Join Celece Seegmiller and Rob Kreiger on their Society and Cook Islands itinerary in 2017, see the details here
Written by Celece Seegmiller for The Spectrum Newspaper, October 9, 2016
On September 9th, I packed my bags and departed for paradise along with my fiancée Rob and 26 Travel Connection clients. We were escorting a group back to one of my favorite places on Earth: The Society and Cook Islands. I could not wait to return to this beautiful part of the world and share it with our clients.
Our thirteen-day journey began with a flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and then a nonstop flight on Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete, Tahiti. We arrived later than expected due to a long delay in Los Angeles and we were very tired when we finally checked into the lovely Intercontinental Tahiti. Everyone went to bed and had no idea what was waiting for them when they woke up the next morning. Nothing says “welcome to paradise” better than a view of bright turquoise water, an ocean breeze, and palm trees. It was the best way to “work our way” into vacation mode.
After spending the day at the resort, we transferred to the wonderful m/s Paul Gauguin and she was just as beautiful as I recalled from a year ago. I was astonished that some of the crew members still remembered our names and engagement ceremony from last August. I really shouldn’t be surprised, because that is what it is like to sail on a 332 passenger ship with 217 crew members (a 1:1.5 ratio). They greeted us with their friendly smiles and the service was just like I expected from the moment we boarded the ship.
Our group spent the next twelve days visiting the islands of Huahine, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Bora Bora for two days, Taha’a, and Moorea for two days. It has been over ten years since I visited the Cook Islands and I could not wait to return. The waters surrounding Aitutaki were just as breathtaking a decade later. Several of us spent the day on an excursion that included snorkeling with giant clams and then a beach barbecue on One Foot Island where we had our passports stamped with the famous “One Foot” footprint. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live on a deserted island surrounded by nothing but palm trees, white sandbars, and crystal-clear water, then One Foot Island is the place to visit.
When we visited Bora Bora, I scratched another item off my bucket list: staying in an overwater bungalow for one night. Because the ship overnights there, guests can take advantage of the overwater bungalow experience and it was worth every penny and more. We stayed at the Intercontinental Resort Bora Bora and Thalosso Spa, located on Motu Piti Aau, known as the islet of two hearts. Our overwater villa was twice the size of my first apartment – 1022 square feet. The living room had a glass floor with a view of the water and tropical fish; a wall that opened two a two-tiered, 323 square foot deck with steps into the bright blue water; a separate bedroom and the largest bathroom and shower I have ever seen in a resort. Each room offered incredible views of the water and the famous majestic Mount Otemanu. I’ve been very fortunate to stay in amazing hotels and resorts throughout my career, but this overwater villa is the best experience I have had in 25 years of travel.
Although it was difficult to leave after only one night, I was excited to get back to our ship and join our group for an excursion I planned to Bloody Mary’s. Chances are, anyone who has visited Bora Bora knows about Bloody Mary’s and has a t-shirt. The entrance is lined with famous visitors from royalty to Hollywood stars and athletes. It is a great place to experience local flavor and offers incredible sunset views from their private dock.
Throughout the week, our group experienced scuba diving, golfing, jet-skiing, drift snorkeling, jeep tours, and of course, many participated in the special Bora Bora anniversary ceremony. They received a true taste of Polynesian culture, spirit, and hospitality. I was not the only person in our group sailing for a second time. Two clients from Mesquite decided to join us again and commented “The cruise was everything and more than what we were hoping. We loved returning to Aitutaki and One Foot Island and our favorite new excursion was the drift snorkeling in Taha’a.”
There were a lot of fantastic memories we brought home from our cruise and many people in our group made new friends. It was so nice to see them exchanging phone numbers and making plans for activities when they returned home. One of my clients commented on how fun it was to travel over 4,300 miles and come back with new friends from St. George. I’ve always said travel brings people together and this another reason why.
People often ask me if I would go back and my answer is always yes. For me, the South Pacific is a place I can visit again and again. I don’t think I could ever get tired of the sheer beauty and a cruise on the m/s Paul Gauguin is the perfect way to see the islands. In fact, Rob and I scheduled a group departure for next August before we even left the ship!