This morning, m/s Paul Gauguin is still anchored off the coast of Bora Bora. And why not? It just happens to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth!
Today, we have booked one of the ship's shore excursions: the Lagoonarium Snorkeling Experience ($105pp).
Per instructions on our tickets, and in la Orana (the ship's daily newsletter), we meet with other guests at 8:15am in the Grand Salon on Deck 5. We brought our snorkel gear (mask and fins) provided by the ship as well as towels, sunscreen, bottled water and a ziplock bag for our money and other non-waterproof items. Within minutes of arriving at the lounge, we were led down to Deck 3 to board the ship's tender for the short ride to the village.
When we arrive at the village, our local guide for the day is waiting for us, holding a "LAGOONARIUM" sign. We all dutifully follow him and board a small outrigger boat just steps from where the tender drops us off.
There are a total of 12 guests on our tour today, all from m/s Paul Gauguin. Once everyone is on board, the outrigger heads out toward the Lagoonarium.
The Lagoonarium is located on a motu about 45 minutes from the village in Bora Bora. The Lagoonarium is basically a portion of the lagoon that has been fenced off, with ocean life inside the fence. Think of it as an aquarium large enough for you to swim in.
Not long after we enter the water, we are surrounded by Lemon sharks. They are about eight feet long and have a mouth large enough to take a big chunk out of you if they saw you as a food source. Fortunately, they don't!
At one point, the guide convinced Rickee that it would be a good idea for her to grab the fin of the largest shark and ride it. Great idea, let's torment the deadly, man-eating fish! Of course, she had to do it.
After Rickee cheated death, we continued to snorkel with the sharks for about 45 minutes. We also got to see a huge eel up-close and a stone fish. Afterwards, we were treated to a snack of fresh island fruit.
We re-boarded the outrigger for a short ride out to the coral garden. Here, we all had the opportunity to snorkel above large sections of coral and admire the colorful fish that inhabit this area.
We spend about 45 minutes snorkeling at the coral garden before it is time to return to the village. The excursion took about four hours and is an excellent value at $105/pp. We highly recommended it!
We were back on board the ship in time for a delicious lunch at La Veranda. Today is "Greek" day and the buffet features a variety of typical Greek cuisine including moussaka, lamb, gyros, hummus, dolma, and really, really good tzatziki.
This afternoon, we attended an Indian cooking demonstration conducted by Vikram Vij, a notable Canadian chef. Chef Vij owns four restaurants in Canada and has been featured on Top Chef Canada, Chopped Canada, and Dragon's Den. He has also authored several cookbooks. As Chef Vij prepared his Chicken Curry, he entertained us with story after story, some quite "colorful", to say the least. At the conclusion of the demonstration, we all got to try his curry, which was delicious. But, it was Chef Vij's storytelling that was the real star. It was one of the most entertaining lectures/demonstrations we have ever attended on any cruise ship.
After the demonstration, Rickee and I head up to the Bar du Soleil for the ship's repeat-guest party.
We are welcomed by the Hotel Director and Les Gauguines as we reach the top of the stairs.
Waiters deliver chilled glasses of champagne and circulate with trays of appetizers. We spend time visiting with Alison, the Asst. Cruise Director, and Chef Vij is on hand with more interesting stories. Cruise Director, Claudine, takes to the microphone to greet everyone and express the cruise line's appreciation for the guests' loyalty. It was a very nice "repeater" party. Afterwards, Rickee and I enjoyed a cocktail in the Piano Bar before our 7:00pm dinner reservation at La Veranda.
La Veranda is one of the specialty restaurants on board and reservations are required. The restaurant features a Chef's Dégustation menu, or an a la carte menu. Our waiter informed us that we could mix and match items from either menu. La Veranda becomes a very romantic venue in the evening, with candlelit tables and fine linens. Our meal was delicious, and mine ended with a delicious vanilla creme brulee.
Tomorrow, we will be in Moorea where we have booked a Catajet excursion. Check the blog tomorrow for more excitement from French Polynesia!