Paul Gauguin Cruise Review by lithlith: 11 Night Cook & Society Islands Cruise on the Paul Gauguin
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11 Night Cook & Society Islands Cruise on the Paul Gauguin
Itinerary: 11 night Cook & Society Islands: Tahiti, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Moorea. Great itinerary! We also loved having 2 nights in Bora Bora and in Moorea. It was a great way to see a variety of islands in a short time span.
Room: We had a porthole room on deck 3. For us, it was the perfect location and if we ever sail again on the PG, we wouldn't hesitate to book a room again on the same floor. Sure, you have to either take the stairs or elevator to get most places, but it wasn't a bother for us. The tender access was also on 3 so it was convenient to catch a tender and when returning from the tender to throw our stuff in our room before heading upstairs for lunch or a snack. The room was of average cruise ship size, as was the bathroom. But, the huge plus in the bathroom was the full tub/shower. It was nice not to have to squeeze into the typical cruise ship shower. I felt that the downside of the room was the lack of closet space. There were two More closets, but both were smaller than I was expecting. I did get more hangers from our steward, but we had to double and triple hang most things to fit everything into the closets. There was a variety of drawers and cupboards throughout the room, which were nice to store things in as well. There is a hair dryer in the room, but it was weak. There were two American and two European type plugs in the room, one set at the vanity and another set on the side of the minibar. There was also a nice sized window ledge on which we stored a lot of items. And, the beds were tall enough to store our luggage underneath.
Room Steward: Our room steward was nice and did a good job cleaning. However, we both thought she was the worst steward we've ever had on a cruise ship. The main reason being her inconsistency -- sometimes we had beach towels, sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we got two washcloths sometimes we got one. Sometimes we had a bath mat and other times we didn't. Sometimes our minibar was stocked and other days drinks were not replaced. One day, we also found one of our toothbrushes bristles down on the counter, which we had left standing up in a glass. And on another occasion, my contact lenses case was set upside down and was leaking.
Staff: Overall, the best cruise ship staff we've ever encountered (with the exception of our room steward). They all seemed generally happy to be aboard and seemed to be genuinely interested in making sure everyone had a great vacation. The waiters and bartenders were very nice and always remembered what we ate/drank the previous day! Our cruise director was Michael Shapiro and he was very visible throughout the cruise taking the time to stop and talk with guests and eating meals with guests. Michael also provided the evening entertainment singing on a couple nights on the cruise. The Le Gaugauins were also very visible throughout the cruise providing evening entertainment, hosting daily activities, chatting with guests, singing and dancing through the dining rooms at dinner, etc.
Food: Best cruise ship food we've ever had. Prior to this cruise, we had only cruised on Carnival and Princess, so it's really not even fair to make a comparison about the food being far superior on the PG. I'm sure that it is much easier to prepare tasty food for 300 guests rather than 3000. The downside to the food on board is that there isn't a buffet available 24/7 (but there is room service 24/7). After lunch ends there wasn't much until a snack hour usually from 4-5pm and they were pretty tight about starting and ending the food on the set time. The hard part is when you come back from an excursion and there isn't any food besides room service. We ate all of our breakfasts at La Veranda and always did a combination of buffet and ordering off the menu. On day 2 our waiter knew what we wanted to drink and order from the menu and would get them upon our arrival. We also ate most of our lunches in La Veranda where we often did a combination of food from the buffet and from the menu. Even though I found it unnecessary, someone was always there carrying my plate from the buffet to my table each meal. La Veranda and Le Grill appeared to have the same food available at breakfast and lunch, but our preference was to eat inside at La Veranda. For dinner, we had most meals in the main dining room of L'Etoile. We also had reservations for Le Grill and La Veranda each for one night, just to try them out. The food was consistently good in all venues as was the wait staff. The speed of the courses seemed to vary night to night, but really wasn't an issue as we were chatting away with friends.
Dress Code: Casual/Resort Casual. For men, I didn't see anyone with a tie the entire cruise. I saw a couple with jackets, but that was in a minority. For women, no evening gowns, just causal and cocktail dresses, capris/dress pants and a nice shirt. During the day, it was shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops.
Motion Sickness: Traveling from Huahine to Rarotonga was rough. It was a day at sea and I'm glad it was because I stayed in bed most of the day. (This was also when I was really glad to have a room on deck 3!) We had the roughest seas we've ever encountered on a cruise ship. I've never been motion sick in my life. I attempted to go to breakfast in the morning, but the smell of the food along with rough seas was just too much and I went immediately back to the room. I found that just laying in bed worked best, so that's what I did. I took some Bonine, and was up and moving around by dinner (the seas weren't as bad at that point in the day either). My husband was fine, but said there weren't as many people out and about on the ship during the day or at the lectures/activities. There were also a few people with higher level rooms who took to the stairwell and elevator lobby on 3 in hopes of finding a sweet spot on the ship where they felt a little better. During my time in our room for most of that day, I had the pleasure (not!) of hearing both of my neighbors throwing up over and over again. I did see in the daily bulletin that the front desk did have motion sickness medication of some sort that they were handing out at no cost.
Pool side/Sun deck: Watch out for those deck chairs! I've never seen so many accidental injuries in my life from chairs. The deck furniture looks great, however, it has very sharp and pointy corners and the loungers are not always easy to put the backs up and down. We saw multiple people with legs and arms bandaged up -- all from deck chair injuries! We were also told by several people who we talked to that the doctor doesn't charge for injuries that happen onboard like that, nice to know. As for the amount of deck chairs, there was a good number of chairs by the pool, but that area did get crowed most afternoons. Deck 9 is a great sun deck, but is lacking in deck chairs. There were a few tables and chairs (mainly for smokers) and then just a few loungers -- definitely not enough chairs for the amount of space available and for the amount of people seeking chairs on that deck.
Entertainment: It was what I was expecting from a small cruise ship. The cruise director and Le Gauguains not only were your host/hostesses onboard, but also were often the entertainment for the evening. There were also several occasions where local dance troupes were brought onboard for our evening entertainment. If you enjoy Polynesian dancing then you'll love most of shows. There were also lectures throughout the days about ports, history, culture, marine life, etc. The port talks were excellent! They provided not only an overview of the excursions the ship offered, but also what else is available independently and what to expect at each port when you get off the tender. The enrichment lectures varied from great to boring. We found Mark Eddowes presentations boring and he often went off topic and then would rush at the end to get through the rest of his presentation. Michael Poole, on the other hand, was excellent. Other entertainment activities during the day were minimal, but I would assume that was because most people were busy on excursions. I did make a shell bracelet one day and that was fun, but also quick. Since the ship is small there was only one show each night at 9:30pm and after that the ship was pretty quiet. Karaoke was minimally attended as was the late night dancing.
Marina: The fold down marina on the back of the ship isn't as available as one might think. You'll want to get to the marina on day 1 as soon as they open to get your snorkel equipment as they have very limited hours and especially if you need equipment for your first island. We arrived 10 minutes after they opened day 1 and had to wait about 30 minutes to get our equipment due to a small line. We did take advantage of the kayak on the Bora Bora motu and paddle boarding in Moorea. In fact, my husband and I were the first two to tryout the new paddle board on the PG in Moorea! We asked about it at the Marina on day 1 of the cruise and was told that it wasn't available yet. Then, when we saw it advertised in the daily bulletin a few days later in the cruise we were excited and ran to the excursion desk where they wanted people to sign up (it's free) and got the first two 15 minute time slots. (Within 24 hours all of the time slots were booked - so sign up quickly!) We were told that they got a paddle board months ago but something was broken on it, so they were waiting to get it fixed or replaced. We were also told by the marina guys that on the Cook and Society Islands itinerary that Moorea is the only port where paddleboarding would be available because of the calmer waters and that they are not as busy in the marina in Moorea.
Gym: We walked by it often on our way to breakfast and lunch...can't say that I actually used it! But I can report that it was never full -- maybe 1-2 people in it each time we walked by. And, it also has great hours from 6am to midnight.
Excursions: We did a combination of PG cruise excursions and excursions we independently booked approximately 6-7 months in advance. (Tip: If you really want to do an excursion, book early, things do fill up!)
Huahine - Marc's Picnic Island tour with 4x4 and outrigger -- great day! If you are deciding between snorkeling and picnic tour and the one with the 4x4 -- pick the 4x4 one! We saw so much more of the island (blue eyed eels, pearl farm, vanilla farm, marea, and a few scenic view stops) and you go snorkeling in the same spot at the other and have lunch together. Email Marc directly to book this tour.
Rarotonga -- PG cruise excursion Muri Lagoon Cruise -- The snorkeling was better here than our previous day in Huahine, but only lasted about 30 minutes. It was marketed as a glass bottom boat lagoon tour and snorkel. However, you couldn't see much through the glass bottom boat and it was more of a boat that took us to a snorkeling location that just happened to have a glass bottom. We weren't impressed with this tour.
Autatiki - Teking's 5 Island tour -- amazing! This tour is a must do! Email Teking directly to book the tour. We snorkeled in three locations, each very different, lots of fish, giant clams, and beautiful coral. We had a nice lunch. We also made it to all 5 islands as advertised, each breathtaking!
Bora Bora (2 days) - Day 1 - Patrick's 3/4 day tour -- great tour! Email Patrick directly to book the tour. We snorkeled with sharks, played with the sting rays, snorkeled through a coral garden and had a great lunch. It was a great day!
Day 2 - PG cruise excursion Off Road Adventure -- great tour! This tour ended up circling the entire island and took 3 different roads/paths up the mountains for various views. If you're looking for some great scenic views and don't want to shell out the cash for the helicopter tour, then I would recommend this one.
Day 2 - PG Bora Bora Motu -- We spent 2 hours here in the afternoon. It felt a little crowded and most of the shady spots were taken by the time we got there around 2pm. It was nice for a couple of hours, but I wouldn't have wanted to spend a full day there.
Tahaa -- We used PG's private Motu from about 10:30am-1:45pm, which was enough for us. (We had a Bridge tour at 2pm, so we had to go back for that. On a side note, if you get a chance to sign up for the Bridge tour -- take it! We had a great time and it lasted about 1 hour.)
Moorea (2 days) - Day 1 - PG cruise excursion Aquablue Underwater Walk -- This excursion was good, but not great. It was one of things I wanted to try, now I've tried it and probably wouldn't do it again anywhere. There were 4 of us on the underwater walk for about 30-40 minutes and then we switched out with 4 other people. While they were doing the walk, we could snorkel in the same area. The extra time to snorkel made the excursion worth it. Lots of coral, fish, and a couple sting rays.
Day 2 - Albert Transportation 4x4 Tour -- Email Albert Transportation directly to book this excursion. This was a great way to see some of the interior of the island. It wasn't as good as our Bora Bora 4x4 excursion, but good nonetheless. There were a few scenic view points, a stop a rum distilary, pearl shop, Marae
Shopping: The most shopping opportunities are in Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Tahaa and Tahiti - with the best shopping and variety being in the market in Tahiti.
Huahine -- There were 2 local vendors with tables set up selling things where the tender docks. There were also a couple of shops near the dock.
Rarotonga -- There isn't anything where the tender docks, but if you're willing to walk 5 minutes you can get to a shop selling souvenir type stuff. And if you're willing to walk farther, then you'll get to even more souvenir shops.
Aitutaki -- There were 2 local vendors with tables set up selling things where the tender docks.
Bora Bora -- There are quite a few shops (maybe 15?) and a market where your tender docks.
Taha'a -- On the PG private Motu there were 5-6 local vendors with tables set up selling vanilla products, necklaces, bracelets, pearls, etc.
Moorea -- There were 6-8 local vendors with tables set up selling things where the tender docks. There was also a free shuttle (from a pearl shop) to a town with more shopping.
Tahiti -- The market in Papetee is huge and has decent prices. On the day our cruise ended, we got off the ship to shop from about 9-11am and then got back onboard to eat lunch before our official noon departure.
Pre & Post Cruise Day Rooms:
Pre-Cruise Day Room - Intercontinental Tahiti: Our flight landed around 5am and Paul Gauguin had several busses waiting for all of us to transfer to the hotel. The hotel was less than a 5 minute drive from the airport. The breakfast buffet was complimentary with our day room through Paul Gauguin, which was nice because we didn't arrive at the ship until mid afternoon. Our room was a tad on the small side, but just fine for a day room. There was no free wifi at this hotel. This hotel has a nice size main pool and man made lagoon area for snorkeling/swimming. There was also a second pool that was nice because there were less people around. Overall, the property is quite large and the grounds were nicely kept. We had great views of Moorea throughout the property. There was a small workout area (with free filtered water). There is also a small gift shop in the lobby.
Post Cruise Day Room - Sofitel Tahiti - Originally we were booked for the Radisson, but received notice two days prior to the end of our cruise that we had been switched to the Sofitel from the Radisson for logistical reasons. The lobby was large and beautiful. This gave me high hopes for our room...which turned out to be a real let down. It was nothing special and definitely not a place I would want to stay more than a day in. The grounds of this hotel were nicely kept, but not large to really walk around. There was a nice pool area with a very large pool. There was also a man made beach area from which you could see Moorea and the overwater bungalows of the Intercontinental Hotel. There was a small gift shop in the lobby and also wifi and a business center with computers where you could purchase Internet. Arrived at the hotel around 3:30pm and had to check out at 7pm. We were picked up about 8:15pm to be taken to the airport for our 11:15pm flight. This hotel is approximately a 5 minute drive from the airport. Less
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