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South Pacific Cruise: 3 November 2007

Embarkation at Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

We woke up at 6:30am and just sat in bed looking through our deck doors at Moorea and the distant waves crashing on the reef. When we got tired of that, we moved out to the deck, read our books and ate some snacks we had in the room.

Packing and leaving the Intercontinental

At 8:30, we finally got busy. We showered, re-packed our bags, and set them outside the room. With the busy work done for a while, we returned to our deck, enjoying the sound of the water and the view of the sea. We really didn’t want to leave.

At 10:20 we made our way up to the lobby to check out. The line of guests checking out was pretty long, and it wasn’t moving fast. In the first fifteen minutes, we saw only two guests check out successfully. After that, it moved a bit more quickly. When we got to the desk, we were checked out in less than a minute. It was there that I discovered we hadn’t been charged for breakfast the day before. There was only a 500CFP charge for the delivery.

Our pre-cruise meal had been listed as a brunch, but it didn’t start until 11:30. At that time of day, all pretense of breakfast is gone, and it’s just lunch. We were expecting a buffet, but instead we were told to order whatever we wanted from the lunch menu. Iced tea and water were included in the complimentary meal.

Chris had a salad and pizza. I had a fish and shrimp platter. We shared the pizza, but ate only half of it. We had gone from starving to stuffed in an hour.

It was just past noon and our transfer to the cruise ship would not leave until 3:30. We decided to kill the time in the shade of the poolside bar. There we enjoyed the breeze, read our books, transferred pictures to the laptop and watched the people walking by. After a while, I ordered a Chimay and Chris ordered a glass of wine. Before she finished her glass, Chris’s eyes fell closed and she started dozing. I finished my beer and played Sudoku. When I noticed she was asleep and her wine was getting warm, I finished it for her.

Shortly after 3:00 we went to the lobby. At 3:20 a member of the hotel staff asked us to queue up for the bus. One couple at a time, the ship-bound guests picked out their luggage from the big pile of it in front of the hotel. The bags were loaded onto a truck and we were loaded onto a bus. After a twenty-minute bus ride through Papeete, we arrived at the Paul Gauguin.

The m/s Paul Gauguin

m/s Paul Gauguin

While we were still on the bus, members of the cruise staff checked to make sure everyone had their passports and cruise vouchers. Then we exited the bus and were greeted by lovely Tahitian ladies handing out flowers, playing ukuleles, and singing local songs. The ship photographer snapped our picture and we were up the ramp and onto the ship.

Deck 7
Deck 5
Deck 3

We entered the ship on deck three and climbed the stairs to deck five. In the Grand Salon we surrendered our vouchers and passports in exchange for card keys and champagne. A friendly stewardess walked us to our room.

Our stateroom was number 736, a midship stateroom with a balcony on the port side of deck seven. We took the elevator for but vowed to use the stairs to burn some of the many calories we were going to be consuming. The room was like a smallish – but very nice – hotel room. One wall was mirrored, giving a sense of much more space than was actually available. The room had a desk/makeup table, queen-size bed, loveseat (with a fold-out single bed), cocktail table, and a nicely stocked refrigerator (which would be restocked twice a day by Helen, our stewardess). The room also had a small balcony with two chairs and a table.

We have reservations

After we familiarized ourselves with the room, we headed for the shore excursion desk. Outside our room, we noticed our bags had already arrived, so we pulled them into the room before continuing on. Two different islands had been added to our itinerary since we had made our shore excursion requests back in July. We signed up for excursions on both islands – Vava’u in Tonga and Malolo in Fiji.

While we were in a mood to sign up for stuff, we made reservations for massages and manicures at the spa. I had never had a manicure, but Chris told me I should try it and the staff there highly recommend a “royal hands and feet treatment” for men. I signed up for it. Next we made dinner reservations for four of our nights at the two fancier restaurants. La Veranda and the Pacific Grill require reservations for dinner.

Deck 9
Deck 8
Deck 7
Deck 6
Deck 4

L’Etoile, on deck five, is the larger restaurant and does not require reservations or assigned seating. La Veranda, on deck six immediately above L’Etoile, also serves breakfast and lunch. The Pacific Grill is next to the pool on deck eight. During breakfast and lunch, it is called simply “Le Grill” and features buffets and some cook-to-order stations.

Deck four has the reception lobby and travel desk. Deck nine is just the sun deck at the bow of the ship. We never saw decks one or two.

By the time we got back to the room it was 5:15pm. We unpacked our bags and stowed everything around the room. It had been four hours since our last nap, so we lay down and dozed for twenty minutes. At 6:30 we roused ourselves, showered and dressed for dinner. The Paul Gauguin is a very informal cruise ship, but they still require nice clothes – “country club casual” – for dinner. That meant long pants and an open-neck shirt for me. Chris could wear slacks, a skirt, or a dress.

Once we were suitably attired, we found our way to the piano bar where we enjoyed the patter and playing of a Liberace wannabe who calls himself Kemble. He is quite funny, self deprecating, and he plays the piano well, too. We each had a drink while Kemble played. He ended his set at 7:30, so we headed to L’Etoile for dinner then.

On the Paul Gauguin, diners may choose to sit alone or join a group. We weren’t in the mood to mingle, so we requested a table for two. Our table was near the entrance, so we were able to enjoy the constant parade of other passengers as they arrived and left the restaurant. We both enjoyed four courses: appetizer, salad, main course and dessert.

During dinner a wine steward, named Jan Michael, introduced himself and memorized our names. He was quite persistent in his offers of wine and refills, but we managed to limit ourselves. He was able to talk me into a sweet dessert wine. While I enjoyed my wine, Chris ate a bowl of pistachio ice cream.

We were stuffed.

We were also exhausted. The excitement of the day caught up with us early and we went to bed at 10:00. I set my alarm to ring at 6:45am so we could watch our arrival at Moorea the next morning.

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