Look at some of the postcard-perfect images of French Polynesia, and you may think you know all that you need to know. White-sand beaches overlook azure-blue lagoons and emerald green peaks rise above the sea to touch the sky. A journey aboard the 332-guest The Gauguin, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ ship, however, goes beyond the breath-taking beauty to reveal many other facets to this paradise in the Pacific.
The cruise line’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) includes two interactive, educational programs. The Stewards of Nature program targets younger guests, ages seven to 17. The daily schedule typically includes an excursion led by a naturalist, along a beach or exploring the interior of one of the islands, as well as science activities, crafts, games, and other adventures.
For older travelers who have maintained their curiosity about the world, the Wildlife Discovery Series is an onboard lecture program on the environment and animals—from those below the sea to others flying above—of the South Pacific. Leading conservationists, scientists, and oceanographers bring this fascinating part of the world to life. Included in Paul Gauguin’s all-inclusive packages is round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, all meals, onboard gratuities, and much more, making a cruise with them an exceptional value.
Going beyond the obvious appeals of French Polynesia also includes, for Paul Gauguin Cruises, visiting ports that are a little off the beaten path. This year they will be the first cruise line to visit Vairao, on Tahiti Iti, the smaller of the two landmasses that comprise the island of Tahiti. Largely bypassed by most tourists, it is a region of wild coastline and towns where Polynesian culture thrives. Vairao, on the southwest coast, is also known for the famous Teahupo’o wave—you can try surfing on the island where the sport was “discovered” by Captain Cook’s crew in the 18th century. (Of course Polynesians were riding the waves long before the English arrived.)
Sometimes the best way to appreciate the beauty of the South Pacific is a matter of getting an up-close first-hand look at it. The Gauguin has its own dive team that provides PADI certification scuba programs and dive trips to explore the marine life of the lagoons. The ship’s watersports marina is available if you want to head out in a kayak, on a paddleboard, or go windsurfing.
Finally, part of getting a deeper understanding of the South Pacific—trust us on this—involves simply experiencing the serenity and solitude of a remote atoll. You’ll be able to sit silently and listen to the surf and the tropical breezes rustling the fronds of the palm trees at Paul Gauguin’s two exclusive retreats. The tiny islet of Motu Mahana sits right off the coast of Taha’a, Known for its tranquil atmosphere and vanilla-scented air (thanks to the many vanilla farms there), Taha’a is an idyllic destination but things are even quieter on nearby Motu Mahana, where you can spend a day swimming, snorkeling, and learning about Polynesian arts from flower weaving to traditional dances. On Bora Bora, which James Michener once described as the most beautiful island in the world, you can spend the day on Paul Gauguin’s private beach and snorkeling in—or paddleboarding above—the lagoon’s crystal clear waters.
The Polynesian influence continues on board the ships too, with crews that include residents of the islands, the Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm offering signature Polynesian treatments, and local dishes served at the ship’s three dining venues.
On a Paul Gauguin Cruise, there is plenty of time to enjoy the warmth of the tropical sun and sip fresh juices by the seaside, but you’ll also have opportunities to set sail on a journey through Polynesia’s culture and cuisine, and the islands’ fascinating history and environment.