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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Having made numerous cruises on various lines (20 +) I can honestly say Ponant really misses the mark. Cruise is billed as high end with gourmet dining, luxury cabins and exciting entertainment all to be accompanied with outstanding ... Read More
Having made numerous cruises on various lines (20 +) I can honestly say Ponant really misses the mark. Cruise is billed as high end with gourmet dining, luxury cabins and exciting entertainment all to be accompanied with outstanding French service standards. Rooms are clean, not spacious but such should be expected on a small ship. Toilet is in a separate room from shower making it somewhat inconvenient but tolerable. Plenty of closet storage as well as many drawers. Food was tolerable definitely not gourmet. Food that should be served hot was barely at room temperature, specifically at the buffet. Selections very limited and reservations required for the buffet at dinner. Service standards are hit or miss with the classical French attitude one would hope not to encounter. On a side note, the first evening at the buffet, went thru 4 packages of butter that were moldy, I suppose it can happen, but I was sitting directly next to the cruise director who ignored the issue turning his head the other. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
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
2 Helpful Votes
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
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
1 Helpful Vote
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
Sail Date: February 2019
This trip began in Buenos Aires with a night at the Hyatt located in Recoleta. We have sailed with Ponant previously so knew the expeditions off boat would be great. We had two trips in zodiacs each day whilst on the Antarctic peninsula, ... Read More
This trip began in Buenos Aires with a night at the Hyatt located in Recoleta. We have sailed with Ponant previously so knew the expeditions off boat would be great. We had two trips in zodiacs each day whilst on the Antarctic peninsula, one a landing and the other a zodiac trip to take photographs. All were amazing and the expedition staff were extremely knowledgeable and generous with their time. We were so lucky with the weather that all but one zodiac trip went ahead. The recap of each day allowed for questions and expanded our general knowledge of what we had seen. Attention to detail to ensure our boots were sterile before stepping ashore was reassuring in not contaminating the otherwise pristine antarctic shores. Life on board was fabulous - great food and wine (even without a drinks package) extremely comfortable cabins and fabulous service not only in restaurants and bars but also in our cabin. We were so impressed that we have booked another Ponant cruise in the Arctic in July. Read Less
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