(11:50 a.m. EDT) -- After a false start this summer, Paul Gauguin has resumed cruising in Tahiti and the South Pacific -- and Cruise Critic has some pictures to prove it.
Elaine Fiorina, of Rancho Mirage, California, is onboard the vessel as it sails the Society Islands on a weeklong cruise from Tahiti. She's one of 54 passengers onboard the ship, which can usually hold 350 guests.
It's the third sailing with international passengers from the single-ship line, which was bought by the French cruise company Ponant last year. Synonymous with South Pacific cruising, Paul Gauguin had started cruising with local residents in mid-July after French Polynesia developed strict testing criteria for tourism to resume in the archipelago. But the first sailing July 29 had to turn around after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19. No other passengers or crew on the ship contracted the virus.
After a brief pause, the line resumed cruising August 29. That 14-day cruise to the Society and Marquesa islands went off without an incident.
Paul Gauguin is not the only cruise ship sailing in the South Pacific. Aranui Adventure Cruises, which runs sailings on its cargo-passenger freighter Aranui 5, has been sailing since mid-July.
Cruise Critic caught up with Fiorina via Facebook to see how the cruise was going. Here's what we found out.
CC: How safe do you feel on the cruise?
EF: We feel very safe. We will do another test on Wednesday. (American passengers on Paul Gauguin end up taking at least three COVID-19 tests -- one within 72 hours of their flight to Tahiti, one at arrival and another four days after their arrival.)
CC: How full is the ship, and are there other Americans?
EF: There ended up being 54 of us on 350 capacity -- 32 Americans and the others French. It's frankly like being on a private mega yacht. It's all to ourselves.
CC: Are you regular cruiser?
EF: My husband and I have been cruising for 31 years. (We've done) all the lines, but "cruising during COVID" is quite an experience. But it can be done.
CC: What is the biggest adjustment?
EF: Adjusting to mask wearing. But I have to adjust because travel is our passion, and I really don't want to continue (staying) in the house. We already had several trips cancel this year. It's our 40th wedding anniversary so this cruise made up for a lot.
CC: Were you nervous about traveling so far?
EF: I was nervous but my husband was not. Had a 72-hour test before and one at arrival, so I know everyone on here is healthy. All anxiety gone!
CC: What is it like interacting with the other passengers, at a distance and with masks?
EF: We're all adjusting to a new normal. Once you sit at a table or bar, you can take your mask off. You must have your forehead scanned in front of this machine for temperature before entering the dining room.
CC: What about shore excursions? (Unlike some of the European cruise lines, Paul Gauguin is not requiring passengers to take ship-sponsored excursions.)
EF: A few were canceled since it's such a small group and wouldn't make the minimum.