French Polynesia has long been the center of the universe for romantics looking for the ultimate get-away-from-it-all vacation. Adventure-seekers are equally drawn to this chain of 118 islands and motus
(little islands) and make the long-haul trip to dive, snorkel, hike and swim with sea turtles and stingrays. We were searching for a South Pacific vacation that combined some lazy days alongside more active outdoor pursuits and found that there is, perhaps, no better guide to French Polynesia than Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the Paul Gauguin cruise ship.
Paul Gauguin began sailing these waters in 1997 and, prior to the 2009 takeover by Paul Gauguin Cruises (a Pacific Beachcomber company), the ship had been owned by Grand Circle Travel
and was managed by Regent Seven Seas Cruises
. That relationship ended in January 2010, when Paul Gauguin Cruises assumed responsibility for all aspects of the cruise line -- including day-to-day management.
If you're a past passenger who's worried about change, don't fret. Paul Gauguin Cruises has retained everything you adored about the old PG. It's still an all-inclusive experience, and 85 percent of the crew -- including captains, executive officers and cruise directors, as well as signature entertainers like Les Gauguines (a troupe of Polynesian singers and dancers), pop band Siglo and pianist Hal Fraser -- decided to join the new company.
The cruise line is now rising to new heights. The ship underwent a $7 million refurbishment in 2012, there's renewed focus on inventive dining menus, spa offerings have been enhanced, and management has combed through the shore excursion options and is rolling out some new and exciting trips ashore.
Through the years, Paul Gauguin -- purpose-built to sail the shallow waters of French Polynesia -- has competed with other cruise lines that sailed in the region. Today, the ship has emerged from the fray as the only
cruise ship offering year-round itineraries in the Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands.
For that reason, crewmembers know these islands intimately and pass along that expertise to you. You'll learn about the Polynesian islands from residents themselves, as well as from renowned archaeologists and marine biologists. You'll go ashore with highly rated guides and tour operators, and pre- and post-cruise partner hotels -- Pacific Beachcomber operates six mid-level and luxury resorts on the islands -- will wow you.
Paul Gauguin is not just a ship passing in the night. It calls upon these islands each and every day of its life. A cruise aboard PG will unlock the secrets of French Polynesia for you in ways that no other mode of travel can.
While the average passenger age is 54 years old, you'll be traveling with children and teens (during school vacation periods), honeymooners, professionals and retirees. There is no age barrier aboard Paul Gauguin. Likewise, travelers come from all over the world, including the United States, France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other countries. Announcements are typically made in both French and English.
These tropical itineraries call for casual attire by day and country club or "elegant resort wear" clothing by night. Women traditionally wear skirts or slacks with blouses, and men go for trousers and collared shirts (not golf shirts). On Tahitian Night, women are encouraged to wear pareos (wraparound skirts), and men don Polynesian shirts. Fill your suitcase with lightweight clothes made of natural fibers (cotton, linen and silk), and you'll have everything you need.
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare. If you wish to acknowledge above-and-beyond service, visit Reception on Deck 4, and donate a sum to the crew fund. The U.S. dollar is the ship's currency.