Climb aboard the Ponant’s new expedition yacht with New York-based travel agent, Stephanie Serino, as she takes us on a jaw-dropping tour of Le Bougainville, which features only 92 rooms and suites, all with a private balcony. Stephanie was able to take personal tour on June 8, 2019, and her account of the yacht’s luxurious design and amenities will have you inspire you to book a voyage on the Mediterranean or Aegean Sea post haste.
Ponant is not well-known in the U.S. yet, but this French company has been offering classic yachting experiences and luxury expedition cruises since 1991. Exploring all seven continents, Ponant has been a leader in polar expeditions for 20 years. Le Bougainville is the third of six “Ponant Explorer” yachts representing a huge fleet expansion. Le Bougainville (and all the other “Ponant Explorer” yachts) are built for 184 guests and 110 crew members. Ponant describes the decor as ‘ethnic-chic’ which is spot on: organic shapes and natural colors create a cozy warmth, and exotic design elements evoke a spirit of adventure. I really liked it.
MOST UNIQUE FEATURE
The Blue Eye wins Coolest-Cocktail-Bar-at-Sea – no contest. This underwater lounge lets you view sea life while enjoying your flute of French champagne (talk about immersive experiences!). Located within the hull 8 feet below the water line, it's kept dim so as not to disturb the animals (its not just mood lighting). The Blue Eye offers a multi-sensory experience. There are integrated floor-to-ceiling digital screens projecting live images from the ship’s 3 underwater cameras. Hydrophones capture the natural symphony of the sea within a 3-mile radius and transmit live into the Lounge, while the acoustic waves can be felt in the "Body Listening sofas." Whatever, I was basking in the Bachelor Pad Submarine vibe was fabulous!
There’s a Hydraulic Platform at the back of the ship. While docked in port, it looked like an ordinary Sun Deck. But when the ship is anchored at sea, it creates a water sports platform, so you can play in the water straight from the ship (snorkelling equipment, kayaks and paddle-boards available for guest use). It’s also the launch for their fleet of 10 Zodiacs which allow for access to remote destinations with zero-impact landings during expeditions. In the evening, it raises to a stage for outdoor performances by local talent with a spectacular backdrop of panoramic views of sea and sky.
The Infinity Pool may be small, but this aft-facing pool has a glass front for panoramic sea views, is heated, and is equipped with a counter-current swimming system.
The Restaurant serves breakfast and lunch buffet-style, with à la carte dinner service. Alain Ducasse’s firm Ducasse Conseil does the catering, so the food is superb and very French. It’s always open seating, and dress is casual by day and elegant casual for dinner (although there’s one gala night per cruise where men are encouraged to wear a jacket and tie). Indoor and outdoor seating is available in tables of many sizes fostering the convivial atmosphere on board. There’s also an outdoor grill on the pool deck serving casual fare. Ponant offers guests an open bar – wine and spirits are complimentary; although they do charge extra for some premium libations.
There is a full-service Spa with Salon operated by Sothys Paris, and a small Fitness Center. There are a few treatment rooms including one couples treatment room with sea views. Sauna access and fitness classes are complimentary.
All accommodations have a private balcony, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen satellite TV with video on demand and 24-hour room service. My favorite stateroom feature was the ocean-view showers that offer the option of sea views with a simple sliding door (open for views, closed for privacy).
Most Prestige Rooms are connecting, which allows you to book 2 connecting rooms as a Prestige Suite. Prestige Suites can be configured as 2 connecting staterooms for families; but they can also be configured with a bedroom and separate living area, so couples can get extra space (and 2 bathrooms). The Owners Suite and Grand Deluxe Suites have ocean view bathtubs without any privacy concerns.
ECO-FRIENDLY LUXURY CRUISING
Ponant understands our love of the sea, and the ship design allows us to see the water every moment of the cruise. The water sports platform allows us to jump right in, and the Blue Eye lets us experience the ocean in a completely new way. Ponant is also committed to protecting our seas by building ships which minimize the impact on destinations explored and wildlife encountered. The “Ponant Explorer” ships have been certified “Clean Ships” by Bureau Veritas and offer ecologically sound travel thanks to state-of-the-art technology. This isn’t just eliminating single-use plastics, they’ve designed these ships to:
• Minimize energy use (all LED lighting and advanced fuel efficiency)
• Emit less pollution (including light and noise pollution)
• Produce less waste (Air conditioning and fridges use refrigerant gas, so no greenhouse gases emitted)
• Recycle more efficiently (advanced filtration system for wastewater)
• Protect the eco-systems and wildlife (sonar system and dynamic positioning)
Le Bougainville is cruising the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas until winter, when she moves to The Seychelles. Dive Instructors will be on-board leading scuba excursions for an extra fee. Her sister ships Le Champlain, Le Laperouse, Le Dumont-d'Urville, Le Bellot and Le Jacques-Cartier offer identical features and will be exploring the world.
Inspired by this article and want to speak with an expert travel agent about how you can plan an unforgettable voyage on a luxury yacht? Let one of Vacation’s on-call travel experts match you with an expert luxury travel agent, who can customize the dream itinerary that you deserve.