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Our 2nd Return to French Polynesia Onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin


SelectSailingsandTours
"Ia Ora na, it is Scott & Kim Leeming with a 'real life' fairy-tale review of our 2nd return to the Geographical Jewel that is French Polynesia."

Overall Rating: Excellent

TRIP INFO

Sail Date:12/10/2011
Destination:South Pacific
Departed From:Papeete, Tahiti
# of Nights: 11-14 Nights
Cabin Type: Balcony
Sailed As: Family w/ Children

RATINGS

Food:<p>0</p>
Itinerary:Excellent
Cabin:Excellent
Entertainment:Excellent
Overall Value:Excellent
Spa/Fitness: Excellent
Embarkation: Excellent
Debarkation: Excellent
Staff/Service: Excellent
Overall Rating: Excellent

COMPLETE REVIEW

You can visit us on our facebook page to see all the wonderful photos of this amazing cruise!!! https://www.facebook...ctSailingsTours

Society Islands, French Polynesia & the Cook Islands

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Ia Ora na, it is Scott & Kim Leeming with another 'real life' fairy-tale review of our 2nd return to the Geographical Jewel that is French Polynesia.

The sumptuous Gauguin unveils the islands one by one and it is love at first sight! We felt as though we were in another place & time, intoxicated by unthinkable, almost fictitious beauty...

The South Pacific Gauguin Cruise & Overwater Bungalow experience is like something out of a dream...After experiencing our ASTONISHING honeymoon onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin in October of 2010, 'the calling' for this part of the world with its mesmerising beauty, enchanting scenery & what words cannot describe is purely inescapable...The islands sing to you with a sensuous whisper that can be heard from endless miles away...It is that rhythmic melody which brought us back to the destination that utterly captivated our hearts!

This time, we insisted on a longer voyage with pre & post cruise accommodations at the Tahiti Beachcomber InterContinental Resort - it was perfect!!

From the moment our journey came to an unwanted ending, we knew without question, we would return! The serene islands of French Polynesia with her palm fringed beaches will forever feel like home. We are very happy to share another recollection of our return to this tranquil paradise!

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The 11 Night M/S Paul Gauguin Society & Cook Islands Itinerary !

This South Pacific sailing charmed us with such treats which included, 1 day in Huahine, a day at sea en route to the first Cook Island, Rarotonga, then to the second Cook Island, Aitutaki (known as the "Bora Bora of the Cook Islands", A day at sea en route to Bora Bora (2 full days in Bora Bora - Thank you!!), 1 full glorious day on Paul Gauguin's very own Private Island of Taha'a, 2 days in Moorea, finishing off again in Papeete, Tahiti!

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Air Tahiti Nui

"Air Tahiti Nui, with a route network linking the South Pacific to four continents, is the leading carrier to French Polynesia"

Every member of the Air Tahiti Nui crew is fluent in French, Tahitian, English as welll as Japanese & have all been through extensive training to provide the highest standards. Their route map include First Class, Business & Coach flights back & forth from Papeete - Los Angeles, Paris - Los Angeles, Tokyo - Papeete, Aukland - Papeete & Sydney -Papeete.

Again, we had a very enjoyable 8.5 hour evening flight on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX. There are typically 3 different flight departures from LAX: 1:00 PM, 4:00PM or 11:50 PM… These flights get you into PPT at: 6:35 PM, 9:35 PM or 5:00 AM (next morning)... We find that the flight costs booking with Paul Gauguin or Air Tahiti Nui directly are about the same. If you are not adding a pre-cruise night at a resort & plan to fly straight to the cruise, booking your flights with Paul Gauguin means that you also get a complimentary transfer & pre-boarding 'day-room' at the Radisson Hotel until the ship is ready for you to embark after 2:00 PM..

Air Tahiti Nui with its aqua colored decor, soft island music & friendly smiles creates an alluring ambiance that makes you feel as though you have already arrived in French Polynesia. Each passenger receives a fragrant Tahitian white Gardenia (The official Tahitian flower) The Steward’s are very courteous & provide warm blankets & pillows, a nice packet complete with useable headsets, socks, sleep masks & ear plugs! The seats are comfortable & larger in comparison with other airlines. Hot meals from a menu, drinks & spirits are complimentary.

Content as we were, we slept most of the way again & awoke to a satisfying breakfast an hour or so prior to landing. Our deepest thanks for another fantastic & safe flight with Air Tahiti Nui! We sure love seeing that 'Welcome to Tahiti' sign & Polynesian music which brought smiles to our faces once again!!!

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Pre Cruise Tahiti InterContinental Resort

As we mentioned above, we booked 3 nights pre-cruise accommodations at the Tahiti InterContinental Resort... in one of the most private overwater bungalows on the property looking out at the neighbouring island of Moorea in the in the distance & beyond the calm, colorful & inviting waters surrounded us.

The InterContinental Resort has beautiful grounds lush with tropical gardens that flirt with all your senses. Meandering paths surround the Resort & are lined with plumeria flowered trees, exotic shrubs & palms. There are two infinity swimming pools & one of them (the lotus pool with a swim up bar) has a sandy bottom!

The resort offers centrally-located Motu Bungalows which are closer to the main resort facilities, restaurants, pools etc...But we highly recommend paying the added $ 65/night to stay in the secluded Overwater 'LAGOON' Bungalows ~ this is what you are after! Privately situated on the far edge of the resort, with deeper waters offering brilliant colors that call to you to dive in straight off your deck!

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After a welcome transfer along charming paths to your hut, you enter a perfectly air conditioned sanctuary, complete with ceiling fans, beautifully decorated flower filled vases of local flora, a welcome fruit & cheese basket, crisp white linens, very comfortable bedding & pillows - and of course - windows filled with that turquoise scenery.

Upon entering & without delay, we got our swimsuits on and jumped right into the ocean off our very own private balcony equipped with an outdoor shower! Wait a minute - isn't it December?... and here we were floating on our backs in warm water, looking up at the bluest sky we'd seen in months. Somebody shoot me!

We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 days of overwater bungalow living! It doesn't matter what time of day it is, the atmosphere is hypnotizing. Our days were harmonious & restfully spent swimming off our balcony & in both infinity style pools, lounging in our favorite spots, drifting in & out of sleep.

The sun's kiss blended with a rich botanical breeze, birdsong & lush surroundings put us in a peaceful & blissful spell. Stunning Tahitian sunsets ended each day casting a romantic ambiance of light that shimmered & faded under the stars of French Polynesia.

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InterContinental Tahiti Resort Staff:

We had read several complaints about the staff on Tripadvisor, let us state for the record that this is the furthest thing from the truth! We found the staff at the InterContinental to be very friendly & professional in every way! They did everything possible to make our stay the best that it could be.

We can see where a lot of frustration & anxiety can set in after a long overnight flight to PPT. Many flights arrive at 5:00 AM - 6:00 AM. The heat can be daunting upon arrival & if you arranged pre-cruise accommodations at their resort (instead of the day-room through Paul Gauguin at the Radisson)... and you have not pre-arranged early check-in (50% of nightly rate), the resort & staff will not be ready for you before 11:00 am. It is not their fault, it is your Travel agent's fault for failing to advise you properly & making those arrangements. In our minds, early check-in is a necessary cost that must be factored in if you are flying in a few days early & on an early morning flight. You can't arrive & start screaming at the staff because your room isn't ready. Take a moment to smell the flowers...

InterContinental Tahiti Resort Food Costs:

The food within the resort was very good, offering a good range of choice on the menu. Portions seemed large (example; could order a grilled chicken salad that fed two easily - $20.)

Each evening, in Papeete (right where you board the ship), there is an outdoor food court which serves a wide selection of delicious meals, the 3 of us could eat a very satisfying meal for under $60 us.

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Celebrate Good Times - with Kool & The Gang!

Photo: To the left is Kool

What are the chances??? We had quite a special encounter with a pretty famous group of talented individuals over breakfast - "Kool & the Gang" !!! What a great bunch of guys they are! We were invited by Curtis Williams (Pianist) to their concert, rode in one of their private shuttles to the concert & were given front stage/backstage passes! The whole concert was amazing both visually and musically...But it gets better yet...during their encore song 'Celebrate Good Times', we were actually invited to dance onstage in front of 4500 cheering fans :) Dedicating their hit song 'CHERISH' to our late daughter Jessica made it a night we will always remember.

From the stage, we could see the m/s Gauging all lit up at night & knowing we were about to set sail the next day was about as magical & exciting as it gets!!!

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M/S PAUL GAUGUIN– The Ship

"The m/s Paul Gauguin was designed specifically to sail the shallow seas of Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific, visiting small ports that larger ships can’t reach and effortlessly blending into the stunning natural beauty of the South Seas." ~ Paul Gauguin

Embarkation was swift, seamless & impressive. Whilst our luggage disappeared into the ship, we were then graciously greeted by the familiar smiling face of our friend, Cruise Director Michael Shapiro whom we had the pleasure of dinning with on our previous PG cruise, along with several other smiling staff who remembered us from the last cruise & who were eager to hug & welcome us aboard along with the welcome glass of champagne.

The Gauguin is a 6-star ~ Luxury Cruise Ship which underwent an remarkable multi-million dollar renovation that has only made the cruise experience that much better. The ship has a relaxing onboard climate with a constant mix of elegant leisure, fun, consistent style & service. The cabins are spacious & well appointed. The stewards ~ excellent! The dining & service in all three restaurants is superb! No matter where or when, the staff & chef are ready to serve. All beverages onboard are complimentary along with delicious wines that flatter every bite!

ONBOARD THE PAUL GAUGUIN

  • Spacious, all-oceanview suites and staterooms, nearly 70% with balconies on the m/s Paul Gauguin.
  • Spacious, all-oceanview staterooms, 8 with balconies on the m/v Tere Moana.
  • All onboard gratuities included
  • Complimentary beverages including fine wines and spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, coffee and tea served throughout the ship
  • In-suite bar setup and butler service in categories B and above on the m/s Paul Gauguin
  • Complimentary 24-hour room service
  • In-suite mini-bar replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water
  • Space ratio of 58 - among the highest at sea
  • State-of-the-art retractable Water-sports Marina
  • Onboard dive program
  • Onboard lecture program
  • Two elegant restaurants and one pool-side grill, all with open-seating dining
  • Well-being and vegetarian selections and special dietetic menus upon request
  • Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the ship
  • Complimentary in-room movie channels and movies available
  • When sailing on the m/s Paul Gauguin, enjoy complimentary use of their exclusive, private white sand beach in Bora Bora with bar service, volleyball and great snorkeling.
  • On your m/s Paul Gauguin voyage, enjoy a complimentary day on their private islet, Motu Mahana - off the coast of Taha'a featuring snorkeling, watersports, barbecue with full bar service and Polynesian hospitality.

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We had way too much fun up on deck Again!!!

Thinking back of all the times we daydreamed of returning to French Polynesia, we often envisioned ourselves on the fantail of the Gauguin, socialising with the other guests.

Between the ambiance of this magnificent & incredibly scenic environment coupled by the Paul Gauguin 6-star luxury experience, it is impossible but to be anything but the happiest any person could be. The ships atmosphere is like a big huge hug, it gives of herself the most satisfying & enjoyable pleasure which opens one's heart to the delight of truly living life! That happiness which is felt onboard flows through you like the exotic caress of the South Pacific winds...

Onboard the mood is grand, calm, exciting, peaceful & wondrous; it doesn't take long before you get to know quite a few people...It is an elegant, sophisticated, wealthy, but also down to Earth crowd... There is always an abundance of amazing succulent fresh fruit & beautiful salads of different types, garnished by some tender seafood samples of your choosing...And yes, we forced ourselves to go to the gym and work out for 30 minutes each morning to earn all that goodness!

The Gauguin Staff & Crew

We found that our cruise experience was truly a 6-Star luxury from beginning to end.It is the heartfelt & impeccable hardworking Gauguin Team which makes this cruise stand out from the rest!

Our room Stewardess Bernadette worked hard each day to clean our room & make our beds...we enjoyed excursions every day we were not at sea which meant leaving our room in a rush. Bernadette really went above & beyond our expectations for us during the entire 11 nights onboard.

Bartender (Elmo & Francisco) These 2 are on it!!! They memorised our preferences to perfection & often had our drinks ready at the first sight of us. It was always a fun atmosphere at the bar! We were happy to see many familiar Gauguin staff from our last cruise. The bartenders worked devotedly always serving guests with happy smiling faces...

Deck Steward Jorge, always there to ask us if we wanted anything, getting us towels etc...He spoiled us with great service.

Bar Waiter Nelson was extremely efficient & kept up with the busy pace of the guests demands.

Veranda Host Ivan Bolalin - flawless service & always such a genuine smile. We were extremely pampered by his gestures & work ethic!

We can't forget about John Kenneth, Assistant Cook - what a voice he has!!! This man can sing! ♫ ♪♫

WE LOVE RAFFY! Head Waiter (Raffy Pelegrino) he has the greatest smile & about as charming as can be! He remembered Kim's love for baked tomatoes which she can't live without, morning noon & night! ...

Assistant Waiter Rodolfo - a sweetheart, kind, thoughtful & hard at work! It

It was so nice to see Assistant Waiter Michael again!!!...He was a big part of our last cruise & brought room service many times...He is really on the ball, a real professional and has a fantastic personality.

Travel Concierge Manager (Pia Neetzad) what a fantastic personality she has! She went ABOVE & BEYOND for us and made us very very happy with a surprise that made our cruise the best that it could be!

It is always a delight to see & spend time with Cruise Director Michael Shapiro! His smile, warmth & humor is contagious!!! We really enjoyed his performances & his singing at night! What a wonderful person & friend! We had the pleasure dine with him again, had many laughs & a really great time!

We were remembered by the Gauguine Girls! They are all so kind, gracious & talented beautiful Tahitians. It was great to see them again! Hina - it was incredibly generous & sweet of you to lend Grant your guitar every night!!! We love your songs & beautiful voice!

We would like to also give huge thanks to TheSanta Rosa Band! What great bunch of talent this band is! My son Grant LOVES to play guitar & has been interested in music from an early age...The Santa Rosa Band included Grant in after show jamming sessions & invited him to play & sing along on one of the last evenings! You really made this a very special cruise for us all! Thank you!

The PG staff literally pampered us all from dawn till dusk again!

THE ITINERARY & THE EXCURSIONS:

~Huahine ~

Huahine, a sleepy Society Island also known as "The Garden Island" - for its wild blossoming jungle which flourish up 2 mountainous ranges & plunge into protected bays of emerald greens & soft white powdery beaches. Situated 175 km North-West of Tahiti, Huahine is made up of 2 secluded picturesque islands unified by a bridge. (Huahine-Nui & Huahine lti (Big Huahine & Little Huahine) There are 8 villages and a population of 6,000 people live amongst them. Rich with archeology, Huahine has close to 30 restored ceremonial temples...

Because we are water babies, we enjoyed a scenic boat ride along the emerald coastline to a pristine lagoon where we snorkeled amongst the colorful medley of tropical life under the sea. The tour concluded with a demonstration illustrating the uses of coconuts & samples of fresh local fruit & coconut were served.

~Day at Sea~

Did you know? A day at sea, en route to Rarotonga, onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin is the most luxurious, restful, relaxing, contenting, glorious & pampering way to spend a day...

~Rarotonga~

Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands (The Capital) with steep valleys & jagged razorback peaks. This castaway-ish island is lush with a bewitching blend of foliage covered mountains, surrounded by bone white sandy beaches & gorgeous sparkling turquoise lagoons. It's population was once nearly wiped out by European diseases but has since repopulated to 18,000 people.

We booked the Pa “Son Of Rarotonga" excursion which was recommended to us by Cruise Director Michael Shapiro. Pa is a traditional healer, herbalist & botanist.

The tour began with an enthusiastic greeting from Pa sporting a large smile, long blonde dreadlocks and minimal clothing. By bus, we ventured into the interior of the island where Pa resides. His property is perched within a lush & thickly forested landscape crowned by rugged mountainous summits that disappear high into the sky. Pa's home is a sanctuary of vast tropical plant species, infinite flowering blossoms of vibrant colors, an endless sea of palms swaying in the breeze & fruit tress of every kind (papaya, mango, banana, noni (the natural mosquito repellent which by the way, smells very very bad), grapefruit, star fruit & an abundance of coconut!

The walk was more like a hike embarking higher along an ancient pathway used by Pa's ancestors. Along the way, Pa shared fascinating stories and jokes about his life while showing us his knowledge of medicinal plants and their usefulness. He pointed out a plethora of natural remedies ranging from plant species that heal chest infections, taking away the mosquito bite itch by rubbing hot peppers on the skin, natural aphrodisiacs & many more. We concluded 'Pa's nature walk' back at his home enjoying fresh fruit samples & refreshments.

Pa happened to have a little extra time on his hands & generously offered a special extended tour by driving us to a few beaches with tantalising lagoons of blues for another fabulous swim in paradise before returning us to our ship.

Pa is a wise & humorous man, is famous worldwide & is one of the best known traditional healers of the Cook Islands. He is a spiritual man, warm, kind, attentive & in no rush, he lives moment to moment & it is obvious he is a man who enjoys people & life and all its marvel.

~Aitutaki~

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Deep in the South Pacific, Aitutaki is known as "the Bora Bora of the Cook Islands" & houses some of the world's most beautiful lagoons - 'it's what dreams are made of' in the middle of the Pacific blue! This 8 square mile Island has a small population of just 2,500 residents whom mostly earn their livings from the land & lagoons.

We saw some of the most arrestingly striking waters we have ever seen (next to Bora Bora) on the 5 hour, rejuvenate the soul "Lagoon Cruise & Beach Break"...

Cruising through the waters of Aitutaki was a sight that will remain with us forever...

We spent the day cruising through the picture perfect postcard lagoon, visiting uninhabited motus, snorkeled in several heavenly pools of warm crystalline waters amongst a rich & vividly colored marine life.

Just before our lunch break, our tour guide dropped us off about a mile from "One Foot Island" (to walk in 1 foot of the clearest bluest water imaginable to "One Foot Island")...Ever imagine floating on a fluffy white cloud? Walking a mile in the water in one foot of inconceivable beauty was unworldly!

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The panorama shouted out "embrace me, admire me, be awed, mesmerized & enchanted"...The waters are sparkling topaz, bleached & multicolored, ablaze with fiery opalescence...

Time stood still even though we were moving slowly through the shallows, the scenery was deafening; we were all thinking similar thoughts at the same time, almost holding our breath to ensure not to miss embracing everything surrounding us...

Left, right, forward & backward demanded equal attention...No one spoke... but we glanced at one another from time to time, stopping our progression forward & needing to capture that 'we really existed in this memory', wanting to remain suspended in this dazzling almost mirage-like oasis...This is what it means, to become one with the environment...

On "One Foot island", fresh barbecued fish simmered on grills, salads & fruit awaited our consumption.

After this succulent lunch, we enjoyed another 2 hours to relax and snorkel.

This was an amazing excursion that we highly recommend & is worth every penny! We would take this exact excursion again & again!!!

~Day at Sea~

Just like the last one, a day at sea, especially en route to Bora Bora, onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin is the most luxurious, restful, relaxing, contenting, glorious & pampering way to spend a day...

~Bora Bora~ Day 1 (BEST DAY EVER)

" Anyone who has ever been there wants to go back" by James Michener...

It is love at first sight! Bora Bora (an eroded cone of an extinct and extensive volcano), set within a wide barrier reef is 'The Treasure Trunk' of the South Pacific, a destination that just may stop you from ever leaving. The island is located about 230 km Northwest of Papeete, Tahiti & is surrounded by the most astonishing colored lagoon; it has a presence of almost unbelievable beauty that dazzles its way into your very soul. The spectacular & brilliant rainbow of blue, emerald, navy & turquoise hues of the lagoon leave you breathless; it is simply 'Earth's Heaven'...

Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu pierce the sky with royal intensity reaching 2,385 ft...Lush tropical slopes dip into blossom filled valleys that lead to the whitest sandy beaches . Bora Bora emanates exquisiteness that cannot be described by any language.

The day we were waiting for had finally fallen upon us & we booked the exact excursion as the previous year because it was the best experience we have ever had in all our lives! The Full Day Tour!

Our tour guide Aaree is the most outstanding tour guide we have yet experienced because he knows what clients are after. In fact, he could complete a 5 hour tour without saying a word & it would be the best tour you've probably ever experienced.

He began the tour, ukulele in hand, singing songs to us all as we sailed across the clear coral swept waters. We were taken to a wondrous snorkeling dream 'hot spot' where we explored gorgeous coral reef gardens and various colorful tropical fish species.

We were given bread to feed the fish...It was astonishing to be surrounded by so many colors of tropical fish at once, there were so numerous that we could literally touch them if we wanted to! They will try to eat the bread from within pinched fingers but it is painless & most thrilling!

Then onward with another dramatically beautiful boat ride to beyond the protective barrier reef...There, we swam with hundreds of black tip sharks & other tropical fish! It an exhilarating life changing experience!!! There we were jumping in with sharks everywhere. It was as exciting as the first time we did this if not better as we had already conquered the fear, we knew we were safe. They are absolutely gorgeous to see swimming under water! You never felt at risk and welcomed their passing only feet from you.

Next, we were taken to a pool of shallow waters filled with affectionate Stingrays waiting to be fed little fish morsels by hand. Whether joining them in the water or simply viewing them from the boat was enthralling and well worth it experience not to be missed! We felt like they were puppies competing to be pet... It just kept getting better with every passing minute and was equally as exciting the second time around.

The fourth stop on the excursion was a welcomed & delightful private beach stop. There we were served an amazing sis kabob of large fresh juicy grilled prawns & vegetables, rice, barbecued chicken & more sweet 'just picked' Island fruit and coconut! We ate with glee, developing a healthy appetite while being in & out of the water at sea & it was absolutely sensual scrumptiousness!

We laid in the sun on more comfortable beach chairs and swam in our own little lagoon where we were visited by two Stingrays looking for a hand fed treat! Our guide told us that they were the same Stingrays as the ones we saw there the previous year. They are fed & treated like pets...

The fifth stop turned out to be one of 'those moments' you simply never forget! This was a surprise, our wonderful guide stopped at a place he calls "Nature's Swimming Pool"...where the ocean waters are the most stunning baffling crystal clear & impossible rainbow of blues that are out of this world! This particular palette of blues is like no other, it is SURREAL!!! Our guide Aaree got a well deserved & generous tip from us as well as from the rest of our small group.

~Bora Bora ~ Day 2 (BEST DAY EVER AGAIN!)

InterContinental Thalasso Resort

We knew it would be beautiful but one never tires of being mesmerized & astounded with shock at just how breathtaking this planet can really be! You dream about it afterwards...The Thalasso was one of those places!!!

We began this day by renting a car in Vaitape (the small town where you tender) & drove around the island exploring with some very fun friends (Ramses II & Zha Zha Kaboom). We also visited a pearl boutique then headed off to the land-based Le Moana InterContinental Resort... From here, the Le Moana will allow you to take a free water shuttle to the Bora Bora InterContinental "Thalasso" Resort. Wow!

This place is PERFECTION! The second we stepped foot onto that resort we were blown away. The grounds were impeccable with pathways through tropical foliage & fauna from a dream.

The resort is positioned on the volcanic rim that surrounds Bora Bora. It faces the island beauty of Bora Bora itself. It is simply unforgettable...The color of the water will break your heart & forever call you back! It was a day of pure delight, satisfaction, relaxation & falling in love even deeper with Bora Bora than we already were!

We ventured along perfectly manicured pathways that lead us past a long white sandy beach that curves into a small natural lagoon filled with numerous species of tropical fish.

The celebrated Plumeria grow with abundance on the islands of French Polynesia. They can admired in colors of whites, yellows, reds, magentas, pinks & multiple pastels...

The car we rented cost just under $100 for the day. The same company that owns the InterContinental Resorts of French Polynesia, own the Paul Gauguin. That relation has made that resort available as an excursion that you can book onboard the ship which includes a nice lunch. Highly recommend it no matter how you decide to do it!

If you choose to book a pre or post-cruise stay at the Thalasso Resort in Bora Bora, we have great rates, but know that you must factor in the additional flight costs from Papeete & back. To get an idea of those costs, refer to this link: https://booking.sita.aero/asp/asp/airtahitiint

~Taha'a Motu Mahana~

We already knew how wonderful this day would be based on the fact that we'd already experience a day in "Taha'a Land"... Enclosed within the same barrier reef as Raiatea is the small Island of Taha'a Motu Mahana & Gauguin's very own private Island Motu complete with a floating bar! THIS IS A MAJOR HIGHLIGHT DAY!

We stepped foot on the soft white sandy beaches of Taha'a...Crystal clear, bath like turquoise waters surround Taha'a as far as the eye can see. To make things even more amazing, walk out of the perfect water and be handed a hollowed out coconut filled with rum & something. But wait – there is more! Suddenly, your senses are filled with an incredible selection of food simmering, sending mouth watering aromas of Island cooking into the air.

Because we had to, we lay amidst coconut tree-filled skies, gazing out at paradise on comfortable beach chairs which awaited our arrival. Fresh fruit & salads complimented the sumptuous grill buffet with appetizing colours & combinations... Somebody pinch us!

We carried our lounge chairs to our own private spot again, nestled between two palms & proceeded to swim, snorkel, sun bathe, sing, dance & cavort wearing Santa hats in December with our new friends, until the very last minute...

By day’s end, we returned to the air-conditioned sanctuary of our newly dressed stateroom onboard. Taha'a holds a very special & unique place in our hearts...what a day & thank heavens for all of those Motu Monday posts on facebook to bring a little of that serenity back into our lives!

~Moorea~ Day 1

Moorea Island - 'Polynesia's Green Garden' (pronounced MOE-oh-ray-ah) is considered the heart of French Polynesia. The Semi-circled chiseled peaks & volcanic spires cloaked by lush greenery burst through daunting clouds and are encircled by a lagoon of brilliant emerald & sapphire blends.

Cooks Bay has such gripping history; there is a feeling in the air of the mountains echoing memories of the past. There is something about the ominous yet glorious backdrop of these steep & jagged peaks that is beautiful, untouchable and tugs at your heart...There is a sadness in the clouds that shadow the deep green mountains surrounding this bay...perhaps it was imagined, as our Gauguin Journey approached its final days.

We booked the scenic open air 4 hour Aito Off-Road Safari...Where we ventured inside the volcanic crater from which Moorea was created. We drove through winding roads that climbed deep into the rich green jungle, stopped at a huge pineapple plantation rimmed by mountains of African trees & other native tree species, flora and fauna. The African trees were imported to secure landscapes to help prevent landslides. These trees spread & grow rapidly & their roots grow very long...

We particularly enjoyed this 'Nature's Spa' open-air experience. Much like the calm before a storm, there is a soft yet electric feel to the air, the botanical breeze invigorates & soothes all senses.

The tour continued on to show us ancient temples before climbing to the peak of the spectacular Belvedere lookout of Cook's & Opunohu Bays & then on to the top of Magic Mountain where unobstructed panoramic views of the Polynesian sea awaited us.

The view from the Agricultural School where we sampled homemade jams, ice cream with pure vanilla & local fruit juices - breathtaking!

The Safari concluded by visiting the Fruit & Distillery of Moorea to savour various yummy liquors before the picturesque traverse back to the Gauguin.

~Moorea~ Day 2

We joined marine biologist & dolphin specialist, Dr. Michael Poole on an eco-tour and research expedition focusing on wild, free-ranging spinner dolphins famous for their acrobatics.

Beginning with a scenic ride to Moorea’s reef, we were lucky to spot teams of these majestic jumpers right next to the boat! It was very exciting to see them so close and to learn about their characteristics. During our tour, Dr. Poole spoke of some French Polynesia’s geology and evolution. Apparently, between July and early November, there is an opportunity to view humpback whales performing their annual mating and calving rituals.

That evening, onboard the Paul Gauguin, we were treated to our second complimentary Polynesian Honeymoon Ceremony amongst all of the other newlyweds & honeymooners at the ships fantail!!!

~Papeete, Tahiti~

Sadly, this brings us to the end of our second perfect m/s Gauguin Cruise adventure! We write this review with happiness & precious memories knowing that we had the chance to cruise with you again, knowing we will continue to strive towards another someday!

~Post Cruise Tahiti InterContinental Resort~

One of our regrets last year was not extending our stay in French Polynesia post & pre cruise...this was not the case this time as we arranged for both which was the perfect extension to the best vacation we have ever experienced! We were sad to leave it all behind but we left with 2 authentic & beautifully carved ukulele's purchased from a local... And Tahiti InterContinental gifted us with 3 Tahitian shell necklaces as a goodbye keepsake!

If you really want to have the experience of a lifetime...you've got to go on this cruise with that special person in your life! Though there are several 5 & 6-star Resorts throughout the islands offering romantic ‘huts over water’ experiences, offering breath-taking views & water access at premium rates, nothing compares to cruising as we were treated to several islands with many variations of ocean waters all in one vacation & in lavish style. We say, stay in these resorts as a pre or post experience around the cruise & that way you will have it all!

One has to touch, feel & breath it all in to know what it's truly all about"...French Polynesia is a geographical jewel ...that will leave you yearning for further explorations amongst the bluest turquoise waters you will ever witness...

So there it is... a review about our return Gauguin cruise & the wonderful Polynesian staff who took care of us along the way...

Mauru’ uru

Kim & Scott

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Great review. I feel ya!! We cruised FP in 2006 and they are the most beautiful islands we've ever seen. Unfortunately we missed Rarotonga d/t to rough seas and the PG was stuck in port in Bora Bora I think b/c the seas were too rough to allow it to exit. We could not port there that day so we went to Moorea instead and then went back to BB the next day. We just flipped flopped our schedule.

We too did the Dr. Poole dolphin watch.

I understand you about wanting to get more of the beauty of these islands. For me I just had to have more after we returned so I found a website for Pitcairn island which was made famous by being the place the Bounty mutineers settled. They say they have the best honey in the world so needing more of FP I ordered some. It took three mos. to arrive as it has to be taken to passing ships, then goes to New Zealand, then from there by ship to the west cost. However it has a fruity, floral taste that is completely unique. Loved it.

Cheers, Larry

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Kim and Scott...what a fantastic review...love your style of writing, and all of the great pictures. Very informative, also! Thanks for sharing with us!

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Thanks you for your kind replies! Anyone who has been there has a deep passion for that part of the world!!! I love that you bought the Pitcairn honey too! What a great idea....Is it pure raw honey or has it been processed in any way? If it's natural, it would have all kinds of health benefits & I bet it is absolutely delicious :)

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