Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Le Boreal 27th April 2011 Part 2
Wednesday 27th April 2010
Wow, it’s a red carpet day, and lots of it! We all arrived at the cruise port to find LE BORÉAL and L’AUSTRAL bow to bow, with red carpet going in every direction. L’AUSTRAL had her maiden voyage celebrations yesterday and would leave later today, after our departure at 12 noon.
There was time for lots of fun photographs before luggage was handed in, tickets were checked and we could stroll along to the gangway.
The Captain of LE BORÉAL was standing there, ready to shake hands and see us each guided to our cabins. No, make that a stateroom not cabin, as I had a balconied cabin with a huge bed and seven pillows/cushions on it.
The toilet cubicle was adequate for a small person, but the separate bathroom/shower was bigger with a surprising totally glass wall separating it from the bedroom part of the cabin. As the sole occupant of my cabin it meant I could at least look through the bathroom glass wall and see the sea. Hmm, this has novelty value I suppose, especially when I was showering. In fact there was also a sliding door which could be pulled across to cover the glass but I left it open.
The ship was built at Fincantieri’s Ancona shipyard just last year for Compagnie du Ponant, at 10,700 gross tons, 16 knots, 140 crew, with 223 passengers on board today. She is French-flagged and is Ice Class 1C, for her more usual Antarctic cruises and expeditions. The ship has 132 cabins, with double or twin beds and private bathroom facilities.
There are six decks: Deck 2 Le Liberte has the Gastronomic Restaurant (268 seats) aft, with a Marina just aft of that. Deck 3 Le Champollion above that has the Medical Centre forward, cabins aft of that, with Reception and Excursion desk around the circular seating.
Aft again is a small shop, then Main Ispahan Lounge and bar,
with access through poorly fitting doors to the small open deck behind that. Deck 4 Le La Fayette has cabins and the Theatre aft. Deck 5 Le Normandie has the forward Bridge, cabins behind, then the Fitness centre, with hairdresser, massage and beauty facilities. Deck 6 Le France has the lovely open Panoramic Terrace at the bow,
with the Panoramic Lounge/Bar/Library inside behind that, which we all enjoyed very often.
Cabins were behind that, then the partly-covered Grill Restaurant, which proved popular but disorganised for buffet mealtimes. The swimming pool was sited here, with snow-white pool towels and dark coloured steamer chairs. The soft seating was in the signature bright red colour.
Above again on Deck 7 Le Paris was an aft Open-Air Bar; forward was some deck space but filled with Zodiacs and then a small forward Sun Deck which was not always available. There was an open Bridge policy.
I loved the subtle colour palette inside LE BORÉAL, with its dark brown or grey and white, with bright red splashes of colour. It seemed very stylish and comfortable for our 3 night Gastronomic Cruise, sailing from Marseille to Lisbon in Portugal. This re-positioning cruise is the only short one available, so it was an ideal length to try out one of Ponant’s Yacht Cruises. I liked the art work on board, in the cabins, corridors, lounges and stairwells, although it was sometimes hidden by poorly sited lighting (in the Ispahan Grand Salon for example).
Lunch was available in the Grill Restaurant, with disorganised buffet queues all around, but there was eventually a good choice of food, with wine and other drinks all supplied with the meal.
The Captain announced our departure time (late) and we blew 3 whistles to Ponant’s newest ship as we left the quayside. The sun was blazing down under a cloudless blue sky, we were sailing on a one-year old ship, and there beside us was a brand new vessel about to leave on her maiden voyage within an hour, and when we signalled our goodbyes in the usual nautical way – nothing, absolutely nothing, no response whatsoever. We all found this extraordinary.
Later that afternoon all the English-speaking passengers on board were invited to a Welcome Briefing in the Theatre from one of the Cruise Directors – Nadine - and our Captain Jean-Philippe Lemaire. After the brief Briefing it seemed the moment to ask politely why our 3 whistles on departure hadn’t been acknowledged by an answering signal from L’AUSTRAL, who was about to set out on her maiden voyage. The answer from the Captain, in English, was to the effect that yesterday had been the celebrations day (we knew that, but we weren’t there) with lots of whistle blowing, and today there were important people on board L’AUSTRAL and they didn’t choose to interrupt things with the VIPs. He also mentioned that it was not a maritime necessity to salute each other with whistles.
Afternoon tea was available,
then Lifeboat Drill followed, and soon it was time to prepare for the first of our Gastronomic dinners, starting at 7.30 p.m. First however we were informed that as dinner would probably be long and enjoyable, it had been decided that the ‘entertainment’ would be held at 6 p.m. with a Welcoming Show of Dancers in the Theatre. This was pleasant, but then it was announced that dinner would start later than advertised so we all trooped back to the Ispahan Lounge before being summoned down to the Restaurant to queue to enter. Seating had not been allocated in advance. A pleasant meal followed, which took three hours to serve with the appropriate wine; as each course was served, the French chef explained the details of the particular dish, and the wine, in French, at great length.
There was no English translation, which was a shame as the English-speakers on board (over 50 of us) had been told we would be treated equally with the French-speakers.
That was the end of our first day on our Gastronomic Cruise. It had been very enjoyable, in congenial company, and we really liked the ship and its furnishings.
Ships seen: Tassili I and II, Danielle Casanova, Napoleon Bonaparte, Paglia Orba, Scandola, Jean Nicoli, Atlantic Star, L’Austral, Le Boréal, Al Sabini, Monte d’Oro
To be continued...