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Northwest Passage Ponant Le Boréal


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  • 1 month later...

We did this in 2022. In a nutshell, we were not impressed as it was not up to what we had experienced once before on Ponant.

Our only previous cruise on Ponant was Le Boréal to the Antarctic in 2018. I don't know if we were very lucky, but that cruise was sensational - excellent guides, great itinerary, good food and beverage, sights and animals way beyond our hopes.

This experience swayed us to book the NW passage. Unfortunately, Russia upset their neighbours so we went this way instead of the Northeast which we really wanted.

If you have done previous Antarctic or 'ice' sailings before, you will possibly be disappointed. The majority of Canada is barren desert which is not scenic. There are some good spots, but we were expecting an Antarctic-like experience of snow and ice and it is not like that. Animal sightings are very few. We did see polar bear on land on 2 landings along with some whales but it was not like the Antarctic where you nearly get sick of seeing penguins. We saw more polar bears on the front porch of the Canadian villages than in the wild.

The landings prior to Canada are good - bit of variety, mainly docked landings and a good start.

Over Canada, the landings were all in intuit communities and they are very repetitive. Ponant may say don't bother taking money - ignore that, the locals will all have trinkets and things to sell, but at a high tourist rate price. They want USD as well.

We missed the most important site on the entire NW passage - Gjoa Haven - due to 'operational issues'. The expedition leaders' ego prevented any other guide from going ahead of him, so we sat in a bay waiting for him to finish Ponant promotional filming by crew before we could go and watch a polar bear feed on shore. We didn't miss it, but we also didn't see as much as we could have. And that sums up the cruise.

It was poorly organised, poorly crewed and poorly delivered. The expedition leader decided that a fast vertical hike was appropriate for the first Canadian landing of guests on a 5 star ship, local beer was not delivered to the ship and when it was they charged for it. We left port late due to 'difficulties' and we could not enter Canada for 12 hours as the correct paperwork wasn't submitted. Acceptable on a 2-star, first time cruise start up, not on an experienced, 5 star line who know how to charge.

Crew were below par, communications were woeful and we had some interesting issues. One guest complained about the public announcement advising the Northern Lights were in view at about 1am, so the Captain stopped announcements - but didn't tell the rest of the ship.

What you won't find out until you are on the ship - the USA will not allow non-US made and crewed vessels to land, so the 5 days across Alaska will be a drive by and all at sea.

2 exercise bikes and one treadmill broke, so time on both was limited to 30 minutes each. Some adhered, some did not. Some just gave up and wrote it off as what the cruise was turning into.


The landings were mainly interesting but the villages all pretty much fade into one, and Canada just showed how the Inuit live and treat their environment - which is not with care or respect and you can expect to walk around skidoo's, boats and their various parts and household rubbish whilst walking the village. Unlike Antarctica there's no natural spots where you can beach a zodiac and clamber out, this was very much focussed on settlements (who also required payment for us landing and in some cases hadn't received payment from Ponant when we rocked up).

Food and drink were good quality and seemed to be plenty of it but the wait staff were all Asian and some struggled with English. It made for some hard meal-time ordering.

The expedition leader also had poor English; he was very hard to understand with nearly a comedy-like accent. I accept we are on a French ship and need to adjust and accept but this was nearly farcical for a 5 star ship that I just sheckled over $60,000 for.


There are some threads on CC about this cruise, and whilst you would hope we got the dud crew on this one, the actual itinerary we took was not 'great' and I would not do it again. Like I said up front, we had a phenomenal first trip on Ponant to Antarctica and we really expected to have this again, but Ponant blamed Covid on lack of quality crew, suppliers not supplying and a whole lot of other factors but their own bad organising.


If you've done the rest of the world and this is the last trip, do it. If not then depending on what you want to do on a cruise (wildlife and adventure, or eat. drink and watch).

I would hope this was just a bad one-off experience so you might want to do more research on this cruise, or possibly Ponant. I can't see us going back to them based on this experience.



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