Seven-day Tahiti Cruise Bargain

Paul Gauguin Cruises includes airfare, drinks, gratuities and South Pacific luxury from $3650 pp

Paul Gauguin Cruises is a one-ship cruise line that only sails in the South Pacific. Despite the line's small size, it has a noble pedigree. Its ship, the Paul Gauguin, was built in France for the luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas in 1997. A few years ago it was sold to hotelier Pacific Beachcomber.

Her milieu is the Society Islands, including Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Raiatea and Taha'a. Her home port is Papeete, capital of Tahiti, and on her seven-day cruises the ship spends every day in port among these beautiful islands, only sailing at night.

If you act fast -- by October 8 -- you can book a seven-day Paul Gauguin cruise sailing in April 2012, including roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles, for just $3,647 per person. Or you can have twice the fun on a 14-day cruise for only $4,997 per person. This is a per person savings of $650 on the first and $1000 on the longer cruise over regular prices.

This longer cruise sails to the Marquesas, Tuamotus and the Society Islands - some of the South Pacific's most remote island paradises. The Tuamotu group is the largest chain of atoll islands in the world. If you don't already know, atolls are fascinating things. Darwin figured out their geologic significance during his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle, 1831 to 1836. The atoll formation process begins with a sea-floor volcanic eruption large enough to form a new land mass; the Hawaiian Islands are a good example. The Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii still spews enough molten rock to pave almost 20 miles of two-lane road every day. But Hawaii is still a young island.

As these volcanic islands get older, they become surrounded by coral reefs that create a shallow lagoon teeming with sea life such as angel and piper fish, stingrays and even sharks. Eventually the sea bed settles and the original land mass retreats below the surface, but the shallow lagoon remains atop a mountain of coral rising up from the sea floor, partially ringed with tiny sand bars. Any land mass capable of supporting anything more than a few palm trees virtually disappears. "The instant this takes place, a perfect atoll is formed," Darwin wrote.

This itinerary, sailing from Papeete, Tahiti, calls first in Fakarava, one of the islands of the Tuamotus. The tiny island is a sanctuary for rare birds, tropical plants and a variety of crustaceans living in the pink coral sand. There is also a black pearl farm - an industry that originated in the Tuamotus.

The ship then visits a series of exotically beautiful and isolated islands, including Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Huka and Nuku Hiva. The last five days are spent back in the Society Islands of Huahine, Bora Bora, Taha'a and Tahiti (overnight).

The Paul Gauguin: Luxury in Paradise

There is no place in the world like the Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea cruising circuit. Picture Hawaii in its colonial days. In fact, the Hawaiian Islands are the most northerly Polynesian volcanic islands in the world and among the youngest.

Although the Society islands of Tahiti on the shorter, seven-day cruise are not pure atolls yet; they also have immense lagoons with aquarium-clear water, so clear you can watch tropical fish swim between your legs. Many beaches are black lava sand and the temperature remains in the 80s. Is there a better definition of paradise?

The Paul Gauguin cruise ship, named after the famous artist who made Tahiti his home, just received a $25-million interior upgrade. The ship is 513 feet long, 71 feet wide and holds 332 guests with a staff of 217. It has completed more than 570 South Pacific cruises and hosted more than 14,000 honeymooners since its inaugural sail there in 1998. Tahiti cruises are a honeymoon tradition in the cruise industry.

In addition to airfare from Los Angeles (about a 7-1/2-hour flight), your cruise fare includes all beverages, including wine with dinner and a bar setup in your stateroom with the refrigerator replenished daily. Staff gratuities are also pre-paid.

Every cruise includes a stop at the line's private beach on Bora Bora and its private islet, Motu Mahana, off the coast of Taha'a for snorkeling, water sports and a barbecue with full bar service. Go to the Paul Gauguin Cruises web site for more information.

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