Put the South Pacific on Your List!
by Celece Seegmiller for The Spectrum, September 24, 2013
Built specifically to navigate the islands of French Polynesia, The Gauguin features a small size that allows her to maneuver from open ocean to shallow lagoon as nimbly as a yacht.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” I found this quote from Susan Sontag the other day and it certainly summed up the way I feel about travel. Of course, I started thinking about “my list”, the places that I have been and the places I can’t wait to discover. I am often asked what is next on that list and ironically, it continues to get longer not shorter– despite my occupation. While it is difficult to choose one, there is a cruise departing August 30, 2014 that not only takes me to places I have been waiting to cross off, but also stops at one of the most beautiful places I have ever traveled: Aitutaki.
This is not just any weekly cruise on one of the megaships with thousands of passengers, it is a special 12 night Fiji, Tonga, Cook, and Society Islands on the beautiful m/s Paul Gauguin. The renowned, 5+-star m/s Paul Gauguin was built specifically to sail the waters of the South Pacific. With just 332 guests and 217 crew members, the 1:1.5 crew-to-guest ratio is one of the highest in the industry.
While Paul Gauguin is a luxury experience, they provide an extraordinary value. All inclusive fares include spacious oceanview accommodations, all meals, complimentary beverages including select wines and spirits throughout the ship, all entertainment, gratuities, and more. Spacious suites and staterooms (more than 70% with private balconies), a choice of three open-seating dining venues, and an extensive spa are among her luxurious attributes. The atmosphere aboard this recently renovated ship radiates Polynesian flair. The Gauguines—local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers, and storytellers add the unique personality of Tahiti to every sailing.
Retractable onboard watersports marina offers complimentary kayaking and windsurfing.
Watersports are one of the highlights of the Polynesian experience, and the m/s Paul Gauguin is constructed to take full advantage of these irresistible waters, with accessibility to ports and adventures that other ships can’t offer. The ship’s small footprint enables it to navigate lagoons that larger ships would never dare to enter. Their retractable, on board water sports marina brings guests down to sea level, where they can hop aboard a windsurfer, launch a kayak, or embark on a Zodiac® for optional diving adventures.
While the unique features of this intimate floating resort sound wonderful, it is the itinerary that appeals to me most. I’ve always had the philosophy that if you are going to fly far away, you might as well see as much as you can while you are there if time and budget allow. This itinerary includes the jewels of the South Pacific in one vacation and you only have to unpack once.
The cruise starts in Lautoka, Fiji and the first port of call is Suva, the capital of Fiji since 1883. Suva is perched on a hilly peninsula between two harbors. Guests have the opportunity to play golf, visit the Fiji Museum, walk through a rain forest, or go on a diving expedition. The next day is Savusavu, Vanua Levu. This island in northern Fiji is largely underdeveloped, making it an unspoiled haven and often referred to as the “Hidden Paradise of Fiji”.
Day 4 is spent at sea before arriving in the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga was never colonized by Europeans and it is the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy. The islands of Vava’u are renowned for their colorful reefs and white sandy beaches. The lagoon is so clear you can see to a depth of 130 feet. Activities include sea kayaking, a bird sanctuary, and a visit to Swallows Cave.
Not everyone can say they actually crossed the international dateline at sea. The next two days are spent crossing the dateline and enjoying the wonderful amenities offered on this beautiful ship. Although the m/s Paul Gauguin is small and intimate, she offers all of the things that make days at sea memorable and relaxing: cultural classes, spa services, fitness center, shopping, or of course, just relaxing by the pool and taking in the fresh South Pacific sea air.
Guests will have a chance to stretch their sea legs at the next port of call: Aitutaki, Cook Islands. This is one of the places I refer to as my “Heaven on Earth”. I will never forget my first visit to this breathtaking little island that is just eight square miles in area. Coral reefs surround this large turquoise lagoon and it offers the perfect opportunity to bask in the sun, snorkel in a marine reserve, or sail on a small boat cruise to One Foot Island. They will even stamp your passport with a foot before you leave!
Great sightseeing and photo opportunities abound on Bora Bora.
Another day is spent at sea before arriving at what Pulitzer Prize winning author James A. Michener called “the most beautiful island in the world” – Bora Bora. With Mt. Otemanu surrounding a lagoon protected by low-lying coral reefs, it is the perfect postcard shot of the South Pacific. The ship arrives early in the morning and stays until late at night, which allows plenty of time for swimming and snorkeling at Paul Gauguin’s private beach, scuba diving, helicopter flight seeing, and so much more. The day is full of adventurous activities for everyone and cameras will be full of postcard shots.
Relax at the bar on the beach, or have a cocktail at our floating bar at Motu Mahana.
The next port of call is Motu Mahana, an islet adjacent to Taha’a,. Here passengers experience white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and a full day to relax on this stunning island. While water sports and activities are abundant, there are plenty of options for simply relaxing on the beach with a beverage from the floating bar. Les Gauguines will also be on hand to provide musical entertainment and demonstrate traditional Polynesian crafts followed by a traditional island feast.
The final port of call is Moorea, known for lush scenery, incredible mountain peaks, and an abundance of fresh fruits and flowers. Excursions range from a botanical garden and agricultural walk, to golf, or even ATV adventures. The cruise commences on Day 13 in Papeete, Tahiti where passengers may choose to stay or fly home on a non-stop flight to Los Angeles.
This itinerary includes some of the most beautiful islands in the world and is only offered twice in 2014. If Fiji, Tahiti, Cook Islands, or Tonga are on your list, you won’t want to “miss the boat.”