Focused on French Polynesia: Paul Gauguin's only ship cruises exclusively in the South Pacific, and everything on board from the artwork to the culinary choices reflects that.
Very Inclusive: There are no extra charges for drinks or gratuities.
Tough to Reach: French Polynesia is a very long flight from the United States and Canada.
The 1997-built Paul Gauguin was designed expressly to sail year-round in French Polynesia and she offers a deep focus on the culture, natural wonders, and history of the destination. Previously, the line also operated a second ship, the Tere Moana, but she has since been transferred out of the fleet.
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Built in 1997, the 332-guest Paul Gauguin offers a spectacular, all-inclusive cruise experience in the South Pacific. With a crew of 214, service levels are among the best in the industry, with many staff members having served for years with the line. Don't be surprised if your drinks arrive before you even realize you wanted one; something other lines claim to deliver but fail to actually realize. Half luxury, half soft expedition, onboard lecturers and local Polynesians provide guests with genuine insights into the destinations visited, along with locally inspired cuisines that play off the islands' French heritage. Relaxing but understated, nothing about the Paul Gauguin will knock your socks off and that's precisely the idea. Here, the ship fades into the background to let the beauty of the South Pacific envelop you at every turn.
Paul Gauguin cruises are all-inclusive: Beer, wine, soft drinks, and spirits are complimentary, as are watersports activities like kayaking, windsurfing and paddleboarding. Paul Gauguin has a fleet of onboard Zodiac rafts for explorations ashore.
The Paul Gauguin sails the South Pacific and French Polynesia (with some visits to Fiji) year-round.
Ranging from 200 to 500 square feet, all cabins aboard Paul Gauguin feature ocean views, and a full 70% of those have their own private balconies. Even at the bottom rung on the accommodations ladder, the window-only Category E staterooms are still plenty nice, with polished wood accents and furniture, a small sitting area, headboard-mounted reading lights, and bathrooms that, for the most part, feature a full bathtub and shower combination and L'Occitane toiletries. The color palette is Zen, with plenty of earth tones and subtle aquamarine throw pillows on the bed.
Private balconies are offered starting with Category D staterooms, and guests who choose Category B Veranda staterooms or higher are treated to butler service, an in-room bar setup, and an iPod docking station. Higher stateroom categories, including suites, increase the size of the living space and balcony accordingly. One stateroom is wheelchair-accessible, and a number can hold a third guest.
Rooms are comfortable but not over-the-top luxurious. It's appropriate for a ship and a destination where so much time is spent out on deck or on-shore, soaking in the South Pacific.
Passengers range widely in age from 40-somethings to 80-somethings, with a lot of empty nesters and retirees and some (somewhat younger) honeymooners thrown in for good mix.
Paul Gauguin has everything you might expect of a larger ship, just in a scaled-down format. A small casino is located on Deck 5, adjacent to the comfy piano bar that offers up live music and cocktails every evening. All the way forward, Le Grand Salon is used for evening performances and daytime.
Lectures and, like the rest of the ship, is similarly understated, with plenty of natural wood and soft colors. A small Internet corner is tucked away on the aft starboard side of Deck 5, while Deck 6 is devoted to dining, shopping and spa pursuits, including an attractive window-lined indoor Promenade that runs adjacent to the Deep Nature Spa.
Don't miss out on the La Palette Lounge all the way aft on Deck 8. With its indoor-outdoor seating and aft sliding floor-to-ceiling doors that can be opened, this is the place most guests head to for a nightcap or an afternoon cocktail.
There are three separate dining options aboard Paul Gauguin. Dinners are served open-seating in the lovely L'Etoile Dining Room, with its high ceilings and 180-degree wraparound windows. A 2012 makeover added a new, brighter color palette of golds, blues and earth tones. You'll find tables for two, four, six, and eight guests here, along with multi-course meals paired with complimentary wines. Breakfast and lunch are taken in Le Grille, up on the aft portion of Deck 8. Food is buffet-style, but set selections (that don't change daily) are always available to order off of a menu. At lunch, expect standard pool grill fare, with burgers, wraps and the like. Dinner featuring Polynesian specialties is also served here, by reservation.
On Deck 6, La Veranda also serves up buffet breakfast and lunch, while at night it turns into a reservations-only specialty restaurant featuring dishes created by acclaimed chef Jean-Pierre Vigato. Chef Proprietaire of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Apicius in Paris, Vigato's French-inspired degustation menu includes everything from foie gras to fresh fruit.
If that doesn't tickle your fancy, there's always round-the-clock room service, with selections from L'Etoille available during operating hours.
POOL, FITNESS, SPA & SPORTS FACILITIES
The Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm on Deck 6 provides an assortment of treatments plus nail services, and hair styling. Spa staff members even offer an overwater massage during the day spent on Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin's private island paradise in the South Pacific.
A small but functional fitness center is located on board, which is supplemented by a Polynesian-inspired sunrise Zumba class out on deck. The ship also offers complimentary watersports activities that operate when conditions permit from the stern-mounted drop-down marina. Guests can kayak, wind surf, paddleboard, and snorkel.
The ship worked with oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society to create their own Ambassadors of the Environment Youth program. The goal is to teach children and teens, between the ages of 9 and 17, about the natural habitat and culture of French Polynesia. Activities include hiking rain forests, touring Polynesian temples, and exploring the region's famously fish-filled coral reefs. Other family members are allowed to join in the excursions, and on some sailings Jean-Michel Cousteau is a special guest. Children age 1 and over are allowed on board.
Evening entertainment is largely limited to dinner, drinks, and singers, storytellers, and dancers in the show lounge.
The service is attentive, despite the fact that the onboard atmosphere is somewhat casual.