This morning, m/s Paul Gauguin is anchored off the shores of Bora Bora, Society Islands.
Truly, this has to be one of the most romantic and beautiful places on Earth. It was the scene for the movie South Pacific, and it is no wonder that it has become one of the most popular destinations in the world for honeymooners. Premium resort hotels here can cost $1,000 to $3,000 per night!
We boarded the ship's first tender this morning at 8:30am for the short ride over to Bora Bora. Today, we have arranged our own tour with Vavau Land and Sea Adventures, in part, so that we have a basis of comparison with the ship's tours (which we will do tomorrow). As soon as we stepped off the tender, our driver, Patrick, was waiting for us with a sign with my name on it.
We boarded Patrick's van for the 10-minute drive to Mai-Tai Hotel where an outrigger boat was waiting for us to board. Another guest from New York was already onboard. We were greeted by our boat Captain and his assistant and we headed off to pick up some other guests at another hotel. We actually made a couple of stops to pick up other tour guests, which took about an hour before we got to our first actual tour stop.
We will do a more in-depth review of Vavau Land and Sea Adventures in a future blog entry, but in summary, we did swim with black-tip sharks and stingrays. Very cool.
The tour included a stop on a sand bar where we could easily stand in four feet of water as the huge stingrays swam all around us. There were sharks in the water here, too. Rickee even got to kiss one of the stingrays!
The tour ended around 1:00pm and we were delivered back to the village and the pier where our ship's tender took us back to m/s Paul Gauguin. The ship operated tenders all day from 8:30am until 10:00pm, every thirty minutes. This made it very convenient for guests to go ashore for shopping or to enjoy lunch or dinner at a local restaurant.
We were back on board the ship by 2:00pm. I was able to grab a quick salad plate from Le Grill before they discontinued lunch service. In the meantime, Rickee wanted to grab a few rays by the pool. The sun has finally emerged from the clouds, and it is really HOT! Her stint in the Tahitian sun is a short one, and by 3:00pm she decides to retreat to the cool stateroom. Besides, we need to get ready for a special event to which we have been invited. At 5pm, we have been invited to celebrate our wedding anniversary with several other couples in Le Palette on Deck 8. Interesting, since we are not married! I can only assume that Paul Gauguin Cruises wanted us to experience this event so that we can inform others of what to expect when celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary aboard m/s Paul Gauguin.
When we arrived at Le Pallete, we were greeted by Cruise Director, Claudine, and a waiter brought us glasses of champagne. There were about ten other couples at the celebration, most celebrating anniversaries but there were also a couple of honeymooners. Les Gauguines were entertaining us with song, and a special dance was performed by one of the Gauguines.
After the reading of a poem (in three languages), each couple was wrapped in a special French Polynesian ceremonial blanket and the ship's photographer was on hand to capture the moment with Bora Bora in the background. Truly, this is an anniversary or honeymoon event that these folks will remember forever. The event ended with everyone being served a piece of cake.
We feel very honored that Paul Gauguin Cruises included us in this special celebration. This is a very popular cruise with those who are celebrating an anniversary or honeymoon, and now we see why.
Our evening ended with a very romantic dinner at Le Grill on Deck 8. Le Grill is one of the specialty restaurants on board m/s Paul Gauguin. And, while there is no charge to dine here, reservations are required. What is a pretty typical pool grill at breakfast and lunch is magically transformed into a romantic bistro each evening with a unique Asian-inspired menu (same menu every day). Since we are anchored in a protected bay tonight, and the weather is perfect, the tables have been brought outside, around the pool. The only light is coming from the candlelit tables (I am pretty sure these are battery-operated candles), so it is too dark to get any good photos, but trust me, this is something you must experience when sailing on m/s Paul Gauguin.
After our meal, we retired to our stateroom to rest for another day of adventure in Bora Bora tomorrow where we will be experiencing our first ship's excursion!