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UKStephandSteve

New cruisers-Any tips?

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Hi

 

We are going on a ponant cruise in March and wondered if anyone had any advice/ tips on cruising with ponant?

 

Thanks 

 

Steph and Steve 

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It'd appear that one shouldn't set their expectations too high from all I've read (if you read French, have a look at  the French TA site) especially food and the cabin (standard sized ones anyway).  Customer service isn't the greatest either by the looks of it.  Just hope you are not paying too much.  The complimentary drinks and included service charge take some sting way if there are enough sailing days (1/2 of our cruise will be with most on the back end).

 

Which cruise will you be on?  For us, on Le Soléal to Honolulu and Japan.

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We are sailing to Antarctica on Ponant’s Le Soleal next week.  We are very focused on the expedition portion of the cruise.  The small ship experience will be a new for us.  We are going with and open mind.  Its’s a French ship.... at the very least the wine should be good 😀. We will review when we return.  You may want to check Trip Advisor as well.

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Thanks cruising cockroach for your advice. 

 

We are going on Le Boreal from Ushuaia to Valparaiso on 4th March. 

 

Zoomie81, we look forward to seeing your review. 

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16 hours ago, 81Zoomie said:

We are sailing to Antarctica on Ponant’s Le Soleal next week.  We are very focused on the expedition portion of the cruise.  The small ship experience will be a new for us.  We are going with and open mind.  Its’s a French ship.... at the very least the wine should be good 😀. We will review when we return.  You may want to check Trip Advisor as well.

We have just come back from the Great Austral Loop on L'Austral. I intended to do a review but so far, the summer lethargy has set in! I'll just put a few thoughts here.

 

It was one of the best things we have done. We have cruised extensively - probably Oceania being our favourite line. We did not experience any of the problems others have reported on other Ponant ships. (That is not to say they didn't happen - firmly believe that people's experiences can vary even on the same ship.) I also understand that it is how a cruise line deals with problems that is so important. Fortunately, we had a trouble free cruise.

 

We found the food very good. I agree that some of the fish was not as good, but we were very happy overall.  I really liked the more European sized portions which enabled you to have a multi course meal twice a day. The cheese selection alone was wonderful. Breads and pastries were lovely. Great self serve ice cream in the upstairs restaurant. The wine was perfectly acceptable, and they would hunt for one we particularly liked if the daily wine wasn't to our liking. Cocktails were strong. We ate mostly in the main dining room and found the waiters were attentive. The staff were all happy, friendly and helpful.

 

We bought an internet package to begin with. It was very slow, but after a few days, they announced it would be free for all guests and our money was refunded. We were able to check emails etc. But, to be honest, we lost interest in the 'other' world while on the ship.

 

The expedition staff were amazing. We were fortunate to have Florence as our 'leader'. She and her team were up at the crack of dawn every day checking out the best landing spots. We had 15 naturalists on board - all so enthusiastic about their work and areas of specialisation. We had a briefing each day to explain what we could expect. There were also debriefings - helped to refresh what you had seen.

 

We couldn't keep to our original route but our wonderful Captain kept us well informed and showed us the weather charts which explained why landings would have been difficult. He regularly stopped the ship when whales were sighted. We had at least two landings a day. Some of the hikes were more challenging than we were led to believe - probably just showing our age. I had one walking pole and found it very useful for extra balance, especially in the snow when it was so easy to take a small step to the side and find your leg buried up to your knee or worse. The naturalists were everywhere - making sure they could give you a helping hand when needed, and chase off aggressive male adult seals. The baby seals were so curious - they would come right up to you and gaze up with their enormous eyes. 

 

We had amazing weather, especially in the Peninsula itself. Bight blue skies, no wind - picture perfect most of the time. There were plenty of wildlife experiences everywhere we went. The winds were over 100km hour in Drake Passage but I didn't find it a problem. 

 

We met many people on board who were frequent Ponant travellers. They all commented on the friendliness of the French passengers on this trip compared with other cruises they had done.

 

If we win the big lotto tonight, I'll be back in a flash!

 

Areas for improvement - the flights to and from Ushuaia. With everyone toting expensive photographic gear, it was a bun fight trying to get overhead locker space. The crew were trying to make passengers put their carry ons in the checked luggage compartment without much success.The planes were not very comfortable. There appeared to be only one toilet on the flight to Ushuaia. No galley - just a drink and a package of either salty of sweet biscuits. Most people had been up very early to catch this flight so it was a long time before a proper meal. Ponant provided us with a boxed lunch for the return flight which was really appreciated. 

 

Then, on our arrival back in Ushuaia, probably 20 of us found our bags had not been loaded. We had to wait for the next flight to arrive. There was great confusion here as one official said bags would be delivered to hotels when they arrived and another said there were no night deliveries. We chose to wait and it was probably round 10.00pm (4 hours later) when our bags arrived. Some people had connecting international flights or early morning flights next day. This seemed to be a common problem with Latam flights as we watched many bewildered people on following flights go through the same process.

 

I really hope you have a similar experience. So much is dependent on the weather. However, the Captain and naturalists will work as hard as they can to make sure you have the best possible opportunity to experience Antarctica in all its glory.

 

 

 

 

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WE were also on the Austral Loop cruise with Charlie Chan and I heartily agree with him. The expedition team was awesome and the captain and Florence worked seamlessly together to give us an experience in Antarctica that was absolutely unforgettable.

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Thanks so much for the useful information!

 

Surfcitygirl and Charlie Chan, could you tell us what the attire at dinner was?  Is there anything you wish you would have brought but didn’t? Anything you brought you didn’t need? We don’t close our suitcases until tomorrow, so we have time to make a few adjustments.

 

Really appreciate the comments about the flights to/from Ushuaia.  What was the fee for more than one suitcase?  We will plan to bring a bar or pastry with us on the early morning flight and pack accordingly.  Hopefully our bags follow us!

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Another question on what to wear for dinner. When there are formal nights, how formal do we need to be? Black tie, suit and tie or sports jacket? 

 

Thanks 

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I think because ours was an expedition cruise,  people did not dress up as much. There were people who had formal attire. They were in the minority. Most men wore a jacket of some sort and some wore ties.  Ladies in dressy trousers or frocks.  You have a picture taken with the captain, listen to some music in the show room with the official welcome and then everyone goes into dinner. I had black trousers and dressy tops which I wore each night. There were 2 - one at the start and another at the end. There is a set menu on both nights.

 

My suitcase was under 20 kilos when I left home. (I am a good packer and have a light weight 'travel wardrobe'.) That included summer wear for 10 days in Buenos Aires and Rio before the trip. I still had too much in the way of warm clothing. The Ponant jackets are very warm and we were there in early December which was colder than when you will be there. I feel the cold and still only needed a thermal layer for the Falklands and Sth Georgia. I added a fleece for the Peninsula. I had a pair of Aldi snowboarding pants I found on sale at the last moment and with a thermal layer, they were terrific. I had an old gortex shell pair of trousers that worked well for the Falklands when it was still warm. I had a light down jacket which was useful on board and in Ushuaia before and after boarding. BUT - we didn't have windy weather. It was down to -5 at times according to the daily news letters. Most landings involved hikes and you tended to get very warm on these. My waterproof gloves were warm but I couldn't use the camera with them. The merino liners are very handy to help keep your hands warm. 

 

The hardest part for me was trying to take things ashore. I had a water proof sack but there wasn't any way to carry it easily. DH bought one with back straps in the shop on board. It is much easier if you have your hands free in the zodiacs.

 

I did pack a few essentials in my carry on luggage in case of any flight issues with baggage.

 

I'm not sure about the cost of extra baggage. I did read that it was quite reasonable. You may also have your Ponant jacket with you at the end of the trip so that takes up room. Some people didn't take them home. It is a great souvenir but living in sunny Queensland, I'll never get the chance to wear it again.

 

Definitely bring a snack. Our flight left at 8.30 from the domestic airport which was great. Breakfast wasn't available when we left the hotel. We did have a muffin in our room which helped. We had an excursion to the National Park in Ushuaia so didn't have lunch till well after 2.00pm. 

 

Have a wonderful trip - happy to answer any more questions.

Edited by Charlie Chan

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I will write a bit more later.  Wanted to post we LOVED our Antarctica expedition cruise on Le Soleal.  Ship beautiful, food good, crew great, expedition staff wonderful, and Antarctica amazing!  Hints about Ushuaia flights posted here were very helpful.  We would enthusiastically sail with Ponant again!

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On 1/9/2019 at 6:53 AM, 81Zoomie said:

We are sailing to Antarctica on Ponant’s Le Soleal next week.  We are very focused on the expedition portion of the cruise.  The small ship experience will be a new for us.  We are going with and open mind.  Its’s a French ship.... at the very least the wine should be good 😀. We will review when we return.  You may want to check Trip Advisor as well.

 

How was your trip? 

Did you do their pre-cruise stay at the Sofitel in Buenos Aires? 

How were the transfers to/from the airport? 
Did you do the Tierra del Fuego pre-tour?
Do you have any advice for someone going on this cruise?

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On 2/4/2019 at 6:52 PM, 81Zoomie said:

I will write a bit more later.  Wanted to post we LOVED our Antarctica expedition cruise on Le Soleal.  Ship beautiful, food good, crew great, expedition staff wonderful, and Antarctica amazing!  Hints about Ushuaia flights posted here were very helpful.  We would enthusiastically sail with Ponant again!

I've missed those hints - can you tell me where to find them?  Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

Flight hints from BA to Ushuaia.... Get to the airport at least 2 hours early.  Lining up in airports seemed like a national passtime.  We flew to Ushuaia on LATAM.  We each had a large and carryon size suitcase to check.  Each was under 50 poounds.  (We had read the baggage notes in our folder)  our carry ones were not weighed as in common with some International carriers.  No issue, no fees.  Bring some snacks/food for the early morning flight down.  You will only get a bag of crackers on the flight.  It was a pretty normal coach experience.  Upon landing, and after our agricultural check, Ponant took all our bags and we went to lunch at the Hotel on the hill.  It was a really nice buffet lunch with all the wine you wanted.  On the way home try to get on the early flight/charter back.  We were on the later one and were driven to town to wander for an hour before going to the airport.  We got to the airport on the Ponant bus 1.5 hours before takeoff.  We were given box lunches for the flight back.  We were at the end of a LONG check in line.  Our return flight was on Aerolinas.  We watched several folks have to go to a separate window and pay for extra bags after they checked in.  We also watched a couple of folks turned away from the counter because their bags were either too big, too heavy, or to many.  Now these Ponant passengers were pulling items out of their suitcases and filling sacks, pillow cases, etc.... and hauling them with them.  Apparently LATAM and Aerolinas have different baggage rules.  When we finally got to the counter (30 minutes before takeoff) they checked our bags 😁, but we had to go to the other area and pay.  We gladly paid the equivalent of $30.  I have no idea what it was for.  I suspect Aerolinas May have a 50 pound total limit. When we got to the security line it was 20 minutes before takeoff. We got to our seats at takeoff time.  I was stressed. The poor people who were schlepping their extra clothes from their luggage were frazzled and boarded last.  After the easy low stress departure on LATAM, we felt somewhat “set up” on the return.  Ponant could do much better in pre cruise information sharing.  And finally, when flying home.... get to the airport EARLY.  We arrived at EZE 3.5 hours early and there was already a line.  We had to wait for the Delta counter to open, but the line was a mile long behind us.

 

Ponant didn’t tell us they offered a transfer between the national airport and EZE.  If we had known, we would have gotten on the early flight and booked a return flight that evening.  We stayed an extra day in BA on the return and left the following evening.

 

We did not do the National Park tour.  We were glad, it rained.  We made our own reservations pre and post cruise.  Pre cruise we spent 3 nights at the Curio Alsemo by Hilton.  It was in a great location by the markets and a great little plaza.  We did the free walking tours where you tip the tour guides and they were great.  It is a very walkable city and the US and EU currency goes a long way.  We felt very safe, there is a lot of police presence.  The food and wine is very good.  The people are very friendly.  English is not spoken everywhere, but almost everyone will take dollars due to the inflation of the Peso.  Definitely go to the Opera house, Ricelleto Cemetary, and the Old Harbor Puerto Morales area, and eat some ice cream!!!

 

if you get in a cab make sure there is a meter and it is running.  One cabbie tried to charge us $50 USD and we just said no and ended up paying him $30 USD.  It was about $40 USD to get from EZE to the hotel in BA when we first arrived.  We took a walk up car service at the airport. Cabs arouns town were very inexpensive by US standards

 

We cannot say enough great things about the Soleal’s ambiance, crew, and expedition staff.  They were awesome 👏.  We loved the small ship and all our interesting fellow passengers, 60% French, 35% English speakers, the rest a mix of German and other languages.

 

The red jackets were warm, comfortable, and waterproof.  The boots provided excellent traction.  I brought folding walking sticks.  I wish I brought one on most of the landings.  I only used them once.  I should have used them more.  Layers are key.  Some days we used 2, some days 3.  Make sure you have good gloves, neck gator you can pull up, and a hat.  The wind was wicked on occasion.  Fleece lined leggings and fleece tops worked well.  Tall ski socks for the boots.  Someone recommended tall Hunter boot liners. 👍 I used them over my socks and stick on foot warmers and walked to the assembly area in them.  It was a great hint.

 

I’d be happy to answer any other questions about the cabins, sites, weather etc...

Edited by 81Zoomie

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On 1/9/2019 at 6:43 PM, UKStephandSteve said:

Thanks cruising cockroach for your advice. 

 

We are going on Le Boreal from Ushuaia to Valparaiso on 4th March. 

 

Zoomie81, we look forward to seeing your review. 

 

So how was Le Boreal StephandSteve?

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