I’m writing this from our private deck on board the Ponant ship Le Champlain. We have escaped reality for a few weeks (though I suspect it is in hot pursuit behind us) and I am bonelessly relaxed. Gulf breezes are lulling me right back to the sleep I pulled myself from a couple of hours and an ineffective cup of coffee ago.
I have no idea if this cruise is a good idea or a stupid one. But it was booked. Cancelled. Rebooked. And unless we ourselves have covid (we do not) we have passed the cruise company’s free cancellation period. In fact, that window closed before omicron even hit. So here we are, dodging fate but being super careful. I guess we will find out if that is enough.
It’s a cruise we have wanted to take forever. Jerry and I have a thing about locks. Not the kind that secure a door or the kind that frame your face. We like the feats of engineering that bring a boat from a body of water at one elevation to another body of water at an entirely different elevation. We once went on a whole cruise down the Danube basically because of the lure of the locks and we are headed to Panama for the same.
Because of Covid, it took more than a year to make this cruise happen. It was cancelled altogether last year. This time around, we were PCR tested 72 hours out and then quick tested before we boarded. Masks in public spaces, masks on the crew. Met the doctor (spirit and image of a certain jolly old elf) and the nurse (a French Dr. Kildare) before we boarded and they seem to know what they are doing. Everyone tested negative. I’m not sure anywhere is safe from Omicron but we will see.
We have a Grand Deluxe Suite, two overworked adjectives that in this case actually do mean both grand and deluxe. Not our usual style or price range but we are eating it up. The regular staterooms on Ponant are pretty small and don’t have bathtubs so, to accommodate my crippling claustrophobia and my poor restless legs, we upgraded. To get a bathtub on this ship you pretty much have to go over the top, and here we are, perched precariously but enjoying the view.
The suite has a lovely bedroom with full windows on two sides opening to our deck, and a TV (the screen that descends from the ceiling so as not to obstruct the view.) The bed is a king (separates to two twins if you want) and this insomniac slept like a dream except that it’s hot and the a/c doesn’t seem up to the job.
The rest of the suite consists of a comfy sitting area, a coffee bar, a walk-in closet with plenty of storage, a good size bath with a giant tub by a window and a walk-in shower. It’s a lovely, lovely space, and if I am right, well below the price tag of a similar suite on a line like Seabourn. Not sure what to make of that.
A couple of nights in, I’d say Ponant scores high on the accommodations front. The regular suites would have been pretty small for us but they do fit in with the scale of the whole ship. It does feel like we have more real estate on this boat than any two people need but, by the time you are sailing on a ship like Le Champlain, you have kind of lost your standing to be outraged at the inequities of modern day capitalism.
I have some more to say about the public spaces, the food, and the cruising experience compared to others we have taken. But I am a slo-mo blogger on this trip, and while I intend to get to those subjects, it may take a minute. So in the meantime, here are some general thoughts:
A Ponant trip is not the kind of experience that most people have in mind when they think of ocean cruising. If you want a floating resort with multiple dining and entertainment venues, a constant opportunity to party and lots of pools and playthings, Ponant is not for you.
The biggest impressions I have so far are two: 1) One, Ponant is French. Very French. In my view that’s a good thing. From reviews I have read, other people’s mileage varies a lot. More about that to come. 2) The other is that it’s small. Everything is small. The ship is smaller in scale, the passengers are fewer, and the choices on the ship — where to eat and drink, what to do, what exercise equipment to work out on — are smaller in number. In my view that can be a good thing too but it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll spend some time soon thinking through the implications of cruising in miniature.
Stay tuned. More to come.