Excellent first trip to Tahiti and Cook Islands.: Paul Gauguin Cruise Review by LarryFitz
Overall Member Rating
Excellent first trip to Tahiti and Cook Islands.
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Tahiti (Papeete)
Our cruise was only about 75% filled. All older adults, almost all couples, and no children. Overall, I have no hesitation recommending this trip and the PG experience, and we plan to cruise with PG again.
1. Itinerary. Excellent with so many islands visited.
2. Value is excellent. Considering the length of trip, included airfare, outstanding pre- and post-cruise (i.e., time spent between Papeete airport and ship) service, amazing ship staff and service, great food, etc.-- the cost is quite reasonable. Trying to arrange an a-la-carte air + resort, 2 island, 11-day vacation to Tahiti would cost more, I believe.
3. Ship size and capacity is ideal and offers a better chance to meet fellow passengers. Everything on the ship seems only a few steps away.
Some outstanding points are:
1. The PG staff are exceptional. Efficient and friendly. Our steward was More first-rate keeping our cabin in order. The restaurant staff was amazing. Cruise Director Steve Wood was good, and a terrific singer/entertainer as well. Les Gauguines, the Polynesian hosts, were everywhere and outstanding for staffing the ship activities and providing entertainment. They added immeasurably to the trip.
2. The cuisine exceeded expectations. L'Etoile is the non-reservation main dinner restaurant and had an outstanding selection every night. Fish preparation in appetizers and main courses was perhaps the best I've ever experienced. La Veranda we used only twice for dinner, and one meal in particular might have been the best for me of all time. Desserts at lunch and dinner were 5+. Breakfast and lunch selections and quality were very high, too. Best buffet scrambled eggs ever! Coffee and wine (see below) were just average.
3. Embarkation/Disembarkation was much better than expected. With a 5:30 am flight arrival we were at the Intercontinental Hotel by 7 am in a private room, and at the pool by 8 am. Lunch was included and excellent. We didn't need to catch the shuttle to the ship until 3 pm, so it was like an "extra" day of vacation at a beautiful resort that we weren't even expecting. Likewise, at the end PG provided a free 3 hr excursion around Papeete (Hall museum, waterfall hike, Point Venus) before dropping us off at the Radisson with a private room and resort access. Very nice!
4. Entertainment was better than expected. Three times (Rarotonga, Moorea, Tahiti) PG had local dance troupes onboard for shows. O Tahiti E on the final night was absolutely terrific! Krew Kapers was an excellent show, too. The Italian magician (2 shows), show by Steve Wood, and other various acts were good, too. The band, Santa Rosa, was excellent for Steve Woods' show, but pretty average otherwise.
5. Enrichment. I liked Mark Eddowes (Polynesian migration and culture) and Michael Poole (marine life, whales). Mark's talks tended to run over time and cover too much info. In general the enrichment talks were poorly attended.
6. The anniversary event for couples (our 25th) was very nice!
7. Inclusive costs. Yes, everything is included. Drinks, too. Have as many "drinks of the day" or Tahiti draft beers as you like. Never had to pull out my cruise card to buy anything, except at the gift shop and money exchange. Gratuities are included, too.
Average-to-good items with minor issues might include:
1. There was a lack of a quiet, comfortable public space (lounge) to read or relax during the day outside of the pool area or cabin. The auditorium was not too good for reading with the music always playing.
2. Wine quality and selection. The included wines at dinner were only adequate. Some of the whites, especially French, were good to excellent. The reds, often Chilean, Aussie or NZ, were somewhat weak and not up to the standard of the cuisine itself. The supplemental bottle choices (at additional $$$) appeared good, but usually we needed only a glass of red to accompany a specific course and this was not an option.
3. Rough seas. The PG is not a big ship, so the "at sea" days with 6-8' seas might be a bit rough for some people. I was OK, and my wife had her patches. When the ship was outside the lagoon in Rarotonga and Aitutaki the "jump" from the tender to ship was something to be carful about, but the crew did an expert job in keeping us safe.
4. Jean-Michael Cousteau was disappointing for me. Although a celebrity and covering the important topics of ocean conservation and education, his material was redundant and presentations rather flat. We skipped his final lecture.
5. Ship wi-fi is almost useless at times. Do your internet research for the trip before leaving, since web access via iPAD in the cabin is too slow. Perhaps the PG Internet cafe in the ship might work, but I didn't use it.
Excursions. I contacted the non-PG excursions by e-mail about 2-3 months in advance and determined the cost and how they wanted to be paid. None of them needed any deposit. They are extensively reviewed on Trip Advisor:
1. Aitutaki. We did Teking's 5-Island lagoon cruise. Great trip, snorkeling, lunch, boat ride, and humorous narratives from Teking himself. Walking around the motus was right out of a calendar. A must trip!
2. Bora Bora. We did Patrick's combo tour (4X4, lunch, snorkel) and circled BB by both road and lagoon. Lunch on the motu was completely awesome eating at a picnic table in the shallow water and feeding fish. The earth oven-cooked pork and BBQ fish were absolutely to die for. The grilled ahi and mahi mahi were 10+, even better than on the PG itself! Do not pass up this trip.
3. The PG Taha'a motu day was excellent, but the Bora Bora PG motu only average.
4. Huahine. PG cancelled our snorkel trip, so we took the shuttle bus into Fare and had a great time with lunch, shopping, soaking up the local scene, and walking on the nearby beach. The ice cold coconut water (i.e., from the freshly machete-opened coconut itself + a straw) was A+ and a mere 100 xpf (about a $1.25).
5. Rarotonga. We rented a car for about $40, got the temporary license from the car rental place, and drove around the island. I wished that I had brought my snorkel stuff, because Titikaveka Beach/lagoon looked good for it. We had a sandwich and ika mata (Cook Islands raw fish salad) back at Avarua.
6. Moorea. We did a morning excursion with Moorea Paddleboard Adventures and a PG bus trip around the island. These were only average.
You can find cheaper vanilla beans and associated products at the local markets in Huahine, Bora Bora, or the big market in Papeete (about a 4 block walk from the dock). Less
Cabin review: A425
Cabin was as expected, especially welcome is the full size tub/shower. I'm glad we didn't spend extra for the veranda room, since it was often very windy and I think use of the porch would have been minimal. Bed, linens, storage, and overall comfort good, but not exceptional. Better TV and internet service would be nice upgrade.