by Ming Tappin

Ponant whalesCourtesy of Ponant Cultural Cruises & Expeditions

I was recently given the opportunity to tour PONANT's Le Soleal in Vancouver. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. 

For those unfamiliar with the brand, PONANT is a luxury cruise line specializing in expedition cruising in the Arctic and Antarctic. In addition to the polar regions, its 5-ship fleet also sail around the world from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe, to the far reaches of the Kimberley Coast in Australia and the island nations of Oceania.

Ponant - Le SolealCourtesy of Ponant Cultural Cruises & Expeditions

Le Soleal is one of four identical sister ships, carrying only 264 guests. From the outside, she appears to be a standard expedition vessel - small and unassuming, with zodiacs stacked on the top deck . The only hint of any deviation from the norm is the rows of balcony staterooms that line the decks. But once inside, it's a different story. Public areas are surprisingly contemporary, the furniture is modern and covered in a mix of leather and microfibre fabrics in soft hues. Staterooms are also deluxe, with plush bedding, upholstered headboard, and Sothys bath amenities. The majority come with private balconies and there are connecting premium staterooms that can be purchased as a two-room suite to accommodate 4 guests, or for 2 guests who want additional lounging space. The top 3 categories including the 581 sq. ft Owner Suite also comes with butler service.

Ponant Prestige SuiteCourtesy of Ponant Cultural Cruises & Expeditions

One normally doesn't associate expedition cruising with gourmet cuisine but onboard PONANT, master chefs create extraordinary dishes to satisfy any palate. After a full day of touring or activities, it's nice to know that a gastronomic meal awaits, with a glass of champagne. PONANT operates an all-inclusive program onboard - open bar and all tipping are included, along with all excursions on expedition sailings. (Excursions are not included on non-expedition sailings.)

Ponant DiningCourtesy of Ponant Cultural Cruises & Expeditions

If you think that cruising is not for you, you will be surprised to hear that 25% of PONANT's guests are first time cruisers. PONANT caters to those who are looking for soft adventure with specialized, off-the-beaten path itineraries without the crowds, regimentation and commercialization prevalent on large ocean liners. And you will find it all on board PONANT.

More and more, today's travellers are looking for cultural immersion, life-changing experiences and bucket-list destinations, without sacrificing any creature comforts. PONANT is certainly in tune with this growing trend, and already has 4 new ships on order which will focus on blue and green water expedtions. We look forward to all that is to come.

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. 

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