November 19, 2012

Sneak peek inside Ponant’s boutique ship

L ‘Austral is the one-year old sleek, boutique ship that just transported me for 8 days between Istanbul and Nice.

It’s part of the French company Ponant and a new, identical twin will be joining the fleet next year.

If you’re not a fan of the mega cruise ship with 3000 passengers and 1500 crew, the constantly open buffet food hall and a shopping centre and casino on board, then you’ll enjoy this.

L'Austral

Tied up in the tiny harbour in Corsica. So small we had to reverse out!

L'Austral lobby

This crystal feature runs for 2 levels from the main lobby

Cabins

Nearly all 132 cabins have balconies with outdoor furniture that make the perfect space for a drink, a read of a book – or drying your washing in the Aegean breeze.

I was travelling with my cousin so our king sized bed was split into twins. I did have a nosey into some of the other cabins and the layout is different depending on whether your cabin is an adjoining one for those who want an extra lounge room or to park the kids.

L'Austral twin cabin

Our twin cabin with balcony

The folks on level 5 had coffee machines, but we were on 4 and did not. However, with complimentary 24/7 cabin service we got over feeling guilty about bothering him and having stocked up on Apple Tea in Istanbul, would often request a pot of boiling water and cups and saucers.

Our cabin had good storage and we were able to completely unpack into the wardrobe and 6 drawers, plus shelves (and a safe) and stack our luggage on top of the other in the large wardrobe.

The bathroom has a separate toilet and the shower is roomy enough for 2. Although travelling with my cuz, we did not avail ourselves of this extra space. I’m just letting you know in case this is a factor in deciding which ship to cruise on! There is also a saucy sliding door revealing a glass window into said bathroom. Again, left unavailed, but under different circumstances….

 

Dining

Two restaurants are available. The one downstairs on level 2, Restaurant Le Coromandel, is only for dinner with white table cloths over tables of varying sizes so you can choose to sit with friends, strangers or find a nook just for 2.

L'Austral dinner

The main course in the a la carte restaurant

There is a menu each night with a choice of two soups, entrees, mains and desserts. Warm bread rolls are served and tea and coffee – with cheese if you have room – is available.

Upstairs on level 6, the pool deck, is the all-day restaurant where seating is both indoors and outdoors.

This is where you come each morning for the buffet breakfast of fresh fruits, cereals, cheeses, cold cuts and homemade breads. There is a hot selection and the chef will whip you up the dish of the day or eggs to your liking.

L'Austral salad bar

Salads and sashimi for our buffet lunch

At lunch this same space is used and choices change daily. They also set up a barbecue on the deck and sizzle kebabs, fish, steaks and other themed choices.

L'Austral seafood lunch

Back onboard in time for the seafood lunch

L'Austral seafood lunch

Chef shucks oysters on the pool deck for lunch

If you want to eat here for dinner, you can put your name down at breakfast time for an outdoor table and enjoy a buffet dinner. This also changes daily. The night I ate here was roast turkey with all the trimmings and a cabinet bursting with teeny desserts so that eating 3 of them wasn’t a sin.

Drinking

Wine is included with lunch and dinner, but if you can’t wait and need a little pre-dinner tipple, there are 3 bars to imbibe at.

The Observatory lounge on deck 6 is in the bow and you can take your drink outside or stay at the bar, relax on the couches and persuade someone to play the piano while watching where you’re going out of the massive windows.

L'Austral bow

Sunset outside the Observatory Lounge on deck 6

The pool bar is at the stern on a mezzanine level 7 overlooking the pool and is a great outdoor spot to enjoy departure views from the port towns.

Karikal lounge is on Deck 3 with white leather furniture and a grand piano. In the afternoons complimentary tea, cakes and mini savories are served with a full bar if you need something a little stiffer.

L'Austral lounge

A pre-dinner tipple at the Karikal Lounge with hors d’oevres

Entertainment

Theatre La Compagnie is on Deck 4. This is where lectures are held during the day if you’re interested in the history of the places we’re visiting, the upcoming Antarctic cruise and other subjects. It’s also where the dancers perform. The stage is small, but this little talented and energetic posse make it work with a different show each night.

L'Austral theatre

L’Austral theatre. Pic by François Lefebvre

A Photo Library is available on Deck 5 and the ship’s photographer puts the images on screens here of snaps taken onboard as well as on the daily excursions. You can buy them individually or a set on CD. It’s fun to walk past, scroll through to find someone looking hilarious and leave it that way…

 

Activities

The gym on Deck 5 is the perfect place to watch the sunrise from. I know, don’t I sound sporty, but truthfully the jetlag was still happening and the sun didn’t rise still about 7am, so being on the treadmill as we sailed at that time wasn’t too hard.

L'Austral gym

Burning some calories before another decadent day onboard

The Spa on Deck 5 uses Sothys products and there are several treatment rooms for pampering, as well as a hair salon for when you meet the captain.

The Pool is the focal point of Deck 6, but as it’s about the size of a mouse pad, surrounded by deck chairs and diners, I don’t think I saw anyone using it. Mind you, I was onboard at the beginning of autumn so it was also a little cool.

L'Austral Pool deck

Greek dancing around the pool on arrival to Greece!

A small shop is on Deck 3 which sells a few forgotten necessaries, as well as some nice jewellery, a small selection of clothing and books. I bought some flat sandals here for €10 as I didn’t have anything to scuff round the ship in.

If you want to spend your afternoons learning stuff (instead of taking a nana nap or wandering around a cute little town or historical site) classes are held in the Karikal Louunge on Deck 3. You can join for fitness or dance lessons.

Excursions

The ports are the reason you’ve chosen this itinerary, so plan to spend between €45 – €95 per day to visit the ancient ruins of Delphi (the temple of Apollo), Olympia (the site of the first Olympic Games), Pompei (buried in the Mt Vesuvius eruption of 79AD), Monreale cathedral, a trip up Mt Etna and others. Some days these are just walking tours through the towns, so you may decide to go on your own.

Pompei

Pompei with Mt Vesuvius in the background

 

Click here for my short video of highlights and sights onboard L’Austral>>>

For more info on booking a cruise on Ponant, click here to Francis Travel Marketing >>>

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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