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Mark Hunacek

Age: 56

Occupation:Lawyer

Number of Cruises: 10

Cruise Line: Regent Seven Seas

Ship: Paul Gauguin (transferred)

Sailing Date: May 6th, 2006

Itinerary: UNKNOWN

This was the best cruise my wife and I have ever been on. Every aspect of it was first-rate, and my only regret is that I fear I will have difficulty taking cruises on lesser lines in the future.

I recommend taking the pre-cruise package and also letting Radisson Seven Seas (now Regent Seven Seas) make flight arrangements. This will pay off not only in a pleasant few days before the ship, but an excellent day afterwards: on the day we docked in Tahiti after the cruise, the ship provided us with a free 2 1/2 hour tour of Tahiti and the use of a hotel room while waiting for the shuttle to the airport.

In more detail:

EMBARKATION was the smoothest I have ever experienced. We had signed up for the pre-cruise package at the Radisson Tahiti Plaza and were picked up at 3pm Saturday in a bus that took us right to the gangplank. After a brief check of passports and tickets, we stepped off the bus and onto the ship. The whole process took mere minutes, with no horrendous lines or waiting.

THE SHIP is relatively small and emphasizes casual elegance over glitz, so don't expect a four-story centrum or lots of neon. It holds 320 passengers, and has a passenger to crew ratio of 1 crew member to 1.5 passengers. All cabins are outdoor, and our stateroom, though it did not have a balcony, had a nice picture window and was very satisfactory. There is a marina at the rear of the ship from which you can check out kayaks or go water-skiing. (This is all free.) Snorkeling and swimming are not allowed off the marina deck, however, for security reasons.

DINING is generally open-seating (except as explained below), with a choice of venues for each meal. A continental breakfast for early risers can be had in La Pallete starting at 6:30, a buffet breakfast (an extensive selection of hot and cold items) can be had at Le Grill starting at 7, and a "buffet plus" (buffet plus a selection of items from a menu) is available at La Veranda starting at 7:30. Lunch can be had at either Le Grill or La Veranda and again follows the buffet/ "buffet plus" format. The buffets in each venue are essentially identical, although the menu items available at La Veranda are not available at Le Grill. Dinner is available in the main dining room, L'Etoile, from 6:30 to 9; reserved seating dinner (no extra charge) is available at La Veranda (two menus, rotating daily) or Le Grill. SInce my wife and I ate dinner at L'Etoile every night, I cannot comment on the food in the other two rooms, but dinner at L'Etoile was consistently excellent. Entree items over the course of the week included Chateaubriand, Beef Wellington, pork medallions with Porcini Mushroom Sauce, prime rib, weiner schnitzel and lobster tails with Tahitian vanilla sauce.

THE PORTS got consistently better as the cruise went on, and the last two were exceptional. The first port, Raiatea, was fairly boring; we tendered into town, but it was Sunday and all the shops were closed, so after half an hour we tendered back and went kayaking. On Monday we docked at Taha'a and took advantage of the ship's private motu (a small islet on the coral reef); there was an all-day beach party (again, free) set up there, complete with excellent barbeque (burgers, hot dogs, steak, fish and lots of side dishes) as well as swimming and snorkeling. The motu, a pretty white sand island with lots of palm trees, is very beautiful, and killing the whole day there is quite easy. The snorkeling was very good. Next port (Tuesday and Wednesday) was Bora Bora, spectacularly beautiful; the two shore excursions we took there, the Sting Ray Ballet Snorkel Trip and the Off-Road Adventure into the interior of the island, are highly recommended. Our final port of call (Thursday and Friday) was Moorea, which is, if possible, even more beautiful than Bora Bora. We took another off-road shore excursion which was not quite as good as the one on Bora Bora (the driver seemed more interested in visits to a distillery and a jam place than with the natural scenery that my wife and I were interested in) but it was still quite good, and recommended. A tour called "Capture Moorea" that was led by a professional photographer was sold out, but we were told that the cheaper excursion we took covered pretty much the same ground. On our second day in Moorea, we took the "VIP Tours" complimentary shuttle bus to a jewelery store, and after looking around there, took a ten-minute walk to a hotel beach (all beaches are public in Moorea) which was beautiful and had excellent snorkeling.

ENTERTAINMENT on board is somewhat more low-key than on other cruises: no comedians or musicians, but music and singing. I can't comment on it, though, because my wife and I were typically quite tired by all the sun and exercise we had during the day and went to sleep before the shows started.

DISEMBARKATION was also the smoothest and most pleasant ever experienced by us. Instead of the traditional cattle call where the ship shoves a quick breakfast at you and then herds you off the ship by 9am, we were allowed to stay on board until after noon, and were given an excellent lunch as well as breakfast. We didn't leave the ship until it was time to take our complimentary Tahiti tour. All told, it was like getting almost a whole extra day of cruising. I'm not sure how much of this applies to people who don't use the pre-cruise package, though.
 

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