We were expecting the best ever cruise and our personal experience is as follows:
The good things:
- The ship is beautiful, fairly new and nicely appointed.
- The dining and room staff are great and will do anything for you.
- The itinerary of our 17 day cruise from Bali to Hong Kong was well thought out and perfect for us.
- The whole ship is clean and tidy.
- The rooms are well sound proofed.
- the bathroom and seperate toilet are small but adequate.
- The Blue Lagoon bar is an unusual and nice experience.
- The captain is great, very available/approachable and down to earth.
- The cruise director is great.
- The singers and dancers are great although lacked live music support.
- The bridge is accessible for most of the time which is a nice experience.
- The number of passengers, max of about 180, means you get to know a lot of people.
- Free style dining is good in two dining areas.
- A good variety of shore excursions.
- The included drinks are acceptable.
The not so good things:
- gratuities are not including which is a surprise given the cost of the cruise.
- Whilst the Blue lagoon bar is a good experience, don’t expect to see sea life through the windows as this seems highly unlikely.
- Our stateroom was a bit on the small size.
- Our dress mirror was held on by duct tape, fixed 2 days later.
- Poor information about dress code.
- Poor shore excursion information.
- Prize for winning the quizzes, a free bottle of champagne, the same as is freely available to everyone at the bar so not a prize at all.
- The food choice is limited and is definitely hit and miss. Much of the French cuisine really didn’t suit us. The bacon was hard and absolutely dreadful. I still have sore gums from chewing it.
- Nylon brush bristles in mushroom soup one evening, our table and the adjacent table and another diner who ate the bristles thinking it was celery - no apology or offer of an alternative.
- The shore excursion Ponant staff that accompany the trips seem oblivious to their inaptitude and need some serious training in hospitality. Some examples:
- a single long bench seat with shade at a view point fully occupied by Ponant staff and elderly guests left to stand out in the sun.
- on a boat tour to a beach, the tour operator asks us to swim ashore or use a canoe because there were other boats filling the available beach space. The boat was full of elderly people but the Ponant staff member said and did nothing. I refused several times on behalf of the passengers and eventually got them to move another boat on shore to make way for us. 15 mins out of our 45 mins stop wasted.
- another boat’s passengers were told that the canoes at a stop had to be paid for and the Ponant staff didn’t know that they were included. That boat voted to go somewhere else and they missed out on a visit by canoe to the most beautiful hidden lagoon.
- on two occasions we had to wait for the Ponant staff at the end of a tour stop as they were too busy chatting to their friends. Everyone was there but the Ponant staff.
There was much talk about the poor performance of these staff amongst a number of the passengers.
- we heard various stories of rude bar staff and experienced directly one occasion where the staff were outside at the handrail on entry to Hong Kong and my wife asked them to make a little space for her and she was rudely told this area was not for guests. In fact it was usually not for guests but opened up for guests during the harbour entry and was full of guests. Eventually they went off in a huff.
- Where was the piano player? A beautiful grand piano with no one playing it. Not good and was really needed to support the singers.
- We were rudely awoken with room service breakfast ordered by another cabin. The passenger had mistakenly written our cabin number on their order but their correct name. Surely the hospitality staff should cross check names. Not good.
Out of 14 cruises and 8 cruise companies this was close to being our worst experience. That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time, we did, but it should have been so much better.
Sorry to say, 5 out of 10.