Jump to content


  • Posts

  • Joined

Everything posted by cboyle

  1. @maroon cruiser and I have done three expeditions with Ponant, two to Antarctica and one to the Chilean Fjords. We have not done any expedition or exploration cruises in the Caribbean. However, we have taken a Ponant gastronomy cruise in Europe. Compared to a "regular" Ponant cruise through the Greek Isles, the focus of the gastronomy cruise's onboard experience and excursions was much more on food and wine. Here is the link to our review: https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=700292 Hope that helps! Carolyn
  2. @Peterian, you may want to read the reviews of Ponant's Japan cruises that are here on Cruise Critic (https://www.cruisecritic.com/compagnie-du-ponant-japan-cruises_cl132-de213/mra/). There are only nine and, as typical for most cruises, very mixed. @marooncruiser and I will be taking two cruises on L'Soleal back-to-back in May: "The Best of Japan" and "Cultural and Natural Treasures of Japan by Sea – with Smithsonian Journeys." As is our wont, we will be writing detailed reports after we return and publishing them here on Cruise Critic.
  3. cboyle

    Ponant Bonus

    I think you can only get the First Time Cruiser OR the Referral Bonus, but I think they are the same amount. I think all of the rest of them can combine, but you will have to ask to be sure. I am not an expert on this. Another discount I have gotten is the wedding anniversary discount if you cruise in the year of your 5th,10th, etc. anniversary. I had to provide a copy of my marriage license. I have a Ponant Personal Cruise Consultant who adds extra OBC. Some travel agents may kick back part of their commission if you use them. You need to shop around and ask.
  4. cboyle

    Ponant Bonus

    As far as I can tell, Ponant does not have sales like Celebrity or Princess, where the price goes down as the ship fills up. On the contrary, the Bonus goes down and the price goes up as time goes on, so it is advantageous to book earlier rather than later. Not to mention that the ships often sell out. They do have occasional sales (like the Holiday Sale) that offer an additional discount above the current Bonus. I do not think you could add that to an existing booking, but may have to rebook. If you book a cruise while onboard, there is an additional 5% discount. If you know someone who has cruised with Ponant, they can refer you; both you and they will get OBC. I believe it is the same amount as the New Guest OBC and that you can only claim one or the other. Hope that helps.
  5. cboyle

    Ponant Bonus

    I should mention that there are other discounts, such as for your first cruise, back-to-back cruises, etc. Also, if you have loyalty status with another cruise line, Ponant offers status matching. https://us.ponant.com/benefit-from-the-status-match?_gl=1*18pzext*_up*MQ..&gclid=CjwKCAiAiP2tBhBXEiwACslfnunedvPTAxXY8dGlNQUz9_EztJ3q5rOUQrpNjVJxhtZraNMHdAmRpBoC_L4QAvD_BwE
  6. cboyle

    Ponant Bonus

    Yes, the prices on the website and in the brochure show the discounted price. https://us.ponant.com/frequently-asked-questions?_gl=1*1pfk0o4*_up*MQ..&gclid=CjwKCAiAiP2tBhBXEiwACslfnunedvPTAxXY8dGlNQUz9_EztJ3q5rOUQrpNjVJxhtZraNMHdAmRpBoC_L4QAvD_BwE What is the PONANT Bonus? The earlier you book, the more advantageous your rates will be thanks to the PONANT BONUS, a reduction of up to 30% on the price of your stateroom or suite. This promotion decreases as the cruise fills up. Find out more about the PONANT Bonus here. Are the rates displayed on the site calculated based on the PONANT Bonus? The rates displayed on the site are updated in real time according to the evolution of the PONANT Bonus.
  7. There are lots of boots available to try on. Just try several pairs until you find the size that works best with your heavy socks. Don’t stress about this!
  8. Listen to what @81Zoomie said above or what @AussieBoyTX said in his reply to you (https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2972324-antarctica-on-laustral-help-needed-questions/#comment-66378058). They are telling it like it is.
  9. We cruised to Antarctica on L'Austral's sister ship, Le Soleal, in February 2020. This was our first cruise with Ponant, so I wrote an extremely detailed (some might say tedious) trip report on our experience. It is posted here on Cruise Critic: www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=680008
  10. We haven't been to Cartagena since 2011 (on a Panama Canal cruise), but this is what we did last time. OCT 7 (FRI) CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA (ARRIVE 8:00AM, ALL ABOARD 1:30PM) We had visited Cartagena on a previous cruise. On that visit, we took the ship’s “Best of Cartagena and Fortress” tour. That tour made photo stops at all the main sights of Cartagena, but did not allow much time to explore the fortress or the city walls. We were the first independent passengers to make it out of the port area. Just outside the shops at the cruise ship terminal are tour guides and a bit further is the taxi line. The posted amount for a taxi to the Old City was $15 USD and the price for a trip to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas was the same; perhaps you could negotiate a lower fare. The driver tried to talk us into letting him wait for us at the Castillo and then taking us to the Old City, claiming it was too far to walk to the Old City from the fort. However, we wanted to walk atop the city walls to reach the historic section. It took nearly 30 minutes in heavy traffic to make it to the Castillo. The cost to enter the Castillo is C$16,000 pp, which only equals about $8-9 USD. However, if you pay in USD, the actual charge is $10 pp. There is also an audio tour for rent; we did not do that. We bought our tickets and headed up the long main ramp of the Castillo. There are vendors and panhandlers along the way, but that did not pose a big problem for us. Once up the ramp, we climbed all over the various levels of the fort and enjoyed excellent views of Cartagena. We had the fort almost to ourselves; there were only two or three other couples and a few guards scattered strategically around. Eventually, the tour buses from the ship arrived. Even though it was still early in the day, the sun was already getting hot. By the time they made it to the top of the ramp, some of the tour participants looked in pretty sad shape --- and this was just their first tour stop! In addition to great views, the Castillo has a warren of underground tunnels (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_San_Felipe_de_Barajas#The_castle). We explored a few of the shorter ones, and finally found the main entrance by following one of the tour groups into the maze. We took a parallel side tunnel and caught up to the tour group just as they were deciding they did not want to go down the main tunnel and instead wanted to return the way John and I had come. That was probably a wise decision for them as the ramp was steep and slippery in spots. We continued down and down, finally reaching an area where the floor was flooded; we may have been below sea level there. Also, the tunnels were not lighted beyond that point and, although we had brought flashlights, we were not inclined to go wading. We climbed back up, which was actually easier than going down, and explored a bit more. Before we left the fort, we took several pictures with a young man dressed up in a colonial military uniform ($2 tip). He was also playing an eclectic assortment of tunes (e.g., “Sounds of Silence,” “Strangers in the Night,” “Blue Danube Waltz”) on his trumpet. After about an hour at the fort, we crossed the Puente Heredia to begin a walking tour of Las Murallas, the city walls. Although the walls begin right at the city side of the bridge, that section is not accessible. We walked along Avenida Carlos Lopez (a major thoroughfare) to Calle San Pedro Martír, where another bridge crosses from the mainland to the walled city. Here we had to cross the street to reach the ramp to Baluarte de San Pedro Martír (St. Peter the Martyr Battery). Looking back from the battery, we had great views of the fort and also the Monumento a la India Catalina, which stands atop a pillar in the traffic circle at the foot of the bridge. Catalina was an Indian woman who served as a translator for Pedro de Heredia when the Spaniards arrived in Colombia; a smaller, gold version of her statue is the Colombian equivalent of “Oscar.” From here, we walked counterclockwise around the walls to the Old Town. Only about 2/3 of the walls are accessible to walkers and the distance is about 1-1/2 miles. The walls range from 20-30 feet high and 10-30 feet thick, putting you nicely above the traffic and providing good views of the city streets and the Caribbean; there was only one section where we needed to descend and walk a block or so before re-ascending. The walls are punctuated by batteries, each named for a saint, and most have cannons. We passed a derelict bull ring (Circo Teatro), the Fortifications Museum, Las Bóvedas (formerly dungeons, now shops), Teatro Heredia, and other sights. We finally had to end our walk at the Baluarte de San Francisco Javier; the ramps to the remainder of the walls are gated, perhaps because the walls are too close to the Alcaldia (mayor’s office). We walked behind the Naval Museum, the St. Peter Claver Church/Cloister/Museum, and the Modern Art Museum to the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), where we forgot to stop at the Tourist Information Office to pick up a better map than the one we had printed from the Internet. From here, we walked to the Plaza de los Coches, where we would start our walking tour of the historic area. Everywhere we went, there were many pieces of public art --- both historical monuments and modern metallic sculptures. Although there were vendors and panhandlers, we were not bothered excessively. Perhaps they felt that the tour groups from the ship provided easier targets. There are several good web sites with ideas for walking tours and descriptions of the sites of the Old City (www.cartagenainfo.net/mapas/caminando/flash/english.htm, www.lonelyplanet.com/colombia/caribbean-coast/cartagena/sights). People who taxi straight to the Old City are dropped off at the Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate); this is the only remaining original city gate. Atop the gate is a four-sided clock tower. This gate leads to the Plaza de los Coches, where one can engage a carriage for a tour through the historic area. From there, we walked back towards Custom Square, continuing on to Plaza de San Pedro, and passing the front of the buildings we had passed behind earlier. We had toured the Naval Museum and the St. Peter Claver Church (with the body of the saint in a glass coffin under the main altar) on our previous visit. Now we were in Plaza de Santa Theresa. From here, we walked along Calle Santa Teresa to Plaza de Bolívar and its equestrian statue of the hero of South America. The Palace of the Inquisition, the Gold Museum, and the Cathedral are all adjacent to this square. Turning left on Calle Santos de Piedra and left again on Calle Santo Domingo, brought us to St. Dominic Church, reputedly the oldest in the city. Directly in front of the church is the bronze sculpture Mujer Reclinada (Reclining Woman) by the Colombian artist Botero. She is nude and generously endowed in all dimensions, so she is also known as Botero’s gordita (little fat one). John wondered what the priest must think about having her in front of the church, but I said it was OK because she must be the patron saint of cruise ship passengers. From Plaza de Santo Domingo, we walked along Calle de la Mantilla and turned left onto Calle de Don Sanchoco. That street took us back to the Teatro Heredia and the Plaza de la Merced, which we had seen from the walls. Turning right, we walked along Calle de la Merced, passing Iglésia de Santo Toribio de Mangrovejo. This church is noted for having a canon ball come through a window during an attack on the city during a service, but miraculously no one inside was killed. Turning left after the church, we entered the Plaza de San Diego. This square is surrounded by the Hotel Santa Clara (formerly a Clarist convent), the School of Fine Arts, and many stores and restaurants. From here, we went back towards the Clock Gate, along Calle Chochera del Hobo and passing Parque de Fernandez Madrid. Once back at the Clock Gate, we exited the walled city and walked along the waterfront (Calle del Arsenal) of the old port of Cartagena. There are two large bronze sculptures, Los Pegasos, of a winged horse family at the head of the bay. By now, we were ready to return to the ship, so we found a taxi ($10). Back at the port, we discovered that the park-like area around the cruise terminal contained a number of birds such as macaws, flamingoes, and a peacock. Like any good theme park, the only exit to the cruise ship dock was through a gift shop. Our entire excursion took about 3-1/2 hours and we probably walked about 4-5 miles.
  11. We have used Defrantur (https://www.defrantur.com/ingles/) for tours and transfers in Buenos Aires three times. In 2011, they picked us up at EZE and we did a private tour of BA, tour to the falls, winery tours in Argentina, crossed the Andes on a bus, city tour in Santiago, winery tours in Chile, and were delivered to the cruise port in Valpariaso. During the cruise, Defrantur organized shared (with other Cruise Critic members) shore excursions in BA and Montevideo. Our cruise ended in Rio, so we had to use a different company there for a tour and airport transfer. This is our review of the cruise with all the details: https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=80603
  12. We have used Defrantur (https://www.defrantur.com/ingles/) for tours and transfers in Buenos Aires three times. Check them out on TripAdvisor; this was our latest review. I would like to give more than five stars! Opinion about Defrantur Argentina Written opinion February 27, 2020 This is the third time we have used Defrantur's services in Argentina and we are still impressed with them. They serve as a sort of tour consolidator that will organize multiple tours for you and provide you with personal services to get to and from those tours. Ricardo and Laura were a real pleasure to deal with and were always attentive to our requests. They provided advice on what was possible during our short stay and what would fit our time frame. One person handled all of our transportation needs during our visit. Juan Carlos picked us up at EZE airport, drove us to our hotel, and then drove us to/from each tour location we had selected with Defrantur. It was perfect and excellent. He made sure we arrived on time for our early morning departure flight from AEP airport. This was a brief stop for us, but in the past, Defrantur has organized much longer trips in Argentina and Chile and even coastal cruise excursions. Once when we had a medical emergency, Ricardo handled all cancellations professionally and easily. We know we can trust this operation!
  13. We have used Defrantur (https://www.defrantur.com/ingles/) for tours and transfers in Buenos Aires three times. Check them out on TripAdvisor; this was our latest review. I would like to give more than five stars! Opinion about Defrantur Argentina Written opinion February 27, 2020 This is the third time we have used Defrantur's services in Argentina and we are still impressed with them. They serve as a sort of tour consolidator that will organize multiple tours for you and provide you with personal services to get to and from those tours. Ricardo and Laura were a real pleasure to deal with and were always attentive to our requests. They provided advice on what was possible during our short stay and what would fit our time frame. One person handled all of our transportation needs during our visit. Juan Carlos picked us up at EZE airport, drove us to our hotel, and then drove us to/from each tour location we had selected with Defrantur. It was perfect and excellent. He made sure we arrived on time for our early morning departure flight from AEP airport. This was a brief stop for us, but in the past, Defrantur has organized much longer trips in Argentina and Chile and even coastal cruise excursions. Once when we had a medical emergency, Ricardo handled all cancellations professionally and easily. We know we can trust this operation!
  14. AFAIK, no cruise line allows visitors onboard, either at the port of embarkation or a port of call, because of security and health concerns. Princess Cruises used to have a program for a limited number of people to come onboard (for a fee) on embarkation day to have lunch and a ship tour. That program was discontinued years ago. Why don't you call Ponant and ask?
  15. cboyle

    Ponant app

    @tashaaa, have you created a "My Ponant" account? Can you see your booking there? Any shore excursions you pre-reserve should also appear there. I am able to use the same login information for "My Ponant" to login to the app. Then I can see the booking and the excursions there. AFIK, the only way you can pre-reserve shore excursions is to contact your Ponant Cruise Consultant. On our last cruise, her booking engine did not allow her to pre-reserve all of the excursions that appeared on the "My Ponant" website. Fortunately, we were able to book the excursions we wanted when we boarded the ship. I have never been able to open the confirmation, invoice, coupon or credit either. I asked my Ponant Cruise Consultant about them and she had no idea why I see them. I have always received an email with all the cruise documents about two weeks before the cruise. The hard copy plus luggage tags arrives by FedEx a few days later. The main thing we use the app for is to see the dinner menus. As @jpalbny noted, it is very buggy. You don't need to do an online check in. Hope that helps! Carolyn
  16. That is not how it worked on the Crown Princess December 22 sailing. I had pre booked the Crown Grill on the first night for our party of 5 adults and a child and my credit card was charged. The morning after we dined, my onboard account had been charged for 6 adults. Guest Services said there was no record that I had paid in advance. GS had to email the Home Office and the new charge was removed the next day. What a hassle!
  17. These are the ones we use. They work great on my Fitbit Flex 4 and my husband's Apple watch. The fit is very tight--no concerns about the Medallion falling out. Just search for "princess medallion holder" on Amazon.
  18. Thanks again to @abbydancerfor posting her "live from." I am looking forward to reading the rest of her posts and I hope others who were on this cruise will be posting their reviews, either on the Princess board or in the "Cruise Reviews" section. Taking my own advice, here is our review: https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=694543
  19. Hawaii Rental Car Issues On this Christmas cruise to Hawaii, we planned to rent cars in our four ports. We had done this on a similar cruise in 2004 and foolishly thought it would be as easy as it was back then. In 2004 car rental agencies had regular shuttles to and from the various ports. Apparently the pandemic has drastically altered this. We saw a shuttle only in one port and that was only for one car rental group. Taxis were also hard to find in some ports as were Ubers/Lyfts. We had to scramble to do our planned touring via car. Here are our individual port experiences. Kauai was our first stop. We arrived two hours late due to sea conditions and the port was a real zoo as far as acquiring our rental cars (two for our six person group since no agencies on Kauai indicated they had minivans or other six-passenger vehicles). There was long line of people trying to get taxis or mall shuttles. We actually saw perhaps two taxis and an occasional shuttle. What we did not see was a shuttle to the rental car agencies (which were at the airport—a three-mile walk) despite the fact that there was a sign that indicated where to wait for them. We tried Uber, but they were not responsive. After a wait of about 30 minutes and trying to decide what to do, a shuttle from Avis/Budget showed up and was mobbed. Our rental was with Thrifty, but we thought we could switch to Avis once we got to the airport since we had not paid anything. Avis had a long line and we could see the Thrifty shop nearby so we walked there. The Avis people were not happy with us. It turned out Thrifty also had a long (and slow) line. Due to personnel shortages, there was no expedited serviced for Thrifty Blue Chip customers (which we were). We eventually got our two cars (about 30 minutes in line). We noticed minivans on the lot, but they said none were available to rent! We collected our groups and did a quick drive to the sights. We returned four people to the port and the two drivers drove back to the airport. The cars were dropped off and again there was no shuttle to the port (except Avis but we did not want to test their anger again). We finally got through to Uber and the driver said he was basically the only full-time Uber driver on Kauai. We also gave a ride to another guy who flagged down our Uber because he recognized the car. We split the cost with him. He had actually managed to get this same Uber (the only Uber!) from the port to the airport for his rental car earlier. Old web posts had indicated that car rental shuttles would be available; the pandemic seems have to have stopped that. Even so, Thrifty had regular and frequent shuttles to the airport (actually just a few minutes away). They could have sent an occasional one to the port for their customers! They told us to take the shuttle to the airport, where we might have been able to get a taxi to the port. What a convoluted set-up! Kauai is gorgeous but we had little time to enjoy it. Hilo was the next port. No agency had six-passenger vehicles according to their web sites, so we again had two cars reserved. Based on our experience in a previous port, we did not expect to see rental car shuttles taking people to airport to find their cars and we were correct. We also did not see a plethora of taxis at this port. Our group of six tried to find one or two Ubers to get to the airport, but Uber could not come into the port area. We walked away from the port to the Keaukaha General Store parking lot. After quite a while, we actually succeeded in getting an Uber, but it could only fit three of us. We decided to take it and return in our rental cars to retrieve the rest of our group. When we got to the airport, miraculously, there was no line. Even more miraculously, they said we could switch to an SUV that would hold six instead of getting two cars. (It turns out this was more miraculous that we knew. Two days later we spoke with other passengers who ended up spending hours at rental agencies at the Hilo airport and could not get a car at all. It seems out timing must have been perfect. Who understands the car rental gods?) Having has enough of miracles, Thrifty did not have information on one of us in their system so the other person got to drive. This was despite the fact that both were Blue Chip members. After our drive, we had to reverse the process of dealing with the car. We dropped four outside of the port and took the vehicle back to the airport. It took a little while to find someone to check us in, but eventually we succeeded. We then got an Uber back to the port with not much effort. We did not see many taxis. There was no hint of any car rental shuttle back to the port. The third port was Oahu. Again, the standard car agencies showed no availability of any vehicles sufficient to hold our group of six. Fortunately, we found Lucky Owl on the web and they had a six-passenger van. Lucky Owl is a family-owned business that rents cars and things like surf and boogie boards. It’s not at the airport like other agencies, but in a light industrial area. They provide a shuttle to and from the airport, but not from the port (none of the standard car places have a port shuttle either). Fortunately, taxis were plentiful at the Oahu cruise terminal, so two of us trundled off to get our car. The vehicle was not showroom fresh, but the people at Lucky Owl took extensive photos and video to document the various dings and dents. They were really professional and nice. After our drive, we dropped four of our group at the port and returned to the Owl. We easily got an Uber back to the port. Of our four Hawaiian ports on this trip, this was the easiest as far as car rental. However, Honolulu has big city traffic to contend with! Our last Hawaiian stop was Maui. Our ship docked in the industrial port of Kahului instead of tendering into Lahaina due to construction work at the Lahaina dock. This was actually better for us. While Lahaina is charming, tendering is a pain and time consuming. Kahului is much closer for driving to the Road to Hana and Haleakala. We had a car reserved with Thrifty (this was the only port we visited where national chains offered a six-passenger vehicle on any car rental web site), but they no longer provide a shuttle to and from the port. We did not know this prior to our trip, but this being the fourth port where we had planned to get a rental, we knew the hurdles. Fortunately, Maui is popular enough that there are plenty of taxis. There was a smoothly operating taxi line at the port (unlike Kauai and Hilo!) and we took one to the airport. There are actually a couple of car rentals places in close walking distance from the port, but we did not care to use them because of bad experiences in the past. On the other hand, there seem to be no good car rental experiences these days. Our taxi driver said we would have to take an airport trolley to the car rental mall, but we could see it as we drove past. We opted to walk/jog on the clearly-marked path to the car places reasoning that everyone of the trolley would be in competition for a spot in line at some agency (probably ours!). This was a good choice. The car places were less than five minutes away with our quick pace. There was already a substantial line at Thrifty and it got longer when the next trolley arrived. As was typical on this trip, there was no benefit to being a Blue Chip member (usually walk up and get in your car!). It took at least thirty minutes to get to the head of the line. Patience is a virtue except when you know the ship will leave you and you have things to see! I was also not happy that the agent tried to upsell me insurance for the car when my paperwork already indicated that my credit card covered that. After all the paper work, they told us to take any vehicle in row nine. There was exactly one SUV in row nine. The rest of our party had to walk some distance from the port to the Maui Village Mall to wait for us since private vehicles are not allowed into the port area. After a nerve wracking traffic jam on our return to Kahului, we dropped off four at the mall near the port and two of us went back to the airport. There were plenty of taxis and we snagged one for our return. We actually recognized some other cruisers on the way back to the port. They were walking back from the car rental shops at the airport. It was probably a two- to three- mile hike. It was doable but would have required valuable time. Car rental from cruise ports is no longer an easy thing to do in Hawaii. Maybe in the future as more workers are hired, shuttles will be available, and lines will move more quickly. Hawaii is such a great place to explore with the freedom of a car, but right now, it can be a difficult thing to do in the limited time of a port call.
  20. I did not see any tour operators offering tours at any of the four ports.
  21. Irene, I had booked the Crown Grill for our party of 6 on the first night and, like you, had prepaid. Nevertheless, 6 cover charges were posted to my account. When I contacted Guest Services, they said they had no record of my prepayment--they would have to email the Head Office to verify my payment. After another day, they confirmed that I had already paid and the charges were removed.
  22. We were also on this cruise and hundreds of dollars of spurious phone charges repeatedly appeared on our accounts. Guest Services said this was a "computer glitch" and that they would disappear by the next day. On disembarkation morning, I checked our accounts and all was in order. However, another "Telephone charge" was added later and I was charged for it on my final statement. I have an inquiry filed with Princess, but It will probably take months to get the refund. We had plenty of other problems with our onboard accounts. For example, one night the assistant waiter brought the wrong wine to the table; we were charged for both that bottle and the correct bottle. Also, my son and DIL were double-charged for drinks (we all had the Plus package). There were some other problems as well.
  23. **For cruises embarking in Greece: The Greek government requires guests to take a PCR test within 3 days of embarkation or an Antigen test within 2 days of embarkation. https://www.princess.com/plan/cruise-with-confidence/cruise-health/vaccine-testing-requirements/
  24. If you wish to tip local guides, they would surely prefer local currency to avoid paying a conversion fee. For Scotland, that means pounds sterling. You many find this link of interest: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/scotland/british-pound-vs-scotish-pound
  • Create New...