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Le Soleal Review

-- / 5.0
Editor Rating
77 reviews
1 Award
Le Soleal
Editor Rating
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Overall

Launched in 2013, Le Soleal is the third in a series of four 264-passenger, 10,600-ton cruising yachts commissioned by Compagnie du Ponant. 

Originally French-owned and, at one point, aimed almost exclusively at the French market, the company was acquired by cargo giant CMA CGM in 2006 and then sold on to pan-European private equity investor Bridgepoint Capital in 2012. Over the last few years, and particularly with the launch of these three new ships, the line has been targeting a much more international market with considerable success. The essence of the product, however, remains unchanged under the new owners, with a family-run feel and a strong French influence throughout the ships.

Le Soleal, is, without a doubt, a stunning vessel, with sleek lines and an unusual dark-grey hull that makes it stand out in port. The interiors are like those of a minimalist boutique hotel. Everything is taupe, cream and white, with emphasis on luxurious textures, from leather-fronted white drawers in our cabin to taupe silk cushions on the bed. Black-and-white Philip Plisson photo art lines the corridors. A cascade of glittering Swarovski crystals lights up the small atrium. The whole package is unashamedly French: it's chic, the service is a little arrogant at times, and the passengers are a well-heeled, savvy crowd of experienced travelers.

What distinguishes this shis from other luxury vessels is their adventurous itineraries. Le Soleal is all ice-strengthened, so they can sail to Antarctica and the Arctic, destinations that are mixed up with off-the-beaten-track European itineraries, as well as Asia and South America. Each carries a fleet of Zodiac landing crafts for getting ashore and for sightseeing in remote locations. There's a strong emphasis on coastal cruising, with long days in port, overnights and late departures, so you really feel you're part of a destination, rather than just calling for a day.

Compagnie du Ponant operates a complicated pricing policy and is moving toward all-inclusive drinks, but at present that's only for certain markets. For the U.S. market, the fares are already all-inclusive. For the U.K. and European markets, wine and soft drinks with meals are included, and there's an optional all-inclusive upgrade of £210 (for Brits) for a week. There are, however, plans afoot to make all pricing drinks-inclusive.Wi-Fi on the ship is complimentary. 

Pros

Le Soleal's small size enables it to reach smaller, way off-the-beaten track ports of call

Cons

Ship has a decided French air, which might not appeal to all North Americans or Australians

Bottom Line

Upscale, small ship experience with maximum time in port

About

Passengers : 264
Crew : 140
Passenger to Crew : 1.89:1
Launched :
Shore Excursions : 99

Fellow Passengers

Clientele varies dramatically according to the season, with younger families traveling during European school holidays and older couples attracted to the longer cruises to more remote locations. On our Mediterranean cruise in August, about 60 percent of the passengers were French; the remainder hailed from the U.S., U.K., Germany and countries as far afield as Japan and Brazil. Language wasn't an issue. The maitre d' will seat you on an English-speaking table at dinner if you ask, and all the mainly Indonesian crew speak English (often better than they speak French). There will always be English-speaking excursions when there are international passengers onboard, and announcements are made in English, as well as in French.

Several passengers were traveling in extended family groups, and kids ranged from 7 or 8 years old to teenagers. All the children were well behaved, and the teens certainly livened up the dance floor at night.

A word about smoking: All the inside areas of the ship and cabin balconies are nonsmoking. But on my cruise, there were a lot of smokers, and the outdoor bar and the outdoor lounge area behind the Karikal lounge were often places smokers would congregate, including the officers, many of whom smoked. Naturally, this will vary from cruise to cruise, but for anybody who really objects strongly to smoking in any shape or form, it might be worth bearing in mind.

Ponant Le Soleal Dress Code

Dress code is smart-casual with a couple of extra-smart nights (although no rules are laid down). Passengers were seriously chic, and ladies are advised to pack a cocktail dress and some heels for the smarter nights, which brought out the Louis Vuitton and Missoni. The small onboard shop sells designer labels -- Faconnable and Lacoste -- and a fashion show laid one night by the onboard dancers modeling the shop's wares set the sartorial tone. (The shop was, however, barely open, should you have wanted to buy the goods.) There's no requirement for men to pack jackets and ties, although a lot of men did wear summer blazers on the smart nights.

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More about Ponant Le Soleal

Where does Ponant Le Soleal sail from?

Ponant Le Soleal departs from Darwin, Broome, Kobe, and Taipei (Keelung)

Where does Ponant Le Soleal sail to?

How much does it cost to go on Ponant Le Soleal?

Cruises on Ponant Le Soleal start from $3,950 per person.

Is Ponant Le Soleal a good ship to cruise on?

Ponant Le Soleal won 1 award over the years, including Best for Shore Excursions in 2019.
Ponant Le Soleal Cruiser Reviews

Fabulous Cruise in the sub-Antarctic Islands

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Zeddog

2-5 Cruises

Age 60s

Great Cruise to see all the Wildlife & magnificent Scenery

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woody666

10+ Cruises

Age 60s

Beautiful scenery - poor communication in times of huge changes and uncertainty

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marghw

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

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seaproponent

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

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