Paul Gauguin cruise

This item appears on page 33 of the May 2009 issue.

We took a superb cruise in French Polynesia, Oct. 30-Nov. 12, 2008, with Grand Circle Travel (Boston, MA; 800/248-3737, The ship was the Paul Gauguin of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. It carries 330 passengers and is truly a luxury vessel, featuring a state-of-the-art retractable water sports platform, with complimentary water-skiing, windsurfing and kayaking.

First we flew Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete, Tahiti, where we stayed at the Sheraton for two days before boarding the ship. We spent that time seeing a number of sites, including the place where the HMS Bounty landed.

The ship sailed to the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands. We stopped at seven islands; on each we could take optional tours and take part in numerous activities.

Our first stop was at Rangiroa in the Tuamotus. This island has the second-largest lagoon in the world, and it was fascinating to watch the ship sail across the reef and into the smooth water of the lagoon.

One of the activities we enjoyed there was “drift snorkeling.” A small boat took us outside the reef, and then we snorkeled with the tide into the lagoon. There was a pretty good current, and it was great fun drifting along.

We also spent some time in the village, as we did on all the islands that we visited. Often, a bus or le truck would be available for sightseeing. On days when we were at sea, there were always numerous activities plus lectures about the places we would visit.

Several lectures on Paul Gauguin were given by a college professor. These were very informative and gave us an appreciation of the French artist’s life and paintings. He lived on the Marquesas island of Hiva Oa for several years and was buried there. We visited his grave on All Souls Day, when the cemeteries everywhere were decorated with beautiful flowers.

On a 4-wheel-drive tour of the rugged, volcanic island of Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, we found it to be a very green, tropical and fascinating place. We stopped to sample banana, papaya, mango, pineapple, coconut, breadfruit, etc., and later stopped at a beautiful stone church.

Our next stop, after two days at sea, was Bora Bora, where we took a 4-wheel-drive tour up into the mountains and around the island, visiting a black pearl farm to see how pearls are grown and harvested.

We sunbathed on the beach of an atoll at Bora Bora. The water in the South Pacific islands we visited was incredibly blue and very warm, about 88°F, so it was delightful swimming and snorkeling.

We also explored Tahaa, a very beautiful island where we enjoyed the tropical fruits and visited a vanilla farm. In the afternoon we had a barbecue lunch on the beach and more swimming and snorkeling, along with Polynesian entertainment.

On Moorea we took a ride on a semisubmersible boat and saw many sharks and other fish plus some nice coral.

The ship then headed back to Tahiti, where we spent a couple of nights at the Radisson Plaza Resort. We took a different tour around the beautiful island, enjoying visits to the Paul Gauguin Museum and restaurant and the botanical gardens. Tracy, our guide, was very good, and she gave us lots of insight into the island culture and the flora.

This was truly an outstanding and relaxing trip. The tours on the islands all were at extra cost and were not inexpensive (those we took ranged from $50 to $135), but they were well planned and had good local guides.

Including airfare from Los Angeles, the basic cost of the 15-day trip was $5,595 per person, and we each paid an additional $150 from San Francisco (but I see that price is now $250.) This included all meals, drinks, shipboard activities and gratuities. There were three restaurants on board, and all served excellent meals, including French cuisine and island fare.


Oroville, CA