Just back from: A PONANT Cruise

We know that cruising can be polarizing.  Just ask CIRE COO Amy Brueckner.  She used to be squarely in the “not-a-cruise-person” camp. But just before the holidays, she had an eye-opening journey sailing to Belize and Honduras with the luxury French cruise line, PONANT.  What won her over? Read on…

First Impressions

“As a child of the 70s, seeing The Poseidon Adventure pretty much pre-determined I would never set foot on a big ship, and shore excursions never seemed to provide enough sense of a place. But cruising with PONANT quickly changed my mind. We sailed on Le Dumont-D’Urville, a ship in their EXPLORERS series which is purpose-built for expedition cruising; smaller and more nimble, able to get to the most remote places. Each ship carries Zodiac boats ready to take passengers to secluded reefs for snorkeling, lush mangroves for wildlife viewing, or deserted beaches for relaxing.  There were only around 200 guests on board and more than that number in staff and crew. It was a much more intimate sailing experience than I was expecting.  And I loved it!”

The Ship

“The ship itself was impressive, yet elegant and intimate. Le Dumont d’Urville was probably the length of one and a half football fields and had six decks, two elevators, two dining rooms, two bars, an outdoor pool, a spa, and small gym. The gorgeous library lounge on Deck 6 was probably my favorite space.  There was also a theater where they held briefings each night before dinner and then a few of the shows after dinner.  The underwater Blue Eye Lounge is a bar and lounge where you could see the ocean through (very thick) windows!  The ship had lots of outdoor space on the pool deck, with al fresco dining there and also one floor up just off the formal dining room.  There’s also a 180-degree deck off the library lounge and another big sun deck off the spa.  And every cabin has a balcony.  I never felt claustrophobic, and I also didn’t get seasick!  A win-win!”

The Food

“I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a food snob. I’m happy to report that I was wildly impressed by the food (and wine!) on our PONANT expedition. The meals were excellent and there were many options for vegetarians, gluten-free-ers and the like. (Speaking of gluten, the bread and pastries were magnificent! It is, after all, a French cruise line.) They also had a special culinary treat every afternoon/early evening.  One day, it was a pop-up crepe station.  The next, it was Iberian jamon from Spain.  And then there was the caviar tasting (with champagne pairings, of course). I was really blown away. And the wines were exceptional, as well! I’ll also add for those who are wondering, it’s open seating so you can sit anywhere, with anyone, at all meals. And, while there is a small “buffet station” at breakfast and lunch which has fresh fruit, salad, cheese, and bread/pastries, meals are all a la carte with waiter service. You could also order room service 24/7!”

The Expedition Team

“This wasn’t your standard cruise with different shore excursions each day focused on shopping and souvenir hunting.  This was an EXPEDITION cruise.  What does ‘expedition cruise’ mean?  It meant each day was a new adventure!  Each morning or afternoon, we’d set out on the Zodiac boats in small groups of 10, in search of the natural flora and fauna of Belize and Honduras. They’re not ‘shore excursions’ on PONANT, they’re ‘shore landings.’ We saw howler monkeys, pink boas, anteaters, and so many colorful birds and fish. We visited small villages and got to meet the locals and learn more about their history and their lives. On each shore landing, we were accompanied by a member of the Expedition Team who were true experts in their fields.  Geologists, biologists, naturalists, historians, bird nerds…making for a truly immersive and educational experience. Each night they de-briefed us on what we saw that day and then prepped us for what was to come the next day.  They were fun and funny and passionate and extremely knowledgeable.”

The Vibe

“I think this is where I was most pleasantly surprised.  I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a cruising experience more suited to my parents, or a much younger crowd. Most of the guests were in their 40s, 50s and 60s with a few older and a few younger. Everyone was pretty active – after all, the shore landings were about exploring nature so there were some moderate hikes (but nothing too difficult).  Also, being in Belize and Honduras, the snorkeling and scuba was highly anticipated. I’m not a certified scuba diver, but the snorkeling was pretty great.  If the mornings were a more active vibe, the afternoons were all about fun or relaxation.  Several days, we went to secluded beaches that we had all to ourselves.  The crew set up umbrellas and there was cold, fresh juice (with or without rum).  We had the best of both worlds: active adventures in the morning with relaxing sun-soaked afternoons. And then elegant dinners, cocktails, and dancing in the evenings. I loved this something-for-everyone vibe and can’t wait to plan my next expedition with PONANT!”

A big thanks to our partner Dale Woods and the entire crew on Le Dumont-D’Urville for hosting Amy!

Ready to start planning your luxury expedition cruise adventure with PONANT?  Our expert team is ready to help!  Drop us a line!

CIRE Travel is a full-service travel agency headquartered in New York, NY.  Our expert corporate travel planners, honeymoon travel agents, and luxury travel planners support clients across the country and around the world.

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