My overall thoughts on the ship are that it was a 4 star experience with a 5 star price. We had such a good experience on our Tahiti Cruise that we actually signed up as soon as the Tere Moana came on line. We wanted to see the Caribbean and felt that the small ship experience would best meet our needs. That being said, there is a lot of work to be done to get the Tere Moana up to the standards of the Paul Gauguin. Sometimes it felt like there was an identity crisis going on, was this a luxury ship or an adventure cruise? Sometimes it was hard to tell.
I would say that the itinerary was the other thing that drew us to the Tere Moana. We loved the idea of being able to visit small islands and places that the big ships don't cruise to. I did really appreciate the fact that PG did the research on when the bigger ships were in port and changed their itinerary to give us a better experience. One of my concerns was I was not notified of the changes. I only found out because I was in contact with other cruisers via Cruise Critic. I ended up having to call PG and verify because we had booked an off-ship excursion on Tortolla and had to make sure that we had booked for the correct day.
The check-in process was painless after we were aboard the ship but the actual process to get on the ship was unpleasant. We had to make our way through two separate passport checks and had to wait for someone to escort us to the ship. It would have been better to have a ship's representative waiting at the Port Entrance to make sure that people were assured that they were actually at the right place and were briefed on the process to get through French Customs. We weren't even sure we were in the right place and the Customs Officer spoke no english. We truly only knew we were in the right place because we had seen the ship earlier as we drove down the mountain towards the port.
Dining was an area that left a lot to be desired. Food ranged from very good to inedible. In L'Etoile we had several dinners that were terrible. The filet mignon was so tough that we could barely chew it and the Creme Brule was curdled. On the other hand, every fish dish I had was wonderful and the mushroom soup from the first night was to die for. We came expecting 5 star food like on the Paul Gauguin and ended up with food that, at times, was 1 or 2 star at best. The food was not well presented on the plates, where was the art? On the PG we took pictures of our food because it was so beautiful. Twice the restaurant ran out of the wines we liked and the selection they had was very limited. If we wanted something better we had to pay for it. This is unacceptable when you consider the price we paid for the cruise. The menu was also confusing. It appeared that you could order off menu, but when we asked we were told that the only items available were what was already on the menu for the evening. We had great service from Allen, Johnny and Gede, but there were times that they were overwhelmed and the service suffered. They were the standouts who truly understood what it meant to be part of the "Paul Gauguin Family". The food in La Veranda was ok, but it was buffet food and it showed. There should have been at least two omelet stations because it was the one thing that almost everyone wanted every day. I also missed having the level of service that I have grown to expect from Paul Gauguin where I couldn't even carry my own plate to my table before a waiter had taken it.
The bartenders, Vishal and Chris, were wonderful. We had fantastic service at the pool bar as well as the main bar. Vishal had to be one of the hardest working people on the ship. He was always checking to see if we needed anything else and was always smiling. Chris was extremely personable and made sure we had whatever we asked for. The quality of the wine was just ok, which makes it even worse when there are so many good inexpensive wines out there. The choices were pretty uninspired and if you wanted something better you had to pay for it. Even the wines on the paid list were pretty uninspired. I felt like the buyer really didn't put a lot of thought into the wine selection. The other thing we missed a lot was the drink of the day. It was always listed on the daily newsletter on the Paul Gauguin and we had a lot of fun trying new things.
Our room attendant, Citi, was great! She was always right there with everything we needed and always greeted us with a friendly smile and hello. She made sure that we had fresh beach towels each day and our bed was turned down every evening. The best night was when we walked in at the end of the evening to find a life-size towel monkey hanging on the closet door. The room was spacious and we felt like we had plenty of room for all of our clothing and toiletries.
The staff was another area where I felt like the Tere Moana has a lot of growing to do. Overall, the staff was ok, but I came on board expecting a Paul Gauguin experience and didn't quite get it. Some of the staff, like Allen, Gede, Citi and Vishal were outstanding and did the little things that make us feel special like remembering our names and going out of their way to make sure we had what we needed. Other staff ranged from somewhat friendly to non-communicative. A suggestion for future would be to set up some kind of mentoring exchange between the Paul Gauguin and the Tere Moana. The cruise director, Manuel needed a lot more work before he could be considered PG worthy. His evening briefings were not great and there was a lack of on-board entertainment. The few events we did have were very well attended. The steel drum band was great and the Staff Musical was so much fun. We really missed the Gauguins... they were so special and I felt like the Tere Moana needed that type of ambassadors.
Off Ship excursions are an area that needs a lot of improvement. The excursions that were offered were not worth the cost. I wish there had been more information about each port, especially with the rich history in each port. There could have been walking tours or other types of tours that highlighted the history. One of our best excursions was getting off the ship in St Kitts and setting up a taxi tour of the island. For $20 per person we got an excellent tour and visited the Batik Factory and the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. We only booked one off ship activity through the ship because the prices were so ridiculously high. We booked the Baths Tour. The vendor was not so great. Before we started down to the Baths he briefed us about what we would be doing. He walked down to the water with us and then disappeared. We all stood around waiting for him to lead us through the rocks and finally gave up and went on our own. He didn't show up for almost an hour and never once came over to ask how we were doing. In our briefing he told everyone to be back at the top by 1100. We were all up there waiting and looked around to find him eating his lunch in the restaurant. We waited almost 30 minutes for him to be done. Once we got back on the buses he stopped twice at overlooks and gave us a good talk about the islands and their history. I heard from several people that the snorkel tours were not good, especially for the price. We were able to book one for less money than the one on the ship and got a 6 1/2 hour excursion to Norman Island and the Indians that was fantastic! I think there needs to be more research into the off-ship activities. I was able to find mine with the help of some cruise critic members plus a few hours research and then checked it through Trip Advisor where it had great reviews.
The zodiacs were fine for what they were, but they weren't the best when the seas were even a little bit rough. The staff needs to be better briefed on the proper way of getting people on and off the zodiacs. We were told the first day what the proper grip was and quite often the crew was just grabbing my hand instead of grasping my forearm.
What made this cruise for us were the other cruisers. We met some wonderful people and built friendships that will last far beyond this cruise.
Will any of this stop us from cruising with PG again? Absolutely not! We are already booked for our next cruise in Tahiti. But, it will be a few years before we go back on the Tere Moana.