Above: Ponant's Le Lapérouse - OLIVIER ANRIGO

Small-Ship Luxury Aboard Ponant 

Aerial view of Le Lapérouse near Rashdoo Atoll, Maldives - Olivier Anrigo

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.

Le Lapérouse is small enough to dock in shallow locations - Olivier Anrigo

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. 

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