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Le Soleal Review

2019 Best for Shore Excursions
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Find a Le Soleal Cruise from £1,388

Le Soleal
-- / 5.0
74 reviews

Pros
Le Soleal's small size enables it to reach smaller, way off-the-beaten track ports of call
Cons
Ship has a decided French air, which might not appeal to all North Americans or Australians
Bottom Line
Upscale, small ship experience with maximum time in port

About

Passengers
264

Crew
140

Passenger to Crew
1.89:1

Launched

Shore Excursions
259
Sails To
Antarctica, Asia, Alaska, South America, South Pacific
Ponant Cruise Deals

Le Soleal Overview

Launched in 2013, Le Soleal is the third in a series of four 264-passenger, 10,600-ton cruising yachts commissioned by Compagnie du Ponant. 

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.

Le Soleal, 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 this shis from other luxury vessels is their adventurous itineraries. Le Soleal is 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 on the ship is complimentary. 

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Top Le Soleal Itineraries

Le Soleal
12 night alaska cruise

Vancouver, Petersburg, Sitka, Cordova, Seward

View All Ponant Le Soleal Itineraries (22)

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.


Ponant Le Soleal 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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Le Soleal Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins4.1
Dining3.9
Entertainment3.4
Public Rooms4.3
Fitness Recreation3.6
FamilyN/A

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More about Ponant Le Soleal

Where does Ponant Le Soleal sail from?

Ponant Le Soleal departs from San Diego, Ushuaia, Juneau, Vancouver, Tahiti, Honolulu and Seward

How much does it cost to go on Ponant Le Soleal?

Cruises on Ponant Le Soleal start from £1,388 per person.

Is Ponant Le Soleal a good ship to cruise on?

Ponant Le Soleal won 1 award over the years, including Best for Shore Excursions in 2019.

Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice

  • 2019 Best for Shore Excursions

Ponant Le Soleal Member Reviews

Richard 1963
Sail Date: Apr 2020
I travelled with Ponant to Antarctica in January 2020 with my Son, aboard Le Soleal on the 11 day “Emblematic Antarctica”, this being my first cruise with Ponant.... Read More
Esther P.
Sail Date: Mar 2019
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots.... Read More
Symonesawyer
Sail Date: Jan 2019
The staff on board Le Soleal were fabulous and always available to help. The ship itself was of a high standard with plenty of creature comforts.... Read More
cboyle
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Prior to the Le Soléal expedition, we spent two days in Buenos Aires.... Read More

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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.

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