Tropical Paradise with Paul Gauguin Cruises
By Our Founder the Legendary Michael Osborne
‘la ora na e mamava. Welcome!
What do the ‘Islands of Tahiti’ inspire in you?
Most mature travellers will remember a personal soap tv commercial where an obviously very rich woman suggests to her husband whilst flying along in their private jet, that “Tahiti sounds nice’’! He replies to the pilot, ‘Simon, Tahiti! And we dreamt of one day of even going there.
Well, our dream came true! Following an invitation from Paul Gauguin Cruises to select from one of their multi-award winning cruises, we selected the 14-day cruise from Papeete to the Marqueasas visiting Fakarava – Fatu Hiva – Hiva OA – Tahuta and Nukuhiva.
Then the Society Islands of Huahine – Bora Bora – Tahaá – Moorea and returning to Papeete
This was all arranged through the Sydney based travel agency, Wiltrans who are the Paul Gauguin Cruises experts in Australia. To set us in the Polynesian Paradise mood as soon as possible, we utilised the cooperation and support of the national airline, Air Tahiti Nui, who fly regular flights from Auckland New Zealand direct to Papeete using their ‘state of the art’ brand new Boeing Dreamliners.
To ensure we didn’t get caught with flight delays, we chose to fly to Auckland a day early and took advantage of the airport hotels run by one of our favourite hotel groups, Accor, who have the Novotel and the Ibis right next to the airport.
First a little history on the islands of Tahiti.
With around 118 islands, most encircled with turquoise lagoons, coral reefs, towering mountain peaks covered in lush green vegetation and clean white clouds, we soon realise why these islands have become some of the most photographed in the world.
The history of The Islands of Tahiti is a rich and fascinating one. Around 4000 BC it began with early settlers travelling across the vast, open ocean to explore the Pacific Islands. Tonga and Samoa were settled around 1300 BC. Later on, voyages to the Marquesas Islands started around 200 BC.
The era of the European’s began in 1521 when, Magellan spotted the atoll of Pukapuka in what is now the Tuamotu Islands and, in 1595, the Spanish explorer Mendaña visited the island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas. More than 170 years later, Samuel Wallis, captain of the English frigate HMS Dolphin, was the first to visit the island of Tahiti during his journey to discover Terra Australis, a mythical landmass below the equator thought to balance the northern hemisphere. Wallis named Tahiti “King George III Island” and claimed it for England. Soon after, and unaware of Wallis’ arrival, French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville landed on the opposite side of Tahiti and claimed it for the King of France.
Then they really hit the headlines with the mutiny of Captain William Bligh’s crew aboard the HMS Bounty.
Now it was our turn …
Our special access is because we are on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship.
Big enough to be very comfortable, yet small enough to gain close access to the islands we are exploring, being 153 metres long and a draft of 5.2 metres.
Originally built in 1997 it has been refurbished several times and is going to Singapore in April for an US$80 million make-over.
The boarding process is quick and efficient and we are being escorted to our new home for the next 14-days. It is always exciting when you see your stateroom for the first time and we were not disappointed!
The fittings were gleaming like a new penny and a sensational presentation of tropical plants and flowers, along with a bottle of French bubbles in an ice-bucket were on the table. The cork was soon released!
As our luggage was delivered, our cabin attendant introduced herself and explained how all the things worked. This included a new state-of-the-art TV system where we could order electronically anything from a coffee to a main meal to be delivered. It also offered almost everything you could imagine as far as restaurants, bars entertainment and excursions.
Now to explore the ship.
The passageways are a-buzz with excitement, as guests settle in, unpack and get ready for our first sail-away party.
Not that we needed encouragement, but the excitement was contagious as the other passengers greeted each other. It soon became obvious that these were regular cruisers and as we were to find out, this was the case.
But, being obvious that we were some of the ‘first-timers’, the old-hands were more than generous with offers of ‘anything we can do to help you settle in’. Such generosity only comes from very satisfied customers. A point that was to be confirmed on many occasions, over the next 14-days.
Owing to the fact that the ship is going for a total refit, I won’t say too much about the staterooms, restaurants, bars, lounges and public areas.
Simply to add, that we found them all to be very adequate and highly suitable for the mature traveller.
The smallest problem was which one first
La Veranda which is open seating for breakfast and lunch, with free bookings for dinner. Casual during the day and more sports formal of an evening.
Le Grill located behind the pool for open breakfast and lunch and free bookings for the evening. Great for the fragrant tropical air.
L’Etoile The more formal of the restaurants, which translated means The Star. Perfect for joining new friends in a more subdued atmosphere and to try and select from the ever-changing specials on the menus.
The maître de will ask as you enter or when you book if you would like to share a table. We found this to be a perfect way to get to know people from all over the world. It was amazing talking to these travellers as to how many countries visited and cruises enjoyed. I felt like the new kid on the block on many occasions.
As the menus are ever-changing, the best way to comment is to call it a culinary adventure. The meals are designed by award-winning chefs; the staff are highly trained and knowledgeable in suggesting a wine to compliment your choice. The wines are chosen from the best from all over the world.
Water sports marina
At the stern they have a fold-out marina where the fit and adventurous can access various toys to enjoy the calm waters of the lagoons and safe bays when moored.
Le Grand Salon
Every evening a live show is presented with international artists and special shows from the Polynesian crew, in this theatre style lounge.
Their fitness and natural rhythm is a delight as is the sometimes alluring island music.
Bars and Lounges
Obviously these are all going to be refitted in April/May.
A small casino is next to the Piano Bar, a great spot for a pre-dinner refreshment.
Our favourite was La Palette, where you can have a continental breakfast, or afternoon drinks and as it is on the top deck at the stern, a simple few steps to enjoy the air and the scenery and picture taking.
Very popular before dinner to capture the vivid sunsets
And even better after dinner, for a relaxing beverage and to walk out on deck to enjoy the millions of stars and the fresh air. Also, to enjoy the music and to dance to the band.
The Pool Bar
Loved by the sun worshipers and the main venue for the sail-away events, with the band playing lively music.
Guest lecturers and Experts
Like to learn of the history, flora and fauna and sea-life – well each cruise has a selection of experts in their field, who present daily sessions.
At the dedicated Shore Excursion Desk you will find too many trips of interest. Too many, because the cruise is not long enough. From relaxing on a private island, to water sports, scuba, lagoon boat trips and helicopter flights, even a chance to fly a plane. Maybe an escorted hike or sightseeing in buses and 4WD’s!
Having had the privilege to enjoy many cruises, I would have to say that this crew are amongst the friendliest and efficient I have come across. The quickly remembered your name, your seating, food and drinks preferences.
Find out for yourself why they won The World’s Best Mid-Size Ship Cruise Line Award for 2018 (Travel + Leisure) and many other international awards.
For the best information and to answer any enquiry about Paul Gauguin Cruises, please contact the Australian experts:
Wiltrans: http://www.wiltrans.com.au/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Aust. 1800251174. NZ: 0800446376
Mature Traveller sailed as a guest of Paul Gauguin Cruises and the support of Air Tahiti Nui *** Accor Hotels and Canon Cameras.
Words and images; Michael Osborne
Images : Canon 200D
Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au
1. Tahitian Dreaming
2. Smooth Sailing
3. Tuhiva Nuku Hiva
4. La Palette Arts and local crafts.
5. Nuku Hiva
6. Calvary Cemetery Hiva OA
7. Notre Dame Nuku Hiva
9. Spectacular Sunsets