With over a year of planning, my wife and I just returned from 7 nights aboard the Paul Gauguin and three nights post cruise in an OWB at the Intercontinental Tahiti. We truly left the world behind, and experienced the Polynesian experience as if we had never cruised here before.
We flew from Orlando to Los Angeles the day before to avoid any delays in getting to the Air Tahiti flight. Our 8 hour flight was filled with 4 hours of sleep, and a 6:30 am arrival in Papeete. We cleared customs in an acceptably quick fashion, and were taken to the Intercontinental for our day room. Those that arrive early should always include the day room as part of your trip, a hot shower and a great breakfast, and we were ready to go. Our day at the hotel allowed us to scope out the facility as we were returning at the end of the cruise for a few days post cruise. We took a sneak peek at the over water bungalow that we hoped we could use upon our return, and the front desk made note of it, and while we didn't get the one we wanted, we got the adjacent one and loved it.
Shuttled to the ship at 2:30, we were on board and in our room within an hour. Remember, they took our passports, but we never needed them again. Our cabin, a balcony on deck 6 was outstanding. Lots of storage, fresh fruit, stocked fridge, and a bathroom with tub/shower. Deck 6 was a perfect location throughout the week, as up 2 floors and down 2 floors, and we were immediately where we needed to be. One note on the room, there is only one plug, and you need to remember to bring a multi-plug extension. My wife's hair dryer would not plug in. Other than that minor issue, we were in heaven.
We cruised the Society Islands, 7 nights. Being our first visit, we could only know what we were to experience. Muster was done on day 2. We made our dinner reservations immediately, doing La Grille the first night, La Veranda the second night, and the main dining room on the third. La Grille was a very casual dress on the pool deck with an Asian theme. Truly hand prepared, and it was outstanding. La Veranda was a bit more formal, french cuisine and equally as good. Our experience in the main dining room was one of slow service as we were in a corner at the front of the dining room. We did not return, electing to eat our remaining dinners in La Grille. Santi always was on the lookout for us, and his staff made us feel very special. One note that is always asked about the PG, there is no need for a dinner jacket. Those who wore dinner jackets were out of place and definitely overdressed.
On Raiatea, we had a great time on the outrigger canoe excursion. A great group of 8, we enjoyed our jeep ride through the caldera of the volcano, and enjoyed learning of the local farming. We then continued our journey in a large outrigger boat, up the river and back to the ship. The town was closed, as it was Sunday. Did not dampen our day.
Motu Monday was everything we had read. We were on one of the first tenders and found a great spot to spend the day. Instead of going left off the tender once on the island, go to the right and work your way to the area facing the ship. The water was gorgeous, and was less occupied than the other side of the island. The barbecue was enjoyed, and my wife learned all the different ways to tie pareo's. She never wore any of the clothes from home, as it was pareo's the rest of the trip! She looked gorgeous in the local attire, and kept the Polynesian theme going.
On Bora Bora, we were on the first tender to the motu. It is less equipped, no chairs specifically, yet it was a beautiful white sand beach area that offered better snorkeling that Motu Monday. You won't have to stay long, as a couple of hours will be all the sun you can stand. Don't miss it. We elected to have dinner on the balcony in Bora Bora. A great room service menu, the pesto pasta was perfect. Watching the sun set behind us and the full moon rising over Mount Otemanu was an incredible event for us. Absolutely, breathtaking!
Moorea was the highlight of the trip for us. We took the 3 Coconuts Hike and had an experience of a lifetime. Yes, it was rugged, damp, somewhat risky, but reaching our destination was breathtaking. We had a guide who was somewhat lacking in sharing information, but our group was up to the challenge. It is not extreme, but does require concentration. Take a beach towel (it rained on the way back) and several bottles of water.
Our return to Papeete consisted of an evening on the aft of the ship on deck 8 listening to Cool and the Gang give a concert in town. We had great weather while sailing for the week, only a few short showers. Being Saturday morning, and not leaving the ship until after 12:00, we ventured into town. The local market is a must see if you are into flowers and gardening. The most beautiful flowers grow here. Leaving the ship, we were shuttled to the Intercontinental Tahiti to begin our OWB stay. Being our first time on PG, the OWB experience was wonderful but there was no way to swim from our deck, the water was too rough and too deep. I am sure that other OWB locations on the other islands are much better for this, but we loved the experience the same. Our view of the post cruise stay was that it was more enjoyable on the back end than it would have been on the front end. To end our incredible 10 days at this point was the best. One note, when your flight leaves late on the last day, the hotel lets you use the bungalow up to 8PM on that day. No check out earlier in the day, essentially giving us a "free day" to enjoy our last hours in paradise.
When you have cruised as much as we have, there are few cruises that leave you speechless and you wish would never end. This journey to French Polynesia was such a trip. Thank you to the staff of the PG, you lived up to and met all of our expectations. Those who have never cruised on the Paul Gauguin are missing a trip of a lifetime. My question is: How long does the PG flu last?