Ponant were experimenting with the concept of a one-night cruise, and I was fortunate enough to be invited on board. We embarked at Tower Hill, where we crossed the river to board Le Bellot moored up alongside the HMS Belfast. It's a strange feeling to see the Belfast's guns pointed at your ship at point blank range!
There is one main restaurant and a buffet style area on the pool deck, which wasn't in service for our cruise. There is one sitting in the restaurant for dinner, meaning you are not rushed, and the food was cooked in the tradition of grand French fine dining. Breakfast and lunch is buffet style in the same restaurant, with plenty of outside seating. Breakfast offers a wonderful choice of Lenôtre pastries cooked on board, bread made daily by their French baker, home-made cakes and muffins, pancakes, waffles, eggs, cheeses and cold cuts, detox juices and more, and for lunch we enjoyed a buffet with range of salads, meats, fish, desserts and pastries, or you can choose a lunch that has been specially cooked for you based on the theme of the day (Corsican, Mediterranean, Asian, barbecue, Italian, etc.).
We enjoyed drinks and snacks on the pool deck by the infinity pool, with its glass wall overlooking the marina platform at the back of the ship. We sailed away under Tower Bridge, past the Thames Barrier and on our way to Honfleur, France. The marina platform is hydraulic and can be lowered to sea level for watersports and swimming, or it can be raised to deck level and used for musical entertainment. There is also an observation lounge at the front of the ship with an outside panoramic terrace providing wonderful views as you cruise along in comfort, a wellness area with a spa in partnership with Clarins, a Kérastase L'Oréal Paris hair salon, a free-to-access sauna and a gym. All staterooms on Le Bellot have balconies, walk-in wardrobes and a glass wall with a sliding screen in the bathroom, so you don't miss anything out at sea whilst you shower!
Ponant's Explorer class ships are intimate, welcoming up to 184 guests, and they are designed for landing in the most inaccessible locations, where others do not go. All the Explorer ships have been fitted with the latest technologies and comply with the most recent environmental regulations, awarded the 'Cleanship' label.
One of the most wonderful features on board is the Blue Eye lounge, described as the first multi-sensorial underwater lounge at sea, with room for 40 passengers. The ships are surrounded by a blue light under sea level and there are windows through which you can watch the marine life, with a hydrophonic mic system and underwater cameras to record whatever is out there. The seats are also fitted with speakers so that you feel the rhythm as well. When something is captured by the cameras, an announcement is made and the filming is live streamed to the ship's TVs.
Our stay on board was short but sweet. Le Bellot is two years old but, thanks to Covid, this was her maiden voyage, so at Honfleur, once all the passengers had disembarked, there was an inauguration ceremony, which we watched in the sunshine as we waited for our coaches to transport us to Paris.