Camper & Nicholsons built 18-passenger, 291-ton Grace in 1928 in Southampton, and the ship had an illustrious past before Quasar bought and refitted it for the Galapagos in 2007.
The motor yacht and expedition vessel has sailed under many names and many owners -- even drafted by the British into the war effort in 1939. The yacht was decommissioned in 1945, then returned in 1947 to Sir George Tilley, chairman of Prudential Insurance Company. Aristotle Onassis acquired the yacht in 1951 upon Tilley's death.
Two years later Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly (newly Princess Grace of Monaco) sailed the yacht on their honeymoon after receiving it as a wedding gift from Aristotle. Sold to a wealthy businessman in 1958 with stints in the Caribbean throughout the 60's and 70's, the yacht was seized by the Jamaican government in 1983 for its owner's evasion of taxes.
Bought and refitted by a new owner, John Issa, chairman of SuperClubs, the yacht was brought from Montego Bay to Tampa in 1985, then arrived in Negril for the opening of Grand Lido Negril in 1989 and remained there until 2006. The yacht had many suitors, including Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, before it was sold to Quasar in '07.
Nine crew members, two naturalist guides, one cruise director and up to 18 guests comprise the yacht's passengers. The yacht -- named Grace after the princess -- offers two Master Suites, two Twin Suites and five Premium Staterooms of up 200 square feet with private facilities. Public areas include a main salon equipped with a bar. Passengers can eat inside in the interior dining room or outside in the al-fresco dining area. Afterward, you can relax in the front of the boat where the Jacuzzi and sun chairs are located. The sundeck has a bar with open-air seating. Grace's four decks include the Sun Deck, Albert Deck, Monaco Deck -- or main deck -- and Carolina Deck.
The line guarantees one naturalist guide for every nine guests on a full yacht. For family cruises, Grace's Kids Club organizes activities such as star-gazing and movie nights, and child-oriented guides provide tailored learning activities and keep kids' expedition journals. A wide range of board games and movies for children are available in the library. Children's menus are provided during family cruises.
The makeup of passengers on Le Laperouse will depend entirely on whether the ship has full or partial charters onboard (between 25 to 30 percent of all of Ponant's cruise passengers come from charter bookings). The luxury tour company Tauck uses Ponant for both full and partial charters, and those sailings are primarily comprised of Americans, with a handful from Canada, England and Australia. Smaller charter groups, such as a university alumni sailing or a luxury Abercrombie & Kent tour, are also likely to be made up of Americans. The rest of the passengers will be from France, where Ponant is a well-known brand, other European countries or Asia. French and English are both used onboard.
The company notes that it doesn't have an official dress code, although keep in mind that the French do tend to dress up more at dinner than Americans do; you'll likely see them in jackets and nicer dresses on the ship's Gala Evenings. Daily wear is casual and geared toward the destination and expedition activities; dress practically for the weather. If you are cruising in the Arctic or Antarctica, you'll receive a polar parka to wear in your size. Jeans, T-shirts and flip-flops are not permitted in the main dining room.
Gratuities are included in your Le Laperouse fare. Drinks are included in the fare unless you buy premium wines or alcohol, so no need to tip. Spa tipping is at your discretion. The onboard currency is the euro.
Standard staterooms: The Deluxe and Prestige cabins are 205 square feet, including a 43-square-foot balcony. There is one accessible Prestige cabin.
Suites. Suites are more spacious, ranging from 291 to 484 square feet. The Deluxe Suites are 290 square feet, including a 65-square-foot balcony, and have a sofa that can accommodate a third passenger. Prestige and Privilege Suites are 344 square feet and also can hold three people. Suites have walk-in closets.
Light and airy, the al fresco restaurant accommodates all passengers at once for all meals. Buffets feature salads, cheese and sweets, with a la carte entrees served by waiters. There is also an outside area where passengers can dine.
Bars and Lounges
Wi-Fi is unavailable, but if you have an urgent email to send, ask the cruise director. There is internet in the captain's wheelhouse which can be used for emergencies but it might be slow or nonexistent in some remote areas.
Spa & Fitness
Quasar Expeditions accepts children so if you would rather have a kid-free cruise, speak to the cruise line before booking. The ship has no formal programming for kids, but when children are onboard, they will thoroghly enjoy the wildlife encounters if they enjoy snorkeling and walking.