Ponant launched the three-masted Le Ponant in 1991, and those towering sails are raised to reach exotic islands around the world, from Cape Verde to the Maldives. Sailings on Le Ponant are an intimate experience, with just 64 passengers looked after by a crew of 32. The ship can achieve 12 knots under sail alone, while a 13-foot draft ensures that shallow waterways and anchorages are not barriers during off-the-beaten-track itineraries.
What We Love
Outdoor Dining: The Diamant panoramic restaurant offers great buffet breakfasts, lunches of fine French cuisine, and occasionally — if the weather permits — house-party style open-air dinners. When the ship is anchored off of a fashionable resort, the sense of privilege while dining under the stars is palpable.
Indoor Dining: In the more formal Karukéra restaurant, a brigade of French chefs prepares gastronomic feasts.
Best Known For
Snug but Chic Staterooms: The majority of passenger accommodations (27 cabins) are on the Marie-Galante Deck with five located on the Antigua Deck. As this is a sailing yacht, cabins are not vast (113 to 165 square feet), but they are well designed and perfectly adequate for a week-long cruise.
Barefoot Chic: The Emeraude Lounge opens onto a delightful covered open deck at Le Ponant's stern, where steps lead to the marina pontoon.
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Who It's Best For
Francophiles: As the majority of passengers are French, speaking un petit peu (a little bit) of the language is helpful. This intimate vessel is very sociable and the multi-lingual cruise director ensures an informal atmosphere.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There's Motion to the Ocean: There are no stabilizers, so when the winds blow and the sails fill, Le Ponant behaves like a tall ship and some pitching and rolling is inevitable.
Gary Buchanan is a UK-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written multiple books about cruising.