All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
After breakfast, as an outrigger surfed our wake, I joined a small group of fellow journalists for the 9:30 AM tender. From Bora Bora’s Viatape landing, we would be shuttled off to the four star Bora Bora Intercontinental Le Moana resort for a property tour.
Pacific Beachcomber S.C. owns Paul Gauguin Cruises and two Intercontinental Resorts on Bora Bora, among other properties in French Polynesia. Since the ship spends two days in Bora Bora, guests can opt to purchase a day pass to enjoy the beaches and restaurants or even stay overnight at a property of their choice. Further, these hotels are often booked in conjunction with a PAUL GAUGUIN sailing for pre- and post-cruise stays. Located on Bora Bora’s Matira Point, Le Moana’s rates range from $500 to $800 per night and it boasts one of the highest-rated beaches in the world.
After our tour, we were off to the five star Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa. Guests staying at Le Moana and Thalasso can tender between the facilities in each of the hotels for a nominal charge.
The Thalasso has a chic luxury sensibility versus the more relaxed tiki stylings of Le Moana. The slightly more upscale Thalasso also has an eclectic lounge furnished with some spectacular original Midcentury Starck and Saarinen fittings.
Rates for a room at the Thalasso range from $800 to $1,000 per night and many of its over-water bungalows are angled for an optimal view of Mt. Otemanu, which forms an almost symmetrical spire from the hotel’s vantage.
Bora Bora is considered one of the world’s great romantic get-aways and the Thalasso is a much sought-after setting for weddings, vow renewals and commitment ceremonies.
Inside the chapel, there are views of Otemanu and the reef, which is directly underfoot.
After lunch at the Thalasso, we were off again to Le Moana for a night’s stay in one of its beachside bungalows.
In the late afternoon, I snorkeled around the lagoon, swam in the infinity pool, then put my feet up on a hammock for a quick rest.
Over my shoulder, there was a glorious view of Le Moana’s overwater bungalows and Mt. Otemanu.
Le Moana hosts a gorgeous nightly buffet dinner with fresh fish as well as local and international specialties.
During dinner, there is also a spectacular Polynesian cultural show in the courtyard. Afterwards, as our host confided, most guests have chosen the romantic get-away for private time in their bungalows.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
After breakfast, we were off on a zodiac for a scenic ride around Bora Bora.
We clung to our hats and held on tight, buzzing the alternating turquoise and cerulean lagoon waters as the backdrop of Mt. Otemanu and its sister peak, Mt. Pahia, morphed into a variety of shapes.
Back on board the glorious PAUL GAUGUIN, I sated myself with some linguini with pomodoro sauce (with extra garlic and chili) and an Otemanu-esque mound of Parmesan.
And, back at the salad bar with its fresh ingredients and a selection of pungent olive oils and vinegars, a verdant salad was born.
But we were not quite finished with Bora Bora. While anchored, PAUL GAUGUIN offers tender service not only to the port of Viatape (every 30 mins.) but to a beautiful motu via its beach landing craft (every hour). I’m so happy I brought along my snorkeling gear as this visit yielded the clearest waters seen thus far and some splendid marine life in its coral formations.
For those so inclined, the motu also has a volleyball court and plenty of sand and shade to lay a towel down and soak in the unparalleled view. But there are no “facilities” here, so do plan accordingly.
On the return to the ship, the lighting was perfect, so I was able to capture the PAUL GAUGUIN in one of her most impressive settings, framed by the sawtooth-edged greenery of Tahia and Otemanu.
Not that I needed it, but I could not resist a slice of carrot cake (not to mention a handful of freshly baked macadamia nut cookies) and a pot of green tea in Le Grill . I glazed out at the pool area in a sugar-induced stupor, wondering if this was all a dream.
As PAUL GAUGUIN secured her tenders, sealed up her marina and hoisted anchor, Santa Rosa played a wistfully nostalgic set of tunes by the pool, including the Bee Gees nuggets, “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “To Love Somebody”, some Mamas and Papas, The Beach Boys and more.
And then, with little fanfare, the PAUL GAUGUIN spun majestically around and glided silently out of Bora Bora, Otemanu shrinking gradually into the horizon.
I never had a chance to play shuffleboard or linger for long on the teak-lined Deck 5 promenades but they were so nice to behold as PAUL GAUGUIN made her way into the South Pacific.
My already high expectations were exceeded by the PAUL GAUGUIN’s staff and crew. All gratuities are included in the cruise fare, so the smiles and attention to detail did not come with any sort of strings attached. Throughout the week, they did their very best with an eagerness to please and a sense of pride — and no one did it better than my sweet cabin attendant, Apryl from Laguna, Philippines.
After drinks in La Palette, it was so nice to enjoy the air conditioned comfort and soaring splendor of L’Etoile one more time. I went with the cream of cauliflower soup, a wonderful beet salad (that did not photograph well in the dim light), a fish-shaped chicken entrée and coconut confection for dessert.
The mainstage entertainment in the Grand Salon featured Dan Murphy masterfully playing a piano to clips from classic movies. The Talented Mr. Murphy is the pianist in the aptly named Piano Bar and also one of the dive team staff in the marina.
On this journey, the sights we had been savoring just seemed to be getting ever more spectacular with each day, so the bar was set very high for Moorea as PAUL GAUGUIN made her course some 150 nautical miles to the southwest. Shortly after my face hit the pillows in cabin 601, moderate seas did their best to remind us that French Polynesia is still in the midst and at the mercy of the vast and powerful Pacific Ocean.
End of PAUL GAUGUIN In Paradise, Part Three
Much More to Come…
With Special Thanks: Vanessa Bloy, Martin Cox, Captain Ante-Toni Mirkovic, Nelson Trinidade
Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea. With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications. Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India. He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."