By Arie Boris
If you have always wanted to escape to a small, upscale French boutique hotel in the south of France, then cruising on Le Boreal is for you! This new and very chic vessel is so French in every way: interior design, cuisine, French staff, and guests. You will feel transported regardless of the itinerary.
As described by Compagnie Du Ponant, currently the only French-owned cruise line, Le Boreal is an upscale luxury adventure cruise ship with a focus on exotic, off the beaten path destinations like the Arctic and Antarctica. Less than two years old, the ship’s exterior is sleek and the interior design of public spaces and accommodations is, well, “French Modern”!
Staterooms are compact, but comfortable. Just remember, “When in Rome”…bathrooms are divided and include a washroom with sink, small tub and shower. It has a wall to ceiling glass window looking out into the bedroom that allows daylight in thru the balcony windows. A sliding panel can be closed from inside the bedroom for some additional privacy while bathing. The WC, with a separate door, is right next to the washroom opposite the foyer closets.
Soothing grey wood veneer paneling complement a white leather upholstery headboard and matching closet doors giving the compact space a stylish, understated look. The small balcony provides some much needed sitting space in nice weather. A large screen television offers a limited number of TV channels, a selection of current movies in English and a great selection of music channels including, of course, Edith Piaf.
Unless you are on one of the many A&K charters geared to North Americans, most guests and staff speak French, announcements are made in French followed by English, food is French style, but not haute cuisine, service is accommodating, but can seem a bit “French” at times. Many of our meals were superior, with some outstanding soups and fish entrees. I found some of the beef choices a bit tough, but the Rack of Lamb was just right. The French breads and baguettes are incredible, as are the desserts! I especially enjoyed their citrus mousse and blueberry tart. At the Breakfast buffet, the chef will whip up an omelet for you with a choice of ingredients. Again, the breads and jams are heavenly. Choices include a traditional Brioche loaf as compared to the little individual rolls to which we are accustomed. A variety of luscious breakfast Gateau (translate: homemade French pound cakes) and pastries started my day off with a smile!
French wines are included with lunch and dinner. Premium wines are available at additional cost. Next year the ship line will be offering an all-inclusive experience by including all alcoholic beverages in the cost of the cruise. We were offered a white, rose or red at each meal. The whites and reds were mostly from Bordeaux and were well paired with each menu. We enjoyed the quality of several items from the limited room service menu. Upon request, they will make up a lunch or dinner plate from the buffet restaurant on Deck 6 for delivery to your cabin. Although space for dining ensuite is limited, we ate on the balcony several times or asked for two of the big silver room service serving trays and enjoyed dinner in bed while watching movies on the big screen TV. If you book a suite on Le Boreal, you will have more than enough room for in-cabin dining.
Some North American cruise aficionados may not consider this ship in the same league as a traditional “Luxury” line, but compared to other adventure cruise ships, Le Boreal is certainly a luxurious way to visit places like Antarctica and remote Canadian provinces that the big ships can’t reach. With no less than two sleek cocktail lounges (one with views aft and the other with a bridge view) and a full theater, the ship has classical pianists playing at cocktail time and a late night duo singing popular hits. Production shows are smaller, but no worse than those found on traditional “Luxury” ships which tend to be pretty lack luster. However, shows in this theater have a decidedly “French Review” feel, with high kicking, lip syncing show girls prancing around the stage to popular jazz standards. Although a bit cliché, I found it amusing.
Overall, we enjoyed our time on Le Boreal. It is not for everyone (except of course if your home is in France), but I certainly would recommend this ship to North Americans if they are headed for an adventure in Antarctica. For more information visit here.