Paul Gauguin Fam Trip – Blog
Well today our intrepid group of Agents started their journey to Paradise (the ms Paul Gauguin) with a leisurely evening flight to Paris followed by a slightly frantic shuttle bus transfer to our overnight hotel – note to readers, I recommend an overnight hotel in Paris that is actually at the airport to save the extra journey by bus!!
After getting the bus back to the airport this morning we started our journey proper to Tahiti with our ATN flight from Paris over to LAX, from where I am currently writing today’s entry in the Transit lounge at LAX (only because the Duty Free is closed of course)
Our flight (Air Tahiti Nui, Economy Class) was very comfortable – just one complaint – no personal adjustable fans so it was very warm onboard
There was a fair selection of films on offer and a great ‘buffet’ available throughout the flight that gave you the opportunity to help yourself to snacks throughout the flight – sandwiches, cakes, olives, ice-cream and drinks to choose from – and the served hot food was also of a good standard (2 meals on this first leg).
This already however has been a very long journey, and I would recommend to everyone to have at least a one night stay in LA on their way over to break it up, as to be honest the thought of getting back on the plane for another 8 hours at the moment is not filling me with joy!! Keeping a picture of the Island Paradises we are going to in mind is getting me through!
We finally arrived in Tahiti last night at around 9.30pm local time to a wonderful welcome of music and flowers – a quick trip through security & baggage reclaim and we were greeted with a beautiful smelling lei by a representative of Tahiti Nui Travel. Our transfer to the Intercontinental Hotel for our one night stay was quick & efficient as was our welcome at the hotel. Checking in with a drink in your hand is never a hardship!
Our room at the hotel is a standard room with Ocean view (which can’t really be appreciated in the dark) and was well appointed with twin beds, desk, TV, Mini fridge etc (with a kettle for all you tea drinkers). A small but well appointed bathroom (with a cheeky window between the shower & the bedroom for honeymooners…)
We weren’t really ready for a long night, but did manage one drink in the Tiki bar – very Polynesian in style (of course) with an extensive cocktail menu – I opted for a new creation – El Duke – with a combination of Cinnamon rum, Curacao, Apple and Lemon. A tall blue cocktail, it hit the spot after our long day – beware though, one cocktail, although a reasonable size, will set you back over £10.
This morning we have woken up (far too early) to finally be able to see our ocean view & it is spectacular. Slightly cloudy today but apparently the weather recently has been a bit hit & miss – but still beautiful. With a palm tree fringed beach with requisite hammock right outside, it won’t be long before we are down there trying it out.
Breakfast was buffet style with plenty of fresh fruit, pastries, yoghurts and hot food available and all was very delicious. After securing a late check-out room, we went to explore the hotel in the sunshine. With the choice of the Moto overwater bungalows and the lagoon bungalows, I would choose the lagoon as even from the poolside of the lagoon we saw plenty of aquatic life, so the bungalow’s balcony on the sea-side of the lagoon must have offered spectacular sightings.
Finally the sun-loungers were calling – but unfortunately not for long. About 20 minutes after we had got ourselves comfortable the sun disappeared and the wind rolled in, so as goosebumps are not a good look we sought solace inside and made a fatal jet lag mistake by falling asleep for an hour. Feeling suitably groggy we went down to the lobby to wait for our transfer to the m/s Paul Gauguin. A buffet lunch was provided for those embarking today which again was plentiful and of course you could make the most of the pool and facilities until you departed.
At 3.30 we were collected by coach and waving goodbye to the Intercontinental we were whisked on the short journey to the port to embark. Check in was quick, completion of a medical form before we embarked and then the handover of your passport was efficient and all done with a glass of champagne in hand.
Our stateroom is a window Stateroom on deck 4 and is well appointed and spacious. A welcome bottle of champagne, chocolates and fruit awaited us, as we explored the amenities. L’Occitane products in the bathroom, waffle robes & slippers and a stocked mini bar are my highlights…
After a relaxing afternoon, we met the rest of our group in the piano bar for pre-dinner cocktails and canapés (in case you’re interested, Mai Tai & chicken satay sticks). Dinner tonight was in L’Etoile a la carte restaurant where I sampled the Rib-eye steak – absolutely delicious.
The end of dinner signaled the start of the welcome cocktail party up on pool deck where our cruise director Michael Shapiro introduced the crew and welcomed us all onboard. More Mai Tais were served as we listened to the resident band before turning our attentions to La Palette – the disco…
With White Russians, Cosmos and Martinis being brought to the table by the tray-load, we made friends with a Swiss honeymoon couple, a young American couple and a Japanese film crew (most surreal moment of the trip so far was dancing with the film crew to YMCA – glad all cameras were firmly in their cases for this). We watched the ship departing Tahiti at around midnight from the top deck, before finally staggering to bed – I will point out that the staggering was due to the movement of the ship rather than our cocktail consumption. Ready for our first call tomorrow – Raiatea
Day 4 – Raiatea
After a fairly rocky night (well rocky compared to what I have experienced before) we woke up not so bright but early still on our way to Raiatea. Docking is scheduled for 9am, but unfortunately as it is Sunday today there will not be much for us to see as we have not booked a tour. It does however mean we can enjoy the onboard facilities…
So this morning after a casual breakfast pool side in Le Grill, we had muster before going for a wander ashore, taking the coastal path to the marina. The landscape of Raiatea is beautiful with the mountains providing the perfect backdrop to the peaceful shorefront.
It has been extremely windy so far on this trip which continued here in Raiatea, partnered with some lovely sunshine (and unfortunately some scattered showers). We hope the showers become more scattered as we go along as us ladies are looking to go home with a bit of a tan! One of these showers sent us rushing inside for lunch. This time we sampled Le Verandah – which at lunch time offers a French style buffet as well as freshly cooked to order grills. We opted for the cheeseburger – and it was a very good choice!
Day 4 – Raiatea continued
This evening we enjoyed another fantastic meal in L’Etoile – South Seas Moon Fish for main course – followed by entertainment from Les Gauguines. My goodness – I don’t think those ladies hips are their own! They performed a medley of regional traditional dancing as a group and they were amazing, gave all us ladies some tips for our next Saturday night out…
Day 5 – Taha’a
Today was our trip to Paul Gauguin’s private motu just off of the island of Taha’a. But, as we were awake nice and early again, we had time for a leisurely breakfast and a stroll around the rest of the ship, here’s what we saw… From the pool deck, we went down to deck 6 where Le Verandah (one of the alternative restaurants) is situated. Just outside Le Verandah there is a small gallery displaying various regional artifacts and prints of Paul Gauguin’s artwork as well as other art of the region. There is also a supply of board games for you to check out and a communal puzzle outside the library.
Just along the corridor is the boutique selling a huge range of goods. From Pareo, Tshirts and caps, to pearl and shell jewelry, toiletries and water shoes as well as general sundries and snacks.
Next door is the Deep Nature spa with several treatment rooms offering all number of spa treatments, as well as a Hammam steam room and hair / nail salon. Finally on this floor is the Gym. It is small but has a good selection of equipment including steppers, treadmills, cycles, cross trainers and weights.
Down on deck 5 we come to L’Etoile, our dining venue of choice since we joined the voyage, and the piano bar. This was the lounge where we completed check in and is a great venue for pre-dinner drinks with canapés served every evening. A little further along the deck and you come to Le Grand Salon, the venue for most evening entertainment. As you would expect there is a small stage with audience seating and a bar at the back.
Back down on deck 4 and we come to the Reception area, Travel Concierge, who are there to help with all your shore excursions and any onward travel requirements you have, and the dive team desk.
Now we were back to our stateroom, we grabbed our beach wear- including the snorkel gear that we had got from the onboard marina, and we ready to board one of the first tenders to take us out to the motu.
The most strenuous thing we had to do all day was our first job – choosing our sun lounger. Once we had that we were set for the day.
On Motu Mohana there is an all day bar service, local goods for sale and a lunchtime barbecue. As well as watersports, volleyball and beach massage.
After having a walk around the island (it‘s nice and small so a 10 minute stroll covered it), we settled own for a bit of sunbathing with our cocktail in a coconut shell (telling ourselves it was fine to drink before lunch when on a beach). The weather is wonderful today, quite breezy on one side of the island but nicely sheltered on the other and with the shade of a palm tree what more could you ask for!
We had brought our snorkeling gear so we decided to try it out with a little outing into the lagoon. We opted out of flippers as we had our water shoes but ventured out wearing our goggles etc. This was my first snorkeling experience and after a little bit of panicking about not being able to breath I was away and trying to find Nemo…
Well I didn’t find him, but we did see quite a few other small fish and quite got into snorkeling – it definitely won’t be the last time I go out this trip.
Lunch beckoned with the mouth-watering smell of a barbecue grill. There was a large salad selection, jacket potatoes, corn on the cob and rice as accompaniments, the BBQ offered local fish kebabs, tuna steaks, chicken, hot dogs and burgers. Everything was delicious and you could help yourselves as much as you liked.
Entertainment ashore was also provided by Les Gauguines who came around the island singing traditional songs – it was the perfect way to while away the afternoon. After a little bit of souvenir shopping (some wonderful shell bracelets) and a bit more sunbathing (ok a lot more sunbathing) we headed back to the ship to prepare for dinner. Tonight we are booked into Le Verandah.
Le Verandah’s menu is French bistro in style and I chose to have the tasting menu which consisted of 5 courses showcasing the chef’s talents. It was beautiful – Tuna three ways to start followed by a fricassee of vegetables, grilled shrimp on a mushroom terrine followed by your choice of main courses – beef tenderloin with a tartar terrine or a local fish. Desert was then your choice from the menu and of course I chose the Tahitian vanilla crème brule – delicious. And the restaurant itself was a lovely contrast to the main dining room which is wonderful and light, bubbling with conversation. Le Verandah was much more low key – more intimate and would be perfect for a cosy dinner for two.
Docking in Bora Bora tomorrow where we have booked our first shore excursion – an Underwater Walk which should be fantastic, can’t wait!
Day 5 – Bora Bora
We docked in Bora Bora late last night so had a smooth nights sleep – although jet lag is kicking in again as I was awake at 5.30 – oh well it gave me the opportunity to get to the gym. It was completely empty that early which was lovely. After a bit of a workout we went for breakfast up in Le Grill – it has such a lovely selection of fresh fruit, cereals, cooked foods and pastries.
The view from the pool deck was absolutely breathtaking. The volcanic peak of Bora Bora looked so inviting – just waiting to be explored!
As we had our excursion early afternoon, we decided to stay onboard this morning. It was quite quiet onboard as most people were off on morning excursions, over at Vaitape village or on Paul Gauguine’s private Motu on Bora Bora, so we had our choice of lounger. We chose to take ones with a view of Bora Bora – it seemed a shame not too…and we spent the morning topping up our tans.
For lunch we didn’t venture far, just over to Le Grill again and had some hot food – great Cantonese rice and sweet & sour pork belly, it was lovely.
So 1 o’clock rolled around and we were ready for our Aqua Safari excursion. This was going to involve an underwater walk with giant helmets on our heads that would pump air to us. We met in Le Grand Salon from where we went downstairs to get the tender over to the pier. The excursion host was waiting there for us next to the speedboat that would take us to the diving area. Once we had picked up a few other group members from the dive school & from the Bora Bora Hilton (which looked stunning) we were ready to go and we sailed round the lagoon to where the equipment boat was waiting.
We were given a brief chat about what was going to happen from one of our dive guides and then we were split into groups. Our group was going to go first, so one by one, we stepped off the back of the boat onto the ladder and went into the water up to our chests. Once there, we had the helmet placed on our heads and then we descended into the water.
Oh. My. God from someone who has never dived, and only snorkeled for the first time yesterday, this was the most amazing thing I have ever done. We had little bags of bread attached to us and the fish were swimming all around us trying to get to it.
We saw Parrot Fish, Scissor Tail Rasbora, Clown fish, Stingray, Moorish Idol (Gill from Finding Nemo), Moray Eel there were just so many different species darting in and out of the coral and fighting over the bread in our bags it was spectacular. By far the greatest thing I have ever experienced and I would recommend that everyone do it if they get the opportunity. The tour cost is $120 and it was worth every penny. Not only were the fish amazing the two French dive masters weren’t bad either ;o)
Tonight we were booked to dine in the second of the alternative restaurants – Le Grill – which serves freshly pre-pared Polynesian fare. I started my meal with a local platter which had a gorgeous spicy fishcake, a shrimp fritter and chicken skewer all served with a chilli, a coconut and a satay dipping sauce – delicious. Next was crispy lemon chicken and jasmine rice which was a huge portion. Wonderfully crispy batter and the lemon sauce was so fresh. Dessert was crepe suzette – which I’m not sure is very Polynesian but it was delicious none the less. Tomorrow we have another day in the paradise of Bora Bora
Day 6 – Bora Bora
Today we didn’t have any tours planned so we started the day with a late breakfast in Le Grill (think we are finally beating the jet lag!) before we took the tender over to the village. Two tenders were running today, the one we were taking to the village and the other which was going to the cruise lines private Motu which we planned to visit this afternoon.
However we then heard that because of high winds and strong swells they were unable to run the tender out to the Motu today so unfortunately we have missed the chance to see the beach – from other guests and the rest of our group we learnt that it was a small but beautiful stretch of sand. No facilities but there was a small bar. Much more low key than Motu Mahana – no loungers for example – and much quieter.
Anyway, we took our tender over to the village but to be honest there wasn’t much to see. A few souvenir shops selling almost the same as the shop next door – pareo, shell jewelry and of course the Tahitian black pearl. What we would recommend is that guests take either the island tour from the ship, or hire a car or bike. Both of these are relatively cheap for a whole or half day rental and the island is easily navigated as it only has the one main round the island.
Upon our return to the ship we heard that as we were unable to reach the Motu, Paul Gauguin were arranging for ‘Le Truck’ (a local bus) to take guests from the tender pier to the public beach of Matira next to the Intercontinental hotel , so we jumped on the next shuttle with our beach gear and made our way down there.
It was beautiful, shallow lagoon waters lasted as far as the eye can see and the white sandy beach was very inviting. Whilst not very big, it also wasn’t very crowded (as most hotels have private beaches that their guests use) so was perfect for the afternoon. We laid out our towels before venturing in for a paddle, and whilst it wasn’t quite as warm as bath water, it was a very pleasant temperature and a welcome relief from the warm temperatures.
Typically we didn’t think to bring our snorkel equipment so were unable to see properly to two stingray that came swimming into the lagoon. They came really close to the beach but all you can see in my pictures are two dark shadows in the water – I can assure you that they were definitely ray…
The drive to the beach and back to the tender pier did allow us to see a bit of Bora Bora and the stunning coast line of this beautiful island.
This evening we were invited to view the sail away from Bora Bora from the Bridge. I was very excited as I have never been invited to the bridge before. We met our escort in reception at 5, and made our way up to deck 7 and through a few secret doors into what looked like the Starship Enterprise. We were served champagne and the one of the officers explained what various equipment did and who was in charge of what. Then we were free to roam the bridge after much emphasis on the fact that we were not allowed to press any buttons – spoilsports! We went out onto the bridge platform for a last view of the peaks of Bora Bora before we pulled slowly out of the lagoon and into open sea.
We had been warned that tonight would be a fairly bumpy crossing as there were high winds & swell still so we had pre-pared and taken our sickness tablets – not willing to miss out on the veal we had pre-ordered for tonight’s dinner in L’Etoile. We decided to eat a little earlier than normal as we were all dressed and ready from the Captain’s reception so just time for a quick drink in the mid-ship Piano Bar before the restaurant opened. Unfortunately the swell was quite rough and a few members of our group didn’t make it through to the main course, but we hardy seafarers got through dinner & it was delicious again – I think L’Etoile is definitely my favourite evening dining venue. The menu is so varied and the dishes are all delicious and of a very high standard.
Most of us retired before the crew show which was on tonight – unfortunately it started just a bit too late for us, but luckily we managed to sleep all the way through the rocking & rolling of the ship and the pretty bad thunderstorm that we apparently had last night – it appears we have pretty sturdy sea legs.
Day 7 – Moorea
Today we woke up as we were docking in the beautiful Moorea. This lush, mountainous island is probably best known for being the famous ‘Bali Hai’ from the film South Pacific.
We started the day with a lecture about the Mutiny on the Bounty. It was so interesting as I admit I didn’t really know much of the story.
The lecturer that had come onboard was an archaeologist who lives on Huahine and has been studying the ancestry & history of the area. The lecture focused on the sailors from the Bounty – the purpose of the trip and what went wrong and explained how their stay in French Polynesia affected the local people. It was fascinating and I very much now want to visit the island of Pitcairn which is home to 45 descendants of the original Bounty crew who are interbred with each other and have not left the island since the 1700s.
Breakfast was a late affair in La Palette which provides a continental breakfast until 11am. With a panoramic view of Moorea before us we spent a happy couple of hours there waiting for the rain to blow over before heading to Le Grill for lunch which today was American Tex-Mex, Taco, Fajitas etc – it was absolutely lovely (yes, typically, this cruise had become a lot about eating…).
This afternoon, we thought that we would just take a wander ashore to have a walk around the local village alone – this was a mistake as you can’t really get to the village very easily by foot. There is a shuttle provided by the local pearl shop which obviously includes a mandatory stop in their store and as we had no intention of buying pearls we felt a bit cheeky taking their bus, so instead we had a bit of a wander around the little local stalls set up at the tender pier (still managed to spend some money) and then got the next tender back to the ship.
If you are a little bit more adventurous (and organised) than us you are able to hire a car at the port – but do get there early as they sell out quickly – or of course you can take one of the many shore excursions offered – whether you want watersports & sailing or island tours by ATV there is something for everyone.
Once onboard, we booked ourselves in for a tour of Moorea the next morning as we really wanted to explore a little more and then set ourselves up for a bit more sunbathing as the weather was now beautiful.
This evening was Polynesian themed onboard. And whilst I wasn’t brave enough to walk around in my Pareo, we did manage to get down to see the local ‘Mamas’ making Leis and heis (which are the flower bands worn on your head). We got a beautiful hei each – which made us look slightly like bridesmaids from the 80s, but they smelt glorious – before we headed up for dinner in Le Verandah where we had secured a table out on deck to enjoy the Polynesian Themed menu.
We had some beautiful local fish and seafood and were serenaded by the beautiful Gauguine’s – life doesn’t get better…
Our show tonight was a local dance troupe who came onboard to show us some local dances. I think we were all entranced by the young boy who was part of the troupe – he could only have been around 6 or 7 and was absolutely adorable!
Day 8 Moorea
For our second day in Moorea we had booked onto the Island tour shore excursion so we met at 8.45 in Le Grand Salon ready to get the tender over to the shore. We boarded our bus once there and were met by our guide who has lived in Moorea for 12 years – originally from Rome, she was just looking for something more exciting and has been in Moorea ever since.
Our tour included a drive around the whole island with plenty of picture stops, as well as a drive up to the viewing point of Belvedere. From the viewing point we could clearly see the two bays of Moorea – the bay where Captain Cook actually landed and then the second bay that is actually named after him, as well as the beautiful mountains including ‘Bali Hai’.
The island drive was fascinating – learning a little bit more about local life is always interesting, and the photo stops at the Pineapple fields, a local temple where the human sacrifices took place, and a viewing point over to the island of Tahiti (which is only 17km away).
We finished with a stop in Petit Village which is where the pearl shuttle would have brought us yesterday and to be honest, we didn’t miss much by sunbathing. There was a collection of around 5-6 shops including the pearl showroom and little else, I am very glad we booked onto a tour!
We left Moorea at around 5pm with a sail away party on deck. Sipping the cocktail of the day – Island Affair – we were introduced to some of the crew who had been looking after us all week and were treated to music from Siglo (the resident band) and it was a beautiful way to watch the sundown.
Just enough time to get ready for our arrival into Tahiti at around 7.30 and dinner in L’Etoile. After dinner, the show tonight was a local award winning dance troupe. Made up of both men and women we were entranced by the various different dances and spectacular hip wiggling from the ladies. You could see why they had won awards!
Tomorrow was disembarkation day and we were all already packed and our suitcases had dutifully been placed outside our staterooms already so we decided to have a few drinks in La Palette after the show. This was only the second time I had made it to the after dinner bar since the first night as jet lag had pretty much wiped me out after 9pm every night, but our last night had to be celebrated with another few cocktails and an evening view of Tahiti.
Day 9 – Tahiti
We had a very late flight from Tahiti tonight, so although we needed to be out of our rooms by 9.30, we had all morning onboard to relax. Breakfast was served in La Veranda this morning, and then we headed out onto pool deck to get those last few rays of sun. The pool bar was still open this morning which was wonderful, as we could really enjoy our last few hours. There were the few people on cocktails still, but we had decided to start the liver detox and stuck to soft drinks, before heading back to Le Veranda for lunch. An extensive buffet was provided for those of us disembarking and we sat outside to enjoy it, before disembarking at just after 12pm.
We were all directed to our bus (after identifying our luggage) and given a complimentary tour of Tahiti. Our guide was a lady from Brighton (!) who had met her Tahitian husband in Barcelona and moved out here with him. The tour was really interesting. We drove around to the bay where both Captain Cook & William Bligh anchored and saw the monuments that have been erected in their honour before walking down to the black sand beach of the bay. The volcanic sand was wonderfully soft and typical for Tahiti, where 85% of the beaches are black sand.
Tahiti is actually a very lush island once you are away from the beaches, and we went into a little tropical oasis to see one of the waterfalls. A mosquito fest, but absolutely beautiful. Our final stop on the tour was to the home of James Norman Hall – one of the authors of Mutiny on the Bounty. He made Tahiti his home when writing the book and never left, and now his daughter spends half of her year in Tahiti also.
Although this was a reproduction of his house (it was moved about 5 meters from the original house when they built the road) it was absolutely fascinating. All of the furniture was original and there were lots of family photographs and artwork from Hall’s time at the house and of course a library filled with the many books he wrote and enjoyed. The guide was very knowledgeable about his life including his interesting military history.
Finally we were dropped off at the Intercontinental Tahiti Hotel where we had day rooms reserved. It was already around 4pm so we almost ran from our room to catch the last rays of sun at the pool. We got a lounger at the infinity pool which had an amazing view of Moorea across the way – watching the sunset behind this beautiful island is a memory I will keep forever!
After sundown, we had time for a bite to eat and a shower before we were picked up at 9pm to go to the airport.
Check in at Tahiti Faa’a airport was quite slow but eventually we were through security where there is a snack bar and a small duty free shop to occupy you before your flight. Our flight was a little delayed leaving Tahiti but eventually we were in the air for the first of our long flights home.
LAX Security was as busy as it was on the way out so an hour of our 2 hour stop was spent queuing. Time for a quick freshen up and we were back in the plane! Our flight was again delayed by almost an hour, but luckily we made up half of that in the air and got to Paris mid morning on Monday. Coming through security was very quick, and baggage reclaim wasn’t too bad – what is good is that you arrive into the same terminal that you need to check back in for our flight to London.
Our final flight was also delayed (really wanted to just be home by this point!) but was very smooth and got us into London around lunchtime.
We had already booked the Heathrow Express train so we claimed our luggage and got straight down to the platform, only 10 minutes to wait before we were whisked off across London on our final leg of the journey.
My final conclusions
I don’t think there is any better way to see the beautiful islands of the South Pacific than by sea. Pulling into the lagoons and coves surrounded by the imposing mountains and blue sea is breathtaking and something that cannot be seen from the beach.
Also, the islands are a very expensive place, and being able to enjoy the All-Inclusiveness of the ship is such good value for money that you just wouldn’t get by staying ashore in a hotel – which are amazing, but maybe best saved for just a few extra days stay rather than your whole trip.
It is definitely worth booking onto the excursions organized by the ship or doing your research before you go so that you don’t miss any of the hidden treasures of the islands – and it is definitely worth including some kind of watersport activity into your plans.
Getting to the South Pacific is long and hard going to do all at once – I would definitely recommend breaking the journey with a stop-over in LA – just one or two days will be fine, just to help you unbend your body from the shape of the plane seat before you get back in again!
And finally – Seeing the islands of the South Pacific should be a must for everyone. Such a rich, interesting history and the most beautiful vistas I have seen – it is something that you just can’t explain – they need to be experienced…