Our group of travel agents on board having fun along with
Kathy Johns - at right - foreground.
before setting sail from Canada Place in YVR
Le Boreal’s Lounge
typical stateroom onboard Le Boreal
welcoming committee of playful seals and 2Blue Whales hailed our arrival in
Francisco and the
iconic Golden Gate bridge appeared off our bow as our FrenchPonant yacht, Le Boreal
drew closer to her maiden call on this notablecity.
A few days before, along with a group of Canadian and U.S. trade
partners, we had left Vancouver, passing
under the Lion's Gate Bridge on
our repositioning cruise down the coast.
The ship has now sailed on to Carmel and Monterey,
on her way to the Sea of Cortez before she docks in Acapulco.
Le Boreal, a
5 yr. old
beautiful and elegant yacht with
a capacity of 264 guests (199 in Antarctica) exclusively
in outside suites and staterooms,
has journeyed from spending the summer in Alaska and
making her way down to
time for her “summer” series of Expedition cruises. Le Boreal is an ice-class
ship. There is also very little movement or vibration and the yacht sailed
beautifully through some rather wild seas at one point on our short
journey. This is also a green and clean cruise line where great emphasis
is placed on ecologically appropriate fuels.
This was my 1st sailing on Ponant (although my 165th
cruise) and I was on the voyage with our lovely host Kathy Johns, Director of Sales
for Ponant as well as Ponant team members from their NYC office.
The mandate of the brand is to offer “Cultural Cruises and Expeditions”
around the globe with an emphasis on the North and South Poles as well as such
destinations as the White Sea; Japan and the Russian Far East as well as
Africa; Asia; Australia and, of course, Europe. Ponant’s 5 ships sail to all 7
continents and will call at 450 ports in 81 countries in the coming year.
Shipboard amenities include a spacious pool deck with ample sunning area
and a casual Grill restaurant offering indoor/outdoor service along with a pool
bar; an Observation Lounge (with space for card tables too); a Spa, hair salon
and small fitness centre; an elegant main Lounge; a large Theatre (which
can accommodate all guests) and a beautiful main restaurant.
The overall food and service were very good, with lots of choices for
all meals other than a set menu for the Gala dinner. Clearly the emphasis is on
delicious French cuisine and Veuve Cliquot is the ship’s champagne of choice –
and poured often! Most staff in the bars, lounges and dining rooms are
Indonesian or Balinese and absolutely delightful. The reception, spa staff and
Officers are French but everyone is (more or less) fluently bilingual. Announcements
are made in both languages including from The Bridge which we had the
opportunity to tour with the charming Captain, Erwann Le Rouzie - who is a
great story teller and has a great love for Expedition cruising.
The other key point about Ponant is that it is an all-inclusive brand
with an open bar policy on board which includes wine, beer and cocktails as
well as a stocked in-room mini fridge. Premium brands along with specialty
cocktail choices or superior wines may be purchased for an additional cost. All
gratuities (other than for the spa) are included in the fare. On expedition and
enrichment cruises, shore excursions are also included. Other inclusions are
transfers, port charges and taxes. Any onboard charges are in Euros.
The comfortable staterooms and suites are of a reasonable size and
extremely well designed with tons of storage space, robes, a hair dryer, North
American and European plugs, Satellite TV (mostly) a range of in-room movies
and documentaries as well as music, plus Wi-Fi at a realistic cost. The
beds can be a king or twins and the bathrooms have a separate loo - and some
have bathtubs too! 95% of the rooms have a small balcony with chairs and some
also have Nespresso coffee makers.
For the very popular Antarctic and Northwest Passages sailings, there
are 10 compartmentalized Zodiacs for guest use and each will carry about 8 – 12
guests, a pilot and a Naturalist. The Naturalists are from all over the world
and there are usually 10 on each voyage. The expedition and enrichment cruises
do tend to suit travellers who seek intellectual and physical stimulation, are
more than likely baby boomers and those who enjoy the company of
like-minded adventurists. Also there are many voyages (65 or so each year)
where there is no single supplement – a great idea. And another point –
about 25% of the guests who cruise Ponant are 1
st time cruisers
ticking off their bucket lists!
This is a great brand which is beginning to make its mark in North
America and one that should be recognized for the diverse array of itineraries
all the while offering a casual luxury onboard experience.