6-star cruise line Ponant is coming to New Zealand for special local voyages — the perfect chance to enjoy Ponant’s legendary service, exquisite dining and onboard experience without leaving the country! Curious? We asked House of Travel Cruise General Manager Jeff Leckey — who’s sailed on several of Ponant’s luxurious expedition cruises — all about what you’ll experience with this world-renowned line.
Ready to pack your bags? Pop your name onto our pre-registration list now.
That's our Jeff Leckey third from the right in the somewhat nautical stripes.
1 | You’ve sailed with many different cruise lines. What sets Ponant apart?
Ponant are small ship luxury expedition voyages, so they are worlds away from the mass market style of cruising. The closest thing I could compare it to would be like cruising on a friend’s really big super yacht. I loved the uber cool European design onboard, which never dates. The staterooms were so well designed and fitted out in beautiful contemporary colours which make them totally relaxing. Remember Ponant are French, so it goes without saying that the food and wine onboard were sublime!
2 | Ponant’s ships are smaller in scale. What does that do for the experience and what amenities can they offer?
They may be small but they are perfectly formed! We were blown away by the amenities on offer onboard Le Laperouse: Everything you wouldn’t expect on a small ship. An infinity pool with inbuilt swim motor, a retractable rear deck that lowers into the water to make it easier to deploy the onboard water toys and Zodiacs.
A highlight for our small group was the Blue Eye Lounge. This is literally below the water line and is designed to give you the feeling that you are inside a whale looking out of its eyes at the underwater world beyond. There were hydrophonic microphones which connect to the beautiful seats you sit in and transmit the sounds of sea creatures from the outside.
Jeff and his group loved the Blue Eye Lounge.
3 | Does a smaller ship mean fewer choices?
Not at all! There is a choice of dining options including a really tasty al fresco area on the rear deck. There is also a choice of bars from the main lounge to the innovative observation lounge up front — where they will make your favourite cocktails for you on demand. All included in the fare!
Another surprise for us was the evening show from the cast of four who really put on the most amazing routines in the theatre onboard. The theatre is also a perfect venue for daily lectures from the knowledgeable expedition leaders who discuss each day what is coming up and any particular highlights to look out for.
4 | Ponant often touts its exceptional service. What was that like?
The service on board was second to none, from our attentive stateroom steward through to the animated cocktail waiters. It is a small ship, so you’ll also get to meet the officers regularly — including the captain. Our captain was a real character! You can tell that the crew work together very closely as an amazing team to ensure every guest is happy and service is seamless.
5 | What is the dining like onboard — and the choices at the bar?
As I mentioned, Ponant are French, so the food and wine is exceptional. Drinks are also included in your cruise fare — plus there is a personalised MiniBar in your stateroom if you choose to indulge on your private veranda.
This dessert sticks in Jeff's memory.
6 | Are excursions included in my fare and what are they like? Who leads them?
Depending on the journey booked, you may have Zodiac excursions included in your fare. These are guided by expert expedition leaders who are totally knowledgeable about your destinations and the marine environment. Getting on and off the Zodiacs is very easy from the rear deck, which lowers down into the water.
7 | What for you was an absolute highlight from a Ponant voyage?
So many — I have already booked my next one! It sounds strange but I loved the ship herself. It was just such a treat to cruise on a vessel that felt more like a private yacht than a commercial cruise ship. The crew really do look after you and are a major highlight: They soon get to know your favourite tipple or wines with lunch.
8 | What advice would you offer anyone considering a Ponant cruise?
Book early! Ponant have an innovative pricing system so the first to book get the best fares, starting at a 30% discount. The discount reduces as the ship fills, and the last to book pay full price.
If you’ve never cruised with Ponant, there is currently a generous Welcome Aboard Offer of AU$800 off your first Ponant voyage. Past guests receive discounts based on their past passenger status and these are currently being doubled.
Ponant itineraries are often designed to fit together, known as “Back-to-Back” offers. If you do this, you’ll automatically receive a 20% discount on the second sailing. This makes for great value if you are looking for a longer voyage or want to combine two exciting but different itineraries.