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.