\As an aid to future TM travelers, I offer the below in the hopes you're expectations fall in line with Paul Gauguin's new offering of an intimate small ship experience. We were part of a family group of 14 on a proposal/wedding announcement gathering. We had a good time over the week spent on the Tere Moana and always make the best out of almost any situation thrown at us.
The Tere Moana brochures promised activities, itinerary and services that were not provided. I spent many hours researching and planning only to be surprised when receiving final documents with changes. Cruise Critic forums had much better information. I was left to fend for myself as our departure date neared, eventually forcing me to make the decision not to book any activities on my own. I had to go with PG's high priced (albeit well executed) ShoreEx ... primarily because I had lost faith in the Tere Moana's ability to keep schedule on a planned itinerary.
Embarkation/Check-in at Galisbay Port was a major inconvenience due to French security's inability to handle the back-up of early arriving passengers. Over an hour of more in the blazing hot sun, so bring your own sunscreen and water. The comment from the hotel director was, "Not my problem, that's port security." While it may be out of her control, ... it was a problem!
After the long hot sweaty security SNAFU, we were treated to a pleasant and friendly greeting from the quay, up the gangway, to the reception desk. When advised of a cabin change, no explanation of why ... no advanced notice, I informed the check-in staff that this was unacceptable. The 16MAR13 sailing had ~75 passengers (holds 90). I don't understand if our sailing wasn't full, what the problem was. Satisfaction required escalation to the hotel director. In the mean time, we sat in the lounge in our hot sweaty clothes for another half hour+ when all we wanted was a shower and to join our group for a drink and relaxing get-together. My wife and I came to PG with high expectations (most of our group are PG repeaters and recommend the PG operation highly) ... imagine all of the above transpiring and what a frustrating "first impression" Tere Moana gave us ... ugh!!!
Onto dining; in the main restaurant, L'Etoile, the presentation was EXCELLENT. The soups were OUTSTANDING, the lamb was EXCELLENT, and the rest of the meals(s) were VERY GOOD. However, the filet mignon was INEATIBLE, and my "every nightly" steak was tough and served cold.
Waiter Arnold was delightful, attentive and strived to excel at dinner, breakfast and every time we came across him onboard. Not under his control, but I rate TM's overall dining service as only GOOD. I conversed with Maitre D' Utpal and we came up with the following explanation: In our group (table for ten), the men were destined to get plates that had been cooling down while the waiters had everyone's meals readied and then politely served the women first. Compounding this were long delays between courses. Tere Moana needs more waiters for the bigger table(s) and/or you need to get seated at a smaller table.
With the proviso that meal evaluations are highly subject to individual opinion, I gave Tere Moana an EXCELLENT rating in the La Veranda, no complaints here for breakfast or lunch. I actually enjoyed these "hot" meals more than the drawn out "formal" dinners. Toward the end of the week, breakfast selections did become monotonous but this was understandable for the small ship TM is.
Of note to those reading the PG brochures, there may be two dining venues advertised / pictured, however, TM really operated only the La Veranda for breakfast and lunch, and only the L'Etoile for dinner. We personally did not partake of room service, a result of grumblings from fellow passengers. On a positive note, the staff occasionally extended the lunch hour to accommodate late returning ShorEx participants.
The Tere Moana's staterooms do get a "five star" rating from me; plenty of hangers, drawers and closet space. Excellent towel exchanges, very timely, in fact quick, room turn-arounds while we breakfasted. Air conditioning was a little cool, but preferable to sweating like our friends did down the hall. Here is where I have learned from past cruises to select a cabin away from the entry and foyers.
A recommendation for the bathroom: The wall mounted hair dryer is very "old school". It gets excessively too hot to handle well before the wife's hair was any where near drying. We envied our friend who brought her own dryer.
I was delighted with the selection of travel books in and the small and cozy layout of the library/computer room. Both the guest lecturer and the steel drum duo were EXCELLENT and refreshing.
Our Zodiac boat handlers excelled at their job helping us passengers on and off the fantail and piers. I think PG now blatantly realizes that Zodiacs are not for the infirm or mobility challenged. All the previous postings regarding "tender" services should, by the time you read this, have been overcome by events ... real "tenders" are promised for future cruises.
A good cruise is what you make of it. Taking into account the TM's small size limitations, evening entertainment consisted of a "one man" piano bar singer with a naturally limited music selection. Piano player Alex, however was the "glue" that held us passengers together. He jumped right in to keep the lounge lively. Alex made it happen.
Regarding port information and ShoreEx, cruise concierge Manuel was the nicest guy with a very pleasant disposition, however his port information was woefully inadequate. We were especially disheartened regarding the advertised marina "water sports". What good are kayaks if they are unavailable for our use? Sadly, we Tere Moana passengers were relegated to "Big Eye Liberty" only ... watching the Wind Surf's passengers enjoying "swim call" off their fantail.
In my opinion, PG headquarters failed Manuel. One of the pax on our Baths tour was said to be a PG representative. When we asked her, "Why didn't PG send an advance man down to reconnoiter the ports?" ... she said PG did. Who ever this guy was, he/she missed the mark!
In summary, we paid top dollar for a "five star" experience and received a middle-of-the-road product. The phrase, "Over promised and under performed." best describes my feelings about PG. Any comparisons regarding Tere Mona's facility, services and activities to the MV Paul Gauguin are inappropriate at this time. Using the Paul Gauguin reputation to market the Tere Moana experience ... falls short.