My family and I are very experienced travelers. I have traveled for all my adult life. Generally, we travel independently to the less tamed parts of the world. We have experienced roughing it to luxury accomodations. When it comes to cruising we have been on a number of lines over the years. I am not a big fan of cruising, rather I use it as a hotel to see places where it is not practical to travel by land.
Paul Gauguin cruise is not inexpensive but... compared to land accomodations in the Society Islands it is a downright bargain (compared with a hotel room only)!
From the moment we arrived at the dock I knew we were in for something very different. No crouds, very caring and friendly crew. We were immediately "processed", given ID cards, photographed, and given a glass of champagne. Our cabin was roughly the size of other ships we have been on but was elegantly appointed in wood and mirrors. Bathroom had a combo tub/shower. There is a minibar that is constantly refilled at no charge. There is a small LCD TV in the room with lots of first run movies. If that is not enough there are free DVD "rentals".
The ships looks like a small scale size of one you might see with Royal Carribean. I am told that capacity is only 320 passengers but there were probably much fewer on our cruise. Seems that wherever we went there were very few others around except for the crew trying to wait on us hand/foot. The ship is absolutely immaculate, smell of flowers, well appointed, lots of comfortable spaces to sit. There is a small pool with chairs around (that is where we saw most of the people). There were several evenings of entertainment by Tahitian dancers. Shuttles to shore were efficient and the crew onshore always saw to the passenger needs.
The restaurants were actually like land based restaurants with terrific menus and great food. The service was absolutely professional and outstanding. We were not hustled in and out. All alcohol and other drinks onboard are included. In fact, one can order bottles of hard liquor for the room without charge. Just outside the French restaurant are some original art works by Paul Gauguin.
There are lectures onboard by naturalists and archaeologists. There is a marina at the rear of the boat with kayaks and mask/fins for free. Diving costs are only slightly higher than land but leave directly from the ship and are professionally dive mastered.
During our cruise there were two private beaches we were shuttled to. Both outstanding snorkeling. Both with full/free bars. One with a great BBQ.
The entire ship was fantastic but if I had to really put my finger on what I liked the most it was the truly caring, professional staff in EVERY section of the ship. They spent as much time as you needed going over problems. And all the passengers had one big problem. Seems there was a general strike by government workers on the dock in Papeete and airport at Faaa. It affected grounded all international flights and threatened to stop all water traffic between the islands. There were 4500 passengers stranded in Tahiti that ended up sleeping at the airport, streets, hotel lobbies. And there was a general lack of news. This was a real test of the crew of the Paul Gauguin and I can tell you they helped every passenger onboard with everything from information to getting hotel and airflight information/reservations straightened out. They never abandoned us. They were terrific and we will never forget their kindness in handling all our questions!
Again, I am not a big cruise fan. Most of the cruises I recall little about the ship. But I will never forget this ship, its crew nor the destinations in French polynesia.
One last point. There is no tipping on this cruise. There are no hidden fees. What you pay is it except for souvenirs and land activities. I hear alot from experienced cruisers about the art of tipping to get the most from the ships staff. So what do you say about a crew that neither receives nor expects a tip and gives many times over the service and sincere caring of the crew of the Paul Gauguin?
There is one big negative about this cruise. After sailing with Paul Gauguin I will absolutely never enjoy myself on any other cruise I take!