Having always wished to visit French Polynesia we took the opportunity to take the 14 night cruise of the Tuamotu Islands, the Marquesas and Society Islands on the Paul Gauguin out of Papeete, Tahiti.
The return flight from Los Angeles was included in the price and we also took the option to extend the holiday by two nights in the Intercontinental Hotel Papeete prior to the cruise. This hotel is excellent and situated in a position giving a beautiful view of Moorea.
The islands visited were:-
Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Nuku Hiva (Marquesas)
Huahine, Bora Bora, Taha'a and Moorea (Society Islands)
Apart from the Marquesas, there were plenty of shore excursion choices. With the exception of Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva and one that had to be cancelled due to rain on Bora Bora we had a selection of excursions on the other islands and all were excellent, well lead and reasonably priced.
The Paul Gauguin can accommodate up to 332 guests; there are 3 restaurants - La L'Etoile, La Veranda and on the pool deck Le Grill. A continental breakfast could be taken at the rear of the pool deck in La Pallette. With the exception of the breakfast orange juice, the food served was excellent. Overall the ship's crew are friendly, helpful and professional. Our cabin was fitted out excellently and kept to a high standard by the cabin stewardess and butler. Fruit in the cabin was replaced daily, the mini bar was replenished daily and hors douvres provided.
Entertainment was also excellent, particulary Siglo Trio who played late afternoons at the Pool Bar. There were numerous lectures most days on various aspects of French Polynesia and the painter Paul Gauguin. There is a well equipped fitness suite and the swimming pool, though not large, was a pleasant relaxation during the 4 days at sea.
Although there was only a short distance between most ports of call the ship had to 'go to sea' at nights to meet the anti-pollution requirements. The Paul Gauguin has a pitch and roll characteristic that may induce motion sickness, even in moderate Pacific Ocean swells. Experienced yachtsmen/women were feeling 'queasy' on our cruise. This has been recognised and motion sickness pills are free from reception and crystallized ginger is available from the restaurants or butlers.
The return flight to Los Angeles was at 23:15, disembarkation was at midday, so a 'day room' was supplied at the Radisson Papeete. Unfortunately, despite being in a lovely location, this hotel was very 'tired' and was nowhere near the standard of the rest of the holiday.
Overall this was a very good cruise and probably the best way to see French Polynesia.