My wife and I are just getting back to normal after the most wonderful experience of our lives aboard the Paul Gauguin. I should say this was our first ever cruise and we will be booking with this cruise line again. Before I get into the details and useful tips for others wanting to tour the South Pacific Islands we want to say a very very big thank you to all the staff of MS Paul Gauguin. The only thing more breathtaking than the scenery and raw natural beauty of these island was the service - impeccable service - on board this ship. It was perfect. The staff looked after us like we were family and worked so very hard each and every day to make us feel at home. I can honestly say that this cruise far exceeded even our wildest expectations
So here goes.
The Ship. The MS Paul Gauguin is just the right size to get close up to the beautiful Islands of the South Pacific. It is luxuriously decorated and a floating 7 star hotel. We were able to sail close in to the bays and inlets of the islands and have some stunning photographs that we would not have obtained otherwise.The ship is spotlessly clean - and I do mean spotless. The staff were cleaning constantly but unobtrusively. Not a fingerprint or smudge to be found anywhere. The Grand Salon where most of the entertainment was centred was very comfortable - not large but plenty big enough for the small number of guests (around 350). The pool is small but who needed it when there was swimming and snorkelling in the lagoons of Bora Bora and Aitutaki!!! There is a small casino on board for those who like a little gambling but all done very tastefully. If you are prone to motion sickness we strongly recommend getting some sea sickness patches. Out in the ocean between French Polynesia and the Cook Islands was a little rough and the ship does pitch a little. My wife does suffer from sea sickness and was glad she packed the medication which worked wonders. I do not suffer from it at all and found the rocking motion gave me the best nights sleep I can remember.
The Cabin: We booked cabin 711 and we have described it in detail below. There were only 4 of this size on board and we were delighted with it. Lots of room and it came with butler service. The balcony was great with plenty of room for getting some sunshine if you do not want to go on deck.
Butler Service: this comes with the higher priced cabins but was well worth it. Our Butlers were Abner and Sharman and they were just excellent and looked after everything for us. No request was too small. Abner brought us fresh fruit everyday and afternoon treats. Always impeccably dressed even at 6.30 in the morning when we needed an early breakfast. These guys were just fantastic and if they are reading this we would like to say a big thank you for making our anniversary trip truly memorable.
The Food. We were expecting buffet style service - we got 7 start top notch restaurant service. From the Maitre D' to the waiters and chefs we could not have asked for better food or better service. The wine list was extensive and there was an extra charge if you wanted to select from those but the regular wines served were really excellent so there was no need unless you are a wine buff. There are three restaurants. Le Verandah and Le Grille which required booking (do this on the first day of the cruise to ensure you get your preferred time). You can go as many times as you want during your stay on board. Le grille is on deck 8 and can get a bit windy as it is open to the deck on one side but the views while dining are exquisite - no comparison to anything I have done before. Eating a wonderfully presented, well prepared meal from top chefs while watching the South Pacific roll by your table. We just could not have asked for better than that. The third restaurant Le Etoille does not require booking and we expected it to be a buffet style....it is not. The service and food was every bit as good as the other two and the service impeccable. By way of a true example of what you can expect - I dropped my bread knife on the floor. Almost before it hit the floor one waiter had picked it up and another was replacing my entire cutlery set with a fresh. The waiters all knew our names from the very first day. My wife was escorted to her seat every time with napkins laid out for us. The kind of service one expects from the Savoy or the Waldorf Astoria.
Islands: More about the islands later but we visited Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Taha'a, Aitutaki, Tonga and the Fijian Islands. All different with their own unique character and customs and each and every one of them jaw-droppingly beautiful. Photographs simply do not do them justice. One of the purposes of this trip was to see which islands we would like to spend more time on for later trips. We did answer the question but it was all of them. If we have a favorite it was Aitutaki which we had visited in 2011 on our way back from Australia and fell in love with it. It is the Bora Bora of the Cook Islands and while less well known than its French Polynesian neighbour is every bit as beautiful with a crystal clear turquoise blue lagoon that is so impossibly blue and surrounded by a string of the most stunning lagoon islands (Motu's) with soft white sandy beaches. Truly a South Pacific paradise. Moorea which has the mountain made famous as Bali Hi in the musical South Pacific has truly spectacular scenery.
This trip was a dream come true for us and it was made extra special as it was our 37th wedding anniversary. But for us it was the crew that truly made this a memorable experience. From the Captain to the guy changing the batteries on our electronic room lock. the maids, the butlers, the chefs, the waiters, the bartenders, the kitchen staff and the engineering crew who kept everything running superbly well - these were the unforgettable people that made our holiday the absolute best ever. We loved every second of our time on board with all of you.
Useful tips: Take plenty of sea sickness medication if you are prone to motion sickness. The islands are tropical and there are plenty of mosquitos about so take plenty of repellent with you. Take lots of sun screen and after sun to avoid sunburn. This cruise is very near to the equator and the Sun is VERY powerful so be careful.