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Sail Date: April 2019
Just finished a 16 day Durban to Mahe (Seychelle Islands). We were a bit worried about the ship due to some not so good reviews. But, all I can say is it was a fantastic experience! We are generally traveling on Crystal and always happy, ... Read More
Just finished a 16 day Durban to Mahe (Seychelle Islands). We were a bit worried about the ship due to some not so good reviews. But, all I can say is it was a fantastic experience! We are generally traveling on Crystal and always happy, but this line has some very unique itineraries so we thought we would give it a try. To begin, the service is OUTSTANDING. Our Butler Hassan, the restaurant manager Kevin, the expedition guides, our daily food servers, our cabin attendant Rona, all exceeded our expectations. Due to the fact several in our group suffer from food allergy and are vegan, we were pleasantly surprised to find the chef provided very good meals for us. Enjoyed the daily salad bar, and the daily poolside BBQ of a variety of themed items. Several in our group loved the amazing breads, the french style cuisine, the terrific breakfast and option for a casual or more formal daily dinner. It is an all-inclusive ship with open bar. We tried several amazing “featured cocktails” and enjoyed them at the pool bar at sunset. The itinerary was terrific. We boarded the ship in Durban after a few days at the Oyster Box Hotel—which was also OUTSTANDING. Then visits to a variety of uninhabited islands. The snorkeling, diving and nature talks very, very good. Our daughter had a minor dive problem with her ear. The ship doctor and dive master were right on top of it every second and very helpful. We really appreciated their help. Smoking is only allowed off the back of ship. Other reviews complained about this, but I found it no problem. No smoking in rooms or public places. The Captain was quite personable and spoke English and French fluently. This was so nice that we booked two more cruises with really unique itineraries. Looking forward to going back. Loved this ship and staff! Read Less
Sail Date: March 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me: Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier ... Read More
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me: Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier Islands, Moorea, Bora Bora and Papeete; Cruise#2: Papeete, Moorea, Tuamotu islands, Marquesa Islands, Hilo, Honolulu This review will cover both cruises. As it turned out, the itienrary had a lot of expedition-style elements: transportation by zodiac, snorkel eqipt. issued, visiting out of the way places (not even listed in Lonely Planet or much on the web about them), an excellent speaker introducing us to the various Polynesian cultures, film programs, some hiking, and excellent local guides. The mix on the ship was about 50% French-speaking and the rest English speaking (consisting of US, Australian/New Zelanders, Europeans) and most programs were offered twice, once for the French speaking, and again for the English speaking audience. Ship announcements were bi-lingual. Food is both restaurants is excellent and I enjoyed the buffet on on the 6th level for most meals as I could "eat and run". Spa services are excellent I liked that the ship had a afternoon reception for those of us traveling on our own so we could meet each other. This is a 5-star ship, with 5-star dining, 5-star services and 5-star amenities (for example, bathroom amenities are from Hermes). Read Less
Sail Date: February 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
I wanted to go to Antarctica in comfort and Ponant offered an excellent 'no single supplement' deal. Le Boreal is an elegant and well maintained ship with wonderful staff. It was very annoying not to get our travel documents ... Read More
I wanted to go to Antarctica in comfort and Ponant offered an excellent 'no single supplement' deal. Le Boreal is an elegant and well maintained ship with wonderful staff. It was very annoying not to get our travel documents until 2 weeks before departure. I was stressing about the baggage limits and the timing of the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. It turned out I need not have worried as the flight was at 0830 and the baggage limit was 23kgs. Arriving in Ushuaia we were taken to the magnificent hotel Arakur for lunch and an optional walk. The amount of time at the hotel could have been halved. On Le Boreal we ate most of our meals in the main dining room on level 2 rather than the self service option on level 6. Excellent variety of well prepared food and free flowing wines. The staff remembered our preferences and I noticed them carefully 'tweaking' the dishes on offer for a couple of fussy passengers. I always had room service breakfast which was fast and my order was always correct, something that is often a problem on larger ships. Being an expedition voyage, the emphasis was on zodiac rides and landings. As I am decidedly unfit I was a bit worried about these activities. I need not have been. The expedition leader, Florence, gave detailed briefings each day and there was a good little video demonstrating how to get on and off and in and out of the zodiacs. The sailors at the marina were wonderful, assisting all passengers. Passengers were divided into groups by language, i.e. French or English with the few Germans going with German speaking naturalist. Group order was rotated each day. I did not do all the excursions on offer, choosing those I felt most comfortable with. I am not an outdoors person, so all the layers of clothing were a new experience for me. Getting kitted up to venture out was a huge effort. Underthings, thermals, next layer, waterproof pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, neck scarf, beanie and enormous red Ponant supplied parka. As my stuff was all brand new I did not have to vacuum it prior to landing on the Antarctic peninsula. The supplied boots were a hassle and the website advice to go down a size when ordering was definitely incorrect. I ended up 3 sizes larger and still had to roll the boots over at the top, so if we had had very wet landings my feet would have been wet. Something to consider if you don't have slender legs. However this is a cruise where you can enjoy the great wilderness that is Antarctica from the comfort of your ship. Iceberg and whale viewings were magnificent. Our captain slowed down when there was something to see and we spent hours sailing around an enormous tabular iceberg. All in all I loved this cruise. At sea Ponant does a very good job indeed. It was a shame therefore that it ended on a real downer. After a faultless cruise, Ponant did not excel with the return transfers and flight. Left the ship at 0900, hung around Ushuaia for 45 minutes and then queued for over 90 minutes at the airport. The LATAM flight was a disorganised mess and the service was non existent. The flight down on Air Austral was much better but I would seriously suggest organising your own way to and from the ship. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2019
From the moment we arrived at the Buenos Aries airport to board our charter flight to Ushuaia , the attention to detail with this cruise line was evident. From having boarding passes ready to go, to buses in you should wear divided by ... Read More
From the moment we arrived at the Buenos Aries airport to board our charter flight to Ushuaia , the attention to detail with this cruise line was evident. From having boarding passes ready to go, to buses in you should wear divided by language, there was nothing it was left chance. The ship was immaculate and in wonderful shape, however it pale by comparison to the genuine friendliness and graciousness of the crew. They are relaxed elegant manner in meeting guest’s requests, made it an absolute delight to be on board. As Antarctica cruise, the coordination of people in and out of zodiacs was masterful and without incident. The food was wonderfully proportioned in the main dining room and for those of preferred self service, there was a buffet on the sixth deck. The lectures from the expedition crew we're insightful, pertinent pertinent, and well delivered. The trip lived up to the value proposition of a luxury cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2019
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos ... Read More
I chose Ponant based on the dates available, as well as a lower single supplement than I saw on other cruises that I researched. Ponant alsoninvluded the flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia which was a bonus. I spent a night in Buenos Aires after my flight from JFK, and met the Ponant team at the airport the next morning. The representatives were easy to find and I was quickly waiting in line to drop of my luggage and wait for boarding. After landing in Ushuaia, Ponant offered either a trip to the national park or lunch at a beautiful hotel overlooking the city. I chose lunch. Here, I met other solo travelers who I dined with throughout the cruise. We were then taken to the ship were we began the embarkation process. There was no waiting. Walked directly from the bus up the gangway and onto the ship. We were greeted by the staff, and brought to our rooms. The room was very spacious and the bathroom had a sliding door covering a window which allowed you to watch the scenery when showering. It was very nice! Throughout the cruise, the staff kept us well informed of what the plans were for the day. We generally made 2 zodiac trips per day and most days, 2 landings. Everything was organized very well, from getting our parkas and boots to the daily educational programs (provided in French and English). Our weather was phenomenal, and Drake’s passage was like glass both directions! The expedition team was very concerned about the guests seeing as much as possible and worked very hard to ensure it. There are 2 restaurants on board and I generally chose to visit the buffet which allowed more choice than the sit down restaurant. The food was overall excellent and often had a French flair. The staff on the ship were lovely and any needs were met right away. This cruise was all inclusive and the drinks flowed freely! I did not attend any of the shows except the last one on the last night. It was cute but I’m not a show person. The WiFi was great! Free, and I was able to check email, social media, and text with family and friends (helpful since I was traveling solo). No issues with disembarkation at all. Extremely smooth and organized cruise. Loved Antarctica! I would go back and would chose Ponant again for sure!! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and ... Read More
My background being Hospitality, Housekeeping, PR and Compliance I felt the crew, Officers and the Captain acted in a very respectful and lovely manner along with creating a great atmosphere. • The ship was a small luxurious one and I took into observation myself on what was available and what was limited especially regarding the trip to Antarctica. • The restaurant staff were very efficient and worked well under pressure at times (special occasions such as gala nights) while keeping great composure. • I was more drawn to the A La Carte and found the food to be very delicious along with a variety of specialties. • The drinks service at the bar was great. • The entertainment was good for being a small luxury ship and I considered that it wasn’t a party ship, but more of an intimate one as why I decided on a small luxury ship. • The cabin room had a balcony and it was very lovely and cosy with great space and storage. • The room service was great and the steward, she was very lovely. • The zodiac expeditions were very well organised and supervised by the Officer/s and crew who were very safety conscious and were never hesitant to take anything into consideration. • The Expedition Leader/ Naturalist (one in particular) were very well experienced and very knowledgeable and the lectures given were presented very well and were interesting. Engaging would be the word due to their passion. • I observed some customers giving some staff a hard time at the reception regarding “their concerns/expectations” of which I saw was well handled and sorted with great communication and expedience. • Any feedback was also taken into consideration and handled diligently and implemented. • The Captain and Expedition Leader both delivered on an amazing substituted trip in place of an expedition trip on one of the days we were not able to get to a destination due to weather and an ice blockage however this idea was a phenomenal one along with being in the right place to see whale activity much closer. Three Things To Consider • Single Supplementary Charges make it less flexible along with less journeys/experience to go on than I would like to have; • The cooked bacon could be improved; and • Regarding kids maybe more involvement interaction as they are the future however, I did see the Expedition Leader do his best with what he had and could do. It was the first time I had experienced a cruise, taken three flights within 24/48hrs experiencing jet lag for the first time along with travelling alone to areas with little language experience. The trip was perfect along with the weather and this was not “the Norm” every time so I got a special trip. I have lots of photos, lost of memories and I went on the trip with no expectations and instead it was just about enjoying the moments. Thank you to all who made my trip a great one and I will definitely be back for more. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special ... Read More
The cruise was amazing. These ships are superb and so smoothly do what they are designed for. Inc getting every out into the zodiacs often. The sights in Antarctica are stunning and the wildlife. Well humpbacks penguins galore and special sights like minkes up close in a zodiac. 6am rise for a pod of orcas and to top it off a blue whale in the weddell sea. The guides and the zodiac drivers did a great job of getting you close to interesting sights and explaining everything well. On the ship the crew were great. Everything was so well taken care off. And the food well. Level 2 is Devine. I guess what you expect on a French ship! The crossing back across the Drake was windy but what's a trip to Antarctica without having to say you have endured the Drake... These Ponant ships are excellent. I would do it again in a heart beat. Maybe a tropical trip next time or Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2019
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage ... Read More
I have always wanted to go to Antartica, and Ponant ad for this Antartica cruise was in our Travel Paper. Price was really good. The flight from BA to ushaia was quite dreadful, coupleas were not seated together and far to much luggage allowed in cabin. The embarkation was seamless and very welcoming . The ship itself was pristine, hygiene incrediable, service form all staff inpeckiable, the facilities were outstanding. To be fair could not fault anything. The communication throughout the 10days was so regular and UTD. The excursions were professional and very well organised. comfort plus. I would definantly only ever do another cruise with Ponant, as ticked every box. Food was exceptional, and loads of variety, activity was constant and varied. Very professional expedition leaders and the staff involved in hauling us on and of the zodiacs were amazing. Captain was informative and passionate about his ship as well as Antartica. JUST AMAZING EPIC AND BREATHTAKING. Read Less
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