We chose this cruise because of our prior good experience on Ponant’s Le Lyrial, as well as the promise of an expedition cruise in the exotic Amazon on a new, small ship. We were not disappointed.
Le Champlain is a beautiful boat, elegantly finished in light woods and simple decor. There is no bling, a huge positive for us. There is ample seating inside and out, and even below water in the Blue Eye lounge. The crew, including the very approachable captain, are always about and eager to meet each passenger’s needs. Special kudos to the cruise director and the main lounge barmen — Richie and Jay Jay — who were outstanding.
Food and wines were ample and very good throughout. I would have liked to see local ingredients and dishes start to appear on the menu (as one does on, say, Seabourn), but the chef clearly sticks with more traditional French preparations. Towards the end of our 12 days, we were ready for more menu variation. Table service is generally attentive, with occasional lapses.
The base staterooms on Ponant ships are well laid out, but small (about 200 sq. ft.). We chose the Deluxe Suite, which is 50% larger, allowing for a walk-in dressing room, a larger couch/sitting area, and a larger balcony. The suite is beautifully designed, and met our space needs for a 12-day Cruise. My only niggle is that instead of a comfie sofa, Ponant opted for a day bed that (I suppose) could accommodate a 3rd sleeper. This choice both sacrificed seating comfort and took up more floor space than a nice, soft couch.
More important, if you look at Le Champlain’s deck charts, there is an unidentified space between the elevator and Suite 406. That is a heavily used crew’s staircase. Although the stairwell has sound-proofing, you definitely hear heavy footsteps and other noises in the cabin. Be aware if you’re a light sleeper, or like daytime naps when the stair get the most activity. BTW, we spoke to the folks in the cabin right above us and they had the same noise awareness.
Also, it’s a small ship and this is a forward cabin, so you definitely hear and feel it when the anchor is dropped.
All in all, despite these minor concerns, we loved the cabin.
An interesting excursion through the pristinely clean fish and produce markets of Santerem. Expeditions, not ports, were the highlight of this trip, but this tour through Santarem, then on to see manioc being processed, ending at the beautiful beach of Alter de Chao, was a nice day.