|Azamara Cruises||Ponant Cruises|
|Where do they cruise?|
|What type of ships do they have?||Small Cruise Ships||Small & Expedition Ships|
|How many passengers are on board?||690 – 702||184 - 270 (200 in the Polar Regions)|
|What type of cruise line are they?||Premium||Luxury|
|What are they known for?|| || |
|What is the average cost per day?|| || |
|Are fares all inclusive?||No||Ponant position themselves as an all-inclusive line, however, shore excursions on classic cruises are not included and top shelf premium spirits and champagne are not included in the Open Bar. Gratuities are also not included|
|Are gratuities included?||Yes||No. Tipping the staff is customary but is completely at guest discretion. Guests will find an anonymous envelope in their stateroom which they can drop in the box provided at reception. Ponant guide that this is generally in the range of €10-12 per day per passenger|
|Are there any additional gratuities payable on board?||Yes. 18% gratuity added for spa services||No. Gratuities are at guest discretion|
|Can I get any reciprocal loyalty club benefits?||Azamara’s Le Club Voyage has reciprocal benefits with RCL Crown & Anchor Society and Celebrity Cruises Captain’s Club||No. Ponant Yacht Club only|
|What is the onboard currency?||USD||EUR|
|What language is spoken on board?||English||French & English|
|Who cruises with them?|| || |
|What is the average passenger age?||Primarily 50+||Primarily 50+|
|Are they good for families?||Children are accepted from 6+ months (or 12+ on select sailings) however, families are openly discouraged from sailing with children under 18 years of age||Children must be three years of age to embark on Ponant ships. Children must be six years of age for Polar Expedition cruises. Children must meet height requirements and the ability to receive and respond to instructions on Zodiac excursions and have their own parkas for polar excursions|
|Are there children’s programs?||No||Every Sister Ship and Explorer Ship has a space dedicated to children called Le Kids Club. However, there are no planned activities or babysitting services except on select themed Ponant Kids Club sailings in the Mediterranean where staff run organised children’s activities|
|Is there childcare and/or babysitting?||No||No|
|What are the accommodation options?||Interior, Oceanview, Balcony & Suites|| |
|Are there accessible staterooms?||Yes||Yes|
|Are shore excursions included?||No. However, on AzAmazing Evening event is included on most voyages and a complimentary shuttle is offered in select ports|| |
|What types of onboard activities are available for free?||Enrichment programs such as guest lectures and some onboard classes||Guest lectures and naturalist specialist lectures, live music in lounges such as piano and duets, dance shows, and film screenings|
|Are there any onboard activities that I need to pay for?||Yes. Some specialty experiences such as Vodka and Caviar tastings, Cocktail making or culinary workshops incur additional charges||No. All onboard activities are included|
|Is there free evening entertainment?||Yes||Yes|
|Is there any paid evening entertainment?||Yes. Occasionally special entertainment may incur additional charges||No|
|Are there complimentary dining options?||Yes||Yes|
|Are there specialty restaurants?||Yes. Charges Apply to all Specialty Restaurants||No|
|Are there dining packages for purchase?||Yes||No|
|Are non-alcoholic beverages included?||Yes. Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas||Yes. Mineral water, soft drinks, coffee and tea|
|Are alcoholic beverages included?||Yes. Select standard spirits, international beers and wines. Complimentary alcohol is not included in room service||Yes. There is an Open Bar for Charles Heidsieck champagne, beer, wine and spirits – excludes premium label spirits and champagne|
|Can I purchase a beverage package?||Yes||Yes. Guests can purchase the Premium Open-bar to enjoy top-shelf spirits and Veuve Clicquot.|
|Is there room service?||Yes. Complimentary 24/7. Charges apply for alcohol orders. Complimentary alcohol is not included in room service||Yes. Complimentary 24/7|
|Is there Wi-Fi on board?||Yes. Charges Apply||Yes. Complimentary|
|Can I purchase Wi-Fi packages?||Yes||No|
|Is there a Spa?||Yes||Yes. Access to the steam room is complimentary|
|Are spa and salon services available?||Yes. Charges Apply||Yes. Charges Apply|
|Is there a gym?||Yes||Yes|
|Are there group fitness classes?||Yes. Included complimentary. Some specialised training programs may incur additional charges||Yes. Occasional group fitness sessions may be offered and may incur charges|
|Is there personal training available?||Yes. Charges Apply||No|
|Is there a self-service laundry?||Yes. Complimentary||No|
|Is a laundry service available?||Yes. Charges Apply||Yes. Charges Apply|
|Is there a casino on board?||Yes. Only on Azamara Journey||No|
Please Note: There may be additional inclusions and privileges for select stateroom and suite guests or select loyalty member tiers. Activities and entertainment vary by ship, itinerary and departure and are a guide only.
There is an element of understated elegance across both Ponant and Azamara fleets. Guests will find soft tones and neutral colours with the brands adding their own touches to the styling and design. While both fleets are comprised of small ships, this takes on different meaning for each line.
Ponant’s 11 ship fleet is designed to undertake both small ship luxury cruises to mainstream destinations as well as expedition style journeys. To facilitate their luxury expeditions, these ships are small enough to reach ports that not all small ships can. Ponant’s fleet welcomes just 184 – 270 guests and the low passenger number, along with the high staff to guest ratio (almost two staff for every three guests), makes for an intimate atmosphere. Service staff are attentive yet discreet, and life on board is intended to feel like you’re spending time on your own elegant private yacht.
Azamara’s three ships are considerably larger, accommodating roughly 700 guests apiece. While they do visit mainstream ports and destinations inaccessible to larger liners, they don’t operate as expedition vessels. Despite their higher passenger numbers, guests will still find a similar staff to guest ratio and a warm friendly service standard on which Azamara prides themselves. These ships are designed to have a club-like feel, be cosy but not crowded, comfortable yet contemporary, and resemble exclusive boutique hotels.
Each Azamara ship is practically identical, and being larger than Ponant’s, can offer guests a few more onboard amenities. Passengers can enjoy five different venues for dinner plus a café for coffee and snacks, whereas Ponant has two restaurants on each ship. There are more lounges and common areas on Azamara ships, and a self-service laundry.
Both lines offer a dedicated entertainment venue on each ship, and on Ponant cruises you’ll find piano recitals, singers, and evening film screenings. Although you generally won’t find the action carrying through late into the night on either line, there are more entertainment options on Azamara cruises. Guests can enjoy signature shows and guest entertainment in the Cabaret Lounge and the onboard White Night parties have become a popular favourite for the line. Azamara also offers one complimentary AzAmazing Evenings event (on most voyages) where guests head ashore for a private experience curated to highlight the destination.
While Azamara ships have some more traditional venues, Ponant boasts some unique features that you won’t find on the Azamara fleet. These are most relevant in expedition destinations where Ponant’s Zodiac fleet can be used for remote exploration, and the standout features of the Le Commandant Charcot Polar Explorer come into their own – think participatory science programs in the research lab and experiences by tethered hot air balloon, hovercrafts and snow mobiles. Guests will also find a unique multi-sensory Blue Eye lounge on the Ponant Explorer ships, complete with two glass panels to showcase the underwater world and Body Listening sofas to soak up the sounds of the ocean through acoustic waves and discreet vibrations.
Azamara is known for their relaxed atmosphere, with no scheduled formal nights and formal attire not required on any sailing. There is a laid back ambiance and guests can don resort casual wear or dress up more if they choose. Recommended attire for ladies includes dresses, skirts, pants and blouses, while men will be comfortable in collared shirts and a sports coat if desired (although not required).
Being the only French cruise company in the market, guests can expect a distinctive experience when cruising a la Française. French standards are synonymous with understated elegance, and cruising with Ponant is no different. Onboard social spaces create a sophisticated ambiance yet despite being a luxury brand, Ponant strives to foster a relaxed atmosphere on board. Ponant recommends casual to elegant outfits to suit the onboard activities, with formal attire expected for gala evenings and the Captain’s dinner.
Ponant’s French heritage is also noticeable in other aspects of the cruise experience; the crew speak French and English, lectures and announcements are bilingual, and guests can look forward to French touches such as macarons for afternoon tea and Veuve Clicquot champagne served at gala dinners.
Choosing between Ponant and Azamara may depend greatly on where you wish to cruise. In mainstream destinations the onshore experience can be quite similar for both lines, with culturally and historically rich excursions available for purchase. In more remote destinations, Ponant includes expedition style experiences such as Zodiac adventures, nature hikes and wildlife spotting, with most of these experiences run by the Ponant expedition team with Ponant equipment.
Specialising in luxury expeditions, Ponant’s number one destination is Antarctica, followed by Australia’s Kimberley Coast and the Arctic. Ponant also has a collection of expeditions run in collaboration with National Geographic, as well as themed journeys such as those that focus on food and wine, music, art, theatre and literature, or golf. While the brand’s expeditions are a standout, Ponant also has a collection of luxury cruises to more mainstream destinations such as the Mediterranean and Western Europe.
Azamara voyages centre around destination immersion, and their itineraries include late stays in port and overnights to enable guests to explore more. Shore excursions encourage guests to experience destinations like a local, and this can be anywhere from bustling cities to remote regions around the globe. Azamara’s largest cruise collection showcases Europe and the Mediterranean, and they also offer sailings between Australia and New Zealand for those looking to cruise to/from Australian ports. Along with their multi-country offerings, Azamara prides themselves on their country intensive voyages which explore multiple ports in of one destination in depth. Azamara also has special event cruises (such as the Monaco Grand Prix) and golf themed itineraries.
While they aren’t an expedition brand, Azamara does visit exotic and remote destinations such as the African Coast, South America, Norway and Iceland. On shore, local tour operators are used to showcase each region and experiences are tailored to suit. Travellers will get the chance to enjoy excursions that are reminiscent of expedition trips, such as game drives in South Africa, sea kayaking at the Beagle Channel, or a downhill bike ride to the heart of Norway’s Geirangerfjord. Azamara even has a couple of cruises to Antarctica, however, guests will enjoy scenic cruising here rather than the Zodiac and kayak adventures offered by Ponant and other expedition lines.
Comparing the value between Ponant and Azamara is like comparing apples and oranges. Ponant is a luxury line and this is reflected in their pricing. Azamara sits at the high end of the premium range and offers cruises at a lower price point than Ponant.
The difference in price is most significant in destinations where Ponant operates their expedition itineraries, offering a different product entirely. On expedition itineraries Ponant includes shore excursions in the cruise fare which adds a cost, and value, to the initial price. In mainstream destinations guests will have to pay for excursions on top of the cruise fare with Ponant, as they will on all Azamara itineraries.
Every Ponant ship has two restaurants on board, and all dining is complimentary. Guests cruising with Azamara will have to pay a surcharge (US$30) in the two specialty restaurants, however, there are three complimentary dinner venues and a café to choose from free of charge. Room service is complimentary on both lines. Ponant also includes Wi-Fi for all guests, whereas it is only the Veranda Plus and Suite guests that are entitled to ‘free minutes’ with Azamara (entitlements vary by stateroom category).
When it comes to gratuities, Azamara includes this in the cruise fare but Ponant does not. Tipping on Ponant cruises is completely discretionary, however, if guests choose to leave a gratuity, they can do so discreetly in the envelope provided in their stateroom at the end of their cruise (there is a box at reception to return the anonymous envelope). There is no obligation to leave a tip, and if guest choose to, the value is entirely up to them. As a guide, Ponant note that tipping is generally €10-12 per day per passenger.
Along with the inclusions of each line, it is important to consider the deals available at the time of booking. Azamara cruise deals may include discounted fares, bonuses such as onboard credit, reduced single supplements, or last minute offers. For guests cruising with Ponant, it is always recommended to get in early. With the Ponant Bonus cruises are released at a 30% discount, and as spaces fill, this saving will revert to 25%, then 20%, and so on. Ponant’s solo passenger deals are a standout for the line, with no single supplement at all on a considerable number of itineraries.
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