An island paradise. With 118 islands and atolls that comprise this ideal South Pacific destination, the islands of Tahiti continue to seduce vacationers in search of a tranquil escape. With islands boasting high, rugged mountain peaks, coral reefs, white sand, palm-fringed beaches, turquoise-blue lagoons and emerald-green waters, this island paradise has something for everyone.
We had the opportunity to sail on the M/S Paul Gauguin on a nine day cruise through the Society islands of Tahiti and stay at an over water bungalow in Moorea.
I can only imagine what parts of Hawaii were like twenty five years ago, but there are comparisons to be made in many of the islands of Tahiti. The main island of Tahiti is the most commercial and city like in the capital city of Papeete. It is somewhat busy and commercial by modern standards, with industry that supports much of the outlying islands. Once out of the city, the island takes on the feel of the smaller islands, and is more relaxed.
International flights fly direct in to Papeete and visitors may spend a day or two here at most, but typically they journey to Bora Bora, or Moorea to their final destination or board a cruise like we did in Papeete. It took us eight hours to fly here from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui.
Once away from the main island of Tahiti, the outlying islands have a special charm and beauty due to their smaller size, lush mountains, atolls, and bays. Many have beautiful lagoons formed between the island and the surrounding atolls.
Paul Gauguin Cruises operates the award-winning luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gauguin, providing a luxury cruise experience tailored to the wonders of Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific.
Relaxation is the word that comes to mind immediately in the Tahitian islands. Seeing Tahiti on the Paul Gauguin is a once in a lifetime experience and offers the ultimate in luxury in a casual and comfortable environment.
The ship carries 300 passengers and has a staff of around 150. Service is excellent and attentive.
Thanks to an all inclusive beverage policy, there is always a tropical drink ready for you at a moments notice. A selection of wine and spirits are complimentary throughout your stay.
The ship felt very comfortable and personal space is in abundance. Many of the public areas were open and vacant due to extensive use of passenger balconies.
There were three choices for dining depending on your mood from elegant to casual. The menu stays the same at La Veranda and changes daily at L'Etoille. The food is excellent. Dinner at Le Grill is the most casual setting and can be a good choice for a meal at sunset. Dress is country club casual. No tuxes on this ship. It helps to keep things relaxed and somewhat informal.
Entertainment is limited but you will be sure to enjoy the Polynesian revue featuring the Gauguines performers. The ship had a band which performed at cocktail hour and evenings for dancing.
The ship has a drop down marina and accommodates water skiing, kayaking, and a convenient place for those going on a diving excursion. They offer complementary snorkeling equipment, which we used just about every day of the trip. Tahiti has by far the best snorkeling we've experienced in any tropical location. The coral reefs are abundant and we walked in from the beach at several locations and were amazed at how good the snorkeling was.
Depending on the cruise, there are several itineraries. We stopped at several small islands only accessible due to the small size of the ship including an island the ship arranged to have lunch, water sports, and a private beach. Two of the most popular islands we stopped at were Bora Bora and Moorea. There were several interesting shore excursions and all were explained in detail at regular meetings in the Le Grand Salon entertainment room.
No trip to Tahiti is complete without a stay in an over water bungalow. We decided to take the ferry back to Moorea and spend a few days at the Intercontinental Hotel. I can't think of a better way to finish a trip like this.The bungalows are extremely comfortable and air conditioned.They decorate the room and joining sitting room with so many flowers the fragrance is overwhelming!
The room has two large sliding glass partitions that open wide to reveal a good sized balcony with a ladder down to the water. I took many pictures of fish directly from the balcony and was amazed at the clarity of the water and abundance of fish. We had our own private coral reef outside our door! I can't say enough about the experience. It's definitely worth the effort.
We toured the rest of the island and saw several top resorts like the Soffitel, The Black Pearl, and The Hilton. If you've been to Hawaii often and want a new totally different experience, Tahiti is a magical destination and a favorite among repeat visitors who all agree the beauty of Tahiti is unforgettable.
About the Authors
Sue and Charlie Shimkus are owners of Lake Zurich Travel & Cruise established in 1974. Sue has served on the travel advisory board for Alaska, Hawaii, & Ireland and executive board of the local chapter American Society of Travel Agents. Lake Zurich Travel & Cruise is a member of the Signature Travel Network. Visit Lake Zurich Travel for Expert Travel Advice and resources finding the Right Vacation for you!
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