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L'Austral Review

2019 Best Overall
2019 Best for Cabins
2019 Best for Entertainment
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Find a L'Austral Cruise from £2,643

L'Austral
4.5 / 5.0
106 reviews

Pros
All cabins have outside views and itineraries maximize time on land
Cons
Bedroom layouts make rooms seem even smaller; limited storage space
Bottom Line
Choose L'Austral for its adventurous itineraries and upscale vibe

About

Passengers
264

Crew
140

Passenger to Crew
1.89:1

Launched
2011

Shore Excursions
285
Sails To
Antarctica, Baltic Sea, South America, Alaska, Africa, Western Mediterranean
Ponant Cruise Deals
Sue Bryant
Cruise Critic Contributor

L'Austral Overview

Launched in 2011, L'Austral is the second in a series of three 264-passenger, 10,600-ton cruising yachts commissioned by Compagnie du Ponant. Identical ships in the class include Le Boreal, which debuted in 2010; Le Soleal, which launched in July 2013 and Le Lyrial, from 2015.

Originally French-owned and, at one point, aimed almost exclusively at the French market, the company was acquired by cargo giant CMA CGM in 2006 and then sold on to pan-European private equity investor Bridgepoint Capital in 2012. Over the last few years, and particularly with the launch of these three new ships, the line has been targeting a much more international market with considerable success. The essence of the product, however, remains unchanged under the new owners, with a family-run feel and a strong French influence throughout the ships.

L'Austral is, without a doubt, a stunning vessel, with sleek lines and an unusual dark-grey hull that makes it stand out in port. The interiors are like those of a minimalist boutique hotel. Everything is taupe, cream and white, with emphasis on luxurious textures, from leather-fronted white drawers in our cabin to taupe silk cushions on the bed. Black-and-white Philip Plisson photo art lines the corridors. A cascade of glittering Swarovski crystals lights up the small atrium. The whole package is unashamedly French: it's chic, the service is a little arrogant at times, and the passengers are a well-heeled, savvy crowd of experienced travelers.

What distinguishes these ships from other luxury vessels is their adventurous itineraries. L'Austral and its sisters are all ice-strengthened, so they can sail to Antarctica and the Arctic, destinations that are mixed up with off-the-beaten-track European itineraries, as well as Asia and South America. Each carries a fleet of Zodiac landing crafts for getting ashore and for sightseeing in remote locations. There's a strong emphasis on coastal cruising, with long days in port, overnights and late departures, so you really feel you're part of a destination, rather than just calling for a day.

Compagnie du Ponant operates a complicated pricing policy and is moving toward all-inclusive drinks, but at present that's only for certain markets. For the U.S. market, the fares are already all-inclusive. For the U.K. and European markets, wine and soft drinks with meals are included, and there's an optional all-inclusive upgrade of £210 (for Brits) for a week. There are, however, plans afoot to make all pricing drinks-inclusive.Wi-Fi is also included in the fare. 

Note: Tauck charters certain L'Austral sailings, and on these cruises, the onboard atmosphere and pricing structure may change (e.g. excursions are included).

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Top L'Austral Itineraries

L'Austral
15 night arctic cruise

Tromso

View All L'Austral Itineraries (21)

Fellow Passengers

Clientele varies dramatically according to the season, with younger families traveling during European school holidays and older couples attracted to the longer cruises to more remote locations. On our Mediterranean cruise in August, about 60 percent of the passengers were French; the remainder hailed from the U.S., U.K., Germany and countries as far afield as Japan and Brazil. Language wasn't an issue. The maitre d' will seat you on an English-speaking table at dinner if you ask, and all the mainly Indonesian crew speak English (often better than they speak French). There will always be English-speaking excursions when there are international passengers onboard, and announcements are made in English, as well as in French.

Several passengers were traveling in extended family groups, and kids ranged from 7 or 8 years old to teenagers. All the children were well behaved, and the teens certainly livened up the dance floor at night.

A word about smoking: All the inside areas of the ship and cabin balconies are nonsmoking. But on my cruise, there were a lot of smokers, and the outdoor bar and the outdoor lounge area behind the Karikal lounge were often places smokers would congregate, including the officers, many of whom smoked. Naturally, this will vary from cruise to cruise, but for anybody who really objects strongly to smoking in any shape or form, it might be worth bearing in mind.


L'Austral Dress Code

Dress code is smart-casual with a couple of extra-smart nights (although no rules are laid down). Passengers were seriously chic, and ladies are advised to pack a cocktail dress and some heels for the smarter nights, which brought out the Louis Vuitton and Missoni. The small onboard shop sells designer labels -- Faconnable and Lacoste -- and a fashion show laid one night by the onboard dancers modeling the shop's wares set the sartorial tone. (The shop was, however, barely open, should you have wanted to buy the goods.) There's no requirement for men to pack jackets and ties, although a lot of men did wear summer blazers on the smart nights.


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L'Austral Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins5.04.3
Dining4.03.9
Entertainment4.03.6
Public Rooms5.04.2
Fitness Recreation4.03.8
Family3.0N/A
Enrichment2.04.1
Service3.04.5
Value For Money4.03.8

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More about L'Austral

Where does L'Austral sail from?

How much does it cost to go on L'Austral?

Cruises on L'Austral start from £2,643 per person.

Is L'Austral a good ship to cruise on?

L'Austral won 8 awards over the years, including Best Overall, Best for Cabins and Best for Entertainment in 2019.

Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice

  • 2019 Best Overall
  • 2019 Best for Cabins
  • 2019 Best for Entertainment
  • 2019 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2019 Best for Value
  • 2018 Best for Entertainment
  • 2018 Best for Fitness & Recreation
  • 2018 Best for Shore Excursions
Show More

L'Austral Member Reviews

Esther P.
Sail Date: Apr 2018
I did back-to back cruises on L'Austral with the first being 10 days in Australia's Kimberly.... Read More
SteamboatWillie118
Sail Date: Mar 2019
Perhaps it was just our L'Austral crew, but e.g. the front desk ladies were amazing, juggling all day in at least 2 languages, and manning the reception 24/7.... Read More
JulieDCanter
Sail Date: Feb 2020
We planned the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica on Ponant, impressed with reviews, the small size of the ship and everything French about it. We had no idea that the trip would be memorable in more ways than one. We... Read More
elenef
Sail Date: Mar 2018
Joined L'Austral in Fremantle for the 26 day cruise of Northern Australia in the Wet Season.... Read More

Ponant Fleet

Le Ponant
10 reviews

The 64-passenger Le Ponant is a three-masted sailing ship that sails for Ponant, and is also chartered by other cruise lines, including Tauck.

View All Le Ponant Cruises
Le Boreal
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Launched in 2009 and ice-strengthened for Arctic and Antarctica itineraries, Le Boreal was the first in a series of 264-passenger cruising yachts commissioned by Ponant.

Ponant Le Boreal Cruises to Antarctica Ponant Le Boreal Cruises to South America View All Ponant Le Boreal Cruises
L'Austral

Launched in 2011, L'Austral was the second in a series of 264-passenger, ice-strengthened cruising yachts commissioned by Ponant; it's also often chartered by other lines such as Tauck.

Le Soleal

A luxury expedition yacht with an ice-strengthened hull, two restaurants, swimming pool and spa, as well as a marina for watersports; strong French influence.

Le Lyrial (Ponant)

A beautifully appointed luxury yacht with two restaurants, swimming pool and spa, as well as a marina for water sports; strong French influence.

Le Laperouse

Launched in 2018, Le Laperouse is the first of Ponant's six Explorer-class expedition ships. It is named for French explorer Jean-Francois de La Perouse.

Le Champlain
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Measuring just 430 feet, the luxury expedition ship Le Champlain features 92 cabins and suites with a crew complement of 110.

Le Bougainville

Featuring two restaurants and a special "underwater lounge," this luxury expedition yacht has an infinity pool and watersports marina.

Le Dumont d'Urville

This luxury expedition yacht features two restaurants, infinity pool, watersports marina and a special "underwater" lounge.

Le Jacques Cartier

Filled with airy public rooms and well-appointed suites, this hybrid 184-passenger luxury-expedition vessel will offer Ponant’s trademark French cruising flair when it debuts in 2020.

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