursion quality. Great wildlife photo ops, though. But that's another story... Read Less
32 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
After enjoying some 20 cruises on Oceania, Cunard, Norwegian, Crystal, Holland-America, and Silver Sea, we think we have a pretty good grasp of the industry and what a paying passenger should expect. Le Soloeal, owned by the French line ... Read More
After enjoying some 20 cruises on Oceania, Cunard, Norwegian, Crystal, Holland-America, and Silver Sea, we think we have a pretty good grasp of the industry and what a paying passenger should expect. Le Soloeal, owned by the French line Le Ponant, is the the worst run cruise ship I have ever seen. Paying for Le Soleal is like throwing your money away. The problems go to the policies (which means the company is horrible as well) as well as the clueless staff (which could be the company’s fault, the fault of the ship’s manager, or both). I hate when people criticize without specifics, so I’m happy to give them. Here we go. 1. This is advertised as an all-inclusive ship and advertises fine wines and spirits as included in the price. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 1 or 2 wines available are cheap and unheard of. There is no single malt scotch. There is no Bourbon. The only Brandy is too cheap to drink. 2. Even when you go to the list available for pay, the prices are jacked up terribly. Usually a ship that is all-inclusive gives you decent prices for upgrading as you get sort of a credit. Not here. Not only is the list overpriced, it features only one American Red and one American White – both from the Robert Mondavi Private Selection line which, while it sounds good and probably fooled the incompetents running this Line, is a low line wine. A comment here: For many of the wines for sale the list has a Parker score. Many are 90 or above, but the Mondavi Chardonnay is 84. Can you imagine having one American wine on the list and bragging about an 84? Stupid. There are others in the mid 80’s. Why have them there at all? 3. This ship has only about 200 passengers and a crew ration of 1:2, which is too low in the first place for a so-called luxury ship. More importantly, most crew members have no idea about anything outside their particular job, and often not then. a. The first afternoon neither the reception desk nor the staff in the 6th floor lounge had any idea if there was shipboard music being played later in the evening. And the poorly put together daily notice said nothing about it. Turned out there were entertainers in both the 6th floor and 3rd floor lounges. b. At the lunch buffet shrimp was offered. We asked the servers about sauce, and none knew what was available and had to go find out. c. Upon check in, we were put in the lounge on the 3rd deck, being told rooms were not ready. About 30 minutes later as friends of ours told us they were in their room I went to the front desk and was told by the hotel manager they would come get us when they started taking people to rooms. As he is telling me this, those boarding were indeed being taken to their cabins right in front of my face. So we just went to ours on our own. It was ready, but no luggage at 4:00 in the afternoon on a ship with only about 100 cabins. I went and found the luggage and brought it in. d. On the night of the captain’s reception they ship’s newsletter said a Gala dinner would begin after the reception and they would not serve until all were seated. There was no indication of what time that would be. The front desk told me I could actually dine at any time after 6. She was shocked when I told her it was now 6:25 and the restaurant was not open yet. She called and told me it would open at 6:45. It actually opened at 6:37. e. Here is a clueless hotel manager story that will make you smile. When we complained that we were told there were fine wine and spirits aboard the ship, he asked us, with a quizzical look on his face, where we heard or read that. He said he only offers wine and spirits. They may not be so fine. Dumb? 4. At dinner on the 3rd night we ordered the lamb on the menu. After about 10 minutes the waiter told us they were out. We had ordered a bottle of wine to go with the lamb, but the staff wasn’t trained well enough to understand any problem with this. So we ordered steak skewers and as we were finishing, out came lamb for the table next to us who ordered well after we did. We asked a captain what happened and he said they did not know they had more lamb and it took the chef 20 minutes to find out. We told him we thought that was incompetent and he sent a higher up who first said the other table ordered first, which was not true, and had so been confirmed by the captain. Caught in a lie, he attempted to say it took 25 minutes to thaw the lamb. No one understood that all they had to say to us was wait a few minutes while they check things out. They are simply incompetent on the ship. IMPORTANTLY, this was the second time this happened. They ran out of baked salmon at lunch and told everyone they had no more only 20 minutes into a 90 minute restaurant opening. As we left, there sat the dish. The host of that room said they convinced the chef to make more. Shouldn’t have run out in the first place. 5. With regard to the ship’s entertainers/musicians, the newsletter never tells you who is entertaining where. So we know nothing about them or where they might be at any given time. This is unfair to the passengers and entertainers, and shows a total lack of understanding on the part of the crew. Every other cruise line gives you this information. 6. The group we were with had many people (over 25) in the 6th floor lounge one evening. We were actually playing the piano, and all were singing. At midnight the bartenders closed down and left. Never seen that on a ship. 7. At the so-called Gala dinner, the server put my salad fork back for me to use again when I finished the salad. I had him get me a new one. Then, someone was not thinking on the mussels curry dish as we had to use our hands to open the mussels. What a mess. The chargers on which this dish sat were naturally covered with shells and liquid from the broth. Were they removed? No. At least not until we requested it. 8. Unbelievably, in both dining rooms there is a table for the ship’s officers, who sit by themselves and ignore all their passengers. I cannot remember such rudeness and obvious lack of thought on any other ship. 9. The ship scheduled a mandatory safety meeting followed by a mandatory life jacket drill at 5:45 and 6:00 respectively the first day. Obviously, people took their life jackets with them. Some of the crew allowed them in the room during the lecture and some made us take them back to our cabin saying we could not bring them until 6:00, of course meaning we all had to leave the lecture, go to the room, get the life jackets, and come right back. You would think this is a comedy, but the people on this ship are just this disconnected. Also, the drill was help at a time we were in port and people were not required to be on board for another 8 hours. Finally, even tho the drill was designed to show us how to put on the life jackets, the notice sent out asked us to come with them already on. 10. They are so cheap on this ship. We have already written about the spirits and wine that fall into this category, and the fact that the bartenders close shop at 12 even when passengers are out. In the morning they advertise fresh squeezes orange, grapefruit, and tomato juice. Think they have this during the day at the two cocktail bars? Nope. Too cheap, as we say. Cruise another line - really. Read Less
Le Soleal Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins N/A 0.0
Dining N/A 0.0
Entertainment N/A 0.0
Public Rooms N/A 0.0
Fitness Recreation N/A 0.0
Family N/A 0.0

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