One of our least favorite parts of any cruise is disembarkation. Not only is it the end of a vacation, but getting off the ship can often be difficult, and then you have to deal with airports and airlines. Yuck. This morning, m/s Paul Gauguin is docked back in Papeete, Tahiti, where our adventure began just seven short days ago.
Fortunately, Paul Gauguin Cruises makes getting off the ship in Papeete, Tahiti, as painless as possible. Guests are issued colored luggage tags and assigned a time to be off the ship. Large luggage needs to be outside the stateroom by 11pm the night before disembarkation, and tagged with the appropriate colored tag. We had the pink tags indicating that we had a post-cruise tour combined with a day room at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort (more about that later). Guests must vacate their staterooms by 9:30am, which is actually pretty generous. And, disembarkation for us was not until 12:10pm. The late disembarkation is due to the fact that most flights don't leave Tahiti until late in the evening or almost midnight. Guests can even enjoy lunch from 11am until 12pm before disembarking. We had our traditional disembarkation-day breakfast with Rickee ordering Eggs Benedict in La Veranda.
After breakfast, we sat on the back deck outside La Palette and waited for our tag color to be called for disembarkation. Paul Gauguin Cruises does something else that is admirable: guests who sign up for the week-long Internet/WiFi package get to keep using the Internet until 11:59am. Many cruise lines shut down the WiFi accounts at midnight the night before. We were walking down the gangway by noon, ahead of schedule. Getting off the ship was very organized and orderly.
In a tent near the end of the gangway, all of the large luggage (that was retrieved from the hallways the night before) is organized by luggage tag color, making it simple to find your bags. Next the luggage is loaded into a waiting truck that will take it to the hotel. A representative from the Shore Excursion department is on site to help should any problems occur.
With hand-luggage in tow, we walk down to the cruise terminal exit where a bus is waiting to take us on our local tour of Papeete before dropping us at our day-room hotel.
Fortunately, the bus was air conditioned because is broiling hot today and very humid. Our first stop was the home of James Normal Hall, author of many famous novels including Mutiny on the Bounty.
A guide took us on a tour of the place, which is actually a replica of James Norman Hall’s Tahitian home. The guide pointed out interesting facts about Mr. Hall's life and his children. You know, I guess I have been on so many of these kinds of tours that I sort of tune everything out. I just walk around on my own, look at the pictures on the wall, and wait for the bus to leave. I know I am not going to remember any of the information the guides disseminate. At my age, my "hard drive" is full. In order for me to remember anything new, I would have to throw out something else that I already know.
The next stop on the tour was at a lighthouse, where it became clear that the object of this tour is to just kill time until the hotel is ready for us to check in. The final stop was at some sort of scenic overlook. Bottom line: there is really nothing to see in Papeete! I think a better option, which the cruise line does offer, would be to skip the tour, go directly to the hotel and just hang out at the pool until time to check-in. When we do finally get to the hotel around 2:15pm, check-in is really hectic and not all of the rooms are ready for us.
The post-cruise day-room hotel is the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort, which may sound luxurious, but trust me, it is not. Paul Gauguin Cruises offers two hotels for post-cruise day rooms, with the other being the Intercontinental. Trust me on this, opt for the Intercontinental. The Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort is in a state of disrepair. One of the first things you see when you drive into the circular drive in front of the hotel is big chunks missing from the thatched roof over the lobby! This property really does not live up to the standards we have become accustomed to for the last seven days aboard m/s Paul Gauguin.
When we finally do get our room keys (by 3pm), we go to our "Premium" room, which honestly was not too bad. It was a two-story, large room with a nice large balcony. However, the A/C in our room never did get the temperature below 80 degrees. We decided to spend our time at the pool, which also is pretty nice. However, they were out of towels at the pool, and the pool attendant asked for a "towel card" which was supposed to be issued with our room key at check in but was not. To his credit, he did eventually bring a towel to Rickee but not without her guarantee that she would not take the frayed and worn blue towel home with her since she had not been issued an "official" towel card!
We did not eat at the hotel, but I did try ordering a rum punch at the pool bar. Nobody at the bar spoke English, only French. I tried to describe a rum punch, but the bartenter just started making his own concoction, which ended up tasting like a Margarita. There were about five slices of muddled lemon in the bottom of the glass and it was filled with ice, so I only got about three straws full of drink. The price? $14 (US)!
When we checked in, we were told that check-out time was 7pm and that we had to have our luggage in the lobby by that time, even though the transfer to the airport was not until 9:10pm. We later learned that other guests were told they could stay in their rooms until 8pm. I wish we had known that! Nevertheless, we did enjoy a beautiful scene on our balcony as the sun set behind Moorea in the distance.
Our luggage was transported to the airport in a separate truck and was waiting for us when we arrived. The pre-arranged transfer to the airport (bus) arrived right on time at 9:10pm and by 9:30 we were checking in for our 11:59pm flight to LAX on Air Tahiti Nui. All along the way there was a representative from Paul Gauguin Cruises with us to answer questions or provide assistance. I will spare you the details of our overnight flight to LAX, and connecting flight to DFW. That tale is for another blog and another day. Suffice it to say that the Air Tahiti Nui flight had one of the most uncomfortable airline seats we have ever occupied, with little to no leg room, in the center section of an old airplane.
Watch for our full review of m/s Paul Gauguin coming to CruiseReport.com soon.