Published on October 19th, 2017 | by Glynn Chesnut
SHIP REVIEW: A Peek Inside the New Ponant Luxury Cruise Ship, Le Soléal
Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions was founded 30 years ago, and is currently the only French cruise operator. Ponant’s ships are relatively small for ocean-going vessels (the new Le Soléal has 132 cabins), maintaining an intimate ambiance while providing a high level of luxury and comfort. Ponant’s fleet of 9 ships will double in 2018-19, and their new Explorer ships (smaller than Le Soléal, with just 92 cabins) will feature the world’s first multi-sensory underwater space: the Blue Eye lounge. Designed by French architect Jacques Rougerie, who specializes in underwater habitats, the Blue Eye is located in the hull 8 feet below water level, with two large oblong glass portholes that give passengers a view of the underwater world.
Expeditions to the Caribbean and Latin America are among Ponant’s wide variety of cruise itineraries, with destinations in 81 countries on all 7 continents. I recently had the privilege of touring their newest ship, Le Soléal, on its maiden call to New York City.
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THE STATEROOMS: Nine categories of staterooms and suites are available, with price varying according to size. 95% of the staterooms on Le Soléal have balconies. Amenities in all rooms include bathrobes, French bath products, and video on demand, but the Ponant cruise itineraries will keep you too busy to watch movies!
SHIP FEATURES: Le Soléal’s interior design creates an inviting and relaxing atmosphere, with a modern color scheme combining natural wood with shades of grey and white. In spite of its small size, the ship has a boutique, a fitness center, library, beauty salon and spa, and a choice of lounges and bars where guests can relax with a book or a cocktail. The ship’s theatre offers presentations by naturalists and lecturers, as well as various shows, musical performances and film screenings.
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And the cuisine is outstanding – at the conclusion of our tour we enjoyed a delicious lunch with fine French wines in the ship’s elegant Gastronomic Restaurant. For more casual dining, there’s the outdoor Grill Restaurant next to the swimming pool on the top deck.
ACTIVITIES: Ponant offers its guests the opportunity to participate in some adventurous and unique expeditions. On the “Between Panama and Martinique” cruise you’ll be able to go diving or snorkeling in the Caribbean, and the “Caribbean and Orinoco” itinerary includes the opportunity to travel in a Zodiac dinghy on the Orinoco, one of South America’s major rivers.
BEST FOR: Mature voyagers who are seeking adventure and unique activities while traveling in comfort, safety and style.
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Ponant Caribbean & the Americas Cruises include:
- Sailing the Orinoco (French Guiana to Martinique – 10 days, with stops in Barbados, St. Vincent, Venezuela and Suriname) – from $4,630 per person
- Between Martinique and Panama (Fort de France to Colón – 10 days, with stops in Venezuela, Curaçao and Colombia) – from $4,030 per person
- Panama and Pre-Columbian Treasures (Panama to Peru, with stops in Ecuador – 10 days) – from $5,270 per person
- Chilean Fjords and Patagonia (Chile to Argentina – 14 days) – from $8,595 per person
- Cuba: History, Culture & Contemporary Life (Havana to Santiago de Cuba – 8 days) – from $6,690 per person
- Cordillera and Andean Secrets (Ecuador to Chile, with stops in Peru – 13 days) – from $6,480 per person
- Treasures of Central America (Ecuador to Guatemala, with stops in Costa Rica and Panama – 14 days) – from $7,615 per person
- The Sea of Cortez (San Diego to Guatemala, with stops in Mexico – 14 days) – from $6,240 per person
- Jewels of Latin America (Guatemala to Peru, with stops in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador – 13 days) – from $4,920 per person
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INFO AND RESERVATIONS: www.ponant.com