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The ship can hold a maximum of 326 or so passengers; there were 260 passengers, 226 crew on our trip. Pretty good crew-to-passenger ratio. Passengers: Mostly English speaking couples, some French, a few Japanese and Spanish (south American.) There were three young (5-ish) children, from three different families that did not previously know each other. They were well-behaved. Once in a while a bit energetic and rowdy, but in places where this wasn't inappropriate. We only briefly glimpsed one of the families; of the other two, I don't think the children spoke English, but that also wasn't a factor. Most were m/f couples around 45-70, but there was a smattering of everything, including grown kids helping their parents, all types of couples and everything from extreme goths to men who wore dinner jackets with shorts. Cellular Service The ship does have cell service through Maritime. Which is not covered by AT&T Passport. Unlike some other lines, no package available. I didn't use the Maritime coverage. Throughout French Polynesia, Vini is the local cell service. AT&T was definitely confused on the concept of Tahiti vs French Polynesia - I called and they thought they only supported Tahiti, not Bora Bora or Moorea. Post-cruise, I can confirm that AT&T Passport over Vini was covered in all three islands. Vini coverage was fine. The Pool There is a mandatory pool atop the ship. It's pretty small; you wouldn't do laps in it. They drain it for cruising, refilling it (with salt water from the ocean) every morning. Food: The food was mostly very good. Dinners were 50% amazing, but 50% mediocre for a good restaurant. Seafood was reliably fantastic, vegetarian dishes were consistently poor. Drinks were good and as strong as you wish. We didn't have any whisky, but the vodkas and rums were quality, including Grey Goose, Titos and Sky. (Didn't check on others.) Weirdest Shipboard Experience: The hours-long rooster-apacalypse early in Moorea, tons of crowing in the distance for at least an hour. Sounds like a bit of a sports event. Not too loud, but funny. Excursion and Docking information Just in case you weren't aware... excursions are cheapest from the provider. The hotels (e.g. the Intercontinental) mark them up 37%. (Yes, that's the number. Not sure why, but I did verify it.) The Paul Gauguin seems to have an even higher mark-up. e.g. €70 (US$78) for the Blue Lagoon Day vs $109 from the hotel and $139 from the ship. That's nearly double for doing it from the ship (in this case; the ship markup seems to vary.) But it is far more convenient, especially considering... Two of our excursions were cancelled, one due to port change, the other due to weather. We rolled with it. In one case, the "travel concierge" on deck four was able to get us onto a replacement that showed fully booked, when I requested it. (She picked up a phone and spoke in exceedingly fast French for several minutes, hung up and said something like, "It is done." Straight out of a movie.) Snorking quality varies immensely. If you regularly dive or snorkle, you already know this. But if not, just realize that just because snorkling is offered, doesn't mean there's anything interesting to see there. If you're used to using the PGCruises.com "Manage My Trip"... well, they don't keep it up-to-date. (As a rule, the Gauguin technology seems at least a decade behind.) We had two excursions cancelled... change of docking location for one, weather for the other. These aren't removed from the web page. In theory, according to the Travel/Concierge on Deck 4, the T.V. (ironically, their brand-new "ITV System") is kept up-to-date, but it really isn't... our Moorea docking was moved from Oahapanu Bay to Cook's Bay (because a Princess Cruise will be coming on Friday) but the T.V. information wasn't updated. There are detailed schedule sheets. They're pretty useful. But most useful was simply going to the Concierge, who knows what's going on and can sometimes squeeze you in anyhow. Scuba French Polynesia is fantastic for scuba diving. We did several dives. Another passenger referred to this as "Princess Diving", because the equipment (BCD, regulator, tank, weights) are provided and checked for you, they help you strap them on if desired, you flop over the side and then at the end, hand them up and climb aboard unencumbered. It's much easier than the beach drysuit diving we'd mostly done before. You do have to check in with the dive master to schedule dives; he checks your logbooks and medical certificate. You don't have to use the PGCruises medical cert; I brought a copy of my last doctor sign-off, and I believe they can check you there anyhow. But this gave my nervous SO a chance to talk about the dives before deciding. The Zodiac (they have several) leaves from the 3rd-floor boat marina. We brought our own masks, snorkles, fins and computers, but some people used boat-issued ones. Dives were in groups of four, each with a guide. It was a really great time. You don't need to scuba to swim with the sharks and rays; Shark City is a shallow (perhaps a meter) deep area better for snorkling. But we saw much larger sharks, and a lot of other great life, diving. ATV Tour of Huahine Nui We took the Hauhii ATV tour around the island. The highlight was, sadly, the driver in front of me crashing into the driver in front of him. No injuries, but it was exciting. We also did some shore riding, which allowed us to get a better view of the tidal life than we could on foot, because the rocks are simultaneously super-sharp and super-slippery, not a problem for a 4WD ATV but dangerous on foot. We also saw several of the stone marae (temples, basically), the river-eels, a lot of backyards and residents. This gave us a deeper and closer look at the real island than any of the other tours, but that may not be what you really want... because the island's economy really isn't all that great. (My trip notes stated "Third world back alleys.") BBQ on the Motu: This is the excursion, not the "private island" day on Motu Mahana in Bora Bora... covered below. TL;DR: Skip this one. This wasn't all that close to where the Gauguin was docked, so the ride out was long. That may be unusual; our dock was changed because a Princess Cruise was going to need Oahapanu Bay, the larger bay, so the Gauguin docked at Cook Bay instead. On the way, we stopped at Shark/Stingray City, an area out several hundred meters in meter-deep water where the rays and sharks have been fed for decades. This was fantastic and fun. All these large carnivorous fish swimming around you and expecting contact. Definitely do this, but there are other ways to do it than the BBQ excursion. Then we got to the Motu. This one had a lot less going on than Motu Mahana. You're there for hours, but no food or drink for the first several. It's heavily wooded, limited sun. The food is grilled right there, still limited drinks - just beer and water. And not really that great for snorkling either. Eventually, you're glad to leave. Waverunner & Snorkeling Adventure This was a longish ATV ride in very choppy water. Apparently, we were right on the cusp of where they would cancel the excursion, except that two days had already had cancellations due to changed docks. So the ride was a bit brutal. But the scenery was amazing. Snorkling was pretty good, but keep in mind that it may have been more impressive to people who weren't doing scuba dives. The view of the overwater bungalows (and how many resorts have them) was really neat. The guide also prepped some bananas, coconut and grapefruit for us. The bananas and coconut were amazing. We weren't fans of the grapefruit, but it was neat to experience. Motu Mahana This is included with the cruise. It's the "Gauguin Private Island" day. And it's a blast. Imagine it's just past the halfway mark of the cruise. You now have a bunch of friends (it's a small ship, remember? And a self-selecting set of passengers.) The island has wonderful white sand, perfect trees, a huge BBQ buffet, unlimited good drinks, some served in coconut shells (which are greener than you expect from watching Gilligan's Island, apparently not the most accurate documentary.) The water is warm, and even the rain doesn't dampen things. Plenty of chaises, the water is wading-deep for quite some distance, full-plumbing facilities. Really, no downside. Well, one downside. There's an encampment on the other side of the Motu that resembles a homeless camp. I asked about it; apparently one of the local families has "an arrangement." You'll see it if you walk around the Motu (and if they're still there), but if you just stay in the resort-area, you won't. Tip: Don't bother bringing your snorkle gear to the Motu. Despite the description, there's not much to see, especially compared to some other stops. Excursions we heard about: The "Le Truck" excursion disappointed the passengers we chatted with. They didn't see much, were stuck on the road, it seemed aimed at getting them to spend money at local businesses and they just didn't enjoy it. The "personal submarine"/Aquabike's had passengers raving. NOT scuba passengers, but scuba takes prep, training and equipment. It seemed everyone who did the Aquabike loved it. Extras: Get the laundry Service. We booked this electronically well before the trip. It's completely worth it. Just make sure you accurately count your items going out; my SO got it wrong (twice!), with them rejecting the order as a result. Perfectly reasonable, not a big deal. You can't order the internet package in advance; it must be done from on-ship. And it was spotty. The ship's equipment is not a match for today's expectations. This isn't a French Polynesia issue; my cellfone had better coverage and speed than the best of the boat, and large portions of the boat and even some of the cabin had dead zones. But still, it's not expensive and is very convenient. Just realize you won't be doing any streaming or VOIP calls. This had no impact on me other than surprising me.

Once In A Lifetime (Is Enough)

Paul Gauguin Cruise Review by TechSurfer

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
The ship can hold a maximum of 326 or so passengers; there were 260 passengers, 226 crew on our trip. Pretty good crew-to-passenger ratio.

Passengers: Mostly English speaking couples, some French, a few Japanese and Spanish (south American.) There were three young (5-ish) children, from three different families that did not previously know each other. They were well-behaved. Once in a while a bit energetic and rowdy, but in places where this wasn't inappropriate. We only briefly glimpsed one of the families; of the other two, I don't think the children spoke English, but that also wasn't a factor.

Most were m/f couples around 45-70, but there was a smattering of everything, including grown kids helping their parents, all types of couples and everything from extreme goths to men who wore dinner jackets with shorts.

Cellular Service

The ship does have cell service through Maritime. Which is not covered by AT&T Passport. Unlike some other lines, no package available. I didn't use the Maritime coverage.

Throughout French Polynesia, Vini is the local cell service. AT&T was definitely confused on the concept of Tahiti vs French Polynesia - I called and they thought they only supported Tahiti, not Bora Bora or Moorea. Post-cruise, I can confirm that AT&T Passport over Vini was covered in all three islands. Vini coverage was fine.

The Pool

There is a mandatory pool atop the ship. It's pretty small; you wouldn't do laps in it. They drain it for cruising, refilling it (with salt water from the ocean) every morning.

Food:

The food was mostly very good. Dinners were 50% amazing, but 50% mediocre for a good restaurant. Seafood was reliably fantastic, vegetarian dishes were consistently poor.

Drinks were good and as strong as you wish. We didn't have any whisky, but the vodkas and rums were quality, including Grey Goose, Titos and Sky. (Didn't check on others.)

Weirdest Shipboard Experience:

The hours-long rooster-apacalypse early in Moorea, tons of crowing in the distance for at least an hour. Sounds like a bit of a sports event. Not too loud, but funny.

Excursion and Docking information

Just in case you weren't aware... excursions are cheapest from the provider. The hotels (e.g. the Intercontinental) mark them up 37%. (Yes, that's the number. Not sure why, but I did verify it.) The Paul Gauguin seems to have an even higher mark-up. e.g. €70 (US$78) for the Blue Lagoon Day vs $109 from the hotel and $139 from the ship. That's nearly double for doing it from the ship (in this case; the ship markup seems to vary.) But it is far more convenient, especially considering...

Two of our excursions were cancelled, one due to port change, the other due to weather. We rolled with it. In one case, the "travel concierge" on deck four was able to get us onto a replacement that showed fully booked, when I requested it. (She picked up a phone and spoke in exceedingly fast French for several minutes, hung up and said something like, "It is done." Straight out of a movie.)

Snorking quality varies immensely. If you regularly dive or snorkle, you already know this. But if not, just realize that just because snorkling is offered, doesn't mean there's anything interesting to see there.

If you're used to using the PGCruises.com "Manage My Trip"... well, they don't keep it up-to-date. (As a rule, the Gauguin technology seems at least a decade behind.) We had two excursions cancelled... change of docking location for one, weather for the other. These aren't removed from the web page. In theory, according to the Travel/Concierge on Deck 4, the T.V. (ironically, their brand-new "ITV System") is kept up-to-date, but it really isn't... our Moorea docking was moved from Oahapanu Bay to Cook's Bay (because a Princess Cruise will be coming on Friday) but the T.V. information wasn't updated.

There are detailed schedule sheets. They're pretty useful. But most useful was simply going to the Concierge, who knows what's going on and can sometimes squeeze you in anyhow.

Scuba

French Polynesia is fantastic for scuba diving. We did several dives. Another passenger referred to this as "Princess Diving", because the equipment (BCD, regulator, tank, weights) are provided and checked for you, they help you strap them on if desired, you flop over the side and then at the end, hand them up and climb aboard unencumbered. It's much easier than the beach drysuit diving we'd mostly done before.

You do have to check in with the dive master to schedule dives; he checks your logbooks and medical certificate. You don't have to use the PGCruises medical cert; I brought a copy of my last doctor sign-off, and I believe they can check you there anyhow. But this gave my nervous SO a chance to talk about the dives before deciding.

The Zodiac (they have several) leaves from the 3rd-floor boat marina. We brought our own masks, snorkles, fins and computers, but some people used boat-issued ones. Dives were in groups of four, each with a guide. It was a really great time.

You don't need to scuba to swim with the sharks and rays; Shark City is a shallow (perhaps a meter) deep area better for snorkling. But we saw much larger sharks, and a lot of other great life, diving.

ATV Tour of Huahine Nui

We took the Hauhii ATV tour around the island. The highlight was, sadly, the driver in front of me crashing into the driver in front of him. No injuries, but it was exciting. We also did some shore riding, which allowed us to get a better view of the tidal life than we could on foot, because the rocks are simultaneously super-sharp and super-slippery, not a problem for a 4WD ATV but dangerous on foot.

We also saw several of the stone marae (temples, basically), the river-eels, a lot of backyards and residents. This gave us a deeper and closer look at the real island than any of the other tours, but that may not be what you really want... because the island's economy really isn't all that great. (My trip notes stated "Third world back alleys.")

BBQ on the Motu:

This is the excursion, not the "private island" day on Motu Mahana in Bora Bora... covered below.

TL;DR: Skip this one.

This wasn't all that close to where the Gauguin was docked, so the ride out was long. That may be unusual; our dock was changed because a Princess Cruise was going to need Oahapanu Bay, the larger bay, so the Gauguin docked at Cook Bay instead.

On the way, we stopped at Shark/Stingray City, an area out several hundred meters in meter-deep water where the rays and sharks have been fed for decades. This was fantastic and fun. All these large carnivorous fish swimming around you and expecting contact. Definitely do this, but there are other ways to do it than the BBQ excursion.

Then we got to the Motu. This one had a lot less going on than Motu Mahana. You're there for hours, but no food or drink for the first several. It's heavily wooded, limited sun. The food is grilled right there, still limited drinks - just beer and water. And not really that great for snorkling either. Eventually, you're glad to leave.

Waverunner & Snorkeling Adventure

This was a longish ATV ride in very choppy water. Apparently, we were right on the cusp of where they would cancel the excursion, except that two days had already had cancellations due to changed docks. So the ride was a bit brutal. But the scenery was amazing. Snorkling was pretty good, but keep in mind that it may have been more impressive to people who weren't doing scuba dives.

The view of the overwater bungalows (and how many resorts have them) was really neat. The guide also prepped some bananas, coconut and grapefruit for us. The bananas and coconut were amazing. We weren't fans of the grapefruit, but it was neat to experience.

Motu Mahana

This is included with the cruise. It's the "Gauguin Private Island" day. And it's a blast. Imagine it's just past the halfway mark of the cruise. You now have a bunch of friends (it's a small ship, remember? And a self-selecting set of passengers.) The island has wonderful white sand, perfect trees, a huge BBQ buffet, unlimited good drinks, some served in coconut shells (which are greener than you expect from watching Gilligan's Island, apparently not the most accurate documentary.) The water is warm, and even the rain doesn't dampen things.

Plenty of chaises, the water is wading-deep for quite some distance, full-plumbing facilities. Really, no downside.

Well, one downside. There's an encampment on the other side of the Motu that resembles a homeless camp. I asked about it; apparently one of the local families has "an arrangement." You'll see it if you walk around the Motu (and if they're still there), but if you just stay in the resort-area, you won't.

Tip: Don't bother bringing your snorkle gear to the Motu. Despite the description, there's not much to see, especially compared to some other stops.


Excursions we heard about:

The "Le Truck" excursion disappointed the passengers we chatted with. They didn't see much, were stuck on the road, it seemed aimed at getting them to spend money at local businesses and they just didn't enjoy it.

The "personal submarine"/Aquabike's had passengers raving. NOT scuba passengers, but scuba takes prep, training and equipment. It seemed everyone who did the Aquabike loved it.

Extras:

Get the laundry Service. We booked this electronically well before the trip. It's completely worth it. Just make sure you accurately count your items going out; my SO got it wrong (twice!), with them rejecting the order as a result. Perfectly reasonable, not a big deal.

You can't order the internet package in advance; it must be done from on-ship. And it was spotty. The ship's equipment is not a match for today's expectations. This isn't a French Polynesia issue; my cellfone had better coverage and speed than the best of the boat, and large portions of the boat and even some of the cabin had dead zones. But still, it's not expensive and is very convenient. Just realize you won't be doing any streaming or VOIP calls. This had no impact on me other than surprising me.
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Cabin Review

Cabin
We had a Class D cabin on Deck 6 with a veranda. It looked exactly like the brouchure/website photo, including having an odd stone sculpture in a nook. Pretty nice. From the fora, some people say they don't spend any time in their cabin. We use ours a fair amount, but I'm an introvert. The huge window is really nice, the deck fantastic and, since it's so fast, room service makes it all easy. (Room service is included. No delivery fee, no food or drink fee.)

There was plenty of storage, in the form of tiny drawers everywhere. Not many large ones, but anywhere a drawer or shelf could be put, they did. There are only a few power outlets, not where you expect. They are dual (U.S./Euro) at the writing desk and between the cabinet with the fridge/TV and the door. None near the bed.

I did bring an extension cord splitter. That was fortunate.

Housekeeping was twice daily, with fresh towels. They even wash the deck windows when needed - basically after any sea travel. We did run out of shower gel; apparently that's not checked regularly. But it was promptly refilled after we called it down.

We were on Deck 6, near the front. Louder events in the Grand Salon (the main theatre) and in the hallway to the shopping area (such as the Gauguines singing, the piano bar when it was louder and the talent shows) bled through. It wasn't bothersome to us, and ends by 10pm usually, but be aware.
  Paul Gauguin Deck Plans

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

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    Taha'h Waverunner & Snorkeling Adventure
    This was a longish ATV ride in very choppy water. Apparently, we were right on the cusp of where they would cancel the excursion, except that two days had already had cancellations due to changed docks. So the ride was a bit brutal. But the scenery was amazing. Snorkling was pretty good, but keep in mind that it may have been more impressive to people who weren't doing scuba dives.

    The view of the overwater bungalows (and how many resorts have them) was really neat. The guide also prepped some bananas, coconut and grapefruit for us. The bananas and coconut were amazing. We weren't fans of the grapefruit, but it was neat to experience.
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  • Huahine
    We took the Hauhii ATV tour around the island. The highlight was, sadly, the driver in front of me crashing into the driver in front of him. No injuries, but it was exciting. We also did some shore riding, which allowed us to get a better view of the tidal life than we could on foot, because the rocks are simultaneously super-sharp and super-slippery, not a problem for a 4WD ATV but dangerous on foot.
    We also saw several of the stone marae (temples, basically), the river-eels, a lot of backyards and residents. This gave us a deeper and closer look at the real island than any of the other tours, but that may not be what you really want... because the island's economy really isn't all that great. (My trip notes stated "Third world back alleys")
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