Stern's Guide to the Greatest Resorts of the World, Stern's Guide to the Cruise Vacation, Stern's Guide to European Riverboats and Hotel Barges, and The Indispensable Guide to Foreign Words and Phrases--by Steven B. Stern (Sponsored by Stern's Travel Guides, Ltd.)
Since my last French Polynesian Cruise on the Paul
Gauguin several years ago, the ship had undergone a multi-million dollar
renovation which included new carpeting, upholstery and furnishings in the
staterooms, public areas and dining venues. Previous itineraries explored the
islands of French Polynesia, the Cook
Islands, the Marquesas, and
the Tuamotus. Now several cruises extend as far as Fiji, Australia and Singapore. I was most pleased to see Captain Mirkovicand hotel director Jacques Le Tallec were
still with the ship, both being exceptional officers with great rapport with
Our 202-square-foot, category C balcony cabin was quite
comfortable featuring generous storage and wardrobe space, a queen-size bed, a
writing desk, a make-up area, a couch, cable TV with in-house movies, an
electronic safe, direct-dial telephone, a hair dryer, and a bathroom with
numerous mirrors, good shelf space, a full-size tub with shower combination, robes
and slippers. Our refrigerator was stocked daily gratis with soft drinks, beer
and bottled water. Wines and spirits
were free of charge from room service.
The 249-square-foot, category B veranda staterooms, the
300-square-foot veranda suites, the 332-square-foot Grand Suites, and the
457-538-square-foot Owners' Suites afforded even more space and luxury at a
commensurately higher price.
The service and cuisine in the three restaurants continues
to be exceptional. Breakfast and lunch offered in both the panoramic La Veranda
and the indoor/outdoor Le Grill combine elaborate buffet tables with
made-to-order menu items served at your table. Breakfasts include just about
any dish one could conjure up, and lunches offered an array of salads,
sandwiches, pastas, and ethnic dishes.
The multi-course continental dinner menus featured in the
elegant L'Etoile were always excellent,
as were the French Provincial cuisine and tasting menus designed by celebrity
chef Jean-Pierre Vigato at the Veranda specialty restaurant. (Vigato's Apicus
Restaurant in Paris boasts two Michelin stars).
My two most enthusiastic plaudits go to the service
throughout the ship(staterooms,
restaurants, bars and reception); and the ship's all-inclusive policy of no
tipping while offering quality wines, beer, and soft drinks at meals and
top-shelf spirits and other beverages at all the bars gratis.
The two shortcomings continue to be the dearth of
entertainment in the evenings and the high price of the shore excursions.
Gauguin continues to be a romantic, low-key, South Pacific-style adventure
visiting some of the most beautiful and exotic islands in the world while
providing comfortable accommodations, fine dining, excellent service and all the
wine, beer and booze you can consume.