On a typical drizzly October day in the portside city of Bergen I boarded the brand new PONANT Explorer: Le Champlain. The new ship an instant giveaway- as I stepped on board I could smell the scent of new furnishings and paintwork and of course in true PONANT fashion, warm service also greeted me with a “Bonjour Madame!”
I was eager to see my cabin that swiftly turned into (a much more luxurious) home away from home, complete with contemporary beautiful interiors and stunning personal touches. I was quick to eye up the Hermès bathroom amenities, Nespresso machine and the all-inclusive mini-fridge stocked with a range of beers, juices, spirits and mixers.
Supplied with an excursion list and daily journal I was excited to get a preview of our next few days - we had Geiranger and the charming port of Olden to look forward to. After welcome cocktails and a five-course dinner (in my opinion, enough to make Gordon Ramsay’s head spin!) I went to bed pinching myself…
The next morning we met with Florent the Hotel Manager where he presented us the Blue Eye lounge, an elegant and unreal bar area located in the hull of the ship, with interiors that make you feel like you’re sitting in some contemporary seabed. Featuring global listening sound design it is capable of listening to the sound of whales and dolphins outside, a truly unique space to add to any experience!
Ready for our first excursion and armed with full battery power in my camera I was eager to see one of the most iconic fjords in Norway, Geiranger Fjord. We drove up the famous Eagle road to see the Seven Sisters waterfalls and then visited the Norwegian Fjord Center.
Back on board, I made sure to make some time before dinner to visit the sauna. Well, it sure would’ve been too easy to miss dinner- with the mesmerizing view of the mountains meeting the sea!
After cocktail hour we made our way to the Captain’s Gala Evening and enjoyed another 5- course Gastronomic menu where I opted for a vegetarian menu of carrot jelly, quinoa salad, gnocchi, a delicious mushroom risotto all finished off with a chocolate mousse cake made of dreams.
For our second day excursion, we were bound for Olden Valley for a short hike up to Briksdael Glacier. The fall foliage was breath-taking and the PONANT excursion team made sure we were really clear on meeting points, and with the promise of tea and cakes at the end had us pacing up the trail!
The expedition team set up the marina at the back of the ship for us to see whilst we got back on board. Even though we were in the chilly waters of the Norwegian Sea it was not hard to see this added platforms potential in destinations like the tropics.
From our two days of excursions, I was impressed with the soft adventures PONANT offered and imagined how any client would be perfectly happy with the options of kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling, cruising around in expedition zodiacs, enjoying the infinity pool or immersing themselves in learning some new tricks in the PONANT photo studio. With every excursion we went out on over the three days I was very impressed with the level of organisation from the the Ponant team and they were careful to help everyone in and out of the zodiacs and make sure everybody was happy and comfortable.
Short but sweet my time on board Le Champlain was over. For now, I am dreaming of experiencing the Blue Eye lounge in the tropics and assisting with helping clients being able to experience the best symphony of expedition and luxury cruising all perfected within the walls of a small cruise ship! Exploration, luxury, gourmet food & wine… need I say more!?
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