French Polynesian Favorite

Refurbished Paul Gauguin offers great savings and new itineraries

By: By Janice Mucalov

The Details

Paul Gauguin Cruises

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A new lease on life, a facelift, great savings and added itineraries: It’s all good news for agents and clients wondering about the future of the cherished Paul Gauguin. The 332-guest luxury ship, which has been sailing in French Polynesia since 1998, was acquired by the Pacific Beachcomber group, which owns five luxury hotels in French Polynesia, including the four Intercontinental properties in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, and now operates under the banner of Paul Gauguin Cruises.

Although the ship has left the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet, Laurent le Breton, Assistant Managing Director for the Pacific Beachcomber group and acting CEO of Paul Gauguin Cruises expected to see no changes to the ship’s deployment, staffing or agent relationships.

“We’re currently finalizing the itinerary schedule for 2011, however the comprehensively exotic schedule for 2010 remained the same. About 80% of the ship’s staff stayed on even after the transition of ownership, including the ever-famous Les Gauguines. Additionally, our commitment to travel agents is stronger than ever and we look forward to continuing to strengthen this relationship. We’re continuously offering attractive agent incentives and recently unveiled a dedicated Travel Agent Website to streamline the booking process and provide enhanced booking tools,” said le Breton.

Changes that have been made are for the better. A $6 million drydock refurbishment has the Paul Gauguin sparkling like new. As part of the renovation, 26 oceanview cabins were
converted to balcony staterooms (some 70 percent of cabins now have balconies), and all other staterooms and suites were refreshed.

Our veranda stateroom was virtually flawless. New, ruby-red carpeting contrasted nicely with royal-blue upholstered furniture. The extra-large beds, with pillowtop mattresses and white feather duvets, were extremely comfortable, and deluxe European linens were bordered with thick red embroidered stripes. Our creamy white bathroom, with a stone countertop and sink, was in top shape, too. Huge, thick new towels were abundant, and it was a treat to lounge around in new white robes and slippers.

The al fresco space for the ship’s La Veranda restaurant was also expanded. At night, La Veranda operates as an alternative French restaurant but, at lunch, shaded outside teak tables and chairs offer a more elegant experience than the casual Le Grill.

Watersports lovers will be pleased to know that the retractable watersports marina was also enhanced during the recent drydock, and new sports boats were added. The Paul Gauguin offers complimentary windsurfing, kayaking and waterskiing. And the ship’s dedicated dive team offers PADI certification and onboard classes for all levels.

Other renovations included a fitness center upgrade, enhanced Internet service (there were plenty of computer stations, and we never experienced any lines), a refurbishment of the poolside Le Grill and refinished woodwork and new upholstery in all public areas.

The ship’s cruising reach has also been extended with the addition of longer new itineraries for 2010. Five, new 11-night cruises add the Cook Islands, and two, new 14-night voyages add New Zealand and Tonga to the classic French Polynesian island mix.

There has been no tinkering with two of the ship’s most popular features, however — and none are planned. Clients will still find the lovely live-aboard Tahitian hostesses known as Les Gauguines, who sing, dance and add a uniquely Polynesian flavor to each cruise. And premium wines, French champagne and all cocktails are complimentary throughout the ship at all times.

“We’re proud to report the product was already strong – following the m/s Paul Gauguin’s recent renovations, and the multimillion dollar refit that was conducted in the 2009 dry dock. This was not only meant to refurbish the ship but also to add new enhancements such as the new balconies for cabins that didn’t have any,” said le Breton.

“What we are working on is further enhancing the ship’s already fantastic shore excursions and experiences – offering new activities comparable to what we offer at each of our resorts. Having been in the tourism industry in French Polynesia for more than 25 years, we at Pacific Beachcomber comfortably, and quite suitably, take on the role as ‘destination specialists’ and we look forward to applying this local knowledge to deliver genuinely authentic travel experiences to each of our guests,” he added.

Agents will be as impressed with the new operation as seasoned cruisers. Non-commissionable cruise fares for 2010 bookings have been eliminated, all current 2009 commission agreements and levels for 2010 reservations are being honored and the company is offering incentives up to 63 percent off 2010 cruises booked by Feb. 15.