We did it.
We booked a trip that we have been wanting to do for a very long time now.
A 10 day Antarctica cruise with the French luxury cruise company Ponant! Not that we will be packing our bag anytime soon.
This Antarctica cruise is yet another adventure that you have to book at least a year in advance. Just like our white water rafting trip in the Grand Canyon.
Only a handful of cruise companies are granted permission to set sail to Antarctica.
Le Lyrial has been in Ponant’s fleet since 2015.
It has a capacity of 244 passengers.
Trip to Ushuaia
We fly from Brussels to Buenos Aires.
And stay there for a couple of days before catching a domestic flight to Ushuaia. When we arrive at the Buenos Aires airport that day, we are welcomed by a Ponant representative.
Soon other fellow passengers start to arrive.
Our luggage is tagged and check in is taken care of by other Ponant staff. Once the group is complete, we get our boarding passes and head for the plane. The flight to Ushuaia will take about 3 hours and 30 minutes. As we land, a bus is waiting for us.
No need to get our luggage, it will be shipped straight to Le Lyrial.
The bus takes us to the five star Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa hotel that overlooks the bay of Ushuaia. There a top notch and picture perfect buffet is waiting for us.
The food is absolutely delicious, and everyone is looking forward to go to the ship and start this Antarctica cruise.
The previous passengers just got off this morning and the crew needs to give the ship Le Lyrial a deep clean before new guests arrive.
Whoever feels like it can join a couple of Ponant staff members for a nice walk in the vicinity of the hotel. The weather isn’t great but we still enjoy stretching our legs after such a copious lunch.
The bus takes us back to Ushuaia town where we get plenty of time to walk around and perhaps do some last minute shopping for anyone who feels like it. Quite a few shops here sell outdoor quality clothes and gear. Other than that there is very little to see.
And then finally, right before 4pm we drive to the harbor where the Ponant’s Antarctica cruise ship Le Lyrial is waiting for us.
There she is.
A wall of Ponant staff welcomes us onto the ship.
The captain shakes hands and greets everyone personally. We get a glass of excellent champagne and are welcomed into the main lounge on deck 3.
What a beautiful Antarctica cruise ship.
We are bedazzled straight away. It oozes luxury and elegance. The staff is impeccably dressed and all smiles. We look around us and take it all in. We chat with fellow Antarctica cruise passengers.
You can feel that everyone is elated to be on board.
Our glasses get a top up. Luc is not really a champagne drinker, champagne usually gives him heartburn. But this champagne is so gentle and pleasant.
A staff member in uniform walks over to us and offers to show us to our cabin.
Our luggage is already standing in front of the cabin door. We booked a balcony deluxe cabin on deck 3, the same deck as the reception area and main lounge.
The cabin is spotless and again has an immense luxurious feel.
The colors are easy on the eye: white, light blue and sea blue.
The bed and pillow are heavenly, the bedlinen looks and feels expensive.
The bathroom is small but beautiful and spotlessly clean. We are thrilled to see Hermes toiletries and bath products.
We unpack while sipping our champagne.
Ready for this Antarctica cruise and be pampered for 10 days straight.
With just a few exceptions the passengers on this Antarctica cruise ship have an average age of 55 to 75 years.
About 40% is American on our Antarctica cruise. The other passengers are European and mainly French or French speaking Belgians.
Practically all of us are couples.
Every ship that welcomes new passengers needs to go through a safety drill before leaving the harbor.
And hour before dinner we are asked to bring our life jackets from the cabin and meet in the theatre on deck 4. The safety instructions are short and very informative. We are shown in small groups how to evacuate.
Fast and professional.
We said it before: Le Lyrial is such a beautiful ship.
It oozes luxury and elegance. The main colors are again bright white and blue tones. The decoration is stylish, glamorous and sparkling like a diamond without being over the top decadent.
Everyone on this Antarctica cruise is very laid back and outgoing.
People are very easy to talk to or strike up a conversation with. We are lucky to speak both English and French, it gets you a long way here on Le Lyrial.
However you can also keep to yourself, there is no pressure to socialise if you don’t want to.
Very helpful, extremely polite, hands on and attentive staff.
Always ready to step in with a smile. Impossible doesn’t exist here. Hands down the best staff we have ever encountered on our trips. They all speak French or English or both.
Our Antarctica cruise manager is a Dutch lady and she does a brilliant job at being present everywhere and checking in on all the passengers without being overbearing.
The ship is impeccably clean.
No stains or smudges anywhere, quite an achievement with all those windows, glass and chrome everywhere. And passengers coming back from excursions carrying dripping boots to their cabin.
Our cabin is perfectly cleaned daily in the morning during breakfast with a turndown service during dinner. Bath towels are changed each day, toiletries restocked and plentiful.
We love the fragrant Hermes toiletries!
The main lounge is on deck 3.
It is a comfortable seating area in the evening. There is a bar which makes it a great place for pre or post dinner drinks. The large windows provide nice views on icebergs, landscapes and small animals. And the occasional wave splashing against the glass when the sea is a bit rough.
Here you can also enjoy a small breakfast in the main lounge if you are an early bird. From 6am onwards there is coffee, tea and pastries. Afternoon tea is also served here. Coffee and tea, as well as freshly baked cakes, sandwiches and sweet treats.
On zodiac excursion days the lounge transforms into a departure and arrival area for passengers.
This is a bright and very pleasant place to be, the panoramic salon on deck 6.
It has a library, a bar with stools and comfortable and fluffy soft couches. The best view on this Antarctica cruise trip is here. This is the best place to spot whales.
However the salon is not very large, finding a place to sit is sometimes a challenge.
There are 2 restaurants on Le Lyrial: a gastronomic restaurant on deck 2 and a grill restaurant on deck 6 with an outdoor seating area.
We only sat outside just once on sunny day to enjoy our lunch, other days were way too cold.
We prefer the gastronomic restaurant for its à la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner during our Antarctica cruise. However on just a few occasions this restaurant would be closed and we would enjoy a lovely meal in the grill restaurant that is mainly buffet style and more casual. And excellent as well.
We never have a problem finding a table in the gastronomic restaurant, waiters will show you to a nice table. No need to share a table with someone else if you don’t want to, just point out that you want a quiet dinner with your spouse.
During the day most passengers are dressed casually.
People like to dress up nicely in the evenings for drinks and dinner. Casual smart and elegant is the norm. No shorts or open shoes like sandals or flip flops.
There is one Veuve Clicquot gala evening where a gala outfit (suit and dress) is highly recommended. However if you wear something casual smart again, you won’t be refused at the door of course.
The food is of a top notch standard.
Excellent French style cuisine.
We never had a bad or mediocre meal ever during our Antarctica cruise trip. Every meal is a delight from breakfast until dinner in both restaurants.
The Bordier butter is to die for.
On the à la carte menu: an appetizer, soup, salad, a selection of 3 main dishes, dessert and cheeses. Ladurée macarons, You can order what you want and as much as you want. There was always a vegetarian option.
Ask your waiter if you have a question or a special request for the kitchen staff. They are more than willing to help.
In the grill restaurant the buffet offers a wide variety of meat, fish, vegetables, potato side dishes, pastas, bread and a bunch of desserts.
All drinks are complementary, all day long.
Only a small selection of special spirits and a few extra posh French wines come at an extra cost. However the complementary wine list offers a more than excellent choice for every meal which is more than enough for us.
Can’t finish a bottle of wine?
The staff will keep it aside for you for your next meal if you like.
On board activities
Quite a few Lyrial crew members are geologists, (marine) biologists and and research scientists who know the Antarctic, its climate, fauna and flora inside out.
On quiet days while the ship travels these professionals give quite a few very interesting presentations in the theatre. Both in English and in French.
We went to practically all of them.
Special clothing & gear
You will find one bright red windbreaker jacket per person in your cabin.
We found that this jacket is very warm and of an outstanding quality. Perfect for this Antarctica cruise! You don’t have to wear them, however practically everyone does. At the end of your Antarctica cruise you can take the jacket back home with you which is great.
On the first full day during the Drake passage crossing you are invited to pick up boots of your size in the main lounge. We would leave these boots next to our cabin door in the hallway after each excursion like everyone else.
Before you leave on your Antarctica cruise Ponant or your travel agent will send you enough information about what type of clothes to pack. We were well informed and were never cold.
Passengers are divided into 2 groups for excursions during this Antarctica cruise, mainly according to language.
Group one leaves at a certain hour while group 2 relaxes on board and vice versa. We found that this worked really well. You are well informed about when you have to be ready. No stress at all, excursions were organised perfectly well and therefore fellow passengers were never late and made the entire group wait.
Kudos again for the very well organised staff.
Excursions on our Antarctica cruise include zodiac trips around icebergs and shore based walking.
Almost every night you can enjoy professional dance shows in the theatre. Or sip a glass of champagne in the lounge bar while listening live piano or singers.
As of 2019 Ponant offers unlimited complimentary wifi on board.
Would we recommend this Antarctica cruise with Ponant?
We would love to do this Antarctica cruise trip again. From the minute we arrived at the Buenos Aires airport until the moment we stepped off the Lyrial we were taken care of. Pampered as if we were royalty. No kidding.
What a luxury experience.
And we take a bunch of mind blowing memories back home with us after this Antarctica cruise.
Like the moment we were sitting on our balcony and just a couple of metres away from nosey whales. Seeing a pod of whales slide by while we enjoy lunch in the gastronomic restaurant on deck 2. Watch beautiful sunsets. Being surprised on one of our zodiac trips with a glass of excellent champagne in the middle of nowhere, in the sun, surrounded by snowy mountain tops.
Perfect trip, we highly recommend this Antarctica cruise on board Ponant’s Le Lyrial!