France-based Compagnie du Ponant’s 264-passenger Le Soleal was christened in July 2013. It is designed to offer a high-end, yacht-like experience in regions as far flung as the Russian Far East and Antarctica. Aimed at the luxury market, the 10,944 ton Le Soleal carries a crew of 140, resulting in a high crew-to-passenger ratio of more than 1 to 2. Le Soleal’s small size allows it to get into small ports and natural areas such as narrow fjords that bigger vessels can’t visit, and the ship carries a dozen Zodiac rafts that are used to take passengers on expedition-like outings. Like its sister ship, Le Boreal, shown here, Le Soleal has been specifically designed for the icy conditions of Antarctica, where it will spend several months each year. Le Soleal’s small but stylish lobby is home to reception and a customer relations/excursions desk. A sitting area in Le Soleal’s lobby contains a map of the ship’s route. Le Soleal’s Main Lounge, at the back of the ship on Deck 3, hosts afternoon tea and live music day and night. It also offers a dance floor and a cocktail bar. The bar area of the Main Lounge, which like the rest of the ship features a sleek and stylish design. Soothing neutral tones are the order of the day, with brown leather chairs popping off grey and brown backgrounds. Just outside the Main Lounge is the ship’s boutique. The Panoramic Lounge, near the top of the ship on Deck 6, offers sweeping views outward from the front of the ship as well as a cocktail bar and live entertainment on some evenings. The bar area of the Panoramic Lounge, a popular spot for coffee drinks during the day. A pianist plays nightly in the Panoramic Lounge. A nook of the Panoramic Lounge houses the ship’s small library as well as computers for Internet access. The library contains a wide range of books that can be borrowed during sailings on an honor system. Computer stations for Internet access at Le Soleal’s library. The Grill Restaurant is the more casual of the Le Soleal’s two restaurants, serving breakfast, buffet lunch and themed dinners. It has both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating area of the Grill Restaurant, which overlooks the ship’s pool. The pool area of the ship, which overlooks the back of the ship and features comfy lounge chairs. Overlooking the pool, from one deck above, is the Open-Air Bar, which is a great place to read a book or watch the sun set. Located at one of the highest points of the ship on Deck 7, the Open-Air Bar can seat up to 50 people. A close-up of the bar area of the deck-top Open-Air Bar. Lounge seats lining one side of the Open-Air Bar deck. More seating along the side of Deck 7 near the Open-Air Bar. The ship’s Theater, with a capacity of 250, is used for lectures during the day and evening entertainment that includes small production numbers. Le Soleal carries nearly a dozen performers, including five dancers and two piano players — a large number for a vessel its size. Le Soleal has a sleek, contemporary decor that carries over to the hallways and stairwells. As a French ship, Le Soleal proudly displays the Red, White and Blue Tricolor of France off the back of its pool deck. Le Soleal’s 92 “Prestige” cabins, which represent the majority of available accommodations, are a spacious 200 square feet, not including the balcony, and feature either a king size bed or twin beds. Like the public areas of the ship, the rooms have a stylish, modern decor with grey tones and red accents. Prestige cabins come complete with a generous desk and storage area across from the bed, with a flat screen TV and DVD player. Prestige cabins also feature a large picture window and glass doorway to a small, 43-square-foot outside balcony. A notable twist with the Prestige cabins is that they offer two bathroom compartments: One containing the toilet (shown here) and one housing a sink and shower. Only a handful of cruise ships offer a dual bathroom arrangement, most notably the vessels of the Disney Cruise Line. A view of the main bathroom compartment in a Prestige cabin, which is spacious and stylish. It boasts excellent sink-top lighting (built into the mirror), a large sink bowl and extensive under-sink storage. The shower in the Prestige cabin bathrooms are unusually large for a cruise ship and are fitted with high-end European fixtures. Another unusual feature of Le Boreal cabins is a glass wall between the bathroom containing a sink and shower and the main part of the cabin, allowing natural light to flow into the bathroom. A sliding door can be pulled across the glass opening for privacy. A view of the glass wall, with the sliding privacy door in the closed position. Though Compagnie du Ponant is a French line, electric outlets in cabins offer both European- and American-style openings. An outlet for shavers is located near the sink in cabin bathrooms. Le Soleal cabin bathrooms feature L’Occitane products. Bedside tables in cabins feature an Ipod player. Wide doors across from the cabin bathrooms open to reveal a large area for hanging clothes, a safe and other storage space. Le Soleal cabins have miniature refrigerators with drinks available for an extra charge. The most luxurious accommodation on Le Boreal is its single Owner’s Suite, which measures 484 square feet (not including a 97-square-foot balcony). The Owner’s Suite offers several rooms, including one that contains a dining area and lounge area. The Owner’s Suite bedroom. The Owner’s Suite bedroom looks out toward the room’s living area. The Owner’s Suite’s master bathroom. The whirlpool tub in the Owner’s Suite. The Owner’s Suite master bathroom is stocked with upscale Sothys of Paris products. As with regular cabins on Le Soleal, the Owner’s Suite has a compartment for the toilet that is separate from the main master bathroom. Le Soleal’s Owner’s Suite also has a small bathroom for visitors. Narrow but long, the Owner’s Suite balcony also offers chairs and a small table. A feature of Owner’s Suites is a personal espresso drink makers. Le Soleal has a small spa and fitness center with three treatment rooms. A treatment room in the spa. The fitness center offers running machines, bicycles and Kinesis equipment. The Kinesis equipment, tucked into a corner of the fitness area. A small lounge area on Deck 5 is home to computers for Internet access. Also on Deck 5 is a small entertainment room with games. The entertainment room contains a small sitting area. The entertainment room also has books and toys for children. A future bookings desk is part of a leisure area on Deck 5. A sitting area on Deck 5. Also on Deck 5 of Le Soleal is a center for sales of photo and videos of each voyage. Le Soleal’s main dining room, located on Deck 2, serves buffet breakfasts and full-service dinners. An opening at the center of the ship on Deck 4 offers views down to the main lobby on Deck 3. Outdoor lounge seating is available at the front of Le Soleal on Deck 6, just in front of the Panoramic Lounge. More lounge seating is available atop the ship on Deck 7. Deck 7 also is home to Le Soleal’s 12 Zodiac motorized rafts, which are used for exploration and passenger landings. More lounge seating is located at the front of Deck 7. An elevator bank on Le Soleal. While Le Soleal doesn’t have a traditional promenade deck area for strolling, it does have a small outdoor space on Deck 3 just outside the main lobby. Continuing a tradition at Compagnie du Ponant, Le Soleal’s bridge is open to passengers for impromptu visits while the ship is at sea. Located on Deck 5, Le Soleal’s bridge offers one of the best views on the ship. A life buoy at the ready along Le Soleal’s pool deck.