This morning, m/s Paul Gauguin is sailing toward Moorea, Society Islands. I was working on our blog at around 5:45am in La Palette when the most amazing sunrise caught my attention. I was able to use my phone to capture the moment.
We arrive in Moorea later this morning and the backdrop of jagged peaks and lush greenery is stunning.
We have booked an afternoon "Moorea by Catajets" tour through the cruise line's shore excursion program ($299 for two people). We met in the Grand Salon at 1:15 as instructed on the tickets. We then boarded the ship's tender for the ride to the pier in Moorea. The outrigger is waiting nearby that will take us to our Catajet.
The outrigger boat ride only lasts about 10 minutes before we arrive at a hotel beach from where the Catajets and wave runners are operated. We are the only couple from the ship that signed up for the Catajet tour. Everyone else on the outrigger signed up for the wave runner excursion. You may be wondering what a "Catajet" is. Basically, it is a miniature catamaran. Sort of like a 2-person, side-by-side, wave runner.
There is one other couple on the Catajet tour (guests from a hotel) and our guide, who is in a small lead boat. The Catajet is pretty simple to operate. It has a small outboard prop motor, so I am not sure where the "jet" term comes from. Nevertheless, it was pretty fun to drive through the crystal clear, calm waters surrounding Moorea. There is very little instruction from Tom, our guide: basically, here's how you turn on the engine, and here's the throttle, and "stay 30 feet behind me." We rode the Catajet for about 10 minutes to a sandbar where we had an opportunity to swim with black-tipped reef sharks and stingrays.
We are actually in about four feet of water, so you can easily stand up. The water is so clear that you can see the fish, sharks and rays swimming below even when you are standing up. But, using a snorkel and mask is the best way to get up-close-and-personal with the sea life.
In case you are afraid of sharks, and who isn't, these sharks seem pretty disinterested in people. They tend to keep their distance, whereas the stingrays will swim right up to you and brush past you. It takes some getting used to, but the rays are much more social than the sharks.
We snorkeled here for about 40 minutes before boarding the Catajets for another short ride over to a motu where we had the opportunity to swim in some warmer, deeper waters. However, the current was so strong that swimming was difficult. Soon, the wave runner tour joined us on the motu for a snack of fresh pineapple and lemon-water.
Before we boarded our Catajet for the last time, two rays decided to stop by the motu for a visit. We were in ankle deep water and noticed that the rays have no problem swimming in the shallow water.
I suspect the rays see people as a food source since the guides always feed them fish. We board the Catajet for the 10-minute ride back to the hotel beach. The tour lasted about two hours total, but really only about 1.5 hours on the tour, and most of that time you are in the water. We probably only drove the Catajet for about 20 minutes total. So, it is really a snorkeling and swimming tour. The Catajet is just a form of transportation. At $299, this is not an inexpensive excursion. But, swimming with the sharks and rays helped to make the cost worth it. And, the Catajet is probably easier to operate than a wave runner.
Before we boarded the tender back to the ship, we had some time to do a little souvenir shopping from the local merchants. We bought a couple of refrigerator magnets for our collection. We were back on board m/s Paul Gauguin in time for an amazing sunset and the Polynesian Night celebration.
Tonight is Polynesian Night and the ship takes on a Polynesian look. Tonight, each restaurant serves the same Polynesian-inspired menu, albeit with a French influence. Rickee dons her new pareo that she bought at the beach BBQ in Taha'a and we hit the Piano Bar for a cocktail before going to dinner. Before we can finish our drink, Rickee is drawn to the Polynesian "mamas" who are sitting on the floor in front of L' Etoile restaurant making fresh flower leis. Everyone is invited to make their own lei, so Rickee joins in the fun.
Interestingly, other than the Gauguines (female crew members), Rickee is the only woman I saw who wore a pareo to the event. She really represented!
After she completed her lei, Rickee and I returned to the Piano Bar to finish our drinks. The Piano Bar has become our favorite watering hole on m/s Paul Gauguin. Since I drink Crown Royal, I prefer to have it served in a rocks glass instead of a plastic water glass, which is what you get at the Pool Bar. They also serve delicious canapés each evening at the Piano Bar.
This evening we decided to dine in L' Etoile. Actually, L' Etoile is your only choice unless you make reservations at La Veranda or Le Grill. So, it was an easy choice! We were seated at a nice table for two and given the Polynesian Night menu. One of the most interesting dishes I had was the pumpkin gnocchi with roast suckling pig ragout. What a weird combination, but it worked.
For a main course, I had the filet and Rickee had the fish. Both were good. During the meal, the Gauguines parade through the dining room entertaining guests with Polynesian song and dance.
We decided to skip dessert tonight and head back to the stateroom early. Tomorrow, we are still in Moorea and we have booked an E-Bike tour.