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 on top of my bucket list, but my only hesitation in heading to French Polynesia was whether the 15-hour flying time from New York to Papeete, Tahiti, would lessen my enjoyment. Having experienced many tropical islands such as Nevis and Saint Lucia, I did not know if the South Seas was going to live up to all the hype.


The flight from Newark went amazingly smooth with only a short stop in San Francisco, where I relaxed and recharged at the Polaris Club before boarding my next flight to Tahiti. I arrived the evening before the ship was to depart and checked into a room at the Tahiti Intercontinental. I highly recommend this pre-cruise night for your clients so they can acclimate to the six-hour time difference 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 the way you choose to experience French Polynesia makes all the difference in the world. By choosing to sail the islands on the luxurious all-inclusive m/s Paul Gauguin, passengers are immersed in the warm friendly culture of the locals while exploring the exquisite islands of French Polynesia.

The Gauguin sailing Moorea, Paul Gauguin Cruises, South Pacific
The Gauguin sailing Moorea. (photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises)

My seven-day cruise to Tahiti and the Society Islands included calls at two private Islands as well as the quaint 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 awesome. It is the only ship of its kind, custom built to navigate the shallow waters of the South Pacific. The vessel is small enough to access amazing, quiet ports that are unavailable to the larger cruise ships. The m/s Paul Gauguin offers many of the amenities of a large luxury ship but without the crowds, making this a dream come true for someone like me, a small-ship lover. I knew the moment I stepped on board that the long flight was well worth this amazing experience.

I was amazed that not once during my seven days onboard did I endure any type of long line or wait for a tender, activity or dining order. Even boarding and check-in was completed in record time. I was in my stateroom with my luggage just 20 minutes after my arrival to the pier in Papeete.

In 2019, the French cruise line Ponant took ownership of Paul Gauguin Cruises and its flagship m/s Paul Gauguin, which underwent an extensive $7 million renovation in 2021. The redesign has given the ship a warm, welcoming, elegant look highlighted with Polynesian flair. The makeover features luxurious enhancements to all the ship’s 165 graceful and spacious ocean-view staterooms, three restaurants, piano bar, spa, fitness center and all other public areas.

What makes this cruise so special is that the ship radiates an intimate and relaxing atmosphere in a very laidback and luxurious setting. I can still picture myself relaxing on a lounge chair while gazing out at the amazing landscape of Bora Bora as the staff happily offers me the delightful drink of the day.

The long-tenured crew was so fantastic and meticulous in every presentation detail. The friendly warm staff greeted me by my first name only hours after setting sail. The service was the best that I have ever experienced on a ship. Paul Gauguin boasts a passenger-to-crew ratio of 1.5 to 1, which is 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.

This was a luxury cruise without formality. The attire was as relaxed as the atmosphere – no ties are required, only elegant resort wear was needed for dinner, and casual attire was fine during the day.

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

Adventure enthusiasts will never be bored on the m/s Paul Gauguin. The ship’s retractable watersports platform lets guests enter the water from the ship to paddleboard, windsurf, kayak, snorkel and scuba dive with a PADI-accredited program. It’s a great place for your clients to learn how to dive if they are interested.

If your clients are already certified but it has been a few years since their last dive, they can even take an online PADI refresher course so that they can dive once on the ship.

The other activities on the ship included an endless list of shore excursions. I chose three exciting activities: a high-speed, two-hour WaveRunner tour around the island of Bora Bora; an awesome ATV guided tour of Moorea through the rugged mountains and pineapple fields; and lastly, a memorable swim with the sharks and rays in the crystal-blue water off the coast of Moorea.

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

The food also exceeded my expectations. The dining experience onboard the ship was superb with diverse options even for someone like me who must work around food allergies. The three restaurants offered many options, although La Veranda was my favorite, a reservation-only venue that was never crowded and to which I was drawn like a magnet to satisfy my never-ending craving for crème brulee.

So, who are the perfect clients for you to recommend the m/s Paul Gauguin experience? It is not for your 20- or 30-something clients looking for a wild party scene — the average age of passengers is 50-plus. Although, you may find a few younger honeymooners and multigenerational family vacationers, this is a cruise to recommend to cruisers who will welcome the calm ambience surrounding this ship.

I also would not recommend this ship to clients wanting to bring along young children. Paul Gauguin does offer a special marine experience program for your clients with older children between the ages of 9 and 17, but the ship does not offer activities or facilities for toddlers.

The ship is owned by a French company, but your clients shouldn’t worry about speaking French. All ship announcements and safety drills are conducted in both French and English, so your English-speaking clients will feel right at home onboard. Even the restaurant staff were all fluent in English.

The m/s Paul Gauguin is the perfect recommendation for your affluent, sophisticated, well-traveled clients who are looking for a luxurious, all-inclusive 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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