Cruise away with Ponant
Ponant is making the transition from a luxury cruising operator to give their cruises more of an expeditionary slant. This means their ships are going to be spending more time in the Australasia/Pacific region, and this should be a welcome message for ardent fans of the Orion style of cruising, much missed after it was rebranded National Geographic Orion. Although the Ponant ships are about twice the size of Orion there are lots of parallels between them. The style of operation is a close fit, the passengers are similar – although Ponant’s are largely French – quite a few of the expeditionary team on Le Soleal were faces that I last cruised with on Orion, and ex-Orion CEO Sarina Bratton heads up Ponant’s operations in Australasia. There’s a strong rumour that Ponant will soon be building a couple of smaller vessels kitted out for more serious expeditionary cruising. As part of Ponant’s move into Australian waters they’ll be operating more cruises along the Kimberley coastline between Darwin and Broome, and this spectacular route has been missing a luxury vessel of this size and facilities in recent years. I predict Ponant’s voyages will appeal to Aussie cruisers and on this note there’s an open bar policy. The mini-bar in your room, the two cocktail bars and the lounge, wines with lunch and dinner, champers, medium-level spirits, wines, beers, whatever whenever. I had a drink with the captain and from previous experience, he was a little worried that he might run out of booze on the Aussie cruises. Apparently Orion began with an open bar policy but they quickly scuttled it after their Aussie clients drank the ship dry on a couple of early cruises.