My husband and I have never cruised before as my husband is a kite-boarder and didn't like the idea of being at sea with nothing to do. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law had cruised on the Paul Gauguin two years ago at Thanksgiving and just raved about it. They said it was the best vacation they'd ever had. That being said, when they decided to gather a group of friends together for another cruise vacation, my SIL and BIL convinced us to join them. After reading up about the various ports we would visit and the ship itself, we became more and more excited. My in-laws told us how good the food was and how exceptional the service was. We weren't disappointed. Boy, do they have everything down to a science. Embarking and disembarking were well organized with very little waiting around. Although two of the three restaurants onboard required reservations, we were able to get reservations to accommodate our large party of 20 pretty easily. We split the group and some got seated at 7:00 pm and some got seated at 7:30 but we always sat near each other. L'Etoile restaurant did not require reservations and that was my favorite. The menu changed everyday and was always delicious. The waiters there were amazing, especially Alex, who we had throughout the whole cruise and Flo, who was our private waiter for our Marina dinner in Moorea. They came by to put the napkin in your lap and if you even took one sip of wine they came by to refill your glass. You can have room service delivered 24 hours a day and my husband and I chose to have breakfast delivered most mornings so we could sit on our deck and watch as we sailed into port.
The weather was very hot and quite humid but most of our days were sunny. Unfortunately, we did run into a storm as we were headed for Bora Bora which is unfortunate for us as we honeymooned in Bora Bora 16 years ago and a cyclone came through during the week we were there in February. The seas were a little rough and many of the ladies in our group felt a little seasick but the weather turned better on day two. We had a wave runner island tour on Bora Bora scheduled for 1:30 pm on day one (of our two days on Bora Bora) and that ended up getting cancelled but the crew was very helpful and got the group rescheduled for the next day at 10:30 am. Except for a little bit of choppy seas, the tour was really fun and the weather was much better. All the excursions were well executed and the tender that took us back and forth between the ship and the islands was always on time and they really stick to the schedule.
We had a cabin on deck 7 with a balcony and although the room wasn't huge it was very well appointed with a lot of storage space both in the sleeping quarters and the bathroom. The room didn't feel cramped at all. Although all the rooms have an ocean view we were really happy to have a balcony as we spent a lot of time there. We were going to just get a room with a window but decided to go ahead and do it right so we opted to go for the balcony room. Definitely worth the splurge. Many of our photos were captured from the comfort of our balcony :-) Even though our room didn't come with butler service we found that we didn't need it. We had a lovely stewardess named Marinette who was super helpful, always smiling, and seemed to always show up as we were ready to go into our cabin so she would unlock the door for us. By day two she already knew our names. Every night a stewardess would bring canapés to our room before dinner.
As this was a 10-day cruise, we opted for the laundry package. We paid $174 for the entire trip (or $17.40 approximately) for all the laundry we needed cleaned. This was a total bargain because to have one dress cleaned it would have cost $9.75 and one button-down shirt was $5.50. We sent laundry out to be cleaned just about every day and on the last day we sent just about everything to the laundry so that when we got home we could just put our clothes away and not worry about washing clothes. The only caveat is that you need to sign up for the laundry service in advance, but so worth it.
All of the staff were friendly, helpful, and service oriented right down to the Tahitian men and women, called Les Gauguins and Les Gauguines, who are there to provide Tahitian culture, singing, and dancing to the guests. They were beautiful, handsome, graceful, and all around awesome. They really educated the guests on the beauty, history, language and culture of Tahiti and it's people. Everything they did genuinely came from the heart. Every day there was either a craft, a dance class (they called it Tahitian Zumba), pareo tying, singing or a show to participate in or watch. I found these activities really enhanced our enjoyment of the trip to French Polynesia. We didn't just see it but we could feel it and the love these people have for their culture. Every port also had the locals selling their wares. It was a great place to pick up some souvenirs, especially pareos and jewelry.
Our cruise was booked on pgcruises.com and so everything we needed was provided, from pre-cruise hotel reservations, to airline reservations, to transfers so it was pretty seamless from the moment we stepped off the plane. Even though we brought money so we could exchange for French Francs, we really didn't need much because everything was provided, including tips. We did use the money for some souvenirs but found that many of the local vendors at the various ports accepted American dollars. We ended up coming home with much of the money we brought.
Although we said this was a once in a lifetime trip it was so amazing and we made such good friends that we know that we'll be back again. It was just to great to just do once. We have been to French Polynesia twice before and we just adore Moorea but a cruise is a great way to get to see more of the islands but just unpack once. Highly, highly recommend the Paul Gauguin!!