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Top French Polynesia Cruise Itineraries: Best Routes with Paul Gauguin, Windstar, and Variety Cruises

Embarking on a cruise to French Polynesia offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the enchanting islands of the South Pacific. Renowned for their pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and rich cultural heritage, these islands provide the perfect backdrop for a memorable sea voyage. This article delves into the top cruise itineraries offered by Paul Gauguin, Windstar, and Variety Cruises, each providing unique experiences that cater to a range of preferences. From luxury immersions to intimate sailing and boutique adventures, discover the best routes to experience the magic of French Polynesia.

Key Takeaways

  • Paul Gauguin Cruises blend luxury with cultural immersion, offering signature itineraries that showcase the beauty of the Society Islands and the allure of the Marquesas and Tuamotus.
  • Windstar Cruises’ Wind Spirit provides an intimate sailing experience with customizable itineraries, including the popular ‘Dreams of Tahiti’ route and private island events.
  • Variety Cruises offers a boutique experience on the Panorama II, with unique stops at lesser-known islands and themed cruises focused on wildlife, history, and gastronomy.
  • Choosing the perfect French Polynesia cruise involves considering factors such as ship size, amenities, and whether to opt for inclusive packages or a la carte options.
  • Key ports of call like Papeete, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Taha’a, and Moorea are the heart of the French Polynesia cruising experience, each with its own distinct charm and attractions.

Paul Gauguin Cruises: Immersive Journeys in French Polynesia

Paul Gauguin Cruises: Immersive Journeys in French Polynesia

The Gauguin Experience: Luxury Meets Culture

Embarking on a Paul Gauguin cruise is not just about indulgence in luxury; it’s a cultural odyssey into the heart of French Polynesia. The intimate size of the ship fosters a close-knit community atmosphere, where like-minded guests share in the discovery of this enchanting region.

The decor aboard reflects the elegance and style of a chic hotel, with soft goods and amenities that cater to the sophisticated traveler. The true luxury, however, lies in the access to secluded ports and lesser-known islands, offering an exclusive glimpse into the untouched beauty of the South Pacific.

The Gauguin experience is designed to seamlessly blend opulent comfort with immersive cultural encounters, ensuring that every moment on board is a step deeper into the Polynesian way of life.

Here’s a glimpse of what to expect on your journey:

  • Personalized service with a high crew-to-guest ratio
  • Cultural enrichment through lectures and local performances
  • Exquisite dining featuring local flavors and international cuisine
  • Access to private beaches and exclusive excursions

Signature Itineraries: Exploring the Society Islands

Paul Gauguin Cruises offers a quintessential voyage through the Society Islands, a group of islands in French Polynesia known for their lush landscapes and crystal-clear waters. The Society Islands itinerary is a showcase of the region’s most enchanting destinations, including Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea.

  • Tahiti: The vibrant heart of French Polynesia, known for its lively markets and rich history.
  • Bora Bora: A dreamlike island with iconic overwater bungalows and mesmerizing lagoon.
  • Moorea: Dramatic volcanic peaks and friendly locals offer a warm welcome.

Each stop on the itinerary is carefully selected to provide an immersive experience that blends luxury with authentic cultural encounters. The onboard atmosphere is one of relaxed sophistication, where guests can enjoy the finest amenities while being just a step away from the natural beauty of the islands.

Extended Voyages: Discovering the Marquesas and Tuamotus

Paul Gauguin Cruises offers an exceptional opportunity to explore the far-flung Marquesas and Tuamotu archipelagos. These extended voyages are a deep dive into the heart of Polynesian culture and natural beauty.

The Marquesas Islands, with their rugged terrain and ancient traditions, stand as a testament to the resilience of Polynesian culture. The Tuamotus, known for their dazzling lagoons and coral atolls, offer a serene escape into an underwater paradise.

  • Marquesas: Untouched beauty, towering peaks, and rich history.
  • Tuamotus: Pristine atolls, world-class diving, and pearl farms.

These longer cruises allow for a more comprehensive experience, giving travelers the time to immerse themselves in the local lifestyle and natural splendor of these remote islands.

Windstar Cruises: Sailing the South Pacific with Elegance

Windstar Cruises: Sailing the South Pacific with Elegance

Wind Spirit Adventures: Intimate Sailing Experience

Embarking on a journey with Windstar Cruises aboard the Wind Spirit is an invitation to savor the intimacy of a smaller vessel while exploring the enchanting islands of French Polynesia. The Wind Spirit, with its billowing sails and elegant design, offers a unique blend of adventure and serenity, making it a favorite among seasoned travelers.

The Wind Spirit’s smaller size allows for a more personal connection with the crew and fellow passengers, fostering a warm community atmosphere on board.

Passengers can expect attentive service and a focus on the destination rather than the ship itself. With fewer guests on board, the experience is tailored to create lasting memories and genuine interactions. Here are some of the advantages of choosing a small ship like the Wind Spirit:

  • All-inclusive fares simplify the travel experience.
  • More attentive service from a dedicated crew.
  • Easier socialization and opportunities to make new friends.
  • Intimate surroundings that evoke the comfort of a private yacht.
  • Access to smaller ports and less crowded destinations.

Dreams of Tahiti: A Windstar Signature Route

Embarking on the Dreams of Tahiti cruise with Windstar is akin to stepping into a postcard of paradise. This signature route is a favorite among travelers seeking both relaxation and adventure amidst the South Pacific’s azure waters and lush landscapes.

  • Day 1: Departure from Papeete, Tahiti
  • Day 2: Exploration of Moorea
  • Day 3: Leisure in Taha’a
  • Day 4: Bora Bora’s beauty
  • Day 5: Private event on a motu
  • Day 6: Cultural immersion in Raiatea
  • Day 7: Return to Papeete

Each day unfolds with a new island to discover, offering a blend of cultural experiences and breathtaking scenery. The intimate scale of Windstar’s sailing yachts ensures a personalized journey, where each guest can indulge in the natural wonders and serene atmosphere of French Polynesia.

The Dreams of Tahiti itinerary is not just a cruise; it’s a transformative experience that connects you with the soul of the South Pacific. The gentle sway of the ship, the warm smiles of the crew, and the enchanting island stops create a symphony of memories that linger long after the voyage concludes.

Island Hopping: Customizable Itineraries and Private Events

Windstar Cruises offers an unparalleled opportunity for personalized exploration of French Polynesia’s enchanting islands. With their customizable itineraries, guests can tailor their journey to their own interests, whether that’s seeking out hidden coves, indulging in local culinary delights, or diving into the rich cultural heritage of the islands.

The flexibility of Windstar’s itineraries allows for a truly unique experience, with options for private events that can transform a special occasion into an unforgettable celebration amidst the South Pacific’s breathtaking scenery.

For those who desire exclusivity and a touch of luxury, Windstar’s private yacht charters provide the perfect setting. Imagine a sunset dinner on a secluded beach or a private Polynesian dance show on the deck of your own yacht—these are the moments that create a lifetime of memories.

  • Customizable day excursions
  • Private beach parties
  • Exclusive cultural performances
  • Tailored culinary experiences

Each journey with Windstar is a testament to their commitment to excellence and attention to detail, ensuring that every guest’s island-hopping adventure is as unique as the archipelago itself.

Variety Cruises: Boutique Cruising off the Beaten Path

Variety Cruises: Boutique Cruising off the Beaten Path

Panorama II: Yacht Cruising with a Personal Touch

Variety Cruises’ Panorama II offers an intimate and personalized yachting experience, setting it apart from larger cruise ships. Guests can expect a relaxed atmosphere with attentive service, ensuring a unique journey through French Polynesia’s enchanting waters.

  • Capacity: 49 passengers
  • Crew: 18 members
  • Length: 50 meters
  • Cabins: 25

The Panorama II is designed to navigate the shallow waters and small harbors that are inaccessible to larger vessels, allowing for an up-close exploration of secluded bays and hidden coves.

With fewer guests on board, the Panorama II fosters a sense of community and camaraderie, where every staff member knows your name and preferences. The yacht’s size promotes an exclusive experience, with opportunities for personalized excursions and spontaneous adventures.

Hidden Gems: Unique Stops in the Lesser-Known Islands

Variety Cruises offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the untouched corners of French Polynesia. Venture beyond the well-trodden paths to islands that whisper the secrets of the South Pacific. These intimate stops provide a rare glimpse into the authentic Polynesian way of life, away from the bustling tourist spots.

  • Fakarava: A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, home to rare wildlife and pristine coral reefs.
  • Rangiroa: Known for its vast lagoon, offering some of the best diving experiences.
  • Tikehau: A crown of pink-sand beaches and a haven for nesting birds.

Embrace the tranquility of these hidden islands, where the rhythms of nature dictate the pace of life. Here, the spirit of Mana is palpable, inviting you to connect deeply with the environment and local traditions.

Each stop is carefully selected to ensure a balance of breathtaking natural beauty, cultural richness, and serene exclusivity. The smaller scale of Variety Cruises’ vessels allows for docking at remote piers, giving you direct access to the heart of these secluded paradises.

Themed Cruises: Focusing on Wildlife, History, and Gastronomy

Variety Cruises offers an exceptional opportunity to delve into the unique aspects of French Polynesia through their themed cruises. Each journey is crafted to highlight a specific facet of the region, whether it’s the diverse wildlife, the rich historical tapestry, or the exquisite local gastronomy.

  • Wildlife: Encounter the vibrant marine life and rare bird species in their natural habitat.
  • History: Uncover the stories of ancient Polynesian culture and European explorers.
  • Gastronomy: Savor the flavors of Polynesian cuisine with locally sourced ingredients and traditional cooking methods.

These thematic voyages are designed to offer a deeper connection with the destinations visited, providing guests with a more profound understanding and appreciation of the islands’ natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Choosing Your Perfect French Polynesia Cruise

Choosing Your Perfect French Polynesia Cruise

Determining the Right Fit: Factors to Consider

Choosing the perfect cruise in French Polynesia means considering several factors to ensure the experience aligns with your expectations. Budget is a primary consideration, as it influences the choice between larger vessels and more intimate small ships, as well as the type of stateroom you can afford.

Beyond financial considerations, the size of the ship can greatly affect your experience. Large ships offer a plethora of amenities and activities, while small ships provide a more personal and often more culturally immersive journey. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Large Ships: Extensive facilities, diverse entertainment, and a wide range of dining options.
  • Small Ships: Personalized service, access to smaller ports, and closer interaction with the destination.

When selecting your cruise, think about the type of experience you want. Are you looking for a vibrant atmosphere with plenty of activities, or a tranquil voyage with in-depth cultural exploration?

Ultimately, the right fit comes down to personal preference and comfort level. Whether you’re drawn to the grandeur of large cruise liners or the bespoke charm of smaller yachts, your choice should reflect the kind of vacation you envision.

Comparing Small Ship Advantages with Larger Vessel Amenities

When choosing between the intimate setting of a small ship and the grandeur of a larger vessel, passengers are often weighing the personalized experience against a plethora of amenities. Small ships excel in providing a more attentive service and a homely atmosphere, where socializing with fellow travelers is easier and the focus is squarely on the destination. In contrast, larger ships boast a wide array of entertainment options, from Broadway-style shows to adrenaline-pumping activities, and offer multiple dining venues and expansive pool decks.

The decision between a small ship and a large cruise vessel ultimately hinges on the type of experience you seek. Whether it’s the tranquility and close-knit community of a small yacht or the vibrant energy and variety of a floating mega-resort, both have their unique allure.

Here’s a quick comparison to help you discern the differences:

  • Small Ships:

    • All-inclusive fares
    • Intimate social environment
    • Expedited boarding and disembarkation
    • Fewer dining options
    • Limited entertainment and activities
  • Large Vessels:

    • Diverse entertainment and activities
    • Multiple dining venues
    • Large pool areas and recreational facilities
    • More likely to have children’s dedicated spaces
    • Can feel crowded at popular destinations

Inclusive Packages vs. A La Carte Options: What’s Best for You?

When planning your French Polynesia cruise, one of the most significant decisions is whether to opt for an inclusive package or select a la carte options. Inclusive packages simplify your vacation, offering a worry-free experience with most amenities and activities included in the upfront cost. On the other hand, a la carte options provide the flexibility to tailor your trip to your specific interests and budget.

  • Inclusive Packages:

    • Pre-planned itineraries
    • Meals and beverages included
    • Access to onboard entertainment and activities
    • Often include gratuities and port fees
  • A La Carte Options:

    • Pay for what you use
    • Greater choice of dining and activities
    • Ideal for travelers who prefer spontaneity

Deciding between these two options will largely depend on your travel style and budget. Inclusive packages offer convenience and ease, while a la carte options allow for a more personalized journey. Consider what aspects of the cruise are most important to you and how much you value the freedom to choose as you go.

Ports of Call: The Heart of French Polynesia

Papeete, Tahiti: The Vibrant Gateway to the Islands

Papeete, the bustling capital city of Tahiti, serves as the primary entry point for many travelers embarking on their French Polynesia cruise adventures. The city’s energetic pulse is palpable, with a blend of French and Polynesian cultures, offering a unique urban experience in the heart of the Pacific.

  • The waterfront promenade buzzes with activity, featuring local markets and food trucks known as ‘roulottes’.
  • Papeete’s harbor is a hub for inter-island ferries, making it a pivotal point for island hopping.
  • Cultural institutions like the Robert Wan Pearl Museum add depth to the city’s attractions.

Papeete is not just a stopover; it’s a destination rich with cultural experiences, from the vibrant Marché de Papeete to the lush Pā’ōfa’i Gardens. Its role as a connector to the outer islands makes it an integral part of any French Polynesia cruise itinerary.

Bora Bora: The Iconic Island of Romance

Bora Bora stands as the jewel of French Polynesia, a place where romance seems to be eternally in the air. Azure waters, powdery white sands, and overwater bungalows create the perfect backdrop for couples seeking a romantic escape.

The lagoon of Bora Bora, protected by a coral reef, is renowned for its unparalleled clarity and vibrant marine life, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.

Visitors can indulge in a variety of activities that highlight the island’s natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere:

  • Sunset cruises around the lagoon
  • Private beach picnics
  • Couples’ spa treatments with views of Mount Otemanu
  • Traditional Polynesian dinners under the stars

Each experience in Bora Bora is designed to foster unforgettable moments, ensuring that love flourishes amidst its enchanting environment.

Raiatea and Taha’a: Cultural Richness and Vanilla Scents

Raiatea and Taha’a, two islands encircled by a shared lagoon, offer a glimpse into the soul of French Polynesia. Raiatea is revered as the spiritual heart of the region, housing the Taputapuatea marae, a sacred site central to Polynesian culture. Taha’a, often referred to as the ‘Vanilla Island,’ seduces the senses with its aromatic vanilla plantations that produce some of the world’s most coveted flavors.

The intertwined history and culture of Raiatea and Taha’a are as rich as the fertile soil that nurtures their renowned vanilla orchids. Here, traditions are preserved, and visitors are welcomed to partake in authentic experiences that resonate with the mana (spiritual energy) of the islands.

  • Visit the ancient marae and learn about Polynesian navigation and mythology.
  • Take a guided tour of a vanilla plantation to understand the intricate process of vanilla cultivation.
  • Explore the lagoon by kayak or traditional outrigger canoe, embracing the tranquility of these serene waters.
  • Engage with local artisans and witness the creation of handcrafted items, imbued with the islands’ heritage.

Moorea: Dramatic Landscapes and Friendly Locals

Moorea, with its jagged peaks and azure waters, is a testament to the raw beauty of French Polynesia. Visitors are greeted with open arms by the island’s warm and welcoming residents, creating an atmosphere that’s as inviting as the stunning scenery.

  • Must-See Attractions:
    • Belvedere Lookout for panoramic views
    • Swim with sharks and rays in their natural habitat
    • Explore the pineapple plantations

Moorea’s charm lies not just in its picturesque landscapes, but also in the cultural experiences that enrich every visitor’s journey. The island’s affinity for hospitality is evident through the numerous interactive activities available, from traditional Polynesian dance shows to hands-on craft workshops.

The island’s commitment to preserving its natural and cultural heritage makes it an unmissable destination. Whether it’s the lush Opunohu Valley or the tranquil Cook’s Bay, Moorea offers a serene escape that embodies the essence of the South Pacific.


Embarking on a cruise through French Polynesia offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in the serene beauty of the South Pacific. With luxurious options like Paul Gauguin, Windstar, and Variety Cruises, travelers can choose the perfect itinerary that caters to their desire for adventure, relaxation, and cultural exploration. Each cruise line presents a unique voyage through these enchanting islands, ensuring that whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a first-time explorer, you’ll find a journey that resonates with your personal travel ethos. As we’ve navigated through the best routes these cruise lines have to offer, it’s clear that the memories made amidst the turquoise waters and lush landscapes of French Polynesia will be as timeless as the ocean’s tides. So, set sail on a journey that promises to be nothing short of extraordinary, where each day brings a new horizon and every sunset, a story to tell.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Paul Gauguin Cruises unique in French Polynesia?

Paul Gauguin Cruises offer an immersive journey, combining luxury with cultural experiences, tailored specifically to the region of French Polynesia. Their smaller ship size allows for intimate access to lesser-known ports and a focus on local culture and traditions.

Can I customize my itinerary with Windstar Cruises?

Yes, Windstar Cruises offers customizable itineraries and private events, allowing guests to tailor their South Pacific adventure to their preferences, making each journey with Wind Spirit a unique and intimate sailing experience.

What are the unique features of Variety Cruises in French Polynesia?

Variety Cruises operates with the Panorama II yacht, providing a boutique cruising experience with a personal touch. They are known for their unique stops at lesser-known islands and themed cruises that focus on wildlife, history, and gastronomy.

How do I choose the right French Polynesia cruise line for me?

When choosing a cruise line, consider factors such as ship size, the level of luxury, types of itineraries, inclusivity of packages, and the balance of onboard amenities versus exploration opportunities. Comparing small ship advantages with larger vessel amenities can help determine the best fit for your travel style.

What are the must-visit ports of call in French Polynesia?

The heart of French Polynesia includes iconic ports like Papeete, Tahiti; Bora Bora; Raiatea and Taha’a known for cultural richness and vanilla scents; and Moorea, with its dramatic landscapes and friendly locals.

Are there any cruise lines that offer large ship experiences in French Polynesia?

While the focus is often on smaller, more intimate cruise lines for French Polynesia, larger ship experiences are available with companies like Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line, each offering a different style of cruising with a variety of amenities and activities.

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