After a long, long journey to Papeete it was a treat to be greeted by Tahitian musicians and dancers welcoming us to the airport, and once we had passed through immigration we were met by representatives who gave us a flower lei to get us into the mood. We were guided to our bus, which took us to the Intercontinental Resort for a much needed night of rest and recuperation.
The next morning I opened the curtains onto the balcony and was treated to a panoramic view of the turquoise ocean, and although the skies were a little cloudy, I couldn't wait to start our cruise.
The MS Paul Gauguin provides a great home from which to enjoy this area of the world, with various dining options at no extra charge, excellent service levels and food of a very high standard. Al fresco dining is available to make the most of the beautiful views, and with drinks included there is nothing to stop you toasting those amazing sunsets up on deck. A highlight for me was the private beach day, where you can snorkel in the crystal clear waters and lounge on a sunbed with views of the Paul Gauguin in the distance, visible between the palm trees.
A swim will help you to work up an appetite, and the crew from the ship are on hand to serve up drinks at the bar and a fantastic barbecue. Activities such as basket weaving are also available to keep you occupied. The boat ride to the island itself is a treat as you sail over the turquoise waters, with a wet landing at the end - reef shoes are a worthwhile investment. I am told there are 14 shades of turquoise to be seen around the Society Islands, and there is an excellent selection of shore excursions available. Whether you are into your water sports, cultural tours or exciting off-road adventures, there is something for everyone, and with kayaking and paddle boarding available from the marina at the back of the ship you do not have to venture far to get started.
I would definitely recommend the underwater helmet dives and off-road adventures available in Bora Bora and Moorea, and for those not afraid of flying I hear the helicopter tours over the islands were well worth doing. The Paul Gauguin really brings the local culture on board the ship and makes you feel part of the destination you are visiting, with various activities throughout the day, including Tahitian language classes, jewellery making and shows from local children and dance troupes.
Tahitian night brings the local Mamas on board to create amazing heis (headdresses) and leis (necklaces), made from local flowers for you to keep. With lessons from the Gauguines during the week to show you how to tie your pareo there is no excuse to not fit in with the locals on this special evening!
With great service, gorgeous backdrops and memories to last, this was truly a trip to paradise.
Top tips: How to make the most of your cruise with Paul Gauguin
- Invest in an underwater camera and water shoes
- Take US dollars instead of French Polynesian francs as it can be difficult to change local currency back
- Go down to the watersports marina to rent your complimentary snorkel equipment on the day of embarkation
- No visas are required, but make sure you apply for an ESTA before travelling for the transit in the US
- The penultimate night is Polynesian themed, where traditional dress is encouraged - bring your best 'Hawaiian' shirt or pareos!
Find out more: Request a Paul Gauguin Cruises brochure