Ponant was our second choice because our first line rerouted the ship we originally wanted because of the pandemic. Ponant was highly recommended and it proved itself to us. Covid took our first choice with Ponant, the Le Lyrial out of the running because of covid, but they had several ships running the Antarctic route and fit us on the Austral for the next day. L'Austral was captained by an excellent mariner, Capt. Daher, who saw to our safety and comfort daily. The expedition leader Raphael Sane and his crew were excellent and ensured we saw the best the continent had to offer and gave us information to enlighten our understanding of our journey. The crew and staff of L'Austral worked as one team for the comfort and safety of the passengers.
American taste buds may find the French cuisine...different. Stick to cheese, chocolate mousse, and pastries, and you will be fine as long as they do not run out of wine. Language was not a problem with the crew, most were fluent in English. Perhaps two thirds of the passengers were French and the rest English speakers.
Our journey included the Drake Shake and the waves were quite high. Captain Daher even turned the ship about in order to let the storm pass. We came prepared for this contingency and seasick patches did their job. Even with the delay, L'Austral got to Antarctica with enough time to give us two excursions every day we were there.
We took a cabin amidship on the fourth deck knowing that would be the steadiest place if we encountered the Drake Shakes. It was a balcony and proved useful for photos and fresh air. The room was a little smaller than what you would get in most passenger liners but still adequate and outfitted with all you need.
The mini Fridge was stocked every day. There was a coffee/tea maker. A safe in the closet. The toilet (water closet) was a separate room from the rest of the bathroom so you would have to make a second step after using the wc to wash your hands. The sink and the shower came with a glass door facing the rest of the room which could be made more private with a sliding door which may be a more European thing than Yanks are used to but seemed a lot of technology and work for basic hygiene. Storage space was adequate for the trip.
Our steward Achmed was very professional and dedicated to our service. He went out of his way to make our journey a memorable one.
If I had known how beautiful, Tierra del Fuego was, we would have spent more time there. It is the southern end of the Andes in Patagonia and the views from Ushuaia were breathtaking. Unfortunately, our original excursion we requested was cancelled due to covid precautions, but we would gladly make a second trip to the "fin del mundo", the "end of the earth" to enjoy it.