Paul Gauguin Activities

4.5 / 5.0
315 reviews
E-bike excursion on Fakarava with Paul Gauguin (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Visiting Rangiroa in French Polynesia with Paul Gauguin (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Pool on Paul Gauguin (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
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Editor Rating
Very Good
Chris Gray Faust
Executive Editor, U.S.

Theater and Shows on Paul Gauguin

Le Grand Salon serves as the main theater, as well as a gathering place for excursions and special parties like the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell. The space was refurbished in 2021 with attractive and comfy swivel chairs, although it doesn’t seat everyone on a full ship.

There’s at least one show per night, usually held around 9:30 p.m. The Les Gauguines and Le Gauguins perform at least twice per cruise, highlighting Polynesian culture and dances. On our sailing, another local Polynesian dance troupe came on in Moorea and also in Tahitii the night before debarkation.

Other nights, the show featured a guest singer, who performed in both French and English, as well as magician.

Daily Things to Do on Paul Gauguin

The Les Gauguines and Le Gauguins are not just the ship’s entertainers. They also serve as the ship’s activity staff and host dance classes, ukulele and music lessons, lei making, pareo tying and shell arts and crafts. In addition, they also host more traditional cruise pastimes such as trivia and bingo.

Our cruise had a lecturer who specialized in European explorers and South Pacific settlement. It was a bit jarring to have such a Euro-centric presentation when the line goes out of its way to showcase indigenous culture; our time might have been better spent learning about modern Polynesia and its relationship with France.

The daily program is left in the mail slot on your door before dinner the night before, which is nice because you can start to plan the next day’s activities over a meal. Paul Gauguin does not have an app.

Shore Excursions on Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin has a well-developed shore excursion program, with lots of active options in each port. Although you can probably find lesser priced alternatives, we thought the quality of our guides was better than you often get – a testimony to Paul Gauguin’s year-round presence in the area.

Highlights with Paul Gauguin include snorkeling, and you’re able to get a mask, snorkel and fins from the ship’s marina (although we recommend bringing your own mask and snorkel). The best and most active excursions tend to sell out the quickest; you can book online before you go. (If you want to do an e-bike excursion, for example, grab it fast).

A change in itinerary for our ship meant that we had to spend time in long lines at the Shore Excursion desk, although the staff did their best to make sure everyone got what they wanted. You can cancel your excursion choice by noon the day before.

Paul Gauguin’s Private Island, Motu Mahana

Almost all Paul Gauguin itineraries stop at the line’s private island (called motus in French Polynesia) at Taha’a. It’s a festive day, where everything is taken care of you, in a gorgeous tropical setting.

The motu has lots of loungers, both in the shade and in full sun, as well as chairs and tables for dining. There’s a full bar, with no need to use any kind of swipe card, and you’re also provided with fresh coconut water.

A lunch BBQ, with burgers, fish, brats, chicken and other specialties, takes place beginning at noon, and goes for several hours.

The Les Gauguines and Le Gauguins greet you with Polynesian music as you arrive the island, and also do various performances throughout the day. There’s also a coconut demonstration, and you can go snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. A tent is set up for massages, although keep in mind that these aren’t as private as you’d find in the spa.

Finally, if you haven’t got your fill of shopping for pearls, several local vendors come to the island, so bring local currency.

The Paul Gauguin SCUBA Program

French Polynesia is a paradise for divers, and Paul Gauguin offers a well-regarded SCUBA program. About 10% of the ship’s passengers take part in the dives, which center around the ship’s marina.

Passengers who want to dive or take a diving course must either bring proof of certification and a logbook, as well a valid medical certificate less than a year old that proves they have no contraindication to scuba diving. The ship’s medical doctor can’t issue this certification. The ship also reserves the right to deny SCUBA participants who don’t meet the physical requirements.

Don’t have your PADI certification? No problem. You can get your certification (for a fee) during the first few days onboard, with practice taking place in the ship’s pool. Refresher courses are also available.

Most dives are two hours long, and each is listed with a strict experience level. The ship has two dive boats that seat eight divers. Spaces go fast, so if you want to book dives or be part of the program, you’re encouraged to make the dive shop your first stop on embarkation day.

Children under 10 years old are not permitted to dive.

Nightlife on Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin is a fairly quiet ship, with many people retiring after a long dinner or the nightly show. That being said, the vibe can radically depend on who is onboard, and the bars will generally stay open as long as people want them too.

After the show gets out, drinks and music continue at the Piano Bar. The ship’s band usually heads up to La Palette for a late set that goes until 11 p.m. After that, the space is turned over to a disco. Whether or not there will be dancing is completely dependent on the crowd – on our cruise, things were particularly lively the night before a sea day.

Paul Gauguin does not have a casino.

Paul Gauguin Bars and Lounges

The bars and lounges on Paul Gauguin are pleasant and attractive. During the 2021 refurbishment, the Piano Bar was expanded to include more seating and conversation areas both close to and away from the music. We also found the bartenders eager to replenish drinks and make suggestions.

Our Picks

For a Sundowner (and Stargazer): La Palette up on Deck 8 is a lovely spot for a drink at various times during the day. It gets busy right before dinner, especially when Les Gauguines and Le Gauguins perform Polynesian music. It’s also the place to go after dinner if you want to hear a lively band or take part in the disco.

For a Tropical Drink: It’s hard to beat the Pool Bar, although you don’t have to sit there to take advantage. Bar service at your lounger is fairly prompt.

For Familiar Favorites: The Piano Bar is the largest bar onboard, and so you’ll find it buzzing before and after dinner, especially when music is playing.

Pool on Paul Gauguin

At first glance, the pool on Paul Gauguin seems attractive but too small for the ship. We found, however, that it was never full, perhaps because people were already so waterlogged from their various snorkeling and watersports activities.

The square pool is unusually deep, with the shallow end being above 5’0; this is not a pool for small children (and there is no lifeguard).

Surprisingly, Paul Gauguin does not have a hot tub.

Marina on Paul Gauguin

Located at the back of the ship, the watersports marina on Paul Gauguin is where you pick up your snorkel equipment, leave for your SCUBA dives and do other watersports, such as kayaking and paddleboarding, when conditions are right. On our 11-night cruise, the marina was open for spots twice.

Sundecks on Paul Gauguin

The problem in French Polynesia isn’t where you can get sun, it’s making sure you’re protected from it. The ship has plenty of places to sun worship around the pool on Deck 8 and up on Deck 9. There’s also a bar up there – Bar du Soleil – so no need to go too far for that cold drink.

All of the pool loungers and deck furniture was upgraded in the 2021 refurbishment, so the seating is attractive and comfortable. We noticed that rain in French Polynesia usually comes in the early morning and in the late afternoon. Plan your sun time accordingly.

Services and Wi-Fi on Paul Gauguin

The Reception Desk will exchange small amounts of dollars and euros for local currency (the French Polynesian Franc). This service is not available in Fiji or Vanuatu. (We found ATMs on land worked fine, and many vendors take credit cards or US dollars in addition to francs).

The WiFi on Paul Gauguin is provided by Starlink and is fairly fast, although each person in the room can only use one device at a time. We were able to access a VPN, download apps and run a Peloton workout (although it wasn’t strong enough to join a Teams call).

The ship has a nice boutique where you can buy sundries, Paul Gauguin logo gear, pearl jewelry and upscale clothing and cover-ups.

Now that Paul Gauguin is owned by Ponant, you can not only book a future cruise back to French Polynesia, but anywhere else in the world where the French line sails. It’s a bit weird to see a brochure for the icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot when you’re in the tropics, but the desk seemed fairly busy.

Spa on Paul Gauguin

The spa on Paul Gauguin is small but mighty, with a wide assortment of treatments, including several that draw from Polynesia. The ship uses Algotherm products, but there is no hard sell after your treatment. Packages and port day discounts are also available.

Facials, massages and body treatments rule the day here. We particularly recommend the Polynesian massages that have a wider Lomi Lomi style strokes. The scents used in these massages are simply divine and draw from the islands with coconut, vanilla and mint prevailing.

Paul Gauguin also has a salon for hair services, manicures, pedicures and waxing.

Fitness and Gym on Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin has a small but well-equipped gym onboard. Cardio equipement includes treadmills, ellipticals and exercise bikes. There are also weight machines and free weights. The fitness center windows are blocked by a tender boat, so it’s not the most attractive view when you work out, but it gets the job done.

Deck 9 has a walking track; 20 times around equals a mile. Every morning, Les Gauguines lead a walk, and gentle fitness classes (stretching, Zumba) are also held.

Is Paul Gauguin Family Friendly?

Paul Gauguin generally does not have a lot of kids during the majority of the year. Children must be at least one year old to board, and the ship retains the ability to restrict the number of children under 3. No babysitting is offered onboard.

During the summer and holiday season, however, Paul Gauguin has its Moana Explorer program geared toward children between the ages of 6 and 15. Dates for voyages that have the program are listed on the Paul Gauguin cruise line website. Moana Explorer is offered in partnership with Te mano o te moana, a South Pacific marine education and conservation foundation.

The daily program has a combination of island or beach excursions led by a naturalist that include science activities, crafts and games. Examples of activities include underwater-themed board games, jewelry making, treasure hunts, stargazing or designing a Polynesian tattoo.

The spa also has a special menu for kids ages 6 to 12 called My First Spa Experience that includes a facial, a massage and a manicure or pedicure.

Note: the age to consume alcohol on Paul Gauguin is 18.

Activities & Entertainment

  • Crew Show
  • Cultural Performances
  • Deep Nature Spa*
  • Enrichment Lectures
  • Fitness Center
  • Le Grand Salon
  • Local Entertainment
  • Marina
  • Nightly Live Music
  • Polynesian Activities
  • Pools
  • * May require additional fees

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