We are repeat clients of Paul Gauguin Cruises and first sailed in August 2010.
That cruise was exceptional & faultless so we decided to book again on the PG and recently returned from the South Pacific Discovery Cruise with 5 other friends.
Firstly, we were advised by our Australian Agent the night before the cruise departure date that the cruise would now depart one day late. This was due to the late removal of the ship from the dry dock. When we asked about the possible change of itinerary we were told that all cruises build in time into to the itinerary to allow for unforeseen delays and that the ship would speed up so that none of the ports would be missed -- however this did not happen.
After departing Brisbane we were advised of severe weather ahead and although the weather is unpredictable, had the ship left at the published date and time we would have avoided most of the bad weather, and the necessity to change the itinerary.
Effective communication to the guests re itinerary changes was exceptionally poor. It was never specifically stated that we would miss out on three of the ports on the original itinerary. One needed to consult the original itinerary and compare it to the revised itinerary to work out what had been culled. There was too much spin and not enough truth! As it turns out these were the three ports that we and many other passengers specifically wanted to visit, as most had already been to all the others.
This was only the start of many problems and concerns experienced by us and all the other passengers.
- We are avid water skiers. It was only after we had booked and paid for the cruise in full that we were advised in writing by PGC that there would be no waterskiing during our cruise. Too late then for us to withdraw from the cruise with a full refund.
- When we had an unplanned, extended stay in Port Villa we tried to access the ship's marina during the published opening hours but it was not open. It took us 5 attempts with Marina staff & Customer Relations over a long period of time to get no reasonable answer as to why the Marina was not open, we were told it was not possible because of "weather conditions". Yet we were anchored in port and it was a bright sunny day with zero wind. In fact, the marina remained closed until we reached Bora Bora on the 15th day of the cruise. Unsatisfactory!
- Although smoking restrictions are a legislative part of life, the designated smoking areas on board were very limited especially during wet weather conditions. However this did not interrupt a group of 8 x French passengers who apparently had carte blanche VIP status to smoke wherever they liked -- even at their outside meal table in the La Veranda Restaurant.
- Although PG Cruises is promoted primarily to the USA market, it was easy to form the opinion that the requirements of the Australians on board were not held in a similar priority. To exacerbate this, the Cruise Director (Michael Shapiro) displayed obvious favoritism to the American passengers. The other passengers expect better.
- The soot issue. This problem was never encountered on our last cruise and leads me to wonder what has changed between then and now with the ship. I have researched this issue and it seems to be quite common to get a little soot from older ships. It would also seem that the excessive amount of visible soot and particles spewing over us is in fact due to lack of maintenance/poor repairs. Further to this, prolonged exposure to soot can cause respiratory problems such as Asthma, irritates eyes, allergies, and cancer. The acrid burnt carbon smell and soot over floors, furniture and clothes made the large open deck spaces wholly unappealing. At one stage we witnessed seven crewmembers on the back deck trying to sweep up the carpet of soot particles and debris. As ship born pollutants are one of the major causes of environmental pollution globally I feel that PG Cruises has been negligent in its duty to clean up this problem. PGC is negligent as this contravenes PGC's own published Environmental Policy. We have photos to document this.
- The Pool Bar. The only bar on the ship open during the day before 3pm was the Pool Bar. This bar has very limited seating and as such there were many occasions when we had nowhere to sit & relax with a drink that was shaded from the burning sun. To compound this problem the Sun Bar on deck 9 was never open and we were told that it is permanently being used as a store room. The PG is a small ship with limited space & amenities so why is it not being utilized. The PG is a so-called 5 star ship with one whole deck not even being open for the passengers. I suggest PGC consider utilizing this deck for passengers while in any port or cruising days with little wind.
- The pool issue. While we recognize that filling the pool during inclement weather is not possible, the pool remained unusable for the first 7 days of the cruise, even during days with perfect weather conditions. Initial enquires regarding the pool were met with blank stares, delaying tactics and lies. Only after the complaints of innumerable ships passengers (including us) did the Captain relent and fill the pool. It later became obvious that the pool was in fact leaking into the Casino Bar below and that maintenance crew were frantically cutting up the deck around the pool to find the source of the leak.
One two occasions I witnessed maintenance crew dismantling, sanding and hammering the now gapping holes in the deck whilst the pool area was full of lounging passengers making the whole experience solely undesirable. The eight new access holes cut into the deck were often left uncovered or insufficiently covered by slumping boards where elderly passengers could have easily tripped or broken bones.
- The elevator issue. It appears that due to a lack of maintenance one of the elevators near the aft restaurants was operating unpredictably during the whole cruise. No attempt was made to fix the elevator or turn it off and post appropriate signage to make passengers aware. Often the elevator would not come when the call button was pressed or when it did arrive it would not move with more than one or two passengers aboard. If the malfunctioning lift was on your floor the other lift would not respond either, leaving elderly/in-firmed passengers to tackle the stairs.
During one night and early morning of rough sea conditions all elevators were shut down. When the conditions became mild around midday the elevators were still left off and remanded so for the entire day. Why ?
- The toilet issue. During most of our cruise the male & female toilets on deck 8 next to the bar were out of order. This was very annoying, as many passengers needed those facilities close by after consuming drinks. This meant that you had to travel down to other decks to use those facilities.
- When attempting on board to arrange transfers from the dock in Papeete to the airport, we were told by crew member at the travel desk that no group transport would be arranged for the 48 Australian passengers onboard. We were then given a very obscure explanation of transfer choices. The following day he denied giving us this misleading information even though we had witnesses to what he had advised us. This was an exceptionally painful experience and took at least 4 days to get a suitable transfer booking after the travel desk eventually arranged a group transfer bus at an absorbent cost. Unsatisfactory!
These are some of the many problems, concerns and disappointments experienced during our so-called "5 star cruise" that proved to be a "3 star cruise".
In essence we were robbed of one day of cruising plus the omission of three ports that were the specific reason for us to purchase the cruise in the first place. We were previous guests of your ship in August 2010, which was an exceptional cruise. THIS WAS NOT !
PGC failed in their provision of service and facilities as a 5 star ship. . It was obvious that PG Senior Management were aware of the "unrest" amongst the guests and the obvious shortcomings of this cruise. Our group of seven paid over US$70,000 for this cruise. Their compensation offer of a $1,000 cruise credit to each passenger is both an insult and unacceptable.
After multiple communications with Paul Gauguin Cruises they were not at all interested in providing ample compensation to us, so we felt obliged to warn anyone considering sailing on the Paul Gauguin.