Well, cross one off the bucket list!
In May, I had the pleasure of sailing on the Paul Gauguin on a 7 day Tahiti and Society Islands itinerary.
My week started out with a late Friday night flight on Air Tahiti Nui, arriving in Papeete on Saturday morning at 5am. A quick trip through customs, and then on to our day room at the Intercontinental Papeete. What a perfect way to while away the hours until embarkation time enjoying Infinity sand pools overlooking the lagoon, with Moorea looming in the distance!
View of Moorea from the infinity pool at the Intercontinental Papeete
A short trip over to the pier, and an incredibly quick embarkation with all check in formalities taking place in the Piano Bar onboard, along with the requisite glass of champagne!
Then, I was escorted to my stateroom – and a very well appointed stateroom with verandah, and storage space that would suit a much longer voyage!
The Paul Gauguin is a smaller vessel, with only 320 passengers. This makes your enjoyment on the ship all that much better. No line ups for dinner, to get off the ship, and definitely no problems with seating in the main show lounge.
Dinner in the main restaurant is open sitting, with 2 alternate restaurants, La Verandah and Le Grill available by reservation. Food was well presented, remarkably tasty and service was great with friendly, attentive staff. Most of the food on board is sourced locally. Fresh fruits and vegetables come from the islands and fish is caught by local fishermen.
Executive Chef cleaning a moon fish, caught locally and served at dinner
Perhaps one of the best features was the all inclusive nature of the ship – all beverages were included, whether they were alcoholic or non alcoholic. It was so nice to just order a drink from the bar, with no signature required!
“The best Mai Tai I’ve ever had!”
Entertainment definitely had that French Polynesian flair, with Les Gauguines offering up local dance and musical presentations, along with the requisite Pareo (much like a sarong) tying demonstrations – a must for the Polynesian night later in the cruise! Not to miss was the Children of Raiatea dance presentation – Children as young as 5 are keeping their cultural dance and traditions alive!
One of the Children of Raiatea performing on the ship
Making traditional lei’s
On our 7 day itinerary, we stopped at Raiatea, Taha’a and Motu Mahana (Paul Gauguin’s private island), 2 days in Bora Bora and 2 days in Moorea.
And while Mother Nature was not completely co-operative on my sailing (lots of rain!), it did not matter, as the scenery was still magnificent, and when snorkelling the lagoons, we were wet anyway!
For the divers and snorkellers out there, this is a wonderful itinerary to dive or snorkel – the lagoons host many different species of fish, and coral, and even sharks – although I was told they were vegan sharks! Pearl Farms are quite numerous on Taha’a and Bora Bora – with the oysters producing all shades of the famed Tahitian Black Pearl!
The Paul Gauguin also boasts a watersports marina at the back of the ship. From here, you can pickup snorkelling equipment to keep for the week, or perhaps, try your hand at sea kayaking, waterskiing or other water activities. The ship also offers it’s version of a resort course dive program – not quite to Padi/Nadi certification, but definitely gets you well along the way with instruction, both in the pool, and in open water. All the dive programs depart from the watersport marina, so no time wasted getting ashore to meet your tour!
The watersports marina on the aft of the Paul Gauguin
While in Moorea, we took the opportunity to tour the Intercontinental Moorea property, one of the post cruise options available for you with Paul Gauguin Cruises. This property offers Gardenview bungalows, Beachfront bungalows and Overwater bungalows. Beautifully well appointed, this is the ultimate in paradise!
Private garden bungalow at the Pearl Intercontinental in Moorea
Also located at the resort is a Turtle Sanctuary, where Green Sea Turtles are re-habilitated and then released, as well as the Moorea Dolphin Center. The 3 dolphins at the centre are from the US Navy, and retired Sea World Dolphins. While I am not a fan of captured dolphins, believe me, these 3 could simply “hop the fence” and swim off, but they choose to stay. So yes, I did get to kiss a Dolphin on my visit!
The Paul Gauguin, initially launched in 1997, is wearing very well, showing little signs of age. However, she is in for a major refurbishment in January, 2012, where she will undergo a major transformation with soft furnishings, carpeting, and upholstery, to bring her into the next phase of her career.
All in all – a wonderful way to cruise the friendly islands of French Polynesia. My only complaint – it was too short!