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Linanbob2

Anyone with experience with Ponant in Antarctica?

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Relevant to my previous post, we're currently leaning Ponant as a decent compromise of:

 

  • Ship size (smaller ship equals more chances and longer times ashore??)
  • Comfort (I mentioned the balcony thing, right :))
  • "All inclusiveness" - Ponant seems to cover everything with their prices - gratuities, drinks, trips ashore (I understand some lines charge extra fees?), etc.

All input gratefully accepted.

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Relevant to my previous post, we're currently leaning Ponant as a decent compromise of:

 

  • Ship size (smaller ship equals more chances and longer times ashore??)
  • Comfort (I mentioned the balcony thing, right :))
  • "All inclusiveness" - Ponant seems to cover everything with their prices - gratuities, drinks, trips ashore (I understand some lines charge extra fees?), etc.

All input gratefully accepted.

 

I can't give you a definite "go Ponant" recommendation as I haven't been yet, but after several weeks of similar investigation earlier this year, I came to the same conclusion that Ponant was the right one for us too.

 

In the end, main reasons were:

- They look like nice ships. There is also a "mighty cruise ships" that shows one of their journeys which should give you a pretty good idea of the journey.

- There are cheaper options elsewhere, but they mostly seem like 3 or 4 berth cabins, and we want a twin. The "twins" options on the cheaper ships were coming back higher than Ponant did for us.

- The reasonable prices extended to balcony cabins, and we really wanted a balcony if possible.

 

We ended up booking a trip to Antarctica and South Georgia in Feb 2018. Good luck with your investigations! Try to get some of the early bird offers as they are up to 30% off which helps a lot. .

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I'm not aware of any ships which charge for landings ('trips ashore').

 

You have a couple of recommended links to useful resources on your other thread. Can I suggest that you concentrate on that one thread to avoid us having to flip between the two? Your 'Relevant to my previous post' comment, for example, makes no sense to anyone who has not read the other thread.

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As far as expedition ships in Antarctica go (and by "expedition ships" I mean "ships that allow landings and not only cruise-by), Ponant ships are actually rather large. They have around 200 passengers, which means the passengers take turn to go ashore (as explained in your previous post, see digitl's answer). So that limits your time ashore compared to a ship with less than 100 passengers (honestly, do not even consider ships with more passengers than 200 for this kind of trip).

 

I have no personal experience with Ponant, but I've been on a similar size ship (Hurtigruten's Fram) and the landing rotations are usually a smooth process and you still have time ashore to enjoy. I think that on Ponant, the passengers not ashore are offered zodiac rides, which is also a wonderful way to see landscape and wildlife up close.

 

I have many friends who have travelled with Ponant both in the Arctic and Antarctic and they have only great things to say about them. They have a stellar reputation in these regions, with good captains and expedition teams, very comfortable ships (with a luxury twist, although it seems that the atmosphere on board is still relaxed), knowledge of the area, going all the way to make passengers happy. They also have an open bridge policy if that is important to you. And they are very competitive in price. I would travel with them without a worry (other than the fact that they can be many French passengers and, being French myself, I know that some French passengers can be pretty obnoxious, but if you don't speak French you should be spared this ;) . The language on board is French and English. The ships are sometimes chartered to international companies so less French-speaking and more English-speaking crowd).

Edited by SarniaLo

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After doing research for a couple of years and speaking to a travel agent who specializes in expedition trips, we came to the conclusion that Ponant was for us and have booked on a sailing for January 2018 called "Crossing the Polar Circle" or something similar on Le Soleal.

We had told the agent we wanted to visit Antarctica, Faulklands and S Georgia, balcony cabin, luxury surroundings, high end food and service, great expedition staff, and our budget, and this sailing hit our wish list.

For Antarctica sailings Ponant limits passengers to 199, although the ship can hold just over 200 passengers.

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We are on Le Lyrial in January, so I will do my best to come back with a full report. We booked an A&K charter, so the experience may vary slightly (such as English being the primary language), but I'm sure the service and amenities are the same.

 

I'm in the process of acquiring the essential clothing items now.:D

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We were on a different Ponant ship in 2012. We were very pleased. The 200 passenger size is not a problem at all. I frankly think it is an ideal size considering how turbulent a Drake crossing can be. The guides are top notch and the French meals better than any cruise I ever had.

 

There are usually two boat rides a day: one landing and one ice field cruising. Every day is busy.

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I would be disappointed if every day consisted of only one landing plus 'one ice field cruising' rather than two landings each day with one of them replaced just occasionally by 'ice field cruising'.

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Ice field cruising is in fact a great deal of fun. I remember being so close to a leopard seal that we literally could touch it as it was biting the raft. Of course nobody dared to extend a hand out. There were several other types of actions.

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Ice field cruising is in fact a great deal of fun. I remember being so close to a leopard seal that we literally could touch it as it was biting the raft. Of course nobody dared to extend a hand out. There were several other types of actions.

 

Yes, it's fine, I have done it, but I would not want to forgo a landing every day in favour of a zodiac ride.

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Yes, it's fine, I have done it, but I would not want to forgo a landing every day in favour of a zodiac ride.

 

Agree. Especially since on smaller vessels the average is a minimum two landings per day - sometimes 3. With scenic zodiac cruising being an extra activity. Not a replacement for a whole landing.

 

But that's what people have to weigh up when they choose the bigger vessels with greater passenger numbers.

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We were lucky enough to do Antarctica on Le Boreal on an A&K Charter 3 years ago. The ship is beautiful, comforatble, wonderful French crew - the most important thing to chose is your expedition team. Which is why we went with A&K.

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the most important thing to chose is your expedition team. Which is why we went with A&K.

 

You personally dont get to "choose your expedition team".

 

As most expedition team members work freelance across the majority of the companies and swap and change throughout the season depending on their own desires and the needs of each company - they can change between you choosing an itinerary and the actual departure.

 

Having been on 4 different polar voyages - ALL expedition team members on each were excellent - regardless of where they came from and what company they were currently being paid by.

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As PP has said, you have no control over the composition of the Expedition Team.

 

We have flown out to join a ship with Expedition Team members on our flight, and we have flown out from the ship with different Expedition Team members. The Team is whatever it is, but it will be quality: you don't get paid to be on a team unless you are going to make a valued contribution: there is no room for a passenger (pun not intended!).

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We were lucky enough to do Antarctica on Le Boreal on an A&K Charter 3 years ago. The ship is beautiful, comforatble, wonderful French crew - the most important thing to chose is your expedition team. Which is why we went with A&K.

 

Thanks for that information! I understood what you meant by choosing your expedition team. I'm not a literalist, though.;)

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I'm not a literalist, though.;)

 

Doesn't pay to insult those who are only taking time out of their day to provide actual facts that assist people.

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Doesn't pay to insult those who are only taking time out of their day to provide actual facts that assist people.

 

Not an insult at all. Just different wiring.

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So, we are back from our adventure and it was fabulous. I hope to have a review/diary posted in the next month or so (I'm very slow at those). Here's a stream of consciousness summary:

 

Le Lyrial is a gorgeous ship with a terrific crew. As you can see from my signature, we normally sail on large middle of the pack cruiselines and I really enjoyed the small ship luxury experience (which doesn't bode well for our wallets in the future:eek:). Because of the charter, the primary language was English. The officers, front desk and dining/bar management were French while the stateroom, dining and bar crew were a mix of Indonesian and Filipino.

 

There is a small but serviceable gym on Deck 5, which would have been interesting on some of our rougher days. Also a steam room (the Hammam), a spa with three techs (I didn't visit), a photo gallery and a small shop selling sundries (kept behind the counter), clothing (lots of expedition-related items), binoculars, walking sticks and jewelry.

 

Service was top notch, the food was mostly excellent (even 14 days in when the lettuce was still green even if the bananas were brown on the outside). The dining room had trouble keeping up, however - we prefer to dine on the later side (after 8:00), but found that if we didn't stampede to the dining room, we would be at dinner for 2+ hours. By the end of the cruise we were having dinner in the buffet and breakfast/lunch in the dining room, when the service was much more expeditious. I asked the buffet maitre d' if we were having the "real" Ponant experience and he said, "sort of." On a non-charter, dinner reservations are required for the buffet, but not in the dining room, except for parties of 8 or more. But the menus were typical.

 

We had stateroom 337, the first cabin after the reception area. I wouldn't book it again - although everything in the cabin was in good working order once the seal around the door to the balcony was repaired, there was noise from a distant slamming door that went on all day, every day. I think it was from a galley and the sound carried up through a vent, but it drove me nuts for the first few days (thankfully it didn't seem to happen at night). The front desk dutifully noted the issue and I never heard from them again. Our stateroom attendant, Marylou, was great and kept our cozy cabin clean.

 

We didn't use our balcony much, not surprisingly, but it was nice to have the option. I got some great photos from there without having to deal with somebody's long lens hitting me in the head or getting in front of me just as I was about to take a picture. And it was awesome to see waves higher than the rail during our Drake Passage crossing (one day of lake, 12 hours of being in the washing machine, mostly as we slept, thankfully).

 

I believe that Ponant offers complimentary house wine and beer with lunch and dinner. The charter offered that plus a range of spirits all day. Premium brands were extra, but there was a good range in each spirit - vodkas were Smirnoff, Stoli and Absolut, for example. The mini fridge in our stateroom was stocked with airplane-sized bottles of liquor, still and sparkling water and some sodas. Bottled water was always available at reception.

 

I found the house wines (all French, of course) to be eminently swillable, although I only had the rose and red offerings. DH enjoyed the whites. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of the wine list that was in our stateroom - it featured bottles up to E600 or so. I can't imagine what condition they are in with the pounding they take.

 

The senior officers were out and about the ship, but they didn't socialize with the passengers much that I saw. The Captain threw a Welcome Aboard cocktail party (featuring Veuve Cliquot) and dinner plus a farewell dinner on the second to last night. The Captain has an open bridge policy, but we never made it in there - every time we looked, the red sign was posted. Maybe they saw us coming. We did take a tour of engineering, though.

 

The laundry service was good - the prices were ok and our clothes came back the next day (we would leave the bag in the evening) pressed or folded, on wooden hangers and the same size as when they left.

 

A&K ran the show - the Ponant Cruise Director went on vacation and the CD for our trip (the fourth of four run by A&K on Le Lyrial) was an A&K employee, as were all of the naturalists and expedition leaders. Even the future journey consultant was A&K; I'm not sure that we could have booked a Ponant cruise if we'd wanted to. The onboard experience was all about our destinations (Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica), with up to four lectures per day on varying subjects from geology to wildlife to photography to Ernest Shackleton. We also had a pre-dinner Expedition recap/what to expect tomorrow meeting every night.

 

Entertainment (other than the wonders we saw at every turn) was limited: There was a movie shown every night after dinner, and each one had a theme relative to our adventure, from "Thatcher" (starring the overrated Meryl Streep:p) to documentaries about Antarctic explorers to Eight Below (starring Paul Walker) and Madagascar. I didn't stay up for any of them. The ship had a couple of singers and a wonderful pianist, all of whom provided background music in the lounges. We did dance a couple of times because we wanted to.:D

 

We had two landing groups that alternated early and late departures (other than in the Falklands and Grytviken, where we could go ashore at will). Our time off the ship once we got to South Georgia, including the Zodiac transfers, was up to 2 hours. The transfers were never more than 5-10 minutes each way and getting off the ship was managed very efficiently. For us that was plenty of time - we got to see what we wanted to see without having to rush and fall over our fellow red penguins. There were excursions in the Falklands (DH did the Battlefield tour and I visited a working sheep farm), all included in the trip (we were there all day so had time to explore on our own). We had Zodiac excursions at Elephant Island (our itinerary changed because of storms so we had that instead of a third day in South Georgia) and Salpetriere Bay. Otherwise we had two landings each day.

 

I had some issues with the land portion of the trip - we booked the full Monty starting with being picked up at EZE by A&K and ending there after the cruise - so, if we are fortunate enough to go again, I will book us independently to Ushuaia and pick up the trip from there. A&K gives a credit for some unused items, such as the charter flight - not all companies do.

 

Also, I don't know if I would book directly with Ponant for this itinerary - I don't speak much French, and I don't see how they would have time to have lectures in multiple languages, as there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything twice. But I never say never. The A&K staff were so awesome that I would really like to do with them again.

 

I'll be revising my signature in due course, since this trip bumped the Galapagos to second place.:D

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Just returned from 16 nights aboard Le Soleal. Big plus were our stops on South Georgia Island( that's where you really experience wildlife). Ship was very comfortable with only 200 passengers maximum for Antarctic "Expedition".

 

We selected a mid ship cabin on deck 5 and it was a good choice( the bridge is on deck 5 and there is an open bridge policy) Key is mid-ship as you will experience some period of rough seas. Passengers about split with 80 French /80 Aussies with 21 Americans, rest from all parts of the globe. As this is an "Expedition", safety is the key and no specific stops are guaranteed.

 

Food, free beverages (hot and alcoholic) and entertainment all exceeded our expectations. Laundry service, TV options, and internet all workable benefits. Ship provided boots and parkas which made packing easy. The only major change I would explore would be to see if there was an option to fly to Ushuaia independently one of two days prior to embarkation. That first day with very early flight from Buenos Aires was very long and tiring.

 

Follow expedition clothing packing tips especially the water proof trousers or overpants. A must for the numerous zodiac rides and landing. Were surprised that many people brought clothing for the "Black and White" semi-formal night. Approximately 80% of men had a coat and tie. Not to worry as the buffet on deck 6 did not have a dress code beyond sensible. Overall very satisfied with the experience and value we received. Will answer your questions LTCUSARMY at aol.com

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Just returned from 16 nights aboard Le Soleal. Big plus were our stops on South Georgia Island( that's where you really experience wildlife). Ship was very comfortable with only 200 passengers maximum for Antarctic "Expedition".

 

We selected a mid ship cabin on deck 5 and it was a good choice( the bridge is on deck 5 and there is an open bridge policy) Key is mid-ship as you will experience some period of rough seas. Passengers about split with 80 French /80 Aussies with 21 Americans, rest from all parts of the globe. As this is an "Expedition", safety is the key and no specific stops are guaranteed.

 

Food, free beverages (hot and alcoholic) and entertainment all exceeded our expectations. Laundry service, TV options, and internet all workable benefits. Ship provided boots and parkas which made packing easy. The only major change I would explore would be to see if there was an option to fly to Ushuaia independently one of two days prior to embarkation. That first day with very early flight from Buenos Aires was very long and tiring.

 

Follow expedition clothing packing tips especially the water proof trousers or overpants. A must for the numerous zodiac rides and landing. Were surprised that many people brought clothing for the "Black and White" semi-formal night. Approximately 80% of men had a coat and tie. Not to worry as the buffet on deck 6 did not have a dress code beyond sensible. Overall very satisfied with the experience and value we received. Will answer your questions LTCUSARMY at aol.com

Thank you for taking the time to write this post. We are on this ship next January and it is good to read of your experience.

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We were on the same voyage as CincyAL and do not hesitate to recommend Ponant.

 

It must be remembered that expedition cruising is precisely that--every landing is dependent upon water, wind and weather.

 

Our expedition team arranged a zodiac tour in the Melchior Islands (in the Brabant Strait) on the evening before we had been due to start our expeditions--a nice bonus. Landings at Port Lockroy, Neko Harbour and Deception Island went without a hitch. On our third day the team had intended to cruise through the Antarctic Sound ("iceberg alley") but the weather conditions in the morning made it impossible.

 

But every expedition you lose presents an opportunity, for abandoning the Sound allowed us to land at the South Orkneys--islands at which no Ponant ship had landed before, and which provided us with exceptional opportunities to view macaroni penguins, to walk on a glacier and to see significant hanging glaciers.

 

The passengers were roughly evenly divided between English and French speakers (with a small group of Germans who had the services of a German speaking naturalist to provide them with dedicated briefings). Every lecture was presented twice (though not always on the same day). Even expedition briefings were presented twice. The outstanding expedition team included a wide range of expertise.

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After doing research for a couple of years and speaking to a travel agent who specializes in expedition trips, we came to the conclusion that Ponant was for us and have booked on a sailing for January 2018 called "Crossing the Polar Circle" or something similar on Le Soleal.

 

We're also on this sailing. Looking forwards to it.

Good to know there are some other English speakers on board. We could share a beer and try to decipher accents.

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We're also on this sailing. Looking forwards to it.

Good to know there are some other English speakers on board. We could share a beer and try to decipher accents.

So nice to hear. There is a very tiny roll call established, in case you want to sign up. Also, my email is home(at)terryandmike(dot)com

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