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6 Ponant Le Champlain Cruise Reviews

We had such hopes for this trip. The ship & itinerary fit our needs on paper but in reality we were disappointed with the execution of this cruise. Not only did embarkation change from Puerto Morelos to Cozumel after booking our ... Read More
We had such hopes for this trip. The ship & itinerary fit our needs on paper but in reality we were disappointed with the execution of this cruise. Not only did embarkation change from Puerto Morelos to Cozumel after booking our flights but the trip was advertised to include diving in Honduras. On boarded we learned Puerto Cortes was a dirty shipping port with no diving. The water was green with lots of trash . We didn’t even bother getting off . As the week progressed we hoped things would improve but they didn’t. The ship & cabin were nice but there was absolutely no on board activities during the day & the evening entertainment was minimal. They had 3 girls that danced; accompanied by a singer on 4 nights but the shows only lasted 20 minutes. The best entertainment was a group of local dancers that boarded one evening. Regarding food, we expected French cuisine. However every meal was bland, small proportions and with absolutely no French flair other than the cheese. They even refused to cook my steak rare which ended up full of fat and gristle. We have had better dinners in the general dining rooms on mass market ships. The Blue Eye was even a disappointment. It was open usually 2 hours per day. If the ship is moving, air bubbles over the glass obscure any view. Plus the bar only had limited offerings of wine, champagne & a single signature drink. As seasoned travelers I cannot recommend Ponant and Le Champlain. There are much better cruise companies in this price range. Read Less
Sail Date February 2020
Le Champlain is a lovely ship with only ninety-two cabins, 165 passengers and 115 crew members. We felt the on-board experience was excellent in almost every respect and were impressed that most crew members knew us by name, or at least by ... Read More
Le Champlain is a lovely ship with only ninety-two cabins, 165 passengers and 115 crew members. We felt the on-board experience was excellent in almost every respect and were impressed that most crew members knew us by name, or at least by cabin number and preferences midway through the cruise. Ponant has had difficulties with the local Mexican government and they have been unable to embark from Puerto Morelos. We were notified only a few days in advance that the embarkation had been moved to Cozumel -- too late to change our hotel reservations (and of course of flights). Had we known just a week in advance, we could have booked a hotel in Cozumel and perhaps even flown there, saving us lots of time. On the good side, Le Champlain's crew handled this as well as I would have expected. Ponant had arranged for us to meet at the Playa del Carmen Hyatt and chartered a private ferry to Cozumel. It was clear that the crew members were working hard to make sure this unexpected transfer went well. the ferry let us off at Le Champlain, so we had only a short walk to board. We were adjacent to an RCL ship and that highlighted exactly how small Le Champlain is. On board, Mexican emigration formalities took more than an hour -- but we were plied with Champaign and canapés, so there was little complaining from us. This was a Christmas cruise, so that had its own positives and negatives -- everything on board was festive and Kamel the Cruise Director could be seen everywhere throughout the cruise leading various activities. He occupied all the kids and teens each afternoon with various activities, including working with the ship's dancers to train them to do their own Christmas dance. Our teen loved it and meeting kids from around the world. Activities on board ranged from musical shows, which we thought extremely impressive, given they were performed by three dancers, two singers and one piano player -- to local dance troupes performing Garafuna dances -- to even the crew performing for the Christmas Eve show. In the afternoon, we played trivia and bingo in the main lounge and made Christmas ornaments and cards with Kamel. We thought the food was excellent, for the most part and only noted that the kitchen was perhaps "trying too hard" on the Gala Night and Christmas Eve Dinner and some of the courses felt overly experimental (Christmas Eve was the only evening where the more relaxed outdoor dining room was closed). The restaurant manager may have felt this would be an issue, as he found all of the kids the day before and asked them what they would like to have for dinner. The formal dining room is capable of seating all passengers at once and we were able to eat alone or with others as we chose. We also tried the 24-hour room service -- the menu was limited (basically burger, steak, grilled salmon or salad) but our order was delivered promptly and it tasted good. Drinks at the bar were good. The main bar was open from 6 or 7an until about 11 or midnight. The library lounge and the amazing Blue Eye lounge had a bartender present for an hour at a time for one or two hours each day. For 20 EUR per person more, there was a premium alcohol menu. If I wanted whiskey, it would definitely be worth it. Otherwise, all drinks, including those in the stateroom, were complementary. All announcements were made in French & English. I speak both and noted that the translations weren't exact and interestingly to me (at least), sometimes one language's announcement was much more detailed than the other (but sometimes English was more detailed than French). On the downside, there wasn't necessarily much to do at the ports. High rollers flew to Copan or Tikal for the day and the rest of us either stayed on the ship, took the local excursions or explored locally on our own. Puerto Cortés -- we did not take an excursion here, but reception suggested we take a Taxi into town. It cost $5 and was just a mile away. The town is not at all touristy, but we had a nice walk around "El Centro," enjoyed the Christmas decorations and visited a hardware and grocery store before walking back. Santo Tomás de Castilla -- we took the excursion to the Las Escobas Nature Trail (where some of us swam around the waterfalls), followed by a visit to a local community, where we made tortillas and ate our own tacos). Everyone on the bus was English speaking and it was not full. There were two busses of French passengers on the same tour and it looked as though their busses were more full. Our guide was local, endearing and gave us all small gifts from Guatemala. Livingston -- Christmas Day and pretty much everything was closed. We took a boat ride up the Rio Dulce and experienced the hot springs and caverns. Interesting. The boat picked us up from the back of Le Champlain and the nine of us went on our way with the same guide as the day before. Belize City -- those of us who went scuba diving had a great time with Sea Sports Scuba and Ponant's Divemaster Franck (and Captain Simon, who came with us). The member of our party who went on the river cruise in hopes of seeing the manatees was disappointed -- the boat was full, there was no shade and there was lots of waiting around with no communication. After the dives, we went into Belize City, but aside from the cruise ship terminal, the entire city was completely closed for Boxing Day. The one thing that we did enjoy was there was absolutely no line for the tender back to our ship. RCL was also in town and the line for their tenders were hundreds of passengers deep. Half Moon Cay / Great Blue Hole / Lighthouse Reef -- for those of us diving, this was an awesome day with spectacular diving in the GBH and alone the reef. Our member went snorkeling and thought it was fine. The ship was only there until noon, so it was a very abbreviated beach day for those who wanted that. Overall, we really enjoyed the ship, and felt the crew made every effort to ensure we had a great cruise. We loved that everything was small, that we could meet pretty much every passenger and crew member and that nothing was ever, ever crowded. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Ponant Cruise Line – The Cruise Line from Hell In October my wife and I boarded Ponant Le Champlain at Boston USA for a 2 week cruise to Mexico. My description “the cruise line from hell” relates to the “campylobacter” food ... Read More
Ponant Cruise Line – The Cruise Line from Hell In October my wife and I boarded Ponant Le Champlain at Boston USA for a 2 week cruise to Mexico. My description “the cruise line from hell” relates to the “campylobacter” food poisoning I suffered. Food poisoning/upset stomachs is not necessarily unusual but in this case I became seriously ill. The food poisoning in my case can easily be directed to the “raw” foie gras that was served on top have beef as a main course. Campylobacter bacteria can invade your body system and develop symptoms called “Acute axonal neuropathy (AMAN)/Guillian Barre Syndrome. An illness caused by campylobacter bacteria that attacks the nerve ends of legs, arms and the ability to stand. If it goes to the lungs it can be fatal. On getting home my food poisoning symptoms got worse and I could no longer stand, walk or use my hands. I was admitted to hospital and after extensive tests over two weeks AMAN was diagnosed. We are now almost into March and I still have difficulty walking, standing and very limited use of my hands. It is possible I’ll never walk properly again or have use of my hands. I made contact with Ponant by email and letters to head office (that had to be signed for on receipt) but Ponant have totally ignored my concerns and seem to have shut down any contact with me. Although I have no evidence of other guests being ill the serious effect on my body could not have been an isolated incident. It seriously concerns me that this cruise line could have decimated other passengers on the cruise and what is more important they can easily carry on in the same manner Dining - Being made seriously ill by the food served has a very negative view in my mind. Embarkation - Fortunately we boarded in Boston. The second leg of the cruise was in Mexico. For those passengers boarding then it was total chaos. The original port the ship wasn't allowed to dock and to be honest nobody on board had any idea what was going on. Those guests wanting to board were moved from port to port. Enrichment - There were lectures throughout the cruise - in French. Entertainment - 10 quiz questions and a round of bingo before lunch was the highlight. Fitness - The pool was good. Onboard Experience - This cruise line is something to totally reject. Believe me 2 weeks in hospital is something you really don't want. Public Rooms - These were well furnished and comfortable BUT concerts etc are normally held in the theatre - Not with Ponant they were in the bar. Shore Excursions - The shore tours of the historic Mexico were very good. Although we booked a all day excursion with an English speaking guide. Our guide could not speak a word of English and totally ignored us all day. A very expensive experience. Value for money - putting aside the fact that I ended up in hospital and now have been severely impaired in my mobility was it value for money. Believe me NO. I urge everyone DO NOT, DO NOT go anywhere near this company. We have cruised for over 20 years and this line is not 5Star. Read Less
Sail Date October 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
We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed. Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed. Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, elegantly finished in light woods and simple decor. There is no bling, a huge positive for us. There is ample seating inside and out, and even below water in the Blue Eye lounge. The crew, including the very approachable captain, are always about and eager to meet each passenger’s needs. Special kudos to the cruise director and the main lounge barmen — Richie and Jay Jay — who were outstanding. Food and wines were ample and very good throughout. I would have liked to see local ingredients and dishes start to appear on the menu (as one does on, say, Seabourn), but the chef clearly sticks with more traditional French preparations. Towards the end of our 12 days, we were ready for more menu variation. Table service is generally attentive, with occasional lapses. But this cruise was really about the Zodiac excursions to see the flora and fauna in the inlets and lakes that abut the Amazon, and here Ponant earns every available star! The excursion team was truly amazing, with the naturalists representing a wide array of specialties and interests. The outings were memorable, and the accompanying lectures informative and highly interesting. This is a French cruise line and I’d guess 3/4 of the passengers were French speakers, but the English speakers were fully served with several naturalists whose first language is English (several didn’t even speak French!). Maria, Dani and John, you were all fabulous! Separate English and French Zodiacs and lectures avoided the need for translations, maximizing the info that could be shared on the available time. It became clear to me that successful Zodiac outings require the full cooperation of the captain, and his willingness to move the ship to the best location for the day’s conditions. On Le Champlain, this collaboration was noticeable and fantastic. In fact, a highlight of the trip was the captain’s decision for an extra, surprise Zodiac outing on the narrow Strait of Breves, where passengers joined locals on river, to gawk as the beautiful Le Champlain came around a bend in the waterway. Although Ponant is a French cruise line and attracts a majority of French-speaking guests, in my experience English-speaking passengers (Americans, Australians, Japanese and non-French Europeans on this cruise) are equally well served in every respect. English may even be an advantage when speaking to the non-officer crew members, who are largely from the Philippines and seem more comfortable with English. I’ve read other English-speaking reviewers of Ponant cruises, who complained about getting 2nd-rate treatment, and even heard some grumblings from passengers on this cruise. In my view, such comments are totally off base and reflect the biases of the passenger, not of Ponant. I would highly recommend Ponant, and Le Champlain specifically, to English speakers seeking a rich, international experience, and a wonderful cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Le Champlain Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 3.5 N/A
Dining 4.0 3.5
Entertainment N/A 3.0
Fitness & Recreation N/A N/A
Family N/A 2.8

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