Day 1 - Fly to Tahiti and Embark m/s Paul Gauguin

In spite of every effort by American Airlines to prevent us from making our 4:30pm departure on Air Tahiti Nui, we somehow arrived at LAX with only about 15 minutes to spare. The 45-minute wait for our luggage at baggage claim had us fearing that we might miss the flight to Tahiti. Rickee decided to walk over to the Tom Bradley International terminal to get us checked in while I waited for our luggage at baggage claim. The last time we took an international flight out of LAX, the line at security (TSA) took over an hour! Once Rickee made it to the Air Tahiti Nui desk, she texted me that a Paul Gauguin Cruises agent was there to reassure her that we would make the flight, no problem.

Paul Gauguin Cruises Agent

Paul Gauguin Cruises Agent

Not many cruise lines provide an agent to meet guests at an airport of departure. In fact, I can't think of another one right off hand. I have to tell you, it was very reassuring to have an advocate at the airport.

The flight from LAX to Papeete takes close to eight hours. And, no matter how hard we tried to use our American Airlines miles to upgrade to Business Class, we ended up in Economy. The seats are cramped, and quite uncomfortable, but there is a nice touch-screen entertainment system in the back of each seat with a decent selection of on-demand movies and games.

Air Tahiti Nui Economy Class

Air Tahiti Nui Economy Class

ATN does provide each seat with a pillow, blanket and small amenity kit. Meal service begins within an hour after takeoff and included a choice of fish or beef curry.

In-flight menu

In-flight menu

I ordered the Beef Massaman Curry which, I am sorry to say, was inedible. I love curry, but everything in this dish tasted off, even the rice. I ate the chicken and rice salad and a piece of bread and sent the rest back.

Beef curry

Beef curry

To their credit, ATN does offer complimentary wine and spirits with dinner. They even offer a sparkling wine, which tasted quite nice.

About two hours before landing, there was another snack service, this time featuring a cold pasta salad with cheesecake. Overall, the service was good throughout the flight. Attendants routinely walked through the cabin offering water. Even though the flight was an hour late taking off, we did land on time in Papeete, Tahiti, at around 10:30pm. As we enter the open-air airport, we are greeted by Tahitian musicians before we line up at Immigration. A Customs form and an Immigration form were handed out on the flight, so we had them completed before we arrived

Immigration and Customs forms

Immigration and Customs forms

Since the flight was full, the wait in line to clear Customs and Immigration took about 40 minutes, after which we collected our soaking wet (it was raining when we arrived) checked luggage and fought the substantial crowd to get outside the airport where a Paul Gauguin Cruises sign greeted us. The cruise line representative checked for our names on her list, then placed a fresh flower lei around our necks and guided us to the waiting bus.

Rickee gets her lei on

Rickee gets her lei on

By the time we arrive at the pier, it is close to midnight. The first sign of 5-star service is when an attendant grabs Rickee's hand luggage to carry it up the gangway for her. We walk aboard on Deck 5 and are invited into the lounge where we are greeted with a glass of champagne. Check in is quick. A swipe of our passports and our photos are taken for security, then we are given our stateroom keys. A stewardess is waiting for us to escort us to our stateroom.

We are completely exhausted. By the time we unpack our luggage it is nearly 1am, and that is 5am at home! We quickly unpack and get into bed. We have to be up in time for the 8:30am muster drill. More details to come...