Commpagnie du Ponant’s Le Boreal

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Meanwhile, Le Boreal’s elegant dining room waits for diners with more formal meals in mind. Diners here enjoy multiple-course dinners of fresh meats and seafood, all prepared with that classic French expertise. This is one place clients will really want to indulge, especially at the end of the meal when dessert is offered.

When they’re not enjoying the ship’s fine cuisine, or sunning themselves in the padded loungers or round day-beds surrounding the swimming pool, Le Boreal’s guests tend to congregate in the combination bar/lecture room. By day, clients have the chance to hear lectures and demonstrations from visiting experts such as chefs, musicians and more, depending on the port of call and the theme of the cruise. Our wellness-themed cruise, for instance, featured cooking demonstrations by chefs both visiting and employed on the ship, as well as nutrition experts and yoga instructors. Between presentations, live musicians keep clients company as they enjoy cocktails and light snacks. And when night falls, the bar transforms once again into a disco, complete with a live DJ and clubby light effects.

At the other end of the ship, the library offers guests a more low-key relaxation area, with plush chairs facing the forward deck and sea beyond. A collection of books (most in French) is on hand, as are computer stations for guests who’ve left their laptops at home. But even this spot livens up at night. Its piano is open to guests for use, and ship employees stop to play regularly, keeping clients dancing and singing along late into the night.

ports of call The amenities of Le Boreal may have pushed it into a bigger league, but the ship remains true to one of Compagnie du Ponant’s most alluring offerings: its ports of call. Because it’s not an enormous, thousand-passenger cruise vessel, Le Boreal can dock just about everywhere. We had the chance to dock in Porto, for example, a mid-sized Portuguese town filled with history, spectacular architecture covering its mountains and, of course, the birthplace of port wine.

Travelers who are familiar with the Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruises of the world, might at first be taken aback by the ports Le Boreal visits. Clients step right off the ship into a real experience of a destination, rather than an over-commercialized dock version. But that’s exactly what draws true adventurers to Le Boreal in the first place. Most ports are within walking or cab-taking distance to the destination’s most famous attractions, and there’s no need for the distraction of a Margaritaville along the way. Le Boreal’s passengers trade the convenience of souvenir shops for the authenticity of experiences at each destination—and most find the trade-off immensely rewarding.

the french connection Cruising aboard a French ship has more than its fair share of advantages: superb cuisine, elegant decor, European ambiance. And the staff on board are both fluent in English and friendly enough to make you forget there’s any such thing as a language barrier. But when it comes to socializing with fellow passengers, clients would do well to study up on their French before their voyage. Though it’s large by Compagnie du Ponant’s standards, Le Boreal is still a relatively small ship, and getting to know your fellow passengers is an integral part of the experience.

But what if your clients have no French background at all? Not a problem. Companies like Abercrombie & Kent and Tauck have chartered Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Boreal and are hosting spectacular adventures on it—and because they’re operated by U.S. companies, the clientele is expected to be mostly English-speaking.

Both Tauck and Abercrombie & Kent offer 2-week journeys from Buenos Aires, down the coast of South America and across the Drake Passage to the glaciers, wildlife and excitement of the southernmost continent. Abercrombie & Kent’s Classic Antarcticastarts at $9,995 pp dbl; Tauck’s Antarctica starts at $8,490 pp dbl.

On the other hand, for clients who would love to fully immerse themselves in the European ambiance on board, Le Boreal offers a wider range of itineraries for 2011. In November 2010, on its way to Antarctica, Le Boreal sails down the east coast of South America with stops in Brazil and Argentina. After its first season in Antarctica, the mega-yacht will sail up the Pacific in February and March calling at ports in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Central America. There is a 7-night Miami-Miami cruise on April 5 before the vessel returns to Europe. For the spring and summer of 2011, Le Boreal will sail in Scandinavia, around Iceland, and for the first time in the waters of Greenland and Canada’s Arctic. Rates start from $1,990 for the 7-night Miami to Miami cruise; $2,120 for the Pearls of Brazil.  Antarctica cruises begin at $4,700 for a superior stateroom and range up to $13,175 for the Owner’s Suite.