Paul Gauguin Cruise Review by Susan DeVicariis
- Sail Date: June 2004
- Destination: South Pacific
We flew in the day before our embarkation date. We like to do this so that we can reorient ourselves before boarding the ship. We stayed at the Intercontinental Beachcomber. It was lovely and the accommodations were adequate. I wouldn't want to stay there for my entire vacation but it was nice. It is not reflective of the others in the French Polynesia. Everyone was extremely helpful and we had very little to do once we arrived with baggage. We got in, in time to attend the Polynesian show. It was a nice segue into the vacation mode. We sat in the bar area and had a drink. Warning, drinks are expensive it you want one of those umbrella type drinks. The show was good, including a fire dance. The entertainers allow photos to be taken with them which is kind of cute.
The next day we got up and had breakfast. Again warning, it is very expensive to eat in the Tahitian Islands. Breakfast runs about $60 for two for the buffet. You can order al la carte but it is a very limited menu. Next, we had to figure out what to do for the day. We looked at the possible tours and none of them really gave us what we wanted. There were pieces of each of them that interested us but not the entire kit n' kaboodle. Also we had to pay for our transfer to the ship and the tours would have brought us back to the hotel. Transfers are pretty expensive as well...about $25. So we decided to hire a driver to take us to the places we wanted to go and some he thought we would like to see. Then he dropped us off at the ship. This turned out to be the best deal ever. We did some short hiking in to see waterfalls (5-10 minutes), we saw the Gauguin Museum, many lookout points and other neat spots.
The ship was incredible. The check-in was quick and painless. We arrived thirty minutes early so they asked us to wait in the Grand Salon. While we waited we were served little sandwiches and champagne. It only carries 350 passengers and you never feel like you are seeing them as a large group. There are enough activities that people are fairly spread out during your time on board. We chose to take a room on the bottom of the ship because it is near the disembarkation area for the tender and because of the occasional rolling that can occur in rough waters. The room was wonderful and well taken care of every time we walked in. There was plenty of storage, the bathrooms are very nice size and the sitting area was adequate for our needs. They give you each a bottle of alcohol in the room which makes it nice to relax in the evening before dinner.
We snorkeled everyday but the last one. The fish were unbelievable. We saw so many different varieties that it was difficult to keep track of all of them. Every one of the tour companies did a wonderful job of giving us the value for our money. We did the Aqua Safari. That is where you walk on the bottom of the lagoon. It was so neat. At first I was nervous when I saw the size of the helmets but all was forgotten by the time I reached the sandy floor and I saw my husband covered in fish. They give you fish food to feed the fish. We also swam with the sharks. This was excellent. They also gave us fish to feed the rays while we were there. The only hike we took was in Moorea with the onboard expert. He was extremely knowledgeable and fun to listen to during the hike. The private beach was also a wonderful day. They had a floating bar to greet you as you disembarked from the ship. I was too anxious to get in the water so I didn't participate in that aspect of the day but others thought it was excellent. The picnic lunch was very good. They had drinks served through another area so that dispersed people very nicely. The snorkeling here was also very good.
Kids. This ship is not meant for kids. We did not have kids with us on this trip. However, the few that were on the ship were very well behaved and mature. They did have an organized program for the kids that included some kinds of excursions. It seemed to me that they did a nice job and the kids seemed to be happy.
The dining rooms were very nice. The main dining room was our favorite. We like the open seating arrangement. We were able to meet more passengers this way and the opportunity to fit into your schedule rather than theirs was a nice touch. They do have two alternative dining rooms as well. They do not have an additional cost to them (which is also very nice) but one does have to make a reservation. One of the alternative dining rooms is French cuisine and the other has an international flavor. Both we Ok but we really liked the main one better. The food was excellent across the board. Breakfast was in the French alternative dining room and it was always very nice. Again, it was a buffet but it had everything one could want. The poolside dining room also served lunch. I think we liked the lunch version better than the evening one. This was also a buffet setting. We mostly like to do room service for breakfast. This allows us to dress at a leisurely pace before we go on an excursion. Each time we ordered through room service the food and service was excellent.
The ship's entertainment was good. Unlike other ships they don't offer shows every night. This is mainly because the clientele probably doesn't attend shows on a regular basis. The few we had: Tahitian revue, entertainer manager did a show and they had two guys playing instruments from around the world. Everyone was fun because you had the opportunity to meet them personally in other venues.
We also stayed three extra nights in Bora Bora. Our hotel was the Intercontinental beachcomber. To say the least, this hotel was fantastic. We took a short flight from Papeete to Bora Bora. Next, we took a water taxi to our hotel. We were greeted by a beautiful Tahitian girl who took us to the sitting area off of the pool to relax. She did all the leg work related to checking us in. Then she took us on a tour of the facilities on the way to our room. Everything was gorgeous. We had one of those over-the-water-bungalows. Oh my God, it was fabulous. It was everything I imagined and more. The coffee table opened up to the lagoon below where we fed fish everyday. Our bed was strewn with beautiful flowers each day. We had a two level deck off of our room. The top level served as a relaxation place with two chaise lounges and a table and chairs. The lower section was the access to the water. There they had a shower to wash off the salt water. The lagoon was wonderful (the water was like bathtub temp). We had one crummy day with rain but we made the best of it by renting a car. This was one of the most reasonable things we did in Tahiti. We circled the island and stopped when we wanted to take pictures. The other day we had an excursion on what they call, Funny Cats. It is a mini catamaran type contraption with a motor on the back. You get to drive it yourself but what is nice is that both of you have the same view. It is much better and cheaper than the jet ski deal. We drove it around the island and stopped to snorkel along the way. This tour was awesome indeed.
Food at the hotel is very expensive. It is better to go out somewhere. One night we ate at the Bamboo House. The food was excellent. The hotel and the restaurant share in the taxi deal so you don't have to pay for that which makes it even more nice. We also ate at Bloody Mary's. This is an experience everyone must have. It is a sandy floored restaurant where people check-in their shoes upon entering the place. There is no menu, the hostess tells you about the dining opportunities before you sit down. The atmosphere and the service is excellent.
This trip is absolutely one of the best we have ever taken. It is all about romance and relaxation. The ship is really the best value because everything is paid for prior to getting on the ship. There are no hidden expenditures to extend your pocketbook. The excursions are reasonable and totally up to you. They are not pushed because the ship offers so many options that they don't have to push them. The ship's crew does an incredible job making sure everyone is happy and well cared for from the beginning to the end. If I had to do anything over again, I wouldn't change a thing.
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