I haven’t taken a cruise in over 20 years, though lately I’ve had an itch to change that. As I do some research, I think PONANT might just be the cruise line that’s most up my alley. I’m just impressed by what the cruise line offers, and would love to hear about any experiences from OMAAT readers.
In this post:
My philosophy on taking cruises
Everyone has different kinds of vacation preferences. Some people love cruises, some people love all-inclusive hotels, etc.
As a kid (I’m talking in my pre-teens), I used to be obsessed with cruise ships, almost as much as I like airplanes now. However, that passion disappeared overnight, and frankly I haven’t had much desire to go on a cruise ever since. Well, at least that was the case until recently.
For my own travel style, I don’t see the appeal of taking a cruise that visits destinations that I could otherwise easily travel to. The concept of cruising to Cozumel or Nassau just doesn’t interest me, especially on a mega-ship, where you constantly feel like you’re part of an assembly line.
I can appreciate that a cruise is an easy and (potentially) affordable vacation. Now that we have a kid, maybe these kinds of cruises will be of interest some years down the road, since I recognize it’s great for family travel.
In the meantime, where I do increasingly see appeal with taking a cruise is in order to visit a destination that one couldn’t otherwise visit in comfort. In other words, the cruise ship isn’t the destination, but rather it’s just a comfortable floating hotel that takes me to somewhere remote I’d actually like to visit, and likely wouldn’t otherwise travel to.
For example, I’ve written about how I’d like to take a cruise to Antarctica. Obviously that’s a destination that’s easiest and most comfortable to experience by ship.
In recent years we’ve seen an increase in the number of luxury cruise ships in operation. Initially I was really interested in taking a cruise with Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. When the cruise line was first announced, there were some really interesting sailings, including up the coast of Canada, and even around Iceland. However, after significant delays, I’m finding that most of the itineraries just don’t appeal to me much.
Even though the ship is smaller, it mostly visits similar ports to where you’d go on mega ships, and that’s just not too exciting for me. And that brings me to a cruise line that’s starting to get me interested…
Why I’m thinking of taking a PONANT cruise
When I’ve written about luxury cruises in the past, several readers have mentioned positive experiences with PONANT. Over the weekend I was doing some browsing on PONANT’s website, and I’m now kind of obsessed. The cruise line seems to be at the intersection of luxury and adventure, and that’s exactly what would get me to take a cruise.
PONANT is a French cruise line with roughly a dozen ships. Most of the ships accommodate a couple of hundred guests at most, and the ships are primarily built for adventure cruises. Heck, PONANT even recently launched a hybrid luxury icebreaker ship, which is the first of its kind.
The reason I’m most interested in PONANT, though, is because of the amazing journeys they offer. PONANT really seems to have the philosophy that I’m looking for, offering cruises to places you can’t otherwise easily reach.
PONANT has all kinds of cruises to Antarctica, which look amazing. In fairness, quite a few of the smaller cruise lines offer Antarctica journeys.
Equally interesting to me are the cruises to the Arctic, including Iceland and Greenland, since these are places that can otherwise be tough to explore, at least with any level of comfort or ease.
Heck, there are even some fascinating cruises around the South Pacific, including to Papua New Guinea, another place that many probably wouldn’t otherwise travel to.
Even some of the cruises in North America look awesome. There’s a cruise from Iceland to Canada via Greenland and Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which is another place that has been on my radar (mainly due to the cool transatlantic flight from there).
And while I can’t say that a 14-day cruise from Toronto to Boston has otherwise ever been on my radar, PONANT manages to make this legitimately interesting.
Anyway, it’s just generally refreshing to see a cruise line where I can scroll through the itineraries and find almost each one of them interesting. In the same way that I enjoy looking at airline route maps, I’m really enjoying looking at these itineraries out of curiosity, if nothing else, since there are some unique destinations on these cruises.
Meanwhile when I look at the itineraries of most other cruise lines, I’m a little less inspired, to put it mildly.
Let me of course acknowledge that there are other great small luxury cruise lines. I’m also not a cruise expert, so I can’t speak to this firsthand, but here’s my perception (and others are of course welcome to correct me):
- Lindblad Expeditions looks great and definitely has expertise with remote adventure cruises, though I’m not personally sure how the company compares when it comes to luxury
- You of course have the well known high-end brands like Silversea, Seabourn, etc.; my impression is that they have fewer adventure itineraries, and also go after a slightly different demographic (with more of a focus on retirees than those necessarily looking for adventure)
What’s included with PONANT cruises
PONANT cruises aren’t cheap, and pricing is comparable to what you’ll find with many other luxury cruise lines. Pricing varies wildly based on the itinerary, and cruises seem to start at $600-1,500 per person per night, depending on the routing, season, etc.
All cruises with PONANT include meals, an open bar (including champagne!), unlimited Wi-Fi, and activities during expedition cruises. Based on what I’ve heard from OMAAT readers, the food is also very good, with French influences.
I’m increasingly itching to take a cruise to an adventure destination like Antarctica or Greenland, and as I look at options, PONANT seems like the cruise line I’m most likely to go with. Several OMAAT readers shared positive experiences, and as I’ve spent time browsing PONANT’s website, I’m intrigued by the huge variety of unique itineraries.
I’d love to hear from more experienced cruisers if PONANT is actually as good as it looks, or if I’m just getting a little obsessed with the itineraries, and am ignoring something else.
Anyone else find PONANT’s itineraries to be interesting? To OMAAT readers who have taken a PONANT cruise, what was your experience like?