Polynesians sailed in simple canoes as early as 500 BC through the 118 islands that today make up French Polynesia. You can savor the same sailing but in high-luxury aboard an acclaimed cruise ship dedicated to exploring that glorious region.
You watch the sun rise from your private balcony in your suite, still in your comfy bathrobe and slippers, and there is a knock at the door. Your butler, who knows your name and how you take your coffee has arrived with breakfast just at the time you’ve requested it. You linger appreciating the stunning, lush green view of Bora Bora, its crystal clear, turquoise lagoon and the iconic Mt. Otemanu peak that is so close you can almost touch it while the smell of fresh-roasted coffee is poured into elegant china service for two. You know in an instant; it’s going to be another “tough” day on vacation aboard the exquisite Paul Gauguin. Wink, wink.
Paul Gauguin Cruises offers luxurious, small-ship cruising in Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji and the South Pacific. The award-winning, 332-guest vessel is the longest continually sailing cruise ship dedicated to this destination since it launched in 1998, and you can enjoy a complete experience in seven days or venture out to more remote destinations on itineraries up to 16 days. Either way, you are sure to enjoy an up-close, authentic experience of Polynesia from Tahiti, the Society Islands—think Bora Bora and Moorea— Cook Islands, the Marquesas, Fiji, Tonga and all the way to Bali if you choose.
Cruising with Paul Gauguin is great for first-timers, as the waters are calm and most of the route is through more-shallow waters and protected lagoons and bays, where the ship can anchor off an island. Remember, smaller ship can get into smaller places—pure cruising magic.
If you start from Los Angeles, the flight is eight hours to Papeete, Tahiti or a little more than ten hours to Nadi, Fiji, and your adventure begins. The experience is designed for you to connect with the destination as well as the on-board experience.
Gourmet dining abounds in three restaurants on board, on-deck experiences and, of course, romantic room service. And, two-Michelin-starred Celebrity Chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, who creates his menus from locally sourced produce and fresh-caught fish in La Veranda. We highly recommend the Grilled Mahi Mahi and the Yellow Fin Tuna Carpaccio. And in the afternoon, afternoon tea is just the pick-me-up you need to transition from your action-packed day to your elegant and entertaining evening.
Local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers and storytellers called Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins, who work alongside the local musicians and dancers who perform onboard.
The Paul Gauguin is a breath of fresh air and nearly 70 percent of all staterooms and suites have private balconies that let you drink it in. Some higher cabins also offer the coveted butler service we mentioned, where the butler will unpack your bags, make your restaurant reservations and schedule excursions.
The ship’s watersports marina will send you out on the water in a kayak or paddleboard in select ports, and if you want to venture into the undersea world of the South Pacific, a PADI certification scuba diving program is available. Divers who want to connect with underwater marine life typically head for the amazing coral reefs of Rangiroa, which is ranked as one of the world’s great dive destinations. The team at Paul Gauguin knows the lagoons, knows where the fish are, and the dive masters are expert at making every preparation for you.
The shore excursions celebrate the local people and culture. You may learn to tie a pareo or enjoy a drink at the famed Bloody Mary’s. And yes, they are famous for the Bloody Mary, fun and beachy cuisine, and a t-shirt that tells everyone you were there—perfect for a day on the island. We recommend snorkeling every chance you get, and if you are daring, the shark and ray experience puts you in the water with the creatures you’ve heard so much about.
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And there are two exclusive retreats you’ll want to schedule in advance. Off the coast of Taha’a lies the islet of Motu Mahana, where guests can enjoy a day of watersports, Polynesian activities, a yummy barbecue and cocktails from full and floating bars. The coconuts infused with libations and coconut water are not to be missed. It’s like private beach party in a beautiful land far away. In Bora Bora—the land of the over-water bungalows—you can relax on a private, white-sand beach and enjoy refreshments, a game of volleyball, and snorkeling and paddle boarding in crystal-clear waters. Bora Bora is a great destination for a honeymoon, second wedding, vows renewal ceremony or Polynesian blessing ceremony.
You can also book a very special evening with a marina dinner where you enjoy private dining on the ship’s sports marina with a personal waiter, dim lighting, flowers and a menu from La Veranda. Private music performances are yours as you sit under the stars.
And the stars are all yours—just like the ancient sailors who canoed these waters centuries ago.