We enjoyed four days in Honolulu prior to the arrival of Le Boreal. The ship was actually a day late as she had been stuck in ice attempting a Northwest Passage transit in August. After disembarking her passengers in Greenland she sailed full speed for Hawaii via the Panama Canal, encountering Hurricane Rosa on the way across the Pacific. We felt it too on our flight from Sydney to Honolulu!
Anyway, Ponant very generously covered our additional night's accommodation in Honolulu, arranged transfer to the ship and offered generous compensation for the late arrival and subsequent cancellation of two port calls on our voyage to Valparaiso.
Boarding of the ship was very well organised, especially for a full complement of passengers and we were soon settling into our cabin and preparing to enjoy the sail out from Honolulu. Although rather small, the cabin is beautifully fitted out with plenty of storage and good amenities.
The ship itself, in my view, is a beautiful design with very sleek lines and complimentary colour scheme. Fitted with stabilisers, she rides nicely through rough seas and is one of the quietest and most vibration free ships that I've sailed on...and I am a professional Master Mariner.
Being a small ship, she only has two dining venues; a grill buffet restaurant on deck six for a more relaxed atmosphere and the formal restaurant on deck two. We enjoyed excellent service in both with very friendly staff who we got to know very well during our six weeks on board. Waiters are Indonesian with senior staff French, all speak excellent English and tolerated my limited use of French and Bahasa Indonesie!
Downstairs the food had a tendency to be somewhat bland, but I guess this may be deliberate as not everyone appreciates a lot of seasoning and spices or chilli.
One area that could be improved is catering for those requiring a low sugar diet, e.g. Diabetics. The only low carb drink available,other than water, was Diet Coke. It would be nice to see some other options available.
The French influence is apparent but not overwhelming and in fact is rather charming. The officers and crew are very approachable and being such a small vessel are easily accessible. The bridge of the ship is generally accessible to passengers except during critical periods such as emergency drills.
Our Captain changed halfway through our cruise and there was a marked difference in style. The first Master was very visible, approachable and interested in meeting all his passengers whilst managing the vessel, whereas his successor seemed more interested in his French passengers and could often be seen interacting with them. He seemed reluctant to engage with English speakers and non French nationals. He did make many announcements of interesting sights in both French and English however.
The entertainers on board were excellent and I was surprised how involved the dancers were in other aspects of the hotel/excursion activities. Our final ocean voyage from Hanga Roa to Valparaiso (with about 70 or 80 pax) was the most relaxed part of our cruise and we had some enjoyable informal evenings with the musicians and dancers.
We found that the cruise director was sometimes giving contradictory information in her announcements and the planning of some on board activities could have been better organised.
We shouldn't forget the unseen heroes such as the galley, laundry and housekeeping staff who did so much behind the scenes to ensure our comfort. All so cheerful and enthusiastic.
The range of shore excursions was fantastic and so interesting and informative to learn about the different cultures that we encountered. Our tour manager worked very hard on our behalf, especially so when the internet link was disrupted for several days. We would recommend taking some excursions when they are offered as we consider they were good value for the price paid.
The ship lost twhe internet and tv links for several days which, although not disastrous, was somewhat annoying.
Our disembarkation in Valparaiso was very relaxed as the ship didn't arrive until late morning. This enabled us to have lunch before leaving the ship around 1:15pm. Our tour manager coordinated our transfer to Santiago for €70 in a comfortable Mercedes minibus as there were nine of us travelling, very helpful.
We enjoyed our voyage immensely and have future cruises booked on Le Boreal's three sisterships through to late 2020.
Recognising that Le Boreal is a small ship the cabin was compact, which was not unexpected. It is beautifully fitted out however, with plenty of storage and good amenities. It would be nice to have a second chair rather than the small table or stool which we never used.
Plenty of storage space in a large wardrobe and drawer chest with two large drawers. Nice bathrobes and slippers supplied and even umbrellas for those rainy days, of which we had a few.
The cabin and bathroom were spotlessly clean and our steward was excellent.
Luckily we were able to place our three suitcases under the bed, although I believe the steward may have been able to store them for us.