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Janice Wilkie

Hello..........I just recently returned from a cruise to Tahiti and have some information to share with you below:

Tips for Tahiti……………and cruising with Paul Gauguin

Flights from North America – Air Canada had no problem with checking our luggage all the way through to Papeete which really helped on the outbound (when you check in at your connecting carrier try to see if they will also do this for you). I did not have to collect my bags to go from one terminal to the other in LAX and when we arrived at the Air Tahiti line, we were met by a representative who checked us off – saw we had no luggage to check in and scooted us through a shorter line to complete the process. We were done in about half the time of most people.

Air Tahiti will not check bags all the way through on the return which I could not quite understand as in both directions we were transiting Los Angeles.

LAX – not a lot to do once you go thru the security check points so best to have a bite to eat in the main terminal area before proceeding.

Air Tahiti Nui – provides a small amenity pack once onboard (eye mask, socks, earplugs, headset). Airline is pretty standard and generally the better seats are the two and two on either side of the plane instead of the row of four in the middle. I had pre-selected seats in advance and had seats on side for the outbound but they changed my seats on the return and moved us to the middle in spite of the advance seat selection.

Papeete Airport - When you arrive very early – looking out the window from the plane you may even spot your ship……..I did. At the airport you do not have an actual gate or walkway, instead you exit via stairs to the tarmac. Try to keep your carry on light as a result. I had to travel with more than most due to the conference materials and had a very heavy carry on to manage down the stairs.

Inside the terminal you are greeted by live music and a dancer, helps to put you in the right frame of mind again while waiting to clear Customs and Immigration. The officials seemed to all be pretty good, pleasant and quick about getting you on your way.

At the baggage claim – there are carts available and they are free to use.

Once outside the representative for Paul Gauguin is very easy to spot they will greet you with a bottle of water (the first of many throughout the trip) and direct you to the coach for transfer to the hotel day room. *If you have not purchased package with the cruiseline the taxi transfer will be about $40.00 one way and likely more to the ship after as this is in a different direction and further.

Intercontinental Tahiti Hotel - At the hotel, there is a group check in area where you receive your key, a letter of instructions during your time there, etc. don’t worry about your bags these will be brought to your room for you and then also picked up again at a set time.

Provide an imprint your credit card and just recheck before leaving that there are no charges on as porterage and buffet breakfast are all included in the package. Lots to choose from for breakfast, just be sure when restaurant staff leave a bill at your table that it is noted that breakfast is “no charge”. Again, I checked at guest services before leaving to ensure no charges on my card.

Lunch is on your own if you require – best to make it to the complimentary breakfast option.

The hotel day rooms are beautiful –hardwood floors, big bath, wonderful deck area. These were not secondary style rooms at all but rather a full hotel room with amenities to enjoy, freshen up, use the pool or beach front or take a nap.

Checkout and wait to proceed to the ship is a bit long and very hot though as you must identify your luggage again before it is moved from the hotel (all collected and held in a meeting room).

Boarding ship – ride is a little longer to the pier and you will find you are in a busier area than out by the hotel. Before you actually leave the bus, there will probably be two cruise staff who board to greet you first. Once off the bus, collect your hand luggage if it was stowed below (drivers do not offer to do this but it can be done instead of holding on your lap).

When you arrive onboard, you will be handed a glass of champagne and then directed to the Grand Salon to complete the check in, provide imprint of credit card and have your photo done for security. We felt they rushed everyone through a bit fast here, hands full of bags, passports, champagne and then on our way to the room.

Bring along reef shoes or aqua socks – these will be much less expensive if purchased before travel – they average about $40.00/pair if you purchase in Tahiti or onboard ship and may not have all sizes available. At home here they can be had for about $10.00 to $20.00.

I did not really know about this before leaving and they are quite important for allowing you to go into the water without cutting your feet on the coral.

Underwater camera – if you do not have a special camera – photo shop onboard sells small disposable underwater cameras which could do the trick – or purchase a couple before leaving home.

Internet/WI Fi onboard is unreliable as usual – I purchased 200 minutes and only managed to get 5 messages through although I could at least clear out my inbox a bit. Cost is about $70.00.

Le Grill and La Verandah – specialty dining – both are open for breakfast and lunch but reservations are required for dinner. You can book your times at each venue during breakfast or lunch hours. They do not allow very many at one time so you may have to book a day or two in advance.

L’Etoile (Main Dining room) – actually liked this the best overall, service is good and you rarely have to wait more than a minute or two for a table. Most of the tables for 2 are filled early though.

Polynesian Night – get there early to make your Leis & Heis as the best flowers will be picked over quickly. You can smell the fragrance all over the ship when flowers are brought onboard for this event.

Port stops:

Most port stops had shuttle service available into town – about $15.00 to $20.00 per person – cash to the driver. Or you can walk in the immediate area, take a taxi or rent a car/scooter (scooters not always advised though as road system will be unfamiliar to you and accidents can and do result).

Taha’a & private motu – you will love this one and the coconut drinks, beach and barbeque. Probably my favourite stop and I am not really a beach type of person. If you don’t care for the coconut water (really good for you though) in your coconut – take it over to the bar area and they will refill with a Pina Colada or similar!

Bora Bora – There is a crafts market near the tender area and pareos here for about $12.00 US each (cash only) as well as some other small items. One really great shop in town is Bora Bora Home for wonderful glass & art works - intense colours and beautiful design. Also some lovely duvet covers to remember the islands while you dream.

Moorea - scenery here is very different again – more mountains . Not a lot to do unless you take a tour or rent a car for a drive. It is possible to take a free taxi/shuttle to the Intercontinental Moorea for a few hours. The Jeweler “Robert Wan” pearls is sponsor - not necessary to make a purchase and they will call the driver back to pick you up again. You can enjoy the pool area and check out the dolphin viewing area (remember to take your beach towel from the ship with you).

There are some others as well that will take you to the pearl farms if you are shopping.

Last day

Of course everywhere you look there are black pearls to choose from so take your time in choosing. I liked the blue ones myself and have been told those are the most rare of colours.

We were told by ship’s staff that shopping at the market back in Papeete is a chance to purchase good quality pearls at about a 3rd of the price elsewhere. You have a chance to go there on the final morning at the end of the cruise – market can be seen from the ship about 2 minute walk. Go early for opening about 8:00am – pearls are located upstairs – you might have to ask as we missed it but others found the right spot. You do not need to vacate your room onboard until about 10:00 am so leave the “do not disturb” sign on your door while you go out for a couple of hours to check the market.

** your carry on luggage can be checked and held in the Grand Salon while you are also out the last morning. Everyone is off the ship by about noon, your disembarkation letter will advise you of the time for your transfer.

Additional hotel stays – Most hotels are pretty much self contained with little else close by so you could find many meals to be quite pricy as this has been commented on a few times in the past – so be prepared. Breakfast will generally be least expensive meal.


Best Regards,
Janice Wilkie, MCC

Sea Courses Cruises

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