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North West Passage 2022- Le Boreal


gogo65
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LauraS
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After multiple Ponant cancellations over the last 3 years, we have finally arrived in Tromso for our North West passage cruise departing on Saturday 27th August.

So I thought I’d attempt a trip report (my first) and let people know all about this ultimate expedition.

But first a little of what we went through to get to this point….

 

July 2019 booked to do Reykjavik to Quebec as an expedition, unfortunately Ponant canceled a few months out due to chartering the ship.

We were p!ssed off to say the least as all flights were booked, private 2 week tour Iceland booked, accomodation in Canada etc etc…

To be fair Ponant covered all out of pocket costs, however, they recommended we do another Arctic expedition Baffin Bay secrets, by swapping to this cruise we would be out of pocket over 20k (booking flights home from Europe instead of our flights home from the US) plus additional costs on the cruise. We had booked at 30% off and the Baffin Bay was only at 5% off, and they would not budge on a price reduction, so we cancelled all our flights, accomodation and tours. They gave us a 20% discount on any cruise and 300 euro pp OBC, which we have transferred from cruise to cruise over covid.

Instead of the Ponant cruise we picked up a bargain SilverSea expedition that included business class flights and a 16 day expedition to Svalbard (Ponant could have easily lost us at this point) and happily went in July 2019 instead of the Ponant cruise..

 

Not wanting to waste the discount, we decided to book a Kimberley cruise for August 2020, we know what happened there, then it was a 3 week expedition to Antarctica  from Dunedin in January 2022 which ended in the same fate.

Finally we transferred to a north East passage cruise leaving on Le Boreal on Saturday 27th August, in early May, Ponant finally advised that the NE passage cruise would not go ahead due to the Russian/Ukraine conflict and instead changed it to the NW passage but of course there was another hurdle to jump, this time the cruise was going to be 5 days longer so from a 24 night cruise to a 29 night cruise. Ponant graciously decided not to charge for these additional days.

After fiddling with flights and accomodation, getting annual leave extended at work (from 6 weeks to 7 weeks), we finally bit the bullet and agreed to sail the NW passage, so here we are!

It does seem there are multiple cabins still available a lot of people dropped out when the cruise changed from NE to NW passage.

 

We left Sydney on the 12th August and have spent the last two weeks in the UK with our son and his partner.

Due to all the issues with flights recently we decided to play it safe and have a buffer of two days in Tromso prior to the cruise.

Luckily we and our luggage arrived this evening without a hitch.

 

We are staying at the Clarion collection With, which is on the waterfront. It includes breakfast, afternoon tea and a simple dinner in the rates.

The room is small to average size but perfectly clean.

Tomorrow (Friday) we will check out Tromso before boarding Le Boreal on Saturday afternoon. We have been to Tromso before but it was a quick bus tour on the way to port to board our Silversea Svalbard cruise.

 

One more hurdle to jump, we are booked for proctored RAT tests tomorrow afternoon and if all negative we will be on the ship in less than 48 hours.

 

Oh and one more thing, we all know how quiet the roll calls are, well 10987654321 (I call him 10-1) popped up on the roll call I started and he and his partner will be joining us, more surprisingly they live in the suburb next to us, so we've already met and enjoyed dinner with them!

 

So thats the background, hope I haven’t bored you or provided to much useless info.

Hoping we will have some internet while on board to update this trip report!

 

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Glad to hear that you have arrived in Tromso! A very pretty town. Have you figured out yet that all of the major roads run underground?

 

Enjoy the trip - looking forward to updates when time and internet allow.

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14 hours ago, jpalbny said:

Glad to hear that you have arrived in Tromso! A very pretty town. Have you figured out yet that all of the major roads run underground?

 

Enjoy the trip - looking forward to updates when time and internet allow.

Yes! We noticed last time, how weird it felt going around a roundabout in a tunnel! I suppose it helps in winter making sure the roads are safe.

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Grrr, the CC bugs are out in force! My post just disappeared.

So a beautiful blue sky day in Tromso. Temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius (sorry this girl from down under only knows Celsius and metric).

An 8km walk over the bridge to the Arctic church and then up to the cable car. Beautiful vistas from the peak, then a return trip on back down, followed by a walk back to town. 
Didn’t go into the church as there is a €20 entry and we weren’t really fussed.
There is a festival on in town this weekend so seems there is live music tonight, we might go and enjoy the atmosphere for a while later.

Oh and I thought I’d throw a photo of hubby Tim and myself (Gabrielle) in so you knew who we were. 

Until then the countdown for our RAT tests in two hours…

 

 

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And we have both passed our ‘Rona tests with negative results.

Now one last night with the music festival just started to keep us awake with anticipation.

And to hijack the thread, we are staying 2 doors up at the Scandic Ishavshotel which is quite pleasant with an inner harbour view.

No free dinner or tasty cakes but

Edited by 10987654321
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13 minutes ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

The entry fee is 55 NOK, which comes out to 5.69 Euro

So it is, well i cant trust trip advisor! I read a few reviews and they were about how expensive it was, i didn’t actually check the website, oh well, I dont feel like i missed out on anything..

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15 minutes ago, 10987654321 said:

And we have both passed our ‘Rona tests with negative results.

Now one last night with the music festival just started to keep us awake with anticipation

So 10-1 is celebrating their negative results and we have to wait another 30 minutes.

The anticipation was killing me, so I just shoved a swab up Tims nose to find out before the official test. Luckily he was negative (I did one two days ago and was negative and also was positive last month so Im pretty sure I will be negative), he has so far dodged a bullet and hasn’t been positive, so I am more concerned with him.

So as long as he remains negative for the next 30 minutes we will be good to go, and will be joining 10-1 tomorrow.

I checked the port schedule and Le Boreal will be docking at 2100 tonight, looking at the webcam land is visible, they aren’t far away!

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So we are on board!

But boy was it chaotic… check time was 1600, so we arrived about 10 minutes early, people were still getting off the ship!

The charter flight was delayed for those disembarking so they allowed everyone to stay on board and provided lunch and drinks all day, however when we arrived there was no one ready for us. We checked in and then had to go to the medical center to provide all our Covid vaccination, health questionnaire and negative tests. They weren’t aware we were coming so they weren’t ready either.

No food, no bars open, no champagne on arrival.

To be fair I think it was great that Ponant took care of the disembarking passengers the way they did but they assumed most of the embarking passengers were in the delayed incoming charter flight and that’s why they weren’t prepared for those that weren’t.

Finally at about 6pm someone came around and said dinner wouldn’t be till 2100 would that be ok, we hadn’t had lunch so asked for a few snacks to tie us over, we got peanuts and a small croissant each. 
The bar was meant to be shut for 4 hours so they could restock but in the end they allowed us to get a drink.

We met the captain who was very apologetic, we are happy enough just would have been nice to get the usual welcome.

Surprisingly we were upgraded from our balcony on deck 3 to deck 4. All the cabins on deck 3 aren’t being used, all the beds are stacked up and they have stock in some of them. 
We have been advised there will be only 76 passengers on board with half English and half French speaking.

We are ready and waiting to get this show on the road…

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4 hours ago, highplanesdrifters said:

Congrats on the negative!  Always stressful.  Looking forward to you posts. Contemplating NW Passage, but not sure about all the ice days.

 

Thanks for the pictures of Tromso on a clear day.  Now I know what it looks like.😂

 

Fair winds!

We had the most beautiful day yesterday and today has been cold overcast and wet. so glad we ended up doing the cable car yesterday as today would have been useless! 
We were trying to keep busy till we could check in as we couldn’t go anywhere due to the rain. We ended up heading to the polar museum and killed a few hours that way.

 

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Just now, Host Jazzbeau said:

If your cabin is short on storage [we do not travel light...] I think there is a small area under the lid of that stool.  Just be sure you check it when you are packing up to leave!!!

I checked that stool out, I might need to do it again! Although we’ve just unpacked and seemed to have been able to fit everything for the next month in.

 

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I just thought of something that had never occurred to me:  that close to the North pole, you will be passing through time zones like nobody's business.  Will you gain an hour each time?  [That would argue for the NW passage over the NE in my book!]

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1 hour ago, Host Jazzbeau said:

I just thought of something that had never occurred to me:  that close to the North pole, you will be passing through time zones like nobody's business.  Will you gain an hour each time?  [That would argue for the NW passage over the NE in my book!]

To be honest I’m not sure, but my thought process is that we would gain an hour each day for about 8 days..

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I find your comments useful and informative. Hope that you can keep it up. I will be on Boreal in November for their first cruise in the Antarctic and looking forward to the trip.  (Anyone else on that trip?) Everything 'seems' to be falling in place for the trip but after all the cancellations that I've had from Ponant I'm still on the anxious side.  You mentioned a medical form as one of the heath requirements. I have been hearing that a medical is no longer required by Ponant - can you tell me what this was all about?

 

I hope that ice will not be a problem - it seems these days that the Arctic is fast becoming 'de-iced'  so to speak with climate change. And, here's hoping for great weather for you!

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Hi,

Looking forward to following along.

I did Antarctica on Le Boreal for Christmas/New Year 2010/11 and recall Christmas dinner with one piece of broccoli the only vegetable offered.

The cruise itself was great however and I am interested in the condition of

the vessel.

 

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On 8/28/2022 at 5:58 AM, starcluster2 said:

I find your comments useful and informative. Hope that you can keep it up. I will be on Boreal in November for their first cruise in the Antarctic and looking forward to the trip.  (Anyone else on that trip?) Everything 'seems' to be falling in place for the trip but after all the cancellations that I've had from Ponant I'm still on the anxious side.  You mentioned a medical form as one of the heath requirements. I have been hearing that a medical is no longer required by Ponant - can you tell me what this was all about?

 

I hope that ice will not be a problem - it seems these days that the Arctic is fast becoming 'de-iced'  so to speak with climate change. And, here's hoping for great weather for you!

Thank you star cluster.

I will attempt to give an open an honest opinion of our cruise. As you will notice in my next post.

In regards to the medical form it was a simple tick box of yes/no in regards to Covid and there was another form that we completed (which I will find and post here when possible) which was a statement saying we had no major underlying health issues that may impact the cruise. It didn’t need to be completed a doctor (as previously when we did Antarctica in 2017).

The captain did a talk this morning in regards to the expedition/itinerary and explained that the NW passage is open and they don’t anticipate any issues getting through (unlike 2019??), however there a few routes that can be taken and he will decide which one is the best when we are closer (still 14 days till we hit the NW passage area.

 

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On 8/28/2022 at 10:41 AM, wynkys said:

Hi,

Looking forward to following along.

I did Antarctica on Le Boreal for Christmas/New Year 2010/11 and recall Christmas dinner with one piece of broccoli the only vegetable offered.

The cruise itself was great however and I am interested in the condition of

the vessel.

 

We did Antarctica on Le boreal in 2017 and to be honest she has held up well.

the rooms are fresh (and no longer have red accents but rather a light beige blue colour scheme). It seems the outdoor furniture has been replaced and now there are some lovely big lounges on the outside decks and nice furniture on the balconies. The rooms are spotless and we have noticed a few additional facilities like the nespresso machine and Bose speaker. 
In regards to food, I will talk a little more about that in my upcoming post but on the menu there is a variety of optional sides and I’m sure you would be able to order pretty much anything. 

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We are now day 2 of 3 sea days as they reposition the ship from Tromso to Greenland. When the itinerary was changed they offered the additional 5 days at no cost, however it did add mainly sea days.

We had an expedition talk this morning and the captain spoke a little about what’s ahead, they’ve advised the passage is open however there are different routes that they can take and they will make those decisions much closer to the time based on expected weather and the sea ice conditions.

surprisingly someone missed the memo that we were doing the NW passage instead of the NE passage and our first daily planner had the following map of where we were 😂

It was updated today to the correct map.

 

We will not be doing our stop in Heimaey Iceland due to high winds and instead they have advised we will be going to Reykjavik instead. We have been to Iceland and would have definitely preferred to stop  in Heimaey but understand the decision, I think the majority are actually very happy about the substitute. No complaints as the captain makes decisions based on safety and is expected particularly on expeditions.

 

So life is not all smiles and roses, we have not been officially told but it has been confirmed that there are no spa services available for the entire cruise. No staff are on board. Extremely disappointing as we had a large OBC that we had already decided how to use on massages, facials and hair services instead my husband will look like a 70’s hippy by the end of the cruise 😂.

when you are on board for 30 days a little pampering in between early days and lots of expeditions would go a long way.


Next up is the water bottle scandal, as I’ve previously mentioned it was chaotic boarding with the previous cruise still on board when we arrived. We arrived to our room with our own luggage (no staff to carry it and no luggage tags, so easier to manage it our selves) and noticed a few things missing from our cabin including the refillable water bottles, after asking a few times we were advised they had run out and that we would have to take bottled water with us off the ship, we just needed to ask in the bar prior each day. Ponant supposedly pride themselves on being environmentally friendly so was surprised with this.

Today a different story and apparently everyone will receive a reusable water bottle today (they found them 🤷‍♀️).

One other issue with our cabin was one of our drawers had a complete runner missing so when we went to unpack it fell out on the floor and wouldn’t go back in. After waiting 4 hours they finally came to repair, not sure how something like that can go unnoticed? I think the delay was purely the correct procedures to notify maintenance just weren’t followed due to the chaos of check in.

While we weren’t affected by the delay in plane charter there were many unhappy people as it seems the delay for those flying from Paris wasn’t communicated well and many arrived at the airport at 3am and then waited hours at the airport until the charter left in the afternoon. Some received a short term hotel room some didn’t, some received lunch and other didn’t, it seemed poorly managed.

 

Now onto food and dining.

We have been  advised that breakfast and lunch will always be in the buffet and dinner always in the main restaurant. This is again disappointing (to us), we enjoy  breakfast in the dining room, instead we only have the option of buffet and so far it has been pretty average, food is cold and overcooked. You can order a few things cooked to order so will try that tomorrow. Coffee is bad in the buffet, so we need to have coffee after breakfast either from the observatory lounge (with differing opening times) or the main lounge.

We enjoy dinner in the main dining room, however on a busy expedition day, sometimes you just want to run to the buffet and have some thing quick and easy, unfortunately we will have to go to the dining room every night (or get room service), no option for a light salad etc.

 

Feeling a little disappointed that due to the smaller number of guests they have pulled back on service and food options,

BUT once we are in the thick of the expedition cruise I’m sure these things that are annoying now will be forgotten when the first polar bear sighting happens etc.

 

We were introduced to the expedition team today, they seem to have a variety of backgrounds, our first lecture on the Arctic is this afternoon, hoping it’s interesting and informative!

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