A new cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT  

Immerse yourself in the idyllic tropical isles and ancient Polynesian culture of the South Pacific on an 11-day cruise to the Society and Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia. 

Starting at: $5,180 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Looking out over the lagoon of Bora Bora  The island of Huahine in the Society Islands  Underwater view of manta ray and butterfly fish  Tropical fish (Humbug Dascyllus) and pillar coral in the lagoon of Bora Bora  Looking over the lagoon of Bora Bora. Credit: Tahiti-Tourisme.com  Lagoon of Bora Bora. Credit: Tahiti-Tourisme.com  Dramatic aerial view of Bora Bora in the Society Islands  Yellow Plumeria or Frangipani, found in Tahiti  Colorful flowers of Tahiti  A marae or temple area on Moorea  Marae Maeva found on Huahine. Credit: Tahiti-Tourisme.com  A motu, one of many small islands, found in the Society Islands  A lagoon in Tahiti. Credit: Tahiti-Tourisme.com

Cruising French Polynesia: Tahiti, Bora Bora, and the Tuamotus

Round-trip from Papeete Aboard the 330-guest Paul Gauguin

11 days from $5,180

A new cruise offering from Smithsonian Journeys and PONANT  

Immerse yourself in the idyllic tropical isles and ancient Polynesian culture of the South Pacific on an 11-day cruise to the Society and Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia. 

or Call 855-330-1542

Overview

Voyage into the heart of French Polynesia, where wispy atolls and lush volcanic isles string across sapphire and turquoise-colored seas, harboring a vibrant and ancient culture.  Delve into the traditions of the ancient Polynesians in the Society Islands, from the archaeological sites of Huahine to the temples of Mo’orea. Experience the natural majesty of Bora Bora, exploring the island’s famous basalt peak or simply relaxing on a private beach. Then head to the atolls of the Tuamotus, where opportunities to snorkel and scuba dive abound.  

The Smithsonian Journeys / PONANT Experience: Each cruise will be accompanied by two Smithsonian Journeys Experts. Select excursions and activities are included in a few ports of call. You will also have a choice of optional excursions in ports of call at an additional expense, so that you can delve more deeply into subject areas of interest.   

Highlights Include

  • Huahine: Delve into ancient Polynesian culture amid the tropical wilderness of Huahine, home to a concentration of ceremonial marae, and attend an included performance of Polynesian dance and music. 
  • Bora Bora: Enjoy two days in the quintessential South Pacific paradise of Bora Bora:  marvel at towering Mount Otemanu, snorkel in sapphire lagoons, and spend time on our exclusive white-sand beach on a motu, or islet, off the coast. 
  • Rangiroa and Fakarava: Explore the magnificent atolls of the Tuamotus, spending a day on Rangiroa, home to the legendary Blue Lagoon. Then visit Fakarava, a UNESCO-classified Biosphere Reserve where snorkelers and divers can experience a fascinating marine world inhabited by gray sharks, schools of tropical fish, and colorful corals. 
  • Mo’orea: Moor overnight in Mo’orea, enjoying plenty of time to discover its mountains, lagoons, and fresh, local cuisine. Here, join a local anthropologist for an included nature walk through rainforests to ancient cultural sites. 
  • Our Private Motu: Spend a day relaxing on Motu Mahana, a private islet of white-sand beaches and swaying palms, and enjoy a traditional Polynesian barbecue lunch, complete with drinks served in coconuts and a floating lagoon bar.  
  • A Variety of Excursions: In addition to activities marked as “included,” choose from a complete program of optional excursions (at an additional expense) to customize your experience in each port of call. 

Itinerary

Day 1 — Papeete, Tahiti

Nestled on a natural harbor against a backdrop of lush, forest-clad peaks, Papeete enjoys one of the finest natural settings in the South Pacific. This bustling city is home to a vibrant mix of Tahitian, French, and Chinese communities. If time permits after your arrival, stop by the colorful market to browse the local handicrafts and produce, or visit the Museum of Tahiti, which houses a rich collection that recounts the history of Polynesia. Settle into your cabin aboard the Paul Gauguin in the late afternoon and set sail on the South Pacific. (D)

Day 2 — Huahine, Society Islands

The two islands that make up Huahine are blanketed in untamed tropical forest and edged with white-sand beaches and an aquamarine lagoon. These verdant islands sustain coconut plantations, vanilla gardens, and banana groves, and are also home to the largest concentration of traditional ceremonial sites, called marae, in French Polynesia. If you wish, join an optional excursion to the ancient religious and political center of Maeva, where archaeologists have unearthed several important marae that date from pre-history to the 16th century. Learn about Polynesian social structure, traditions, and belief systems, and hear how the culture adapted to the advent of European explorers. This afternoon, gather with your fellow travelers for an included celebration of Polynesian dance and music at one of the island’s marae. (B,L,D)

Day 3 & 4 — Bora Bora

With its distinctive black basalt peak, cloaked in emerald vegetation and silhouetted against a turquoise lagoon, Bora Bora is the very definition of a South Pacific paradise. During your time on the island, you’ll have opportunities to take optional excursions, including a snorkeling excursion, a sunset jet boat ride, or a 4x4 tour around Bora Bora’s iconic Mount Otemanu. Or choose to spend time at a private beach where you can snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, play beach volleyball, or simply relax on the sand. (2B,2L,2D) 

Day 5 — Rangiroa, Tuamotus

A ring of slender islets circling an enormous lagoon, Rangiroa is the second largest atoll in the world. It is known for its spectacular reefs and the jewel-toned Blue Lagoon, and also the black pearls that are produced here. Discover the atoll at your own pace, strolling the coast, and meeting the local Paumotu community. Or choose from several optional activities, such as a snorkeling excursion at Motu Nui Nui or a visit to a pearl farm to witness how the gems are cultivated and harvested. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Fakarava

The atoll of Fakarava and its surrounding motus have been named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for their rich diversity of habitats—from coral reefs and sea grass beds to primary forest—and their endemic flora and fauna. The main village of Rotoava is located on the longest continuous motu in French Polynesia, a skinny strip of land rimmed with beautiful beaches. Explore these tranquil shores by swimming, snorkeling, or diving; or visit the charming village of Tetamanu, home to a Catholic church built entirely of coral by early European missionaries. (B,L,D) 

Day 7 — At Sea

Sail west, returning to the Society Islands during a leisurely day at sea. Soak up the ambiance during a performance of Polynesian music and dance by the onboard troupe or attend a lecture by one of our Smithsonian Journeys Experts. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Taha’a (Motu Mahana), Society Islands

Drop anchor today at Motu Mahana, a private motu just off the coast of Taha'a that is owned by Paul Gauguin Cruises. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to swim, snorkel, kayak, and watch craft demonstrations, or just lounge on the beach with a cool drink. If you wish, you may join one of several optional excursions to nearby Taha'a, known as the "vanilla island" because of the abundance of the prized Tahitian vanilla orchids that thrive there. Gather for a delightful Polynesian barbecue on the beach, complete with tropical drinks and a floating lagoon bar. (B,L,D)

Day 9 & 10 — Mo’orea

Spend your final two days in Polynesia on the idyllic island of Mo’orea. The remnant of a long-extinct volcano, this heart-shaped island was once a sanctuary for vanquished warriors from Tahiti and inspired James A. Michener’s famous Tales from the South Pacific. Set off on an included tour of the marae and rainforests of Opunohu Valley, guided by an expert on marae and the history and culture of ancient Tahitians. Later, go swimming, stretch out on the beach, or meet the islanders on a stroll through town. You may also opt for a range of excursions at additional coast, including tours by foot, bike, ATV, boat, and plane; snorkeling or scuba diving; or joining a researcher-led whale-watching expedition with the chance—conditions permitting—of snorkeling with humpbacks. Also learn about the groundbreaking research on coral reefs undertaken at the Center for Insular Research and Observatory of the Environment. (2B,2L,2D)

Day 11 — Papeete/Return Home

After breakfast, disembark in Papeete and transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)