Let me start by saying, I cannot wait to book another cruise aboard the MS Paul Gauguin. The boat, service, ports of call, and atmosphere were everything I hoped they would be and so much more. My group consisted of myself and husband (late twenties) my mother (early 50’s) and a family friend (thirty something). We have all done many cruises across various cruise lines and prefer hotels such as Fairmont, Le Meridien, Intercontinental, etc.– Just to give you an idea of who is writing this review.
Embarkation: After going on many of the larger, mainstream, cruises, the embarkation process was such a pleasant experience. A first word of advice: do NOT arrive before 3pm to the pier in Papeete. You will NOT be getting on early and you will be standing out in the sun. However, once you board, the crew is waiting happily to take your hand luggage and replace it with a sparkling glass of cold champagne. Hindsight shows that this event would set the tone for the cruise to come.
Ports of Call:
Raiatea: We absolutely loved all of the ports on PG. The first day in Raiatea, the winds were very strong and we ended up with a cancelled excursion to Tahaa. Given that it was a Sunday, there were no shops open other than a local grocery store. Paul Gauguin’s excursion desk was wonderfully accommodating and helped my party of 4 find a similar excursion to The Pearl Farm. Ultimately, I’m sure we liked it better than the other option. The only thing I do not understand is why PG would dock in a town that had nothing open (Sunday) to accommodate the tourists. The very next day, we arrive at the Paul Gauguin private island, Motu Mahana. It seems they would happily switch the days of Motu Mahana and Raiatea in order to help the local economy and to cater the their guests a bit more.
Motu Mahana: What a gorgeous island! You can walk the entire way around the little island, it is well kept, beautiful and full of life. The Gauguin crew makes a delicious beach bbq lunch, and by that point, we had made friends with a boat bartender, Elmo. He found us as soon as we arrived to Motu Mahana and handed us our drink of choice, inside of a fresh coconut with a gorgeous flower. The service he, and others, provided was impeccable and unmatched to this time… and I’m not a cruise newbie. Make sure you bring water socks though, as the beaches have lots of shells and coral. We are SO thankful we had them!
Bora Bora: Heaven! The first day we chartered our own, un-sponsored tour in Bora Bora. I am so glad we did. It ended up with 12 people on board the outrigger and cost a total of $110 per person, which included snorkeling the coral gardens, swimming with sting rays and sharks, Lobster lunch in the water and alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks. It was for about 6 hours and circumnavigated the whole island. I highly recommend this! The next day we booked the Jet Ski Tour through PG. They dropped us off at our tour guide, Louis’ building and we quickly boarded the jet skis. This trip was amazing and Louis really made the trip one of the best. He was even able to pick up a swimming sea turtle for us to take pictures with. He also took us to his house (situated between the Four Seasons and the St. Regis!) where he showed us coconut shaving, pineapple plantations, etc. I highly recommend Louis and the Jet Ski Tour!
Moorea: This was a beautiful island with so much charm. The guys golfed at the Moorea Pearl Golf Club, which was beautifully groomed and had incredible elevation changes. Go hang by the pool at the Moorea Pearl Resort. My mom and I had a wonderful massage and a fabulous lunch while looking over the beautiful lagoons.
While at first I was a little disappointed with the look of the boat’s lobby, that feeling quickly subsided when I realized the glitz and glamour was replaced by unparalleled service and the best food on the high seas. Our room stewardess, Kim, did a wonderful job of keeping the room clean and tidy. I wish I could take her home with us! Our group was on level 3 and level 4, neither of which had balconies. I would highly recommend these rooms, as to us, the substantial difference in price wasn’t worth it. The rooms were wonderful with a full sized bath tub/shower combo and a great dressing area.
The food served on the boat was GREAT. Every dinner had multiple courses of delicious options, all paired with wines from around the world. Our favorite bartender even served us in the dining room every night and kept us truly happy. Alicia at the Piano bar, Elmo and Ernesto who made my omelet every morning at Le Grill were all impeccable. I cannot say enough good things about them.
OH, and did I mention the cold face towels every time you were waiting for a tender back to the ship? AMAZING!
Disembarkation: I cried. Seriously, in my after lunch, wine-driven, stupor, I cried. But it was totally warranted! There were no loud speakers corralling guests to specified areas. You could hang out by the pool while sipping daiquiris and then leisurely make your way to the gangway around noon. There, the crew met you while singing “You Are My Sunshine” and strumming ukuleles and handing you a cold bottle of water for the road. I get chills thinking how great that was.
The only things I would change:
– Don’t take the flight in that arrives at 9:55pm the night you depart on the cruise. You will miss so much of Tahiti by not getting to explore Papeete. This is a happy, populated, thriving metropolitan area, all with a down to earth, vacation-y feel. It’s worth coming in early and getting an overwater bungalow. (I recommend the Le Meridien over the Intercontinental!)
-Have Paul Gauguin switch Sunday in Raiatea with Monday in Motu Mahana. It would give everyone better experiences and would help the Tahitians!
– The bars on the boat don’t open til at least 9am. That’s 1pm Houston time. You can’t even get a bloody mary with breakfast! However, you can have the crew deliver champagne to your room a glass at a time. Seriously, if I’m paying for an open bar, I want it, when I want it. Period.
-I would like to have stayed in Bora Bora a third night. Maybe next time!
Overall this cruise was worth the money 5 times over. It is an experience like none other. Whether you have to book the cruise and pay it off for a year, or you can purchase it tomorrow and fly out on Saturday, DO IT! I can only hope my heaven is as wonderful as Tahiti.