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20 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
I am a USAF military retiree, 20 years active duty (in uniform) and 13 years as a contractor. In effect, 33 years of service to this country’s military. I am at present 67 years old, with a number of health issues including a left knee ... Read More
I am a USAF military retiree, 20 years active duty (in uniform) and 13 years as a contractor. In effect, 33 years of service to this country’s military. I am at present 67 years old, with a number of health issues including a left knee that collapses on me at times and very bad back problems. My wife is 4 years younger, basically in good health with the usual old age ailments. We’re both able to still get around pretty good. Recently, I became interested in the historical search for THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE after watching a cable semi historical series that centered on the British Royal Navy’s Franklin Expedition in the mid 1800’s which tried to find the way through but disappeared and was never heard from again. Amundson finally made it through in the early 1900’s. Some blame “global warming” on causing more ice melt so that a passage exists now in the North American summertime. In more recent years, the historical details of what happened to the 2 Franklin ships and their crews have come to light. I have also watched a number of documentaries on the Franklin Expedition, and my interest began to rise. So, when an opportunity to sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE came up through the French cruise line Ponant, my wife & I booked passage. I was so excited, my wife not so much, but her enthusiasm increased as the cruise drew nearer. The itinerary was: 1)Fly to Paris on Aug 25-26, 2018, overnight in Paris the night of Aug 26th, and then fly on Aug 27th with a Ponant charter fight direct to Kangerlussuag on the west coast of Greenland; 2)Then cruise up the west coast of Greenland, enter THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at its east entrance; 3)Sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE; 4)Exit at the west exit of THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, and then sail to Nome, Alaska; 5)Disembark the ship(Le Soleal) at Nome and board a charter flight Ponant had said they arranged to Seattle; 6)From Seattle we were on our own to arrange transportation to our home, which we did with American Airlines, to Dallas, and then connected to El Paso, TX. And, then drive 90 miles to our home in Alamogordo, NM reaching it Sept 19, 2018. Yes, a long trip and it cost a bundle, but we figured we could still do it now because waiting was not a good idea because we’re now at the ages where one can get too sick to go or even die. This was also true of most of the other passengers. The first sign of trouble came about 2 weeks before departure. It was a letter on Ponant letter head stationary dated Aug 6th from someone named Emilie Soulte from Ponants headquarters in Marseille France. It informed us that the Ponant advertised included nonstop flight from Paris to Kangerlussuag Greenland would not be nonstop after all, there would be a stopover in Copenhagen where we were told to get our luggage and go to the 2nd flight. As it turned out, neither flight was a charter; the first one was Air France, and the second Greenland Air. This change not only made the trip more arduous, but now we wouldn’t get to Kangerlussuag Greenland until close to midnight. Originally, we were supposed to board the ship between 6-8 pm. Ponants letter dated Aug 6th blamed the change on the Kangerlussuag Airport authorities. This sounded fishy to me, so I contacted the Kangerlussuag airport directly via email, also sending them a copy of Ponants letter. Eventually, I got an email from the Kangerlussuag Airport Manager saying yes they were a small airport that could only handle 1 jet at a time, but he did not know what Ponant was talking about. He clearly suggested in his email that Ponant had not made the air arrangements soon enough and that was the cause of our stopover in Copenhagen. So, Ponant blames the Kangerlussuag airport. The airport manager blames Ponants tardiness. Whom do I believe? No doubt, I believe the Kangerlussuag Airport Manager!! So, we get off at the Kangerlussuag airport, and get on buses which were supposed to take us to a dock to board the ship Le Soleal. Most of the passengers were ecstatic at this point thinking we’d been through the worst of it and we would soon be aboard a luxury ship, The Le Soleal, & get to our cabins, fall on the beds and sleep for a long time. NOooo! By the way, we had seen no Ponant guides anywhere along the way to help us along and answer questions etc. So, the buses drove for a long time on a road that was mostly not paved. We arrive at the “dock” which was really just a small slab of concrete littered with abandoned cargo containers, and there was a little dock area with a rickety wooden gangplank leading to a small ship of questionable integrity. The Le Soleal was anchored out in the bay. Note: most cruise lines are boarded at regular large docks where they are tied down and passengers walk onto the boat in some comfortable way. Anyway, it’s nearly midnight, it’s very cold and windy, and nearly 250 passengers are dumped out of the buses onto this cold concrete slab, and the buses skedaddled (left). No Ponant people around to direct us and tell us what’s going on. Eventually, the boat, which turned out to be a Le Soleal lifeboat, started loading people and left for the ship. Myself & my wife did not make this first boat and where stranded on this rickety gang plank in the cold not knowing anything. The rest of the passengers were waiting on the concrete slab ”dock” in the cold not knowing anything about what’s going on. You’re thinking at this point: why weren’t the passengers allowed to stay in the warm buses and then called to the life boat when it was their turn to load. Nobody seems to know the answer to this. So, you’ve got a bunch of cold uninformed passengers standing on this concrete slab or rickety gang plank while these slow small lifeboats ferry people to the Le Soleal. Not exactly luxury cruising as Ponant advertised. So, eventually my wife & I board a boat and are ferried to the Le Soleal where we were greeted by Captain Patrick Marchesseau. He and the rest of the crew seemed unaware of the conditions his passengers had endured to get from the airport to the ship. I shook his hand and tried to tell him, but he seemed unconcerned and hustled me along, seeming to be more interested in glad handing the next passenger etc. Same was true of the rest of the officer crew who were in a small room behind the captain where they were serving welcoming appetizers and champagne. We went to our cabin, fell on our beds without any unpacking, and slept late into the next morning. The next morning with a good night’s sleep and food in our stomachs the world seemed brighter. We thought now we were through the worst of it. NOooo! At first it seemed all was well. We sailed up the west coast of Greenland making the scheduled stops. Then we crossed Baffin Bay and entered THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at its eastern entrance. Once inside THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE at first things went well. But then, at 9:30 pm ships time on Sept 3rd, the captain called all the guests together in this little theater they had and announced that we were not going further west into THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE because the western exit into the Beaufort Sea was blocked with ice. He said that no Canadian Ice Breaker Ship could be spared because they were all being used on cargo ships. Does it seem odd that cargo ships took priority over a cruise ship filled with 250 guests, plus whatever the size of the crew was? Might it be that again Ponant had not coordinated soon enough with the Canadian Coast Guard? I don’t know, I guess the Canadian Coast Guard is the only one that can answer that question. The captain further said that we were going to turn around, cross Baffin Bay to the west coast of Greenland, stopping at “new” places and arriving back in Kangerlussuag (where we started) on Sept 18th the same day we were supposed to arrive in Nome. This point/date is significant, so please note them. Well, the passengers were up in arms. Some passengers had to book 2 years ahead of time. The main purpose of most of the passengers was to sail through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, not see scenery, wild life, etc. Most of the passengers were in their 60s and older, so this was their one & only chance to go through THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE. One male passenger asked the captain: “Well, if we can’t get through why we don’t just sail straight back to Kangerlussuag instead of floating around Baffin Bay for 15 days?” No, the captain said we’re doing what I said and not arriving in Kangerlussuag until Sept 18th. Another passenger asked: “Why don’t we sail down the east coast of the Canadian Artic where we hadn’t been before?” The Captain said no, we were sailing across Baffin Bay, back to the west coast of Greenland, where we’d just been, and arriving in Kangerlussuag (our point of origin) on Sept 18th. Another passenger asked if there were not any other ice breaker ships available that could get us through, or one that might sail east into the west exit of THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE and then create a passage to get us through to the Beaufort Sea? NO, the captain said. So, we floated around Baffin Bay for 15 days!! Florence, the expedition team’s leader, “invented” places for us to stop over the next 15 days, but they were all the same: barren tundra, made up mostly of large & small rocks, and soft green mossy plants that your foot sank into when stepped on. I fell more than a few times. Another passenger broached a theory to me, which I believe to be correct, that the reason the ship was not going straight back to Kangerlussuag was that if it did then Ponant would have to give us refunds. By floating around Baffin Bay and not arriving back to Kangerlussuag until Sept 18, Ponant could say they gave us the advertised number of days on the ship, and refuse refunds. I believe firmly that this passenger’s theory was correct. And sure enough, a letter arrived to us on Sept 24th from Marseille France (Ponants headquarters) saying there would be no refunds, but they offered a 20% discount on our next sailing with them. What makes them think that we, or most of the other passengers, will ever book with Ponant again??? We will not. I had asked for a full refund. Another female passenger asked if Ponant knew before we left home that we couldn’t get through and just did this charade to prevent giving refunds. Because if they’d done the right & moral thing and cancelled the cruise before we left home, they’d definitely have to give us full refunds. Knowing Ponant the way I do now, I believe this is also a good possibility. As I said Ponant recently sent us a letter denying any (zero) refunds. At the end of this meeting, I was not convinced the captain realized the gravity of the situation of sailing back to Kangerlussuag was for the English speaking passengers—i.e. all the passengers had made plans to go on from Seattle. I was afraid that Ponant would simply book a charter flight back to Paris, dump us all off at the Paris airport, and wash their hands of us. And, yes I believe that is something Ponant would do! Now, flying back to Paris was OK for the French speaking passengers, but it would be terrible for all the English speaking passengers who had made plans to go on from Seattle. I simply wanted to speak with the captain to make sure he understood the plight of the English speaking passengers, but after the announcement he was mobbed and so I decided to wait until the next day. Note: even though this was a French cruise line, only about a third of the passengers were French. Two thirds were English speaking, a lot of Australian and some Americans like my wife & I. So, the first thing I did the next morning was call the customer service desk and ask that an appointment be arranged with me and the captain so I could communicate these concerns. I never got a call back. Later, that day I decided to go up to the bridge and see if I could speak with him there. On the way, I ran into the captain and Florence in a hall way. I told him I wanted to speak to him, but he said he was too busy running the ship and he couldn’t talk to me now. He and Florence literally ran away from me into a restricted part of the ship leading to the bridge where I couldn’t follow. Well, I knew that that day they were allowing ordinary passengers to be on the bridge and watch. Supposedly, there was an ice breaker ship leading us through this part of the trip. So, I entered the passengers’ entrance to the bridge and stood in a place where I could observe everything but not get into the way of the crew. I stood in that spot observing everything including how really busy the captain was. Here's what I observed with my own eyes and ears: The Captain was sitting in a plush chair with a large circular computer screen in front of him. Two crew members to his left was another officer with an identical computer screen, who I assume was his second in command and between them was a person (not an officer) who actually drove the ship. The driver had a joy stick in front of him which I assume controlled the rudder and thus the direction of the ship. On either side of this joy stick there were 2 levers with handles on them which I think controlled the 2 propellers which when pulled towards the driver slowed down or stopped that propeller, and when pushed forward sped up the propeller up to their maximum at fully forward. I assume that if the captain wasn’t at his post the second officer could control the boat from his station. I also saw the alleged ice breaker ship which looked more like a tug boat and was not breaking any ice anyway because there was none to break. I stood there for a whole hour watching everything and there was no ice to break, just small pieces of sea ice floating by. The bridge was calm and the captain did not seem very busy. There was an exit behind the captain which I assumed lead to his office. My plan was to watch when the captain was attempting to leave his chair and go down this exit to his office, and ask him if he had time now. The captain knew I was watching him, and when I briefly looked away, he got up and ran down the exit. I tried to follow, but 2 members of the crew stopped me. It was obvious to me that the captain did not want to talk to me. Why, I don’t know. SO, I resorted to a little subterfuge to get his attention and grant me an audience. And, it worked. I got a call in my cabin from the captain himself requesting a meeting in his office (which is all I wanted in the first place). He sent the Hotel Manager to our cabin, and he escorted my wife and I to the captain’s office. I sat immediately across the desk from him looking him in the eyes. Also present was the ships doctor, I guess to determine if I was crazy. Well, sitting eye to eye with the captain I simply explained my concerns, which is all I wanted to do from the beginning. He told me that Ponant was arranging to have 2 jets at the Kangerlussuag airport. One would take the French passengers to Paris, and the other to take the English speaking passengers to Seattle in time to make all their connections. He asked me if this reassured me, and I said Yes and No. I told him that if this was Silversea cruise line I would have no doubt that they would take care of us properly. But not so with Ponant. I told him I did not trust Ponant at all. He reassured me that what he told me would happen, and the meeting ended. Wow, talk about having to pull teeth. Note: the communication between the French officer crew of the Le Soleal and the English speaking passengers was terrible, and this was what caused most of the problems, distrust, and anger. Most of the English speaking people I talked to were of the opinion that the French always got preference even though they only made up a third of the passengers. Another odd thing happened during one of these “15 floating” days. Usually, in the late afternoon or early evening there would be a briefing in the theater about the next day’s activities. Florence, the head of the expedition team, would usually start these briefs. One day she started the briefing by accusing some supposedly drunken passengers of both malicious mischief and graffiti. Passenger’s expedition boots were kept outside the cabin on a mat there for that purpose. The idea was that way you don’t drag what’s still on your boots from being ashore into your cabin. So, she said that some passengers, who had too much to drink, took some boots and put them into a crew elevator as a prank. She also said that that night some passengers also did 2 instances of graffiti somewhere on the ship. Now I was skeptical of her opinion that it was the passengers that did these 2 pranks. Remember, most of the passengers were 60 or older, fit old people, but old. Is it likely that this age group would do pranks like this? I thought not. This is the type of thing that younger people do. She was sure it was not the crew. The command & officer parts of the French crew were very young. Captain Marchesseau was probably in his 40s. The rest of the French officers were in their 20’s, and the rest of the crew, both the people you see and the people you don’t regularly see, where also very young. She said they had videos from cameras in the areas and were going to identify the culprits. I decide to volunteer my services to review the videos as a service to both the passengers and the crew. So, at the end of the briefings, I went up to Florence and volunteered my services. Surprisingly, she turned me down, and kept walking away from me as I tried to talk to her more. What does that tell you? You be the judge. So, we floated around Baffin Bay near the west coast of Greenland for 15 days, arrived at Kangerlussuag early on Sept 18th, and then flew a charter aircraft Ponant had arranged from the Kangerlussuag airport to Seattle. When we got off the plane in Seattle we were so happy to be back in our own country, the good old USA. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Totally agree with Baloghpj. We also were on the Ponant Cruise that left from Kangerlussuaq to cruise the Northwest Passage on August 2018. He forgot to mention the debacle with the luggage on the flight from Paris from Copenhagen. We were ... Read More
Totally agree with Baloghpj. We also were on the Ponant Cruise that left from Kangerlussuaq to cruise the Northwest Passage on August 2018. He forgot to mention the debacle with the luggage on the flight from Paris from Copenhagen. We were all jammed into a Fokker 100 - after we boarded, the pilot realised that the plane could not hold all the luggage so it was put into three toilets and the few spare seats that were available - leaving one toilet between us all. This is how our “luxury” trip started. The flight back to Seattle wasn’t much better. We have looked at ice charts since we have returned and believe that Ponant should “reasonably” have known that the passage was blocked before we left. Also a lot of the passengers had either toured Greenland before or another Arctic/Antarctic area and weren’t interested in staying on the cruise to cruise the coastline of a country we had just left. When asked if they could disembark in Pond Inlet (where we had just left from) the Captain was very firm in his ruling that no passengers could leave the cruise till the final date of the cruise. We found the cabin staff and the various “ice specialists” (wildlife/history/geologists ect) employed by Ponant for the cruise to be good and they tried their best under difficult circumstances. However the management of Ponant is abysmal. We got the list of what we needed for the cruise when we boarded the plane for Paris! Spent a lot of time in Paris trying to find mosquitoe nets! Also we feel the cruise was overbooked - it was hard to find a spare seat on the 6th floor restaurant. The maître d would turn a blind eye to ppl wandering around with their trays trying to find a seat! There are a lot of angry, upset passengers who paid a lot of money to cruise the Northwest Passage. Ponant’s offer of a 20% discount on a cruise line that none of the passengers want to cruise with again is pathetic! If you are thinking of cruising with Ponant - think again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
My wife & I chose Ponant on the recommendation of our travel agent as the preferred cruise line to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with a transit of the North West Passage. Unfortunately, Ponant failed dismally to deliver ... Read More
My wife & I chose Ponant on the recommendation of our travel agent as the preferred cruise line to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with a transit of the North West Passage. Unfortunately, Ponant failed dismally to deliver & in our opinion, were misleading & deceptive in their decision to proceed with the cruise in view of the forecast sea ice conditions. We believe that Ponant should have known that the NWP was or was likely to be impassable prior to embarcation on le Soleal (& le Boreal) as reported by the Canadian Ice Service & Canadian Coast Guard. I need not repeat the reviews of other Cruise Critic members on the the saga of the connecting air charters, the second class treatment of non-French passengers, the shortage of restaurant staff, food & drinks or the amount of time spent needlessly sailing around Greenland so as to use up the number of cruise days. These comments are consistent with our experience & that of other passengers, including a number of French passengers who were equally unimpressed - "luxury" it was not! While these issues have been formally raised with Ponant by a number of passengers, no adequate response has yet been provided. The cabin, a “deluxe stateroom” was clean & comfortable but included only one chair in the room & we had to bring a chair from the verandah to sit in the room as a couple. Dining was a disaster as the ship was full to capacity & there was insufficient capacity in the 2 dining rooms – one of which required bookings & was usually full. Further, both restaurants were understaffed, the food selection was limited & definitely not “heute cusine”. Embarcation of the Australians & some other nationalities was after midnight from a tender after a long, economy charter flight from Paris via Copenhagen that was so full that some of the baggage had to be stored in a bathroom (against aircraft regulations?). At the end of the “cruise” we suffered another economy charter from Kangerlussaq to Seattle (over 10 hours) with an unexpected stop in Buffallo NY where we were not permitted to leave the aircraft. We understand that many of the French passengers were flown business class from & to Paris by Ponant at no extra cost. Apart from a daily bulletin (which contained mis-information about le Boreal supposedly transiting the Bellot Strait) that was informative & a couple of very helpful & friendly room service, bar & excursion staff, the rest of the le Soleal crew had arrogant & dismissive attitudes & would have difficulty obtaining work on a quality cruise line. Communications with passengers was poor & we were misled about the sea ice conditions preventing the transit of the North West Passage. As mentioned above, the on-board experience was very disappointing & many passengers were looking forward to leaving the ship rather than floating around Greenland killing time for a large proportion of the cruise. This was a very expensive cruise at more than AUD53000 for a couple but I would feel even more aggrieved if I had paid significantly more to travel as part of the Captain’s Choice group on le Soleal or on the Abercrombie & Kent charter of le Boreal. To compound the situation, Ponant declined to refund any of the cruise costs (unlike another cruise line similarly impacted by the sea ice) & their "offer" of modest discounts on future Ponant cruises is useless as all of the passengers we have contacted will NEVER sail with Ponant again. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
Aside from major customer service issues... number one complaint was the food. Many passengers complained about the food. It was truly shockingly bad. Food was under cooked, over cooked, generally inedible. They served leftover tuna ... Read More
Aside from major customer service issues... number one complaint was the food. Many passengers complained about the food. It was truly shockingly bad. Food was under cooked, over cooked, generally inedible. They served leftover tuna steaks that were shriveled and tough. They served undercooked halibut that was slimy. IT WAS BAD. Couldn't even drink the coffee. It was bitter or burnt - they could not make a proper latte - only tried that a couple times. Truly for the price which was about 43K - this company should be ashamed of themselves. Ashamed. Don't spend so much money and go on a boat that has decent food! We suffered through this for 17 days, as did our fellow passengers. Every single meal and bar conversation had a gripe and complainer about the food. This is inexcusable. I have had better meals in hospitals and airports and from street vendors. This is no exaggeration. Stay away from this boat. The captain was great. One of the naturalists was great. The waiters great. Housekeeping great. The landings were good. One in particular even exceptional. But none of it made up for the food. Would not recommend this boat at all. Read Less
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
I chose this trip because it offered an opportunity to go ashore on Pitcairn Island, a remote island in the South Pacific. I am 86 years old, in good physical condition, exercise regularly. I was discriminated because of my age from the ... Read More
I chose this trip because it offered an opportunity to go ashore on Pitcairn Island, a remote island in the South Pacific. I am 86 years old, in good physical condition, exercise regularly. I was discriminated because of my age from the very start of the trip. When we assembled in the auditorium for the mandatory life boat drill, I was immediately singled out by one of the attendants. I was told to go to my cabin instead of going to my life boat. The reason? I couldn't climb the two flights of stairs to get to my life boat station; someone would come to my cabin to get me. I argued that I climb four or more flights of stairs nearly every day to my apartment, No, I had to wait in my cabin. My desire in going on this cruise was to walk on Pitcairn Island the terrain of which was a major feature in the famous Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy. When we reached Pitcairn, where landing was by Zodiac, we were called by stateroom floor to load on the Zodiacs. When my group was called we lined up in the aft cabin. I was immediately noted by the ship's doctor who took me aside and said I couldn't board the Zodiac. I asked why and she said the road (that could be seen from the ship) was too steep. I said I hike 8 to 12 km. in the mountains near Seattle on trails much steeper than the one on Pitcairn. She then changed her tune and said the water was too rough. I had boarded Zodiacs in an Antarctica cruise recently in much rougher conditions. Yet I watched obese people getting into Zodiacs. Only age discrimination explains these insults. Read Less
31 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2016
This was the second cruise on Le Soleal. I would NOT have returned if the second was not already paid for. My experiences.... The management and upper staff onboard were unable /unwilling to address issues such as NO internet for 4 ... Read More
This was the second cruise on Le Soleal. I would NOT have returned if the second was not already paid for. My experiences.... The management and upper staff onboard were unable /unwilling to address issues such as NO internet for 4 days. NO news or current affairs TV for the whole journey. NO wine came aboard in Hong Kong so the included wine was very slim pickings indeed. Food was ok. But French speaking staff preferred the French speaking guests who received priority treatment. The manager claimed that any complaints " were the first time he had had a complaint" NO!! many English speaking guests complained in person about inadequacies and inefficiencies. The first time on Le Soleal was around New Zealand, and was inadequate and not to the standard I expect from "luxury" whatever that may mean. I sent 2 emails at that time about my disappointments before I received a reply. The second trip Hong Kong to Japan was 6 weeks later and had different inadequacies. I sent 2 emails and a text before I received an telephone response from the management in Sydney. Summary for both trips ...amateurish and expensive. Read Less
38 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
As a long time cruiser having sailed on Holland America, Celebrity, P&O Australia, Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Silversea, Seabourn and lately Ponant, I have to say Ponant is way down the list in overall satisfaction, giving that is ... Read More
As a long time cruiser having sailed on Holland America, Celebrity, P&O Australia, Royal Caribbean, Cunard, Silversea, Seabourn and lately Ponant, I have to say Ponant is way down the list in overall satisfaction, giving that is supposed to be up there with the best. I have never written a cruise review before, but after reading other cruisecritic reviews of the Le Soleal, decided to add my thoughts. The ships decor was very nicely done, and was light and bright, a few Christmas decorations were in place, but not enough Festive ambience was created for this special time in my opinion. I was on the leg from Noumea to Akaroa in December 2015, and it was the worst "premium" cruise EVER. This was supposed to be a wonderful Xmas experience for us, but from day one it was clear that the ship and its staff did not in any way live up to its promises. Embarkation was after 5 pm, after waiting for 3hrs in a deserted area in the port and believe me, downtown Noumea on a Sunday is pretty dismal. Food was very average, on the two most important nights, Captain's Gala Dinner and Christmas Eve there was a set menu. No other choices from a standard menu as is usual on other ships, so if you didn't like what was offered, bad luck. The lunch buffet often ran out of the main offering so we went without on a few occassions. Alcohol was included, but only two wines, a red or white and very average quality, upon asking for a decent drop we were told there was a surcharge. 'Fresh' orange juice was advertised but not produced, just a concentrated cheap tasting alternative. No entertainment to rave about, in fact there was nothing to do during the day. Officers sat at their own table and virtually ignored passengers each evening. The waiters were unable, in the main, to answer questions about the menus etc, it seemed they, and the bar staff did what they needed and no more. Other Australian and NZ passengers commented on their disappointment on this ship, and one couple who were fervent Ponant cruisers having done 6 already, cancelled their next cruise then and there so bad was their experience. Lifeboat drill was a farce. We had to go down to listen to 45 minutes of both French and English translations and a spiel about all the facilities on board, then file out, trudge upstairs, go to our stateroom, get our lifejackets and return for the drill. What???? I could go on, but you get the idea. Never again. Read Less
35 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
We have done about 25 cruises overall, and with Oceania, SilverSea, Seabourn, Crystal and APT. All top end luxury cruise lines. Ponant is priced at the same level but our cruise was unbelievably awful, FOOD...tasteless, the same every ... Read More
We have done about 25 cruises overall, and with Oceania, SilverSea, Seabourn, Crystal and APT. All top end luxury cruise lines. Ponant is priced at the same level but our cruise was unbelievably awful, FOOD...tasteless, the same every day...poor quality..boring, so I survived on watermelon and lettuce. SUITE..what a joke. They left the door open between two adjoining cabins and called it a suite. We had no need for a second cabin, so we paid double for nothing. SERVICE...It would help if the crew spoke English without an accent one cannot understand and it would also help if the Maitre D did not argue with guests about the poor quality of the food...very defensive. EXCURSIONS...Very expensive and should have been included in the price. ATTITUDE ON BOARD....OK if you are French, not OK if you speak English...felt like we were intruding on the French guests and crew. DISEMBARKATION....what a joke. They promised to take us to Christchurch and dropped us off at a place called Akaora some 2 hours from Christchurch so we had to pay yet again to get to Christchurch. ITINERARY...Do NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING THIS MOB PUT IN THEIR BROCHURES . We purchased this cruise to visit Norfolk Island, the high light of the cruise. The day before we sailed when I read the itinerary that had been delivered to us only hours earlier, we found a quite different itinerary which cut out Norfolk Island. No explanation and when I asked for compensation from Ponant upon return to Sydney, I received a most arrogant defensive letter ." you should have checked our website to check out what changes we make..". Just awful attitude...rude..defensive...insulting...just like the attitude on board. It comes from the top administration of course, so if you are looking for a far inferior cruise to those I have mentioned above, and you want to eat poor quality food the same every day and have to hassle to get what you have paid for, go for Ponant. If on the other hand you want good service, food, accommodation etc. then there are plenty of other cruise lines that charge the same or less who will respect you as a guest. Embarkation at Noumea. No preparation...had to wait on street with luggage with no water or refreshments until 5 p.m. boarding. Unusually late for luxury ship, but they were still not ready. Very disorganised. SUITE. We purchased a suite and were given two adjoining cabins with door propped open. We had no use for a second cabin, so we paid double for no suite . FOOD. Just awful. Repetitive. Bland. Overcooked. Poor quality. Tasteless and unattractive I mostly ate watermelon and lettuce. CHRISTMAS DAY. What a joke..a few red and white balloons with the kitchen staff embarrassingly trying to sing something relevant at dinner and crew on Deck 3 lounge even worse prepared as they struggled through french and then english unfamiliar songs. ENTERTAINMENT. 4 female and 1 male professional dancers were the full extent, plus a pianist and two female singers. Dancers were excellent but not sufficient to hold attention of a luxury ship's guests for nearly 2 weeks. BEVERAGES Open bar worked well on decks 3 and 6. SHIP. New and attractive but too small for open seas..it bobbed around like a cork on the rough days. EXCURSIONS. Too expensive we did not purchase. ITINERARY. We purchased the cruise to visit Norfolk Island but discovered only a day before sailing that Ponant had totally changed the published itinerary...we were never notified and Ponant advised me on return to Sydney I should have been checking out their web site for any changes....unbelievable and arrogant. Compensation claim underway. DISEMBARKATION. Another misleading promise by Ponant. We purchased a cruise to Christchurch, New Zealand but were ferried across to a wharf at Akaroa 2 hours from Christchurch, where Ponant charged us nearly AUD $200 to finish the trip. Either that or get a local bus for about AUD $60 to Christchurch which some guests did. I definitely would NEVER EVER use Ponant again and I did not meet one English speaking guest on board who disagreed. It is a french line, totally focused on french speaking guests. Read Less
27 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
Keen to try a Ponant cruise, we booked a 10 day Christmas cruise in December from Noumea to Akaroa. As seasoned cruisers, mostly with Seabourn and Silversea, we were expecting Ponant to deliver similar service, food and ambience that ... Read More
Keen to try a Ponant cruise, we booked a 10 day Christmas cruise in December from Noumea to Akaroa. As seasoned cruisers, mostly with Seabourn and Silversea, we were expecting Ponant to deliver similar service, food and ambience that other small ships excel in. CHECK IN: Many pax had a 3-4 hour wait at the port as check in was at 5pm. It was a hot day, so bottled water would have been a nice touch as it was Sunday and shops were closed. Check in was efficient and staff to escort us on to the ship, but where was the welcome glass of champagne? AMENITIES: Beautiful modern decor, stateroom was small with a separate shower/vanity room and small toilet room which was useless. Not ideal as we had to exit the toilet without being able to wash our hands to step back ip into the shower room. There were 2 lounge areas and a nook that provided some board games and a few books, unfortunately mostly French language. MDR was beautifully set up with comfortable dining chairs but limited tables for 2. FOOD: Was never amazing but ranged from good to terrible. The breakfast & lunch buffet was very limited. Quality and choice was poor and it was difficult to find something really tasty. Food in the MDR was nicely presented but very small portions and usually luke warm. 2nd night was a Gala Dinner with a menu chosen by the Captain, it was not to our taste, (think: almost raw egg on cucumber jelly) and mushrooms that we cant eat, so our party of 4 left and went to the almost deserted buffet. Finding a limited selection I ordered a small steak. After repeating to the Maitre D that the steak was to have no blood, a bloody steak appeared and he argued that it was perfectly fine and it was bloody juice, not blood ! He left us in a huff and never spoke to us again. Very unprofessional. What was supposed to be a lovely night was totally ruined. Christmas Eve was a set menu with many dishes containing mushrooms which we can't eat. We could not order anything else even though we gave the Chef 24 hours notice. Hungry again. Ordered a Bacardi & Coke one day in the buffet only to be told to get it from the bar myself. Breakfast finished at 9.30 am but staff started clearing at 9.15 each day, not good for those who want a lie in. Alcohol was included, but choice was limited. Fresh orange juice disappeared after day one, but they still called the concentrated juice 'fresh'. Fresh supplies came on board in Tauranga, and whilst beautiful fresh berries were in season and being sold everywhere in the region, did we get any on board for breakfast? Or oranges, so we could have fresh juice again ? NO and NO. ENTERTAINMENT: Virtually nothing during the day. On a couple of occasions we were given ONE bingo card to play. Prizes were a 3 yr old Inaugural Cruise coffee mug and on another occasion a plastic pencil case. The game lasted all of 15 minutes with another 15 minutes added for english translation as first language on the ship is French. Shows were limited with at least one cancelled. We were so bored. What does the Cruise Director do all day? Staff socialised mainly with French guests. Smoking was allowed everywhere which limited non-smoking guests to the inside lounges if they didn't want to sit near smokers. ACCIDENT: Day 2 after the disastrous Gala night, my wife injured her ankle whilst exiting the bathroom (step). Saw the Doctor the next morning who placed a cast on her leg. Both Doctor and Nurse spoke very poor English and were difficult to understand. No painkillers for her (ankle fractured) or any other advice. No arrangements to have an Xray at next port of call. We went back to our cabin and realized that now she was in a wheelchair we needed a disabled room, but no one suggested or offered assistance. I had to organize it. No senior officer, guest relations person or anyone came to see if she was ok or to see if we needed assistance to get an X-ray in port. In Tauranga NZ, armed with only an email giving the name of a Radiology Centre I pushed my wife down the dock in the rain and had to park her under some shelter whilst I walked up to the main street to hail a cab. The radiology place could not X-ray through the cast, nor did we have a proper referral from the ship's doctor which is necessary. They piled us and the wheelchair into their own vehicle and took us to an accident & emergency centre where she was diagnosed, x rayed and had a new cast fitted. The locals were so helpful and friendly. Back on board, still no follow up.....until the Doctor, realizing we had now complained to the Hotel Manager started pressing us for the documentation we had from the A& E rooms as he had not followed procedure and was concerned for his own sake. He verbally abused us in front of reception staff, then back in the surgery, kept yelling, raised his fist at me and then ordered us off the ship. With a very distressed wife I asked for a meeting with the Captain. He argued the fact that the Doctor's rage was due to lack of communication due to his poor English. We flew home a day early as Wellington was the next wheelchair accessible port. The Captain, Hotel Manager, Doctor and his Nurse (wife), Guest Relations person et al all came down on to the dock to see us off in the cab, (probably hoping everyone could see how caring they were), they all shook our hands and the nurse took my wife's hand, pressed a couple of painkillers in an envelope into it and said she hoped we would sail again with them. Not likely. Were these the painkillers my wife needed a week ago?? I think we were charged for them too after we paid our final bill. This ship is probably not suited for Australian & New Zealanders. It is too French, and the many long announcements in French start to annoy you after a while. It is sadly lacking in entertainment, good food, and sociable staff. For the price you pay, I would suggest you sail Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal or Regent. Not Ponant. We held off posting this review until we had a response from Ponant, but to date we are still waiting so here it is. Read Less
26 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
I was under the impression this was to be a quality luxury holiday, where i would be looked after with the "white glove " style service i had encountered on the queen mary last year. I particularly chose this as cruise with ... Read More
I was under the impression this was to be a quality luxury holiday, where i would be looked after with the "white glove " style service i had encountered on the queen mary last year. I particularly chose this as cruise with this promise of luxury and service in the ponant marketing material. I had a very difficult personal year and wanted to be rewarded in a special cruise style, as this was held out to be. I am a single traveler and this was yet another reason my decision to take this kind of cruise was based on. I needed the personal service and attention , i had basic knowledge of the french language and wanted to integrate more of the culture into my experience during the time on board. Where do I begin, 1. On arrival at the dock at 1pm, i was sent away, it was not the correct time. They told me to come back at 5pm. Conversation was in french and no interest to assist was offered. Here i was up since 4.30am that morning ,departed from sydney airport looking forward to this once in a "special experience" cruise. I had no water, no local currency, there was no phone reception, i wondered around noumea port area with two luggage and handbag etc in the heat for the afternoon. This was the beginning of my "special cruise." When we finally were allowed to embark, doors opened to a comfortable waiting area, with water , rest rooms, shaded secure area for us and our luggage. I wonder why that reception area was not open for all us early arrivals ...4 hours before.? I am certain that this shipping line is well aware of customer service . The ship was 2/3 french speaking, 1/3 english speaking. So the problem was attitude mostly, if we were french speaking, we would be spoken to in a more personable manner by the senior staff in charge of our entertainment, our health and by officers etc. We the english speakers were making an effort to participate in the "french" way, however there was no attempt from the senior staff to ask how are we going, eg upstairs dining room maitre de when he saw us each day, and several times he didn't bother to address us by name, even though we did. The same with all the officers.. The good thing was they had a mid cruise survey, and we all spoke up...did things improve? hmmm on the last day the captain saw us off personally as he knew there was a lot of dissent . Our fellow passenger was injured early on and was in a wheelchair for the rest of the cruise. No personal care or treatment from the doctor on board. i was violently ill for over 10 hours in my cabin, on my own, there was no follow up. if good attitude was engaged, i am sure we could have tolerated, the lack of a good daily activity schedule, a lack of authentic quality cuisine, the boredom of the day could have been a lighter burden if the crew were also enjoying themselves. They also were bored. so they couldn't pass on any positive energy to us. The 5 or so entertainers / dancers desperately tried to keep smiles on their faces and do their job. The filipino crew volunteered to sing carols to us before xmas dinner. The food was average, nothing to get excited about. Shouldn't i be saying "there is no one who beats french cuisine". The first thing i did when i arrived home was to eat a good meal locally and be glad to be home. I have cruised many times..but sadly this was not an exceptional holiday as they are marketing it to be. the well meaning captain needs to get rid of the uncaring staff if he wants to carry on in this region with australian passengers etc. The positive points for me were, cleanliness throughout was excellent, cabin staff very pleasant and helpful. Dinning staff on level 6 were very helpful. Without these people the rest is zero . It is truly a shame to see such a nice modern ship run by staff with poor customer relations and poor attitude in all. I hope they will let us know when the many issues are resolved, we Australians are pretty easy to please. It can't be that hard. I have visited France and never been disappointed. I always had a greeting and a willingness to help and serve. In return i would support by spending my hard earned money , gladly..as i always had an enjoyable personal experience with the French people. 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
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2015
Did the 17 Day Gallipoli Dawn Service cruise with APT on Ponant's Le Soleal. Found that APT is good at producing glossy brochures but a little short on delivery. Kept advertising that it would land ticket holders to Dawn Service onto ... Read More
Did the 17 Day Gallipoli Dawn Service cruise with APT on Ponant's Le Soleal. Found that APT is good at producing glossy brochures but a little short on delivery. Kept advertising that it would land ticket holders to Dawn Service onto the Peninsula around dusk on the 24th. This was patently misleading as all operators had been advised as early as June 2014 that this would not be possible. Also advertised full complimentary bar throughout but then tried to walk back on that in there cruise guide issued with tickets to only house wine and beer with lunch and dinner. Something which now appears in the fine print of their advertising. Food and standard of wine onboard was second rate. Whilst shore excursions are included in the price they are pretty basic, and in bigger ports with a bit of planning could be undertaken on one's own. Having sailed with both Azamara and Seabourn recently I would recommend them well ahead of APT. Our Gallipoli cruise cost us on a daily basis twice as much as a recent Antarctic cruise with Seabourn, and was well short of the luxury that Seabourn promises and delivers. Read Less
18 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
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2018
Our long awaited and much anticipated Northwest Passage trip has ended and will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Inputing required information into Ponant’s website before the trip was frustratingly difficult and ... Read More
Our long awaited and much anticipated Northwest Passage trip has ended and will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Inputing required information into Ponant’s website before the trip was frustratingly difficult and generally only remedied by Sydney’s staff. Thank you to all who assisted. The required medical information was widely regarded by GPs and fellow travellers as an invasion of privacy. Our travels to Antarctica onboard MV Orion in 2007 and a previous 42-day Arctic expedition cruise aboard MV Silver Explorer in 2013 did not require such detailed information, simply evidence of travel insurance that included repatriation from remote areas. And then there were the charter flights. Check-in at Charles de Gaulle airport was an absolute shambles. Many, if not most, passengers had arrived long before the Ponant representative and located a Ponant banner near gates 50-51. Nobody was aware that there were two charter flights, the other check-in being on the opposite side of the terminal at gates 1-2. Much cross-terminal activity ensued as people realised they were in the wrong queues! My partner and I were allocated the Trade Air flight that used a Fokker 100 aircraft. The aircraft was not designed to carry a full economy-class passenger load with everyone having hold-stowed baggage, and consequently some baggage was loaded into some of the toilets at the captain’s suggestion. That carrier has been cited on previous occasions for regulatory breaches, according to internet entries, and this was possibly another. Being a charter flight we parked remotely from the terminal in Copenhagen and much of the baggage was offloaded into open baggage-carts in a downpour. Some passengers reported their baggage was sodden upon retrieval. Transferring to the Air Greenland commercial flight was another exercise involving a very long walk with little guidance. A couple of quick-thinking passengers were able to pay for a business-class upgrade, while most of us continued to languish in economy. Upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq we were directed to board coaches for the transfer to the ship. Nobody bothered to inform us, until asked, about what was to happen to our luggage....it was collected in bulk and transferred (successfully) to the ship. The reception on boarding the ship, was adequate but not exceptional, particularly as it was close to midnight when we boarded. Our cabin, 528, was tiny with no under-bed storage for luggage and was apparently designed as the sitting-room to the adjoining cabin 526, to which it had a connecting door for use when both cabins were sold as one suite. It was a similar story for other cabins on deck 5, some with under-bed storage, others without. Within the cabin, the bathroom and toilet doors opened outwards into the entrance passageway, as did the wardrobe doors. Open one door but beware opening another as they clashed with one another. Inexplicably, the shower door opened inwards to the stall and if anyone fell while in the shower and could not pick themselves up, access for assistants would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, without demolishing the screens. Compactness was also a feature of both restaurants, with tables very close together hampering access for both passengers and waiters. Both restaurants were badly under-staffed, with waiters having too many tables to look after and also doubling as wine waiters. Under these very trying circumstances, the waiters did the best they could, but lengthy delays were normal. The bars were also understaffed. Some food items and beverages ran very low, with some items completely exhausted within 10 days of the start of a 23 day cruise! Somebody needs to answer for that. The much-hyped French cuisine was disappointing, with a preponderance of fish on the dinner menu. The cruise proceeded much as advertised until it was announced that we would be unable to transit the Northwest Passage because of the ice conditions in Bellot Strait and further west. That decision was based on ice charts and forecasts available before we had even set sail from Kangerlussuaq on the cruise, and that changed little as the cruise progressed. We were initially offered early disembarkation (at Pond Inlet, Canada), an option that a number of us selected, and two other options, each less appealing than the other. Eventually it was decided an early disembarkation would unnecessarily delay the ship sailing north in Baffin Bay on a random itinerary taking us towards the very north of Greenland towards another channel blocked by sea ice, before turning south and returning to Kangerlussuaq by the 18th September, the date we were originally due to disembark in Nome. Mutterings were heard that we’d paid the ransom before we’d been kidnapped! Communications from staff members was poor on many occasions, with the constant changing from French to English difficult to follow. And once the revised itinerary got underway, we were only told on a daily basis what to expect the next day, with nobody sure when we would be back in Kangerlussuaq (17th or 18th, morning or afternoon etc). Eventually we found ourselves back in Kangerlussuaq and the charter flight shambles started all over again. Europeans won the lottery with a short flight back to Paris. The rest of us had to endure a long, uncomfortable economy-class flight all the way to Seattle with a refuelling stop in Buffalo. And finally liberation! We could never, in good conscience, recommend Ponant. As a luxury expedition/cruise line it barely rates a 3, based on this experience. Read Less
21 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
This was supposed to be a 5 star cruise over Christmas. We had paid a premium price for this and were disappointed before we even got on the ship. Our tickets arrived 2 weeks before the cruise. When we checked them we found that the ... Read More
This was supposed to be a 5 star cruise over Christmas. We had paid a premium price for this and were disappointed before we even got on the ship. Our tickets arrived 2 weeks before the cruise. When we checked them we found that the itinerary had been changed and no longer stopped at Norfolk Island. Stopping at Norfolk Island was the main reason that we booked this. Our Travel Agent checked with Ponant and found that the itinerary was altered back in June and he was not told of this. At this late stage we really had no alternative but to except this . When we arrived at the ship it was chaotic and there did not seem to be any organisation. We were very concerned when we boarded as there was no security checking of hand luggage. In view of the fact that it had only been 5 weeks since the Paris shootings, and that this was a french ship, we really felt that security should have been more rigorous. At no time when we re-boarded were any bags checked. At the mandatory lifeboat drill my husband found that he had a defective life jacket. He reported this to 2 different crew members who told him that it would be replaced. It never was. As Norfolk Island was no longer on the itinerary we had more time at sea. I found this very boring as there was not enough going on. The Lectures were not of interest to me and so other than reading a book there was little else to do, unless you wanted the spa. We tried Afternoon tea. What a fiasco. You had to get a mug and make your own tea from the urn. One day there was even a Salsa dance class going on in the middle of the room. This is such a contrast to how Seabourn and Silversea arrange Afternoon Tea. A white gloved waiter who serves you with an assortment of teas, sandwiches and cakes. This is how it should be done. The dining overall was satisfactory. However on Christmas Eve only 1 restaurant was open and no buffet. When we arrived we were shown the menu. It was a set meal, 1st course an Egg dish (I do not eat eggs) 2nd and 3rd courses seafood (I am sick if I eat seafood). We asked what I could have instead and was told nothing. I would have to sit through 3 courses with no food. At this we walked out of the restaurant. We decided to order room service instead, even though the cabin only had 1 chair and a tiny table. We were told that there was no room service on Christmas Eve and that we must eat in the Restaurant. Their brochure says 24 hour a day room service. When I said that I could not eat a large part of the menu the receptionist then asked the chef what he was prepared to cook. He said a steak and salad. I said that was OK as long as my steak was well done. When it came it was bright red in the middle and the salad was limp and looked old. I could not eat this, so had no dinner that night. Christmas Day was another none event. We sailed around White Island, which took all of 20 minutes and that was it . We were at sea for the rest of the day with no particular Christmas events planned. You were not able to pre book Excursions. I have never been on a cruise before when this is the case.We had to wait until the excursion desk opened and then it was a free for all, loads of pushing and queue jumping. The excursions when you got them were fine and quite interesting. We disembarked at Akaroa. There is no proper wharf there and we had to disembark by tender, along with your suitcases. This was very badly organised and we were told one thing one minute only to be altered by another crew member a few minutes later. I cannot believe that they ended a cruise here, as getting to Christchurch from here is not easy, as there are no taxis or Hire cars in Akaroa. This is probably one of the worst cruises that I have ever been on and I feel if Ponant want to get into the Australian luxury cruise market they need to improve dramatically. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
We paid a premium price for this cruise to see what a more luxurious ship was like. We expected much more than we actually got. Ship only 2 years old, so quite modern and trendier than other cruise lines. Cabin same size as normal ship, ... Read More
We paid a premium price for this cruise to see what a more luxurious ship was like. We expected much more than we actually got. Ship only 2 years old, so quite modern and trendier than other cruise lines. Cabin same size as normal ship, although the toilet was separate which was good. The lounge areas were uninspiring. Afternoons entertainment violinist and a jazz singer, piano player. They were quite good for afternoon entertainment. Night there was sometimes a dance show, but nothing in the main lounge area. No music, no dancing, zero atmosphere. If you wanted to sit in there it was quite boring. Ponant have to lift their game if they want to come into the Australian market. Food just average, we expected better for the price we paid. Staff very good, no complaints there. Restaurant staff very helpful. Front desk staff not greatly friendly. Ship always clean and neat. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
We had high expectations for this cruise having sailed with Seabourn and other high-end ships before around the Greek Isles. The food was really average and didn't vary enough from day to day. The chef at breakfast looked annoyed by ... Read More
We had high expectations for this cruise having sailed with Seabourn and other high-end ships before around the Greek Isles. The food was really average and didn't vary enough from day to day. The chef at breakfast looked annoyed by our requests for omelettes (at the omelette bar!) and picked on us for eating pork (we're Indian, and clearly his sensibilities were miffed by this revelation). This is also not a cruise for non-French speakers and even though we do speak some French the French language (excursions, lectures) is pretty constant and most guests were French and avoided us, as did the mostly French-speaking crew. The waiters were lovely and welcoming but otherwise the staff was pretty useless, especially the woman at reception who had absolutely zero information about ports of call (we kept being told they hadn't been there before but I doubt this...). The cabins are small and the cleaning staff are unhelpful and pushy. The evacuation drill is annoying and needlessly fascistic. And finally---the continuous photo shoots with hired models (while we're swimming!!!) was really ridiculous. The models were everywhere. Also, rubbish 'pool' which is more like a puddle and small gym. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2014
On its website the company promotes this ship in a manner which is quite misleading and leaves one very disappointed. In particular: “The Art of cruising A la Francaise”, “exquisite dining with French cuisine” “our gourmet ... Read More
On its website the company promotes this ship in a manner which is quite misleading and leaves one very disappointed. In particular: “The Art of cruising A la Francaise”, “exquisite dining with French cuisine” “our gourmet cuisine is worthy of top fine dining restaurants “, “French chic and elegance” “Crew members, all versed in elegant discretion” “fully bilingual service on board”, Well, the truth is quite different. Excepted for a handful of French officers, rarely seen about, and the small number of French bartenders, the majority of the crew was Asian. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, except in that this lot, whilst very nice and friendly, where mostly poorly trained, disorganised, but worse of all spoke little English or French. And yes they were discreet, but only because communication was difficult. There was a little or poor supervision of the staff in the dining rooms. Some of the food was delicious, but mostly hit and miss, and often very disappointing. No comparison to fine dining restaurants. The ship was beautiful, but a number of passengers were complaining as they were sleeping on convertible sofa beds, as their cabin was actually the living room component of a suite transformed into a cabin. The entertainment was second rate.   Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
I chose Ponant to travel to the Antarctic as it offered the longest amount time that I would be on board. And I really liked the pleasant look and design of the Ponant vessels. I was also impressed with the locations that we were ... Read More
I chose Ponant to travel to the Antarctic as it offered the longest amount time that I would be on board. And I really liked the pleasant look and design of the Ponant vessels. I was also impressed with the locations that we were intending to visit. But unfortunately things happened that was well below satisfactory. And the voyage ended up almost being a total disaster. The ship had been damaged on a previous voyage and basically was not ready for any passenger on the designated time. When we finally boarded at around 2300 hr, nearly one and half days late. And apart from ridiculous hour of the day, the crew were very pleasant and they tried hard to make us all welcome. As the voyage was my second one with Ponant, I was very happy with the cleanliness and décor of the vessel. Both of the restaurants were open so we all could have a meal. But because of the hour I went straight to my cabin. Which was the same as the Le Boreal. Very comfortable, quiet and clean. As I was travelling by myself I found the cabin exceptionally good. So the first night was spent along side the wharf as the ship needed fuel. We finally left the port of Concepcion at just before lunch the following day. So now we all had 4 days travelling down the west coast of Chile instead of leaving from Ushuaia, which is at the bottom of Sth America, where we should have left from. But I have to say the dinning and the choice of food, along with the crew were all fabulous. With the vast majority of the crew being very pleasant and made us all feel very welcome. So I was trying hard to see the glass half full rather than half empty which helped me enjoy the company of some great people from a number of countries around the world. We also enjoyed the enthusiasm of the expedition team with their great lectures on a number of topics. But when we finally arrived at Cape Horn we had basically lost nearly six days of our voyage. And because of this, the time lost had to be made up somewhere else. While we were all offered 35% refund on our fair. That did not replace the hurt and disappointment that we all experienced by firstly only having less than 24 hours at the Falkland Islands. And we also missed out on going to the South Georgia Isl.,all together. But when we finally arrived on the Antarctic Peninsula the weather was perfect for the days we were there. That part of the trip was fabulous and was everything I expected the Antarctic to be like. But then it started going wrong again because of the inexperience of some of the expedition crew, and unfortunately the arrogance of the expedition leader himself. On our first shore landing on the RIB ( zodiac ) which I was on, was nearly tipped over when making the approach to the shore. The inexperience of the RIB driver ( coxswain ) was being directed by the expedition leader on the shore. This stupidity caused the RIB to nearly tip over, and flinging two passengers into the water, one under the zodiac, and the other 8 passengers nearly going in as well. Luckily the 2 men that went into the water managed to recover and scramble out of the water to the shore. But the disbelief didn't stop there. The ships captain and ponant did not conduct any investigation into the near miss drowning. Which they are meant to do under IMO regulation. To our disappointment, they also refused to discuss the incident with anybody. Which we only wanted to contribute something to maybe help them put things in place to help prevent it ever happening again. I am very disappointed in the voyage as a whole and the arrogance of the Ponant. As I have written. The only thing that made my voyage enjoyable. Was the great crew. The very good dinning with a good amount of choice of food in the two very good restaurants. And the fact that we got fantastic weather while we were in the Antarctic Peninsula.The disembarkation for me went perfectly. As I was staying in Ushuaia for an extra two days. I had booked my own private driver. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
Christmas and New Year in Southern Lands From December 20th 2018 to January 05th 2019 After reading information on your site about other travelers' experiences we felt that we should share our experience of traveling with ... Read More
Christmas and New Year in Southern Lands From December 20th 2018 to January 05th 2019 After reading information on your site about other travelers' experiences we felt that we should share our experience of traveling with Ponant. 1. The issues began before we boarded the ship. We live in Perth, West Australia and booked a pre-cruise tour to Patagonia with Ponant and also the cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic. We left Perth on 9th December 2018 and flew for approximately 20 hours to Buenos Aires. This was 12 days before we were due to board the ship Le Soleal. At 0139 am on Friday 14 December in Buenos Aires we were woken by an sms telling us that there was going to be a "very big itinerary change" to our cruise. Basically the cruise was still going, however after an “issue” a couple of weeks earlier, the ship would be departing from Talcahuano in Chile. Ponant had chartered a flight from Buenos Aires to Concepcion and then a coach transfer to Talcahuano to join the ship. As well, the cruise would miss the stopover in the Falkland Islands on the 22nd December and South Georgia for the 25th to 27th December, would be mainly on the Antarctica Peninsula and would be having the two tours from the ship per day. We were offered a 4 day pro rata refund per person if we continued, or a full refund of the cruise and associated costs if we wanted to come home. After receiving this sms in the middle of the night prior to leaving for Iguazu Falls early that morning, we went on line to try find out the nature of the “issue” with the ship. We discovered that the ship had sustained significant underwater damage a month previously and had only recently arrived at Talcahuano. This meant that the damage to the ship had happened before we had left West Australia. As we had been able to find out some of the details of the incident we were concerned as to the viability of the cruise going forward as originally advertised and so we contacted Ponant in France. The person we spoke to was surprised that we knew about the changes to the ships’ schedule. Ponant’s only advice was that we should keep in touch with our travel agent. We continued with our holiday but at the same time we were in daily communication with our travel agent as we moved to Iguazu Falls and then back to Buenos Aires. Our travel agent was in communication with Ponant in Sydney who had been told that France had been working on developing an enhanced itinerary for guests traveling from Chile to Antarctica. Ponant in Sydney wrote that this would be an expedition cruise so therefore they were assuming that there would be wonderful expedition opportunities in the Chilean Fjords before then spending more time in the Antarctic Peninsula (7-8 Days) and then 3 days cruising back to Ushuaia. We were communicating with our travel agent in West Australia late at night and we began to feel increasingly worried and exhausted on what was meant to be a holiday. On arrival back in Buenos Aires we were hopeful of more direct information from Ponant because we were then on their organised pre-tour. None of their agents in either Buenos Aires or in Patagonia knew anything. The Patagonian pre-tour was wonderful. The agents and the hotels were excellent. On the night of the 17th December we rang Ponant’s office in Sydney, Australia and asked them specifically whether or not the ship was back in the water, had undertaken trials and had been passed back into survey. We were answered “yes” to each of these questions. On the basis of this we decided to continue with the cruise. The confirmation of the ship being in the water ready for embarkation was advised to our travel agent by Ponant’s Sydney office on the 19th December. In Calafate, Patagonia, we were told by the Ponant agent that we would be flying to Buenos Aires on the morning of the 20th December and changing planes for a charter flight to Concepcion where we would be bused to Talcahuno to join the ship. On the charter flight on the 20th December we were advised that we would be landing at Santiago to clear customs and quarantine before continuing the flight to Concepcion where we would now be staying overnight at a hotel as the ship was still in dry dock. The information from Ponant had changed yet again. Clearing customs in Santiago was a nightmare. It was the height of the holiday season, we were a group made up of different nationalities, most of whom did not know one another, and despite the best efforts by a very overwrought young man acting on Ponant’s behalf, most of us managed to get lost in the airport and its seemingly endless and chaotic queues. With the help of airport staff we eventually managed to find each other again and to help each other as much as we could. Most of the group were older, were overwrought, suffering from dehydration and very tired. In circumstances such as these, rumours abound and in this situation it was no different. No one really knew what was happening but everyone had an opinion. On arrival at Concepcion buses were provided to ferry us to the hotels. We were in the group to stay at the Aton and on our bus a local courier with no English attempted to advise us of the procedures on arrival at the hotel. One of the group who understood some Spanish relayed the basics of what was happening to the rest of us, but the English speakers did not really know what was going on. If a representative from Ponant had met us at the airport and explained what was happening so that everyone could understand, the ensuing chaos, at the end of a trying day, could have been prevented. The buses pulled up in a street near the entrance to the hotel. Unfortunately the street was on a hill and the passengers had to take their luggage themselves and carry or wheel it across the road, along an entrance driveway which was cobbled and up steps into the hotel entrance. A number of the passengers were elderly or incapacitated. Some of the able bodied passengers helped those who were not. Others just walked away and did not help. The bus driver and the courier did their best. It was chaotic, with runaway luggage heading down the hill and panicking owners trying to control their bags. On entering the foyer of the hotel we found the Ponant Expedition Team waiting for our arrival. Their welcoming assistance would have been far more appreciated had they waited for us at the kerbside or at the airport. The hotel was unaccustomed to such an influx of guests at one time but rose to the occasion magnificently and continued their amazingly high level of service throughout our stay. I can thoroughly recommend the Aton Hotel in Concepcion, Chile. That night at dinner we were told by the Captain that the ship would come out of dry dock in the early hours of the morning, would undertake trials, and would be ready for us to join after breakfast in the morning. This was certainly different information than we had been told by Ponant in Sydney thee days earlier. They had told us that the ship was in the water and ready to go. We were asked to hand in our passports to the Cruise Director but by now a number of people had decided not to continue with the cruise. As a result of the dissatisfaction being shown by the passengers the Cruise Director became increasingly frustrated and was increasingly failing to keep a pleasant demeanour towards the passengers. By the time my husband and I reached the head of the queue, we were told in no uncertain terms we had to make up our mind there and then whether of not we were going to continue with the cruise because once we had handed our passports in, we would not be getting them back. Of course he could not do this, but it made for a rather uncomfortable situation and an unsettled night’s sleep. We were worried by what appeared to be an unprofessional attitude projected by an inexperienced and disorganised staff. At breakfast we were advised of a city tour in the morning, followed by lunch at the hotel and to have our bags ready after that in order to join the ship. A small group of us, three Australians and five French, decided to order two taxis and go down to the docks in Talcahuana to see over the 19th century iron clad ship the Huascar. To our surprise we could see the Ponant ship Le Soleal still in the dock. This was certainly not what we had been lead to believe the night before. At lunch, back in the hotel, we were again told to have our bags ready to be taken down to the ship and that this would happen while we were taken on a coach tour of the area before joining the ship at around 7 pm that evening. We were told that the ship was going to conduct sea trials that night while we were all on board, that it would sail in the early hours of the morning and that they were planning on 5 and a half days sea time to the Antarctic traveling at 15 knots. By now the gossip and rumour had started about the different compensation packages that people had been offered. Each "offer" seemed to be different. On the afternoon tour we visited a beach, a museum and the museum garden. It was interesting, well organised and handled professionally by a very good driver and an excellent courier. However as it stretched into the evening we became increasingly worried about what was happening and were becoming tired and hungry. We stopped at a café where one of the Expedition Team used his own money to buy us food and drinks, and then later we all queued at a service station near the docks in order to use the toilets. We finally embarked at 9.30pm. During the course of this day a number of people decided to leave the cruise and people were still deciding to leave right up to the time that we arrived at the dock gates. As a result, by the time we embarked the cruise was by no means full. After sea trials that night we returned to the dockside and were alongside when we woke. We fueled in morning and finally sailed at 11am on the 22nd of December, two days late. By this time what had begun as a wonderful holiday in South America and the Antarctic was rapidly turning into a nightmare of exhaustion and uncertainty. We had decided to stay with the cruise because we were a long way from home and to get back we would have had to go across South America to Buenos Aires at the height of the holiday season and then fly back to the west coast of Australia right on Christmas. We had made and paid for all the arrangements for the care of our home, garden and animals. We had invested in the appropriate clothing for Antarctic, clothing which would never be worn in our home town. One of my dreams had been to visit the Antarctic and we had been promised that we would be sailing straight down to spend as much time there as possible. 2. The Cruise The problem now was that we were not only two days late sailing, but also that we were sailing from Talcahuana, half way up the coast of Chile, and not from Ushuaia at the tip of South America. Quite obviously this meant that we could not complete our original cruise, but what it did mean was continued discussion and the spreading of rumours about exactly where we were going. It became increasingly apparent that the information we had been given about sailing from Chile to Antarctica (approximately 4 – 5 days) and optimising our time in the Antarctic (7 – 8 days) was not going to happen. But by the time this became apparent we were on board and steaming down the coast of Chile. Two days into the cruise our itinerary was confirmed as being to the Falklands and then to the Antarctic. It was a great pity that we had only one afternoon and one morning in the Falklands, and that we had only 4 days in Antarctica. All the rest were at sea. This was not what we had hoped for when we planned this holiday. Also, this was not what we thought we had accepted on the basis of maximising our time in Antarctica on what ended up being 14 full days on board ship. We could have had 8 meaningful days in Antarctica, but we did not. However it was fortunate that we had excellent weather throughout enabling full use to be made of the time that we did have in the Falklands and in Antarctica. 3. Other Issues: An accident at a landing site in the Antarctic meant that two men fell out of and underneath a zodiac. They were freezing cold, wet, battered, bruised and shocked but were not injured in a serious way, perhaps because they were more run over by the zodiac than dunked in the water, their lifejackets did not deploy. Before the next trip by zodiac the crew, upon request, demonstrated that the lifejackets would inflate when immersed in water. It was unfortunate that the two men in the accident felt that their efforts to express their dismay to the Captain were not recognised in a serious and professional manner. This lead to more gossip, rumours and unease amongst the passengers. It was disconcerting to find on the third to last day of the cruise that when the fast rescue boat had been retrieved on board, the brake control wire had left its drum and overwrapped the main falls. This situation could impede safe launching if not noticed beforehand. The situation was pointed out to ship’s staff but the wires were still in the same condition when we arrived in Ushuaia. Some passengers had looked forward to sea kayaking in the Antarctic. There were kayaks stored on board and the opportunity to kayak had been advertised as part of the cruise. The interested passengers were told that there was no one on board qualified to supervise the use of the kayaks and that therefore they would not be launched. This did not make people feel any happier with Ponant. The attitude of the Cruise Director was patronising and unhelpful. He appeared to be out of his depth. The Expedition Director was capable but arrogant and did not cater for those of us who were interested in the overall history of the area although there was one excellent lecture by one of the team on Shackelton’s Expedition. Personally I was deeply disappointed at being unable to visit South Georgia. Despite being advertised as a luxury cruise, it was not. Our cabin was one which could be combined with another to make a suite. The door between the two was locked but unfortunately there was a hole through which wind whistled. The ship was not full and there was no one on either side of us, so we were not overly concerned. The entry passage in the cabin was so narrow that if the wardrobe doors were open the bathroom door could not be opened and vice versa. It made for uncomfortable clashes from time to time. The cabins were definitely not large. We had no trouble with our toilet, but others did have issues with sewage backing up. From talking with other passengers it soon became apparent that different people had been offered different compensation packages. This did not make for a contented group of people. The charter flight at the end from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires was cramped and extremely uncomfortable. 4. Good points. The accommodation and the ship in general was extremely comfortable. The beds were large, the linen of good quality and changed regularly. There was a plentiful supply of clean, fluffy towels at least twice a day. There was a plentiful supply of Hermes cosmetics. The complimentary bar fridge in the cabin was fully restocked every day. The cabin staff, the bar staff and the restaurant staff were excellent. They could not do enough for us. Nothing seemed to upset them. Nothing was too much trouble. They did everything they could to accommodate our needs and our wishes. They were professionals. They should be proud of their work on this cruise. Having an open bridge was interesting, specially when navigating in confined areas. The members of the multinational Expedition Team were very good, very helpful and very kind. The one time that I fell over on the ice they were there in an instant to help. When I had trouble walking down a steep track in the ice, one of them walked down backwards in front of me, encouraging me to have confidence and to keep going by myself, instead of being manually helped down. There was an excellent classically trained pianist on the staff. The food was very good indeed in both restaurants although I preferred the informality and open ambiance of the restaurant on Deck 6. Although embarkation had been a nightmare, disembarkation was swift and efficient. 5. Conclusion There were three distinct groups of passengers on the ship, divided by ethnicity, and there seemed to be no one in the hierarchy on board skilled enough to bring these three small groups of people together. There was some cross-over communication and we made friends in each group, but on the whole this did not happen. This lead to a certain amount of suspicion and gossip that one group was being offered a better “deal” than the others and unfortunately did not make for a collegial atmosphere. This is perhaps the crux of the whole issue with the cruise. Everyone was in some way disappointed. The group as a whole did not “gel”. The hierarchy on board did not seem to have the skills to make it all work. Throughout there was continued discussion amongst the passengers about their dissatisfaction with the cruise and with Ponant. It was not a happy ship. From our personal point of view the main issue was the disconnect between the reality of what had happened with the ship and the communications we received from Ponant. Openess and transparency in communication would have been appreciated and would have enabled each of us to have made more informed decisions. On the 24th of December we were all offered a refund of 35% of the price of our cruise, an on board credit of Euros 500 per cabin, 25% off our next trip with Ponant and 50% off any Ponant cruise calling at South Georgia and departing within the next 3 years. This is a fair and generous offer. It is unfortuate that we are still being told of people having been offered and having accepted more generous offers. I returned home and immediately came down with shingles which is why I have only now been able to write this report. At this moment I find it hard to imagine ever planning another holiday that in any way involved Ponant. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
Ponant markets itself as a luxury expedition cruiseline but it does not meet expectations on either account. Most other cruiselines offer at least similar or better levels of comfort, food and service, apart from the limited open bar. ... Read More
Ponant markets itself as a luxury expedition cruiseline but it does not meet expectations on either account. Most other cruiselines offer at least similar or better levels of comfort, food and service, apart from the limited open bar. Although the overall appearance of the ships is attractive some of the cabins are not particularly well-designed, having for example, only a narrow hanging space for a wardrobe. With only one chair In some, room service is not really an option. As for the expedition claim, Ponant ships carry far more pasengers - over 230 on Le Soleal - than expedtion companies such as Aurora, Coral Expeditions, Orion or True North. Smaller numbers of passengers means easier logistics and a more personal experience. The main drawback with Ponant is its pricing. You are paying a premium for the marketing claims which cannot be justified. If cost is not a concern then by all means go with Ponant. You will have a pleasant trip but it will not be good value for money. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
This was our first cruise with Ponant - and might I add it will probably be the last - and we were very much looking forward to cruising the North West Passage especially as we had booked two years ago and have read a lot of media about ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Ponant - and might I add it will probably be the last - and we were very much looking forward to cruising the North West Passage especially as we had booked two years ago and have read a lot of media about Ponant, the Company and the special voyages offered. There is no doubt there has been a huge media campaign to encourage Australians to participate in the various itineraries. First of all there was the debacle of the charter flight - or lack of - at the very start. We were made aware of the change in plans just before we left Australia and so we made arrangements to stay an extra night at our hotel in Paris instead of staying at the airport as the flight was scheduled for late afternoon. The fact that Ponant could not organise a direct charter flight Paris/Kangerlussuaq for all passengers beggars belief. Once at the airport we were given to understand that we would be assisted by Ponant representatives to ensure a smooth check-in. This was not the case. The signage at the airport was insignificant and there were two lines in order to have names checked off. One line was for the French passengers and the other for the Australian/English speaking passengers. This was not a good start. Once names were given we were told to go to the check-in counter which we did and after that we went to the departure gate to await the flight. No one assisted us and no one made themselves known or ensured everyone was content which is surely what a Rep would do if only for the PR exercise. Once the flight was called we were herded onto a bus - French passengers went somewhere else. The bus took us to the aircraft but instead of disembarking we were kept closed up in the bus with no air on a very hot afternoon for quite some time. Several passengers became irate and demanded that the doors be opened. Once on the aircraft we were told that not all baggage could be loaded so the Captain asked if we would agree to him placing the bags in a locked toilet, which meant that only one toilet was operational during the flight. Other bags were placed in empty seats with seatbelts around them! This is hardly what is expected on a very expensive 5 star trip. Once in Copenhagen, again, we were not met but told we had to collect bags and re-check for the flight to Kangerlussuaq. I finally found a Ponant representative hiding under a stairwell with a small sign and asked which gate we had to go to. No assistance whatsoever was given to any of us. It appeared that French passengers were given priority on the aircraft (they were in business class) and on arrival in Greenland they were the first off and onto a bus to the port. The rest of us managed - again without advice or assistance - and found our own way to one of the waiting buses. There was then a long wait (in the dark and it was cold) for the tender to make several trips. We finally boarded the ship around midnight which was equivalent to 4 am in Paris where we started. Throughout the cruise there was a definite feeling of separation between the French speaking and English speaking passengers. It was almost a feeling of resentment on the part of the French that they were not in the majority. I personally felt sad about this as I speak French and have many French friends having lived in the country years ago. The reality that we could not go through the Northwest Passage caused a lot of dismay. There were a lot of disgruntled people. I am now aware of the fact that the Canadian Coastguard posted a warning about the ice conditions and the fact that the Northwest Passage was impassable on 18th August – nine days before our departure from Paris. It defies logic that we were not told about this and at least given the option of either continuing the cruise – albeit to areas in and around Greenland - or cancelling the holiday. On board we were all under the impression that this ice development and weather conditions were sudden and unavoidable and under this misconception, Captain Marchesseau did his best to ensure that we had great experiences nonetheless. A comment I must make is that the ship does not seem ideally designed for a Polar cruise as outdoor areas cannot be utilized. Deck 7 was closed obviously because of the cold and the Pool area (deck 6) could not be used, thus the dining out by the pool was only utilised on about two occasions at lunch time when the wind dropped and the sun was out. This meant that the Restaurant on Deck 6 was always crowded and people had to go to the other Restaurant which was not the first choice. The Observation lounge on Deck 6 was also always crowded and the only other option was the Main Lounge which had entertainment in the afternoons (and sometimes during the morning) so it was impossible to sit quietly and read or write. It was too cold to sit in the outside lounge - which I imagine would be very pleasant on a warm weather cruise. A word about the food - it was not the gastronomic experience we had been led to believe it would be and the house wines were often unpalatable. The crew were all very friendly and did their best under the circumstances. The expedition team - led by Florence - were very good and we had some interesting lectures before and after the excursions. Finally, when flights from Kangerlussuaq to either Paris or Seattle were announced we were told that we would be going via Toronto to Seattle. It was not until we received boarding passes that we discovered we were, in fact, going to Buffalo for a refuelling stop. We had to stay on the aircraft for almost two hours before taking off for Seattle. This was understandable because of Customs formalities but why were we told we were going to Toronto? As with much of the trip. The information flow from Ponant to guests was anything but efficient. To summarise, I regret to say that I would not give Ponant or this cruise the 5 star luxury experience it purports to be. There were many frustrations and in speaking to both French and English speaking passengers over the three week period, it seems generally guests’ dissatisfaction was across the board. Personally, I really disliked the fact that the French were given priority over everyone else to the extent that the atmosphere on board became toxic at times, and I doubt we would ever choose Ponant again in spite of the fact that I am a Francophile. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2018
The cruise was to sail through the Northwest Passage, however there was too much ice so spent the majority of the time on the west coast of Greenland with some time in Canadian waters. The captain made the correct call about not proceeding ... Read More
The cruise was to sail through the Northwest Passage, however there was too much ice so spent the majority of the time on the west coast of Greenland with some time in Canadian waters. The captain made the correct call about not proceeding through the Passage judging by the ice in Bellot Strait and the ice maps for Alaska, so no problem with this. The Canadian icebreaker service was very good, but unfortunately the US does not provide such a service in their waters. The main problems were that some food types ran out after about a week into the cruise, such as no french fries! Also the meals tended to become somewhat repetitious and the lack of variety in vegetables was telling. OK we were in Arctic waters but the provisioning left a bit to be desired. The wine selection was better than we experienced on our Antarctica cruise on the same ship in February-March 2018, but the cheese selection was worse; much better earlier in the year. A lot of the supposedly soft cheeses on this cruise were not "ripe" and were dry in the middle. Also they ran out of draft beer plus some liqueurs. Some provisions were able to be topped up in Greenland but probably to the detriment of the locals as the supermarket was "raided" in a small community. Service in the main restaurant depended on where you sat as some staff were excellent whereas others were barely average, so didn't appear to be able to cope with a busy restaurant. Overall the cruise was better than average, but not good enough to rate as very good due to the onboard problems. The ship's officers were very good as were the expedition staff, the problem was more with the catering and restaurant area. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
We chose Tauck small ship cruises due to reputation. We had a good experience last year on two river cruises. We would not recommend small ship cruises with Tauck. I had written a 5 page letter describing both the good and the bad on ... Read More
We chose Tauck small ship cruises due to reputation. We had a good experience last year on two river cruises. We would not recommend small ship cruises with Tauck. I had written a 5 page letter describing both the good and the bad on two small ship back to back cruises and I received back a one page letter addressing one item. Most group dinners consisted of chicken. Very little choice of local foods since we visited 5 different countries. We drove around after lunch to kill time before going to hotel. VERY boring!. We should have been given a choice of shopping since we were close or go to hotel to wait. the stop At Tallinn was rushed. In Saint Petersburg only overpriced souvenir shops were suggested. Should have gone to a market area and shopped for bargains. Too many people(40) on each excursion trying to meander thru the towns we visited. I had thought Tauck was different using local guides and smaller groups. Other excursions we have been on have larger groups for less money. We did have a good Swedish lunch and a good Russian lunch. Not chicken!! this cruise better than the first one two weeks earlier with Tauck. 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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