1. The staff and crew provide a much better product than the one described in several posts on cruisecritic.com in January and February of 2013.
The reviews from that time are relatively negative and I almost cancelled my trip after reading them. In retrospect, they reflect typical problems in shakedown cruises for a new vessel sailing for a new company in a new area of travel. Many of the problems described in earlier posts had been fixed by the end of March. Plans are in place to fix most of the others.
2. The experience on the Tere Moana is not yet as good as it's going to be.
As evidenced by the hands-on involvement on corporate staff on the end-of-March cruise, the Paul Gauguin Company is committed to improving this product and to matching the quality of their South Seas cruises.
Passengers were asked for their opinions, problems were acknowledged, and no one was better at seeing what needed to change than Paul Gauguin's "Secret Shoppers." But remember, even though this is not the Paul Gauguin it can be a satisfying experience in its own right.
3. Beware of the shore excursions.
The quality and value of the shore excursions was about as consistent as a two-year-old's moods. Some -- like the dolphin encounter, the train on St. Kitts, and the Norman Island snorkel were marvelous. Others -- like the tours of the Baths, Virgin Gorda, or St. Kitts were outrageously over priced.
4. If you plan to arrive pre-cruise or leave post-cruise consider where you will stay very carefully.
The ship departs from the French side of the island. This means you are about 45 minutes away from the dock if you stay on the Dutch side. If you stay on the French side, the Radisson Blu Hotel suggested by Paul Gauguin as a pre/post cruise option is definitely not for everyone. Read reviews on Trip Advisor to see if it's right for you.
5. Allow plenty of time for the drive from the French side of the island to the airport on the Dutch side and vice versa.
This trip might take as few as 25 minutes, but if you travel at rush hour -- yes this does exist on St. Martin -- or if one of the bridges on the drive is up to let boats through, you could easily spend an hour in traffic.
6. The staff and crew are exceptionally pleasant and accommodating.
This cruise was a first for many of the staff and though they don't yet know everything, they are absolutely committed to pleasing the guests. They are also excited about the ports of call and talked about looking forward to going to Europe. Their lack of cynicism and boredom was refreshing.
7. Take charge of your own experience.
Don't expect the concierge to know a great deal about what you'll find when you go ashore. After all, the trip at the end of March was only his third time making the circuit from St. Martin to St. Martin.
Be on the alert for the unexpected. While we were anchored in St. Barts, there was a marvelous regatta and the ship anchored so that we were just a few hundred yards from the finish line. Enjoying this event was a highlight for many, but many more missed it entirely because they failed to pay attention to the shipboard announcements.
Plan to be your own on-board entertainment. Alex -- The Piano Man was gracious, charming, and able to give anyone willing to take the plunge the opportunity to launch a career as a soloist.
8. This is not an "adventure" cruise.
The ports where we disembarked had people, buildings, things to buy, and plenty to drink. There was some contact with "the locals," but only if it was sought out while in port. Even on the night when the crew provided entertainment think karaoke rather than stage production.
9. This is not a "luxury" cruise.
The food was great, but not outstanding. Boarding Zodiacs is not something one wants to do in dresses, high heels, or leather-soled shoes. The general vibe with other passengers and crew is casual, informal, and fun.
10. The Tere Moana is not finished yet.
The ship, crew, ports of call and passengers have not yet coalesced into an easily-branded or described experience. If you enjoy being part of helping set the tone for whether this becomes more adventure than luxury, more luxury than adventure, or delightfully (at least for me) a little of each, this might be the cruise for you.
Please remember that your cruise will certainly be different in some respects from what I've described here. The cruise experience depends on the cruiser's attitude and expectations, the weather, how the ship's staff deliver on their promises and how everyone is able to respond to the unexpected.