French Polynesia is heavenly.
It lulls you into an almost dream-induced state of relaxation. (Though, just in case you need more relaxation, there’s a spa on the m/s Paul Gauguin, from which I recently — if reluctantly — returned. My assignment: experience the 8-day cruise: Tahiti and the Society Islands.)
The blues of the water are impossible to describe, other than to say the ocean always beckons.
You can answer that call with an array of off-ship activities: snorkeling, diving, kayaking, paddle-boarding, exploring by boat or jet ski. Island hiking trips also are available.
One of my favorite activities was our trip to the “Lagoonarium” in Bora Bora. Our guide, Max, was a young, high-energy local, proud of his heritage and eager to share his homeland.
The Lagoonarium in a family-run, natural aquarium where guests can swim with sharks, stingrays and tropical fish. Our visit also included a circumnavigation of Bora Bora by boat (with Max alternately commentating, then playing the ukulele and singing).
We made an additional stop in the ocean for snorkeling in an amazing coral garden to see even more fish: jackfish, black-and-yellow butterflyfish, multi-colored parrotfish, to name a few. It was fabulous.
My partner Shawn and I also loved our Moorea excursion with Dr. Michael Poole, a dolphin and whale expert. Fortunately, our trip was in October, just before the end of whale season. So in addition to dolphins, we were lucky enough to see four mother/calf pairs of hump-back whales.
A few brave souls in our small boat jumped at the chance to snorkel with the whales, although the water was so choppy that it was impossible to see anything.
Our absolute favorite shore excursion was on the third day of our cruise, when the Paul Gauguin spent a full day in Taha’a, the company’s private motu (Polynesian for small island). Regularly scheduled shuttles to and from the ship were offered throughout the day. But they were wasted on us.
What a day we had! Tanning in the provided beach chairs, snorkeling in clear waters, activities in the sand, a full bar serving endless tropical drinks in coconuts, and an absolutely delicious barbecue lunch.
Shawn and I left the ship as early as possible and stayed on the motu until the last return tender. I could easily have spent a week on that private motu – although I would want the Paul Gauguin staff in tow.
To top it off, the entire day was included in the cruise fare — the only shore excursion that doesn’t cost extra.
But now back to reality: the other excursions can get pricey for some. The prices ranged from $49 for a 2 ½-3 hour drive around the islands to $1,135 for a private boat escapade around Bora Bora.
But there was always the option to explore the islands on our own, or to take in the constant activities offered on board ship.
The options available was almost endless: shows, demonstrations, language classes, trivia games, bridge, shuffleboard, afternoon tea, bingo, ping pong, board games.
There was something for everyone, young and old, as the ship and destination attract all ages.
And that was part of the magic. Some guests came to celebrate special occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons. Others were groups of old friends reuniting. Some came just to experience this amazing destination.
But we all had one thing in common: we wanted to come back to the islands, and to the Paul Gauguin.
For more information on this or any of the Paul Gauguin cruises, or to book, please contact The Society of International Railway Travelers®: (502) 897-1725 or (800) 478-4881; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.