Most people go ashore during the day, and the shore excursions sold very well (and were excellent and reasonably priced). Some lie by the pool, and some use the spa, but Le Boreal passengers aren't the kinds of people who need constant stimulation; many would disappear for the whole day and show up at sailing time, having eaten ashore.
On Ponant expedition sailings, onboard naturalists accompany small groups of cruisers on shore excursions. On the ship, they deliver lectures in their area of specialty, such as botany, climate change and geology.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
In the evenings, there was an excellent jazz singer in the Main Lounge and, on some nights, there were dance shows in the theater, which were good, if not cutting edge. One night, the dancers performed tangos on the pool deck, which added to the atmosphere on a hot Mediterranean night. A pianist plays classics in the Observation Lounge starting around 10:30 p.m. During the day, entertainment is low-key, with very little going on.
Occasionally, there were dance classes, but on my cruise, there weren't any guest speakers. Some itineraries do feature onboard lecturers, such as CNN host Fareed Zakaria on the World Affairs cruise, former CIA director Michael Hayden and best-selling author Daniel Mendelsohn.
On Le Boreal's more adventurous expedition cruises, there's a full program of lectures by onboard naturalists, with lectures in English guaranteed.
Wine, beer and spirits are included in the tariff. While some premium wines and spirits cost extra, there's a lot of variety on the all-inclusive menu. They include aperitifs like Pimm's, French wines and Henri Abele Champagne, American-made spirits like Jack Daniel's, plus Heineken on draft, and a good selection of liqueurs, including Grand Marnier and Chambord, were available along with juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea. There's also a cocktail of the day.
The ship's two indoor lounges are central gathering spots, not only for libations but also for evening entertainment.
Main Lounge (Deck 3): This expansive room at the ship's rear is the vessel's social hub. Sofas, chairs and stools are arranged in conversational nooks, but the room serves multiple functions. Coffee and tea are always available here, and afternoon tea is a treat, with staff preparing fare such as crepes.
The lounge gets busy before and after dinner, when there's a pianist and a singer performing. The room also has a dance floor.
Observation Lounge (Deck 6): This smaller, horizontal bar and lounge stretches across the ship's bow. The decor is understated and clubby, with glossy dark-wood floors, and red and white leather-like chairs and sofas positioned to take in the view. It's popular for predinner drinks (choose from 11 aperitifs, among other spirits), as well as after-dinner libations (French digestif, anyone?). A daily specialty cocktail, plus 22 others, are included. There's also a house Champagne. Or splurge and order a flute of Veuve Clicquot with a side of caviar (40 euros or about \$45). After dinner, a pianist plays classical tunes on the baby grand.
Open-Air Bar (Deck 7): A horseshoe-shaped aluminum-topped bar is at the rear of the ship overlooking the pool on Deck 6. It's a cheerfully appointed space with large photos of striped beach cabanas. Rattan lounge chairs and cocktail tables are inviting on balmy afternoons.
A small outdoor pool (three or four strokes should get you across) is on Deck 6, aft. Stairs lead from the pool area to a pool bar and sun deck above on Deck 7. There's also a pleasant terrace on Deck 6, forward, off the Observation Lounge.
Reception and excursion desks are on Deck 3. A pleasant alcove off the Observation Lounge on Deck 6 has a couple of game tables and a chess set and other board games. A small lending library there contains a roughly equal number of books in French and English. Two computers are available for passenger use.
La Boutique on Deck 3 stocks Ponant logoed T-shirts and other apparel.
Le Studio on Deck 5 displays updates of the latest photos taken by onboard photographers. Cruisers can buy individual images or a best-of-trip selection. An hourlong video of trip highlights is also available for purchase at the end of the sailing.
The ship has no passenger laundry facilities but does provide laundry service for a fee.
Spa facilities on Deck 5 include three treatment rooms for facials, massages and scrubs, plus a hair salon. There's also a steam room and adjoining shower but no locker facilities or dressing room.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the small gym let you take in the view during your workout. The space has five stationary bikes and three treadmills, a weight machine, stability balls and yoga mats.
Minimum age for children is 3 on regular cruises and 6 on expedition sailings. The number of children depends on the time of year and cruise locale. The ship has a small Kids Club with board games, puzzles, books and video games. Programming relates to the ports of call and includes cooking workshops and outings to nearby beaches.