SOCIETY ISLANDS OF FRENCH POLYNESIA
Newlyweds Honeymooning in French Polynesia
Society Islands of French Polynesia
It is Scott & Kim Leeming with the review of our recent 7 Night Honeymoon Cruising the beautiful & breathtaking Society Islands of French Polynesia!
First of all, if all you have is 7 nights ~ then fine, but know that you will be dragging each other onto that flight home, knowing that you are about to leave the most incredible vacation paradise in the world! This vacation honeymoon in French Polynesia, is the best gift 'for us', we have ever experienced!
AIR TAHITI NUI & PRE-CRUISE Hotel:
We had a very enjoyable 8.5 hour evening flight on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX. There are two flights each day from LAX: (1:00 PM and 4:00PM)… The steward’s were very courteous, provided as many warm blankets & pillows as you wished, and a nice packet usable headsets, socks, sleep masks & ear plugs! The seats were actually very comfortable & larger in comparison with other airlines. We enjoyed a surprisingly excellent hot meal after departing & a good range of complimentary beverages of all kinds before falling off to sleep. We awoke to an equally satisfying breakfast an hour or so prior to landing. Air Tahiti Nui is a really fantastic airline!
When we arrived in Papeete, we were welcomed with friendly Polynesian smiles & music… We booked a 1 night pre-cruise stay at the Le Meridien Hotel & Resort in Papeete, Tahiti – complete with a Hut over the water facing the neighboring island of Moorea (Come on – we had to see what all the fuss was about... ) We also organized a transfer to the Le Meridien in advance & who were awaiting our arrival complete with delicious smelling flowered necklaces...The ocean breeze swirled botanical aromas around us as palms swayed gently against the silhouette of the rich tropical foliage before us...Sweet, gentle rhythmic Polynesian music, played by the locals, filled the air with warm Island sounds we could definitely get used to!
We booked the Le Meridien separately. After flying for most of a day with connections, together we sat on our balcony in awe & in celebration as newlyweds, sipping a drink as we toasted ourselves and the clear blue water glimmering under the stars of the South Pacific...It really felt like we were somehow forever removed from the realities of the world outside these crystalline waters & peaceful palm groves. Waking that next morning, we walked onto the deck & instantly fell in love with the sights, smells & sounds. It was our first glimpse at the multi-colored blue & turquoise waters that the region is renowned for, the exotic foliage & inhabitants and sultry Pacific breezes…
That afternoon, excitement built as we transferred back towards the central part of Papeete where we first glanced at the handsome, white, 513 foot, 19,200 Gross tonne, 332 passengers, ‘all-inclusive’ ship that would treat us to the next 7 nights of ‘all-inclusive’ pleasure.Though the Paul Gauguin is a 6-star ~ Luxury sailing, the aboard climate is a constant mix of elegant leisure, fun, consistent style & service. The cabins are spacious & well appointed. The stewards ~ excellent! The dining & service in all three restaurants was superb! Kim loves her grilled tomatoes & seafood & no matter where or when, the staff & chef were ready to serve. I can’t believe that I traveled half way around the world to be treated to the best Beef Wellington on Earth ~ and on a ship in the middle of the Pacific! The grilled seafood was impeccable. All beverages aboard are complimentary & we were treated to delicious wines that complimented every bite!
The itinerary is perfect! This South Pacific sailing spoiled us with its flawless itinerary which included, 2 days in Raiatea, 1 full glorious day on the Private Island of Taha'a Motu Mahana, 2 days in Bora Bora & 2 days in Moorea finishing off again in Papeete, Tahiti! We can honestly both testify that 7 days is not nearly long enough, but well worth the venture!!! Even getting there was far more pleasant & easier than we expected!
M/S PAUL GAUGUIN – The Ship
"The m/s Paul Gauguin was designed specifically to sail the shallow seas of Tahiti, French Polynesia 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."
Embarkation was swift, seamless & impressive. Whilst our luggage disappeared into the ship, we were then graciously greeted by Cruise Director Michael Shapiro, along with several other smiling staff & crew members in addition to a welcome glass of champagne. We were directed to our balcony cabin 756 (Cat ‘C’) best deck & category!
Upon entering our stateroom, we were delighted to see a ‘welcome bottle of chilled champagne, canapés & fruit’, a congratulations letter from the Captain & flower arrangement ~ all part of the complimentary Honeymoon package they offer... Thank you again!
The gratuities are complimentary & though we were happy to offer these for special services, you never felt like it was expected. Add the fact that water skiing, wind surfing & kayaking are all provided daily at no cost from the aft of the ship and it makes for an incredible package!
Both cruise lines offer comparable Airfare as they both use Air Tahiti Nui. Interline-fared bookings are combinable with both the Paul Gauguin & Princess R/T LAX Airfare... Paul Gauguin includes an ocean-side Radisson Hotel ‘Day Room’ on the last day of disembarkation and airport transfers! Considering that the flights depart at 11:30PM or 11:55 PM at night, this is a special perk! Conversely, if you book your airfare separately, that same day-room is an added $155/person.
ABOARD THE PAUL GAUGUIN
Spacious, all-oceanview suites and staterooms, nearly 70% with balconies on the m/s Paul Gauguin.
Spacious, all-oceanview staterooms, 8 with balconies on the m/v Tere Moana.
All onboard gratuities included
Complimentary beverages including fine wines and spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, coffee and tea served throughout the ship
In-suite bar setup and butler service in categories B and above on the m/s Paul Gauguin
Complimentary 24-hour room service
In-suite mini-bar replenished daily with soft drinks, beer and bottled water
Space ratio of 58 - among the highest at sea
State-of-the-art retractable Water-sports Marina
Onboard dive program
Onboard lecture program
Two elegant restaurants and one pool-side grill, all with open-seating dining
Well-being and vegetarian selections and special dietetic menus upon request
Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the ship
Complimentary in-room movie channels and movies available
When sailing on the m/s Paul Gauguin, enjoy complimentary use of their exclusive, private white sand beach in Bora Bora with bar service, volleyball and great snorkeling.
On your m/s Paul Gauguin voyage, enjoy a complimentary day on their private islet, Motu Mahana - off the coast of Taha'a featuring snorkeling, watersports, barbecue with full bar service and Polynesian hospitality.
We had way too much fun up on deck socializing with the other guests on the Paul Gauguin...It doesn't take long before you get to know quite a few people...It is an elegant, sophisticated, wealthy, but also down to Earth type of crowd... The Pina Coladas were always a welcome pre-dinner treat and there was always an abundance of amazing succulent fresh fruit & beautiful salads of different types, garnished by some tender seafood samples of our choosing... Did we mention that we had baked tomatoes for breakfast & dinner every day along with our meals?
PAUL GAUGUIN – The Crew & Gauguines!
We found that our cruise experience was truly a 6-Star luxurious experience from beginning to end. Everyone from our room attendant (Rebelie Rosales) cleaned our room like new with a huge smile & genuinely greeted us each day.
Our Head Waiter (Raffy Pelegrino) always remembering my baked tomatoes which I can't live without, morning noon & night! ... Our other Waiter (Marlon Marco) also went above & beyond our expectations ...
The terrific & charming, assistant waiter (Michael Doria) brought us room service 24/7 & treated us like royalty...
Eufemio Centino made several trips to our private balcony with fresh food or drinks for those quiet intimate meals together!
A special nod to ‘Guest Relations’ who patiently told us the time of day each time that we called (repeatedly) – having no clock in the room. After several calls, they courteously & with good humour, told us about the clock on the in-suite TV... Joking aside, the professionalism & courtesy we enjoyed made us feel welcome & comfortable at every stage of the sailing.
The Excursion staff specialist (Paulina) had the best advice for excursions & really took the time to know what we wanted... They made it easy & fun!
And of course our Cruise Director (Michael Shapiro), whom we had the pleasure & surprise to Dine with one evening, shared stories of theater & his personal recollections of past sailings & much more ...we are still smiling Michael – great job!!
Of course one cannot forget to mention the truly awesome Bartenders aboard ~ particularly (Ricardo Felix) who poured Gauguin Cruisers, endless cocktails made with efficient perfection! Also Jonathon B. Abogado, Pool Deck Waiter, who made our poolside experiences most memorable!
To top off all this amazing customer service aboard was the gift of hearing the beautiful music & singing of the very talented Gauguine Girls!
The PG staff literally pampered us all from dawn till dusk! We truly appreciate your efforts & hope to see you again soon!
~Taha'a Motu Mahana - Private Motu & all Day BBQ with Floating Bar ~
Enclosed within the same barrier reef as Raiatea is the small Island of Taha'a Motu Mahana & was mutually our favorite stop by far! It was perfect. We felt as if we had our own piece of the south pacific to ourselves ~ almost. This was a tremendous surprise for us as we stepped foot on soft white sandy beaches of Taha'a...Crystal clear, bath like turquoise waters surround Taha'a as far as the eye can see. To make things even more amazing, walk out of the perfect water and be handed a hollowed out coconut filled with rum & something. But wait – there is more! Suddenly, your senses are filled with an incredible selection of food simmering, sending mouth watering aromas of Island cooking into the air. Because we had to, we lay amidst coconut tree-filled skies, gazing out at paradise on comfortable beach chairs, provided for us upon our arrival. Fresh fruit & salads complimented the sumptuous grill buffet with appetizing colors & combinations... Somebody pinch us!
We carried our lounge chairs to our own private spot, nestled between two palms & proceeded to swim, snorkel, sun bathe, sing, dance & cavort with all of the new friends we found, until the very last minute... By day’s end, we returned to the air-conditioned sanctuary of our newly dressed stateroom aboard.
~ Raiatea ~
Somewhat smaller than Tahiti, Raiatea is the second largest of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. The starting point for all the migration to the Hawaiian, New Zealand & Easter Islands - Raiatea lies within the same barrier reef as the island of Taha'a, a 20 minute boat ride away. The surrounding reefs and motu offer excellent diving & snorkeling opportunities. We gratefully took advantage of this by booking the Coral Garden Drift Snorkel excursion. This excursion was hosted by a fun & well educated local husband & wife team. They drove us by boat to the special snorkeling spot where we adventured through the coral gardens & tropical fish life under the sea...After we got our fill of snorkeling, we were presented a truly delicious fresh fruit & coconut lunch! They had the sweetest tasting grapefruits we have ever had!!!! Even without taking an excursion, while in Raiatea, all one has to do to enjoy themselves is just to simply be, whether on the ship enjoying the services, pool deck & panoramic blue views of the sea, or simply taking the Tender to shore, there is a gorgeous beach just a few miles down the road where you can swim and enjoy this Island jewel.
~ Bora Bora - 2 Days ~
After spending our first day in Bora Bora (an eroded cone of an extinct and extensive volcano), it was said by many, over a succulent dinner plates, that every day was better than the last! How could things get any better after Taha'a secret surprise paradise? Well they did...Bora Bora, another little jewel of an Island set within a wide barrier reef was definitely another favorite stop for us, by far...As James Michener stated of Bora Bora, "Anyone who has ever been there wants to go back, It is love at first sight!"
We booked yet another awesome excursion that was worth every single penny! In fact, this excursion was the best excursion for money spent, that we have ever been on! We highly highly recommend the Full Day Tour...(private company) First we were taken on another beautiful boat ride to beyond the protective barrier reef...There, we swam with hundreds of black tip sharks & other tropical fish! It was an amazing experience!!!!! At first we were a tad leery, but quickly overcame our fear under the confident direction of our excursion guides. There we were jumping in with sharks everywhere. The guides fed the sharks with us in the water no less, but we anticipate that they were both over-fed and partially domesticated to some extent. Conquering that fear & realizing that we were safe was an exhilarating experience of a lifetime, not to mention that they are absolutely gorgeous to see them swimming under water! You never felt at risk and welcomed their passing only feet from you.
Next, we were taken to another swimmers paradise, located in shallow waters filled with affectionate Stingrays waiting to be fed little fish morsels by hand. Whether joining them in the water or simply viewing them from the boat was a fascinating and well worth it experience not to be missed! We felt like they were puppies competing to be pet... It just kept getting better with every passing minute. As we sailed across the clear coral swept waters, our guides played island songs on the Ukulele.
Finally, we were then taken to another snorkelers dream destination where we explored more gorgeous coral reef gardens and various colorful tropical fish species.
~ Moorea - 2 Days ~
Moorea Island (pronounced MOE-oh-ray-ah) is considered the heart of French Polynesia. Jagged peaks, cloaked by lush greenery and encircled by deep blue's of the ocean, left us both awestruck by its natural beauty.
Once again, we were spoiled by booking another perfect excursion called the 4 hour long Aito off road Safari. This was surprisingly another one of our best experiences. The Safari tour is like nothing either one of us were expecting and we were so impressed with the quality, fun care free air & professionalism of our tour guide! This was spectacular and cameras are a must!
While in Moorea, we also booked The Lagoon Discovery with snorkelling being the water babies that we are... Again, the scenery alone along this excursion was worth its weight in gold! Even with stormy clouds the weather finally brought in after 7 days of perfection was tantalizing amongst the tropical backdrop of tropical terrain, white sandy beaches & dark clouds kissing the turquoise calm before the storm! We saw more friendly sharks, stingrays, a dolphin to my surprise and another gorgeous coral reef snorkelers dream. We swam in a heavy rainstorm and though we prefer the warmth of the sun while being in the water, it still was enjoyable and unique experience!
That evening, onboard the Paul Gauguin, we were offered a complimentary Polynesian Honeymoon Ceremony among-st all of the other newlyweds & honeymooners. It wasn't intimate like we'd hoped as the ceremonies were performed in front of several other honeymooners & newlyweds, however, the gesture of it was welcomed & one of my favorite Gauguine girls performed a very pretty dance about LOVE to the song "The Road That Never Ends".
~ Papeete, Tahiti ~
Sadly, this brings us to our last day in Paradise where our last stop took us back to the place it all began! The perfect cruise, perfect honeymoon & as we write this review, it pains our hearts to feel the missing of it all & we know this magic place will be one we will treasure in our hearts forever!
Paul Gauguin provided food & beverages until it was time to disembark. Since we booked Paul Gauguin airfare, we could look forward to the ‘day-room’ at the Radisson Hotel. HOWEVER– that room would not be ready until 2:30PM and it was only 10:00am... We were offered a city Motor Coach tour that included stops at several points of interest - or the option of being dropped-off at the Radisson & sitting at the pool for several hours...
By 8:00PM we were transferred to the airport, gathered our luggage a proceeded to check-in to fly home. Though this took several hours as the small airport had to process two large outbound flights, departing at nearly the same time, it all was made perfect again with the care & courtesy offered by the Air Tahiti Nui crew. The flight home was equally enjoyable, though tears were shed knowing what we were leaving behind.
If you really want to have the experience of a lifetime...you've got to go on this cruise with that special person in your life! Though there are several 5 & 6-star Resorts throughout the islands offering romantic ‘huts over water’ experiences, offering breath-taking views & water access at premium rates, nothing compares to cruising as we were treated to several islands with many variations of ocean waters all in one vacation & in lavish style. We say, stay in these resorts as a pre or post experience around the cruise & that way you will have it all!
So there it is... that's all we have in us for now as we are still catching up... We promised to write a review on our website about Paul Gauguin & the wonderful Polynesian staff who took care of us along the way... If anyone cares to find out more, simply call or e-mail Scott or Kim & we will be happy to tell you more.
Thank you again Paul Gauguin for a perfect & romantic Honeymoon cruise experience in Paradise.
Kim & Scott