Our thoughts on the 15 day, 14 night cruise, 12/06/08, French Polynesia and the Marquesas Islands, on the Paul Gauguin:
We are experienced cruisers, ages 70 and 68. We've sailed on all of the other Regent ships (some more than once), and have enjoyed over 20 cruises in total. We loved the Regent experience on their other ships because of the excellent service and beautifully appointed ships and were expecting the same 5 star experience on the PG. NOT! In our opinion, It barely hit 3 stars.
We thought the food aboard the PG was uninspired, poorly presented and lacking in quality. The fish was uniformly grilled to death, steaks had to be ordered rare in order to get them delivered medium. I'd put the quality of their food right up there with Denny's or Carrow's! We witnessed waiters being outright rude to diners, mostly mornings at breakfast. Once we were having breakfast in L'Etoile and our tablemate asked for two fried eggs and also for an order of sausage and bacon. The waiter brought her the bacon and sausage on a small plate. She waited and waited for the eggs (how long can it take to fry two eggs) and finally started eating the bacon and sausage. Finally after she flagged down the waiter, he turned up with the eggs, also on a small, saucer sized plate which he put down in front of her along side the other plate. When she asked if she could have one larger plate to put all of her food on at one time, he huffed off and brought a plate back to her as if he were doing her a favor!
The ship ran out of strawberries (and any other fresh berries if they ever had them in the first place) in the middle of the first week, and the primary selection of fruits after that time were the standard fresh melon slices, plus bowls of fruits and juice out of a can (which I can eat at home any day of the week for much less cost, thank you.) Lunches were pretty much the same each day regardless of where you ate them: plates of sliced cold cuts, pre-made lunch meat or meat filling sandwiches on rolls, an arrangement of overcooked hot foods in steam trays, a roast of some kind that was sliced to order at a carving station, and pasta cooked to order (if you could ever find someone to prepare it for you).
The much anticipated Motu day BBQ feast consisted mostly of watery drinks in a coconut, hamburgers and hot dogs and overcooked dry chicken drumsticks (no thighs or breasts were included) , although there were a few fish kabobs and more of the overdone grilled fish filets. There was also the usual assortment of salads, fruit and ready-made sandwiches. Not what I'd expected given what we paid to sail on this shop! We've been on other cruises and cruise lines where a "special" BBQ included BBQ'd lobster and shrimp, sausages, whole fish, etc.
The evening that they served lobster in the dining rooms, we expected a full lobster tail. What we got was three very small chunks of something we were told was lobster, reinserted into the empty tail shell and covered with some sort of cream sauce. Although we are not big mixed drink lovers, we did try a variety of them aboard ship and found that all except the Bloody Marys were weak and tasteless. There was a good variety of wines with dinner and for that we were most appreciative!
We were amazed at the quality of the interior of the ship! The carpet in the hallways was an awful red color, showed much signs of water staining that has been mentioned by other passengers (or being vacuumed in the wrong direction several hundred too many times.) Many passengers complained about the moldy smell on Deck 7. The furnishings were very much outdated, especially the uncomfortable cup-like chairs in the show room. There were very few pictures on the walls in the common areas and certainly no sculptures, etc. The interior of the ship was bland and ugly. The elevators worked or not worked at will and it was pretty scary when it would simply ignore the button you pushed and after the door closed, the elevator would go up and down between floors until it settled on one that it wanted to stop at. We learned quickly that once the elevator took control of our destination, it was better to get off at the next floor that it stopped at, and to use the stairs for the rest of the way. The chairs on our veranda were small, white plastic slatted chairs with no cushions. The sink in our bathroom had five or six large cracks in it where it merged with the drain. It was probably the last attractive ship that I have ever seen. I'm happy to know that it is going into dry dock soon and may emerge with a new lease on life. It certainly needs it.
We tried several times to get some assistance in downloading pictures from the staff person who was in listed as being charge of the computer room. Although there was a sign posted on the wall in the room that gave the hours he was supposed to be available, we found him there in person only one time during those hours. Another time during his "service hours" we did ask to have him paged so we could ask him a question, and he never answered the call. When we finally accidentally found him in the computer room, we asked if there was some way we could download our pictures from our camera to our memory stick using one of their computers. We were told that it wasn't possible with the way their computers are set up as they didn't allow anything to be downloaded through their computer systems. Yet on other cruises we had no trouble using the ship's computers to transfer pictures to the memory stick..
The on-board photographer was pretty low key for the first few days of the cruise and suddenly a rumor emerged that he was leaving. Sure enough, a new photographer arrived (I believe it was the evening of the Captain's Welcome Cocktail gathering). He was very energetic and all of a sudden we were barraged and confronted with offers to have formal portraits taken in front of various backdrops that lined and obstructed the halls as we walked from the piano bar into the main restaurant on our way to dinner. Several days later we heard from other passengers that the new photographer was very unhappy with the small number of people who wanted their photos taken as he had been promised by management that he would find passengers eager to pose for and purchase photos. Some of the passengers said that they tried to explain to him that if they would cut the price of the photos down from what was being charged (I believe it was in the range of $17.95 to $25 per photo, depending on size), they would make up in volume for what they lost in price, by far). Don't know if Management ever OK'd that idea but it sure made sense to me.
Mid-way into the first week of the 15 day cruise, people started to come down with a respiratory problem that caused a large number to have to visit the ships doctor. My husband was one of those people. The morning that we showed up at the Clinic, she seemed surprised that so many people were coming in with exactly the same symptoms. I would have to say that 1/4 to 1/3 of the passengers were affected by the bug. In Regent's defense, they had hand sanitizing equipment all over the ship for passenger use, but it didn't seem to take care of this particular germ. In fact, by halfway into the cruise, the Gift Shop was sold out of the Riccola cold lozenges that we bought (at $5 per package) and no more were available until the ship was restocked at the final port.
Excursions were very high priced. Most of the 4x4 excursions involving one of the Marquesas Islands were in the range of $125 to $145 per person, and our driver didn't speak a word of English! This may not be the fault of Regent or of the Paul Gauguin, but perhaps it would be better not to offer such a tour than to have passengers feel that it was a rip off. The Marquesas Islands are lovely to look at from aboard ship, but some do not offer much in the way of interaction with anyone once on land. The 4x4 we were assigned to was actually a small Ford truck that had to accommodate the driver plus four cruise passengers. This required a configuration of the driver and one passenger in front, and 3 passengers in the back. Not exactly comfortable but it was the only way to get around in some instances. I do not feel that we ever got our money's worth at $250 total for what there was to see. Granted, the Excursion information provided by the PG does warn you that the locals don't speak much English and that the ride is apt to be bumpy, but if the price had been more reasonable we wouldn't have minded contributing that to the local economy in the name of being a good tourist.
Not everything was bad. We enjoyed Bruce, the piano player, very much. The Les Gauguines performers were hard working and put in long hours. They are multi-talented to say the least. We also liked the Skyline Band as it seemed they were working very hard, long hours and hadn't been given much time to put their act together with the singers but they tried in spite of it. The crew's show toward the end of the cruise was very enjoyable and they should be commended for working all day and then putting so much energy into such a show. The audience loved it.
We found the Cruise Director to be very different than we were used to, as she appeared mostly to announce the beginning and end of the shows each night, host the Liar's Club twice, but we hardly saw her around during the day. We have always enjoyed a Cruise Director who was an integral part of the cruise experience; someone who was actively involved with the guests and the performers almost 24/7 and who also had a talent of some sort that was shown off by having his or her own show one evening during the cruise. This wasn't the case aboard this cruise. The two female singers sang with the band most nights prior to the "show", each did at least one solo show, and the rest of the time they hosted a scattered pattern of Trivia and a few other games during the day. We did have a total of three sea days on this trip, two of them being back-to-back. On one of those sea days, the area around the pool deck was changed to become an Arcade of sorts where guests could win prize coupons by throwing, putting or tossing something into something else. The crew who organized each venue tried really hard to bring it off, but it was a stretch. Only one try at Trivia was made and around four groups of four each showed up the first day. One of the singers then quickly read off a list of 15 multiple choice questions and the whole event was over in less than 15 minutes. She said that another Trivia was set for the next day, but alas, when the Passages came out with the schedule for that day, Trivia had been replaced by some other game and we didn't even try to make it.
We met a lot of nice people aboard ship, many of whom said they were back after having sailed on the PG before. We simply don't understand how people could rave over this ship and the service, unless they had never really experienced how good a good cruise can be. Or perhaps it is just the old saying "Different Strokes for Different Folks". In our case, it was simply "Unfulfilled Expectations". We will be wiser in our choice of cruises and cruise lines in the future.