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Landfalls in Paradise

Opunohu Bay, Moorea

James Michener wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Tales of the South Pacific (1947), “ I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully towards the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description.”

Having just returned from French Polynesia, we can tell you it’s all still there, more or less as Michener reported decades ago. Certainly, Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, is not much of a destination. Rather, it’s primarily a point of departure to other islands, some of which are more populated than in Michener’s day. Nevertheless, these islands remain “lovely beyond description.” And today’s Polynesians preserve cultural traditions in music, dance and crafts.

We cruised the Society Islands for seven days on a wonderful, small ship, the Paul Gauguin, then extended the trip for a couple of days on Moorea, Tahiti’s sister island that Michener called “a monument to the prodigal beauty of nature.” Both Moorea and its most famous mountain, Mouaroa (referred to as the “shark’s tooth”), were the inspiration in Michener’s book for the mythical island, Bali Ha’i, also featured in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific. (See our image above to view Mouaroa as seen from Opunohu Bay.)

A relatively small ship (maximum capacity 332 guests), the Paul Gauguin is the only luxury ship offering year-round itineraries in French Polynesia and rated by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler, for many years, as one of the world’s Top 20 Small Cruise Ships. We’d recommend our 7-day cruise to anyone and also suggest the ship’s longer cruises that cover additional archipelagos. For more information, go to: pgcruises.com

Check out our 60-second video clip (above) of Polynesian dancers. (The clip is to be part of a larger production at the Intercontinental Moorea Resort & Spa to interest guests in special dance performances and other activities). Our feature story and film documentary about French Polynesia are scheduled for publication in October.

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