Well, today is our last full day here on board the Paul Gauguin. We’re still anchored in the gorgeous embrace of Moorea but, at around five o’clock this evening, we will weigh anchor to make the short, ten mile or so canter back to Papeete, where I’ll be spending the night on board before disembarking tomorrow.
I am going to miss these islands- and this ship- more than I can possibly describe. ‘Dream Trip’ is an over used cliche that I personally detest but, in this case, nothing else will do to describe the deep sense of peace that this part of the world engenders in you. That, combined with the ease of accessibility, the casual, spectacular luxury of the Paul Gauguin herself, and the attentiveness of one of the best crews that I have ever encountered on any ship, all makes this one a very hard act to follow.
Not that I won’t try, mind you. Yep, I’m looking at you, Bermuda….
Highlights of this trip have come and gone like so many muffled drum rolls. Last night’s Polynesian themed dinner in the L’Etoile Restaurant is simply one of the best meals that I have ever eaten anywhere. The lobster was out of this world, and don’t even get me started on how scrumptious Tahitian vanilla actually is.
Our tenders- my preppy little ‘Gauguin Water Beetles’-run with the smoothness and efficiency of a Swiss watch. To be fair, they have now had twenty years to get this right, but the organisation remains impressive for all that.
The Paul Gauguin herself is spotlessly clean, and I mean ‘immaculate’. No sooner does someone get up out of one of the rattan chairs, than a staff member appears to plump the cushions, perking it up ready for the next weary lotus eater to sag into like some broken puppet with it’s strings cut.
I suspect that the sound of a ukulele will haunt me for many a month to come, and at odd, random moments when I least expect it, too. Don’t get me wrong; that’s not a complaint of any sort. It’s just a way of explaining how the sound and the soul of French Polynesia have seeped so deeply into so many of us.
I’ll miss the sense of care and palpable concern that this crew has for the passengers in it’s charge. Like the receptionist who called me back the other day to advise me to take an umbrella ashore, as it looked like it might rain. None fell right then as it happened, but you get the picture. And I’ve seen so many examples of this kind of thing happening all over the ship.
I’ll sure as hell miss those magical evenings spent lounging on the terrace outside La Palette, with the stars twinkling over the darkened, dreamy peaks of Moorea as a brilliant half moon shines down on the waters below us. That warm breeze, the easy manner and sense of elegant fun of my fellow travellers, and their kindness and generosity of spirit. That last remark also applies unreservedly to this splendid, selfless crew.
Needless to say, there is always at least one unpleasant person aboard any cruise. In our case, it’s an irascible, addled ‘lady’ with a hefty sense of self entitlement. The poor dear seems possessed of the notion that the entire ship is her own, personal fiefdom.
To be fair to her, she may simply be in the last throes of Mad Cow disease, or something similar. In any event, she’s the one person on board that most definitely puts the ‘moo’ into Moorea. Most of us avoid her like the plague, but she has still contrived to make life hell for the crew who, unlike us, do not have that simple luxury of side stepping her.
Obviously, being the professionals that they are, they still treat her with unfailing courtesy. Personally, I’d tie a pork chop to each of her legs, and then tip her overboard for the sharks to play with.
Ah, but such things are like the rain clouds that glower over us for a few moments, only to be replaced by a rainbow. My own, personal rainbow awaits in the seductive little shape of the post breakfast Mimosa that I will shortly be taking on board. Because, while it is almost over for this trip, ‘almost’ is not quite ‘finished’, as it were.
And here, in the charmed universe that is the Paul Gauguin, many of us are still dreaming, wide awake……