Joined L'Austral in Fremantle for the 26 day cruise of Northern Australia in the Wet Season.
Boarding the ship in Fremantle was smooth and although we arrived early our bags were taken from us and we went for a walk around Fremantle. Returning at noon we were sent along the wharf to the ship and directed to the level 6 for lunch. After lunch we spent and hour in the lounge on level 3 before being directed to our cabin where our luggage had already been delivered.
We sailed after life boat drill.
Our ports of call up the Western Australian coast were Geraldton, Turquoise Bay, Broome, Talbot Bay, Wyndam. Darwin and Yirrkala in the Northern Territory. Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Cape York Peninsular, Lizard Island, Cooktown, Port Douglas, Hamilton Island and Fraser Island in Queensland returning to Sydney.
A previous writer has described the passage extremely well and I could not better her descriptions.
The Naturalists on board were an extremely friendly group full of knowledge of the Kimberley area and the zodiac drivers knew how to handle their craft and we had no problems with wet water or dry landings.
Entertainment on board was good and the ships crew put on an excellent show.
The Cabin was small by previous 5 star ship we have sailed on but was adequate for people our size although I don't know how you would ever eat a meal in the cabin as there was only one chair to sit on although the balcony had 2 chairs.
The young lady who serviced the cabin was very friendly and managed to have the bed made and cabin serviced whilst we were at breakfast every morning.
This cruise was not a Ponant Cruise but a Cruiseco Charter and I am not sure if the food was part of the Cruiseco Charter deal but it was excellent and unlike a previous writer I would not describe it as French food but great Australian/ International food with lots of sea food purchased fresh along the route.
Our huge complaint about the ship was the Cabin bathroom facilities what we described as the Porta -loo. Nothing like anything we have ever encountered on a 5 star or even a 1 star ship before. As a 5 star ship L'Austral was not a luxury ship that 5 stars would lead a person to believe.
The bathroom section is a prefab block dropped into every room (the same on all Ponant Ships including their new ships) and is what we would have expected to find in a caravan park. No nice clean looking white tiles on the walls or floor but dark brown Hardie Plank sections. The lavatory section of the facilities was 70cm wide. From our perspective you are sharing a bathroom and facilities with everybody who has ever been in this room before and quite frankly the lavatory section had a real WOOF about it. The young lady who attended our cabin was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor twice a day so we knew it was clean but the WOOF was ingrained in the Hardie Planks. The lavatory section was separate from the shower section - not a good idea if a visit was made during the night as it required the opening of two doors to the hand basin section. See Photographs.
The shower and hand basin section did have tiles on the wall but again the Hardie Plank floor. Not a lot of room in either shower or hand basin section and in total was approx. 160 cm wide, but for us was OK although a tall couple told us they would open the door of the Hand Basin section and the wardrobe door to form a dressing room of the entry foyer and drop a towel on the carpet to dry themselves off.
This bathroom set up was a real killer and no matter what trips Ponant did in the future the facilities are a major turn off to ever join them again.