Quirky Cruise
July 7, 2019

Small Ship Cruise Line Review: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises

French Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin lived in Tahiti in the late 19th century and brought to the world images of French Polynesia and its cultures. This ship, named for him, plies the South Pacific’s tropical aqua-blue waters year-round, focusing on French Polynesia and the Society Islands.

Owned by Pacific Beachcomber, a French Polynesian resort hotel firm, the m/s Paul Gauguin has resided in these waters longer than any other, so it has become an integral part of the island scene. Its long-serving crew, proudly hailing from French Polynesia, is known for enthusiastically sharing their local knowledge.

In August 2019, Ponant, the French small ship cruise line, announced that it had bought Paul Gauguin Cruises and will continue to operate the ship under both its familiar name and banner. Three months later, Ponant announced the orders for two 230-passenger expedition ships for Paul Gauguin Cruises for delivery in 2022. One major innovation will be the ability to shut down the engines at day’s end for up to 10 hours, and, therefore, cease all emissions.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

RELATED: Ponant Orders 2 New Ships for Paul Gauguin Cruises.  by Anne Kalosh.


Paul Gauguin Cruises restarted operations in August 2020.

Be sure to check the line’s website for up-to-date news and protocols.


m/s Paul Gauguin (built 1998 & 332 passengers)

Passenger Decks

7 passenger decks are numbered from 3 (lowest) to 9 (highest). Elevators, forward and aft, connect all decks but 9, the Sun Deck; and the aft set do not serve 3.

Passenger Profile

Americans, lots of French (as ship sails largely in French Polynesia), other Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders, generally 45 and up. It’s popular with honeymooners and during school breaks, also families. Every cruise is bilingual English/French, and the website lists all the languages catered for.


$$-$$$ Expensive

Included Features
  • Roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles (for Americans)
  • Roundtrip airport/pier transfers
  • All shipboard meals, including 24-hour room service
  • Beverages, including select wines and spirits, beers, soft drinks, bottled water and hot drinks
  • Minibar stocked with bottled water, beer and soft drinks
  • Onboard tips
  • Watersports
  • Access to private beach in Bora Bora and private island, Motu Mahana

The m/s Paul Gauguin sails mainly in French Polynesia (an island group that comprises the Society, Tuamotus and Marquesas islands), the Cook Islands and a few other island destinations in the South Pacific.

tuamotus beach

A beach on one of the Tuamotus islands. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Cruises last seven to 14 nights, with most being seven-night sailings. The vast majority of cruises sail out of Papeete on Tahiti for circuits that take in the island of Tahiti and points in French Polynesia, including Bora Bora, with a few longer itineraries that include Tonga and Fiji.

The ship tends to anchor rather than dock and that allows changing views from the ship as it rhythmically swings in an arc of about 120 degrees. — Ted Scull

Sample itinerary

The 7-night “Tahiti & the Society Islands” cruise departs from Papeete, Tahiti, calling at Huahine, Taha’a, Bora Bora and Moorea, before returning to Tahiti.

Bore, Bora, French Polynesia.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Why Go?

It’s cruising in paradise, especially for those who love tropical climates and stunningly beautiful seascapes and gorgeous white-sand beaches. Soak up the lush landscapes that rise from the blue waters and enjoy quiet lagoons for out-of-this-world snorkeling and diving. The water sports options from the ship’s stern marina are another big draw.

When to Go?

The summer months are hot and humid with afternoon downpours, though being near and on the water softens the heat factor. The driest months are June to August. Families come during the school holidays.

Sustainability Initiatives

In a partnership with South Pacific marine education and conservation foundation Te mana o te moana, m/s Paul Gauguin has daily hands-on interactive education programs for families, while an onboard naturalist leads excursions with a conservation focus.

Activities & Entertainment

Water sports are based at the stern marina for scuba diving excursions, kayaks, wind surfers, paddle boards and snorkeling — the gear is also often offered from the beach as well.

Paul Gauguin stern marina

The stern marina for easy access to water sports. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Enjoy onboard special interest lecturers in history, nature, Polynesian culture, and storytelling, and also live music and performances from the on-board entertainment troupe known as Les Gauguins & Les Gauguines.

Gauguines dance aboard Paul Gauguin

Gauguines dance aboard Paul Gauguin. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Spend a day on the line’s private islet Motu Mahana with water sports, snorkeling gear, barbecue and bar service.

French Polynesia dancers

Traditional dancing on a lovely beach. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Shore excursions may be a day at a beautiful beach with a barbecue or by the pool at one of the owner’s Intercontinental Hotels, on Bora Bora or Moorea. Enjoy bumpy off-road safaris to visit a pineapple plantation and archeological ruins. Drive through forests and past pink and red ginger, white gardenia (tiare) and the red hibiscus the Polynesians wear over their ear, and finally upward to scenic viewpoints.

You can try an Aquabike underwater scooter for two to view undersea life such as reef sharks and stingrays or do guided ATV excursions; catamaran sailing; and glass-bottom boat rides. SCUBA and snorkeling excursions are on offer, plus “flight seeing” by helicopter or plane. The excursion choices are many and some are quite expensive.

The Ship

m/s Paul Gauguin

With a maximum capacity of 332 passengers, the m/s Paul Gauguin slightly exceeds QuirkyCruise’s 300-passenger threshold, however it also exceeds every expectation of small-ship cruising and is therefore an exceptional exception.


Cuisine reflects both French menus and ingredients as well as Polynesian fare, with locally sourced  fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables. Meals are served in the main dining room, L’Etoile, which offers a French menu; the al fresco La Veranda with 180-degree views; and the poolside Le Grill, which also serves afternoon tea and Polynesian dinner. For drinks, there’s a pool bar, piano bar and the La Palette lounge.

Dining aboard Paul Gauguin

Le Grille. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Public Spaces

Le Grand Salon acts as a theater and lecture hall. Additional recreational facilities include a pool with lounge chairs on the sun deck, a spa with nail and hair salon; fitness center with exercise classes; boutique; and water sports platform and boutique.

pool deck on the Paul Gauguin

The pool deck. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises


Cabins are arranged in eight categories, varying from relatively spacious suites (from 349 sq. ft. to 588 sq. ft.) down to windowed and twin porthole units measuring 200 sq. ft. Almost 70% have private balconies and as the ship is often peacefully at anchor, they see considerable use.

There is a generous display of woods for the cabinetry and accenting. Many have tub baths for relaxing after an active day ashore or enjoying water sports from the stern marina.

In cabin: en suite with full-size bathtub, temperature control, TV, CD/DVD player, safe, refrigerator stocked with soft drinks, hair dryer.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Veranda Suite 358 sq. ft. * Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Special Notes

Be sure to bring insect repellent with DEET.

Along the Same Lines

Windstar Cruises operates WIND SPIRIT (148 p) year-round in French Polynesia; Captain Cook Cruises and Blue Lagoon Cruises both use much smaller ships to sail amongst the relatively nearby Fijian Islands.


North America

US & Canada — Tel: +1 (800)848-6172;;


France — Tel: +33 4 91 229 299;;
UK — Tel: +33 4 91 229 299;

Asia Pacific

Australia — Tel: 1800 878 671 (Toll free)
New Zealand — Tel: 0800 854 777 (Toll free)
Asia — Tel: +61 2 8520 3011;;


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Posted In:

French Polynesia, Oceangoing Ship & Line Reviews, Pacific Ocean Islands

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