My husband and I traveled on the Paul Gauguin in mid-October. This was by far one of the best trips we have even taken. The ship and its crew were top notch. We booked a pre-cruise stay through Paul Gauguin at the Intercontinental Le Moana on Bora Bora. It was an excellent choice in choosing Bora Bora for the pre-cruise stay. The water is simply stunning and the island had a very relaxed vibe. Other than the Le Moana location being very windy (you can read my Trip Advisor review for more on that), the hotel was excellent.
We arrived at the ship around 5 p.m. We were asked to fill out a health form and then taken to reception. We were checked in very quickly and taken to our room by one of the room stewards. Very efficient - A+
We chose a veranda stateroom (#615). The room was very well appointed with a king-sized bed (not two twins pushed together), a generous bathroom (for a cruise ship) with a full size tub. We were celebrating our 30th anniversary and they had a decadent piece of chocolate cake for us to share when we arrived. There was also fruit in the room every day as well as soda/water/beer in the fridge. The storage capacity in the room was never ending. We had 4 suitcases and 2 personal bags and I was able to unpack all of them and still had room to spare. All of the emptied suitcases fit nicely under the bed. The bathroom had high-end complimentary toiletries (L’Octainte). We absolutely loved having a balcony to hang out on. We used it a lot and were very glad we chose this option. The room was immaculate when we checked in and stayed that way our entire trip. Karren, our room steward, was excellent - A+
We thought the food on the ship was wonderful and very well presented. We ate at L’Etiole three times, La Veranda three times and Le Grill just one time. You had the choice each night to eat with other passengers or dine by yourselves. We chose to dine by ourselves every night.
Breakfast - Breakfast was offered at La Veranda (air-conditioned buffet), Le Grill (open-air buffet) and La Palette (open air continental breakfast). We ate breakfast at Le Grill once and at La Veranda the other 6 days. The food was very good and offered a ton of options including ordering from the menu if you preferred at La Veranda and Le Grill.
Lunch - we were off the ship most days and only had one lunch on the ship during the cruise and also lunch on the day of departure. We ate at Le Grill and La Veranda. The lunch options were excellent both days.
La Veranda - our favorite. This air-conditioned restaurant located on deck 6 requires a reservation but they were always easy to get. The menu remains the same throughout the trip with the exception of Polynesian night where all three of the restaurants serve the same menu. We never felt rushed, and we greeted by name when we arrived. The food was excellent from the appetizers to the desserts. A special shout-out to Kristol from Belguim (head-waiter at La Veranda for breakfast and L’Etoile for dinner) - A+
L’Etoile - also a favorite. This air-conditioned restaurant on deck 5 did not require reservations. The menu changed nightly and offered delicious options every night. The service was excellent and we enjoyed all of the meals we had here - A+
Le Grill - while the food was good, this was our least favorite but by no means bad. This restaurant was located on deck 8 near the pool and was open-air. It just didn’t have the same vibe as the others and we could smell fumes from the ship up there - B
There was numerous bars on the ship - casino bar, grand salon bar, pool bar and La Pallette bar so there is never a shortage of any drink you like. The waitstaff was very attentive at all of the bars and we never had to wait for a drink. It’s also nice that liquor is included in your fare on this ship. A very nice touch :) - A+
I can’t say enough about the entire staff of the ship. They are attentive, friendly and have a great attitude. They aim to please and it shows over and over again. You will feel very pampered on this ship - A+
Probably the only part of the trip that was somewhat lacking. While the entertainment staff tried, most activities were lackluster, started late and there was never much enthusiasm. The nightly shows were medicore at best with the exception of groups from Raiatea and Tahiti that came onboard the ship to do a show. Both of these groups were excellent. This ship is not much for entertaining you so if you really need that type of atmosphere to enjoy yourself, you may want to rethink the Paul Gauguin. The ship's musicians, Dan the piano player and the group Santa Rosa were just ok. Dan was an excellent piano player but we found this to be boring (just not our thing I guess). Santa Rosa tried very hard to make it work and sometimes they were good. Although they were all decent musicians, they lacked vocal talent and that sometimes killed it for us - C+
Raiatea - the ship stops here on Sunday and is the only port that the ships docks in - the other ports all use tender boats. My only issue with this is that the town is closed on Sunday with the exception of a small food market so if you wanted to just walk around on your own, there was nothing to do. We did the Faaroa River & Island Exploration 4x4 tour through the ship and it was very good. They take you out on a Land Rover - it seats 8 people. They take you to all different parts of the island by Land Rover and then you board a motorized outrigger canoe for a trip up the Faaroa River. Very interesting excursion and I would recommend doing this - A+
Taha’a - the ship stops here on Monday. The ship does a huge bbq on their private motu here. We were there from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and didn’t want to leave. The island has plenty of beach loungers and palm trees to lay under if you choose to stay out of the sun. The water is shallow and warm and had great snorkeling. There was a full-sized bar, a floating bar and a full sized building for the buffet lunch. There were also many vendors on the island to buy souveniers and pearls. My only suggestion would be to come to this island on Sunday since everything is closed on the islands on Sundays and go to Raiatea on Monday so you can visit the shops when they are open - A+
Bora Bora (day one) - the ship arrives here on Tuesday morning and stays through 6 p.m. Wednesday. The island and water surrounding it is stunningly beautiful. We chose to do an excursion that was not through the ship - the Reef Discovery tour. I booked this tour myself before the cruise through their website. They were very responsive - I sent them a 50% deposit beforehand and paid the balance on the day of the excursion - total of 10,000 XPF each - about $110.00 USD which was very reasonable. Manuel was our guide and he was very good. First we went out on the open ocean to see if we could see any whales - unfortunately we didn’t :( After that, we went to a spot to snorkel - the snorkeling was just o.k. there. After that, we stopped in deeper water to swim with the gigantic Manta Rays. These animals were majestic and it was amazing to snorkel above them and follow them as they swam. After that, they take you to a coral garden on the south part of the island. This was great - so many fish! They give you a piece of bread to feed the fish and they just swarm around you - it was amazing! - A+
Bora Bora (day two) - we did the Rays and Snorkeling by Jetboat excursion. First, they take you to a great spot to swim with sting rays and black-tipped reef sharks. A lot of fun - you won’t believe how close you get to actual sharks that are anywhere from 4-6 feet long! After that, they take you to a coral garden (it was the same one we were at the day before but we certainly didn’t mind given how amazing it was!). Great excursion! - A+
Moorea (day one) - the ship arrives here on Thursday morning and stays through 5 p.m. Friday. On the first day, we did the Aito Off-Road Safari. A guide takes you out on a Range Rover with 3 other couples. They take you to the interior of the island which is a crater. Pineapple plantations, Belvedere Point and more. It was a good excursion - A
Moorea (day two) - we did the Waverunner and Rays excursion. They take you on a 45 minute waverunner ride - 2 people per waverunner and you all follow the guide in a line. On the way back, you stop at a pretty motu. Not really sure why they stop there, you don’t do anything. But there is a bathroom on the motu if you need it. The last stop was swimming with stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks. This part was amazing. The guide was feeding the rays so fish just flocked to us as well as the rays - great snorkeling! The fish that come also attract the sharks so there were probably about 10 of those swimming around us. They stay about 6 feet away from you but it makes for great snorkeling and pics to be swimming that close with sharks. We highly recommend this excursion - A+
You get back to Tahiti on Friday night about 8 p.m. and are docked in Tahiti for the last night. Our disembarkation time was at 12:40 p.m. Saturday. The ship provided both a full breakfast and a full lunch before you leave the ship and they didn’t rush you, which was very nice.
Paul Gauguin also provided a day room for us at the Radisson Tahiti. The Radisson was about 20 minutes from the pier. It sits on a black sand beach and all of the rooms face the ocean. The rooms were well-appointed for our needs and many of the rooms also have a Jacuzzi on the balcony. The front desk at the Radisson was pretty poor but if you ask for Chris, the manager, he’ll take care of anything you need. They also have free wi-fi in the lobby. There is a restaurant just steps from the beach if you want a meal before you head for the airport. Air Tahiti will pick you up to take you back to the airport at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night although you have to have your luggage in the lobby by 6:45 p.m. so they can take it to the airport for you. This was a little weird for us but our luggage was right there waiting for us when we arrived at the airport. There is one duty-free store at the airport for any last minute purchases.
The redeye flights (8-9 hours) to and from L.A. were hard but once you’re there, it’s well worth the annoyance. We flew Air Tahiti Nui and this is probably one of the best airlines we have ever flown. Air Tahiti Nui was great but a redeye in coach is a redeye in coach, - you can’t sugarcoat sleeping sitting up very much! We took a couple of Tylenol PM’s and it did help.
All in all, it was a fantastic cruise and this part of the world is just amazing and beautiful. Very different culture from the U.S. - you learn so much and meet so many people from different parts of the world.