Five Things to Know About Ponant's Le Soléal Cruise Ship
Best for: Well-heeled passengers looking for luxury and adventure
Sails: Antarctica, the Arctic, the British Isles, Central America, New England & Canada, Northern Europe, the Panama Canal, South America
At a Glance: Launched in 2013 and virtually identical to sister ships L’Austral, Le Boréal, and Le Lyrial, Le Soléal feels like a private megayacht, albeit one with an ice-strengthened hull and the conveniences of a small luxury cruise ship. Owned by French line Ponant, the vibe is upscale and European, but the itineraries lean toward the exotic, including expedition-style voyages to the polar regions.
The Itineraries Are Exotic
Sailing aboard Le Soléal is like hitching a ride on the megayacht of your richest, most adventurous French friend. Nothing about it feels like a conventional cruise ship—not the sleek exterior, not the stylish, straight-out-of-Paris crowd, not the Zodiacs on the top deck. But what distinguishes this luxury ice-strengthened expedition ship most are its itineraries to far-flung, less-traveled regions and ports: Think Antarctica, the Amazon, and the Canadian Arctic.
The Cabins Are Chic
Like the rest of the ship, the staterooms were elegantly masterminded by Jean-Philippe Nuel, who has also designed interiors for Sofitel and Taj Hotels. The grey-on-grey spaces feel modern and all but the eight smallest staterooms have a private balcony. Sizes range from 200 square feet for a deluxe stateroom to 484 square feet for an owner’s suite. (The latter’s veranda tacks on another 99 square feet of space.)
The Cuisine Has a French Accent
This is a French ship, and the menu reflects just that. Most passengers have dinner in the Gastronomic Restaurant, lingering over dishes like pan roasted scallops with lima bean mousse and mushroom Duxelles, or roast beef tenderloin with seared foie gras. (The menu changes every night.) On warm evenings, make a reservation at The Grill for a casual al fresco buffet under the stars.
There’s a Marina
The ship’s Zodiacs are there to take guests to places they might not otherwise be able to reach, like the waters of the Amazon or Cooper Bay in Antarctica. But there may be some days at anchor when you might just want to make use of Le Soléal’s marina and swim your day away around the ship.
The Spa Is Worth a Visit
A partnership between Ponant and French beauty house Sothys Paris, the spa sees brisk business, thanks to post-excursion massage seekers and fans of its facials and anti-aging treatments. There’s also a hammam and a balneotherapy area, along with a small fitness room with views of the sea.