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lynn-in-nc

Ponant and Le Bougainvillea review

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I just returned from our first cruise on Ponant and wanted to jot down my thoughts before they are gone forever. 😎

 

Our travel agent suggested Ponant last year and I wasn't able to find much information about it - the reviews were mostly negative but they were old and our TA said they had hired new management to help them better interface with the US market.  I want to say first off that we found the crew and all personnel to be exceptionally kind and friendly and very helpful and didn't see any of the problems mentioned in previous reviews.  Most of the restaurant and other service staff are Filipinos and their English is better than their French - we found the French speaking staff to be just as helpful to us as the French passengers.

 

At the beginning of the cruise the French passengers seemed a bit standoffish - I know that Europeans tend to find Americans overly friendly but by the end of the week I had made quite a few French friends simply by attempting to converse with them en francaise.  

 

We splurged for the Suite d'Armateur (Owner's Suite)  to mark my retirement and our 20th anniversary.  We love aft cabins and choose them whenever possible for the privacy These suites (there are two) have a larger deck than the Grand Deluxe Suites and a hot tub but are otherwise identical.  They erroneously put us first in the Grand Deluxe Suite so I had a chance first hand to see the difference which in my opinion isn't worth the extra $$.  The decks are already huge in the Grand Deluxe suites and the hot tub is small and not very deep.  By the time DH and I got in the tub most of the water had splashed out.  I had some other minor complaints - fruit was delivered the first day but not replenished, the bathroom was minimally supplied with toiletries but no Qtips and other amenities that we normally see in higher end suites.  

 

All cabins have nice amenities like Bose bluetooth speakers and US/Europe electric plugs. I don't know about the other cabins but we had a Nespresso coffee maker and a mini bar which wasn't that well stocked, unlike Seabourn which gives you a choice of full bottles of liquor and all kinds of snacks.  The Owner's and Grand Deluxe suites both have jetted tubs with TV mirrors in the wall (we never used it) and a huge window which is also visible from the shower making a shower a premium experience.  Unfortunately there was something discoloring the water so I didn't use the tub even though I was told the water was perfectly safe -it looked yucky.  The bed was super comfortable with deluxe linens. WiFi is free but spotty except in the main parts of the ship. 

 

Breakfast is served either in the restaurant (main dining) or the lounge area - buffet service in both places with the restaurant having a complete selection of anything you could possibly want including French specialties like croissants and crepes.  Lunch offers a buffet/salad bar.  For both breakfast and lunch you can also order from a menu for hot specialties.  Dinners were five course extravaganzas with wines and champagne that were fine but not fantastic (you can order better wines at a pretty high price). There were two gala evenings but otherwise everyone dressed pretty casually.  Even on the gala evenings it was quite a bit more casual than Seabourn which surprised me because the French are usually more dressy than Americans.  We were quite comfortable.  

 

Where Ponant really shines is the itineraries and excursions with a focus on culture and history.  I had planned to set up some private guides for the some of the sites but was concerned that we might end up docking at a site other than what was advertised (we didn't).  It turned out not to be needed because the guides provided by Ponant were really excellent. 

 

DH and I are not that social, but we made quite a few friends on this trip.  Passengers were about 60% French as described elsewhere, with about equal numbers of Australians and Americans, a few Brits and Italians.  Reviews of the ship's entertainment were mixed - if you're very discriminating you might not enjoy it.  There is a not so great selection of movies, but we found a great movie on French Tv the one night we watched. 

 

I would recommend avoiding a cabin on Deck 3 - that's where the theater is and people line up for excursions, shows and other events and it gets pretty busy.   

 

I hope that helps anyone wondering about Ponant.  I can't wait to get on another one. 

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Thanks Lynn, this is really helpful!  When you say that people were more casual than on Seabourn, could you elaborate?  We are booked on two Ponant cruises over the next two years.  The first is to Iceland and we are booked with Backroads as a hiking trip – would much prefer not to have to pack dressy clothes.  The second is New Zealand, and while we are booked direct with Ponant there will be a large group from Tauck.  I wonder how the presence of those groups will affect the interpretation of the dress code.

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We toured Greece for a week before the cruise and I didn't want to pack two suitcases!  There were a few people who on the gala nights were in high heels (women) and a few tuxes (men).  The French women wore lots of jewelry but since we were traveling I left mine at home (I did bring a few scarves!).  My husband only wore a jacket one of the two "formal" nights - the next one he skipped the jacket but wore a tie and was easily dressed equally to the other men. 

 

I don't know anything about Tauck - some of the people we met on the cruise had done Ponant cruises through them, I believe mostly the Australians.  The Australians we spent time with were determinedly (is that a word?) casual, and lots of fun.  

 

Seabourn seemed more like country club types.  My husband and I are pretty liberal and we didn't really meet anyone we clicked with on the Seabourn cruise we did (although we LOVED the ship and all of the amenities), whereas on this Ponant cruise we had about 10 people that we palled around with. 

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7 hours ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

The second is New Zealand, and while we are booked direct with Ponant there will be a large group from Tauck.  I wonder how the presence of those groups will affect the interpretation of the dress code.

I just now popped in on the Ponant forum after looking at some Tauck cruises in their latest catalog.  Hubby and I have done two different 14-day land tours with Tauck, and IMO please don't worry about it.  Our most recent Tauck trip was six months ago where some were dressed in designer outfits and others were dressed for a Rick Steves Tour,  and everyone got along nicely.  Same with our previous Tauck tour.  Cruise can't be that much different.  Bring what you will be comfortable wearing within the ship's dress code and you will be fine. Hope this helps.

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Thanks a lot Lynn for this review. Were you in suite 621?

 

We are booked in that suite in March 2020. I haven't quite understood the difference between the Owner's suite and the Grand Deluxe suites, other than the hot tub, which I don't really care about. However, we were offered 621 for the same price as the Grand Deluxe suites, so we took that one. 

 

You mentioned that the minibar isn't well stocked. What is in it?

 

I have read somewhere that passengers can opt for a premium wine/spirit package for the duration of cruise. Is that correct? What's the price?

 

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We were given 621 incorrectly, 535 was our correct cabin - the owner's suite.  621 I believe IS the Grande Deluxe.  The only other difference from the owner's suite other than the hot tub is that the deck is bigger.  But the deck is already so large, I don't really think that matters.  

 

The minibar had some small liquor bottles, not top shelf, and some sodas.  No snacks.  I don't know anything about a drinks package - sorry!  

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OK.  Thanks again 

 

I think that there must be some kind of problem with their web site, as 621 appeared as an Owner’s Suite when we made the booking, and their cabin description also indicates that the balcony of the Owner’s Suite is smaller than the balconies of the Grand Deluxe suites on deck 5. 

 

Anyway, I’m sure that we will enjoy the cruise😄

 

 

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Ah, that must be how my TA didn't realize the error.  You will enjoy it for sure!

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Just two more questions 😉

 

Do you feel the movement of the sea a lot on such a small ship?

The photos of the restaurant show mainly rather large tables. Do you always have to dine with other guests, or can you also dine as a couple?

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We were on the Aegean sea and didn't feel anything, but the water was smooth as glass.  I considered switching from Seabourn to Ponant to go to Alaska but decided against it - I'd like to try slightly rougher waters before going full Arctic with Ponant.  That said, we met lots of people who have been on multiple Ponant cruises, including Antarctica, and there were no complaints.

 

There are a few tables for two.  We typically just eat by ourselves and are not that social, but I think I mentioned that we met some wonderful people that we ended up dining with much of the time.  You can make reservations for a table for two every night if you want to.  

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On 5/1/2019 at 7:12 AM, jmalux said:

Just two more questions 😉

 

Do you feel the movement of the sea a lot on such a small ship?

The photos of the restaurant show mainly rather large tables. Do you always have to dine with other guests, or can you also dine as a couple?

We were on Ponant for Antarctica and If you check thru this forum you will find my review.

Due to the fact we had the Owners Suite and are quite private, they set up a table for two  that was exclusively for just us. They also put a sign on the table that stated it was for our suite only.  The other Grand Suite had the same.

There are a few tables for two besides ours that anyone can enjoy. Most sat together at very large tables which would not have appealed to us. Many seemed to enjoy the camaraderie.

 

I still have PTSD from all of the movement for 2 weeks in Antarctica. It was like being in a washing machine.

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