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9 Paul Gauguin Cruises Romantic Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise over others , first ,balconies, a must while cruising the South Pacific. Second ,reputation. We were not disappointed, from start to finish, the crew of the Paul Gauguin take care of your every need. Pick up at Tahiti ... Read More
We chose this cruise over others , first ,balconies, a must while cruising the South Pacific. Second ,reputation. We were not disappointed, from start to finish, the crew of the Paul Gauguin take care of your every need. Pick up at Tahiti airport and taken to hotel was smooth and efficient, as was embarkation, quick ,efficient, and with in minutes we were escorted to our cabin. My only disappointment with the cabin was the dated bathroom, still a bath tub with shower attachment......needs to be updated. Everything else was great.Our room stewardess just couldnt do enough for us, and when she found out it was our 50th anniversary, decorated our cabin with balloons,banner,flowers on the bed and more.....Anna was a darling. 3 restaurants gave way to a great variety of great food , wine, spirits ,beer was free flowing throughout the dining and day, mainly French wines but you only had to ask for one of your chose. Lots of activities going on during the day , piano bar with a very talented piano player to entertain. Crew night and nightly entertainment by the Polynesian dancers, disco and an amazing band, or just sit and chill out on deck. Plenty of shore excursions to choose from, also 2 days at the Paul Gauguin private beaches. One could not fault the service all members of the crew gave. Would we go again, yes,but for longer next time,7 days just was not long enough.........not everything was perfect hence I did not rate as Excellent, but it was so close........ Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
Everything about this cruise was wonderful, including staff, food, and excursions. We were particularly impressed by the food and restaurant service, with the exception of the on deck restaurant which at night was purportedly a fine ... Read More
Everything about this cruise was wonderful, including staff, food, and excursions. We were particularly impressed by the food and restaurant service, with the exception of the on deck restaurant which at night was purportedly a fine dining restaurant which needed special booking.Unlike the other La Veranda fine dining restaurant, which had amazing food and wonderfully attentive service, Le Grille food was limited in choice and in our view mediocre, and there was little ambiance when we went on 14th September. Our six thirty booking was early, and they must have overbooked for later because our three courses were rushed to the extent that by 7.20 pm 50 minutes later we were being asked if we wanted coffee with our desert! Couple this with a waiter who firstly forget my order for Cointreau without ice with my coffee, and when reminded took another ten minutes to bring a bottle over and asked if I wanted it on the rocks. I confirmed again no, and he went off for a further ten minutes, and then came back with it on ice! When the maitre de asked how things had gone I told him, and he was almost rude in his defence of the rushed meal (we always serve the coffee with the desert) and his defense of the waiter (he's very busy and he has to go all the way to the bar for drinks) What a let down on an otherwise wonderful cruise! So, forget special bookings at Le Grille, and make extra ones at La Veranda, but the main restaurant was also superb both in food choices and great service. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
Based on comments from others who had been on PG we anticipated not having to lift a finger and all our needs would be anticipated or met. Or something like that. It started off badly when we paid significant funds for butler service. His ... Read More
Based on comments from others who had been on PG we anticipated not having to lift a finger and all our needs would be anticipated or met. Or something like that. It started off badly when we paid significant funds for butler service. His job included unpacking our luggage while we enjoyed the luxuries of the ship. We boarded at 3 PM and never met him until he showed up around 7. By then we had unpacked our bags. Our suite had a fully stocked bar, and a bowl of fruit that was restocked daily. Nice touch. We threw away the bowl of nuts that were clearly stale and they were never replenished. The bowl of pretzels was one and done, never to be seen again. We tend to go to breakfast late, or order room service late but don't make any sudden moves without first having tea and coffee delivered to the room. Our butler never caught on to this practice and so we had to order from room service every morning. In other concierge hotels we've visited the butler didn't need to be reminded. My wife had twisted her knee and was in some discomfort so we called the ship's doctor to look at her. He wasn't available and an appt. needed to be made, and there was a surcharge for his services. We toughed it out with some Advil and the situation improved. The one - and maybe only service our butler provided was to make dinner reservations. It would have been helpful if he had provided some knowledge about the restaurants and why it was better to go to one than another. We eventually stumbled our way to find out on our own. In fact, since we prefer to dine later, except for Le Grille, there were plenty of tables every night. We ate at the Rendevous two nights and was surprised to learn that menu doesn't change. At their "upscale" room that shouldn't happen. Unless you're only supposed to eat there once during the cruise. We seldom ate at L'Etoile except for the buffet lunch that changes its theme daily. Waiters and captains were quick to learn our names after the first couple days. Nice touch. Food was well done and plentiful. Servers were attentive and mostly well trained. If you couldn't decide which entree to order, take both. This is not a good diet strategy, but the servings are more "European" style in quantity, not the humongous, giant servings Americans are used to. The major disappointment is the wine service. Their house brands were some of the worst choices in recent memory. I could find better $10 bottles at Costco, and for a cruise of this caliber they were an embarrassment. Of course you could order premium brands for an additional surcharge. We were the unfortunate victims of Cyclone Gita who poured rain on us for several days. Many of our cruises and activities off the ship were cancelled due to rough seas. The two tours we did manage to take were fantastic and very educational. We learned a great deal about the culture of the South Pacific Islanders. The barbecue of the mota owned by PG had great potential, even with the soggy burgers. We realized too late that one of our underwater cameras needed a disk to record pictures. We went to the camera shop only to learn they are only open from 6 - 9 pm. Why? The photographer was busy on the mota taking pictures of the guests. Is there no one else on this ship who could open the store in her absence ? No underwater pictures that day. The happiest person on the voyage was Clara, our stewardess. Diligent, hardworking and forever with a smile on her face she never failed to greet us with pleasant words. She should be a staff training director. If we hadn't lost several days watching rain fall on our balcony we might have been in better spirits and willing to overlook some of the faux pas. Overall, it was a good - but not a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Visiting the South Pacific has always been a dream of mine. As my wife was approaching her 60th birthday we decided to make this dream a reality and chose Paul Gauguin cruises. First, we are ardent cruisers having done more than 30 to ... Read More
Visiting the South Pacific has always been a dream of mine. As my wife was approaching her 60th birthday we decided to make this dream a reality and chose Paul Gauguin cruises. First, we are ardent cruisers having done more than 30 to date. We are not brand loyal and choose our cruises based upon their itineraries. Prior to Paul Gauguin, our smallest ship had been the Oceania Nautica at 682 passengers. There was quite a bit to like about this cruise: staterooms were much larger than expected given the size of the ship and number of passengers. There was a lot of shelving space available, more than enough for all of our clothing and other assorted goods. Embarkation was a breeeze. We were told in advance that boarding would begin at 3:00 pm. At 2:55 we were given the OK and were in our stateroom within minutes. Our bags were promptly delivered within a half hour. The food and service were the best we've experienced on any of our cruises. Whether in the main dining room or either specialty restaurant, service quality was high and the food was excellent, though I would give La Verandah a slight edge in ambience and menu. I would really like to highlight amazing service offered by Raffy, one of the head waiters. My wife has a gluten allergy which we reported prior to sailing. Raffy was in charge of 36 people with dietary issues. Each night, he would find us and present us with the menu for the next day, whether it be in the main dining room or one of the specialty restaurant. One night, we went to the wrong restaurant and he still tracked us down. Unlike other ships, my wife could order anything on the menu and it would be prepared gluten free. Incredible service!!! On another occasion, I had slipped on an excursion and skinned my knee quite badly. William, one of the deck stewards, we had gotten to know quite well, noticed my injured knee and promptly brought a first aid kit and attended my injury. He cleansed the would with alcohol, sterilized it with iodine and then gave me some bandages to help protect it. Once again, great service above the call of duty. Our cruise director, Artur, was a quirky fellow... in a good way. He had a very impish personality and always seemed to have a glint in his eye. He was also a very good magician and hosted a few sessions with interesting sleight of hand. I also have to give kudos to the crew who supported the tender transfers. At Rarotonga, sea swells had to be at least 8 feet, yet they still managed to get people ashore and back. Four able bodied seamen had the routine down pat to time the swell and help passengers move to/from the ship and tender. I've been on other cruises with much calmer seas where tenders had been cancelled. On the other hand, there were a couple of concerns about this cruise that I would like to express. This ship was designed with a shallow hull to facilitate transit in lagoons. This design element was also a deficiency in the deep seas. This was without question, the rockiest ship I have ever been on. Even in relatively mild seas, this ship yawed and rolled quite a bit. The ship is also showing its age. It could use a refurb to bring it up to current cruise standards. There is some wear and tear and it lacks what is now basic technology on other cruise ships. For example, they are going paperless with their itineraries posting them electronically on the TV set in your stateroom and in the elevators. This proved to be quite a nuisance. If they want to save paper I would recommend sharing this information electronically on free WIFI as many other cruise lines now do. Finally, and I profess that I like to be entertained, I found entertainment on this ship lacking in both variety and quality. As a luxury cruiseline, I expected a higher standard. Although "Les Gaugines" were excellent hostesses, their routines became repetitive by the end of an 1 day cruise. During the day, activities were limited as well. I am used to having options on larger cruise ships and would have appreciated a bit more variety on this one. Evening shows were adequate, with British singing duo of Mark and Abby being a standout, as was the Polynesian dance troupe from Tahiti. All in all though, this was a great cruise and is one that I would recommend. Happy to answer any questions you may have. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
This was our first cruise aboard the Paul Gauguin and to the French Polynesia. We want to start by saying that the whole crew, from housekeeping, excursions, waiters, deckhands to entertainment staff were simply amazing. Impeccable service ... Read More
This was our first cruise aboard the Paul Gauguin and to the French Polynesia. We want to start by saying that the whole crew, from housekeeping, excursions, waiters, deckhands to entertainment staff were simply amazing. Impeccable service and all of them greeted us warmly throughout the day and night. We found the food on board very good, but not excellent. Breakfast lacked variety as it did not change from day to day. For dinners, we were surprised at the lack of shellfish except for Thursday night when lobsters and crab legs were served at all restaurants. Meat was served most other nights. That said, the lamb chops,lamb rack and beef tenderloin were excellent. For dessert, our favorite were the different flavors of sorbets and the mint chocolate chip ice cream - among the best sorbets and ice cream we had tasted. We were told they were all made on-board. We were disappointed that the mint chocolate chip ice cream was only on the menu one night. Luckily, when we asked for it the following night, our waiter cheerfully checked in the kitchen and was able to satisfy our request. That's service. We found the ship a little dated in terms of decor and some amenities. For example, there was only 1 electrical outlet in our cabin which was by the dresser. Luckily, we brought along a multi-USB charger so we could charge more than one device at once. If you need to plug in a laptop, you would need to remove the charger. AC and USB outlets by the bedside tables would have been convenient. The air condition in our cabin barely kept us cool. The ship only had a small pool and no whirlpool on deck. We never saw anyone using the pool aside from it being used for scuba checkout dives. We took a few land excursions, namely bus tours around Moorea and Bora Bora. They were well scheduled and planned. We also went on 1 shark dive. The 2 dive masters we had were excellent and very patient with our group given we had not scuba for many years. Docking at Bora Bora for the 2 days, we took advantage of the launch to the free motu. Note that they only serve drinks at this motu, but we really enjoyed the lack of crowds on the beach and lagoon where we spent time snorkeling. Our friends opted for the $138/person Intercontinental beach excursion one day instead as it included lunch at the hotel and use of the beach. We are glad we did not participate. Now that we ticked off another bucket-list, not sure whether we would return. Perhaps when Paul Gauguin launches a new ship, we may return. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
We went on this cruise because of the "sea less traveled". It was an adult only charter cruise. The staff was over the top polite and genuinely nice. The cabin, 817, was close to the pool/bar and restaurant. I would book this ... Read More
We went on this cruise because of the "sea less traveled". It was an adult only charter cruise. The staff was over the top polite and genuinely nice. The cabin, 817, was close to the pool/bar and restaurant. I would book this room again. Just be ready in the morning for the joggers to start stomping like elephants at 8:30 am above your room. After all, you do have to get up for breakfast. The shore excursions were the absolute best we have gone on. People that go on the the cruise and expect a giant mall in each port should not go. This is for adventure and seeing something new that you can check off your bucket list. We hiked to a waterfall after a rugged 4-wheel drive ride. Not for the feint of heart or handicapped. I made it with the help of our guide. We swam with lemon sharks, reef sharks and rays. We say the ship's namesake's grave and learned during lectures about his life. The on board archeologist who accompanied us on excursions gave us lectures and information we would have never known about. I would suggest doing only one excursion picnic on the beach and it would be the one in Bora Bora. Authentically cooked in the ground instead of brought in from a kitchen. That's just me. I found the on board activities fun and hard to choose from because they scheduled multiple events at the same time. I am not much of a meat eater, so I can't say much about the food. The people I ate with seemed puzzled at the weird combinations in the special restaurants. Pate on a slab of tuna tartar? Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
My wife and I were looking for a different itinerary and Paul Gauguin offered that with a 7 night cruise around the Society Islands out of Tahiti. Highlights are two days in Bora Bora and Moorea. The Paul Gauguin is a small ship holding ... Read More
My wife and I were looking for a different itinerary and Paul Gauguin offered that with a 7 night cruise around the Society Islands out of Tahiti. Highlights are two days in Bora Bora and Moorea. The Paul Gauguin is a small ship holding only 340 passengers we sailed with about 250. This gave us an almost one for one staff/passenger ratio. Service was OUTSTANDING, the Crew asked your name and then did a great job remembering it, nice touch. Food was excellent, no problems there unless you want a midnight buffet, not on the Gauguin. Ship had a decent sized show room and nice piano bar. We spent most of our post dinner time in the piano bar mingling with people we met. Bar on the top deck aft was also a nice spot. If you are looking for great entertainment and you like the ship to be your destination then I would recommend you look for a bigger ship with more to do. We went on this cruise for the itinerary, not to hang out on the ship so it was not an issue for us. Rooms are standard, balcony was small. Ship is getting a bit dated, but is scheduled for dry dock spring of 2017, I might wait until that happens, but not a deal breaker if looking to go. All in all, top notch service and food make up for any short comings and the Society Islands are wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
My partner and I just completed an 11 night cruise through Society and Cook Islands. The experience was phenomenal. This was not our first time in these islands but it was our first time cruising. The Paul Gauguin is a lovely luxury ship. ... Read More
My partner and I just completed an 11 night cruise through Society and Cook Islands. The experience was phenomenal. This was not our first time in these islands but it was our first time cruising. The Paul Gauguin is a lovely luxury ship. Great food, clean and pleasant decor, extremely friendly and efficient staff - especially the dive operation, room service and wait staff. Of course, the ports are amazing and the excursions diverse - the travel desk is very accommodating and search for other options at your request. The staff as well as the passengers were totally accepting of us as a same sex couple and made every effort to make us feel included, welcomed and part of the scene. That has not always been my experience and it has made me leery of "straight" cruises in the past. This was a very pleasant surprise. The primary disappointment we had on the cruise was the diversity of entertainment and onboard activiites. The entertainment needs to be reviewed and upgraded. While the performers were pleasant enough, they aren't "star" quality. Also, there needs to be more diverse entertainment in other areas of the ship (restaurants, bars, etc.). There's not a lot to do onboard ship during the day and that should be addressed. One bright spot is the Enrichment Series of lectures - very informative and passionate speakers on polynesian culture and history. Another major source of dissatisfaction is the expensive and dicey internet service. I spent almost $500 on internet service. I am still employed and had to check in often, download some documents, etc. I think the cruise ship needs to upgrade their service and their pricing model. If planes can have internet at 40,000 ft, I'm not sure why a cruise ship can't. I also overhead people complain about wanting to send pictures home to family, facetime, etc., and it is not practical to do so. The cruise line needs to "get with it" if they want to attract a younger professional passenger. All in all, it was a great cruise, a wonderful ship, amazing ports of call and very pleasant staff. We can highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
For those contemplating a trip to exotic French Polynesia and taking a cruise on the m/s Paul Gauguin, I hope to provide you with some useful information in my review. Be sure to check out other reviews to get a more complete picture of ... Read More
For those contemplating a trip to exotic French Polynesia and taking a cruise on the m/s Paul Gauguin, I hope to provide you with some useful information in my review. Be sure to check out other reviews to get a more complete picture of the cruise. My wife and I wanted to stay in a romantic Over the Water Bungalow (OWB) for a week in French Polynesia. However, after we started pricing the cost of such a trip, we changed our approach. We decided it would be more cost-effective to go on a cruise with Paul Gauguin Cruises (PGC) and stay in an OWB as part of a pre-trip package. PGC would handle all the inter-island flights and transfers for the OWB part of the trip, at what appears to be a good price. And we would get to travel to several islands, including Bora Bora and Moorea. Highlights of our trip: the friendly people we met, the scenic views in French Polynesia, a small ship (doesn't take long to get from one place to the next), drift snorkeling in Rangiroa, snorkeling near sharks and not panicking, and seeing dolphins and whales near the ship, Siglo (quartet) music group on the ship. Low-lights: having any low-lights, dive boat trip back from a snorkel excursion, diving restrictions, safety issue with tender boat, security screening at Tahiti Papeete airport. We decided on the 10-day Tuamotus & Society Islands cruise in mid-September. We would visit Tahiti (arrival, departure), Huahine, Bora Bora (2 days), Rangiroa (atoll in Tuamotus), Fakarava (atoll in Tuamotus), Taha'a, and Moorea (2 days). We decided to do a pre-trip stay. We had hoped at stay at Le Taha'a Resort, based upon a recommendation from our travel agent, but PGC stopped offering that place in 2012. Instead, it offers Vahine Island Private Island Resort, which we selected over places like Moorea and Bora Bora. Airfare, between Los Angeles and Papeete, Tahiti, on Air Tahiti Nui, is included in the price of the cruise package with PGC. We upgraded to business class, because my wife does not tolerate long flights (8.5 hours to Tahiti from LAX). Although the business class seats do not recline a lot, they are more comfortable and spacious than coach class seats. Service was very good. Figure $2800 per person for the business class upgrade through PGC. We purchased our own tickets from our local airport to Los Angeles; PGC was charging a lot more. We left Los Angeles at 4:30 pm and arrived in Tahiti about 10 pm. We were met at the airport by representatives of Tahiti Nui Travel. We boarded a bus and were taken to overnight lodging at the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti. I was very impressed with the hotel. The resort has a lot to offer, has scenic views, and very good food. We had an unlocked international cell phone, but it did not offer coverage in French Polynesia. We walked 15 minutes from the Intercontinental to a local supermarket and went to the Vini retail store. There, I purchased a sim card for the cell phone that worked throughout our trip. I could recharge it at post offices on several of the islands. The next morning we were picked up by Tahiti Nui Travel and taken back to the airport to begin our trip to Vahine Island. We stored two bags for 4 days at a locker storage facility at the Papeete airport (5600 CFP = $62). For our international flight between the USA and Tahiti, we were allowed 32 kg (70 lbs) of checked luggage (times two, since we flew business class), 10 kg (22 lbs) for a carry-on, and a personal item. Because we had to fly between islands to get to our OWB resort, we had to cut down on our luggage. The weight restrictions for the inter-island flight on Air Tahiti were 20 kg (44 lbs) of checked luggage, and 3 kg (6.6 lbs) for a carry-on. Because I had my dive certification card with me, I was allowed an additional 5 kg (11 lbs) in my checked bag. The airline representatives seemed more concerned about the size of the carry-on bag (is it "small"?) than how much it weighed. We left Papeete at 1:05 pm and arrived at 1:50 pm at the Raiatea airport. We were met by someone (arranged by PGC) who loaded our luggage onto a boat for a 35-minute boat trip to the Vahine Island Private Island Resort. We did have problems on the small boat; the gas fumes were a little too much for the first part of the boat trip. Vahine Island is within the lagoon surrounding Taha'a and Raiatea. We were greeted by one of the co-managers as our boat arrived at the island. I can't say enough good things about our pre-cruise stay at the Vahine Island Private Island Resort. It was like a touch of paradise. There are only 9 bungalows on the island. My wife and I stayed in one of the 3 OWBs. Everything we had hoped for in an OWB was realized in a tranquil, picturesque setting. (Ask for the Fare Iva hut.) The managers and staff were wonderful. The other co-manager is an accomplished French chef! We felt spoiled. My wife and I quickly got into "vacation mode" by relaxing at this resort which lives up to its reputation as a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. For the return trip to Tahiti on a Wednesday, the only direct flight back was late in the afternoon at 6:15 pm. We were picked up by boat and taken back to the Raiatea airport. Be aware that there are no shoes to remove, and no liquids to worry about prior to boarding the flight, because there was no security screening at the airport. You just check in and wait for your flight. We arrived back at Papeete airport at 7 pm, picked up our luggage at the storage facility, and transferred by bus to the m/s Paul Gauguin. We showed our passport at the dock and boarded the ship. We went to the Reception Office on deck 4 to get our shipboard ID cards. By the time we got to our room, our luggage had arrived. We went to eat before the restaurant stopped serving dinner. There are three restaurants on the ship: L'Etoile (back of ship, Deck 5), La Veranda (back of ship, Deck 6), and Le Grill (mid-ship, by the pool, Deck 8). Reservations are needed to eat at La Veranda and Le Grill. You can make reservations for 3 nights in advance. We found it most enjoyable to eat at Le Grill when the ship was docked in port for the night (Bora Bora, Moorea, or Tahiti [last night] for our cruise); you could enjoy the outside view without worrying about waves and lots of wind. You could eat at L'Etoile restaurant for any dinner meal. We liked open dining on the ship. We met quite a few couples on the cruise. We would have drinks at La Palette Lounge around sunset with one or more of the couples, and then go together for dinner, usually at L'Etoile Restaurant. Dining was casual. You never had to wear a jacket or sports coat. For Polynesian night, you were encouraged to wear something tropical or even a pareo. PGC did offer free wine and drinks at meals and at the bars. You could pay to get premium wine. My wife and I thought the free wine was good. Many nights, different free wines were available at the restaurants. One reason I selected this cruise was the opportunity to go diving in Rangiroa and Fakarava. That was before I ran into the "process" onboard the ship. You could not sign up for these dive trips in advance, unlike other shore excursions. You had to talk to a member of the dive team in the lobby of deck 4. You were given a questionnaire to fill in. If you answered "yes" to any of the medical questions (e.g., do you now have, or have you ever had, allergies or an operation), you had to go see the ship's doctor to get cleared to go diving--at a cost of $75. It doesn't matter if you had no recent symptoms or had been previously cleared for diving by a competent physician; you had to pay for the privilege of getting cleared again. You were also told that you couldn't dive in Rangiroa unless you had had 40 previous dives, and you couldn't dive in Fakarava unless you had had 20 previous dives. Some divers likely did not conscientiously answer the questions. I ended up having sinus congestion on the trip and couldn't go diving in any case. I talked to some who did the diving, and they said they had fewer than 20 dives, and had no problems in either Rangiroa or Fakarava. Our cabin was 733. The room was adequate in size (but smaller than the room on other ships we have been on). The suitcases did easily fit under the bed. There were plenty of drawers for storing clothes and odds and ends. The bathroom contained a combination bathtub and shower. There was a line that you could extend above the bathtub for drying out wet clothes. The outdoor deck only had two chairs and a table; there was not enough room for lounge chairs to lie down on. There were privacy panels between the adjacent outdoor decks. The crew and staff on the ship were very friendly. Make the effort to learn the name of your cabin attendant, dining room stewards, and pool bar servers. They appreciate it, will greet you before you can say hello, and give you a little extra, attentive service. We saw the Captain more often than we did on other cruise ships we have been on. At Huahine, we took the tender to the island and then "Le Truck", a local bus, to the town of Fare and walked around the small downtown area. We didn't want to do a shore excursion. We spent two days at Bora Bora. We entered the lagoon surrounding Bora Bora and docked near the town of Vaitape. The fancy resorts (e.g., Intercontinental, Le Meridien, St Regis) were on the other side of the island, along the edge of the lagoon. We learned in the Port Talk that Avis rents bikes. So my wife and I rented 2 bikes and circumnavigated the island in about 4 hours. There were only 2 hills. We stopped at a local supermarket and bought some food and drinks. We made several stops around the island. When we took the tender from shore back to the ship, we noticed that several locals in outrigger canoes were following the tender and riding in its wake. Some of the cruisers did their homework in advance. By doing research on CruiseCritic.com, they found the name of a local operator (Kristof??) who offers a private snorkeling tour in Bora Bora. The group diverted to see some whales in the area, something that would not have been possible with a PGC-arranged snorkel excursion. PGC did offer a tender to a private motu in Bora Bora. Beer, rum punch, and soft drinks were available, but there were no bathroom facilities. Kayaks were available. One of the highlights of the trip was the entrance to Rangiroa. Ships enter the atoll through one of two passes. The currents are quite strong in these areas. We entered at the Tiputa Pass and were amazed to see all the dolphins, and one shark, in the water swimming alongside the ship. We took a PGC snorkel excursion called "drift snorkeling". A boat took us outside the Lagoon of Rangiroa. We got out and drifted with the current into the lagoon while looking for fish. We repeated this three times at different positions in the pass. The next day we visited the atoll at Fakarava. We went through a pass and anchored just inside the lagoon. We watched the dolphins swimming around the ship. Our snorkel trip was changed, possibly because of the choppy waves in the lagoon. We instead took one of the ship's dive boats in the afternoon to a coral garden near the center of the lagoon. We saw a few yellow-tipped and black-tipped sharks swimming around the area, and did not panic. You see them for a few moments, and then they're gone. You wonder where they went (cue the music for the movie "Jaws"). You quickly realize you're a visitor in their world, and they're not interested in getting close to you (whew!). I would recommend a full wetsuit for snorkelers who easily get cold in the water, especially if you're tall and skinny. It would have helped on the trip back to the ship from the coral area. My wife and I were asked to move to the very back of the dive boat. That made us more exposed to the wind and waves. I got soaked on the trip back, and the water was cold. It was not a pleasant experience. The snorkel guide and boat captain did not appear to care. Again some of the cruisers did their homework in advance. By doing research on CruiseCritic.com, they found the name of a local operator (Atoo??) who offers a private snorkeling tour in Fakarava. They reported having a great time. One of the passengers told me that you could do a Cruise Critic Roll Call of people signed up for a cruise to find others who are interested in doing a private tour at one of the destinations. In this way, you can locate enough people to meet the minimum tour requirement. The next day we traveled towards Taha'a and spent the day at sea. Many passengers booked spa appointments. My wife and I did 90-minute massages on the second day at Bora Bora. She did an Oriental massage. I did the volcanic hot stone massage. The massages were above average, not superb. You can pre-book shorter duration massages before you cruise. We booked ours on the morning after we left Tahiti. We did the Exploration of Taha'a shore excursion on the morning of our arrival at Taha'a. Others went to PGC's private beach off the island of Taha'a (and a few miles from Vahine Island). We took an off-road vehicle (8 passengers each) and drove up one of the mountains on a muddy, pitted dirt road (it had just rained). We stopped at the top for a scenic view, enjoyed some local fruit and musical entertainment. Then we visited a small black pearl farm and a vanilla farm. We arrived back on the ship, changed clothes, and caught a tender to the private Motu Mahana. We arrived at the end of the BBQ lunch (sorry, no hamburgers left). There were bathroom facilities. Although the last tender from the Motu to the ship was at 5 pm, kayaks were removed starting at 3 pm. The bar started shutting down about 4 pm. The availability of drinks became limited. It was hard to chill out and enjoy the last hour at the Motu. Tip: some of the ship dining staff arrived early on the island and cut up coconut shells to serve drinks in; be sure to ask for one when you arrive (early) on the Motu. Be very careful getting on and off the tender to the private Motu. The tender has a ramp that lowers to let you off the boat in the shallow water off the beach at the Motu. There is a hand crank that lowers the ramp. As my wife passed by the crank, it apparently released and smacked the top of her arm and gave her a hematoma. Fortunately there was no bruising or contact with bone. I reported the incident later to the ship's Safety Officer. Be aware that you have to take one of the three shore excursions if you want to go the island of Taha'a. The ship did not offer any tenders to Taha'a, only to the Motu. The next stop was 2 days in Moorea. I found it one of the prettier islands on the trip, not so commercialized as Bora Bora. My wife and I booked our cruise through a Virtuoso travel agent. During the cruise, the Virtuoso travelers got to attend a special cocktail reception. And on the first day in Moorea, we got a half-day bus tour of the island. We visited Opunohu Valley, stopped for a scenic view on Mount Belvedere, visited an ancient archaeological dig, heard about community projects at the UC Berkeley Gump Research Station, had lunch at the Intercontinental Resort Moorea, and then visited the Kellum House and Gardens. At this last place, we got to meet and chat with Kellum's daughter and famous archeologist, Marimari. I learned that the m/s Paul Gauguin is the only cruise ship to visit Moorea and several of the other islands in French Polynesia on a regular basis. Cruise lines such as Princess and Celebrity have stopped coming, according to one local. My wife and I didn't know it, but we were in French Polynesia during whale season. One of the shore excursions offered by PGC in Moorea was a Dolphin Watching Expedition. We learned at a Port Talk that it was being expanded to include whale watching. We tried to sign up, but the excursion was already fully booked for the day we wanted. We got on the wait list, but to no avail. PGC brought onboard a local expert, Dr. Michael Poole, to lead the tour. At the time we were in Moorea, a momma whale and her baby had taken up temporary residence in the area, swimming back and forth between two bays. Several small boats would get up close to the whales. One of boats, probably the PGC tour, got snorkelers in the water to swim near the whales. Not getting on that tour was one of the regrets of our wonderful vacation. However my wife and I spent several hours in the morning watching the whales (we brought binoculars which were very useful). We also went kayaking off the marina platform (back of the ship, Deck 4). This is a benefit offered by Paul Gauguin Cruises. You can't swim or snorkel in this area, but you can take the kayaks out for an hour at a time. On the last night, as we sailed back to Tahiti, PGC brought a local folkloric dance troupe on board to provide the evening entertainment ("Showtime") in the Grand Salon theater. Before dinner that night on the ship, guests could make leis and other flower arrangements. Lesson learned: get one early, because they will run out before you are ready for dinner. You do have a chance to get a lei at Showtime. We docked at Tahiti by 7 pm. You were asked to put your luggage (for checking at the airport) outside your cabin by 11 pm. The next morning, breakfast was served in L'Etoile from 7-9 am. You were asked to vacate your cabin by 9:30 am. The pool bar opened at 10 am for guests who were still on board. Depending on your post-cruise arrangements, you were assigned a time to depart the ship. My wife and I had an 11:15 pm flight from Papeete to Los Angeles. We disembarked the ship around 12:30 pm. PGC graciously arranged a several-hour bus tour of the eastern part of Tahiti for us, before we could check in to our dayroom prior to our evening flight. Our luggage was loaded on buses for us. We visited a lighthouse and famous park, waterfalls, and the James Norman Hall Museum. James Hall was a co-author of the Bounty trilogy--"Mutiny on the Bounty," "Man Against the Sea" and "Pitcairn's Island" and helped make Tahiti famous. At the museum, we got to meet Hall's daughter Nancy. Then we were dropped off at our dayroom at the Sofitel Tahiti Maeva. We were originally supposed to stay at the Intercontinental, but they ran out of rooms and PGC moved us to the Sofitel. I would never recommend staying at the Sofitel. The bed was uncomfortable. My wife found a bloodstain on her pillow. The beach area, in a cove near a marina, was not very big or inviting. The tour guide on our bus tour of Tahiti mentioned that the hotel might close down within the next few months. At the airport we talked to passengers from the cruise who stayed at two other hotels for their dayroom (Intercontinental, Radisson). They spoke highly of their hotels. The same cannot be said for the Sofitel. Although we had all of our luggage at the Sofitel, we had to take our luggage (to be checked at the airport) to the lobby a couple of hours before our pick-up time. Tahiti Nui Travel picked up the luggage and took it on to the airport. We were picked up in the evening at 7:30 pm for our 11:15 pm flight back to the USA. The hotel is only about 10 minutes from the airport. We were dropped off at one end and located our luggage. Then we went to check in. If you are flying in coach class, expect to wait in a long line to check in. Then expect some overly conservative security screeners. My wife had a pair of tweezers and manicure scissors confiscated by a screener. She protested, to no avail, that even the security screeners in the USA allow these items. Another passenger had a small craft tool confiscated; she was very unhappy about that. Your travel agent should warn you about this behavior. We had purchased some pearls on one of the islands. The shop did not charge us the VAT tax, but, in return, we had to get some paperwork stamped at the duty free office at the airport and have it mailed to the store (can mail at the airport, stamp was provided by the store). There are several flights departing Papeete in the evening. The duty free office did not open until about 9 pm, because the person working in that office was also helping with the departure of one of the flights. Expect to wait in line to get your duty free stamp. It doesn't take long--show the paperwork and the item you purchased (do not put it in your checked luggage!) and then get two pieces of paper stamped--but there are lots of people in line. The Paul Gauguin Cruise allowed my wife and I to visit picturesque and exotic islands in French Polynesia. Our OWB bungalow pre-trip stay was memorable and very romantic. Overall, this was a wonderful vacation. We recommend the trip to other adventurous travelers. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
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