Paul Gauguin French Polynesia Cruise April 6 – 20, 2013
Iorana! Hi! I’m Kat and I’ve been cruising with Bare Necessities for a very long time. In fact, that couple in the photo used on the recent Tahiti cruise brochure is my husband Eric and myself on our first cruise to Tahiti on the Windsong. Needless to say, Tahiti holds a very special place in our hearts.
Our recent cruise to Tahiti, the Tuamotus and the Marquesas on the Paul Gauguin was the latest in a long list of amazing adventures with Bare Necessities, and may have been the best. To begin with, the ship was spectacular. I’ve never experienced the level of service I experienced on that ship. Even though I was just one of 336 passengers the crew made me feel like I was the only one who mattered. When I walked up to any bar on the ship a glass of Pellegrino with lime was instantly waiting for me. Staff and crew greeted me by name!
The activities and entertainment on the ship were a blast too. I loved singing with the piano played by Dan Murphy. He was very open to having passenger sing-alongs and could play any requested song. I loved the beautiful Polynesian women and men called the Gaugines and Gauguins who entertained and lead most of the activities such as pareo wrapping lessons, Tahitian dance lessons, and making shell jewelry. There was something fun slated in the Grand Salon every day and night. Mark Eddowes, an expert in Polynesian anthropology, gave enlightening lectures and was a passenger favorite. The ship brought local dance groups on board to perform traditional Tahitian and Marquesan dances and music. There were professional musical reviews with the band, and a game show called the Liar’s Club that was really funny and required audience participation to guess who was telling the truth.
The selection and the quality of the food was astounding. The buffet for breakfast and lunch in Le Grille had a variety of choices and you could enjoy them all au natural. For lunch, La Verandah would have theme buffets with a special area with a cook who could whip up fresh pasta and sauces. At dinner there was always a choice of some marvelous local fish freshly caught that day, as well as all the other gourmet selections. The beef was some of the best I’ve ever had on board a ship. Any entree I chose was marvelous.
My favorite part of any cruise is seeing old friends and making new ones. Some of my favorite passengers were on board and it was wonderful to spend time together around the pool and at dinner. I enjoyed teaching Yoga every day and I miss my fabulous Yogis and Yoginis. I loved hearing stories of how some couples originally met and funny stories about past cruises. I enjoyed talking about shared interests and hearing about passionate interests. I enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to two lovely ladies in the dining room and dancing with passengers under the stars on the pool deck. Exploring the beautiful islands together with friends made for wonderful memories and I thank everyone that shared those moments with me.
So here is my blog about my experiences on the ship. I’ll do my best to share what life was like on board and post pictures to illustrate and I hope you enjoy it and join us on a future cruise adventure!
• April 6th Papeete
We had a lovely bit of rain wash through Papeete the morning before embarkation began but it was sunny when we went to the Market to buy “heis” (flower lei crowns) and leis. We bought flowers for ourselves as well as Alina, our fellow Bare Necessities staff person.
As embarkation began, Eric, Alina and I wore our pareos and tropical flowers and greeted passengers. We guided them upstairs to the Grand Salon where they completed their check-in process with sparkling wine. We shared greeting duties with a lovely newly arrived Gauguine named Vaheana (vah-hee-ah-nah).
As the ship sailed away that evening a message came over the loudspeaker that we may now all be clothes free! We had to dress for dinner but afterward we again shed our togs and met on the pool deck for the Welcome Aboard show and dancing with the band Santa Rosa au natural under the stars.
• April 7th Rangiroa
Arriving through the pass in Rangiroa is always breathtaking, and our entrance that morning was enhanced by moody clouds and rainbows. Eric was diving the pass that day, so Alina and I ventured out to explore the beaches. First we hiked to a lovely beach spot with a calm surf and snorkeling opportunity where we saw two stingrays.
After lunching on sandwiches brought from the ship, we walked the short width of the island to the wave lashed rocky side and searched for shells. A wonderful rainstorm came up late in the day and we saw dolphin on the port side as we weighed anchor.
That evening all of our passengers turned out for the Captains Welcome and the opportunity to shake his hand and meet his staff. Tom and Nancy, the owners of Bare Necessities, spoke words of welcome to our passengers and introduced us. Afterward, the lovely and handsome group of Gauguines and Gauguins performed a show that wove together art, music and an introduction to the ship on the stage in the Grand Salon.
• April 8th Fakarava
Because of the rainy morning weather I taught my first yoga class in the Grand Salon and it was very well attended and quite successful, but we’ll try it outside tomorrow.
We opened the hospitality desk and were greeted by passengers excited to book the Fiji cruise, which will also be on the Paul Gauguin.
Later, Alina and I participated in a snorkeling excursion to the Pinnacles which turned out to be clothes free as the captain of the boat said okay and there were no other tour boats in sight. I saw 2 black tip reef sharks and even chased a white tip. However a large Grouper with an ugly underbite freaked me out.
That evening the ship hosted the very popular Block Party which involved everyone coming out to meet their neighbors and enjoying wine and champagne. Nancy toured the different decks with Steve the cruise director and enjoyed the conviviality. Later Dan the piano man performed his tribute to movie themes. His finale was the theme from “Titanic” and when he left the stage beforehand and reappeared wearing nothing but a life preserver and boxer shorts it brought the house down!
• April 9th AT SEA
Yoga on the Deck had mixed results. Because it was a sea day over 40 people attended, but we didn’t have enough mats to go around, there was a lot of motion on that upper deck, and the people at the back of the class couldn’t hear me well. Afterward we opened the Bare Necessities Hospitality Desk.
Later that day I anchored a slideshow on the Tere Moana New Year’s Eve cruise with Alina and Tom in the Grand Salon. We had completed a site inspection of the Tere Moana the month before and had good photos and information about the ship and the itinerary. The slideshow was very well received and sparked quite a bit of passenger interest.
That evening the sunset was lovely and Steve Woods the Cruise Director did a musical review to a packed house and appreciative audience. Steve has a wonderful voice and a diverse repertoire. My favorite part was his tribute to Peter Allen wearing big colorful Cuban Pete/Carmen Miranda sleeves! I want those. I also call dibs on his sequin jacket if he ever gets tired of it.
• April 10th Hiva Oa
We left the curtains in our cabin open to help me get up for Yoga so I awakened to vast blue ocean, lots of blue sky, and then a BIG green island! We are in the Marquesas!!
Yoga was held outdoors again and the class was going great. I had everyone on mats and in the shade. The island nearby was beautiful, the clouds floated above, and it was all very Zen. Then the ship dropped anchor, rotated completely around, and everyone in the class was broiling in the sun. At that moment I decided for the rest of the cruise we are doing Yoga in the Grand Salon.
Once ashore we took a Le Truck to visit the grave of Paul Gauguin as well as the museum dedicated to his life and work in the town. We also encountered a wonderful market in the town square selling handmade seed jewelry, carved bone, shell and woodwork. The Marquesan people are renowned for this type of artwork.
We also met our fresh tuna dinner waiting at the pier!
The island was lovely but it was really hot, um er sultry.
We were back onboard in time for the local Marquesan dance troupe that afternoon. The men in the troupe were fabulous and warrior-like, while the girls were all young and giggly. Fun!
Eric did a great job in the Liar’s Club game show that evening in the Grand Salon. I truly believed his explanation of “Farture”, that it was the place where the earth has moved apart then pressed back together to make a seam after an earthquake. The true definition is “an Italian dish”. I also learned that the meaning of “Piloerection” is goosebumps and “Calypigian” means shapely rounded buttocks. I ended up using that last word in Yoga class a lot.
• April 11th Fatu Hiva
Fatu Hiva is one of the Marquesan islands Eric and I have never visited before and it’s strikingly beautiful. There is a rock formation that in certain light looks like a giant warrior’s face and the Island rises straight up out of the water in green hills and mountains. The water is very deep.
There was a mad rush for the tenders in the morning so we decided to enjoy an almost deserted pool deck for an hour and relaxed on the padded couches under the overhang on the port side. Later in the afternoon we went to explore the island and visit the church and the market.
I had a chance to have the church all to myself and say a prayer of thanks in solitude. The pulpit was all hand carved local wood and the face of Christ was Polynesian.
This island is famous for their “umuhei” which is an aromatic bouquet worn around the neck that are said to have aphrodisiac properties. I made sure to get one of those off the Tiki on our way back.
As we were sailing away from the island the Captain took us in tight along the dramatic coastline for the sunset and a chance to look more closely at the goats clinging to the hillside.
• April 12th Tahuata – My favorite stop in the Marquesas
This was our third trip to Polynesia but there were two brand new stops in the Marquesas that Eric and I had never experienced before. Tahuata was one of them and became my favorite of the journey. With very few inhabitants, it seemed as if the entire population of the village of Hapatoni turned out to welcome us ashore. We walked to the center of the village where a tent of local arts and crafts had been erected. We found skillfully made seed jewelry, bone carvings, and Tikis.
The people set out free snacks of delicious local grapefruit and fried breadfruit. However, the best was yet to come. They performed a show of Marquesan dances and songs that really wowed our crowd of well traveled passengers. The singing, music and dancing was exceptional.
Somehow Eric found himself the center of an entourage made up of local children headed by the talented young solo dancer Valencia, and her best friend Gwendolyn. Since we didn’t speak French the best that we could decipher was the other little children tagging along were their siblings or cousins. After much laughter and sharing of snacks, we said goodbye to our lovely girls at the pier with kisses on each cheek. While we were doing so, the sweetest little boy ran up to us an proffered his cheek for a kiss as well! It was a lovely moment and for me epitomized the experience of visiting these beautiful and remote islands.
That night a group of us were star gazing at the front of the ship. While we were looking at Orion’s belt we saw a blazing shooting star. We felt very privileged to have experienced that together.
• April 13th Nuku Hiva
Eric went scuba diving in the morning and there were rumors there would be Hammerhead sharks at the dive spot. Considering the name of the location was Hammerhead Point that made sense. When he got back, Eric said it was an amazing experience, not only because he saw sharks but they went snorkeling with Manta Rays on the way back. He said he swam right above one of those amazing creatures.
While Eric was gone I had watched from the deck of the ship as several rays swam by and splashed out in the distance. This island is where they filmed “Survivor Marquesas” back in the day and it seems the town has grown quite a bit since we last visited. We went ashore later in the day and visited the historic church in town. It had beautiful wooden carvings, lovely natural light from the open air sides under the roof, and an altar used for human sacrifices long ago that had been converted to Christian use. We sat along the shore and watched children play in the surf and examined ancient stone Tikis along the waterfront. We visited the market near the wharf and bought seed and shell jewelry.
That evening we had “Dancing Under the Stars” on the deck with lively dance music from the 1950’s through the Disco era performed by the band Santa Rosa. Steve the Cruise Director joined in on some of the songs. We danced until we couldn’t dance anymore. Later we sat in La Palette, the lounge at the back of the ship with comfy outdoor sofas, and gazed at the stars until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.
• April 14th Sea Day
Sea days are always fun because passengers get a chance to decompress from all of the sightseeing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and shopping ashore. They can relax, catch a few rays, and enjoy each other’s company. They can also participate in the activities on board the ship like learning Polynesian drumming and trying their luck at Blackjack tournaments in the casino. There are also special treats like drinking fresh coconut milk straight out of a newly cracked coconut and watching the Gauguins and Gauguines in a pareo fashion show on deck.
• April 15th Sea Day
We had another day at sea to enjoy all the amenities and activities provided by the ship. Eric, Alina, and I made ourselves available for passenger questions, comments, and cruise booking requests at the Bare Necessities Hospitality Desk on the pool deck.
After dinner Eric reprised his role as a master fibber in “The Liar’s Club” that evening in the Grand Salon. Even though we were busy at the Bare Necessities Hospitality desk for two days and hadn’t had a lot of time to prepare, he did a great job. I suspect a friend of his may have helped him just a bit with some of the definitions.
• April 16th Huahine
Eric, Alina, Tom and I joined a shore excursion with snorkeling and a motu picnic. Our tour guide Delores was very informative (In fact she never stopped talking!) and I learned that the only crime on the island are crimes of passion and the biggest health problem is diabetes because they like white rice and sugar.
After two topless snorkeling stops we went to a small island for the motu picnic. They made Poisson Crü, a local fish dish made with lime and coconut and sat fully clothed on chairs and tables in the water and listened to a local musical group. They gave our passengers a dance lesson and we volunteered Alina to participate as well. She did a great job!
Our favorite part of the excursion was when we walked across the island to the other side and were able to enjoy the beach and the water au natural. It was really lovely and we even managed to get a few photos on the beach before the mosquitos started attacking.
That evening the passengers got to enjoy the “Krew Kapers”, or crew talent show. My favorite was the “Matrix”-like ping-pong match using a blacklight and puppetry. Everyone gave the performers a standing ovation and we all cheered at the end when they ran a film of all the hard-working people in the different departments. There was an especially loud cheer for the laundry in thanks for the never ending supply of clean towels.
• April 17th Bora Bora
Today’s outing was a real treat. Nancy took Eric, Alina and me to the Sofitel to experience the private island. We had worked with Classic Vacations to arrange a pre-cruise three day nude island experience there. It turned out to be a big hit, not only with the passengers, but with the staff of the resort. They loved us!
When we arrived we were surprised to find that the resort provided us with one of the Overwater Bungalows to use for the day. They greeted us at the dock with fresh coconuts with Hibiscus flowers and a live ukelele player. We took our time exploring, taking photos and enjoying some of the most amazing snorkeling around the island. Lunch in the dining room was wonderful and we all said we felt how peaceful the island was and how natural it would feel to stay here nude.
We made a brief stop at the famous Bloody Mary’s beach bar and restaurant to sample what made them so famous. When I got back onboard I spoke to many passengers and heard that everyone loved the nude beach and snorkeling stop at the motu we had organized with the ship, but just wait till they see what tomorrow in Tahaa will bring.
• April 18th Tahaa
My buns are pink! I woke up in the morning and found a sunburn on my posterior from snorkeling the day before. We have quite a few publicity photos planned for the private island but any with me will need to be photoshopped to “get the red out”.
Can you guess which one is me in the photo above?
The private beach BBQ and snorkeling was in full swing when Eric and I arrived. The cooks at the outdoor grills were flipping burgers, as well as yummy fish and chicken. The lunch buffet the ship brought ashore was wonderful with lots of salads and fresh fruit.
We were able to indulge in a bit of shopping in the nude at the local craftsman’s tables situated around the motu. There were really nice crafts and gorgeous black pearls.
Eric, Alina and I, as well as many passengers, enjoyed a complimentary coconut oil rub-down from the Gauguins and Gauguines which did wonders for my dry hair!
It was a perfect nude beach day. I want to go back and do it all again, pink buns and all.
That evening was the much anticipated passenger talent show! Everyone who participated was great and Carlos playing his jazz flute was a standout. The act that stole the show for me was the group of female passengers performing a local Tahitian dance with the Gauguines, complete with leis, pareos, and flowers in their hair. They were so good!
• April 19th Moorea
This was my fourth visit to Moorea and my last chance to get a world famous Tahitian tattoo. I’d been thinking about doing it for a long time and the ship had a wonderful tattoo artist they could get me an appointment with, but… I chickened out. Bak-bak-bakaaa. Maybe I’ll have the nerve to do it the NEXT time I return.
That evening we joined the Captain’s Farewell party on the deck to wish our passengers safe travels and thank them for joining us on this journey through paradise. Many of them have already signed up to join us again next year in Fiji because they had such a lovely time onboard this 5 star ship. This most wonderful cruise is drawing to a close.
When we arrived in Papeete that evening we tossed our heis (flowered head leis) into the water in the hopes that the old tradition would hold true, that if they floated we would return. The best dance troupe in Tahiti “O Tahiti E” arrived to entertain our passengers that evening. We ended the cruise on a high note!
• April 20th Papeete
Eric and I headed for our dayroom at the Intercontinental and played in the pool and hung out with passengers before we made a caravan to the airport and said farewell to Tahiti… until the next time…