In The Loop is posting live from French Polynesia this week as we cruise with Paul Gauguin through the Society Islands.
The 332-passenger m/s Paul Gauguin is one of two ships in the Gauguin fleet, and we're getting a good feel for this type of luxury all-inclusive experience through the first two days of our sailing.
A voyage like this surely would count as a once-on-a-lifetime trip for most. It's not cheap. Prices start around $4,000 to $5,000 for the cruise, and that's not even adding in your airfare to get to Papeete to meet the ship.
Perhaps you would consider saving up for this adventure to celebrate a big anniversary or some other milestone. Or maybe you're just wealthy.
Some early impressions:
The destinations and activities are the big draw here. Watersports and beach time dominate. The ship is making its way around some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world, floating into lagoons with crystal clear waters and looking up at lush rolling green mountains.
The Paul Gauguin features a "marina" or sports that opens at the back of the ship. This allows passengers to jump right in to enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking -- all just a short stroll from your cabin.
The cruise also includes complimentary snorkel gear that you get to keep and use for the duration of the sailing.
Several port stops offer a chance to go to be tendered to a motu, or small island, for a beach day. A barbecue lunch and activities, such as kayaking, are included. A big hit is the floating bar. You can be served a sweet cocktail while plopped down in the warm waters basking in the sunshine and jaw-dropping views.
To me, the ship size, just over 500 feet long and the small passenger count, as well as navigating into shallow waters close to shores, make the experience feel like a hybrid of mainstream ocean cruise and river cruise. The onboard entertainment options are limited. There is a small casino, performances by musicians in select venues and a few shows in the main theater. Enrichment lectures are offered, discussing the history of the islands and conservation efforts.
The best part is the all-inclusive onboard amenities, such as the watersports activities and all meals and drinks. Beers, wines, cocktails, soft drinks are all prepaid -- as are gratuities. So, you won't feel nickel-and-dimed after you pay you initial fare. You do pay more for excursions.
You can order room service 24 hours a day, and Paul Gauguin cruises are known to offer excellent dining experiences with gourmet food in the dining rooms.
The onboard crowd is full of active adults who love to stay of the move, it seems. I'm watching a couple stand-up paddleboard in the lagoon as I write this on my verandah, and on this cruise, a yoga instructor provides classes on the sun deck each morning.
Overall, this is the type of experience that offers great appeal to the adventurous traveler.
Thanks for reading. Travel fit. Travel happy!