A Trip to Paradise……
Below is a Travel Blog written by Joanne Imeson from The Cruise Portfolio who was lucky enough to experience a PAUL GAUGUIN cruise. If after reading this you want to know more about a Paul Gauguin cruise, please give us a call on 01937 845678 and we’ll be happy to help.
Paul Gauguin – 7 Night Roundtrip Tahiti (Papeete)
So before I get into my blog I have to say French Polynesia was on my ‘Bucket List’ – I had it pinned as one of the places in the world I wanted to go more than anything so when the opportunity arose to say I was thrilled would be an understatement. It was made even better by the fact I was to explore the Society Islands onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin.
The m/s Paul Gauguin in my opinion is the best way to get the most out of your trip to French Polynesia as it allows you to explore all the different islands without having to constantly pack/unpack, keep checking in and out of hotels and more importantly being an all-inclusive ship it’s far more cost effective. The ship was designed specifically to sail the shallow seas of Tahiti, Fiji, 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. She offers an extension of the informal, relaxing environment of the islands, coupled with five-star service, comfort, and luxury. With only 332 guest and a very high crew-to-guest ratio it feels like a very exclusive way to explore the Society Islands.
Onboard they have spacious suites and staterooms (more than 70% with private balconies), an onboard watersports marina and a choice of three open-seating dining venues. The atmosphere aboard is known for its warmth, informality, and Polynesian flair and their beloved troupe of Gauguines—local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers, and storytellers—add the unique personality of Tahiti to every sailing.
Now, the difficult part of getting to where I consider being one of the most beautiful places on earth was the journey… If flying from the UK the most sensible suggestion in my opinion would be to fly London to L.A, with a stop in L.A and then fly L.A to Tahiti however we decided on a different route. Our flight plan was London Heathrow to Paris (CDG), overnight in Paris, then fly with Air Tahiti Nui from Paris (CDG) to Tahiti (Papeete) with a 2 hour in-transit stop in L.A to then re-board the same plane. I have to admit the thought of all the travelling did make me question whether the end result would be worth it; I soon found out it really was.
Upon arrival at London Heathrow it hit me that soon I’d be arriving in Tahiti! I was beyond excited. I met the rest of my group at Heathrow, I was travelling with 4 other girls, and we boarded the BA plane for our short London to Paris journey. Upon arrival in Paris we then had the task of finding our hotel. We were staying at an Ibis located near Terminal 3 at Charles de Gaulle, our flight had flown into Terminal 2A so we followed the ‘hotel’ signs (after being advised to do so by the information desk). After various lifts, moving walk ways and corridors we arrived at the pick-up area for the hotels where the buses come to. It turned out our hotel was one of the ones the buses don’t actually go to, but the driver of the bus took pity on us and dropped us of anyway!
After checking in we decided to grab dinner at the hotel – we were all very eager to discuss our upcoming adventure. Next thing we knew it was almost midnight, and with what we knew would be a very long day of travelling we decided to head to bed. The hotel room was nice, nothing special but perfect for a one-night stop at the airport.
Faced with a long day of travelling ahead of us we left our hotel, taking the RER shuttle from the hotel to our terminal – a much easier process than the night before. We got to our check in desk early and found there was already a huge queue – rather surprising considering we were there way earlier than you’d need for a flight and it looked like we’d been beaten to it by at least half the plane! We boarded and were greeted by hosts giving out flowers, a Tiare to be exact which is not only a symbol of their airline but a flower of Tahiti. With Air Tahiti Nui the flight figuration is typically 2-4-2 however the last few rows were 2-3-2 and we’re been given the last row of 2 and a 3. The upside was that we were right by the toilets and crew area which was really handy for a long flight as the only thing that really got me through was the ease at which we could get up and down without annoying anyone – that and I could recline my seat whenever I wanted to nap and not have to bother the person behind. It did have it downsides being at the back though, mainly being that you were last off the plane, which when you have less than 2 hours to transit from LA airport, go through immigration and security to re-board the plane it meant a serious rush!
The seats were comfy and we were given the usual things such as a pillow, blanket, socks and an eye mask etc. which were all nice little touches. Each seat had its own interactive TV screen in front of them with a good selection of recent films, short tv programmes and documentaries (mainly destination based), a good selection of music plus games. The meals onboard were good, typical plane food – the only thing we didn’t enjoy was the fact you were served the meals based on the times at your destinations (which of course is normal) but as we were on the plane for such a long time we ended up having a couple of lunches and a couple of dinners (on the way back we had about 3 breakfasts!). It became a running joke in our group that it was STILL Friday. Because of the time differences and our way of travel every time we were getting close to reaching Saturday we touched down and were back a few hours and it was still Friday.
After what felt like forever we landed in Tahiti. The warm air met us as we stepped off the plane… oh and so did the rain! After going through security and picking up our bags we were met by representatives holding Paul Gauguin signs who escorted us to a coach and presented us with a Lei – the excitement really set in! After a 5 minute journey we’d arrived at the Intercontinental Tahiti (a hotel used by Paul Gauguin as a pre-cruise/post-cruise option), presented with a yummy cocktail and shown to our rooms. We’d been given the Panoramic view rooms which were amazing! They had the most incredible views of the infinity pool and bar, the grounds, the lagoon area and in the distance was Moorea! I felt so lucky, I think that’s when it really hit me that I was really in Paradise! We dumped our bags and decided to meet in the lobby bar for a quick drink before bed to celebrate finally making it, and yes… we did actually toast when the clock hit midnight and we’d finally reached Saturday.
I awoke early and decided to take in the view from my balcony, although a cloudy day it still looked beautiful. We later found out they’d had an usually bad spout of weather for that time of year, but it cleared a day or so later. As this was a once in a lifetime trip I really wanted to experience as much as I could and make the most of everything, so seeing as I was being kept awake from jetlag I decided to go for a swim at 6:30am. The pool was open 24 hours but only staffed during the day time, pool towels could be checked out and sunbeds were available. It was beautiful, the water was so warm and I could have stayed in there forever. After a leisurely breakfast which was buffet style including cooked, continental and pretty much everything you can have imagined, I packed up my room and checked out. The hotel was lovely; great staff, gorgeous décor and a perfect place for a one night pre-cruise stay – in actual fact I would have loved another night to really get the most of the hotel. We were being transferred to the ship at 2pm and I couldn’t wait, the transfers were also part of the pre-cruise package with Paul Gauguin which made the whole process nice and easy for us. As soon as we pulled up at the port and saw the ship the excitement really hit. We were greeted by smiles and swiftly taken onboard and presented with a glass of champagne which was a perfect way to start the cruise. My stateroom was gorgeous; I had a window stateroom, category E. My first impressions was just how light and airy the room was, to say it was a window stateroom it didn’t feel dull, dark or enclosed at all. It was very well appointed, spacious and had everything I would need for a weeks cruise, I was really impressed. I also had the most gorgeous welcome gift of champagne, chocolates, fruit and a flower decoration. After settling in and unpacking we had the muster drill and then picked up our snorkelling gear from the Marina. At the start of the cruise you can pick up your own snorkelling set and it was then allocated to you for the duration of the cruise and you kept it in your stateroom for whenever you needed it, this was a nice little touched from Paul Gauguin, especially as watersports often played a huge part in the cruise and it was a big interest to many onboard. One of the things I noticed was the age ranges of the other guests; far younger than I’d imagined. I knew Paul Gauguin catered for all ages and they did get a variety but I didn’t realise to what extend until I got onboard. There were quite a lot of large multi-generational families and honeymooners, so that was really nice to see a good mix of people and I was informed there was a quite a lot of repeat guests too. For children and families the main attraction is the Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Programme which allows 9-17 year olds to explore and learn about marine life including activities such as hiking, rainforest trails, learning how vanilla is cultivated and exploring the coral reefs. This is a one off fee per child and it’s a full weeks’ worth of activities, parents are able to pay and join too if they so wish. I liked the way the dining was organised onboard. They had their main dining room L’Etoile which was open for dinner only as open dinning from around 6:30pm-9pm. La Verenda was open for a buffet & a la carte style breakfast and lunch and then an a la carte dinner by reservation only. Le Grill was the same; buffet & a la carte style breakfast and lunch and then an a la carte dinner by reservation only. On our first night we had dinner in La Veranda which was absolutely fantastic, not only did it have a lovely atmosphere but the food was perfect. Such a wide choice on the menu, a lot of fish and local produce. Still jet-lagged and tired from all the excitement we all had an early night ready for the next day in Huahine.
It was the morning of my first day onboard and I couldn’t wait to explore properly! We sat outside and had breakfast in La Verenda, with a mixture of things from the buffet plus a fresh made to order omelette it set us up for our day in Huahine. We decided to take the free shuttle aka ‘Le Truck’ which took us on a tour around the island to get to their main town…. The main town had 3 shops and a restaurant/bar. Never the less it was great to look around and the sun did make a brief appearance. It felt like a completely different world and it was so intriguing. After getting back onboard the ship we had a buffet style lunch in Le Grill which was located right by the pool and relaxed on our sunbeds taking in the beautiful surroundings. I decided to hit the gym in the afternoon, which was a decent size for the ship – a few cardio machines and a couple of weights. After a shower and quick change we headed to the Captain’s Welcome Party in the Grand Salon. The dress code onboard was quite relaxed; they referred to it as ‘Country Club Casual’ – it was quite nice to not always be so formal and expected to dress up. It just added to the very relaxed atmosphere onboard. Tonight we were having dinner in L’Etoile the main dining room with Christian who was the Cruise Director onboard. There were no reservations needed for this restaurant so you could walk in anytime between 6:30pm-9:00pm and request a table for your party. As the ship had already set sail from Huahine to Taha’a (Motu Mahana) we began to really feel the motion. Now I didn’t think I got sea-sickness; I’ve experience plenty of rough weather onboard ships before and it’s never bothered me before however this was a completely different experience. The m/s Paul Gauguin is a flat bottom boat, which was built specifically for the waters of French Polynesia making it perfect to enter the lagoons, however not so perfect when the sea is rough. We were advised this was very unusual for the time of year and it was as they’d had an extremely bad weather front the week earlier – needless to say we started dinner as a group of 6 and by the time desert came there were 3 left at the table. I have to say I’ve never felt motion like it, however luckily that was the only night I felt it so I’ll put it down to a one-off.
This was the day I was looking forward to the most, the day at Paul Gauguin’s private island – Motu Mahana, which was a private Motu along the Northern reef edge. Awaking early (jet lag….) I decided to take a look on deck and was faced with probably the most beautiful sight of my life. The most incredible sunrise came from behind the islands and filled the sky with gorgeous colours; it certainly was a goose bump kind of moment. I’d heard everyone say that the waters were like 14 shades of turquoise and they certainly were right. It just made you feel incredibly lucky to be alive, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and that’s exactly what I loved about being onboard Paul Gauguin, it was full of those once in a lifetime moments that you’d treasure forever. After grabbing breakfast in Le Grill, we headed for the first tender of the day – this was a top tip we’d been given. Getting off on the first tender not only meant spending as much time possible on the Motu, but it meant arriving before everyone else, no crowds… oh and getting the best sunbeds! The island itself was used just for the ship and was set up perfectly for the guests onboard, it was so small you could walk around it in about 5 minutes. They had a bar area, sunbeds, pick-nick tables, a huge bbq/buffet area plus a toilet/shower area, so it really did cater for a full day at the beach – plus all the food and drink was included for the day. It was just bliss, arriving on the tender it’s a wet landing so you get off directly onto the beach so you do get a little wet however it’s paradise, you can hardly complain! It was a boiling hot day but a gentle breeze really helped as you laid back and took in your view. We walked out into the crystal clear water for what seemed liked forever and yet it didn’t even reach past your waist. The island had lots to do; from using your snorkelling gear and kayaking to coconut demonstrations and volleyball. After spending pretty much all day on the island we decided to head back to the ship and get ready for dinner in Le Grill. This was again was one of the restaurants you could make a dinner reservation for between 6:30 and 9pm. It was a lovely space on the pool deck half outside with a glass roof cover, the menu was limited (just a small selection of starters, mains etc etc) however still great none the less. By the time we’d finished dinner we had already arrived at Bora Bora – the good thing about the majority of our ports of calls were that they were quite close, so often you’d arrive by the time you’d finished your evening meal. We decided to head to La Palette for a couple of drinks, being quite an active ship during the day with at least 50% of shore excursions water based and/or strenuous activities we did note that on evenings the ship wasn’t necessarily the most ‘happening’ place. This didn’t bother us as we understood that most people who went on the Paul Gauguin were there more for the activities during the day rather than a typical cruise-ship evening schedule. This being said there was still quite a lot on offer with various shows involving Les Gauguines, the Piano Bar and of course La Palette for dancing and a disco, so really the ship had a lot to offer for everyone. After a couple of cocktails in the warm evening breeze with the lights of Bora Bora as a back drop I headed off to bed as we had an excursion early morning.
Today I decided on room service breakfast so I could have a slight lay-in before our excursion. Room service breakfast was quite a big menu, ranging from a cooked breakfast to continental; all you had to do was leave your request outside your door before 3am. Our excursion today was the ‘Off the Road Adventure’ in Bora Bora, it was $129 and described as a way of reaching parts of the islands only accessible by a land rover, it promised stunning views and a guided tour of the island. It seriously did not disappoint – what an incredible excursion…. And when it said off the road, it really did mean off the road! There were some serious holding on to your chair moments when the Land Rover took on steep hills that you wouldn’t think possible and you got a bit too close to the edge of a cliff than you’d like but when you reached the top you literally skipped a breath at the views in front of you. The best way I can describe what I saw was to say it was like looking at a postcard. It may seem corny but you see beautiful images on postcards, you can view the pictures online and in the brochures but they always seem like a complete dream world. It’s always someone else’s image that you’re looking at but this time I was seeing it for my own eyes – and it really is as stunning as you’d imagine. Again I had that ‘luckiest person in the world’ feeling that Paul Gauguin deliver to you every single day. We were taken to various sites around the island, given a great insight from our tour guide and after 3.5 hours our tour came to an end. We decided to grab lunch in La Veranda today, ordering from the a la carte menu (they of course had a wide choice on the buffet too). Lunch, as like everything else onboard was great, I decided to go for a burger and salad. This afternoon was spent soaking up the sun on the pool deck before preparing for the evenings events!! We were informed we were on the ‘best cruise of the year’ because we were luckily enough to be in Bora Bora on the night of their annual event ‘Heiva I Bora Bora 2015’. This was the annual singing, dance and sports competition that all the islands in French Polynesia took part in. Talk about amazing, it seriously was a one-off and it was such a cool thing to experience. What was such a quiet port during the day had been completely transformed in the evening, they had art and craft stalls, a huge stadium for the show and it was bustling with locals. After a great evening we headed back to the ship (PG had put on late tenders especially), I grabbed room service dinner and settled down with a DVD.
After breakfast we briefly got off the ship to take a look at the local shops in town area, the majority were all souvenir and pearl shops – which were a big deal over there. We boarded the ship and had a quick lounge by the pool before taking the tender to the Bora Bora Motu. We’d been advised that this Motu was far more basic than the one previously as this was just a private area of a beach so it had no washrooms and no food, although they did provide soft and fizzy drinks. I had to say I absolutely loved it, the sand was just perfect, the water was divine and the view… picturesque! The lagoon was lovely, you could walk out for miles and it was such soft sand, it wasn’t great for snorkelling however we heard from people it was better round the other side. We didn’t stay for too long on the beach, only a couple of hours but it was well worth going. Once back onboard I decided to have a bit of time in my stateroom before getting ready for dinner. We met in the Piano Bar for a few pre-dinner drinks – this was becoming a firm favourite with our group. Dinner tonight was in L’Etoile which I was really looking forward to considering the last time we ate in there it was the infamous ‘sea sickness night’ and we barely ate so I was hoping this time would be different. The food was great, a good selection and very tasty, the majority of the food onboard was all locally sourced so it was extremely fresh. After dinner we headed to the Grand Salon, tonight was the Cruise Directors show. I have to say I was extremely impressed, he was a great singer and as much as I’d enjoyed the shows with Les Gauguines it made a change to have something a bit different. We ended the night we a couple more drinks in the Piano bar before heading to bed.
I love Moorea! Don’t get me wrong, all the islands we visited were beautiful and nothing could take away from how Bora Bora seemed literally like the most amazing place on earth but Moorea had a different look to it. It was so green! With huge peaks and such lush vegetation it made me think I was in a scene straight out of Jurassic Park, it was absolutely stunning. After a leisurely breakfast and a lounge around the pool with the most stunning backdrop we got off for our afternoon excursion. We’d arrange to do the ‘Under Water Walk’ excursion which was where you walk under water but with a helmet on your head so you can see all the marine life, and when I say helmet I mean it’s like a giant fish bowl. They did this excursion in quite a few ports however as we’d done various different things throughout the week this was the day that it fit in with our entire group. It was only $129 and very much worth every penny. I have to confess, I’m not one for the ocean; I can swim fine, I love being on a ship and seeing the sea and I think it looks stunning… from afar, however I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to creature of the sea. Watching from a distance isn’t a problem, but faced with the idea of going down into the sea and having them all swimming around me did quite petrify me. If I’d have been anywhere else in the world I wouldn’t have done it – that’s a fact, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if there was ever anywhere in the world ‘water activities’ had to be done, it was in the Society Islands. So I put my brave face on and we headed off to Moorea by tender where we were greeted by our guide. We were in a small group of 7, so our 5 plus another couple which was really nice, it’s not quite the same when you’re in a huge group for an excursion. After a short car journey to the Intercontinental Moorea we were taken to the jetty where we boarded our little boat. After a couple of minutes we arrived in the lagoon in-between two little islands and we set up camp for our adventure. We were split it to two groups and given our health and safety instructions and then began our descent into the water, it was only around 12ft so it wasn’t exactly too deep. The helmet was heavy and felt rather strange to start but after a few minutes I began to relax. We saw so many fish! As soon as we got down there they swam straight over to investigate as we were given food to hold which brought all the marine life over to us. The biggest surprise for me was the Stingrays, they were so soft to touch and far cuter than I’d imagined. It was an odd feeling walking underwater with the helmet, it was quite difficult to walk and you could sort of bounce and stride and though you were weightless. Just as we began to make our way back to the boat our guide spotted a Moray eel, he let us watch from afar as it popped its head out from the coral. Afterwards he’d told us he’d not seen that one before, he’d seen others in the area but didn’t know that one and often they could be a bit hostile which is why he kept us a little bit back. It was such a brilliant experience and despite being a bit dubious to start with I really enjoyed it and was so pleased I’d gone through with the excursion. On the boat ride back our guide told us to look out for sharks in the waters below and I actually spotted one! Having said that, I was pleased to spot one but even more pleased I was back on the boat for the viewing! After being dropped back off to catch our tender we took a quick look at the market stalls in the port area, most were selling pearls which seemed to be a common theme throughout the whole cruise. Getting back on the tender as the sun was starting to go down gave us another wow moment as the ship looked so beautiful in its surroundings. Tonight was Polynesian night onboard and we’d originally wanted to dine in La Veranda again however on Polynesian night we’d been advised that the menu was the same throughout the ship so it didn’t matter either way so we stuck to L’Etoile. Being Polynesian night the dress code was very relaxed, people were encouraged to wear their most tropical outfits and as much colour as possible. The most exciting part was between 6:30-7:30pm where local mamas were onboard making heis and leis. The local mamas set up in the hallways outside the restaurants and they made the most beautiful garlands and head dresses. I totally fell in love with mine and wore it throughout the whole evening, they also had a band playing local music and it was one of those times where you realise just how involved and in touch with the locals Paul Gauguin are. It’s not fake, it’s not a one-off, this was a regular thing onboard and PG really does ensure to give such a cultural and authentic experience when sailing with them. Dinner was sublime, so tasty and fresh – we really enjoyed our meal. We had a few drinks in the piano bar and as we’d had such a great evening we really wanted to stay up late and make the most of it. Christian the Cruise Director joined us in the Piano Bar for drinks and then took us up to La Palette where he instructed the DJ to turn the music up load so we could dance the night away. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t more than a hand full of people in there but we had a blast, La Palette was a great area that not many people seemed to visit. At the back of the ship with seating indoor and outdoor plus a dance floor it gave just an added extra for people to use on an evening. At around 1am I decided to call it a night leaving the rest of the group dancing until around 3am!
Today was our last full day and I was ever so sad about it. After a room service breakfast I headed to the pool deck to soak up the sun although it was rather hot, I realised I hadn’t actually taken a dip in the pool yet so decided to take a swim to cool off. The pool wasn’t huge, however personally I thought it was big enough for the size of the ship and it was really quite deep. It was a salt water pool which was very typical on all the ships I’d been on before in the past. We decided on the buffet lunch in Le Grill today as it was right by the pool, again we could have ordered from the a la carte menu but as there was so much choice we never really found the need to order anything else. They also had a hot station where the chef made ready to order pasta for you which was really good. There was always a large selection of salad, fruit and bread along with interchanging hot dishes which varied day by day. I can be quite a fussy eater and there was always a good choice so that was great. I enjoyed my lazy day in the sun and tried not to think about packing… but I knew it has to come at some point! After I nipped down to the marina area to take back my snorkelling gear and a few of the group decided to try the kayaks I headed to my room to pack. After begrudgingly putting all my clothes into my suitcase I freshened up as we had a very important date with the Captain. We’d been invited to a private sail away part… in the bridge!!! We were met at reception and taken to the bridge where we were greeted with a glass of champagne and canapés. We couldn’t have picked a better day to be in the bridge as 5 people were late boarding which meant we got to watch all the action as it unfolded. We were only supposed to be in there for around 30 minutes but we ended up in there over an hour as of course the captain couldn’t sail away until we knew what was happening. The last tender was at 4:30pm and at 4:45 there was still no sign of them. Various attempts had been made to contact them, they weren’t on an excursion so they’d found people travelling with them onboard and asked them to call and various other inventive ideas. Approaching 5pm the captain was left to make the call as to whether to set sail or not, however just before the decision was made the guests apparently strolled up to the tender that was still portside in hope they’d arrive, and it turned out they’d been too busy playing golf and lost track of time…! After they got onboard we finally got the set sail, only 40 minutes late. It was brilliant to see the bridge and I felt very lucky, but it was even better to be in there when drama was unfolding! We left the bridge to join the regular sail away part on the pool deck for everyone and being the last night they did a little show and thank you to all the guests and crew. All the staff came out and got together for a farewell presentation. After this it was a quick change for dinner, we put our suitcases outside the room to be collected for disembarkation and we met back up in the Piano bar for a pre-dinner drink. We had dinner in Le Grill tonight which was fab. Last time we’d had it in the covered area, which was mostly glass sides and roof but tonight as we were just docking in Tahiti they’d brought the tables outside and we ate under the stars and enjoyed the lights of Papeete infront of us. It was nice to have all the islands so close as it meant you could set sail at 5pm and by 7pm we’d arrived at our next destination. Dinner was lovely, I think it was possibly one of my favourite dinners whilst being onboard. It was not only the great food but the lovely ambience of eating outside in the warm sea air. I had pumpkin ravioli, caesar salad, vegetable tempura and vanilla crème brulee – a great last dinner onboard. We decided to head to the Grand Salon to watch the show before a last drink in the Piano Bar and then bed.
Disembarkation day. I really didn’t want to leave; I honestly could have quite happily stayed onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin and done it all over again. We had our breakfast in La Veranda for the final time and then mooched around on the sun deck before it was time to get off. On Paul Gauguin they don’t rush you to get off unlike most other cruise lines, you can get off leisurely at around lunch time of a bit after if you choose. We had taken the cruise package that included the day room at their Intercontinental Tahiti as our flight wasn’t until 23:59. We were given two choices of transfer; either disembark at 12 and have a 2.5 hour coach tour around Tahiti visiting various different points of significance or disembark at 12:30 and be taken by coach straight to the hotel. Check-in for your day room wasn’t until 2:30 anyway so we decided we may as well take the coach tour. All this was done smoothly and we enjoyed a good few hours being shown around the island with stop off points. We arrived at the hotel to find our suitcases ready waiting for us, we checked in and were given our own rooms at the hotel. I often find sometimes when places say you can have a ‘dayroom’ it’s not quite as good as it sounds but here you really do get your own hotel room to use which was great. For all those on the Paul Gauguin package a letter was given explaining how the process works, what time we could have the room to and what time transfers were for each flight. We decided to make our own way there in a taxi as it was only $25 for the 5 of us, the hotel arranged it for us however we did notice there was always a constant stream of taxis outside the hotel. Check out was at 8pm so we had plenty of time, so after a quick change it was time to head to the lovely pool we saw on our first day in Tahiti. It was quite nice this being the hotel we had stayed at for our pre-cruise stay so we knew the hotel, knew the facilities and it meant we could simply get stuck straight into how we wanted to spend our last few hours in Paradise. After a lazy hour or so by the pool I decided to head to the bar area to meet the rest of my group. Although they have a huge main restaurant in the hotel which has a big buffet or a la carte, right next to it there is a nice little bar that you can order snacks, sandwiches and even main dishes. We went for a standard sandwich and fries combo and a coke and at that point it’s when again you realise just how good value being onboard Paul Gauguin is. The food was great, really tasty and the service was attentive however the price tag that comes with it is quite hefty. It’s not as though it was just that hotel, all hotels in that part of the world are well known for their big price tags on food and services but it’s really makes you appreciate the value of the cruise. The sun had set for our final day so I headed back to the room so I could shower and freshen up before the long flight ahead! After checking out we re-grouped back in the bar for one last drink before taking the taxi ride to the airport. The airport was so busy! They only had 3 flights that evening, two to L.A (we were on the second of the two) and one to Honolulu and all three were within an hour or so of one another. Air Tahiti Nui kindly put our luggage through as ‘priority’ so they came off first in Paris which we really appreciated as we has only about 2 hours for our connection. Security was quick and we arrived into the departure lounge… which has one shop and a café area. Again, as there were only 3 flights that night in quick succession and we were the last by the time we reached the lounge all the seats were taken! It was a really small airport with not enough seats to cope for all the people. Normally it wouldn’t be too much of a big deal, but when your flight is at 23:59 and you’ve got over a days worth of flying ahead of you the last thing you want is to be fighting for a seat. After a while we found a few seats outside in the smoking area, it was an odd airport that was open on one side with a little grass area and a few chairs. One of our group made the brave decision she wanted a drink so queued for around 15 minutes just for 2 bottles of water. We boarded the flight smoothly and settled down for our journey.
The way back was slightly easier, our transit in LA went smoother and we arrived back into Paris (CDG) in no time. Our bags came off the carousel in Paris first which was great and we headed to the BA desk to drop our bags off for our final short flight. I’d checked us in online which meant as we arrived at the desks in Paris we managed to skip the really big queue and get straight to the front to drop our bags off. The time at the airport seemed to pass really quickly; we were all very tired and just wanting to get home. We finally made it back into London Heathrow and it felt a relief to know there was no more travelling ahead however it was still bitter sweet as we’d left Paradise behind.
Get up early, seeing the sun rise is simply incredible.
Take scuba/wet shoes, they really come in handy.
Do excursions you wouldn’t normally do, you may surprise yourself!
Get off the first tender on the private island day, it really is worth it.
Enjoy every last minute and create memories you’ll never forget.
The thing with Paul Gauguin and French Polynesia is that I had it down on my bucket list. I genuinely thought it was a once in a lifetime experience and that I would be completely satisfied with my trip. Now the problem is… I’ve been, I’ve experienced it and I’ve realised I have to go back! I really thought ticking it off my list would be satisfactory enough; I thought I would be ok only ever experiencing it once but now I realise I don’t think there’s any way I could be. I know I want to do it all over again, and there’s one thing for certain – it most definitely will be onboard the spectacular m/s Paul Gauguin.