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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Dec-Jan 2012
M y desire to visit Tahiti was sparked in the 1960s when I sat glued to the television watching Adventures in Paradise and the exploits of a handsome captain steering his schooner through the waters of the South Pacific. Decades later, aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin, I’m gripped with the same excitement as we set sail from Papeete on a seven-night sojourn in paradise. We’re heading for the Society Islands, one of the five archipelagos of French Polynesia, to drop anchor at little-known Raiatea and Tahaa, stunning Bora Bora and majestic Moorea. Every one of the 338 berths on this gleaming white vessel is full, for a sea voyage is still the best way to visit these gorgeous isles. A floating hotel with meals provided, it's also an affordable way to explore this notoriously big-ticket destination. Slow cruise The 19,200-tonne Gauguin has been operating year-round itineraries in these waters since her launch in 1998. Captain Toni Mirkovic, who has been at the helm for the past five years says, despite the idyllic blue expanse that surrounds us, the waters are a navigational challenge due to the many hazardous reefs and the narrow passes connecting the ocean to the calm lagoons. In the week we travel a mere 340 nautical miles (630km), because most of the time we’re anchored in idyllic bays and ferried ashore by the ship’s tenders to explore both above and below the turquoise lagoons. On my first morning I step out onto my cabin balcony to watch our arrival at Raiatea, the second largest island in the Society group after Tahiti, on a seriously sleepy Sunday morning. Raiatea is considered the cradle of Polynesian culture, having been settled more than 1000 years ago by intrepid sailors who migrated south from Asia. Culture vulture? Before embarking on a 4WD tour to the island’s volcanic crater and its ancient temples where human sacrifices are said to have occurred, we gather in the ship’s showroom for a special treat. A group of local children arrives for a concert of harmonious singing and frenetic hip- swaying, accompanied by an adult who interprets the dances for us. It’s the first of many cultural performances on the ship, a vessel not only adorned with Polynesian artefacts but memorabilia associated with its namesake, French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, including two of his original etchings preserved under glass. 16 | www.probussouthpacific.org TRAVEL CRUISE Cruising through the South Pacific’s Society Islands, Caroline Gladstone finds a wallet-friendly way to explore one of the world’s most coveted holiday destinations. High society QTop to bottom: The m/s Paul Gauguin moored in Cook's Bay, Moorea; Tahitian beauties make leis and baskets; the floating bar on Tahaa Island.
Active Retirees Oct-Nov
Active Retirees Feb-March 2012