On its first ever visit to Sydney this past weekend, Ponant’s Le Soleal may have been dwarfed physically by the comparatively much larger Azamara Club Cruises vessel Azamara Quest parked directly in front, but in terms of onboard product and passenger experience, the vessel more than holds its own.

Comfortable lounges, bars and restaurants abound on the French flagged line and ship – one of four in a family of identical sister ships which also includes Le BorealL’Austral and Le Lyrial – the latter being less than a year old. Collectively, the four ships are an average age of two years – incredibly young for cruise lines today.

Le Soleal – like its sisters – is purposely designed for both cruising and expeditions, allowing it to venture into waters such the Polar regions or Norwegian Fjords, where its passengers can explore more deeply by zodiac or kayak. With an ice-rated hull, the vessel can easily be confused with a private mega-yacht and its features are capable of backing that up. The ship caters to 264 passengers per sailing and was first launched in 2013.