Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 396 out of 500
Accommodation: 167 out of 200
Food: 304 out of 400
Service: 320 out of 400
Entertainment: 71 out of 100
Cruise: 285 out of 400
Overall Score: 1543 out of 2000
Paul Gauguin Statistics
Size: Small Ship
Cruise Line: Paul Gauguin Cruises
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9111319
Builder: Chantiers de l’Atlantique (France)
Original Cost: $150 million
Entered Service: Jan 1998/Jan 2010
Registry: The Bahamas
Length (ft/m): 513.4/156.5
Beam (ft/m): 72.1/22.0
Draft (ft/m): 16.8/5.1
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (9,000kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 7
Total Crew: 215
Passengers (lower beds): 332
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 57.8
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 1.5
Cabins (total): 166
Size Range (sq ft/m): 200.0-588.0/18.5-54.6
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 89
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 1
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 1
Hot Tubs (on deck): 0
Self-Service Launderette: No
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: US$
An elegant, cool ship for chic warm-weather cruising
Overview. Paul Gauguin is best suited to couples and single travelers, typically over 50, seeking specialized itineraries, good regional cuisine and service, with almost no entertainment. Where the ship really shines is in its variety of water sports equipment, and its shallow draft that allows it to navigate and anchor in lovely little places that larger ships couldn’t possibly reach.
The Ship. Built by a French company specifically to operate in shallow waters, Paul Gauguin is now under long-term charter to Pacific Beachcombers of Tahiti, which also own the Intercontinental Tahiti, Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana, Intercontinental Bora Bora, and Intercontinental Moorea. The ship cruises around French Polynesia and the South Pacific and, while it could carry many more passengers, it is forbidden to do so by French law. It had a $9 million refurbishment in 2009, has a well-balanced, all-white profile, and a single funnel.
This smart ship also has a retractable aft marina platform, and carries two water-skiing boats and two inflatable craft for water sports. Windsurfers, kayaks, plus scuba and snorkeling gear are available for your use; all except scuba gear, are included in the cruise fare. Islands, beaches, and water sports are what Paul Gauguin is good at. Perhaps the best island experience is in Bora Bora. Its shallow draft means there could be some movement, as the ship is a little high-sided for its size.
Inside, there is a pleasant array of public rooms, and both the artwork and the decor have a real French Polynesia look and feel. The interior colors are quite restful, although a trifle bland, but the new deck and direction signage has been improved, and the ship was refreshed during a 2011 refurbishment. The ‘tub’ chairs in some of the public rooms are uncomfortable.
Expert lecturers on Tahiti and Gauguin accompany each cruise, and a Fare (pronounced foray) Tahiti Gallery features books, videos, and other materials on the unique art, history, and culture of the islands. Three original Gauguin sketches are displayed under protective glass.
The dress code is totally relaxed - every day. The standard itinerary means the ship docks only in Papeete, and shore tenders are used in all other ports. There is little entertainment, as the ship stays overnight in several ports - so little is needed. The high crew-to-passenger ratio translates to a high level of personalized service. The ship has become a favorite of travelers to these climes, and the quiet, refined atmosphere on board makes it clubby, with passengers getting to know each other easily. Wi-Fi spots are provided, but Internet charges are high. Le Casino has blackjack and roulette tables, while slot players will find 13 machines in an adjacent area.
A cruise aboard Paul Gauguin is all about connecting with French Polynesia, and the ship carries lecturers to inform you about the life, history, and sea life of the region.
All in all, the ship will provide you with a delightful, intimate cruise and product that most will really enjoy, and gratuities are included. Soft drinks and mineral water are included in the cruise price. Note that if you fly out to Tahiti a day or so before the cruise and stay in a hotel, bugs (insects) are a problem encountered by many travelers (so it may be wise to take some insect repellent).
Accommodation. There are eight suite/cabin grades, priced according to location and size. The outside-view cabins, half of which have private balconies, are nicely equipped, although they are strictly rectangular and none have more interesting shapes. Most have large windows, except those on the lowest accommodation deck, which have portholes. Each has queen- or twin-size beds convertible to queen, and wood-accented cabinetry with rounded edges. A minibar/refrigerator stocked with complimentary soft drinks, a DVD player, personal safe, hairdryer, and umbrellas are standard. A selection of L’Occitane personal toiletry items is provided.
The marble-look bathrooms are large and pleasing and have a tub as well as a separate shower enclosure. All passengers are provided with 100 percent cotton bathrobes and cotton slippers. The two largest suites have a private balcony at the front and side of the vessel. Although there’s a decent amount of in-cabin space, with a beautiful long vanity unit and plenty of drawer space, the bathrooms are disappointingly small and plain, and too similar to all other standard cabin bathrooms.
Butler service is provided in all accommodation designated as Owner’s Suite, Grand Suites, ocean-view ‘A’ and ‘B’ category suites.
Dining. L’Etoile, the main dining room, is open for dinner only, while La Veranda, an alternative dining spot, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Both have open seating, which means you can choose when you want to dine and with whom. This provides a good opportunity to meet new people for dinner each evening. The chairs have armrests, making it more comfortable for a leisurely mealtime. The dining operation is well orchestrated, with cuisine and service of a reasonably high standard. Select wines and liquor are included in the fare, while the limited selection of premium wines cost extra.
The 134-seat La Veranda Restaurant is one deck above L’Etoile. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. This is a self-serve buffet venue for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast buffets tend to be extremely repetitive (especially the boxed cereals), and lunch buffets are often a disappointment (but there is a decent selection of olive oils and sauces made on board). At night, the venue provides better, more creative fare, in very pleasant surroundings (reservations are required, but there’s no extra charge, and the capacity is limited to 75 persons). La Veranda provides dinner by reservation, with alternating French and Italian menus; the French menus are provided by Jean-Pierre Vigato, a two-star Michelin chef with his own restaurant, Apicius, in Paris.
An outdoor (but covered) Le Grill provides informal café fare on deck aft of the pool, with up 100 seats. Each evening it becomes Pacific Grill and serves Polynesian cuisine; although reservations are required there is no extra charge.
For something different, it is possible to have dinner on the Marina platform on certain nights (when it’s calm, of course).
Entertainment. Le Grand Salon is the venue for shows and cabaret acts. It is a single-level room, and seating is in banquette and individual tub chairs. Sight lines are quite good from most seats, although there are some obstructions. Don’t expect lavish production shows (there aren’t any), as the main entertainment consists of local Polynesian shows brought on board from ashore, plus the odd cabaret act. A piano lounge was added in a 2006 refit.
Spa/Fitness. The Deep Nature Spa, on Deck 6 in the ship’s center, is the wellbeing space. It includes a fitness centre with muscle-pumping and body-toning equipment (in a windowless room), a steam room, several treatment rooms, changing area (very small), and beauty salon. Spa/beauty services and staff are provided by Algotherm. There is no sauna, but use of the steam room is complimentary. Body pampering treatments include various massages, aromatherapy facials, manicures, pedicures, and hairdressing services.