Small ship cruising with Ponant

Ponant’s La Boreal 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 Boreal 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 65C (perfect egg 65C) 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 cheeses: Comte, 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), La Boreal is a tiddler among ocean liners which average 3,000-5,500 guests.

More sailing yacht than liner, cruising on La Boreal 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 ships.

La Boreal 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 library too.

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 La Boreal, 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. Bon appetit!

More information

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.

Visit Ponant or call our Silver Travel Advisors to book your holiday: 0800 412 5678

119 people found this helpful
19430

Share Article:

Kathryn Liston

Travel writer

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.