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About garykool81

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    Washington DC
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    Aviation, Cruising, Travel, Politics

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  1. Ah! Yes, you're correct. The earliest cruises available to book on the Ponant site for Le Jacques Cartier currently are the Iceland itineraries in mid-August. Everything prior to that is no longer online, so I am sure those are going to be canceled in exchange for these new France-only itineraries.
  2. I don't believe any more cancellations should be coming, at least in regards to Le Jacques Cartier. She's still in Iceland in August through early September, then back to Europe on these new itineraries that were just published.
  3. My first cruise with Ponant was this past October, so at least since about six months prior to that. They don’t demand it on all cruises, though — just expedition and ocean voyage itineraries.
  4. Not a mistake. They use this for all ocean voyage cruises. We did one aboard Le Champlain in October where we sailed from Boston to Cozumel and hugged the coast the entire time. We still had to visit the GP to fill out the form. Minor inconvenience, but that is their policy company-wide.
  5. This is standard practice on Ponant, and I had to do the same thing (I'm only 38) for my ocean voyage with them in October 2019. It involved a very quick 15 minute visit with my GP, and he gladly completed the paperwork and sent it back. Cost me less than $100 from beginning to end. Surely, this isn't going to break the bank given the cost of any Ponant cruise. This is a precaution they choose to take so as to minimize the risk of inconveniencing others when a health condition severe enough to require diversion of the ship arises, thereby causing other passengers to miss flights when the ship does not arrive in home port on time. Keep in mind that these yachts are not QM2. They sail at a maximum speed of about 13-14 knots -- leaving very little room for error or opportunities to make up lost time. As a point of consideration for your belief that you are in perfect health, allow me to share a personal story from a transatlantic crossing aboard Oceania back in the early 2000s. While we were in the middle of the North Atlantic, a gentleman and his partner, who were only in their 30s, found themselves suddenly in the medical office with the partner in severe abdominal pain that he assumed was just seasickness or food poisoning in the days prior. Shipboard doctors quickly diagnosed him with an internal hemorrhage, but they lacked the operating equipment necessary to correct the medical condition. The ship had to turn north towards Bermuda, racing through an awful storm at maximum speed in a desperate attempt to get within helicopter range for a medical evacuation. We didn't make it in time, and the poor man died from internal blood loss. The doctor and nurses aboard the ship were devastated and took the loss quite personally, let alone the terrible grief endured by the surviving partner for the remaining week we had on the ship that he surely no longer wanted to be on. Surely, all of that would be worth avoiding in exchange for a quick visit to a doctor at home for an annual physical? In terms of privacy, the EU has extraordinarily strict customer and medical privacy laws. Your information isn't being shared with anyone outside of their medical team.
  6. That was probably our only disappointment with Ponant, too, from our recent trip with them. None of the food was "bad" by any means, but certainly not as good as I think one would reasonably expect for the pricepoint that Ponant operates at. I really would have expected meals to be on par with a solid four star restaurant, and instead we found them ranging anywhere from exceptional down to what we would expect in the main dining room aboard a mass market ship. With us both being big foodies, that was a bummer. I made a point of expressing this repeatedly in the guest questionnaire. We loved *everything* else about Ponant. If they could just get the food quality to equal a line like Oceania, they would have really won us over. Curiously, our chef was British for the repositioning cruise from Boston down to Mexico, but it sounds like the inconsistencies remained.
  7. Completely agree! We've never encountered such a strict embarkation policy with timing before. How un-French of them! haha I would imagine that you can show up at least an hour (maybe two) before that time to drop off your bags? I would recommend calling to be safe.
  8. Agreed -- we just sailed on her back in October, and the listed embarkation time of 12:00PM - 1:00PM was precisely stuck to. And, others are correct that the process moves quickly once it begins given how small these ships are. Certainly no point in showing up early unless you enjoy waiting around in airport-style waiting room seating.
  9. Perry -- Glad you enjoyed the ocean voyage, too! We'll definitely consider doing another one in the future. Our next trip with Ponant will be in late August next year when we do a 7-night circumnavigation of Iceland. Really looking forward to that!
  10. That's excellent to hear! This article also seems to indicate that the issue has been resolved, so good news all around! Glad to see that this nonsense with the local government was worked out. https://www.riviera-maya-news.com/le-ponant-cruises-now-disembark-on-mainland-isla-mujeres/2019.html
  11. Quick opinion piece in the Mexican press about this. Apparently, the French government is getting involved and advocating on behalf of Ponant, given that the refusal of permission to operate out of Puerto Morelos by the local government was not legal. Rough translation to English (courtesy of Google) below... https://www.periodicoviaje.com/2019/11/12/violenta-la-ley-api-de-puerto-morelos/ Héctor López Gutiérrez, General Coordinator of Ports and Merchant Marine of the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, sent a letter to Alicia Ricalde Magaña, general director of the Integral Port Administration of Quintana Roo, on November 6. The issue is the Le Champlan cruise ship of the French shipping company Ponant, which has the permits to dock in Puerto Morelos to what hoteliers headed by the Cancun association headed by Roberto Cintrón have opposed. In the document he asks to provide the cruise with the services he needs in Puerto Morelos, because the latter's use regime is public and because in his concession title it is cataloged as a dock for common-use height ferries. Therefore, the official notes, "there is no problem to receive nautical tourism-cruise ships." Ricalde Magaña with one hand on the waist has ignored the law; That is why the French ambassador in Mexico, Anne Grillo, has already taken the issue to the Secretariats of Foreign Affairs and Tourism, whose headlines are Marcelo Ebrard and Miguel Torruco. But by maintaining the ban to dock the cruise in Puerto Morelos, Le Champlan's operating expenses have skyrocketed by having to use Cozumel as an alternative cruise port. In addition to the 200 tourists who pay a thousand dollars a day, they are suffering discomfort and wasting time to visit the Mayan archeological sites that are the purpose of this trip. Those who say that cruise passengers do not generate spills could ask Diamonds International de Cozumel their opinion, which is doing great business. A few days ago, not to go further, a couple of these French acquired earrings that cost 120 thousand dollars. Beyond arguments and against arguments, respecting the law is essential for business and investment and in this case it is not happening. Currency Exploitation. On Saturday the collection at the Los Cabos airport of the 350 dollars of the “exploitation” that the government of Carlos Mendoza imposed on foreign tourists began. From the perspective of the World Tourism Organization it is an unfortunate measure, since the success of this activity is based on free traffic and low tax burdens. But it is a decision with which Baja California Sur estimates to collect in 2020, 490 million that will go to social works and actions such as education, health, sport, security, culture and sustainability. As Mendoza said in his report, the arrival of more people to live in the state has put additional pressure on public finances; the same as the reduction of 2.5 billion pesos annually in federal shares. So the bet is to collect it as efficiently as possible, with electronic kiosks, an App and with the support of the Pacific Airport Group and hoteliers. If the experiment works, we must not rule out that other states join this initiative; which has a risk component and that, in addition, must be executed with great transparency.
  12. Bill -- Yes, this was the ocean voyage (re-positioning cruise) from Boston to P̶u̶e̶r̶t̶o̶ ̶M̶o̶r̶e̶l̶o̶s̶ ̶P̶u̶n̶t̶a̶ ̶S̶a̶m̶ Cozumel. The trip was really quite relaxing and wonderful. We've done a number of transatlantics, so we really enjoy all of the days at sea with nothing to do other than meet up with new friends and stare out at the ocean. We've never found ourselves bored unless we wanted to be, even on a ship this small. I have not previously sailed with Ponant, so I won't have a basis of comparison until we do another trip with them around Iceland next August/September. However, here are a few observations I did make that could be different from the "normal" cruises that are certainly more pricey: - It seemed that staffing had been noticeably reduced, which was sometimes problematic during dining when it took longer than usual for water refills to come, etc. Service was VERY good, and everyone was working quite hard, but it did seem like the service staff was probably cut by at least 1/3 for the re-positioning cruise. - Having not sailed with Ponant before this trip, I am not sure how good their food normally is, but I was left to wonder if they might have cut back a bit for the ocean voyage. Fruits, breads, cheeses, and pastries were all phenomenal on our trip, but the main dishes with meats or veggies were really hit or miss. And, some of them were downright disappointing. Others were amazing. Being a huge foodie, experiencing truly four or five star cuisine on a line that has a French background was something I had been looking forward to. While some of it was great, a lot of it was just good -- overall, not better than what I had previously on lines like Celebrity or Cunard, which was pretty disappointing for a company with rates as high as Ponant. I was definitely expecting better. That said, for $1,800/pp for a week that was all inclusive and included a $250/pp onboard credit, I at no point felt that the price was unfair for what I had received. It was a bargain by all accounts. But, I will certainly be furious if the food quality on our $5,000+/pp Iceland cruise next year is the same as what it was on the re-positioning voyage. - Dress was probably a bit more relaxed than a normal cruise (a good thing in my book). I found that less than 50% of male passengers wore jackets to dinner, and breakfast/lunch were even more casual. Even on the "formal" night, there was barely a black tie in sight -- most male passengers just wore a jacket that evening, many without a tie. I got the impression from Ponant advertising that their regular cruises may lean towards a more formal dress code. It is really difficult to figure out what might be different on these ocean voyages vs. a normal cruise. Where most of the cruise industry stopped cutting back on spending and staffing on these voyages years ago, Ponant up until rather recently offered them as truly "bare bones" voyages -- the shop and spa would be closed for the entire trip, and there was no entertainment onboard. Fortunately, that is NOT the case any more -- the shop and spa were open daily, and there was a small amount of entertainment onboard. Still, we were left with the impression that some cutbacks had been made for sure. Would we do it again? Definitely! For the price you pay for those voyages, which is often about 50% or less of what a normal Ponant trip would cost, it is well worth it!
  13. Jim -- There is a possibility, given the unexpected change, that Ponant will offer you assistance in the form of more formal transfers to the pier in Cozumel, should they still be in a position where they are using it at that time. I would certainly recommend calling them and inquiring. They provided us truly white glove service from the ship to the taxi, to the ferry, on the ferry itself, and then to the taxi to take us to the airport. We didn't lift a bag the entire time, and Ponant paid for it all. Now, that might simply be because the change occurred in the middle of our voyage, but it still is worth looking into what options they can offer to a solo traveler like yourself. In our case, the crew only helped between the ship and the first taxi. Everything else was done by shore excursion contractors that Ponant had hired last minute. There are a number of cruise piers in Cozumel, so I am not sure if they would still be using the same one that we had docked at several weeks ago. However, that pier was ideal for this situation. I've attached a satellite photo showing how close it is to the ferry terminal with a blue line linking the two -- not even a five minute cab ride. We would have chosen just to walk if we had known it was only a few blocks away. The ferry is truly a care-free experience. We've taken it a few times now, including just walking up and purchasing tickets on our own. It is fairly inexpensive, fast, and the interior of the ferry is very modern and nice. There are two companies that operate basically on the same schedule (departures at least every hour, but I believe perhaps even every 30 minutes) starting as early as 7:00AM. The ride from Playa del Carmen, where the ferry docks at the mainland, and Cozumel is only 30-40 minutes. I hope that helps!
  14. Personally, I wouldn't cancel a wonderful cruise just because you need to take a ferry to Cozumel. Chances are that Ponant will cover your cost of the ferry ticket, and it really is an easy 35-40 minute ride on a very fast, well equipped ferry. Certainly not a major inconvenience, IMO. If you're staying in a local hotel at Puerto Morelos, though, I certainly think that you should give them an earful (politely, but firmly) about the major inconvenience they have caused you and the fact that you would not even be staying there had it not been for the cruise ship. The hotel operators need to hear that loud and clear -- the notion that Ponant would somehow hurt, rather than help their business with pre and post cruise stays is absurd and shows a complete lack of business acumen on their part. All that said, we were also denied the ability to use Punta Sam, after the Mexican government had agreed to it the day before, so I suspect there may be some other political forces at play here. While announcing that we had been denied the ability to use Punta Sam as an alternative port, the captain of Le Champlain had used his fingers to make the "$$$$" sign while explaining that there seemed to "be many interests that wanted us to only operate out of Cozumel." One wonders if political interests in Cozumel are ultimately behind all of this, including planting the seed in the ears of hotel operators in Puerto Morelos that cruise ships would somehow hurt their business. It is a bit far fetched, but would make sense if Cozumel is concerned that they will no longer be the de facto port for all cruise ships in the region.
  15. Not sure if anyone was aware of this, and slightly surprised I am not hearing about it anywhere in cruise related news. I am simply cut and pasting my Facebook post on the issue to share things more from an Operations vs. Customer Service perspective. Ponant, in my opinion, handled this wonderfully. There are plenty of examples in life where a company somehow wrongs a customer, resulting in that customer deserving some sort of credit or refund because of their experience. There are also plenty of instances where a customer is negatively impacted in one way or another because of an issue impacting both the company and the customer, yet is completely outside of the company's control and not something that the company bears any responsibility for. During our week long ocean voyage out of Boston aboard Le Champlain with Ponant, the Mexican government without warning rescinded the permission it had granted Ponant three years prior to operate out of Puerto Morelos as a home port for its cruises for the next six months. Worse, they told our ship of 120 passengers, many of whom had already made plans to disembark there, that we were no longer welcome. This information was relayed to Ponant only two days away from our ship's arrival. When Ponant then scrambled to make alternative plans that the Mexican government agreed to that involved anchoring north of Cancun off of Punta Sam, the Mexican government without warning revoked that permission only hours ahead of our scheduled arrival. Once again, Ponant had to scramble for an alternative plan. They tried to ask for permission to anchor off Playa del Carmen instead -- permission denied once more. Finally, the Mexican government granted permission for our ship to dock in Cozumel, an island 45-minutes by ferry off the coast of Playa del Carmen. Our ship increased past its normal cruise speed to maximum power, allowing us to get into port there at 6PM on Friday instead of 6AM on Saturday, as originally scheduled. This allowed immigration officials in Cozumel to come onboard our ship on Friday evening and clear all passengers, thereby allowing us to disembark on Saturday morning and still make our flights out of Cancun -- which was now nearly two hours away instead of 30 minutes as originally planned from Puerto Morelos. This change was operationally catastrophic for Ponant. Imagine everything that the officers and crew had to deal with -- rerouting provisions (food, fuel, toiletry supplies, etc) from mainland Puerto Morelos to an island off the coast. Having to contact all of the incoming passengers for the next cruise to frantically tell them of the change in plans for their port of embarkation. Needing to coordinate changes in plans for arriving and departing crew members. Helping to coordinate truly "white glove" service for disembarking passengers to get them to the mainland and the airport to ensure that no one missed their flights. On Saturday morning, they were left with an empty ship -- no supplies, no fuel, no food for the next week's cruise -- all because of corruption or incompetence of the Mexican government. All of this involved Ponant hemorrhaging cash to do everything they could to make things right for those impacted and to ensure that they could operate their planned future cruises with that ship from that region. The entire staff was undoubtedly working 12+ hour days to pull this all off. To give you an idea of how much effort Ponant put into making us all whole, Ian and I (along with only one other couple that needed to get off the ship as early as us) were personally escorted by a chain of SEVEN crew members and outside contractors door to door from our ship to the Cozumel ferry to our taxi in Playa del Carmen, during which we incurred no expenses and didn't have to lift a single piece of our luggage. Despite all of this, during a shipboard meeting with the captain and our fellow 100(ish) passengers Friday afternoon, a gentleman (unsurprisingly from DC) had the audacity to yell out at the master of the vessel, as if meeting with some politician, that he was demanding "compensation" for the "inconvenience." When the captain calmly explained that this was not something he was currently focusing on, and that he was instead furiously working for the past two days with the crew onboard and headquarters to find a port to dock the ship in and to make arrangements to get everyone where they needed to be on time, the gentleman again yelled at over him, "I don't care if you're busy. I'm busy, too!" You cannot imagine the smile on my face when a German passenger to his immediate left told him, "Shut the f--- up," and the captain proceeded to again calmly reply that if the gentleman wanted to, we could stop the ship and sit here for three hours discussing his compensation, or he could allow the captain to do his job and command the vessel. The captain received resounding applause from all of us. This gentleman from DC is a perfect example of what is broken on the consumer side of our "customer service culture" in this country. He was in no way adversely impacted by an issue that was completely outside of a company's control that he was doing business with, because the company went above and beyond to make it all right for him in the end. Yet, simply because he was cognizant of the fact that everything had not gone as planned, he held his hand out and demanded a wad of cash from a company already losing money to correct a problem they didn't cause. I was thrilled to see our fellow passengers conduct themselves the way they did. It restored my faith in the notion that most of us are fair and reasonably minded consumers who do not take advantage of unfortunate incidents in life and use them as an excuse to extort money from those we do business with.
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