It’s easy when boarding Le Boréal to think this sleek, modern French ship with its fine dining, elegant lounges and tiers of passenger balconies would spend its time gently bobbing off Monte Carlo or a Greek island.
But under the svelte exterior beats a courageous heart which makes it the biggest ship to visit Antarctica or guides it through the North-West Passage. Next year it is heading for Alaska for the first time, albeit the relatively calm stretch between Vancouver and Juneau. Other exotic destinations for the four-year-old Le Boréal and its two, almost identical, Compagnie du Ponant sister ships include Japan and the Mekong.
Passengers who can tear themselves away from the haute cuisine, the spa or the outside bar can bounce around in RIBs launched from the marina. The slightly less adventurous can take a dip in the pool or use the treadmills in the gym while enjoying an amazing view of the ocean.
For such a small ship – just under 11,000 tonnes – there’s a plethora of balconies, with 95 per cent of rooms having one. And while the food has a French flair, you don’t have to take a bilingual dictionary – all the staff speak English and announcements are made in both languages.
The relaxed feel of the ship – which I visited on its first trip to Britain – extends even to the bridge, where most of the time a simple knock on the door will allow passengers to share the captain’s view as he and the first officers steer the 142m (466ft) vessel.
Next year, all three ships will go all-inclusive, making it even easier for guests to make new friends in the bars and restaurants without worrying about the bill.
From the marina and main restaurant on deck 2, you head up past the main lounge on deck 3, the theatre on 4 and spa on 5 to the pool bar, grill restaurant – which spreads outside – and observation lounge on 6 to the outside bar on 7.
With only 264 passengers and 136 crew, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about Le Boréal which sets it apart wherever it moors, from the sunshine of London to the snowy wastes of Antarctica.
All photos by author
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