Small ship cruising with Ponant
29 people found this feature helpful
Ponant’s Le Boréal may be a tiddler among ocean
liners but attentive service and top-notch gastronomy with a French twist makes
cruising on this luxury ship a distinctly intimate affair.
It was the small card on the bar that caught my
eye as I ordered my first glass of Champagne. ‘A box of caviar can be consumed
as a snack at any time of the day.’ Ooh la, la! How decadent. And with
Champagne on tap, my cruise aboard Ponant’s luxurious Le Boréal was
shaping up to be very chic indeed.
I’d missed the €30 tagline in the corner - but
as I soon discovered, caviar, fine wines and spirits and excursions were the
only items that cost extra on this cruise. Everything else was included in the
price, from gourmet gala dinners with duck foie gras and the melt-in-the-mouth
rack of lamb to French wines with meals, unlimited cocktails and room service.
As one would expect from a French cruise line,
gastronomy was delivered with flair and a Gallic twist. Think Breton buckwheat
crepes with gooey egg, ham and melting cheese served on deck one sunny
lunchtime in Stavanger. Oeuf parfait 65°C (perfect egg 65°C) came with lemon butter sauce and
truffle brisure (fragments) - creamy but delicious. And the 100 per cent cacao
desert was pure chocolate heaven.
The cheese table groaned with all manner of
Reblechon, brie and more - all French naturellement. As
in France, cheese was served before desert with fresh bread, never crackers (zut alors), as our
French host frequently reminded us.
Yummy macarons served one afternoon (and placed
in my cabin one night) were light, crispy mouthfuls of chocolate, caramel and
pistachio gooeyness. They melted in my mouth.
Afternoon tea, however, was a less elaborate
affair than on British cruise lines. But many other things were different too.
With only 132 cabins (264 passengers), Le Boréal is a
tiddler among ocean liners which average 3,000-5,500 guests.
More sailing yacht than liner, cruising on Le Boréal is a distinctly intimate affair. So, the service is attentive, the
lounges and deck areas are uncrowded and disembarkation is
swift, with no queuing or hanging around for late comers on excursions.
Admittedly, the ship on my cruise from London to Bergen was not full - there
was a single-cabin promotion on - but the self-service Grill Restaurant was
well laid out so there weren’t the bottlenecks often experienced on larger
Le Boréal is quite a looker, too. The elegant
exterior is all sleek lines, the nautical-themed interiors contemporary greys and signature
reds with gorgeous sand artworks and exotic shells on display. The cabins - all
with balcony - are fairly compact but well designed with oceans of storage
space, handy shelves and mirrors. Bath robes, delightful Hermes toiletries,
Nespresso machine, and unlimited minibar provide a luxurious touch.
Its small size does come at a cost, however, as
facilities are few. They focus mainly on a Sothys beauty area with hairdressing
salon, hammam and small fitness room with treadmills, cycles and weights
machine. My massage with essential oils was sublime, the well-trained therapist
providing the perfect blend of pressure and pampering. There’s a theatre and
The crew speak excellent English - and
announcements are made in both languages - so you don’t have to brush up on
your GCSE French before you set sail. Fellow passengers were largely French and
English-speaking - mainly lively Americans and Australians who sprang onto the
dance floor as soon as the music started.
English-speaking excursions are available too.
Our tour of charming Stavanger, Norway, included a fascinating visit to the
Oljemuseum (Petroleum Museum), where interactive exhibits, models of oil rigs
and objects such as drill bits (including the world’s largest) brought the
industry’s engineering feats and importance to the Norwegian economy alive.
Afterwards, we peeled off from the group and strolled through the town’s narrow
cobbled streets past pretty white clapboard houses and quirky cafes.
Earlier, we had sat around the fire at the
recreated Iron Age farm of Jernaldergarden (AD350-550), where a guide dressed
in costume showed us how to produce flame from flint and spin yarn. The farm’s
long houses and burial mounds were recreated following excavations conducted by
the Museum of Archaeology in the 1960s.
Afterwards, back on board Le Boréal, we found
ourselves transported firmly back in the 21st century where free WiFi, fancy
cocktails and another multi-course gastronomic feast were the order of the day.
Ponant offers cruises on 11 small ships to
destinations worldwide including Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, Australia, South
Pacific, Indian Ocean, Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Prices start from
£2,947pp for a seven-night Treasures of the North Sea cruise and include
accommodation, meals, open bar, mini-bar and 24-hour room service.
29 people found this feature helpful