South Pacific paradise: Paul Gauguin Cruise Review by PalmLady

Paul Gauguin 4
Member Since 2012
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South Pacific paradise

Sail Date: June 2011
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Other
SUMMARY---The Paul Gauguin was a bucket-list cruise for me. We were able to afford to go on this cruise because of the offers of 2-for-1 cruise fare (drinks and gratuities included, free air from Los Angeles, and $250 per person on board credit.
Air Tahiti Nui--Embarkation: Boarding the Air Tahiti Nui flight in Los Angeles went smoothly but we took off about an hour late because they were waiting for luggage from a delayed Air France flight. It was a wide-body plane but not a big one with 2X4X2 seating and no walk-through aisles except at front and back of the plane. Individual movie screens are on back of seat in front of you and you can choose from a wide variety of movies or music to watch--the down side is when the person in front of you leans back the screen is very close to your face. Dinner was served early with complimentary wine. They don't come around often so it was wise to bring our own water on board for the 8 hour flight.
Upon arrival and after passing More through customs/immigration we boarded buses for the pier and boarded the Paul Gauguin. Our cabin was on deck 6--very basic cruise ship cabin with a small balcony but plenty of closet and drawer storage and a full tub in the bathroom. The mini bar is stocked with pop, water, beer, and mixers--they also leave a fruit basket and will refill if you wish. Even though it was after 9pm we headed straight for the dining room and joined a nice group of people for our first meal. Despite the label "luxury cruise" the ship itself is pretty plain compared to other cruise lines we have traveled--the carpet was stained and worn in many places and not much in the way of art work or fancy decor. The PG was due for renovations late 2011/early 12 so that should help.
The best thing about an all-inclusive cruise, other than having drinks and gratuities included, is that you don't have to listen to the bar staff constantly trying to sell you drinks. There are also very few loud speaker announcements about upcoming activities--every cabin receives the daily schedule as on all cruises and it is up to you to take advantage of various activities. We have no complaints about drink service.
The fitness center is very small but not that busy. The pool is small as well. The upper decks are not that useful for lounging in the sun because they don't have the solid railings so it is very windy. There is a marina/water sports deck at the back of the ship with kayaks etc. for use in most ports--we did not take the time to try out those activities but others we met enjoyed them.
Other than the show theater where they have a show most nights and several lectures during the day--there is the piano bar, a pool bar during the day, and the nightclub open late on the back of the top deck. I don't know how late the nightclub stays open but I presume as long as there are passengers present. The piano player stops around 11pm but the music continues later in the nightclub.
Entertainment--We attended and enjoyed many of the educational lectures given by an archeologist, anthropologist, professors, and other seasoned travelers about the islands, cultures, and people. The nightly show varies between crew member performances (music/comedy), the Les Gauguines dancing (Polynesian women who also sing and dance other times around the ship), and local dance troupes (up on the pool deck some nights). Some passengers complain about the lack of entertainment variety but we happen to enjoy Polynesian singing and dancing--especially when touring beautiful French Polynesia.
Dining--We are from the Midwest so we do not require much in the way of fancy foods--we were more interested in seafood and they always had a seafood option on the menu. The house dry red wine was fine but I didn't care for their sparkling wine. Overall we had no complaints about the quality, quantity, or variety of foods offered--the breakfast buffet at Le Grill did not change but includes many options. The lunch buffet in La Veranda had a daily theme and included a wide variety of foods. I especially enjoyed the dessert table and that is a big part of why I gained 5 lbs. on our 11-night cruise. They served a smaller more grill-oriented buffet up in Le Grill. If you miss lunch due to a shore excursion they serve a limited menu in Le Grill mid-afternoon. For dinner we primarily ate in the main dining room (L'Etoile) where we could sit and visit with 4-6 other passengers. The other two dinner options required reservations and had changing menus. We dined by ourselves in Le Grill one evening and it was okay if you prefer solitude. One night they serve the same Polynesian menu in all three restaurants and no reservations were required. We only ordered room service twice and had no complaints. (My only complaint about dining service was on the last night of the cruise we asked for a pie listed on the room service dessert menu in the main dining room and were told it could only be ordered through room service. When we tried later we were told it was not available--so if you want the bourbon pecan pie get it from room service earlier in the cruise).
AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS---A "drop-dead gorgeous" atoll--A lagoon tour is a must--We booked with Teking on our own and snorkeled 3 wonderful places and stopped on 4 of the lovely motus with a Polynesian lunch on one of them. The down side was that the tour requires payment in New Zealand dollars, which we obtained in advance at home (not available on ship), but it took a long time for others on the tour who had to visit a bank to sort out what they owed (drinks not included) and we were afraid we would not make it back to the dock for the last tender back to the ship--though I doubt they would have left with 25-30 passengers missing. Also, a woman in our boat was bitten by a large fish and the guide did not have any type of first aid kit on board--she later got stitches from the ship's doctor.
TAHA'A, FRENCH POLYNESIA---The focus of this port is the ship's private "Motu Mahana", which is a small piece paradise and worth every minute. They only offered two ship tours and we booked the pearl farm tour with snorkeling. The pearl farm visit was very educational and afterwards we snorkeled in a shallow coral garden area between two motus following a guide both ways through a winding path. It was a bit challenging but we escaped without any scrapes.
After the tour we were dropped off at the private motu where most of the other passengers were already enjoying the lovely beach, making it challenging to find two available beach chairs. We enjoyed the buffet lunch as well as the drinks in large coconut shells. After lunch we went snorkeling and then lounged on the beach until 430pm. The bar is open all day and there are restrooms. There are also private vendors selling jewelry.PAPEETE, TAHITI--The only sights we saw on this island were on the bus tour after disembarkation. We were not given time to wander around the area near the docks or nearby.
Disembarkation Day/Return Flight: In the morning they served breakfast as well as an early lunch and even opened the bar from 10am until noon. Passengers began disembarking the ship around noon. We opted for the bus tour to see some of the sights of Tahiti--it was fine but by the end we really wanted to be at the resort hotel and instead had to tour the home of author James Norman Hall. When we finally arrived at the Radision Plaza resort and received a room assignment it was after 4pm. We quickly changed and sat by the pool for an hour or less to watch our last sunset before showering and waiting for buses to the airport. (If you skip the tour and go to the resort you will not get a room until later but have longer to enjoy the pool or beach).
The airport experience was a nightmare, which we hope we due to the Air Tahiti strike that was a surprise to us when we boarded the bus for the airport. We waited in very long lines for nearly two hours not knowing if we were getting on a plane or not. After checking in--it took another 30 mins. to get through immigration and security leaving us with no time to hit the souvenir shop before boarding began--just bought water and pop for the flight. We flew back to LAX on an Air New Zealand wide-body plane that was actually more comfortable than the Air Tahiti flight outbound--though I could not watch the video screen because it was too close to my face with the passenger in front of me leaning back. They served a full dinner even though it was after 1230am Tahiti time and they also served breakfast before arrival. Immigration and customs in LAX involved another long wait but that is probably par for the course--luckily we had more than 3 hrs. before our flight home. Less

Published 01/11/12

Cabin review: D623

Cabin 623---Small balcony, average cabin size, lots of storage in closets and drawers. Small refrigerator. Large bathroom with full tub. We could hear the passengers next door but only when they were having a fight and yelling.

Port and Shore Excursions

Bora Bora--Day 1: This island and its lagoon is even more beautiful than the photos you have seen. The coral reef surrounding the island is huge and there are many motus of various sizes along the outer reef. Based on other reviews we booked a 3/4 day lagoon tour on our own through Patrick T. (company called Maohinui)--we had good snorkeling and a lovely lunch but have several complaints. The price is supposed to be based on number of passengers and he told us he wanted payment in local currency (available on ship)--the tour ended up more expensive than advertised because he uses a set exchange rate regardless of the actual exchange rate, which was more favorable to us. We also did not get a discount when another couple joined our boat (so we had 6 instead of 4). Our tour guide was Mareto and he gave us little to no narration. We first snorkeled out near the reef where we were in the water with sting rays and black-tipped reef sharks and then another location in deeper water where we saw more sharks. Our third snorkeling stop was in a coral garden area with quite a few fish. Patrick and his passengers joined us on his family's private motu for our Polynesian feast buffet lunch. The island was lovely with a great view of Bora Bora across the lagoon. Although the food was good we did not receive the advertised bottle of wine or champagne per couple. When I asked, Patrick opened one bottle of champagne and poured several persons small servings--and that was it. Apparently no one else asked for any though that was advertised as part of lunch. After lunch we stopped to snorkel one more time before returning to the dock. Later that afternoon we returned to shore in Vaitape and visited the Tahia Pearl shop where I bought a piece of black pearl jewelry. When I hesitated to buy because I had heard they had a larger shop on Moorea, the clerk advised that I could exchange or trade up if I found another piece I liked better there. As it turned out, I did not find anything I liked better. There was a local festival going on in town that night but we opted to eat on the ship and stay on board--in hindsight, we should have gone to the festival. Day 2: The next morning we returned to shore and wandered through several shops--lots of pearl and souvenir shops but not much in the way of art galleries, which I'd hoped to find. We did not have time to rent a car and drive around the islands. After lunch we took the ship's tender service to their private beach area. There are no chairs and no restroom facility but it is a nice beach with good snorkeling and they had a kayak as well. They do offer drink service--pop, beer, rum drinks, and water.

Huahine--Based on other recommendations we booked the ship's "Sacred Sights and Legendary Places" cultural tour. Our tour guide was excellent and we were taken to several areas with remains of temples (maraes) and villages where we walked around a coastal area and took a short hike up a hill. The last stop is in a village where we saw blue-eyed eels in a small creek. After returning to the ship for lunch we did not have time to go back to shore to explore further. (We later learned from the Captain that the ship had trouble exiting the lagoon due to a very strong incoming current that afternoon. The sea was very rough that night and we did not make it to dinner or the show).
Read 36 Huahine Reviews

Moorea--Day 1: Another gorgeous island surrounded by a coral reef though not as many motus along the reef as Bora Bora. Our first morning we went to shore and took a free shuttle to the Tahia pearl shop (20 min. ride each way). After lunch we took a ship tour called "Lagoon Discovery"--we cruised from Cook's Bay to Opunohu Bay and made a brief stop at a resort to see a dolphin before we stopped for snorkeling on a sand bar where we were in the water again with sting rays and black-tipped reef sharks. Our next stop was a rocky, shallow area between two motus near the outer reef where we snorkeled--not as much in the way of fish or coral in that area. After snorkeling we returned to the dock and the ship. Day 2: This morning we took the ship's "Aito Off-Road Safari" tour--in the back of a pick-up type 4WD vehicle. The tour first headed up a valley agricultural area through pineapple fields and stopped at the Belvedere lookout point for a wonderful view of both bays and the mountain in between. Another stop was at the top of a steep trail on "magic mountain" for more views of Opunohu Bay and lagoon area. Our last stop was at a juice factory/distillery where we tasted a few samples. We had time to shop but because it was the end of the cruise so we opted not to buy a bottle of anything. Back at the dock we considered walking about a mile to the nearest village to check out the shops but decided against it because it was warm and looked like it might rain. There are always a few jewelry and souvenir vendors by the docks.
Read 110 Moorea Reviews

This island is lush and mountainous and is where most of the Cook Islanders live and work. The coral reef surrounding the island is closer to shore so the lagoon is much smaller and there are not as many nice beaches and only a couple motus. Here we booked a ship tour called "Raro 4X4 Safari"--unfortunately our vehicle had a substitute driver so the narration was lacking. Overall it was dissapointing for the price--we first went up a rough road to a lovely lookout point and thereafter stopped a a few other places around the island to see remains of ancient temples. We stopped at a nice beach area to use the bathroom but were not given much time to look around before we were hurried back to the truck. At the end of the 3-hr. tour the guide dropped us off in town so we could wander around and check out a few shops before returning to the dock to tender back to the ship.

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