Cruise Ship Paul Gauguin, a refined vessel holding 332 guests, cruises the most stunning seascapes and landscapes imaginable.
Avid travelers fantasize about Tahitian overwater bungalows. Shimmering turquoise water on all sides. Swaying palms. The finest hotel services. Shorts and flip flop weather. What could be better? An overwater bungalow that floats, transporting guests from one idyllic lagoon to the next. That would be the luxury cruise ship Paul Gauguin, a moveable feast of overwater bungalow attractions. Tahiti on day one. Then Bora Bora. Moorea. Even transit between islands is delightful. Gauguin passengers can step out onto private balconies and welcome the day in the middle of Bora Bora’s perfect lagoon, proclaimed Earth’s most beautiful spot by author James Michener.
After the freshest of breakfasts, head over to the dock on the back of the ship and check out a paddleboard. Later, rev up Waverunners for a thrilling circumnavigation of the iconic island. Then snorkel in the crystal-clear sea. Back onboard, a massage or dip in the whirlpool might be just the ticket for a little afternoon relaxation.
Appetite adequately stimulated, sit down for a sumptuous dinner featuring fish so fresh that was likely swimming about the time you were. Choose a fine wine from the extensive, top-shelf list or opt for a signature tropical drink. And dessert? Works of art for the eye and stomach.
Later, on deck, take in the sunset coloring the tropical sky before authentic Polynesian entertainment. Such is life aboard Paul Gauguin, a refined vessel holding only 332 guests that cruises the most stunning seascapes and landscapes imaginable.
The Gauguin and its small cruise ship peers share luxury accommodations’ usual attributes – fine food, exceptional service, refined spaces, and high-end accouterments.
These luxury vessels leave their land-based cousins behind in their ability to leave land behind. Cruisers don’t have to load up the rental car to experience multiple destinations. Instead, they are transported at leisure to enviable ports less traveled from posh Portofino on the Italian Riviera to One-Foot Island, an oh-so-isolated slice of paradise in the South Pacific.
This freedom and access put high-end cruise ships at the pinnacle of luxury travel. No other travel experience so effectively manages time and money, our two most important scarce resources. When all logistics are handled, every minute can be focused on the experience. When room, board, tips, drinks, and entertainment are bundled into the price, value is great and calculated ahead of time. Credit cards can be left in wallets, and minds don’t have to think about ordering another glass of wine.
Even the mega-cruise ships have luxurious suites and private enclaves. And living large comes with a plethora of onboard choices, which comes with masses of fellow passengers.
Ports less traveled
Small, though, is a luxury in itself. Like their mega counterparts, small ships check off iconic ports such as Athens and New York. But only the small ships can make their way up the Thames and dock in London’s heart or dock on the Italian Isle Elba, where the other vacationers are Italians. Or, as in the Paul Gauguin’s case, anchor in the center of dreamy lagoons like the surrounding Aitutaki in the remote Cook Islands.
These ships are not floating theme parks but rather beautiful boutique hotels, albeit with compact rooms, whose standout features are the pristine, authentic, off-the-beaten-path destinations they access.
Every Paul Gauguin cruise features a day on the very private Motu Mahana, a tiny spec of sand and palms situated on the reef that protects Taha’a Island’s lagoon. A floating bar greets guests as they wade ashore. Drinks are served in coconut shells. Food grilled on the island is as luscious as that aboard the ship. The warm crystal-clear water invites for a quick dip or leisurely snorkel.
What the small ships lack in mega-ship razzle-dazzle they more than make up for in uncommon service. Paul Gauguin crew members must have been studying our photos ahead of time as they already knew our names when we boarded. On the first night, as our waiter handed us the menus, he offered a quick recommendation: “Don’t order anything on here. Get the chef’s special fresh fish. I saw him on the dock this afternoon buying the fish, and he really knows how to prepare it.” He was right.
One of our tablemates on Azamara Journey, another small luxury ship, was extremely finicky about her food. So on night two, the chef came over to personally obtain her detailed preferences. It is that kind of service that attracts passengers to sail again and again with Azamara.
Loyalty is an important indicator of customer satisfaction. Luxury cruise lines chalk up many endorsements from people voting with their wallets. On Azamara Journey, many of our fellow passengers were repeat customers, some currently on back-to-back voyages. Silver Muse’s onboard booking manager told us we were on a rare departure with nearly half the guests new to Silversea. Usually, it’s close to 80% past passengers.
Unlike those lines, Paul Gauguin does not offer worldwide variety to repeat customers. On Azamara and Silversea, you can explore Alaska one year and the Mediterranean Sea the next. Paul Gauguin offers just a handful of similar itineraries through gorgeous South Pacific islands. Still, people return again and again. A retired attorney from Nova Scotia told me he was on his sixth Paul Gauguin cruise. “We don’t even get off at all the islands anymore,” he said. “We love the ship. And the service.”
He gave an extreme example. After the first dinner on his first Paul Gauguin cruise, he had not given as enthusiastic a review of dinner as his tablemates. It was not as spicy as he would have preferred. So, for the balance of the cruise, the maître d’ personally took very precise directions to pinpoint the desired level of heat. Magnifico! But it wasn’t until the Canadian returned two years later that he experienced the full measure of Paul Gauguin’s extreme service. As he entered the dining room for the first night’s dinner, the maître d’ greeted him by name and pulled a jar of his wife’s homemade Brazilian hot sauce. He explained that the chef had a jar for meals on the ship and another would be sent home packed with dry ice.
It adds up to great value
So how much does all this cost? A lot less than a hotel stay. The lead-in price is $4,645 per person for a 7-day cruise. That’s for a porthole stateroom. But you really want a balcony, which starts at $6,045. If you want a little more room, you can go for a suite for $9,345 and up. But you really don’t need it, as many of the public areas on the uncrowded ship feel like your own personal space.
Now consider what’s included with your floating hotel room
- Exquisitely prepared meals
- All drinks from alcoholic beverages to espresso drinks, sodas, and bottled water.
- Prepaid tips.
- Round-trip flights from Los Angeles.
- Transfers from airport to Tahiti day room to ship.
The non-stop flights take about eight hours. If you decide to make your own air arrangements, Paul Gauguin will credit your cruise fare. Shore excursions are not included as some people are not so adventurous to tackle the Waverunners and snorkeling, while others, such as the Canadian lawyer, are content to stay aboard. Compare the costs and inclusions to a stay at a Ritz Carlton. I think you will find a more interesting and exciting vacation at an exceptional value.
When to go – Tahiti and French Polynesia are about as far south of the Equator as Hawaii is north, so the mild seasonality is flipped, and there really is no bad time to go. The weather is consistently tropical. Just know that the days are shorter from May to September and longer on the flip side.
Dress on board – The Gauguin is “country club casual,” meaning there is no need to dress up for dinner unless you want to. Just leave your flip flops and bathing suits in your room and put on what you might wear to a nice restaurant around town.
Getting the best deals – Paul Gauguin’s prices are pretty consistent throughout the year, but discounts are sometimes offered on sailings that have not filled as well as expected. Also, good travel agents often pass along special discounts they receive for booking volume.
For more about Paul Gauguin Cruises visit HERE.
About Chris Meyer—Chris has been writing and traveling for 45-years. At 18, he backpacked and surfed through Hawaii and started writing for his college newspaper. The veteran journalist seeks out eclectic travel experiences, including “mudding out” a New Orleans house gutted by Hurricane Katrina, backpacking 50-miles across California’s High Sierras, and savoring luxury cruises. He loves the iconic and the off-the-beaten-path. Rome and Cinque Terre. Prague and Passau. Boston and the White Mountains. Chris has led travel groups on cruises in Europe and a tour through Israel and Jordan.