French Polynesia aboard the M/S Paul GauguinAuthor: SDanielT
Date of Trip: July 2008
Bottomline: Great time, beautiful location, good food, loved it!
We useda travel agentfor this cruise - I'm happy to say we were very impressed withtheir help and follow-up support. I also received $500 in shipboard credit with them! The cruise was very enjoyable and we really had a great time. Here's a quick recap of our activities:
14 Jun: Flew into Papeete. Loved the flight on Air Tahiti Nui. They took great care of us (first time I've ever been given flying socks during a flight!) and had good food (food wasn't as good on the return flight though!). The TSA guy at LAX separated our bags and we did lose two of our bags! Not Air Tahiti Nui's fault - the TSA employee started a new "side" pile with our two lost bags that probably had dozens of bags stacked around them and I'm sure they sat there for a very long time before he sent them on their way. I'll never understand why he was doing that but I won't let it happen again - I'll insist all my bags go together. Once we landed we sat at the carousel watching the conveyor go round and round with another couple whose bags didn't show up. Eventually I put the claim in with Air Tahiti Nui and grabbed a cab to head to the ship (plenty of them available - ne need to reserve). Check-in aboard the M/S Paul Gauguin was organized and very professional. The room was nice and had good storage areas tucked away everywhere. We went for the cheaper deck three room). General Ship Comments: Room service was wonderful and the room service (for food) was the most prompt we've ever seen. In fact we ate most of our breakfasts in the room. My only complaints would be the TV system is terrible. The flat screen TVs are nice but the movies seemed to never start at the scheduled times and not having video on demand seemed very antiquated for a modern ship. We also had some strange banging and clanging (ship noises - not rooms next to us!) that we heard early in the morning (after midnight and prior to 4 AM) that woke us up occasionally. The Cruise Director (Claudia - on her last cruise with the Paul Gauguin) wasn't very impressive and seemed to rarely be around. The food was very good! I wondered after reading some of the other remarks prior to our cruise but I would rate the food pretty high. We actually liked the main dining room (L'Etoile) for the dinners vice the reservation restaurants (La Veranda, and Le Grill). The dining staff was very professional and friendly which surprised me since tipping isn't encouraged.
15 Jun: Rangiroa. Great day of scuba diving! Sharks, manta rays, turtles, dolphins, and tons of other fishes. Our bags were delivered to us at 1 PM which was just in time for our 1:30 dive! Some of my dive gear was in one of those bags! I was impressed with the urgency of everyone (Air Tahiti Nui and Regency) to expedite our bags to us!
16 Jun: Rangiroa. Another day of diving! A dozen sharks met us as soon as we entered the water - loved it! Rained pretty hard on us the afternoon as we departed Rangiroa. A very pretty scene though seeing the second largest atoll in the world!
17 Jun: at sea. Lazy day soaking up sun!
18 Jun: Hiva Oa. Tendered ashore, road the LeTruck to the Calvaire Cemetery to see Paul Gauguin's grave site. We walked down the hill from the cemetery to the town of Atuona. We ventured around the town to site see and ended up also visiting the Paul Gauguin museum. It didn't have any original works but it did have a large group of reproductions of his paintings. We attended the shipboard art lectures and this was actually neat to see the reproductions of the paintings since we new details about the different works.
19 Jun: Nuka Hiva. Tendered ashore and walked around the city of Taipivai. Not real exciting. The two Marquesan islands were actually a bit on the boring side for us. Note. we didn't do any of the $$ excursions though.
20 Jun: at sea. Another sunny day! I attended the following lectures between sunning sessions: "The Making of Coral Reefs", "Gauguin in Tahiti & Marquesas 1895-1903", and "Tahiti at the Time of Captain Cook's Voyages". All of the presenters were very good...especially Dr Elizabeth Childs (Art), and Professor Mark Eddowes (Anthropologist).
21 Jun: at sea. Yet another beautiful sunny day! I attended the "Magic of Coral Reefs" lecture, and we both attended an informal chat on Polynesian Tattoos which was held by Professor Eddowes. The Les Gauguine ladies participated by displaying their tattoos and Pr. Eddowes interpreted them for us. Pr. Eddowes also presented a great lecture later in the afternoon recapping the true story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. He really knows his subject! The last art lecture covered "Painting Paradise: From Captain Cook to Matisse" and it was very interesting.
22 Jun: Bora Bora. Morning dive...very nice! Can't say enough about the superb service the Marina Crew on the ship provided for the dives...they are top notch - We've never had diving service so good anywhere. We grabbed a light lunch on the ship and then did the Wave Runner excursion around the island. It was fun but I wouldn't recommend it for those that can't handle a rough ride. I was surprised how fast the guide had everyone going on the wave runners. We had ours up to 70 MPH! We had one older gentlemen that declined to go as we were getting on our wave runners, another lady was dropped off mid-ride since it was too rough for her (and she had just had a triple bypass operation eight months ago). It rained on us most of the ride...but we loved it! I'd recommend it to all my adventurous friends. about 3/4 through the ride we stopped on a small island, tied up all the wave runners together, and had a very enjoyable lunch and chat with the guides. They were young, spoke enough english to get their points across, and had a great sense of humor. They two fellas prepared us pineapple, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and coconuts. They gave the best coconut skinning/preparation class I've ever seen. What a beautiful island and lagoon!
23 Jun: Taha'a. We did the Black Pearl farm visit/snorkeling excursion. After riding an outrigger canoe to the pearl farm it was briefly informative but seemed to quickly transform into a sales pitch for the pearls. We spent an hour then waiting for everyone to finish buying pearls. A short snorkeling trip to a shallow area lasted about an 45 minutes...then the canoe dropped us off at a private motu where the ship had set up a huge BBQ for all the passengers. It was a very nice and relaxing time for the rest of the day. We rode the last tender from the island that departed just before 5 PM.
24 Jun. Moorea. Last dive of the trip. OK dive...lots of sharks and other fish but the coral was in bad shape and the water was a bit murky. While still a nice dive it was our least favorite of the trip. Rangiroa being the best two dive days. We rented a car for $80 right from the tender drop off point and toured most of the way around the island. We bought Tondee a black pearl pendant with necklace from Ron Hall's Island Fashions. He was the most knowledgeable and sincere pearl dealer we meet the entire trip. He's also from the U.S. so language wasn't a problem. We ventured up to the over look called the "Belvedere" which provided a great view of both of the bays. Also did some Geocaching - be sure to get a 4x4 if you get really adventurous.
25 Jun: Tahiti. Disembarked, found a taxi (this proved to be a pain and I would recommend paying the fee to have the ship set you up with the return taxi to the airport) and then went to the airport to check our bags in the hut in front of the airport. We rented a Avis rental for $165. and drove around the northern circumference of the island. We stopped at a few picturesque sites (Tahiti Museum, the Grotto, etc.) and ate lunch at a small restaurant on Motu Parataito. Turned in the rental back at the airport and then our flight was delayed three hours. Ended up departing at 1 AM and arrived at LAX at 1215. Great trip and we would love to do it again sometime!
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