We have only cruised on Silversea and Seabourn (except for one large ship adventure which we would prefer to draw a veil over) so do have pretty high expectations of a cruise. We had done our research and knew that the Paul Gaugin wouldn't be as swish and needed a refit but nevertheless the itinerary to The Marquesas was so appealing we decided we could put up with these minor inconveniences - and indeed it was fine.
I do hope though that the refit is substantial as there are some fairly significant flaws which would deter me from returning.
Food at L'Etoile is high standard cruise food. Very good but not exceptional.
Food and choices at Le Veranda are not quite as good but the atmosphere is better.
French Polynesia is breathtaking and I think this is a very good way to see a big chunk of some of the more esoteric parts of it.
Wine is OK and generously poured. We found our favourites and were able to get them with most meals.
It was surprisingly easy to get a table outside at Le Veranda for breakfast and lunch which was peaceful and pleasant.
Staff are charming.
Mark Eddowes - archaeologist - was on our trip as it covered The Marquesas. He was encyclopaedic and entertaining - a rare feat. Without his information the experience could have been very unenlightening.
The not so Good
There was a large group on the ship who took over any space they inhabited so we spent a fair amount of time trying to avoid them. The ship is too small for this.
Somebody brought a baby on board - why? She was very good but even the occasional crying is tricky for us childless nasty folk. I don't think this ship should take under 12s.
Lunch got very boring. We aren't buffet folk so the standard menu of hamburger etc. was our mainstay. Fish and sandwich were changed daily but never sounded particularly appetising.
Vegetables were universally boring. Pretty much every meal came with a sprig of undercooked broccoli, one of cauliflower, two carrots and some white root vegetable.
The Piano bar is way too small for the size of ship. It also forms part of the corridor to the restaurant. No atmosphere and if you weren't fortunate you ended up sitting in a row on the edge.
The Grill is similar to the Piano bar in that it is en route to the other bar (better but still not great) and feels like a bit of an add on.
The Pool Bar area is tiny and also feels like a bit of an afterthought. There is a bar on deck 9 which wasn't open at all while we were on the ship - quite glad as we were on the 8th floor and would have suffered with noise - but the ship could use somewhere to have a quiet drink. If the aforementioned noisy group were in either of the bars then it was a complete bust.
Entertainment is quite limited and a bit amateurish.
Pay out on the slot machines seemed pretty low (perhaps our luck was out but...!).
Can't the company afford a new jigsaw without 6 pieces missing? (Perhaps a job at refit??)
If you are going to the Marquesas book the tours early - they were oversubscribed so some people were disappointed. Personally I can see no point in going all that way without hearing the history, meeting the people and seeing the spectacular countryside inland. If you are not interested in this then don't go - there is precious little else to do - no snorkelling (no reefs) and not much at the piers. Just stick to the beautiful Society Islands.