Sailing the South Pacific with Paul Gauguin

French Polynesia is the ultimate destination to turn a vacation into an adventure.

The desire to explore the South Seas on the m/s Paul Gauguin was at the top of my bucket list, but my only hesitation heading to French Polynesia was whether the 15-hour flight time from New York in Papeete, Tahiti, would reduce my enjoyment. Having experienced many tropical islands such as Nevis and St. Lucia, I had no idea if the South Seas was going to live up to all the hype.


The flight from Newark was incredibly smooth with only a short layover in San Francisco, where I relaxed and recharged at the Polaris Club before boarding my next flight to Tahiti. I arrived the day before the ship left and took a room at the Tahiti Intercontinental. I highly recommend this pre-cruise night to your clients so they can acclimatize to the six-hour jet lag before boarding the ship. All pre and post cruise arrangements can be booked as a package through Paul Gauguin Cruises.

The destination is, of course, the draw, but how you choose to experience French Polynesia makes all the difference in the world. Choosing to sail the islands aboard the luxurious all-inclusive m/s Paul Gauguin, passengers are immersed in the warm and friendly culture of the locals while exploring the exquisite islands of French Polynesia.

The Gauguin sailing in Moorea. (photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises)

My seven-day cruise to Tahiti and the Society Islands included stops at two private islands as well as the picturesque ports of Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine and Taha’a, some of the most beautiful islands in the exotic chain of 118 islands and motus. (small islands).

My cruise on the beautifully renovated m/s Paul Gauguin was brilliant. It is the only ship of its type, custom built to navigate the shallow waters of the South Pacific. The ship is small enough to access amazing, quiet ports that are unavailable to larger cruise ships. The m/s Paul Gauguin offers many of the amenities of a large luxury ship but without the crowds, making it a dream come true for someone like me, a small ship lover. I knew the moment I boarded that the long flight was well worth the incredible experience.

I was amazed that in my seven days on board, I did not endure a long queue or wait for a tender, activity or food order. Even boarding and check-in was done in record time. I was in my cabin with my luggage barely 20 minutes after my arrival at the Papeete pier.

In 2019, French cruise line Ponant took ownership of Paul Gauguin Cruises and its flagship m/s Paul Gauguin, which underwent a major $7 million refit in 2021. The refit gave the ship a warm look , welcoming and elegant with a Polynesian touch. . The makeover includes luxurious upgrades to the ship’s 165 graceful and spacious staterooms with ocean views, three restaurants, a piano bar, spa, fitness center and all other public areas.

What makes this cruise so special is that the ship exudes an intimate and relaxing atmosphere in a very laid back and luxurious setting. I can still imagine myself relaxing on a lounge chair while admiring the beautiful scenery of Bora Bora as the staff happily treats me to the delicious drink of the day.

The long time crew were so fantastic and meticulous in every detail of the presentation. Friendly and warm staff greeted me by my first name just hours after setting sail. The service was the best I have ever experienced on a ship. Paul Gauguin boasts a 1.5 to 1 passenger to crew ratio, one of the best in the industry. The staff includes a fantastic group of local Polynesian hosts who immersed passengers in their local culture and heritage through crafts, storytelling and entertainment.

It was a luxury cruise without formality. The dress code was as casual as the atmosphere – no tie required, only smart resort attire was required for dinner, and casual dress was perfect during the day.

MS Paul Gauguin;  Tahiti;  Polynesian cruise;  Bora Bora
Wave Runner in Bora Bora. (Photo via Maura Lee-Byrne)

Adventure seekers will never be bored on the m/s Paul Gauguin. The ship’s retractable water sports platform allows passengers to enter the ship’s water to paddleboard, windsurf, kayak, snorkel and scuba dive with a PADI accredited program. This is a great place for your customers to learn to dive if they are interested.

If your clients are already certified but their last dive was a few years ago, they can even take a PADI refresher course online so they can dive once on the boat.

Other activities on the ship included an endless list of shore excursions. I chose three exciting activities: a two-hour high-speed WaveRunner tour around the island of Bora Bora; a superb guided ATV tour of Moorea through rugged mountains and pineapple fields; and finally, a memorable swim with sharks and rays in the crystal clear waters off Moorea.

MS Paul Gauguin;  Tahiti;  Polynesian cruise;  Bora Bora
Restaurant La Veranda of the MS Paul Gauguin. (Photo via Maura Lee-Byrne)

The food also exceeded my expectations. The dining experience on board the ship was superb with various options even for someone like me who has to work around food allergies. All three restaurants offered plenty of options, although La Veranda was my favourite, a reservations-only place that was never crowded and to which I was drawn like a magnet to satisfy my endless craving for creme brulee.

So who are the ideal clients to recommend the m/s Paul Gauguin experience? It’s not for your 20 or 30 year old customers looking for a wild party scene – the average passenger age is over 50. Although you may find a few honeymooners and multi-generational family vacationers, this is a cruise to be recommended for cruise passengers who will appreciate the calm ambiance surrounding this ship.

I would also not recommend this vessel for guests wishing to take young children. Paul Gauguin offers a special marine experience program for your guests with children aged 9 to 17, but the ship does not offer activities or facilities for toddlers.

The ship is owned by a French company, but your customers don’t have to worry about speaking French. All ship announcements and safety drills are conducted in both French and English, so your English-speaking customers will feel right at home on board. Even the restaurant staff spoke fluent English.

The m/s Paul Gauguin is the perfect recommendation for your affluent, sophisticated and well-traveled clients who seek an all-inclusive luxury cruise experience. The Paul Gauguin will not only allow them to explore exotic French Polynesia but will immerse them in the local culture, creating unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

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