The baby of the Marseille-based Ponant fleet until May 2015, when Le Lyrial debuted in the Mediterranean, Le Soléal is a stunner whose luxurious crystal-and-linen aesthetic belies her sturdy, reinforced hull. This French mega-yacht, which accommodates 264 passengers, can host a glittering cocktail gala one night and plough through Arctic ice the next.
What We Love
The Spa: This full-service spa and salon has a serene ambience that evokes a wellness resort, even while cruising on four engines through the open sea. A partnership with French skin-care favorite Sothys Paris, the spa isn’t just a place to get pampered — you’ll notice results.
Round-the-Clock Room Service: If you don’t feel like throwing on a cocktail dress for dinner or getting out of bed for breakfast, don’t worry. Le Soléal offers 24-hour complimentary room service with some alcoholic beverages included. You can also order breakfast the night before.
Best Known For
Expedition Cruises: While their natural home would seem to be the Mediterranean, Le Soléal and her sisters are famed for their far-flung itineraries — not only to Antarctica, but also to Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and the most obscure New Zealand ports.
French Brand Partnerships: French flair has intangible elements, but it's also defined by name brands — especially in the food and beauty realms. Ponant’s partnerships with Veuve Clicquot, Ladurée, skin-care line Sothys Paris, and other top French labels contribute to the luxury vibe aboard Le Soléal.
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Who It's Best For
Citizens of the World: If you like mingling with French, German, British, and Chinese travelers — but in a rarefied setting where everyone gets their own table in the cocktail lounge — you’ll enjoy traveling with this affluent, international crowd.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Formal Dining Can Be a Letdown: People expect Michelin-star culinary greatness from a luxury French brand, abut that's a tall order. Casual buffet meals lack the glamour but are usually tasty — and the staff will try to accommodate special orders.
Bathroom Setup: The toilet is in one tiny chamber and the shower in another, along with the sink. Some call that convenient, and others say it’s unsanitary. This is really a matter of personal opinion — but cruisers never fail to point it out.
Lena Katz is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Brides.