The enchantment of Vietnam revealed

With over 3000 km of coastline, just 50 km wide at its narrowest, Vietnam is a destination well explored by ship, especially a small, modern, luxury expedition cruise ship – enter PONANT’s L’Austral.

The 132 cabin L’ Austral has three 9-night Vietnam voyages scheduled between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh (or vice versa) during October and November 2016.
This is an opportunity to experience the richness of this enchanting country with its diversity of topography and history, contrasts of intense agriculture and urban settlements, ancient temples and remnant colonial buildings, a meld of cultures captured in mythical evocations and dragons tales.

Still maintaining remnants of its colonial past (when Saigon represented France’s largest colonial city), this is a charmingly rejuvenated energetic country, with boundless things to see and do.

From the luminosity of the rice fields to the chill of the infamous Cu Chi Vietcong tunnel network, exploring exquisite UNESCO World Heritage ranked Halong Bay or wondering at the Tombs of the Emperors on the Perfume River, the sights, sounds, tastes, aromas and tactile experiences that make up these PONANT Vietnam cruises will stimulate all five senses and leave you reeling.

Returning from the lush scents and dense warmth of the day’s outings, enjoy the coolth of L’Austral, one of the PONANT fleet that forms the youngest fleet of ships in the world. This is truly the modern way to explore, in comfort and style, with a touch of je ne sais quoi – so appropriate when exploring a region once known as French Indochina.


Overnight onboard in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon to experience the vibrant nature of the city – and have time to take a trip to the famed Mekong River. Mooring virtually in the centre of Saigon, rather than over an hour’s road trip away as so often happens, provides for another extraordinary experience, an unforgettable transit of the serpentine Saigon River, only possible due to L’Austral’s compact size. Enjoy the convenience of a ‘city centre’ mooring to explore the restaurants and city shops as well as Notre-Dame Basilica, the Museum of Vietnamese History, Chinese Cholon district, Le Van Tam Park and the Ben Thanh market.

Each voyage also includes a visit to Haiphong for access to Hanoi. Founded more than 1,000 years ago, it reflects two cultures, Chinese and French, retaining a nostalgic charm. Highlights include the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and One Pillar Pagoda. Da Nang provides the opportunity to visit Hoi An, a sleepy village where time appears to have stood still – another UNESCO World Heritage site.

These are well conceived thoughtful itineraries, designed for small group like-minded travellers who appreciate the mental stimulation of exciting destinations.

Back onboard L’Austral, creature comforts prevail. Enjoy French luxury and ambiance, and experience the difference small ship cruising offers. Cool off in the swimming pool, enjoy spa therapy to ease tired muscles or simply as a pampering indulgence. An inclusive Open Bar provides guests the chance to relax with a beer, wines, champagne or, perhaps, a cocktail. Later, the choice of fine cuisine, the flavours complimented with world-class wines.

All in all a very civilised way to travel, imbued with PONANT’s trademark dash of panache.

Itinerary includes: Hong Kong, Haiphong (for Hanoi), Ha Long Bay, Da Nang, Chan May (for Hue), Ho Chi Minh (2 nights)

Departure dates: Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh, 9 nights, 26 October and 13 November

Ho Chi Minh to Hong Kong, 9 nights, 4 November (reverse itinerary)