The Air Tahiti Nui flight from Los Angeles to Papeete left at midnight, LA time. We booked ourselves Business Class for the eight-hour flight—very comfortable (almost flat bed seats). We were awakened for breakfast and then landed at 5:30 AM local time in Papeete. A day room at the Intercontinental Hotel, Papeete was just what we needed before going to the ship at 3 PM. We slept for a few hours, had a nice lunch, and Irene went swimming.
We boarded the Paul Gauguin and settled in for our cruise. Our balcony cabin was about 235 sq. ft. with a verandah. You always think you will not have enough room for all the clothes you bring, but we found lots of hanging and drawer space. The bathroom was small but comfortable and the shower was great.
I really did not have much expectation about the Paul Gauguin before we sailed, but I must say, Irene and I were blown away by the courtesy and professionalism of the entire crew. I would say, it definitely is a deluxe/luxury product. The all-inclusive sailing, means liquor and gratuities were included. The only extras are excursions. The food in the main dining room was outstanding and open seating, meaning you could dine whenever and with whomever we wished. We chose most nights in the main dining room to dine with other guests, which really worked out well, as this enabled us to meet new people and make cruise-buddies. In the specialty restaurants we ate by ourselves. The French restaurant was tres bon. The other specialty restaurant featured a Mediterranean cuisine and dining was both indoors and out.
Our cruise was 10 days, roundtrip Papeete, Tahiti, visiting the Society Islands and the Tuamotus. The scenery was without exception spectacular.
We had to tender to all the ports we except Papeete. Embarkations and disembarkations were very well organized, mostly scheduled every half hour. The Paul Gauguin has an international clientele; all announcements are made in French and English.
First stop Huahine. We walked around the port area, and did not find much to see, so after a short visit, we went back to the ship. There were a great many divers and snorkelers aboard and many of the excursions for the entire cruise were built around these activities. While we are not divers and snorkel only occasionally, the guests we spoke to raved about these excursions and the professionalism of the staff involved.
The next island was Bora Bora for a two-day stay. The scenery here was amazing and it turned out to be almost everybody’s favorite port. Day one we took a Paul Gauguin excursion to explore the island in an off-road vehicle. There had been a great deal of rain the night before, so the only way one could get to the top of the mountains, was in this kind of vehicle. The views were sensational. We also visited a pearl farm for black Tahitian pearls—which proved very interesting—and stopped at Bloody Mary’s, a local bar and restaurant with a great deal of Tahitian atmosphere.
The next day in Bora Bora, we joined most of the other passengers going to a private Motu, a beach island, surrounded by coral. The swimming and scenery were fabulous. Not so good was that I got a terrible sunburn.
The islands in the Tuamotus did not have much appeal to us, as the main activity here was diving and snorkeling. For this reason, I would advise people who do not snorkel to opt for the seven-day Paul Gauguin itinerary which visits the Society Islands. There was one day at sea on our cruise and unfortunately the weather was not very good, so we had to stay indoors. The lectures and activities on board were surprisingly good and informative. Irene did yoga several times during the cruise as well.
We thoroughly enjoyed the private Motu on Tahaa in the Society Islands. The staff of the Paul Gauguin went all out to give us a spectacular day. There were lots of beach chairs and lounges and a first-rate barbeque. The swimming and snorkeling was a treat and there was plenty of music and other activities. What could be bad?
The next day we visited Moorea. This was our favorite island. The Paul Gauguin was here for two full days. The first day Irene and I again took an excursion on an off-road vehicle to explore this incredible. Our driver/guide mixed great humor and information. We had fabulous views all around. We visited a pineapple farm and a black sand beach. This lush island is so rich in beauty that it was used for the setting of Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific.
Irene and I planned to stay at the Moorea Intercontinental Hotel & Resort at the end of our cruise so we disembarked the Paul Gauguin in Moorea instead of proceeding to Papeete.