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L'Austral Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
106 Reviews

Maybe the best ever

L'Austral Cruise Review by JC Norton

10 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jun 2015
  • Destination: Alaska

This is an amazing ship with a wonderfully helpful staff. On this particularl itinerary, there was 0% single supplement, which made sailing alone possible. Overall a wonderful trip.

Dining: Food in the main dining room is over the top spectacular and, as others have noted, the pastries are unbelievable. I was very happy with the included wines and spirits, but I am not knowledgeable about wine, so take that with a grain of salt. The buffet food, on the other hand, was just OK. The salads were diverse and interesting and the desserts wonderful, but, 'main courses,' were surprisingly bad -- dried out and tasteless. I ate dinner there once and never again. For breakfast, it was OK, but for lunch, much better downstairs where the salads and desserts are buffet, but the main course is off a limited, but terrific menu.

Itinerary: This was a pretty typical Alaska cruise itinerary, but incredibly enhanced by the small size of the ship and the passengers first attitude of the captain. At one point, the pilot spotted a pod of humpback whales, so the captain changed course and we had half an hour or more to observe them up close -- amazing experience. On another occasion, though this was not an expedition cruise, the Zodiacs were launched for us to explore the Terror Fjord, again, up close. Such fun. We stopped at Petersburg, a small fishing village with a Norwegian history. It looks to be too small for the big ships and was nice to visit. I have cruised Alaska once before on Princess, and this l Austral experience was incomparably superior.

Staff: Contrary to what some reviewers have described, I found every crew member to be helpful, responsive and not in the least, 'anglophobic,' if that's a word. It's a French ship and French is the primary language, but most all staff spoke English, some better than others and all announcements were stated in both French and English. The passengers were maybe 50/50 or 60/40 favoring English speakers, but it was not an issue at all in my experience. Excursion groups were somewhat segregated by language to facilitate the guiding process, but people always made accommodations if there happened to be an English speaker in a French speaking group, or vice versa -- happened to me once and the guide was more than helpful. The officers were very open and friendly, the captain shaking your hand as you left the ship for the final time -- a very nice touch, I thought.

Excursions: I did three of the offered excursions and was very happy with all of them. In Haines, the canoe trip to the Davidson Glacier was fantastic and we were very lucky to encounter a pod of Orcas on the way there. The guides were incredible. Likewise, in Skagway, really enjoyed the two mile hike and float on the river -- beautiful sights and interesting guide. All in all, the excursions were well organized and, given the small ship, hassle free -- no long waiting in line to get off the ship and no huge buses holding 40 people to load and unload again and again.

Entertainment: I thought it was OK, given the limitations of a small ship and I don't care much about production numbers anyway. There was a classical pianist who was terrific and offered a lovely concert in the theater one evening, before heading up to the bar to play popular stuff. The night before, a classical piano recital was attempted in the bar space and was frankly a disaster as there was typical bar noise and talking going on, even including a couple crew members, while others were expecting a recital atmosphere, i.e., listen and don't talk, and were very, very unhappy. Could be that the concert the next night was in response to complaints as there were many made, I'm sure.

Embarkation/Disembarkation: The on boarding process was a little chaotic, seemed to me, but once on board, it was very nicely done, with a steward showing every party to it's cabin, where the luggage was waiting. Getting off the ship was a breeze, with, as mentioned, a very nice send off by the captain.

In summary, I am totally sold on Ponant and would happily sail again almost anywhere one of their ships is going, so long at the 0% single supplement is available. A couple for Melbourne said that at a presentation they had attended, a Ponant representative had said that there would never be a single supplement charged -- I hope, but doubt, that's true, but if it is, sign me up.

JC Norton's Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin standard balcony 321

The cabin is beautifully appointed with a wonderful queen size bed, but it's very small. I was sailing alone and loved it, but, for two people, seems like you'd be saying, 'excuse me,' quite a lot. Fact is, though, this is an expedition ship, so I guess the relatively small cabin is to be expected. Some have said they were bothered by the fact that there is a window into the bathroom. I thought it was great -- you can close it very easily sliding the panel across it from the outside, but, if you're alone, it's nice to be able to watch the sea go by while in the shower. I also like the fact that the commode was in a separate, though very small space -- could be a problem for large people.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews


What's to say? Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet and it's full of Canadians, who are the nicest people on the planet.

City Tour

It was fine -- probably could have done it on my own, but enjoyed the guide.

View All 64 City Tour Reviews

Wonderful experience -- amazing guides, saw Orcas, was able to walk right up to the glacier.

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Beautiful sights, invigorating hike and great guide.

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JC Norton
5 Reviews Written
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