(5:54 p.m. EST) -- South Pacific-based Paul Gauguin -- a luxury ship famously known as one of the most romantic afloat -- has officially begun its tenure under new ownership. The ship debuted as part of the new Paul Gauguin Cruises brand on January 6, after spending over a decade sailing the South Pacific with luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
The 10-night "inaugural" voyage, an odd phrase for a ship that launched in 1997, includes stops in Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Rangiroa, Bora Bora, Taha'a and Moorea.
So new owners, new ship? According to a statement from the line's owner, Pacific Beachcomber, which operates four InterContinental resorts in French Polynesia, there are few changes in store for the 19,200-ton, 332-passenger ship. Itineraries will remain the same, and much of the onboard experience, from dining to shore excursions to the crew (80 percent stayed on), is being kept in place. Small tweaks include an effort to expand the pre- and post-cruise resort stay options and the replacement of the ship's current spa with an Algotherm Spa, versions of which are found in some InterContinental resorts.
Paul Gauguin, which was specially designed to cruise the shallow, coral-filled waters of the South Pacific, features island decor -- photos, artifacts -- throughout. The ship has long been one of Cruise Critic's top choices for honeymoons and vow renewals. According to Paul Gauguin Cruises, of the 140,000 passengers who've sailed onboard, 12,000 -- or nearly 1 in 12 -- have been honeymooners.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor
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"New" South Pacific Cruise Line Debuts
January 12, 2010