Ponant Review: Le Lyrial in Antarctica

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Snow and ice was my vision of Antarctica, but there is much more to this region - amazing wildlife, volcanoes, rocky shores and beaches.

There is also almost continual daylight, with only a few hours of what we would regard as night-time. I was lucky enough to experience all this on my recent trip with Ponant on the Emblematic Antarctica itinerary onboard Le Lyrial. Travelling with my sister from London to Buenos Aires we spent 1 night in the city centrally located Alvear Art hotel, arriving on the day Argentina were playing in the World Cup - what an atmosphere! Any shops that were open had televisions on with staff crowded around to watch the match - the city got even noisier when they celebrated their country's win! A dinner to meet our fellow travellers was held, then off to bed as we had an early start after breakfast for our 3-hour flight to Ushuaia where we embarked the ship.

Ushuaia

Le Lyrial has been in service since 2016, and our Captain Remi Genevaz has been with the ship since the build in 2015, and with the company since 1996. There are 122 staterooms and suites, the latter on Deck 6 with Butler service, and there were several solo travellers among the 160 passengers on this voyage. Our stateroom on Deck 5 had two single beds, plenty of storage space, good size bathroom, dressing table, toiletries, hairdryer, bathrobes and slippers and a minibar which was restocked daily if required. There was also a flat screen TV showing the progress of the ship's journey as well as TV shows and films, both in English and French, and a small balcony with table and chairs.

Le Lyrial - Deluxe Stateroom - Twin

Included throughout the ship is free wi-fi, and there is a small library area with two computers on Deck 6. This is also where the Panoramic Lounge is located which has a small bar area, and terrace ideally located at the front of the ship for incredible views. At the rear of this vessel is the grill restaurant La Comete where we ate breakfast and lunch most days, and there is a small, heated swimming pool although the loungers where stored and the pool bar closed due to our destination.

On the same deck as our stateroom there was the Spa with a small area for hairdressing and nails, a good-sized hammam/steam room, and a small fitness area with 3 running machines, 3 bikes and a weight-lifting machine. There is a small leisure area which is used by children/teenagers with X-box, and the Image and Photo Gallery. Deck 4 has the theatre, which is used for lectures, shows and the Captain's welcome cocktail reception and farewell gala evenings. We had our daily briefings here to recap what we had done that day, and cover what we would be doing the following day.

Ponant Le Lyrial - Panoramic lounge

The area used most on the ship was the Main Lounge on Deck 3 - here we would meet to go in our respective groups on the zodiac cruises and landings. There was a bar here with a singer, a duo who played guitar and harp, and where quizzes, bingo and dance classes would take place on selected days.

Deck 2 had the main restaurant Le Celeste which served breakfast, lunch and dinner and where we ate our evening meal most of the time. Room Service was also available 24 hours a day, but with a limited menu choice. Dining was à la carte, but with a set menu for the Captain's Gala evenings, and with fine wines to accompany the meals. Drinks were included throughout, with the exception of premium spirits and certain cocktails - a Premium Pass was available at the cost of EUR20 per day. However, both my sister and I found that there was plenty of choice with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Ponant - Le Lyrial - Main Restaurant Le Celeste

The Marina, also on Deck 2, is where we would go in our groups on the zodiacs - usually about 10 guests, plus a naturalist guide who would inform us of the sights we were seeing - some specialised in birdlife, some in marine life, and some in geology. Our Expedition Leader was John Frick, leading a team of 14 other expedition staff including 2 kayak guides, all experts in their fields with many seasons of expedition travel in Antarctica between them. Our first day was spent at sea, with time for the compulsory boot fitting and decontamination of any outer wear, handing out of parkas which we could keep after our voyage, and the mandatory visitor guidelines presentation and Zodiac briefing required by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operations (IAATO).

Zodiac group picture

Our first landing was at amply named Penguin Island, South Shetlands, home to Chinstrap penguins, Elephant seals and various birdlife, including the Kelp gull and giant petrel. We then explored Livingston/Deception Island, and had landings in Telefon Bay and a zodiac cruise in Walker Bay, Hannah Point. Cuverville Island, a landing in Dorian Bay and two zodiac cruises in Portal Point and Wilhelmina Bay gave us chance to see penguins and seals up close, as well as the opportunity to hike across the snow, but the landing at Brown Bluff (a volcanic island) and cruise around the icebergs of Antarctic Sound to view gentoo and Adelie penguins walking along the beach to get to the water were real highlights. With the rock formation here (the volcano was flattened by erupting through a glacier) reminded me of the Grand Canyon - spectacular!

Penguins during Zodiac Landing

The final stage of our journey was crossing the Drakes Passage again to disembarked in Ushuaia (nicknamed the city at the end of the world) ready for our flight back to Buenos Aires. We spent further night in the city which gave us the opportunity to explore on the morning of our departure day with a visit to the cemetery in Recoleta to see the burial site of Eva Peron amongst other notable people of Argentina.

A final farewell to this fascinating country and continent, and then the flight back to the UK, arriving to colder weather than we had had in Antarctica! This trip definitely gave me inspiration to travel on another expedition voyage - the Arctic next perhaps?

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Adventure Consultant at Mundy Adventures

More about Cathy

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