THE PAUL GAUGUIN
We boarded the Paul Gauguin cruise ship Saturday afternoon, August 20th, in Papeete at about 3:30pm. Easy peasy. After checking our passports, etc… they had us in our room in about 15 minutes. Definitely the easiest cruise ship check-in we have ever experienced. We had opted for one of the two Grand Suites. Not huge, but well appointed.
The best thing about our room, however, was the double decks. The side deck was just your average small deck with two chairs and a small table. But our big deck on the front of the ship was AWESOME! I love arriving and departing ports and to me there is no better place than the front of the ship. Our room was directly above the bridge and so we saw what the captain and crew saw. I loved it.
The ship was supposed to depart Papeete at midnight. They had a going-away party on the pool deck, per normal. We waited for the ship to depart, but it didn’t. We were in our room and I couldn’t get to sleep. I kept waking up realizing the ship wasn’t moving. I looked out the window at 1:00am, and then again at 3:30am, and 4:00am, but there was Papeete outside our windows. I tried to and finally did get to sleep and then at about 5:00am they started the ship’s engines. At 5:30am, we finally left Papeete for Huahine. I kept thinking in my mind, either we’re way off schedule, or Huahine is a lot closer than they’re letting on. Our alarm was set for 7am, with room service breakfast right behind. We were due to meet for our land tour of Huahine at 8:15, but at 8:00am, we were still cruising along at full speed in the middle of the South Pacific. And about the time I was was picking up the phone to call our Butler (yeah, Butlers are cool), they made a shipboard announcement that due to late arrivals the night before, our schedule had been pushed back by 3 1/2 hours. Nothing like waiting until the last moment to tell us. So, on very little sleep we made due strolling the deck, checking things out, plus eating a second breakfast, or I guess you could call it early lunch except it was breakfast foods. I was a bit surprised when we learned the whole ship had been delayed due to some stragglers, and thus the reason we always arrive at least a day before cruise ship departures, but apparently it was a large number of travelers on a much delayed flight from Hawaii. By large number it was 18 people, so about 6% of the ship. From hearing their stories, they were shocked and grateful the ship had waited for them. No one informed them. They thought they had missed it.
We docked in Huahine and took a fun little open air history tour around the very small island. The island is lush and our tour guide was an ex-pat human anthropologist from Manhattan Beach, California. We ended up there on a Sunday afternoon, which was odd. Normally the ship is in Huahine in the morning and everyone comes out for the occasion. Sunday afternoon, not so much. We did see a bit of Polynesian life, which was kick back and relaxing and the island was beautiful.
Day Two we were docked off the island of Taha’a. Taha’a is directly across from the PG private island Motu Mahana and we were pretty excited as we had booked a seaplane adventure. This excursion is one of my favorite all time activities, ever. The waters in French Polynesia are unbelievably gorgeous. I never stopped snapping photos the entire 60 minutes we were in the air.
The next day we were off to Bora Bora for two days.
We had signed up for a wave runner excursion around the island. Oh my gosh. That was at the same time one the most terrifying and one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Blue Eyes was driving, I was behind him in the passenger seat. Neither of us had ever been on a wave runner. We’re not dare devils and Blue Eyes is not really that adventurous, to be honest. I knew he was scared. It was a beast of a machine. They gave everyone a quick lesson then got us on the runners.
Blue Eyes had trouble controlling the wave runner from the get go. Some of the others were clearly experienced and were zooming off ahead of us. We were in the rear of the pack and the runner just wouldn’t cooperate. Finally one of the guides circled back and noticed the runner was low on gas. He had us hop on his while he went back to retrieve a different machine. Unfortunately my phone was in the abandoned runner back at the starting point, so no pictures. When we were on a viable runner, Blue Eyes received another little lesson, keep the thing at a steady pace, not too slow, no sharp turns, etc… I definitely did not want to fall off. Then, because we were so far behind the others, we ended up having to go full throttle for quite some time, which was scary. Then a big tropical rain storm drenched us and we couldn’t see a thing. Blue Eyes just followed the guides wake and hoped for the best. I was holding onto him for dear life.
We finally made it to the mid-way stopping point in the middle of a gorgeous blue lagoon between the Four Seasons and the St. Regis hotels. We dismounted in shallow water, the rain stopped, and the guides brought us fresh coconut, bananas, and something like a grapefruit.
Wave runners, Bora Bora
Once we hopped back on the wave runner, the sun was shining, the waters were calmer, Blue Eyes was by now a master wave runner captain, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly for the remainder of the excursion. I know Blue Eyes had wanted to turn back. I know he was scared. Even though I was also scared, out in the middle of the South Pacific going 60mph in a tropical rain storm, he did it! He conquered his fear. I was really proud of him. We were both sore for a couple of days from holding on SO TIGHT. Me to him, and him to the beast!
Our second day in Bora Bora, we opted for relaxation, and a stroll through the town of Vaitape.
Our last port before heading back to Papeete, Tahiti was Moorea. What a gorgeous place! We were anchored in Opunohu Bay.
Party on the pool deck, leaving Moorea
It was a fun week cruising around the Society Islands of French Polynesia, but the best was yet to come!