Fodor’s Expert Review
French cruise line Ponant offers five-star expedition cruising. Sleek, intimate-sized ships attract well-traveled passengers who may be celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries.Read More
Le Bougainville is one of six in the Ponant Explorers class fleet of ships. Built in 2019, this 148-passenger vessel is used for both “yacht style” and “expedition style” cruises depending on her itinerary. Thanks to the stabilizers on this expedition ship, passengers will enjoy smooth sailing and very little sway no matter where she is sailing unless the weather conditions are very unfavorable.
This all-balcony luxury mega yacht has seven decks. There are 92 staterooms and suites that range in size from 204 to 484 square feet. Despite the small ship size, there is a spa, hair salon, boutique shop, theater, and two restaurants.
With top-of-the-line furnishings and French chic décor inside and out, this modern ship feels fresh and new. Design elements use a combination of textures and materials, such as whitewashed wood mixed with shiny metals, geometric patterns, and soft leather. It is all interspersed with bold pieces of colorful artwork that line the hallways and public spaces.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
Designed by French interior architect and designer Jean-Philippe Nuel, the 92 cozy yet comfortable staterooms and suites are decorated in a minimalist style using muted shades of cream, brown, and gray.
A large closet complete with full-length hanging space and shelving provides ample storage, in addition to a slim dresser that has two sets of cabinets and drawers. One side of the bed has a dressing table that doubles as a small desk (the leather ottoman can be used as a chair), while a small nightstand sits on the other side. Additionally, there’s a small seating area with a banquette, a round marble table, and, depending on the cabin category, an armchair.
The bathroom is split into two small spaces that can feel cramped in spite of the layout’s aim towards efficiency. Though cleverly designed, the space with the sink and shower utilizes a floor-to-ceiling window that faces the bedroom to let natural light into what would otherwise be an interior room. Additionally, in order to maximize storage space, there is a single deep drawer under the sink for storing toiletries. The toilet is housed separately in a water closet.
All cabins have balconies with space for two chairs and a coffee table. It is the perfect place for enjoying morning coffee or reading a book. The large aft staterooms on decks 5 and 6 have oversized balconies with room for sun loungers, a couch, and a table and chairs.
Cabin amenities include a Nespresso machine, electric tea kettle, robes, slippers, hairdryer, Hermes toiletries, a fully stocked complimentary mini-fridge, blue-tooth wireless speaker, and flat-screen satellite TV with a nice selection of free movies on demand. There is even a pillow menu to help ensure a good night’s sleep. Cabins come with both European 220-volt and North American standard 110-volt electrical outlets, plus USB ports next to the bed. For safety reasons, hair and clothes irons are not permitted to be used in staterooms.
Butler service is offered for passengers in Privilege Suites, Grand Deluxe Suites, and the Owner’s Suite located on deck 6. In addition to the common services provided to all staterooms, these staterooms come with champagne upon arrival and a daily assortment of treats and fruit, which is replenished daily.
For those with reduced mobility, a few specially designed staterooms are available, and access ramps are placed in communal areas.
All signage and stateroom numbers have been translated into Braille.
Food & Drink
Nautilus, the full-service main restaurant located on deck 4, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most passengers dine inside, but a small deck with a handful of tables draws some people as well.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style with a la carte items available for ordering. With roots in French cuisine, dinner is a four-course affair that begins with an amuse-bouche followed by soup, a starter, a main dish, and dessert or cheese. As one might expect on board a French ship, the baguettes and bread are baked daily by the onboard baker.
The Grill on deck 3 serves lunch and dinner al fresco. This self-service buffet features a rotating selection of soups, a plentiful salad bar, and several dessert options. Main courses, vegetarian options, and standard fares such as burgers and chicken Caesar salads, are ordered separately.
Ponant is happy to accommodate specific dietary requests (low-fat, gluten-free, etc.) as well.
In the afternoons, tea, small snacks, and pastries are offered in the lounge, and room service is 24-7.
In addition to the main lounge, panoramic lounge, and pool bar, the Blue Eye Lounge is a bar located on deck 1 just below sea level. Only open on select evenings, it has a cool James Bond 1960s vibe with purple mood lighting and asymmetrical seating. Unfortunately, marine life sightings are hard to come by as the bar is only open in the evenings, making it hard to see much water activity after dark.
With the exception of premium alcohol, all drinks in restaurants, bars, and in your minibars are included.
There are no large-scale shows or casinos on Le Bougainville. A singing duo performs in the lounge in the afternoon and after dinner. Occasionally, there are trivia and game nights.
Spa & Fitness
There is a small fitness center on deck 7 with two stationary bikes and three treadmills. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide plenty of natural light and the perfect backdrop for your workouts. The pool has resistance swimming so that you can do laps. Unfortunately, there is no walking track.
The Ponant Yacht Spa is also located on deck 7. The spa staff has been trained by Sothys Paris, and services include massages, facials, waxing, make-up application, and nail care. Additionally, hairdressers are available for cuts and blowouts, which are styled with Kerastase products.
Key cruising tips
Health & Safety
There is a doctor and medical facility located on deck 3. Consultations are fee-based, and you also must pay for medications.
The daily attire on Le Bougainville yacht cruising is fairly casual. Bring practical clothes as well as comfortable shoes for exploring while in port. In the evening, you’ll find fellow passengers dressed a bit more elegantly but saving their formal attire for the Captain’s Dinner. On that evening, men wear slacks and a jacket (no tie), and ladies wear cocktail dresses.
If you are sailing on an expedition cruise, be sure to refer to the packing guide shared by Ponant.
Although children between 1 and 8 years old are welcome, a formal request must be made in writing, and if approved, a liability waiver will be required. Depending on the type of cruise, yacht style, or expedition, further limitations on the age and number of children allowed on board at one time will be determined by the cruise line. There are no children-specific activities offered on Le Bougainville, nor is there a kid’s club.
You can expect personalized 5-star service while on board Le Bougainville. The dining room staff, in particular, strive to learn your name and food and drink preferences on day one.
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare; however, guests can always give more at their discretion.