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terry&mike

Ponant LeSoleal, Jan 23-Feb 8, 2018 Review

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Thank you so much for your review, I’m looking into booking Ponant for the exact same itinerary to Antarctica. I am looking at a few cruise/expedition companies, but would like something on the more luxurious side as this is a huge bucket list for me.

 

How did you find the landings with them, did you feel rushed or was there a good amount of time between all the guests to enjoy? It sounds from your review there were plenty of opportunities to go ashore?

 

 

Also, were there any opportunities to do a “polar plunge”?

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Thank you for your review. You would not happen to have taken a picture of the bar menu? I am curious as to the quality of the spirits and beers.

 

Do they have draft beer on board?

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Thank you so much for your review, I’m looking into booking Ponant for the exact same itinerary to Antarctica. I am looking at a few cruise/expedition companies, but would like something on the more luxurious side as this is a huge bucket list for me.

 

How did you find the landings with them, did you feel rushed or was there a good amount of time between all the guests to enjoy? It sounds from your review there were plenty of opportunities to go ashore?

 

 

Also, were there any opportunities to do a “polar plunge”?

Hello, sorry for the delay, we have been in the Dominican Republic for a couple of weeks.

We found the landings to be fine, with plenty of time onshore to see the things we needed to see, take a bit of a hike, take plenty of photos.

And yes, there were many opportunities to go ashore, to the point that on one of them my husband skipped as he wanted a bit of down time.

I do not recall seeing anything posted or mentioned about a polar plunge, but possibly we did not pay attention to it as it was something we discussed ahead of time that we did not want to risk, given the difficulty of obtaining medical care.

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Thank you for your review. You would not happen to have taken a picture of the bar menu? I am curious as to the quality of the spirits and beers.

 

Do they have draft beer on board?

Sorry, I did not take a photo of the bar menu. Most nights before dinner I had a martini or glass of champagne, and my husband had a scotch. The options available to us were fine. We drank wine with lunch and dinner daily, and found their wines to be very good.

As we are not beer drinkers, I cannot speak to what was on offer, or if it was on tap. Sorry.

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Wonderful review. Thank you. Hate to ask but was there internet access and if so how did you rate the speed and reliability?

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Wonderful review. Thank you. Hate to ask but was there internet access and if so how did you rate the speed and reliability?

Actually, internet in Antarctica was a concern for me, as I work for myself and need to be able to check in a couple of times a day. I bought a minutes wifi plan from the ship, for 180 euros for 1000 minutes, which my husband and I shared, and checked into my email a few times a day. It was similar to any service on a cruise ship if you've experienced this, mostly quite good to slower than normal. There were a few times when there was no service, but it passed quickly. I didn't use it for streaming or anything similar, so can't speak to speed to that, but it allowed me to keep up with what I needed to.

It was a worry I had before I left that became a non-issue.

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Thanks for the fabulously detailed report. We have just booked and paid for Le Lyrial leaving Montevideo on 3 November and visiting South Georgia and Antarctica. Your information about temperatures and weather was great. I have a question about the health declaration form - did you have to visit a doctor to have this completed? I remember when we did the Arctic on Silversea a few years ago we had a checklist questionnaire but don't remember having a doctor fill it out. I got an emailed form from Ponant yesterday that has the health form and it seems to need a doctor's visit. It's a little difficult as it was in French :-)

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Thanks for the fabulously detailed report. We have just booked and paid for Le Lyrial leaving Montevideo on 3 November and visiting South Georgia and Antarctica. Your information about temperatures and weather was great. I have a question about the health declaration form - did you have to visit a doctor to have this completed? I remember when we did the Arctic on Silversea a few years ago we had a checklist questionnaire but don't remember having a doctor fill it out. I got an emailed form from Ponant yesterday that has the health form and it seems to need a doctor's visit. It's a little difficult as it was in French :-)

 

The Health Certificate on Hurtigruten's Fram has to be endorsed by your personal doctor as to your fitness to travel, within 8 weeks of departure. You fill out the answers to the medical questions yourself. You show the Medical Officer on the ship after boarding.

 

Bon Voyage for your cruise.

 

Can you ask Ponant to send the Health Form in English, otherwise can you find the form on their Website?

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The Health Certificate on Hurtigruten's Fram has to be endorsed by your personal doctor as to your fitness to travel, within 8 weeks of departure. You fill out the answers to the medical questions yourself. You show the Medical Officer on the ship after boarding.

 

Bon Voyage for your cruise.

 

Can you ask Ponant to send the Health Form in English, otherwise can you find the form on their Website?

I've just transferred the booking to an agent who I have worked with before. As soon as he takes over I will get him to send it to me. The agent does a fair bit of trade with Ponant so will be able to supply the form easily I am expecting.

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Thanks for the fabulously detailed report. We have just booked and paid for Le Lyrial leaving Montevideo on 3 November and visiting South Georgia and Antarctica. Your information about temperatures and weather was great. I have a question about the health declaration form - did you have to visit a doctor to have this completed? I remember when we did the Arctic on Silversea a few years ago we had a checklist questionnaire but don't remember having a doctor fill it out. I got an emailed form from Ponant yesterday that has the health form and it seems to need a doctor's visit. It's a little difficult as it was in French :-)

Hello! So happy you enjoyed the review.

Yes, we had to visit a doctor to have the health declaration form filled out. I actually filled out most of it in advance, and our doctor just reviewed them, and signed them. We had to return it to Ponant in advance of the sailing, which we did via scan to email (although there is also an email option). Our forms were in English, so I'm sure you'll be able to get them in English once your travel agent requests them, as you mentioned above.

Enjoy your trip!

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Hello! So happy you enjoyed the review.

Yes, we had to visit a doctor to have the health declaration form filled out. I actually filled out most of it in advance, and our doctor just reviewed them, and signed them. We had to return it to Ponant in advance of the sailing, which we did via scan to email (although there is also an email option). Our forms were in English, so I'm sure you'll be able to get them in English once your travel agent requests them, as you mentioned above.

Enjoy your trip!

Very annoyed that the necessity for a doctor to sign the forms (and the detail of the questions which in some cases are well outside what a GP would know about you eg.when did you last visit a dentist, what is your aptitude, physical and endurance, for the cruise).We don't have a regular doctor at all. I expected a health declaration of course but was assuming it would be like the SS form when we went to the Arctic a few years back, detailed but but no doctor needed. As well, I can see doctors refusing to sign as they may be leaving themselves open to litigation if something went wrong. The fact that the necessity for doctor is hidden in the small print of the T &Cs and that the form is not available to view before booking is perhaps the worst thing. Undecided as to what to do now. Had we known before we probably would not have booked.:(

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Very annoyed that the necessity for a doctor to sign the forms (and the detail of the questions which in some cases are well outside what a GP would know about you eg.when did you last visit a dentist, what is your aptitude, physical and endurance, for the cruise).We don't have a regular doctor at all. I expected a health declaration of course but was assuming it would be like the SS form when we went to the Arctic a few years back, detailed but but no doctor needed. As well, I can see doctors refusing to sign as they may be leaving themselves open to litigation if something went wrong. The fact that the necessity for doctor is hidden in the small print of the T &Cs and that the form is not available to view before booking is perhaps the worst thing. Undecided as to what to do now. Had we known before we probably would not have booked.:(

I can't imagine missing out on such a wonderful experience due to the hassle of one document, but we all have different thresholds. Most expeditions to Antarctica require a medical form to be completed by a doctor, it's much farther from civilization than the Arctic is.

We don't have a regular doctor either. We used the internet to search for a doctor who specialized in travel medicine and made an appointment with him, figuring he'd be the easiest solution. The day after we attended this appointment (about 15 minutes total for the both of us), we visited our Dermatologist, who was soooo disappointed we didn't come to him for the form, as he is obsessed with going to Antarctica.

As I said, I filled out the information for my husband and I where I could, which was most of it, (last I went to dentist), and left the subjective ones from a medical professional's perspective (are you physically able to join an expedition cruise) for the doctor. It was not a big deal, he gave us a general overview, asked about medications we were on, and asked a few general health questions. Doctors careers are basically judgement calls on people's health, and continually open to litigation.

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Doctor-signed medical forms are pretty much par for the course in Antarctica. Both companies I've traveled with required it, even when they did not for an Arctic expedition on the same ship.

 

If you don't have a regular doctor, I assume you could just get the forms signed at the same travel clinic you'd use for vaccines or anti-malarials?

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The day after we attended this appointment (about 15 minutes total for the both of us), we visited our Dermatologist, who was soooo disappointed we didn't come to him for the form, as he is obsessed with going to Antarctica.

I very rarely visit my GP, so the majority of my visits are travel-related. Having signed multiple Antarctica medical forms and prescribed gobs of typhoid vaccines, malaria pills, etc. he always seems disappointed when I show up for a "regular" medical issue! Haha!

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Very annoyed that the necessity for a doctor to sign the forms (and the detail of the questions which in some cases are well outside what a GP would know about you eg.when did you last visit a dentist, what is your aptitude, physical and endurance, for the cruise).We don't have a regular doctor at all. I expected a health declaration of course but was assuming it would be like the SS form when we went to the Arctic a few years back, detailed but but no doctor needed. As well, I can see doctors refusing to sign as they may be leaving themselves open to litigation if something went wrong. The fact that the necessity for doctor is hidden in the small print of the T &Cs and that the form is not available to view before booking is perhaps the worst thing. Undecided as to what to do now. Had we known before we probably would not have booked.:(

 

Access to medical help in Antarctica is neither easy nor speedy (it's very different from the Arctic) and self-declaration of fitness to travel there is not a good idea. It would be a pity if you were to deprive yourself of Antarctica because you were averse to having to visit a doctor to review your medical history and have your fitness to travel assessed.

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We had the forms signed and duly sent off though interesting that there was not an auto reply to say they had been received. Whilst I think the on sea experience will be great there have been a few issues with the land based operation, though that seems to be common for most cruise lines I think. :)

In the process of chasing up boots as I have quite a small foot but also a wide calf and the ones provided onboard are unlikely to fit. DH however will have no problems with boots.:)

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Very annoyed that the necessity for a doctor to sign the forms (and the detail of the questions which in some cases are well outside what a GP would know about you eg.when did you last visit a dentist, what is your aptitude, physical and endurance, for the cruise).We don't have a regular doctor at all. I expected a health declaration of course but was assuming it would be like the SS form when we went to the Arctic a few years back, detailed but but no doctor needed. As well, I can see doctors refusing to sign as they may be leaving themselves open to litigation if something went wrong. The fact that the necessity for doctor is hidden in the small print of the T &Cs and that the form is not available to view before booking is perhaps the worst thing. Undecided as to what to do now. Had we known before we probably would not have booked.:(

 

The details in the questions are required because the ships company doctor, in the first instance, ensures in advance that certain items and medications are stocked on board just in case anything happens and the passenger does not bring their own (or perchance luggage gets lost etc). Those items and medications cannot be sourced from Ushuaia and are generally brought down with the team and their supplies at the start of the season.

In the second instance - the ships doctor has the right to refuse boarding of a passenger. So providing them with ample information can assist in this not happening. I have personally witnessed people being refused boarding when it was clear to everyone standing nearby (and not requiring a medical degree) that they must have lied on their declarations! (ie there was no physical way they would have fit through any doorway on the vessel, nor in the single beds!). I have also witnessed the ramifications during a lengthy voyage where the nearest land was 6 days sailing away - where someone lied on their declaration, their existing condition manifested, they had no medication with them, and due to their lies - the doctor was not aware of the need to stock an emergency supply of the very specific medication. That person actually stupidly risked their life. They were basically grounded and made to remain in their cabin for the rest of the month and were not able to take part in any landings. Wasn't that a waste of $60k !

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum I have also met a young woman in her 20s on one of my expeditions who had end stage cancer. She bought a full suitcase of medications which the ships doctor stored for her and treated her daily to ensure that she could have her final trip of her lifetime. He spoke with her treating doctor in New Zealand every second day by sat phone. He also shipped down special equipment for that voyage as a just in case measure for her.

 

Re Arctic vs Antarctic - distance is the major factor. In all locations in the Arctic regions there are nearby towns and airports and rescue helicopters within easy flying distance. This is not the case in the Antarctic.

 

The medical forms are also quite similar to any expedition companies that do Base Camp Nepal trips or African safaris. For certain age groups its also required even for the most basic ocean cruise.

 

It really isn't that big a deal and it is for your own benefit as well as to assist the ships doctor in being prepared for any specific situations. Certainly not worth cancelling a trip over.

 

I don't have a regular GP. I went to my local clinic and saw the one there and explained what it was for. He did a general all over physical and checked my existing records re medications etc and was able to write up the forms for me without an issue. Re imaginary litigation - its your declaration not the doctors. The medical forms for getting a job in my current workplace were far more onerous and detailed and the doctor was still required to undertake their standard role and complete them.

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Hi terry&mike: Absolutely loved your article as it brought back some delightful memories for us. We travelled on Le Lyrial in Feb 2016. Our cruise was the last of the season, finishing off in Montevideo after South Georgia. We didn't get to the Falklands. However, the naturalists were all going home too, so it was quite a party atmosphere aboard towards the end of the cruise.

Ponant is the only cruise line we have ever been on, as the thought of being on a ship with a few thousand of your closest friends did not appeal. We've done now 5 cruises with them and have another 6 booked. Yes, it is a bugger to have to plan far in advance.

We are stepping aboard the brand new ship Le Laperouse, in Iceland in a few weeks time. Hopefully it gets launched on time! Then later in July, we'll be aboard Lyrial again in the Med, sailing around the Greek islands and eventually to Venice. This will be a very different sort of cruise compared to the mostly expedition ones we have done so far.

The Ponant experience for us has been very good. Our first cruise was from Boston to Montreal in 2012. Ponant was still VERY French then, with only us and a few American travel writers as the only English speakers on board. We did get to feel the French snootiness a bit. My 1 year of high school French only helped a little. But, we persevered. Each cruise since then has been much better in that respect, with English speaking lectures and attempts at putting English speakers together on the same Zodiac's. Our Antarctic cruise had almost 50% Aussies. The most recent cruise in Alaska had many English speakers, but Aussies was the single biggest group after the French. A lady from Ponant told me last week that Aussies are the next biggest group of travellers on Ponant after the French. Anyway, rambling on...

Thank you again.

Cheers

 

Hi Wendai,

 

We're booked on 2 cruises on Le Laperouse early next year - I'd be interested in your feedback on the ship from your Iceland cruise?

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Is all alcohol included for free or was there a cost for cocktails and drinks outside of meal times?

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2 hours ago, messej01 said:

Is all alcohol included for free or was there a cost for cocktails and drinks outside of meal times?

On our booking, cocktails outside of meal times were included at no additional charge. They do have different inclusions based on the country you are from though, so may be different for Australia.

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