A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
The following are my personal observations however, i am speaking as well on behalf of dozens of passengers on board the september 21,2019 paul gauguin voyage to fiji, cook and society islands, many of whom came to similar if not the same conclusion as myself, that the cost of this cruise far exceeded the value.
My first introduction to paul gauguin staff, was while checking in at los angeles international airport on my air/sea package. One of their representatives appeared and checked my name off their list and shortly after disappeared leaving the passengers to fend for ourselves for the next three or four hours.
i was then directed to a gate that was at the furthest end of the terminal. It was so cold i thought i must be on the runway itself. I was extremely surprised that paul gauguin had not provided a more comfortable lounge or waiting area exclusively for their passengers.
Upon boarding air fiji, i was stunned to see the narrow seats and aisles that we were directed to for a 10 ½ hour flight. After awaking my seat mates during the night while attempting to slide a blanket under my tray table, i spilled the entire contents over my luggage and finally gave up the thought of sleep only to see the crew preparing for an elaborate breakfast which included cold scrambled eggs and uncooked sausage.
After 25 hours of travelling from phoenix, arizona by bus, taxis and air with no sleep, i was transferred from the airport in lautoka, fiji to a very comfortable hotel room where the paul gauguin passengers were allowed to rest or eat until our bus returned eight hours later to transport us to our luxury cruise.
Upon boarding, there were the usual formalities of checking in with staff members and providing passports and credit cards so that no one would consider jumping overboard after realizing what was in store for them.
My first impression of my cabin which was one deck above the lowest and had a large window seemed comfortable enough until i entered the bath and noticed the shampoo, conditioners and shower gel bolted to the wall akin to a motel 6. The tub was too narrow and deep for me to attempt to lower myself into, being fearful i would never get out and the phone was too far away to call for help.
Upon further investigation i realized that some of the cabin drawers were stuck, couldn’t be pried open and one drawer never remained closed. The cushions and carpet were shabby and worn and the bath sink and countertop needed a face lift. I then turned toward the fridge and found that it could not be adjusted and remained luke warm for the duration of the cruise.the few television channels were limited to the same political news with no option for sports or entertainment other than a handful of videos that were unfamiliar even to me at the age of seventy- six. In addition, shipboard announcements could not be heard inside cabin and i had to open the door to decipher them from hallway.
Upon entering the shower for the first time, i observed a used bar of hand soap in the tub dish left over from the previous guest. That bar of soap remained in the shower for the remainder of the voyage along with two cocktail napkins dropped on the floor, one by the bedside and one across the room by the waste basket. Bath mat and washcloths were not replaced daily and at one point i requested more cocktail napkins and a washcloth and was presented with a towel and a box of kleenex.
Total misrepresentation; no fine french cuisine, no caviar (with the exception of an eyedropper of herring caviar for decoration on one menu item), no tableside dining or recognizable french recipes.
On several occasions i attempted to visit the bar on deck nine only to discover that it was never open. On days we were at sea there were not enough chairs or lounges on sundeck by pool to accommodate all passengers. In order to secure one, you would have to leave an item on it from early morning throughout the entire day. In addition, staff rarely assisted passengers moving chairs or securing towels to lounges.
With the exception of a maitre d’ named alin and jenny, lead singer of the sound wave both of whom are great vocalists, abby and mark were energetic and very talented as was gustavo the mentalist. The remainder of musical talent was mediocre at best. In particular, alex in the piano bar was pitiful to watch. He plays dinner music all evening and blends into the background so completely that he can barely be heard and never encourages guest participation or asks for requests. However, what was most pathetic to watch was many of the crew members attempt to perform in the evening shows for a third of the voyage. Surely paul gaugauin can afford more professional entertainers particularly when some of the crew members are already working two or three different jobs on board.
If i had known that three out of four meals daily would be served buffet style with an extremely limited a la carte menu ie; hamburgers, reubin sandwiches, and pizza, i would have thrown myself overboard on day one. When crepes suzette and bananas foster, flambe were served cold with sauce over vanilla ice cream (sans flambe), on a buffet line at four in the afternoon for tea time, i was stunned. However, i soon learned that many of the meals served even in the dining rooms were also cold or barely warm. For example, on one occasion, i ordered a lobster tail but made the fatal mistake of asking for a boiled potato instead of the pre-prepared mashed or baked. As a result, i spent two hours waiting to complete dinner. When the small lobster tail arrived, it was served with cold vanilla sauce and the drawn butter that i had to request was cold with no flame underneath to warm it. I then realized that most, if not all of the food served was similar to a factory assembly line where no substitutions could be requested or any deviation from menu items without throwing the kitchen into complete and utter chaos.
Perhaps most disturbing was that during the entire cruise i was unable to order french onion soup, lobster bisque, baked alaska or even a croissant. Although in all fairness, it is possible that croissants were served on the buffet lines during breakfast or lunch that i chose not to attend because i refuse to stand in line for food at any time much less as early as 7 a.m. It reminds me too much like being on a chow line during a cattle drive. In addition to the above- mentioned items, i never expected to see chateaubriand served with brown gravy, meat loaf style. When the bernaise sauce was served the following evening, it was horrible as was the unchilled vichyssoise. Nor had i previously seen snails served dry on lettuce leaves. The final shocker came when i discovered the chef’s version of chocolate mousse was not served in a glass goblet but a piece of cake with cream filling between layers, not to mention the fact that we were travelling in the south pacific and i was informed we had run out of shell fish.
Dining room menus were unavailable until noon on the same day and reservations were required at two of the three dining rooms. However, by the time the menus were posted in front of their respective restaurants only, it was too late to make reservations and i had to wait three nights before having the privilege of entering the grill or l’veranda. I was also informed that since there was limited seating at both locations, priority was given to couples rather than singles, although i had paid an excessive single supplement for the voyage.
L’etoile, where i dined several evenings was so crowded that i missed half of the so-called entertainment by the time i finished dinner and one evening i asked for club soda to remove a stain and was told there was none on board despite the fact it was in my cabin refrigerator.
I was also surprised to find that none of the ship bars had a coffee or hot chocolate machine, so i was unable to order hot after dinner drinks like irish coffee without a prolonged delay. On one occasion i was served a hot liquor drink in a plain coffee cup rather than a stemmed glass as it should have been. finally, there was no freshly squeezed orange juice available unless specifically requested.
The female staff member of the reception desk barely spoke or understood english and ignored several of my requests. At one time she informed me that the cabin television had no sleep timer program available. Fortunately, i checked the tv remote and discovered there was a sleep timer button.
During one instance, i asked repeatedly to speak with the purser before she granted me an audience. I found the purser to be argumentative and unwilling to take any responsibility for the difficulties i had thus far encountered.
For the remainder of the cruise, i was harassed over an eleven dollar balance on my account, finally insisting that i sign a promissory note prior to disembarking and threatened with legal action if that amount was not received within 7 days.
Once again, an extremely limited menu for breakfast /lunch. since i primarily ate most of my early meals in my cabin, one morning i requested hot cereal, namely cream of wheat. To my surprise it was served dry with no milk or cream.
On a separate occasion i requested a bloody mary with extra worcestershire sauce and celery salt on the side. I was informed that there was neither worcestershire nor celery salt available until the bars opened after 9:30 a.m.
The vast majority of crew and staff are philipino. Despite the fact they appear to be extremely polite and hard workers, i found there to be a difficulty with communication and a definite lack of quality cruising experience. Personally, i prefer quality over quantity and good service over pretentiousness. Some restaurant staff were overly solicitous and smarmy. Although being escorted to and from the dining room table is fine, my preference would have been to receive a fish fork or chilled salad plate and fork while dining.
Some officers on board made excuses that due to the transition of ownership by the ponant cruise lines only days before our departure was the cause of dilapidated furnishings and carpet which would soon be replaced. They also claimed it was difficult to get adequate supplies at certain ports. However, that was no consolation to current passengers some of which were seasoned travelers and noted the change in quality from previous voyages ie; toiletries, liquor, wine brands and lower paid labor.
It was suggested that travel agents should have been more diligent. In my opinion, unless the agents had recently been on board, they too were exposed to the same misrepresentation of quality by the paul gauguin marketing and advertising department as the rest of the passengers.
Had little to no information on local tours, buses or cabs and were unable to confirm airline seat assignments.
During tahitian presentations, tour director was so boring and monotone in his descriptions that i barely could stay awake. He did not ask the audience for questions at conclusion of presentation as i would have expected.
He also denied that the day rooms assigned at completion of voyage were determined based on the category stateroom that was purchased. He claimed that the higher quality hotels were fully booked, but were all the same standard which i later discovered was not the case.
TAHITI PEARL HOTEL
There was no food or beverages included during our stay which i was told by other passengers was not the case at the intercontinental or sofitel hotel dayrooms. There was only one english speaking channel to watch on television and very few of the staff spoke english. The inroom refrigerator was warm. There were no robes, slippers or wash cloths and the toilet barely flushed. The room was worn and dated very much like the ship, both past their prime.
Upon my return home, i made several attempts to contact diana moore, ceo of paul gauguin by phone leaving unreturned messages. Finally, due to sheer luck and persistence, i randomly dialed an extension and heard a female voice proclaiming to be sandy stevens (spelled with a v, she insisted), vice president of sales and guest relations. At that moment i was sorely tempted to respond ‘’well, this is queen elizabeth (spelled with a z’’). however, i resisted and instead attempted to share my concerns and experience s. I was immediately shot down and informed that ms. Moore was too busy preparing for her european trip to speak with me and that she herself had only fifteen minutes before her next meeting.
During the next ten minutes, i perceived ms. Stevens (with a v) to be arrogant, belligerent, indifferent and unwilling to accept any criticism, constructive or otherwise. She informed me that it would be futile to proceed any further in hopes of any reimbursement or compensation for my thoroughly deplorable experience.
Therefore, i am hoping this review will enlighten any future passengers who are contemplating travel on paul gauguin so they won’t be misled by glossy photos and unfulfilled promises of a glamorous past that no longer exists. It is unfortunate that paul gauguin cruises has chosen to ignore myself and concededly a minimum of twenty percent of my shipmates who shared my disappointment and dissatisfaction on board a ship that once was a unique and elegant voyage but has since seen better days and is now existing on their previous reputation.
As to my fellow travellers, i commend you for your good will, companionship and joviality that made an otherwise intolerable situation not only bearable but frequently enjoyable.
In conclusion, paul gauguin’s marketing and advertising campaign claims to offer fine french cuisine and luxurious accommodations. Well, you can label anything you want as one thing but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. In my opinion, there was nothing fine, french or luxurious on paul gauguin except the scenery.
see above review