We discussed with friends of ours the possibility of an Antarctic cruise. They suddenly came back saying they had booked a cruise with another company.
We started to look at their pricing structure but had kept Ponant as a possibility for quite a while. Ponant then hosted an information day and we decided then and there to take the plunge and book. All in all Ponant's pricing was as good as the other company with a few more inclusions and more "luxury".
Instead of just flying to Argentina for the cruise we decided to make a trip of it and spend some time in Patagonia. We had been to Argentina (Buenos Aires and Igazu Falls) before but the southern part of this vast country had some serious appeal for walking and photography.
We arrived in Ushuaia a day before and explored both the city and the Tierra del Fuego National Park.
We made our own way to the ship. Embarkation was smooth even though we were earlier than the rest of the passengers arriving by bus.
The ship has a real "human size". We were left wanting for nothing.
A feature of Ponant ships, all cabins with a balcony, did not seem like a great advantage on an Antarctic cruise but made such a difference when wanting to take photographs without having to go to the main decks. Our cabin, a Deluxe Stateroom on Deck 3, was surprisingly spacious and cleverly appointed.
The crew from Captain to Food and Beverage, Hotel staff and other members were very friendly and would always acknowledge you. The naturalists' team has a wealth of knowledge but also showed a great depth of "love", if there is such a word, for the Antarctic continent. Their talks very extremely informative.
A casual and a formal restaurant were perfectly adequate and we never felt we could not eat in the venue we wanted to dine at because of lack of space. Food was amazing with great choices and the wine and drink selection without reproach. We enjoyed the opportunity to "upgrade" to some better wine selections on occasions. Service in restaurants and bar/lounges was attentive and by the end of the cruise a few members of the staff were starting to remember our preferred drinks.
With regards to entertainment, in general we enjoyed the singers (particularly the Italian lady - can't remember her name) and the classical pianist. The dancers were so so...
We felt that sitting down for the welcome cocktail party in the theatre was odd. Why not do this in the lounge area?
Each shore excursion or zodiac outing was a new experience and we flt safe and in good hands.
Disembarkation was smooth. Maybe some information on board the night before in regards to luggage weight limits might have avoided hassles and problems for some at the airport.
Would we return? Yes, at a later part of the season to see hatchlings or juvenile penguins.
Cleverly designed and more spacious then expected.
Ushuaia is not a very exciting port city. Visited a few of the museums and took a tour of the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Stayed at the Arakur Hotel, a large concrete structure, a bit soulless, and a bit out of town. They however provide a free shuttle to downtown. Best thing: found a great crab restaurant called El Viejo Marino. Superb! Make a booking to be certain to eat there.