|Ponant Cruises||Scenic Eclipse Cruises|
|Where do they cruise?|
|What type of ships do they have?||Small & Expedition Ships||Small Cruise Ship|
|How many passengers are on board?||184 - 270 (200 in the Polar Regions)||228 (200 in the Polar Regions)|
|What type of cruise line are they?||Luxury||Luxury|
|What are they known for?|| || |
|What is the average cost per day?|| || |
|Are fares all inclusive?||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||Yes|
|Are gratuities included?||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||Yes|
|Are there any additional gratuities payable on board?||No. Gratuities are at guest discretion||No|
|Can I get any reciprocal loyalty club benefits?||No. Ponant Yacht Club only||You may choose to have your Scenic trip count towards your Evergreen Explorer tier status. However, trips with Evergreen Tours or Emerald Waterways cannot count towards your Scenic Club tier status|
|What is the onboard currency?||EUR||USD|
|What language is spoken on board?||French & English||English|
|Who cruises with them?|| || |
|What is the average passenger age?||Primarily 50+||Primarily 45-64|
|Are they good for families?||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||Not for those with young children. Scenic does not recommend luxury expedition style cruising for children under 12 years|
|Are there children’s programs?||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||No|
|Is there childcare and/or babysitting?||No||No|
|What are the accommodation options?|| ||All-Veranda Suites|
|Are there accessible staterooms?||Yes||No|
|Are shore excursions included?|| ||Yes. Complimentary. Helicopter and submarine excursions incur additional charges|
|What types of onboard activities are available for free?||Guest lectures and naturalist specialist lectures, live music in lounges such as piano and duets, dance shows, and film screenings||Lectures and educations programs are offered on board, along with a wellness program complete with meditation sessions and yoga and Pilates classes.|
|Are there any onboard activities that I need to pay for?||No. All onboard activities are included||No|
|Is there free evening entertainment?||Yes. Evening entertainment is in the onboard theatre as well as in the two lounges||Yes. The state-of-the-art theatre hosts selected evening performances as well as lectures and education programs|
|Is there any paid evening entertainment?||No||No|
|Are there complimentary dining options?||Yes||Yes|
|Are there specialty restaurants?||No||Yes. Complimentary|
|Are there dining packages for purchase?||No||No|
|Are non-alcoholic beverages included?||Yes. Mineral water, soft drinks, coffee and tea||Yes. Freshly squeezed juices, soft drinks, non-alcoholic beer and cider, mocktails, specialty teas and coffees|
|Are alcoholic beverages included?||Yes. There is an Open Bar for Charles Heidsieck champagne, beer, wine and spirits – excludes premium label spirits and champagne||Yes. All drinks on board are included except for a very small number of rare, fine and vintage wines, champagnes and spirits|
|Can I purchase a beverage package?||Yes. Guests can purchase the Premium Open-bar to enjoy top-shelf spirits and Veuve Clicquot.||No|
|Is there room service?||Yes. Complimentary 24/7||Yes. Butler service provided for every guest|
|Is there Wi-Fi on board?||Yes. Complimentary||Yes. Complimentary|
|Can I purchase Wi-Fi packages?||No||No|
|Is there a Spa?||Yes. Access to the steam room is complimentary||Yes. Access 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. Occasional group fitness sessions may be offered and may incur charges||Yes. Complimentary wellness activities are offered in the yoga and Pilates studio|
|Is there personal training available?||No||No|
|Is there a self-service laundry?||No||Yes. Complimentary|
|Is a laundry service available?||Yes. Charges Apply||Yes. Charges Apply|
|Is there a casino on board?||No||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.
Ponant and Scenic deliver a luxury small ship experience across expedition style itineraries as well as more mainstream cruise holidays. Both lines service classic cruise destinations such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Central America (depending on Scenic’s cruise season), as well as remote and lesser-visited regions such as Antarctica and the Arctic.
Ponant and Scenic tailor their voyages to suit each destination. When visiting well established ports, both lines can dock with easy access to the local sights. In more remote destinations where these lines operate expedition itineraries (such as in the Polar regions), guests can expect a dedicated team to join them on board to deliver lectures, share specialist knowledge, and coordinate excursions. To enable them to operate in destinations with less or no infrastructure, Scenic Eclipse and Ponant vessels are equipped with features that facilitate expedition style exploration, such as kayaks, Zodiacs, and an on-ship marina to set off on daily excursions.
Luxury discoveries are at the core of what these brands do, with Antarctica being the number one destination for both lines. Ponant’s second most popular cruise region, particularly for Australian guests, is the Kimberley Coast. This is followed by the Arctic where both Ponant and Scenic offer luxury expeditions. There are no Scenic Eclipse itineraries that travel around (or to/from Australian ports) currently scheduled in the 2020-2022 seasons.
With just one ship (due to be joined by her sister ship in 2022), Scenic Eclipse has fewer sailings to choose from when compared to Ponant’s 11 strong fleet. Guests will find multiple departures of Scenic’s popular Antarctic voyages, as well as a collection of Arctic cruises, while most other journeys are "one offs" as the Eclipse travels between the Poles.
When comparing Scenic Eclipse and Ponant Polar itineraries, it is worth noting that Ponant’s Le Commandant-Charcot is classified as a Polar Class 2 vessel and an Icebreaker. Due to embark on its inaugural voyage in May 2021, this ship will have the capability to cruise through the ice floes to reach the Geographic North Pole, a feat not possible on Scenic Eclipse or any other luxury expedition line.
The ship will chart a course through existing channels naturally formed in the ice and itineraries are designed to avoid forced passage and ensure humility and respect for these incredible regions. To showcase the joys of the poles, Le Commandant-Charcot will make the most of existing cracks between two ice sheets, however, is powerful enough to cruise through pressure ridges formed when two sheets collide and extricate itself from dense sea ice. Ponant’s other vessels don’t have Icebreaker status, but have strengthened hulls and ice class ratings to navigate milder ice conditions, as does the Eclipse.
Ponant also has a selection of itineraries that they run in collaboration with National Geographic. On these National Geographic expeditions, two additional experts join the existing Ponant expedition team. A National Geographic photographer is on hand to share their skills, and another passionate specialist, be it a writer, archaeologist, adventurer, anthropologist or field researcher also share their expertise.
Ponant and Scenic tailor their daily experiences to suit the itinerary and regions visited. In more traditional cruise destinations, guests can expect sightseeing with local guides, city tours, visits to iconic sights and museums, and culturally immersive excursions. Further afield, expedition excursions will be conducted by a specialist team. Here are some things to consider when deciding which cruise line has the best excursion program for you.
When travelling on the Scenic Eclipse, there can be up to three styles of excursions to choose from. These will depend on the destination visited. Where Freechoice options are available, travellers can expect a diverse range of sightseeing activities that cater to a wide range of interests. These are led by local guides and regional specialists, and guests can opt to join the excursion that suits their preferences and their pace. Signature Scenic Enrich experiences invite guests behind the scenes and grant private access and unique moments to Scenic travellers. Lastly, Discovery excursions see travellers get active on nature walks, bicycle trips, kayaking adventures and Zodiac cruises.
Daily experiences will look different on classic itineraries than on expeditions. In a mainstream port, such as Dubrovnik for example, Freechoice options could include walking the old city walls or travelling into the Croatian countryside where guests can sample regional wines and discover local traditions. In the same destination, an Enrich experience may offer Scenic guests a private concert hosted in a Baroque Church. For active travellers, a Discovery option could include a kayak excursion to take in the medieval city walls from the sea.
On expedition style cruises, guests can expect predominantly (if not only) Discovery excursions. These will see travellers set out on Zodiacs and kayaks, as well as on Scenic’s helicopters or submarine in select destinations. All Scenic excursions are included in the cruise fare, except helicopter and submarine experiences.
In classic cruise ports, Ponant offers a range of excursions chosen for their cultural value and historic interest. These come at an additional cost and can operate for a few hours, or a few days (multi-night shore excursions are an option in select destinations). Guests can purchase excursion packages for some itineraries, and sometimes Ponant runs promotions that include complimentary excursions on a selection of classic cruises. If guests prefer to explore independently, they can head ashore to sightsee at their own pace.
On Ponant expedition cruises, Zodiac excursions and shore visits are included in the cruise fare. On some itineraries there are also optional for-fee experiences at select ports of call. These may include diving experiences, kayaking trips, or excursions offered by local operators. As Le Commandant-Charcot has some unique features and facilities, guests on these voyages will also get the chance to join scientists as they undertake field research, set off on hovercrafts, and enjoy tethered hot air balloon rides above the icy wilderness.
It is worth noting that some Ponant voyages are neither solely classic or expedition cruises, and instead are a combination of both travel styles. On some journeys only a few days of expedition cruising are included and therefore shore experiences are available complimentary on those days only. However, at mainstream ports of call, optional excursions will be at an additional cost.
Ponant’s small ships accommodate 184 – 270 passengers. They have the same feel and interior design across the fleet, and guests can expect elegant styling and plenty of natural light throughout. The ships are designed to make guests feel as if they are on a private yacht with a relaxed ambiance.
Being a French company, guests will notice a decidedly French influence on board. Lectures will be hosted in both English and French, announcements will be bilingual, and a French feel can be noticed in the little touches from the bathroom products and in-room fragrances to the gastronomy (think macarons for afternoon tea and Veuve Clicquot champagne served at gala dinners).
Ponant’s ships fall into three categories. The four Sisterships (Le Lyrial, Le Soleal, L’Austral, and Le Boreal) accommodate 264 guests, however, are capped at 200 on Antarctic voyages. The six Ponant Explorers (Le Jacques Cartier, Le Bellot, Le Dumont d'Urville, Le Bougainville, Le Champlain and Le Laperouse) accommodate 184 passengers, and the unique Polar Explorer ship, Le Commandant-Charcot, can welcome up to 270 guests.
On each ship across the fleet there are two complimentary restaurants (plus complimentary room service), pool, fitness centre, spa and salon, lounges, and a theatre to host lectures, performances and film screenings. The Ponant Explorers also boast the unique Blue Eye lounge, a multi-sensory space that sits beneath the waterline. On the side of the hull there are two glass panels that give guests a window into the underwater world around them, illuminated by day by natural light (the windows sit roughly 2.5m below the surface), and by night thanks to unobtrusive spotlights fixed to the ship’s hull.
Le Commandant-Charcot also has some unique facilities. Along with its icebreaking capabilities, this ship comes complete with a scientific research laboratory on board as well as The Blue Lagoon, an outdoor area with a heated swimming pool and a large fire pit – the perfect place to take in the spectacular polar views.
The Scenic Eclipse is marketed as the ‘World’s First Discovery Yacht’ and will be joined by a sister ship in 2020. She is almost 20 meters longer than the largest in the Ponant fleet and has a few more passenger decks. With a capacity of 228 passengers (capped to 200 in the Polar regions), there is a generous space to passenger ratio on board. This luxury small ship also boasts plenty of bells and whistles for its size.
On board, guests will find an abundance of wellness amenities including a relaxing 550 m² (5,920 ft²) Spa Sanctuary complete with saunas, steam rooms, and thermal lounges, a gym, as well as a yoga and pilates studio. There are indoor and outdoor pools (including temperature controlled plunge pools), a theatre to host evening entertainment and lectures, along with eight lounges and bars to mingle or simply unwind.
Dining is considerably more varied on Scenic Eclipse than on the Ponant fleet, with up to 10 complimentary options for guests to enjoy. Passengers can choose from the Elements main restaurant, French fare at Lumière, Asian fusion, sushi and Teppanyaki at Koko’s, the Yacht Club poolside grill, relaxed all day grazing at Azure Bar & Café, or 24/7 in-suite dining. Chef’s Table @ Elements offers an invitation-only degustation experience and the Epicure onboard cooking school is the perfect place to learn specialist techniques and recreate regional recipes (please note, the cooking school does not operate on all itineraries).
Designed to blend six star luxury with discovery, more emphasis is placed on the onboard experience by Scenic than Ponant. Along with some additional amenities, Scenic also provides a butler service for every guest, a benefit which is reserved only for select suites on Ponant.
When you are weighing up which cruise line provides better value for you, it is important to consider your destination, the special offers that may be available with each line at the time of booking, and the inclusions that matter most to you.
Both lines include complimentary dining, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, Wi-Fi, and onboard programming such as film screenings, lectures and evening entertainment. On Antarctic expeditions, both Ponant and Scenic provide a complimentary parka to keep, as well as the use of boots throughout the trip.
Scenic also offers some extra inclusions that Ponant does not. Scenic includes shore excursions on every voyage, and it is only helicopter and submarine experiences that incur additional costs. Ponant however only includes expedition excursions, and guests will also find some for-fee experiences in select expedition destinations. In classic cruise destinations and regular ports of call, all Ponant shore excursions come at an additional cost.
Another notable difference between the lines is their gratuities policy. Scenic includes all tipping and gratuities on board and on shore, however, Ponant does not include any gratuities or tipping in their cruise price. While tipping is at guest discretion, it is customary to tip on cruise ships and Ponant guide that this is generally in the range of €10-12 per day per passenger. It is general practice on Ponant cruises to find an envelope in each stateroom at the end of your cruise, and should you wish to leave a tip, this can be left at reception in the box provided. This is divided between members of the onboard crew, and tips to local guides on shore will need to be done at guests own discretion along the way.
Scenic usually offers earlybird pricing and early payment discounts, and the Ponant Bonus sees cruise fares tiered for each sailing. Ponant releases the best price early on (at a 30% discount) and the price increases as spaces fill. Ponant also has a generous selection of itineraries where they do not charge a single supplement, making them great value for solo travellers. It’s best to book early to get best rates, as well as to avoid missing out.
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