Compagnie du Ponant Lifestyle:
French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant was founded in 1988 by several officers of the French Merchant Navy, but in 2006, French shipping and container company the CMA CGM Group purchased Compagnie du Ponant and moved its headquarters to Marseille. In the summer of 2012, Bridgepoint Capital Ltd., an investment firm based in the United Kingdom, acquired the cruise line. The small ships look and seem more like private yachts than traditional cruise ships, and all cruises are bi-lingual (French and English). The onboard atmosphere is much quieter than a regular ship, with few announcements, no casino, and limited organized onboard activities.
The company's philosophy is cruising "à la française", but cruises are bilingual--French and English. Many of the cabin, dining, and bar staff speak English as well (or better) than they do French.
The company's four ships sail worldwide itineraries to many exotic ports of call inaccessible to large cruise ships. The small ships and enticing itineraries are the company's strongest points. The atmosphere is elegant casual, but varies with the itinerary. For example, expedition cruises to the Arctic or Antarctic will be more casual than those in the Mediterranean or Baltic.
Compagnie du Ponant Cruise Ships:
Compagnie du Ponant has four sleek, very attractive ships:
- L'Austral (2011) - 264 passengers (identical to Le Boreal)
- Le Boreal (2010) - 264 passengers
- Le Ponant (1991) - 64 passengers (contemporary sailing vessel)
- Le Soleal (2013) - 264 passengers
Compagnie du Ponant Passenger Profile:
Most passengers on the Compagnie du Ponant ships are either French or English-speaking who love all things French. The age mix of guests is somewhat dependent on the itineraries, with younger, more agile adults on the expedition cruises that include opportunities for exploring on the inflatable boats.
The ships are contemporary, French chic, and much like a yacht. The ships don't have casinos, and the onboard activities are quieter and more geared towards educational lectures than party games. So, those who favor the frenetic party atmosphere of mainstream cruise ships might be disappointed or bored.
Compagnie du Ponant Accommodations and Cabins:
Since the ships vary so much in design and size, the cabins vary greatly also. However, all cabins are outside. Most cabins (125/132) on Le Boreal and L'Austral have private balconies, but none of Le Ponant cabins have balconies.
I sailed in a Prestige stateroom on Le Boreal and found the 200 square foot + 43 square foot balcony to be very nice. I loved the decor and the split bath, with toilet in a separate room from the shower and sink area. The storage space was impressive, as was the large flat screen TV.
If planning a cruise with Compagnie du Ponant, be sure to study the deck plans closely since the ships' layout and cabins vary significantly.
Compagnie du Ponant Cuisine and Dining:
As one might expect from a French cruise line, the food is very good, with many items excellent. Many of the dishes are regional, and it's always fun to try dishes with a local flavor. Although the breakfast menu stays the same each day, the lunches vary, with a different cuisine each day.
All meals are open seating, with free wine at lunch and dinner. Le Boreal, Le Soleal, and L'Austral have a main restaurant and a casual buffet restaurant; Le Ponant has one main restaurant.
Compagnie du Ponant Onboard Activities and Entertainment:
The Compagnie du Ponant ships all have a large showroom featuring musical or cabaret entertainment in the evenings. Educational lectures (French and English lectures are separate) are also held in the show lounge or in the main lounge aft on deck 3. The ships do not have a casino.
Compagnie du Ponant Common Areas:
As noted above, the Compagnie du Ponant ships can best be described as French chic. The decor is contemporary and uncluttered. All ships except Le Ponant have a small outdoor pool. Le Boreal and L'Austral both have indoor and outdoor bars and large lounges used for tea, musical entertainment, and dancing.
Compagnie du Ponant Spa, Gym, and Fitness:
Le Boreal, L'Austral, and Le Soleal have a very nice spa, sauna, and fitness center with modern exercise equipment. Le Ponant does not have a spa.
More on Compagnie du Ponant:
The onboard currency is the euro. The fare includes wine at lunch and dinner, but not at the bars or at other times. Gratuities are extra.
Compagnie du Ponant Contact Information:
Address: COMPAGNIE DU PONANT
408 avenue du Prado
13008 MARSEILLE, France
From the US & Canada: 1-888-400-1082 (toll free number)
From UK: 0808 234 38 02 (toll free number)
From Germany: 0800 180 00 59 (toll free number)
From Austria: 0800 29 60 94 (toll free number)
From Switzerland : 0800 55 27 41 (toll free number)
From anywhere in the world: +33 4 88 66 64 00
Click here to email Compagnie du Ponant.