We booked a cruise on the Paul Gauguin which included a three night stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tahiti prior to the cruise and a day room there the day of disembarkation. At the last minute, we were joined by another couple on the cruise portion of the package.
First, let me say that the Intercontinental Hotel in Tahiti is a beautiful facility, with plenty of lounge chairs and towels, several pools, and a closed lagoon area for snorkeling. The rooms were clean and comfortable. We had some issues with service, but management went the extra mile to correct and make right any issues we experienced, so kudos to them. We would stay there again.
On to the cruise. Our wait to board was non existent, with embarkation a simple walk on, get your ID, and then we were led to our room by one of the stewardesses. Our bags were already there. This was only a portent of the wonderful treatment to come.
This cruise was absolutely, without a doubt, the A # 1, first class cruise we expected. In fact, it exceeded our expectations.
The meals were exceptional dining experiences, and, we ate in the " no reservations" restaurant most nights. We made reservations in the La Veranda French restaurant one night, and the food there was also perfectly done. This restaurant was patterned after the Michelin Two Star restaurant of the same name, and it lived up to the same rating. The wine selections at dinner were very nice, and the wait staff was very accommodating to special requests.
Even the breakfast and lunch dining options were special. In addition to the buffets offered, there were also menu items for those who weren't buffet fans. If you decided on the buffet, they wouldn't even let you carry your plate to the table. Once you selected your food and filled your plate, a waiter magically appeared at your elbow, asking to take your plate to the table for you. A little disconcerting at first, but a nice touch. And, if you ordered an omelet or custom pasta at lunch, they took your order, then had it delivered when it was done.
There was no charge for any of the drinks that anyone in our party ordered, and we were drinking top shelf liquors, including Gran Marnier, and Dewars. Although the brochures for the cruise stated that there might be an up charge for some drinks, I can't imagine what those would be. I noticed that they freely poured other top shelf liquors such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. The fruity drinks that most cruises and resorts charge $15 for we're plentiful and tasty.
The service throughout the ship was OUTSTANDING! From the wait staff in the dining room, to the drink service by the pool, to the bartenders or drink service at the numerous events and parties, the waiters alway had cold drinks and warm smiles. The room stewardesses, or as my wife refers to them, housekeeping fairies, did an excellent job while remaining seemingly invisible. I don't know how many times each day our young lady, Teresa, came through, but the room was always immaculate. The evenings included a turndown service and a quality chocolate on each pillow. Ahhhh!
The entertainment on board was also top notch. Dan the Piano man kept us entertained, whether it was during an after dinner drink, or hosting a Name That Tune quiz / contest, his kind demeanor and light hearted banter made everyone feel at home. There was also a house band, Santa Rosa, that did a great job of providing dance music for parties and events.
The nightly shows in the main theater were entertaining, informative, and amusing, sometimes all at once. The Gauguin brought in local dance troupes and cultural groups from the different islands, and they were very entertaining.
In addition, and separate from the entertainment groups, they brought in expert speakers who were very engaging in their fields. The two that we attended were "Spinner Dolphins and the Whales of Tahiti" and the "True Story of the HMS Bounty" were both fascinating.
Also on board, there were games and activities hosted by their hospitality team, the Les Gauguines, which included several lovely young Polynesian ladies, and one young Polynesian man. There was something for everyone. We participated, collectively, in several activities, including trivia contests, jewelry making classes, a Polynesian language class, ukelele lessons, and others I'm sure I've forgotten. The Gauguines were multi talented, intelligent, graceful and engaging.
Included at no extra charge are trips to the Gauguins Private Motu off Bora Bora, where you can sun, snorkel, swim, and eat a BBQ lunch and drink your fill; and to a less appointed motu just off Moorea (only drinks available), but with great snorkeling. There was also kayaking off the Marina deck pretty much any time we were at anchor.
We stopped at several islands, snorkeled, swam and shopped. We also did some excursions (extra charge) including tours, a helmet dive, and dinner at Bloody Mary's on Bora Bora.
This cruise was stellar right to the end. We had to be out of our stateroom by 9:30am, but the pool bar was open early and a full lunch was served, starting at 11:00am. Our disembark time was 12:20pm, and there was a free three hour tour of Tahiti, if you wanted to go, rather than go directly to the hotel, where our day rooms wouldn't be ready until 3 pm. We thought it would be a sales type trip, but were we wrong. It was an excellent tour! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, and told us much of the history of Tahiti. We went to a spectacular waterfall; to the house which belonged to the author of Mutiny on the Bounty; toured the coastline; and stopped at a historic lighthouse constructed in the 1867.
And thanks to our longtime travel agent, Linda Herron, from Cruises Etc, out of the Cleveland area, for putting together another stellar vacation experience for us.