A luxurious cruise makes probably the most sense in French Polynesia, finds David Dickstein.
Watch the Journey Channel, speak to honeymooners, learn what Nicole Kidman, Keith City, Justin Bieber, Eva Longoria and different rich-and-famous should say within the superstar magazines – they’ll all inform you French Polynesia is the quintessential romantic paradise.
And, for them, how can it not be when the TV crews get comped, newlyweds pay with their cashed wedding ceremony cheques and A-list celebrities by no means have to take a look at a price ticket?
For the remainder of us, together with this journey author who prefers paying his personal approach to stay goal, spending greater than two grand an evening for a five-star, bucket-list overwater bungalow, $55 at a top quality restaurant for an appetiser (repeat, appetiser), $33 for a ham and cheese sandwich and $28 for a glass of unremarkable wine at a four-star lodge’s foyer bar is neither romantic nor paradise.
So, when French Polynesia is described as a lovers’ utopia, higher take it with a number of grains of sea salt. That’s, until the salt comes from one in every of three beautiful eating rooms aboard M/S Paul Gauguin, a Tahitian deal with if there ever was one.
The 332-guest Paul Gauguin, which makes up the complete fleet of Seattle-based Paul Gauguin Cruises, prides itself on being designed particularly for the South Pacific; the ship’s 17-foot draft makes it ultimate for French Polynesia’s shallow ports of name.
Its all-inclusive nature brings some sanity to the insane value of vacationing within the land of beautiful pure magnificence, emerald waters and dreamy sunsets. The cruise line doesn’t broadcast the money-saving issue, little question as a result of the dad or mum firm can also be the most important luxurious lodge operator within the area. Don’t chew the hand that feeds you, in any case, particularly when these bites at breakfast time value $70 on the sister InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa, the preferred pre-cruise lodge.
For these of us with French Polynesia on our bucket record – unique Bora Bora, particularly – Paul Gauguin is nautical nirvana. Its plusses are compounded in a side-by-side comparability with a comparable tourism competitor, a Hawaiian cruise aboard NCL’s Delight of America.
Doubling the worth of the cruise and spending slightly extra for airfare get you 5-star luxurious over Three-star mediocrity, a balcony cabin over one with only a window, solely 331 fellow passengers as an alternative of two,185, a 1:1.5 crew-to-guest ratio over 1:2.5, limitless drinks (adulty, too) over simply espresso, tea and water, and ideas and specialty eating places included as an alternative of being assessed $20 per day per individual for gratuities and $35-$70 in upcharges simply to eat an honest dinner. There’s additionally the gloat issue; inform a good friend you’re going to Hawaii, and also you get “that’s nice.” Say French Polynesia, and the response is extra like, “Oh, wow! I’m so jealous! Superior!”
Talking of superior, almost each facet of a current seven-day Society Islands and Tahiti Iti sail was. And appropriately so, Paul Gauguin is a luxury-category cruise line, versus mass market (like Carnival, NCL, Royal Caribbean) or premium (like Movie star, Princess, Disney). Luxurious cruises have a tendency to supply smaller ships, extra fascinating ports, higher service, greater high quality meals and extra inclusions. Verify, verify, verify, verify and examine. One other plus: blatant upselling appears to be taboo on Paul Gauguin Cruises – not a single gross sales pitch was heard all week.
All of Paul Gauguin’s seven-day itineraries sail in and out of Papeete. Tahiti’s principal metropolis is the place all flights originate, and fantastic Air Tahiti Nui dominates the market. The French airline serves a handful of Australian airports and presents one-stop flights to Tahiti by way of Auckland. The route of Paul Gauguin’s Society Islands and Tahiti Iti cruise consists of must-sees Bora Bora and Moorea, and tacks on visits to the islands of Huahine, Taha’a and the port of Vairao on the southwest coast of Tahiti. Overnighting in Bora Bora and Papeete slows down the velocity port-dating facet of an itinerary with no sea days.
Stern to Bow Wow Issue
With a lot going for the Paul Gauguin, getting there actually is half the enjoyable. It begins with the individuals. Having sailed on dozens of earlier cruises, this sea-legged traveller has interacted together with his share of phony and lazy staff. Not right here. Of the 217-member crew encountered, every was as real because the Tahitian pearls on show on the Robert Wan Pearl Museum in Papeete. From affable Capt. Toni Mirkovic down, each Paul Gauguin badge wearer is able to serve. Your complete crew act as hosts, however that position is formally taken on by a troupe of Tahitian ambassadors and entertainers named Les Gauguins (males) and Les Gauguines (ladies). Once they’re not main interactive onboard actions involving Polynesian arts, crafts and music, they’re entertaining friends with conventional songs and dances.
Lodging-wise, cabins on the Paul Gauguin aren’t that totally different to these discovered on megaships with 10 occasions the variety of passengers. One distinction is free rein of a mini-fridge stocked every day with beer, sodas and waters – one thing verboten with beverage packages on different ships.
Meals-wise, just like the work by its namesake, the dishes popping out of the Paul Gauguin’s two specialty eating places are masterful artistic endeavors. By day, La Veranda and Le Grill serve up luxurious breakfasts and lunches, then are reworked at night time to reservations-only, no-fee venues for gourmand eating inside or al fresco.
ichelin-starred Parisian chef Jean-Pierre Vigato helms La Veranda’s menu, his onboard protégés doing scrumptious justice to lobster lasagna, braised veal, coronary heart of beef tenderloin with beef tartare, roast halibut and guilt-worthy desserts. Polynesian specialties grace the menu on the extra informal poolside venue Le Grill. At L’Etoile, the ship’s essential eating room, nightly choices might embrace moonfish caught in native waters and arguably the most effective beef Wellington on the excessive seas.
Let the megaships have their full-production exhibits and comedy golf equipment – leisure aboard the Paul Gauguin is charmingly modest and indigenous. Native acts get tendered in to share Polynesian tradition by way of music and dance within the 314-seat Grand Salon. Additionally on the weekly program are performances by Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins, specialty acts, a crew expertise present, enrichment lectures and itinerary-relevant films starting from the Polynesia-set animated Disney function Moana to a documentary on Monsieur Gauguin, the Parisian artist who received his groove again whereas in self-imposed exile within the French colony.
Asterisks alongside Paul Gauguin cruises’ all-inclusive declare exclude spa remedies, premium alcohol, organised scuba dives and shore excursions, however this can be a uncommon cruise that doesn’t require spending further cash to fulfill your sense of journey. For the extra shipshape, snorkeling gear, paddleboards, kayaks and different watersports gear are provided on the ship’s retractable marina in again. At most ports, after the brief tender, free shuttles can take visitors into city for mild buying and other people watching. Someday is devoted to a hosted barbeque on the cruise line’s personal island, or motu in Tahitian converse. This part of Taha’a is palm tree-shaded paradise with sufficient loungers for everybody, open bars (one floating), a top quality unfold that includes 5 totally different sorts of completely grilled meats, snorkeling and different aquatic enjoyable in calm, translucent, sea cucumber-infested waters, and all of the whereas being serenaded by the gorgeous and buff Gauguines and Gauguins.
If you wish to spend on shore excursions and haven’t pre-booked, the cruise line makes it straightforward on the desk on Deck four or on the interactive TV system in every cabin. In Huahine, decisions embrace ATV, four×four and WaveRunner adventures, and the misleadingly named Huahine Nui Safari Expedition ($132). You’re pushed to an archaeological website, historic and restored fish traps, a spot the place blue-eyed eels congregate, a vanilla farm and, by outrigger canoe, a black pearl farm with a retailer, in fact. It’s neither a safari nor an expedition. The Highlights of Tahiti Iti ($132) tour takes vanloads to a lookout, a well-known surf spot and a water backyard that’s truly on the nui (giant) aspect of Tahiti. Clearly, there aren’t sufficient highlights on the iti (small) aspect. Two strong suggestions for Bora Bora and Moorea are the Day on the Seashore ($200 and $181, respectively). Every has you spending six or seven hours at a stunning InterContinental seashore resort, the place poolside luxurious and an included lunch await. A go to to both property, seeing waters of indescribable shades of blue, will substantiate why French Polynesia attracts celebrities, enterprise elite and political magnates.
A pre-cruise decide is a half-day circle island tour of Tahiti. For round $70 an individual, Marama Excursions whisks friends in an air-conditioned van to a waterfall, a water backyard (sure, the identical), a fern grotto, a blowhole (when in season) and a few lookout factors. What’s good about this tour is that by making a full circle across the largest aspect of the financial, cultural and political middle of French Polynesia, one sees the extremes between posh and pauper as introduced by a protected and educated native. Being uncovered to how the 30 per cent of impoverished Tahitians stay and the nation’s reliance on funding from Mom France is instructional and humbling, and it makes one recognize the subsequent seven or so days aboard one of many world’s most luxurious ships.
Highs: Posh with out pretentiousness, Paul Gauguin cruises supply an expensive, extra reasonably priced various to resort-based island hopping in expensive French Polynesia. The pure great thing about Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti and different tropical paradises is simply rivalled by the first-class service, delicacies and lodging skilled aboard a ship expressly constructed for these waters.
Lows: With little to see and do, Tahiti Iti is a weak name for itineraries that embrace the most recent port for the cruise line. A late tender to the ship may imply lacking the chief chef’s one-time culinary demonstration that includes an unlimited, colourful moonfish caught in native waters.
Greatest Suited To: Discerning vacationers extra snug in beachwear than formalwear; packing a go well with and night robe is a waste of time and invaluable baggage area with this luxurious liner. Cruisers accustomed to huge manufacturing exhibits and full-service casinos must be content material with low-key, indigenous leisure and a teeny, restricted gaming space.
If You Go ….
Paul Gauguin Cruises – www.pgcruises.com
Marama Excursions – www.maramatours.com
InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa – www.tahiti.intercontinental.com
Air Tahiti Nui – www.airtahitihui.com
Cruise Line: Paul Gauguin Cruises
Vessel: Paul Gauguin
Star Score: Three+
Passenger Capability: 332
Complete Crew: 215
Passenger Decks: 7
Entered Service: 1998
Amenities: Restaruants, bars, theatre, spa/fitness center, watersports marina, on line casino
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