Ponant perfection- Our experience of exploring to inspire.
Written & Images by Chloe Hambidge
A journey on Le Champlain
In September 2022 Reservations Manager Karen and I had the honour of voyaging on the timeless Le Champlain with Ponant’s show stopping team. To kick start our pleasant experience we were stunned by the beauty of the ship alone. Embarking at the white cliffs of Dover, Le Champlain stood out like a prestigious yacht promising exploration and relaxation. The ship offers an exclusive feel making you feel like a form of royalty as soon as you step on board. You are greeted by a selection of staff all with a smile on their face and joy in their voice as if in on an exciting secret of the incredible experience you’re about to uncover. Check-in was quick and efficient as soon as you walk through that threshold, you are relieved of all duties and worries with staff transforming you into holiday mode with the clink of a champagne flute.
At Ponant, you and your luggage are quickly cared for with a charming team and attentive cruise director there to smoothly greet you onto this ultra-luxurious dream. The first thing we noticed as entering this alternate dimension of sleek European elegance was the overwhelming aura of tranquillity, the underlying scent of sweet florals flutters up your nostrils like a warm and welcoming after thought, tempting you to venture down into Le Champlain’s renowned spa. The impressive fixtures in the reception area set the bar high for what’s to come, and these expectations are most definitely met. The atmosphere is prestigious with touches of comfort throughout leaving you feeling warm and at home, this environment paves the most picture-perfect way to explore to inspire in style. These first impressions most definitely draw you in and leave you reeling for more, all your needs are met without a second though as if your subconscious is on show with Ponant’s staff seemingly reading your mind and work effortlessly to meet these desires with a smile and 5-star service. This was proved almost instantly on our visit; after a long day of travelling, they did not hesitate to offer our room keys and guide us swiftly into the restaurant for a mouth-watering and refreshing spread.
Walking into our cabin was greatness both of us had expected but never could’ve predicted. Staying in a privileged state room, the privilege was all ours as we were greeted with an expansive room offering everything you could want and more. What stole my heart was the gorgeous walk in wardrobe, equipped with two extra cosy dressing gowns and slippers, an umbrella a safe etc. The warm spotlights guide you in, transforming yourself for the evening was truly a joy. These little opulent moments are just the subtle ways Ponant create an extravagant and exclusively personal experience. In addition, these suites comes with priority boarding, so you can kickstart this incredible journey as soon as possible. The walk-in shower is spacious with a tempting selection of heavenly scented shampoos and body washes, a lovely touch to leave you smelling as fabulous as you feel, these facilities are endless with a large king-size bed and an even bigger duvet, sinking yourself into this peaceful cocoon is the cherry on the cake. Just in front of you is a 90x200cm TV stocked with new and upcoming films to entertain for days, as well as an endearing chaise lounge and armchair, creating an apartment feel with plenty of space. What’s truly special about these suites is the private balcony (8m) allowing you take in all the breath-taking sights unfolding before you in your very own haven. Ponant seems to understand the specialty of finally coming face to face with your lifelong dream destinations and does everything in their power to make it an experience worth remembering.
The Blue Eye Lounge truly is a spectacle to marvel at, and that’s before you’ve even reached your tantalising ports of call. This impressive and innovative idea is designed to create a multi-sensory meditative atmosphere where you can truly be captivated by underwater inner workings. This experience truly is an honour, the lounge almost feels other worldly as you’re witnessing a sight and undergoing feelings only few have yet to even think off. By laying down on the sofas you’re engulfed with light vibrations and surround speakers to truly allow you to drift off into your surroundings. Gentle music eases you off into a blue paradise where all that should be present in your mind is peace. Ponant put together 20-minute sessions where a speaker talks you into this state of relaxation and you become hyper aware of your place under the sea and morph into a state of quietude. This privilege is a moment that I will never forget as you watch the sea rush past, you can only imagine the bliss of the tropical fish circling you in the Seychelles or observing the deep-rooted iced caps in Alaska. An important aspect to Ponant is sustainability and respect for the environment, as part of the glowing underwater cove there is no use of intrusive lights, allowing a pleasurable participation from human to local ecosystems. The exploration opportunities Le Champlain have to offer are uncapped and The Blue Eye lounge hold many prospects with a maximum of 40 people allowed to view it at a time, as well as a fully stocked bar. This asset is something you can transform into your own with cool animations trickling across the walls it truly is an otherworldly experience. Words could never explain the eerily beautiful amazement of being a spectator amongst the under-water world- and to do it in such luxury.
Of course, for business purposes, we had to check out the pool. The infinity pool is located at the back of the boat, a crystal blue rectangular present awaiting you. By day it’s a hub of sunbeds and clusters of tables, allowing more private and intimate moments as well as a more social aspect- these small ships allowing you to build relationships where you’d least expect it. Yet by night, it completely transforms into a shimmering mirage, the pool sparkles invitingly in the pitch-black inky sky until your entirely surrounded by stars. So whether it’s a morning lap, or a midnight swim, Ponant are set out to accommodate to your every need, and in a glamorously attentive way. To extend this playground of unwinding, the hydraulic platform extends to reach further into the deep sea. This allows more space for sunloungers morphing the ship into it’s own sort of private island, a embarkation and disembarkation port for easy access to and from the ship as well as make shift stage for entertainment with a serene back drop. This platform is a key to many nautical activities from paddle boarding to snorkelling which is just another benefit of the ships small prestigious size to pave a way for these sentimental activities, creating a hands on experience with the world around us.
Le Champlain is asset to Ponant, these explorer class ships reinforce the company’s mantra of ‘Explore to Inspire’ perfectly. A trip on Ponant is the trip of a lifetime, these vessels holding a key to experiencing a meaningful voyage, which is just one of many of the cruise lines signatures of not just seeing the world but immersing yourself in its beauty. The other signatures include the possibility of sailing to secret shores allowing you to venture off the beaten track as well as the opportunity to travel consciously as you truly appreciate the wonder our world provides whilst giving you the ability to give back thanks to the use of the latest green technology and expert environmental studies onboard. The intimate size of the ship is just another reason why these ships go that extra miles with an air of peace and exclusivity whilst you explore the world, this paired with the bespoke onboard services creates a cruising experience promised to leave an impact with small ship luxury never being more of a reality than onboard Ponant- Voted #1- Conde Nast Travelers Reader’s Choice Awards.
We sailed across the North Sea to Bergan over the space of 3 days, to find out more about our time in Norway take a look at our blog ‘The tranquillity of the Fjords’.