It’s an unfashionable opinion among travel writers, but I love cruises. Visiting multiple beautiful places while unpacking only once is a real luxury. Itineraries usually include sightseeing during the day and sailing in the evening, ensuring that more of one’s waking hours are spent enjoying a destination and fewer in transit. Even the occasional day at sea is welcome, providing a moment of unavoidable relaxation. Being ensconced in comfort while surrounded by water often inspires a feeling of coziness, akin to sitting by a fire with a glass of wine during a snow.
Unfortunately, giant ships that overwhelm any but the largest ports of call have given cruises in general an undeserved bad rap. At Andrew Harper, we focus on intimate vessels. Five-thousand-passenger behemoths are fine if the boat is the point, but my insatiable curiosity about the world leads me to destination-focused cruises, for which smaller is better.
Few luxury cruise lines have a smaller average cabin count than Ponant, which designs itineraries to be leisurely as well as culturally enriching. Its 13-ship fleet ranges from a 16-cabin sailing yacht to the 165-cabin Polynesian-focused Paul Gauguin. Ponant most recently unveiled Le Commandant Charcot, a plush 123-cabin icebreaker ideal for polar expeditions. We spent a week in Vietnam aboard one of its six Explorer-class ships, the 92-cabin Le Lapérouse, which had been chartered by Gohagan & Co. Its office staff knew my identity, but they kept it a secret from Ponant and our fellow passengers.