French Polynesia: superb

12 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type



Date of travel

February, 2024

Product name

Paul Gauguin

Product country

French Polynesia

Product city


Travelled with


Reasons for trip


French Polynesia February 13th-Feb 29th 2024.
Booked long in advance this was to be a holiday treat. It also became our honeymoon!
We left home (Lichfield) on 13th Feb for Heathrow to stay over night at the Holiday Inn Terminal 4. Hotel was good and breakfast was satisfactory. A short walk to the terminal and the ‘Air France’ desk was right by the entrance from the hotels. We had treated ourselves to business class due to the long flights so check in and security went very smoothly. We arrived in Paris (CDG) mid pm and found our hotel. We were at the Mercure on the airfield (not at Riossy) and it did involve a lot of walking but a helpful tourist officer gave us good directions and it was relatively straight forward, using the free airport train to get to the right place. We opted for a 10minute, (25Euro) taxi ride the next morning , just didn’t feel like the walk, and he dropped us right outside our check in desk. ‘Air Tahiti Nui’ this time and check-in / security went smoothly and we had an hour or so to kill in the lounge before boarding for an 11:35 takeoff on the Wednesday14th Feb. Our flight to Tahiti was in two legs with a stopover in Seattle where we had to disembark, clear immigration and security and reboard the same plane with a new crew and some different passengers. I have to say that this was quite well organized with Air Tahiti Nui staff at strategic places to keep us going in the right direction, tho’ security was a nightmare with a longish queue and a jobsworth official. We arrived in Papeete , Tahiti after 21hrs 45 mins flying time(2 hours stopover in Seattle)at 22:30 Thursday15th Feb. We were taken to the Hotel Le Tahiti By Pearl Resorts and straight up to a very luxurious room. Fortunately our body clocks cooperated and we went straight to sleep. I woke in the night and thought it sounded so stormy I was a bit worried; I knew there had been a series of depressions in the area but thought they had passed through.
Next morning the night sounds proved to be the waves crashing on the beach not 5 yards from the room and though we did have about 10 minutes rain while we ate a very good breakfast: that was the only real rain of the whole holiday and the depressions of the previous three weeks which had been causing disruption to some cruises had indeed passed over. We spent a morning chilling by a lovely pool and had a very nice lunch before meeting our Guide Gerald for an excursion organized as part of the holiday. Gerald proved to be one of the best guides we have come across and the trip to the Cosmetology Laboratory to see how their local natural oils are processed and then the Musee de Tahiti were fascinating. Very good meal that night at the hotel and our first of many Tahitian dance nights.
Next day we were due to join our Ship the ‘Paul Gauguin’. After breakfast we met up with Gerald and 8 other passengers . He sorted our luggage then took us to the market in Papeete. A couple of hours soon passed and he escorted us to a tasty lunch at a waterfront restaurant, ‘Meherio Tahitian Bistro’ before walking us along the quay to our home for the next week, the cruise ship Paul Gauguin.
We were greeted by Les Gaugines, local Polynesian artists whose role on the ship was to share their culture with us over the course of the cruise. Our cabin was very well appointed, very nice toiletries, more storage than we needed, a stocked minibar and bottle of champagne to celebrate our honeymoon. The ship has recently become part of the Ponant Group, who had organized our pre and post cruise stays, but the Paul Gauguin still runs its own cruises. Their standard is high. The food (three restaurants to choose from , two of which you have to prebook) is of very good quality and well presented. The wines, as part of the package, were very good though a wider selection was also available. We had prebooked a couple of excursions but booking onboard didn’t seem to be an issue. A daily note outlined the activities available with timings and the range was good.
Over the seven days we visited 5 of the so-called ‘Society’ islands: Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora, and Moorea. We had hoped snorkeling would be easy on all five but Huahine proved to just be swimming on a sandy beach and Moorea Opunohu Bay didn’t have a ready snorkeling spot. However the other islands all made up for it . On Bora Bora we had booked two excursions, one to go swimming with Black tipped Reef Sharks and Sting rays, then to snorkel on a reef and a second one on a glass bottomed boat. The second was redeemed by the unplanned opportunity to swim again with the sharks, but if you can snorkel don’t bother with the glass bottomed boat. Paddle boards and kyacks are available and we went out twice in the kyacks to tour the lagoon area near the moored ship.
Outwardly the islands are all very similar, green vertiginous peaks in a beautiful blue sea. There is little agriculture and what there is (pineapples, coconuts and vanilla) is mainly consumed locally. Fish is in abundance. Tourism is the main source of income and some islands have very few inhabitants. Everything has to be imported, and mainly from USA, so the cost of living is very very high. You are sheltered from this on the cruise but you soon notice it when you spend on land. We were fortunate with the weather, glorious sun most of the time, occasional light cloud, never below 30 but they do have some quite severe depressions which can cause havoc for cruises. The snorkeling at Raiatea Tahara’a and Bora Bora was good tho’ I wouldn’t say spectacular. We saw plenty of fish but sometimes the water was still a little stirred up from the weather in the previous weeks. We saw dolphins most mornings as we approached the islands to weigh anchor for the day. Tenders took us backwards and forwards. The beach BBQ at Taha’a was sumptuous, taking place on one of the island’s atolls ‘Motu Mahana’, which the Paul Gaugin has sole use of. Likewise on Bora Bora they have use of a private beach.
There were several briefings about the islands by the Cruise Director which we found very informative and helpful, tho’ attendance was often surprisingly poor at these. Les Gaugines ran craft sessions (shell jewelry and garlands ) which I enjoyed and it was good to talk to them about their islands and lives. Every night in the grand Salon there was entertainment of the highest quality, the local Polynesian dancers ( professional and school groups ) were just amazing, while the ship’s crew gave us a stunning evening of song and dance.
All too soon we were back at Papeete and heading to the ferry to return for Moorea for three nights at the ‘Sofitel’ in an over-water bungalow. The bungalows were luxurious, and true to their name they were along piers leading out into the lagoon. We were quite near the end and as Neil so aptly said “It’s like sitting above an aquarium.” We spent two days lounging above the fish, getting into the water and swimming with them and there were so many. The water was crystal clear and the perfect temperature. We had access to beach equipment and I had a go at Paddle boarding, and managed to stand up, just. Each night there was entertainment, the first night was a Polynesian buffet and Fire Dancers! Some lovely Jazz on night two and singers on our last night. The food was excellent but drinks were very expensive ($23 for a cocktail $25 for a glass of house wine). On our first morning our breakfast was delivered by canoe – a lovely gimmick and worth every penny as we sat and ate with the fish swimming around us (and enough left over for lunch too).
Our last day was spent relaxing till about 11:00 and then back to a Papeete where we had a day room at the Hilton as our flight was not til 23:35 on Tuesday27th Feb. As on the outward leg we had a two hour stop in Seattle and after flying for 20hrs 55mins we landed in Paris on Thursday 29th Feb at 07:30. We finally arrived back in London at 13:45 and I was so glad we had booked a taxi as the thought of driving home in our tired state would not have been safe. Jet lag on return hit us quite bad and it took about 3 days to begin to not feel completely out of kilter!


Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.