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14 day Marquesas trip report (Jan 26 - Feb 9th)


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Just returned from a wonderful 14 day Paul Gauguin Cruise to the Marquesas islands.  I read through many of the posts on this forum prior to our trip, so thought I would share my thoughts to hopefully help others in their planning.  

Embarkation - We arrived in Papeete on the late flight just after 11pm.  The process was smooth and went fairly quickly considering there were 81 of us who all arrived at the same time from that flight. We were in our room about an hour after landing, then unpacked and crawled into bed!  Coming in on this late flight wasn't ideal, but since our next day was a sea day we had lots of time to get acquainted with the ship.  We had a balcony cabin on deck 7.  Many others have commented on the cabins in their reviews, so I won't go into detail on this.  I will put my two cents in on the balcony/no balcony debate though.  We absolutely loved our balcony and spent a lot of time out there so to us it was worth the extra cost, however I spoke to others who had a balcony and rarely used it.  I think everyone is a bit different.  We also had afternoon shade on our balcony most days so was nice to sit out there since there were limited shady spots on the pool deck and it was too hot in the sun.

Fakarava - We were excited to finally see land!  This is a tiny island in the Tuamotos, surrounded by beautiful crystal blue water.  We had booked the half day to Teahatea beach excursion through the ship, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to rough seas that day.  (as were many of the other tours)  With nothing much planned, we tendered over to the island.  If you don't have an excursion booked here, you are able to swim/snorkel in an area just a couple minutes to the right of where the tender drops you off.  You can also rent bicycles right from the pier to go around the island.  It is very flat, so is an easy walk/ride.  

Sea Day - The seas were very rough on our second sea day.  Many of the passengers (myself included) were sea sick.  We heard from other passengers who had been on the trip before that this isn't the norm for this cruise.  The front desk had motion sickness pills available and there was candied ginger in the dining rooms.  The captain ended up having to slow the ship down in order to make it less rocky.  This delayed our arrival in the marquesas by a few hours, but made the motion more bearable.  We had our "block party" this night, which was a really neat way to meet our neighbors!  Everyone met in the hallway at 6 pm with a wine glass and our cabin steward was there to pour red or white wine for everyone.  

Fatu Hiva - We arrived to Fatu Hiva just after 10am.  Since we arrived 3 hours later than planned, all of the morning excursions had been moved to the afternoon.  We had booked the Scenic Drive to Hanavave through the ship.  This was a beautiful drive from Omoa over the mountains to Hanavave, which is a small village on the bay of Virgins.  This was a very picturesque drive with many stops for beautiful photo ops.  A couple of notes on this excursion:  Most of the drivers do not speak any English.  We were fortunate that our driver spoke and understood a small amount and that one of our fellow passengers spoke French so we could find out a little bit about what we were seeing and the island.  Many others could not communicate with their driver at all.  Also, it is a fairly treacherous road with steep inclines and very sharp curves on a narrow road, so I wouldn't recommend it if you get motion sick easily or have trouble with heights.  (I had to close my eyes in a few parts!)  If you don't have an excursion booked here there is a market set up about a 5 minute walk from the tender port and it's beautiful just to walk through the village.  There is beautiful scenery when sailing away from Fatu Hiva.  The ship goes by the Bay of Virgins, so you can get a view from the water and take pictures of the beautiful landscape.

Hiva Oa - This is the second most developed of the Marquesas islands.  We did not book a shore excursion here.  The tender takes you to port, which is located in more of an industrial area.  There is a free shuttle that has 2 drop off points.  The first is the cemetery where Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel are buried and you can visit their gravesites.  The shuttle can then pick you up, or you can choose to walk the 5 minutes downhill to the village.  There are a few shops there and the Paul Gauguin museum, which has reproductions of his paintings.  The shuttle will then pick you up and take you back to the pier.  I found Hiva Oa not to be as clean or as picturesque as the other islands we visited in the Marquesas.  Perhaps I would have felt differently if we had went on a tour and got out of the town.

Tuhuata - This is one of the smaller islands in the Marquesas with approximately only 500 inhabitants.  It is located only 18 Nautical miles from Hiva Oa, so it's a short journey.  It is a very beautiful and clean island.  They had a small market set up with local musicians and handicrafts for sale.  We took the one and only excursion on this island (other than the dive).  Hapatoni Discovery.  Again, we were in trucks with drivers who could not speak any English.  We travelled over mountains from the village of Hapatoni to Vaitahu.  Mark Eddows the onboard lecturer/anthropologist lead this tour and explained some of the culture/history of the island and visited a beautiful church.  We also stopped along the way at a few beautiful look-out spots.  The road was much less treacherous than on Fatu Hiva.  Another note about this tour is they rated is as an activity level 3, however there really wasn't any really difficult walking, so I'm not sure why it was rated higher activity than the Fatu Hiva tour.

Nuku Hiva - This is the largest of the Marquesan islands and the most developed.  We had opted for a private tour on this island.  We booked an all day tour with Kevin Ellis from Nuku Hiva tours.  There were only 4 of us on this tour, so it made it very personable.  (Kevin normally has a maximum of 12 passengers on this tour in 3 different trucks.  His other drivers don't speak a lot of English, so he rotates between trucks)  The cost of this tour was less than the ship's tour and 3 hours longer, so a much better value.  We went almost all the way around the island and stopped at many beautiful look out points and learned a great deal about the island and the culture.  The road was paved for 90% of the trip and was very easy going.  This excursion also involved a stop for lunch in a beautiful village.  The food at Yvonne's consisted of mainly seafood and was excellent, with beautiful views of the beach. (Note, the cost of lunch is above the price of the tour)  This was a wonderful day spent on a beautiful island.  Would highly recommend this tour!

Sea Days - Since the Marquesas are so remote, we now had 2 full days at sea to travel the 793 nautical miles between Nuka Hiva and Huahine.  Fortunately the seas were much calmer for these two days.  We spent a couple enjoyable days at sea, enjoying the food and amenities of the ship.

Huahine - This was the first of our society islands to visit.  We had an island tour booked originally, but then decided to cancel it since we had already been on several land tours.  There is very little at the pier where the tender drops you off, but there is a free shuttle on Le Truck that takes you to the village.  There is shopping and restaurants there as well as a public beach that you can snorkel off of.  Unfortunately, I hadn't packed my snorkel with me this day, but wished I would have as the water was crystal clear with lots of coral formations.  

Tahaa - There were a few tours offered here, but the majority of the day was devoted to Motu Mahana, which is Paul Gauguin's private island.  They start tendering to the Motu at 10 and the last tender returns at 430.  This was a very enjoyable day on the beautiful island.  They had a full bar and offered a beach BBQ for lunch.  The water was beautiful for snorkelling, kayaking, and swimming.  There were also quite a few tables set up to do a bit of shopping!  This day was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for us.  

Bora Bora - After the untouched beauty of the Marquesas, Bora Bora was a definite change!  We didn't do a tour here, but took the short tender ride into shore and did a bit of shopping in the morning.  Then, in the afternoon we went over to Paul Gauguin's private motu to enjoy the beautiful views and beach.  There are no facilities here, but they have added plastic loungers so that you don't have to lay directly on the sand anymore.  They had a cooler set up with cold water and soda.  Water was shallow for a fair distance off shore before it got deep enough to swim.  Also, note that it is a wet landing here since there is no pier, so wear water shoes as you will need to walk in to shore from knee deep water.  

Moorea - We opted for the Aito off-road safari on Moorea.  For this tour, we sat in the back of a 4x4 truck and travelled around the island.  First stop was magic mountain with a beautiful look out over the entire island. This was a very steep and treacherous road, with sharp drop offs.  It also involved a short uphill hike to the look out point that I wouldn't recommend for anyone with mobility issues.  (several on the tour opted to skip the trek up to the top look out)  After magic mountain we toured inland to visit a pineapple plantation.  We were supposed to stop at the agricultural school, but unfortunately it was closed that day.  Next, we went to the Belvedere lookout which offered incredible views of Opunohu and Cook's Bay.  Then we visited an archeological site and finally the distillery where we sampled local juices and rums.  This was a good tour and we saw a great deal of the island.  A good choice if you are opting for a land tour on Moorea.

Disembarktion - We finished our journey back on Tahiti.  Our bags had to be out of our rooms the night before by 11pm, then we had to be out of our rooms by 930 so that they could get our rooms ready for the next guests.  This was a sad day to say goodbye to new friends and staff that we had gotten to know the past 14 days.  We walked over to the market to do a bit of final shopping then back to the ship for lunch before boarding the bus at 12.  We opted to do the bus tour so we could see a bit of the island since we had arrived after dark the first night.  It was quite enjoyable on an air conditioned bus.  We arrived at the Tahiti Pearl resort shortly after 2 and had a day room we could enjoy until 7 to get showered and rested for the long flight home.  The buses left the hotel to return us to the airport shortly before 9.

General thoughts - Really enjoyed this trip.  What I liked about the Marquesas itinerary was the stark contrast of the rather undeveloped Marquesan islands versus the much more developed society islands.  The landscapes of the Marquesas were very rugged and beautiful.  Note for anyone considering this itinerary though, the Marquesas don't have any water activities with the exception of scuba diving, so if you are looking for a primarily beach/snorkelling vacation this may not be the best itinerary for you.  The food was for the most part excellent as were the wines and all of the staff.  We took in several of the shows.  The local dance troupes were great and I really enjoyed the house band Santa Rosa.  The lead singer has an amazing voice!  The other musical performers were Johny Ross as well as Mark and Abbi.  The best show in my opinion was their combined show.  They had tons of energy and were great performers!  

All in all was a really wonderful and enjoyable trip.  I think I may be struck with the Polynesian flu bug as well now!

 

 

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Just read this review, we were on this trip, we are still making our way home to the UK.

We totally agree on the comments made and extremely grateful that we do not need to repeat any of this  review. We have no negative comments to make about how we were treated by all at PG.

On our return to the U.K. we will place review on this board.

For those making this trip you will be spoilt rotten by the crew and will come away with many memories.

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We did similar cruise in June 2008 when Regent had the ship.  Only ten days, but we hit Rangiroa, Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva as well as the regular stops.  Heading back to enjoy another anniversary cruise in June and we are sure it will be as fantastic as the first.  We really appreciate your update as to what to expect when they throw us off the ship.  

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