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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.

LUXURY ?...... NOT!!

Le Soleal Cruise Review by KIWICRUZER

27 people found this helpful
Trip Details
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.
KIWICRUZER’s Full Rating Summary
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